I love the mountains. They bring me joy and are where I find the most happiness in my life. Nothing will ever change that and I hope to spend as many days throughout my life in the mountains as my life choices allow me. And while yes, being an openly trans woman in sport will not be easy, especially in the world of mountain endurance, I personally do not see any other option because there is nothing in this world that would make me give up the mountains.
I love the mountains. They bring me joy and are where I find the most happiness in my life. I have been competing in elite athletics since before I turned double digits. By the age of 12, I was a nationally ranked swimmer, competing at the highest level and medaling in multiple events. Although some of my spark fizzled out slightly throughout the next number of years. I started my junior year of high school with a new team and was ready to work. Throughout that season I worked endlessly. In and out of the weight room every day, showing up to (not all of them but still too many) swim practice day in and out and grinding. In practice, I was not the fastest or the skinniest, but I worked hard and pushed my personal threshold higher. During the season I consistently dropped time and moved up from being the slowest on the team to the 3rd fastest. That season I finished 7th place in the Virginia State Meet and 6th place in the TYR Junior National Cup. My end of season time for the 100-yard fly was a collegially respectable time of 50.81. It wasn’t enough to get me signed, but it did get my foot in the door at a number of top D1 swimming programs. But I was miserable, my mental health had been declining for years. I was barely able to hold myself together most days and although I had accomplished more than my wildest dreams that season, it had done little to improve what was going on in my head. That spring I decided to take the summer off from long course season. I had never been a big long course swimmer anyway, but I decided this year I was going to focus on running and give a try at running cross country for my high school team again in the fall. As I returned to my usual summer routine of coaching with the Crosspointe Cruisers and swimming in the NVSL, I got an email that piqued my interest. In Farmville Virginia, there was going to be a 50k race that started at 5 pm on a Saturday and ran into the evening. It was the only race all summer that would work with my swimming schedule, and with barely any prior running experience I decided to jump straight in. My parents crewed me and it was really one of the most transformative experiences of my life (even wrote the essay that got me into UVM about that race lol). After that day I think I knew deep in my heart that I wasn’t going to be returning to swimming again. The idea of spending 5 more years on the men’s team, continuing to live a lie, all to hit this arbitrary goal of being a D1 swimming seemed impossible. That summer I ran in the mountains for the first time and fell in love. The day before my swim season for senior year was supposed to start, I quit. Ever since that day I have gone full in on racing and training in the mountains. I first fell in love with the mountains on foot and in the summer, but this past season I learned to appreciate their beauty in the winter and on skis, and during these hard times, I’ve been learning how to find joy on the pavement in the saddle. This has been my journey to where I am in sport and although times right now are so difficult, I’m still dreaming of that kiss (Hardrock 202?) and racing up and down peaks on skis again.
While I know that there will be people out there that will claim that I will have an unfair advantage or are doing this because I was “never good enough to compete with men”. I want you to know that that has absolutely nothing to do with me coming out or anything at all. I personally plan on following the IOC Transgender Guidelines of having documented Testosterone levels of below 10n/mol for at least 12 months before competing for prize money or reward. I think that these rules are fair and attempt to provide an equal playing field for all. While I have been on Hormone Replacement Therapy for 4 months now, and do have Testosterone levels below 10n/mol, I will still be waiting at least the full 12 months in order to ensure I follow all guidelines and do my part to ensuring trans athletes can continue to compete at the highest levels in sport.
I’d like to give the biggest, most heartfelt thank you, to Megan Youngren. Her strength both in character and running has been the most inspiring thing to me throughout my struggles. When giving up swimming to pursue my own truth I thought that I would have to give up my dreams of ever competing at the Olympic Trials or being a sponsored athlete. But thanks to Megan paving the way for the rest of us, she has shown that it can be done. So I’d like to thank her and wish her good luck when we’re hopefully lining up against each other in a race one day haha!
Thank you so much to my family (friends you are my family now you don’t get a choice sorry hehe) for being so supportive to me throughout this journey. When I first told my future roomie on a late Friday evening that I was trans I had no idea that I would end up with the most supportive and loving community helping me along the whole way. I really would not have made it this far if it wasn’t for your love and encouragement and I am eternally grateful for each and every single one of you.
As for what’s next? Well, I’m not really sure. The world is a crazy state right now and I haven’t left my house but to train for the past 6 weeks. My current plan is to continue to get out and train every day so that I can better myself. I want to prove to myself that no matter how hard things get I can continue to push through them and come out the other side stronger. Thank you all for being so wonderful, I hope to see you (from less than 6 feet!) In the mountains soon ❤