Sport is For Everyone

Ensuring an inviting space for all individuals to compete through athletic endevours.

This was a paper that I wrote for one of my Exercise Psychology classes. With the recent wave of anti-trans legislation, I thought it might be useful for people to have some scientifically backed reasons as to why it is important to include trans individuals in sport. Obviously this topic is obviously very personal to me, so I hope you find it useful !

Part One: General Information and Terms

Transgender individuals face some of the highest levels of depression, anxiety, and dissemination within the United States. According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 40% of trans teens reported feeling depressed most, or all, of the time (HRC, 2017). These individuals also face ‘rampant discrimination in health care, increased rates of drug or alcohol misuse, and a suicide attempt rate of above 41%’ (The Task Force). Yet, when these children turn towards sports and athletics for social camaraderie, gender-affirming experiences, and positive exercise, they are often turned away, ostracized, or tokenized. Not only are these students actively discriminated against, but many times they are not even acknowledged as existing. According to a 2017 survey, only 11.5% of US schools had policies that were meant to support trans students (Kosciw, 2017). The benefits of proper exercise for treatment of depression, anxiety, and suicide are well-known, and for a group that faces these issues so prominently, it should be imperative that they are able to receive those benefits (Craft&Perna, 2004). This paper aims to outline best practices for creating positive and affirming spaces for gender expansive individuals.

A guideline of terms and language that is inclusive for the LGBTQIA+ Community:

Sex: Sex is often seen as a binary, male or female, based on the apparent visible genitalia present at birth; penis, or vulva. While characteristics associated with biologic or chromosomal sex are often used as a reason that trans athletes have an inherent advantage or disadvantage, many institutions fail to take into account that even biologically, sex is inherently not binary. For example, there are medical conditions of sex reversal, ambigeous genatalia and/or intersex presentation.

Gender: Gender is a socially constructed idea, generally thought of as split distinctly between men and women. These two gender roles come with a series of expected presentations, mannerisms, careers, social roles, clothing choices, etc. Many trans and nonbinary individuals find themselves as identifying outside of the gender binary. This often means that they would not wish to use gendered language, e.x. sir or ma’am, rather gender-ambiguous terms such as Mx. (pronounced Mix).

Cisgender: Someone who is cisgender (cis) identifies as the gender that was assigned to them at birth (AGAB=assigned gender at birth). Someone who was born with an apparent vulva, assigned female at birth, and identifies as a woman would be a cis-gendered individual.

Transgender: Someone who is transgender (trans), usually identifies with a different gender than their AGAB. Trans individuals can, but do not always, identify as strictly male or female, regardless of their choices regarding taking hormones (HRT=hormone replacement therapy) or surgery (GAS=gender affirming surgery).

Nonbinary: Someone who is nonbinary (NB) does not identify with either of the binary genders (man/woman). They may choose to use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them or xe/xirs but that is not always the case. Some nonbinary individuals continue to use binary pronouns (he/him,she/her). Nonbinary individuals do not always choose to medically transition (HRT, GAS), nor do they always choose to present androgynously.

Transexual: Transexual is an outdated term that was used to describe trans individuals when gender was seen as intrinsically related to sex. Some individuals may still choose to identify with this label, and it is still prevalent in literature. For further reading on the history of trans languages and issues see Whittle, ​A Brief History of Transgender Issues​.

Sexual Identity: Sexual identity refers to one’s sexual attraction, or lack thereof, towards other people. Sexual identity does not have a causation relationship with gender identity, although the two can impact one another. For example, if a trans woman were to have been exclusively attracted to women before beginning transitioning, and continues to after, that individual would not be straight (as they are a woman attracted towards other women) and may identify with the Lesbian label. It is important to allow all individuals to feel comfortable expressing their sexuality, and extra effort should be given to ensure there is no discrimination based on an individual’s sexuality.

Gender-non-conformity: Gender-non-conformity (GNC) is the act of refusing to conform to the societal expectations of gender. Many trans and NB individuals may also identify as GNC, but cis individuals can also intensify as GNC without also identifying as trans/NB. GNC can come in any form and would require speaking with the individual that is GNC in order to understand what things make them comfortable or not.


Gender Expansive: Gender Expansive (GE) is an umbrella term to refer to anyone whose identity or relationship with gender differs from the standard societal views of binary gender. GE individuals makeup between one and two percent of the US population. This term will be used throughout this paper to mean anyone who does not identify as cis.

Pronouns: Pronouns are often an important part of transitioning and can be an affirming or traumatic item for those transitioning. While most cis individuals use the pronouns given to them at birth, she/her-he/him, GE individuals may choose to switch their pronouns or use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them. All individuals should be respectful and considerate around pronouns.

Deadname/Chosen Name: For many GE individuals their chosen name is not the same as the legal name that is on their birth certificate. For someone who identifies as trans, using their legal name in place of their chosen name is known as deadnaming. This act can be an incredibly traumatic experience for trans individuals and extra care should be taken by all supporting members to ensure that the trans individual is able to interact with their deadname as little as possible.

Gender Dysphoria: Dysphoria, as defined by The American Psychiatric Association is “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity” (Turban, 2020). While not all GE individuals experience dysphoria, it can be an enormous struggle for those that do. Dysphoria can be brought on by both physiological triggers or social interactions. It is important to note that dysphoria is diagnosable under the DSM-5 and all possible steps should be taken to alleviate GE individual’s dysphoria.

Part 2: Providing a Safe Place for GE Individuals in Group Sports and Activities

Environments:

The burden of feeling safe in sports should not fall on the shoulders of GE individuals. Rather, that work should belong to the school systems, coaches, sports leagues, and community. The abysmally low rates of school policies that are inclusive of GE, as previously cited, points towards GE students being required to individually campaign for equitable protection in their area. This failure is unacceptable and it certainly does not bode well for creating safe places for GE individuals to recreate. The power dynamic that this unfortunate situation creates can also be a barrier for GE individuals even attempting to step into athletics or sports. For these reasons, it is imperative that succinct, positive, affirming, and protective legislation and guidelines be implemented for allowing GE individuals to recreate and compete in sports.

Recreational Environments: Recreational environments, or those which are purely meant for exercise, fun, and social bonding should allow every individual to recreate with the team that best fits their gender identity. These recreational environments can be positive and affirming spaces for GE individuals to grow and develop. By allowing GE individuals to self-select their environment, they can be sheltered from the negative side-effects of not having gender-affirming experiences. These negative side-effects can include “loss of interest in school, heightened risk for alcohol and drug use, poor mental health and suicide” (HRC). Recreational sports and activities are also where many children form important friendships. This observation is relevant because 58% of trans individuals reported losing at least one close friendship due to transitioning (AVP). If GE children are forced to abandon their recreational environments due to their status as GE, they risk losing vital friendships at a critical time in their lives when they need the most support.

Semi-Competitive Environments: semi-competitive environments may contain competitions, games, or tournaments, but do not present prize money, scholarship, or tangible reward beyond that of the intrinsic nature of success. These environments offer many of the same benefits of recreational environments, with the addition of the rewarding feelings brought on by succeeding. Just as in recreational environments, these spaces should allow GE individuals to choose what team they fit onto best without any outstanding requirements. These spaces, such as high-school teams, present fantastic opportunities for GE individuals to connect and improve themselves. It becomes especially important for GE individuals to stay involved in sports throughout adolescence, as athletic participation increases GPA (NCAA). This increase in GPA allows GE individuals to stay involved with sports that have GPA requirements and decreases their likelihood to engage with illicit substances (Heradstviet, 2017).

Competitive Environments: Competitive Environments may contain prize money, sponsorships, scholarships, or other forms of monetary reward for performance. These spaces present phenomenal opportunities for GE to flourish and compete at the highest levels. But, sadly many organizations have put in place major roadblocks to prevent GE individuals from competing as their identified gender. For competitors who are not competing professionally, no medical records or requirements should be installed. For GE individuals who do not have parental or guardian support, they are unable to even access HRT or GAS options until turning 18. These medical options are also intensely personal decisions that children or young adults should not be forced to make in order to compete for the team they feel comfortable on. In addition, there should not be a waiting period between declaring an identified gender and being able to compete under that gender. Those types of rules only further distance GE individuals from the social support networks when they are needed most.

Outfits, Bathrooms, and other Gendered Items:

Outfits: Uniforms should “be gender-neutral (For example: Do not require women to wear dresses or skirts. Instead require attire that is neat, clean and appropriate for the occasion)” (NCAA). This idea should be applied to all areas of dress for athletes. All athletes, cis and GE, have different clothing needs, and should not be restricted to specific gendered clothing, or required to stand out in order to feel comfortable. By giving all athletes the individual choice to find clothing that best suits them, GE individuals are not forced to stand out in order to feel comfortable. For example, in swimming, it is required that swimsuits adhere to certain criteria depending on gender. For men, swimsuits must not go below the knees or above the navel, and for women, suits must not go below the knees or extend past the shoulders. These requirements, however intentioned, present problems for GE individuals. For a trans man who has not had GAS top surgery (double mastectomy), they may wish to cover their chest. Yet with the rules put in place by USA Swimming, that individual would be unable to cover their chest without submitting an official appeal to USAS (USA Swimming, 2020). GE individuals are more than capable of making their own decisions about what clothing choices make them feel comfortable in their body, and the possible exploitations of GE inclusive policies by opportunistic cis-gendered individuals should be not a reason to mistreat GE individuals.

Bathrooms/Locker rooms: GE individuals should be given complete freedom in their choice of changing area. Some GE individuals may prefer to use a single-occupancy or gender-neutral area, and others may wish to use the locker room of their identified gender. Regardless of individual preference, no attempt should be made to make it difficult for GE individuals to access a specific locker room or bathroom.

Practice Segregation: Practices in multi-gender sports, e.x. swimming, rock climbing, running, etc., should not arbitrarily split their practices by gender, even if the competition is gender divided. Allowing all members of the team to train together will improve team cohesion, individual self-image, and friendships (Reason, 2018). In addition, according to the American Institute of Pediatrics, there is no reason to separate boys and girls in recreational or competitive sports activities (Prentice, 2020). Providing gender-inclusive athletic opportunities also helps to prevent cis individuals from developing strict associations with gender. This inclusivity allows all individuals to compete in, present, and enjoy whatever athletic pursuits bring them the most joy regardless of their AGAB or identified gender.

Interactions Within and With Other Teams:

Within Teams: Within a specific team or group, special care should be taken in order to respect all identities. This should include fostering a culture that is kind and accepting towards its members. In the case of a GE individual who is already on the team or joining the team, extra effort should be made to make them feel comfortable. The burden of informing team members should fall on the coach. While the GE individual may wish to speak with the team as a whole or with specific individuals, if they do not wish to do so it is the Coach’s job to ensure the GE individual is treated with respect. This may include informing other teammates of a name change, pronoun change, wish to use/not use gendered terms, specific questions the GE individual does not wish to be asked, etc. Coaches and teams should not have tolerance for teammates that attempt to not support the individual and it must be made apparent to all team members that the respecting of the GE individual’s identity is a requirement. This course of action helps to protect the GE individual from feeling guilty correcting teammates who make mistakes and removes any possibility of tolerated harassment.

With Other Teams: When competing against other teams it is important for the Coach to inform the other Coach that harassment or bigoted language will not be tolerated. By setting this tone, all individuals are protected and the specific GE individual is not ‘outed’. An individual’s status as GE may not be public information, and they may not wish to openly disclose this fact. If the GE individual needs for their status as GE to be known for specific reasons such as preferred pronouns or chosen name differing from legal name, the Coach should address this matter with the other team(s) prior to competition.

With Parents: Similar to the response within the team, Coaches are responsible for communicating with parents regarding a GE individual. While parents, due to their age, may be more likely to be personally non-supportive of LGBTQIA+ individuals it is imperative that they are informed on how to respect LGBTQIA+ individuals (Greenberg et al, 2019).

Part Three: Why is This Important?

Mental Well-Being

GE individuals face incredible rates of discrimination and mental-illnesses and have a suicide attempt rate that is 18 times higher than the general population (Herman, 2019). It has been shown that group exercise (mountain-hiking), was linked to lower levels of depression, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation (Sturm, 2012). This link between GE individuals, suicide, and exercise underscores the vital importance of providing affirming and safe spaces for GE individuals to engage in exercise with peers. Although there are arguments that GE individuals may possess advantages or create uncomfortable situations for peers, the truth is that GE athletes are not dominating sports, and young Americans are the most supportive age group of trans individuals (Jones, 2019). Providing this underserved and systemically discriminated against community an affirming space to exercise with peers is a needed step in the fight for GE equality.

Physical Health

Exercise is an important part of any individual’s healthy life, but it is especially so for GE individuals. According to the Mayo Clinic increased maximal aerobic capacity has been shown to decrease the rates of hospitalization; this is important for a community that faces high rates of medical discrimination (The Task Force). Exercise is also an important factor in individual weight. While there exists ongoing research on the subject of weight-inclusivity, BMI is still used as a requirement for many surgeries. This fact is especially important for the GE population, as many individuals within that group wish to undergo GAS. In a study by Healio endocrinology, even with their intense motivation, trans individuals who were above the BMI threshold for surgery were not able to lose enough weight in order to qualify for surgery (Safer, 2019). By involving GE individuals in positive and affirming exercise early in life, they can be protected from that kind of situation. Exercise is also an important determiner in overall health (May Clinic, 2019). And, due to relationships with exercise developing during youth and adolescence, it is important that GE individuals are able to develop a positive exercise relationship early on. Unfortunately, in comparison to the general population, GE individuals need outside help in order to healthily participate in exercise environments without facing harassment or bullying. By providing an affirming place for GE individuals to learn to love exercise early, long-term health can be dramatically improved.

Cisgender Individuals Benefit Too

All individuals suffer from strict views of gender, regardless of their personal gender identity. While GE individuals may actively desire to subvert cis-normative expectation, many cis individuals wish to escape these confines as well. Cis girls that wear traditionally masculine clothing are often criticized and told that their behavior will negatively impact them. Surrounding that type of individual with expanded ideas of what gender expectations should be, would allow them to more freely express themselves.

“No child should be prevented from pursuing their passions simply based on others’ perceptions of their gender. By sending a message that certain pursuits are off-limits simply because of a person’s gender, we lose access to an incredible source of human potential” (Orr).

GE individuals possess a unique level of self-reflection that the majority of the general population will never achieve. These individuals have an incredible amount of insight and experience to share but are often not given the ability to do so. By providing affirming spaces for GE individuals, cis peers can benefit from their GE counterpart’s knowledge and experience.

Part 4: Conclusions

All individuals deserve to be treated with respect, be protected equally under the law, and feel safe in their environments. The unfortunate truth is that for the majority of GE individuals, simple acts such as going to the grocery store can be a terrifying and traumatic experience. Athletics should be a safe place for all athletes to bond with peers, learn to love exercise, and compete. Ensuring that all athletic environments are safe for GE individuals allows those environments to be safer and more positive for all. In addition, creating space for GE participation in sports improves GE mental health, physical well being, performance in school, and allows for cis individuals to be exposed to differing views on gender.

Although the lack of GE equality in America will not be easily solved, providing these individuals an environment to flourish is an important part of the process. Coaches and athletic teams hold an invaluable part of the equation that is GE equality. Because of this importance, the athletic community must come together to uplift GE individuals for the benefit of all.

Arrowhead 2021 SKIMO Race Report

Intro:

Pining a bib on for the first time in a year brought upon a wave of calm I haven’t felt since I was last in Burlington. The familiar whirring of the hotel room heater, gear strung around the room, and pre-race pizza harkened me back to simpler times of swim meets from a time long ago. This bib was additionally special, as it was the first to have both my correct name and gender marker on it. Throughout the past year, I spent over 500 hours out training in solicitude and had ample time to reflect on all the woes of life. During this time I was surprised how often I found myself wishing to train with others. Even a conversational hike once every few weeks offered a slight reprieve from the monumental task that is ultra-training. But, in a year where isolation is the bare minimum that kind of company was sparsely found. 

When I was a swimmer I probably did less than 10 workouts throughout my entire tenure that weren’t with a team. Yet in the over 400 activities I posted in 2020, only a handful was with even one other person. As the restrictions lessen throughout 2021 and some hope begins to emerge of a return to socialization, I hope to remember the importance of training partners and accept a few more invites to early morning bagel runs. 

Training:

Truthfully, I did not actually put in that much training for this race. In January I barely surpassed 35,000ft of climb and December consisted mostly of sleeping. Ever since my hospitalization in October I have been battling some bizarre health situations. I’ve tried to be more mature and respectful of the difficulties I’ve been facing during this time; so I’m hopeful that that caution will result in a healthier year overall. 

Fortunately, I had such a large bank of fitness from the rest of the year that I was able to coast through some of the rough early winter conditions and health without my legs falling too flat. I was even able to sneak in some solid 5,000ft+ days above 10,000ft altitude in Winter Park. Additionally, I’ve gone back to doing some strength and core work. 


Race:

The morning started off difficult as while I was getting ready to leave for the race I learned of Sophie’s death. She was a revolutionary trans artist who helped pioneer many of the current trends in music. She was only 34 years old and died while trying to watch the moon rise. I sat in the bathroom on the floor for quite a few minutes trying to comprehend the headline that seemed to illuminate the room. I think often about how many trans, especially black, die so young. It breaks my heart that so many of us expect to be dead by 30. I hope that I can be able to demonstrate that trans people can live long, fulfilling lives, just like everyone else.

Heading to the race I was still a little rattled from the morning but I was resolved to focus and prepare for the race. We were able to find a close parking lot which I greatly appreciated. After walking a mile to the startling before the 2018 JFK 50 mile I like to avoid walking whenever possible pre-race. The weather that morning was serene, there had been a light dusting overnight, but only enough to silence any footsteps. The wind was slow, and a cozy blanket of clouds kept the sun at bay. At the start, the usual suspects for an event like this were present: skinny lawyers in lycra, teenagers in hand-me-down bike helmets, and frat bros with 6lb skis all hurriedly scrambled to get their kit ready. 

Due to the rather low profile of the race, I opted to skip a warmup, a la HS swim meet style, and just do a few strides and arm swings before toeing the start line. Although it was wonderful to be around other dorks in skinsuits at 6 in the morning, I was nervous to be around so many people. COVID isolation has hit my social comfort hard, and I’ve found myself increasingly worried to interact in any manner with strangers. Hopefully, once vaccines roll out more I’ll be back to conversing with anyone I can get to listen to me. 

Just like any good race, the race was started by an old-fashioned countdown and loud yell. As per usual, the front pack was off like an XC 5k, and the rest of us took a more measured approach to the opening few minutes. I was immediately pretty far behind the 2 other women in my field, and I almost immediately realized that much like HSXC, I would not be competing for a podium today. I settled in behind a few old runners who seemed to be holding a steady pace and put my head down. The course started out much steeper than I expected, and within 200m I was already cursing my decision to use the waxed skins. The steepness of the climb, combined with the slippery fresh snow resulted in frequent defeating slips. It took just as much effort to move forward as it did to keep myself from falling. Every stride was tenuous, and I felt like a child trying XC skiing for the first time. Once we crested the worst of the first pitch, my slippery skins became more of an aid, as now I could glide past all of the post-holing runners. 

Moving into the second part of the course, I began to physically and mentally feel better, I wasn’t falling backward, and I was beginning to move up in the field. The next 15 minutes were brutal, but nothing that I wasn’t confident in. The terrain was moderate, and I focused on keeping my form solid. Although I got passed by a couple of the men from wave two, I tried my best to keep a positive attitude. Whenever negative thoughts crept in, I tried to think about my Exercise Psych prof, Dr. J. He always preached about how important positivity is, so I tried to do my best to not disappoint him. With the meters clicking by I realized that the race was nearly over. I spend so much of my time these days climbing for 3-5 hours that I often consider the first hour or two to just be a warmup. But, today the whole race was going to be over in under 45 minutes!! I did my best to empty the tank on the last pitch, and ready my mind for the transition. Cresting the last roller into the transition box, I took a deep breath and prepared to drop my poles. Immediately after entering the zone I almost jumped through my transition. It was such a good transition in fact, that Strava didn’t even think I stopped moving. Skating away and pulling my goggles on I looked for the signs that would take me back to the finish line. 

While I certainly appreciate and love Jonathon for creating some of the most hardening race descents possible, it was nice to aero tuck a blue groomer for once. The soft, untouched corduroy, lent itself perfectly to my 65mm skis and shaking quads. I maxed out the speedometer at 42mph and left the ground for quite a few seconds over some of the lower rollers. With the finish line in sight, I attempted my best Kilian Jornet impression and skated across the line. 

Just like usual, no fanfare awaited me at the end, and I was certainly the most exhausted out of all the other finishers. But, that’s to be expected after spending a year with my hr under 160. 

Post Race:

It felt really good to race. I love this sport so much. The silly kit, austere community, and love of suffering all make me feel right at home. I’m proud to have shown up at a race that isn’t quite my forte and have given my best effort. And while I didn’t place overall, I won my age group and got a cool hat out of it !!!

With COVID offering no relief, and my race plans looking foiled yet again, I’m trying to find more enjoyment in the climbing and views. I get to train in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, so I’m hoping to enjoy them a bit more. 

I, as I always, want to thank everyone that supports me. My friends and family have made all of this possible with their support not only within sport, but mostly outside. I also want to thank the brands that I’m working with this year !! Goodr and Orucase make phenomenal cycling products, and I’m hoping that the plans I have in the works for this summer will make them excited. 

Thank you all so much !!! I’m really looking forward to climbing some mountains with other people sometime soon ❤

A 2020 Year in Review

Thankful:

This year I’m thankful to be alive. While a global plague raged on through the world, I managed to nearly die twice within a 3-month span. I’m also thankful to have so many supportive friends and loved ones who have been there for me throughout every step of this year. I love you all so much and I cannot wait to give all of you so many long-awaited hugs.

Jan-March: 150 hours, 145,434ft of climb

The first months of the year were some of the best of my entire life thus far. I managed to pull off taking 16 credit hours, working 15 hours a week, training 14-17 hours, and somehow maintaining a flourishing social life throughout the semester. These busy, but jam-packed, first 12 weeks of the year contained my only two races of the year, Middlebury Snowbowl and Bromley Skimo. I spent whatever free time I had at Jay Peak climbing through frozen corduroy or raging in Wright 4 with the gals. My mornings were filled with warmth at breaky, and my evenings with long nights at simpy, I’m so thankful that I got to experience this period of life because it showed me how much happiness and joy is possible.

April-May: 107 hours, 65,512ft of climb

With the abrupt end to all life, I was thrust back to Virginia where I spent most of my days on Tik Tok or forcing myself through blackboard lectures. Fortunately, virtual simpy with Zoe, calls with the gals, and beginning to find a new love on the bike provided needed relief from the monotony of online school. As the leaves began to green and the days lengthen I was fortunate enough to go on a few covid friendly hikes with Emery and rides with Andrew. It was so wonderful to see some close friends before I embarked to Colorado to spend the summer with my grandparents. 

June-August: 140 hours, 162,157ft of climb

With the pandemic worsening and my summer ultras canceled I decided to devote my summer towards cycling. Watching Phil Gaimon and Charli’s Everesting helped me discover an entirely new goal to pursue. For 7 weeks I did nothing but sleep, climb, tik tok, repeat. Everything was closed and I barely knew anyone so there wasn’t much to do besides get fit. Unfortunately, this is the period where things began to unravel for me. In late July I took a left-handed corner too fast going down Lookout Mtn. and slide out my bike and crashed at 40mph. I ended up in a clinic where I was not only misgendered but also groped by one of the nurses. While I have mostly recovered, the physical and mental scars will stay with me for years to come. Yet, despite that awful event I still managed to put some of the most impressive feats of my life and some numbers that are seriously impressive. I submitted mt Evans (14,250ft) twice,  did over 10,000 of climb in a single ride, put in 2 back-to-back 70,000ft months, and summited Lookout Mtn. 26 times.

September-December: 140,5 hours, 166,075ft of climb

Due to last-minute policy changes at UVM my best friends, Gabo, Emma, Georgia, and Maggie, decided to live together in Hinsdale Massachusetts. So, after driving from Colorado to Virginia in mid-August, I packed up my car again and made the drive up north. While certainly not what any of us would have imagined our 3rd semester of college would look like; hugging my friends after not seeing them for over 6 months helped to ease any unhappiness. I spent the first weeks learning a new set of roads and recovering from my injuries before setting my eyes on half-everesting in mid-October. Without the pressure of working or socializing I had nearly unlimited time to study and train. I put together some phenomenal (although often cold) rides, including a 6,000ft ride in under 3 hours. In addition, I was able to do it while spending most of my evenings on the couch watching Handmaid’s Tale with some of my favorite people in the whole world. I was also fortunate that all of them agreed to assist me in my crazy ride. I already wrote a long blog post about my experience on River Road, but the further I get from it the more proud I am of that day. Everything came together that day, the weather, my crew, my legs, my and my nutrition. It also happened in spite of some miserable training conditions, a horrific crash, and the fact that absolutely no one would expect me to keep going this late the season. I had originally planned to call it quits for the season after recovering from my crash, but I decided to give it one more shot and I am so proud of how I performed that day. 

Sadly, after the high that was my performance I began spiraling into a deep depression, which resulted in a desperate turn towards finding anything that could help. I ended up asking my therapist about anti-depressants and given my state she agreed that they would be worth a try. Unfortunately, I had an absolutely grotesque reaction and ended up going into Serotonin Shock Syndrome. Because of this, I ended up losing consciences and collapsing into Georgia and Maggie’s room after trying to go to them for help. As I laid on the ground I absolutely thought that I was going to die. Thankfully, my friends were able to bring me back and quickly get me off to a hospital. Over the proceeding weeks, I continued to battle constant panic attacks. I’m so thankful that my family and friends were there to support me throughout that time because I was in such a terrifying place. 

Total Year Stats: 366 Days of Activities, 538 hours, 539,177ft of climb

With the conclusion of the semester and ski season well underway the end of the year began to offer some light at the end of the tunnel.  Not everything is perfect, and I’m still struggling most days, but finally having a little bit of hope has provided an enormous amount of joy in my life. I again want to thank all of my friends and family that have supported me throughout this year. I absolutely know that I would not have made it to where I am now without your love and support. So, here’s to a Happy New year, and another trip around the sun: climbing mountains, sunrises, hugs, dance parties (whatchu you know about night terrors?), journal articles, and love. 

2019 Night Train 50K Race Report

This is a transcription of a pre and post race interview between my mother (M), and me (W).

Strava Link

Pre Race: 

M: “W we’re just about to start your third Ultra-Marathon, the Night Train 50k, what made you come back this year?”

W: “I had a good race [last year] but it was my first [ultra-marathon] one, and I wasn’t really ready for it last year. I wanted to come back. I didn’t get into the Vermont 100k this summer so I wanted to come back and race another 50k and prove that I could go again in the heat and try to run well. I’ve been training in heat and doing long road runs weekly. I’ve put in just under 2,000 miles since the race last year and I wanted to come out and prove myself on a flat fast course and see what I could do over the 50k distance”

M: “What’s your race plan tonite?”

W: “The goal is to go out conservative for the first couple miles, around 8:40 per mile, and then cut it down and get moving. I want to try and lock into something that is comfortable, but that is up and try and stick right there for the rest of the race. Id like to make it to the last aid station at mile 26 and be able to kick it in for a solid day.”

M: “How are you feeling?”

W: “I’m feeling good! I put in a lot of miles, not as many miles as I would have liked, but I find myself saying that at the end of every training block so maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I’m excited for the day and go cats!”

Post Race:

M: “Alright W you finished, 4:53:20. How are you doing?”

W: “I’m hurting, it hurt really bad. My knees hurt, it all hurts. I put my head down so hard for the last 5.5 miles. I was in this grinding 8:25 per mile gear and there was no slipping in or out of it. I even told myself that from mile 29 to mile 30 I can give myself a 9:15 mile so that I can push the end. But my pace didn’t budge and I kept going. I’m really happy. It wasn’t quit the day that I planned for the beginning, and it wasn’t even quite the day that I thought could happen with the [good] weather. But the fact that I was almost considering dropping at mile 15, because I was running 10 minute pace and struggling. I had a side stitch 4 miles in, and I was worried that I was going to have to stop. My legs felt great and everything was going so good but I had a side stitch four miles in. I was slamming [my fingers] into my abs to try and massage it out. The fact that I went through all of those lows and pull off a 1h20 PR [in the 50k distance] makes me so happy”

M: “How was it compared to last year?”

W: “It was way better I think. The first 14 [miles] went so quick. I was with two other runners for the first 14 [miles] and it was so quick. We were up and out of Rice [mile 8.3 aid station] like it was nothing. And then we were crossing the bridge [mile 12] and coming back. Things definitely slowed down a bit from FarmVille out to Tuggle [mile 17-22]. That was really slow, I think 1h7 for 5.5 miles. It was bad. And then, things felt way better on the two mile out and back turnaround point [mile 22-26] compared to  last year. Last year it took me a 1h00 to that and this year I knocked it out in 38 minutes. And then I kicked it in to mile 26 to finish out the marathon split in under 4 hours. I ran it all the way in from there to the end. I’m really happy to walk away running from the start-line to the finish for 32 miles. No walking,  maybe some bad effort, but mostly good effort all day.”

M: “Good Job!”

W: “Thanks!!”

A Day on River Rd

Coming Away for the First Time Craving More

Link to the activity on Strava:

Please also remember that this was for charity and the National Center for Trans Equality still needs your help !!!!!

Thanks:
Before anything else, there is a long list of thanks that need to be given out. Firstly, I have to thank my family. Without your overwhelming support, none of the insane things I’ve done this year would’ve happened. So thank you to Gabby, Emma, Georgia, Maggie, Emma, my Parents, and Grandparents for your continued and tireless support of my endeavors. Next, thank you to Wheatridge Cyclery and Matt Mo for your generosity in keeping my bike running. Cycling is an expensive sport, and as a 19-year-old in the middle of a global plague, I would not be able to ride as much as I do if it wasn’t for your support. Finally, I would like to give thanks to the counseling and medical staff at UVM. It’s a wonderful life to be able to spend most of my days playing in the mountain, but it’s been hard to keep myself together throughout this year. So thank you for your kindness and extensions of care.

Intro:
Wednesday, October 14th I set out to see how much climbing I could do on my road bike in one ride. And while I had built detailed spreadsheets, and spent numerous hours calculating what I thought could be possible given my training, when I clicked my Garmin to start my ride I was completely content with whatever results awaited me when I was finished. Overall, I’m incredibly proud of my performance. I made it through the Half-Everest (14,500ft of climb) losing less than 4 minutes (including having to get off the bike multiple times) on my very aggressive pacing strategy and continued for another 3,000 ft of climb (total of 17,337 ft). Yet, this is the first time I have walked away from an effort like this feeling like I didn’t find my limit. I could have kept going to 20,000 ft for sure, but even if I got to 20,000 ft I know I could have done at least one more lap. The past few days I have spent most of my (incredibly boring) recovery trying to understand what this performance means for me as an athlete, and what is next.
Everesting, or half-everesting with bonus laps in my case, is my favorite endurance event ideas out there. It combines my love for climbing with my disdain for route planning into a meditative exercise in self-motivation. The fact that a concept which is totally made up, and fairly niche has become such a prominent event in the endurance zeitgeist makes my climber heart very happy. I first became aware of Everesting after Kilian Jornet’s 24-hour ski record, as I began to become interested in some of the of more obscure climbing time trial records that were out there. Since then, it was watching Phil Gaimon’s first sub 8 hour Everest, Francis Cade’s double zwift Everest, and Charli’s fixed-brakeless Everest that really got me inspired to go for one of my own. Unfortunately just 10 days before my attempt this summer, I crashed at 40mph on Lookout Mtn and had to take 5 weeks of recovery before getting back into training. That crash, combined with the road season coming to a close and being back in school forced me to shift my focus from a full Everest this season down to “just” a half.

Training:
My training block for this started on September 4th and is one of my most focused and well-executed training blocks to this day. Similar to my summer recap I’m going to go through the weeks to give a brief overview of my workouts.

Week 1: Climb – 11,971ft; Time – 8h58; Relative Effort (RE) – 574

Week 1 was a great return to training and included my first summit of Mt Greylock (the highest mountain in Mass). I still wasn’t totally comfortable back on the bike, especially since I had spent the last few weeks only on my track bike doing easy rides with my dad. But, by the end of the week, I was pretty much mentally back in the routine of getting up and riding 2-3 hours every day.

Week 2: Climb – 13,748ft; Time – 9h56; RE – 498

I spent most of the second week exploring around my, now fourth this year, new roads. It was the first time that I did my Wednesday workout loop, which became standard as the weeks went on.

Week 3: Climb – 13,283; Time – 10h2; RE – 469

Week 3 was a pretty standard week at this point in terms of volume. After doing over 15 weeks above 20,000ft of climb this year, clicking off ~15,000ft weeks with some hard efforts is pretty routine. I put in another hard effort on the 3rd iteration of The Loop™ and some big watt QOM’s early in the week. My legs were turning over pretty strong all week and this was the week that I came up with my plan for River Rd.

Week 4: Climb – 16,722; Time – 12h17; RE – 566

Week 4 was my biggest week of the block and each day I was continually surprised at how strong my legs my felt. I did another hard lap of The Loop and a recon day on River Road where I did 12 laps at a 15-minute pace. I remember how difficult this workout felt and I am so proud of how well my training ended up, as I felt better on Lap 20 of River Rd than I did on lap 12 this day.

Week 5: Climb 10,890ft; Time – 10h9; RE – 453

This training block has been a reminder to myself of my growth and experience gained in being a self-coached endurance climber. This week I did my last huge workout on Saturday, a 95-kilometer loop from the house to the summit of Mt. Greylock and back with 5,000ft of climb, and then when I went to try and double the next day with another workout I immediately shut it down because I felt my legs were too tired. Reaching a point of self-reflection and knowledge to be able to know how to push massive workouts, but also when to shut them down is something I’m very proud of, and I believe will result in my performance continuing to increase as time goes on.

Week 6: Climb – 11,967ft; Time – 10h9; RE – 378

My final week of training before River Rd I did two last main workouts, a full-gas effort up the River Rd segment, and a long low heart rate climbing day. This was one of the few times in any training block that I have purposely had to hold myself back from going hard during workouts in order to save my legs. The entire week they were itchy to get out and do another huge day, but with River Rd so close I was able to quell that energy and spin out the whole week in under 400 RE while still managing to hit 12,000ft of climb. I was super excited when I finished out this week, and for the first time during the block, I started to allow myself to get excited for Rive Rd.

Week 7: Climb – 18,140ft; Time – 9h47; RE – 730

I started the week with one super easy 30min spin to make sure my position was dialed and my bike was ready to go. Everything went super smooth and it took a fair amount of strength to force myself to get off the bike and put it away until Wednesday.

River Rd:
The day started when I woke up at 5:57 and began tiptoeing around the house in order to get my things ready and avoid waking anyone up. I got an enormous 7 hours of sleep the night before and had a resting heart rate of 39bpm. This is by far the most rested I have ever been going into an ultra and makes me proud that I nailed the taper. Thanks to my copious amount of planning, all of my things were laid out and I just had to go through the motions in order to get out the door. When I finished packing my car up, just before I left I turned back towards the house and ended up being awe-struck by the brightness of the moon. I took a couple of minutes to soak in that moment, and the serenity that I felt there gave me confidence that things would go well.
After arriving at the climb following a short, and incredibly misty drive, I quickly set my bike and food up before throwing on the last of my kit. Once I was ready to go I ended up starting my watch at 7:31:20, which is the most on-time start I’ve had to something like this. The first lap was a little stressful. I’ve come to find that during these long climb repeat days the first rep is laughably easy in the legs, but my heart rate is absurdly elevated. Fortunately, I was able to keep it reasonable, and even though I would have preferred to be in the 140s, I was able to keep it just under 160. The next laps went effortlessly. I did the first two laps cautiously in 15:543 and 15:32, which was what I planned to do in order to ensure that I didn’t go out too hard like I had done in my 3hr test a couple of weeks prior. Emma arrived at 8:30 and was my first crew. She was wonderfully enthusiastic and won the day for the best bottle handoffs. I cannot thank everyone enough for coming out to crew me on this silly and selfish endeavor. It would not have been anywhere near as smooth going if it wasn’t for them. After picking up a fresh bottle from Emma the next 8 laps were all between 14:09 and 14:56. I don’t think I have ever climbed as smoothly and consistently as through those first 3 hours. Although I was a little worried about blowing up, the mid 14-minute laps did not feel hard, and I figured it was better to bank a few minutes where I could rather than force myself to go at a slower pace.
As it neared 10:00 and time for Emma to leave, I began to have my first slight lower back discomfort of the day. Fortunately right as Emma was leaving she was able to Tour De France style hand me some Tylenol out of her car as she headed home. This ended up being a lifesaver and allowed me to continue riding without my back ever becoming overwhelming.
After Emma left I had a short stretch on my own until Maggie would get there to cover the next crew shift. This segment continued to go smoothly. While I did have to get off of the bike a couple of times to grab bottles or change jerseys, I was still well within my pacing strategy. After an hour or so on my own, Maggie was able to refresh my bottles and send me off onto the longest, and hardest, solo stretch of the day. Setting off onto lap 20, after 5 hours and 10,700 ft of climb, I put my headphones in and continued to try and set a hard tempo.
Throughout the next 9 laps, I anticipated each one would finally be the place that I would begin to come apart. The most climb I had done previous to this in one day was 10,300 on Lookout Mtn. And, when I had done that I hit the 10,000 ft mark over an hour slower than the pace I was on. My back at this point was fairly tortured and I spent every descent try to stretch out to provide myself some relief. Yet, every time I clicked off the lap button on my Garmin I was shocked to see I was still doing 15-minute laps, and I was still right around 7-hour half-severest pace. Coming through the half Everest lap in 7h05 was quite a serene moment. For me, this was really the endpoint of the day in terms of suffering. I had done 4,000ft more climbing in one day than I had ever done before at a faster pace than I usually even hold for a couple of hours. It also was the mark that I think proved to myself that a full Everest would be possible next season.
My legs still felt surprisingly solid at that point so there wasn’t much time for celebrating. I turned the music back up loud (playlist) and decided to keep pushing until Georgia was scheduled to come at lap 29. (photo of me smiling on the bike)
Seeing Georgia after a couple of hours in the pain cave was a nice reprieve and after 7 1/2 hours riding I took a moment to step off the bike. My back was really starting to become more than just a nuisance and I could feel some slight tightness developing around my knees. My actual legs were still feeling good and my energy levels were surprisingly high given the effort thus far. Georgia told me right before I left for the next lap that Gabby and Emma were on their way. I decided that I would push to keep going until at least after they arrived.
The next few laps went okay, but I realized on lap 32 that I had reached a rather odd place. I knew that I wasn’t going to crack anytime soon. My legs were still feeling great, and I figured that if I were to take 10 minutes off the bike to massage and refuel I could probably have for another 3-4 hours if given the daylight. This was a pretty startling moment as I had performed so much stronger than I had expected. Going in I had figured I would probably crack right before the half Everest given my traumatic crash just 2 months prior, the time I took off for recovery, my moderate volume training, block, and the fact that I was averaging 160 bpm heart rate on the climbs. The fact that despite all of that I was still able to turn in this performance, brings me a lot of pride, but it also was not quite the day that I was searching for. As I finished up my last couple of laps while my friends cheered me on I tried to just enjoy the climbing and soak in the day. After 17,300 ft of climb I decided to call it a day as the sun began to set and I could feel the slightest bit of pain in my left knee.

Takeaways:
Originally this summer I had planned to run the Silverton 100. This 62-mile race in the San Juans would’ve taken nearly 20 hours and I’m sure at least 2 heavy storms. I signed up for this race wanting to hit absolute rock bottom. It’s been since I was a senior in high-school running my first 50 mile (JFK 50 Mile 2018 Race Report) where I’ve truly hit that* absolute low in a race. And, after 2 years of training, I felt ready to try and see what it would take to get there and how I would respond this time. Unfortunately due to COVID, this race was canceled and I had to quickly pivot to other goals and aspirations. I am incredibly proud of the training season I managed to put together this summer and now into fall. It definitely wasn’t the one that I had planned on but it was so much fun and I learned so much about riding bikes and training. But, I’m still a little disappointed to come away without the experience that I had set out to have this year. The day I had on River Rd is proof that I have a lot more in my legs than I would’ve given myself credit for and has forced me to consider where my actual limits are. I’m hopeful that at some point this winter I’ll have another day without much going on, and my friends will again be willing to volunteer their day so I can climb a hill a lot of times so that I can have another attempt at finding my limits.
For the future, I have a few plans circulating so I’ll put them here if only as a bookmark to go and look back at later. In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try and take some true off season time and ride my track bike while waiting for the snow to come. I’m hopeful that some early season snow will allow me to get some good skiing in during November before I leave for Colorado but I’m not holding my breath. From there I’m going to be targeting the USSMA National Championships in the Vertical race to see if I can pivot back down to a 20-30 minute effort against *actual* other people. I do plan on doing some sort of time-based skinning day early in 2021. So, hopefully I’ll be graced with good snow for that. Following the conclusion of the SKIMO season, I plan to be back on the bike and go for a full Everest and some stupid fixed-gear climbing goals (hey State, want to send me a bike ?? ❤ ). Overall though, my hope for the next season is to play in the snow with my friends, climb all the vert, and enjoy every second I can spend in the mountains. Thank you everyone for your support and I hope to see you all out there !!!!
Nutrition:
My nutrition strategy was aggressive but pretty standard if you’ve seen any of my Strava posts. I did a bottle of triple scoop Gu roctane every 1h15, a rice Krispie on the hour, and a honey stinger caffeine every couple of hours. This worked out to 81.8 grams of carbohydrate per hour average, and I think that’s pretty spot-on for an activity of this duration and heart rate.
Gear:
Gear for this ride was fairly standard. I was on my Carbon Tommasso road bike and road in my 34-27 the entire day. That gearing was the perfect cadence/speed for my pacing strategy, and after 6 hours I thought it would be funny to do an entire day on a road bike without shifting gears. Saddle was an ISM PS 1.0 which while comfortable, has next to no padding and I plan on replacing it with a saddle not intended for 30 minute time trials next season. Shoes were Shimano Carbon RC-7 wide which I absolutely love. They are perfectly still while still being comfortable enough to ride all day. I had no foot problems at all and cannot recommend this shoe enough. Bibs were a pair of Ostroy’s and they are genuinely the most comfortable bib I’ve ever road in. The chamois is something else and they are absolutely worth the extra money. Jerseys I wore 2: in the morning I wore a Band of Climbers thermal jersey, which was great for the 40*F start, and when things heated up I swapped to a Rapha Pro Team jersey. Helmet was just a standard Giro. Sunnies I did change quite a few times as the lighting conditions changed. I started the day in my Oakley Wind Jackets because they’re easy to put on my helmet, when the sun came out I swapped to a pair of Goodr OG’s, and then when the light began to dim again I put back on the Oakleys.

Bike Setup/Position

A Summer of Climbing, Crying, and Crashing:

Finding Happiness at the Best Shape of my Life

Intro/Recap of Events:

The past 6 months have been a complete whirlwind. March 6th I said goodbye to my roommate Ethan after we had dinner at Central, and I drove to Bristol where I expected to spend a week in the mountains recovering from the semester before the last couple SKIMO races of the season. Instead of a relaxing week in the Mad River Valley, it ended up being a mad dash of making last-minute airline tickets and sending frantic emails/text messages trying to dig for information that no one had. After the last “normal day” on the 14th, where 6 silly adults lined up to run up and down mountains in neon lycra, I returned to Virginia shocked to be facing months in a state I had planned to never return to. 

The next months were a blur of virtual workouts with the kids I coach in Burlington, PowerPoint slides, Tik Tok, and barely being able to drag myself out of bed most days let alone do any sort of productive training. I spent the rest of March and April sleeping most of the day and feeling numb to everything after having my life ripped out from underneath me. The second semester of college was the best 10 weeks of my life, and facing the idea I would not be seeing any of my friends beyond a screen until September was unfathomable. I tried to get back to running, as I was still planning on running a 50km and 100km race over the summer. But after both of them were canceled in early April, I couldn’t even crack 30 miles a week. After following Phil Gaimon train for an Everest attempt, and watching my friend Charli crush a Fixed Gear Brakeless Everesting record on Lookout Mtn, I finally felt like I had a tangible goal to train for. Getting back into training was really difficult, as after reaching some of the best numbers and fitness I had ever felt in March, it was crushing to try and get back to training and feel like I was having to restart. By the time classes had ended for the semester and final exams had been submitted, I had found some form of fitness on the bike. And, thanks to my grandparents, I had only a few more weeks of VA living before I would be leaving to spend the rest of the summer in ColoRADo.

After packing pretty much everything I owned into my Chevy and driving 1,700 hundred Bon Iver/Vampire Weekend soundtracked miles across the country with my mum, I arrived in Lakewood Colorado. This marked my 5th move already this year and the start of an amazing 11 weeks. 

Driving across the country for the first time was in interesting experience and the complaints about how boring Kansas is are certainly not an understatement. But the prospect of high altitude climbings and an escape from 85% humidity were more than enough motivation. The first few days of CO were mostly spent blindly following Strava routes through unfamiliar mountain ranges. But, thankfully after the first couple weeks passed by I was able to navigate my way from Littleton all the way up to Golden without having to check my phone or watch for help. I did, however, get very lost on the way to Golden Canyon my first time which did result in asking a stranger for directions to “the road that goes west from Golden”. Thankfully I was always able to find my way home without much issue.

In the following section, I’m going to give a quick breakdown of my training week by week and highlight some standout rides and workouts.

Week 1: Relative Effort – 322 Climb – 13,730 Time – 14h56

The second day after moving in I did my very first rep up Lookout Mtn, throughout the rest of the summer I would do it 28 more times. Looking back I’m actually impressed I slipped up the whole climb in under 30min, which isn’t too bad at all for my first 30min effort ever at altitude. The rest of the week consisted of easy spins while I began to scout out the local climbs. I also went on a hike up Plymouth Mountain and got dropped by Brony in Monument. 

Week 2: Relative Effort 410; Climb – 20,452; Time – 16h5

My Second week consisted of 7 Lookout reps and my first ride up Deer Creek Canyon. I remember feeling completely cooked on my first 4xlookout, which Charli&Scott did fixed on the same day an hour faster. Overall it was a really successful week and it was the first time I had ever done over 20k of climb all outdoors!! 

Week 3 – Relative Effort – 364; Climb – 22,112; Time 17h08

Week 3 ended up being my biggest week of training block by volume, even though my RE was fairly low. This week was probably evidence of some really good fitness that I blew by doing Mt Evans too early a couple of weeks later. During the week I did a hard, just under VO2 max, workout in GC (Golden Canyon), and Lookout 6 times where I clipped a 3rd place all-time on the Lookout x5 QOM segment. 

Week 4 (Rest Week): Relative Effort – 208; Climb – 9,463; Time 9h54

This week was well needed, my legs were absolutely fried and my bike was in dire need of maintenance. Fortunately, both were taken care of and by the end of the week, I was able to do a Lookout rep in 26:57 which was nearly 3 minutes faster than previous best from week one. I also had my second of two punctures for the training block that week, but fortunately was able to be picked up by my uncle as my CO2 cartridge ended up failing! Overall I was still feeling confident about being able to Everest come August but I knew that even though I had ridden a lot I still had so far to go. 

Week 5: Relative Effort – 377; Climb – 19,799; Time – 15h3

Mostly recovered from the previous 4 weeks of training I decided it was time to start acclimating to higher altitude. A 4-hour ride from Evergreen, to Idaho Springs, to the Echo Lake Lodge, and back to Evergreen proved that while I did have the lungs to climb over 11,000 ft, I didn’t have the watts. After smashing myself on Wednesday I made the poor decision of going to Boulder to ride up Flagstaff Mtn (the first .75m averages 11%) for over 5,000ft of climb on Sunday. This week was the beginning of overtraining as I don’t think I really understood how much rest is needed when training at 10,000 ft and still sleeping at 5,500 ft.

Week 6 (Uh Oh): Relative Effort – 579; Climb – 20,163; Time – 13h14

Thanks to a late (and lovely) text from Charli on a Friday night, I ended up riding to the summit of Mt Evans long before I was ready. On Wed I did a 6,000 ft day riding up to summit lake, as I had planned on doing Evans later in the season with Eric (which somehow happened anyway?). Regardless, I realize now that doing 20k of climb with over 550 RE was a recipe for disaster, and resulted in body/mind exhaustion that played into my crash, and certainly impacted the speed of my recovery. In my training plans for next summer, I’ve already begun trying to hash out a better plan to acclimate to altitude and stay healthy and recovered during these long training blocks. 

Week 7: Relative Effort – 531; Climb – 20,384; Time – 14h46

The true mistake in this training block was made during the Tuesday/Wednesday of this week. After cracking 2,000 ft from the summit of Evans on Sat, I then tried to turn around and put in another week of big volume without any sort of rest. Tuesday was a 3h30 ride around my usual loop, but I had forgotten to get groceries the previous day so I had to scrounge to pull together dinner. Then, on Wednesday I decided to do, what I had planned on being 1 of 3 10,000-15,000 ft climbing days, but sadly it ended up being 1 of 1. The day itself was superb, and my consistency of splits was nearly perfect through lap 7. And, if it wasn’t for waiting 5min to see if a cyclist and motorcyclist were going to fistfight, they would have all been just about dead even. The McDonald’s from Golden post-ride still remains the culinary highlight of the block, although that might be more due to my delirium than the contents of my meal. This workout took 4 days to recover enough to feel normal again from and should have been a louder wake-up call that I needed to ease off the gas.

Week 8: Relative Effort – 409; Climb 12,234; Time – 9h31; 

Whelp. This week was the crash. Stupidly both the day before and on Wednesday I decided to do both Aerobic and Anaerobic threshold workouts, which certainly did not help me on Saturday. Saturday started as a gloomy day, with rain projected for the afternoon. The overcast sky and damp pavement were probably enough foreshadowings even to be called out for being too obvious by my English prof. I had decided since both of my parents were in town that I would go for an all-out effort up Lookout since I could make them be my team car. I felt cooked on the warmup lap, which also should have been a sign to play things safe. Thankfully my effort up lookout ended up being really solid and pretty well-paced. The only part that was poorly paced was the right-hand switchback after Windy Saddle where it kicks to 11%. Because I was going so much faster than usual, I didn’t anticipate I would need to drop from the 25 down two clicks, as I usually only drop one gear to get out of the saddle. This just meant I awkwardly over cadenced my out of the saddle climbing and it probably cost me 6-8 seconds. The rest of the climb went well, but I could’ve used someone to pull for the last 3 min before the sprint. Hitting the BB Grave from the parking lot segment at 25:24 was a great feeling and hopefully, over the coming years, I’ll be able to creep down low enough to even think of touching Charli’s fixed QOM. After some pretty pictures and recovery, I was offered a ride down, which I stupidly refused. Even more boneheaded of me, I decided to start ripping the descent at a faster pace than when I did it on closed roads. In the straightaway, I was well-pushing 40mph and already had clipped some corners a little too hotly. Through the last difficult corner, I panicked at the last second, pulled the rear brake lever all the way to the bar, and dropped my left knee into the pavement. Yes I know, literally everything you’re not supposed to do in order to take corners quickly. Before I even realized what happened I was sliding on the pavement at 30mph, and slowly came to a stop in the gravel shoulder. In shock, I stood up and thought I was okay, but within seconds the adrenaline wore off slightly, and the pain and blood started. Within a few moments myself, my bike, and the road were soaked with blood. Fortunately, my parents were only minutes behind, and they were able to scoop me up and get me right into the clinic so I could be tended to. The next several hours and days were agonizing, and I didn’t sleep for the proceeding 36 hours. 

Week 9: Relative Effort – 109; Climb – 2,927; Time – 2h33

Week 10: Relative Effort – 676; Climb – 12,170; Time – 11h39

I’ve decided to combine these two weeks as 10 out of the 14 days I did nothing but sleep and lay in bed. Week 9 started with spending 3 days going hypoxic on a pullout couch in Breckenridge. Thankfully after returning to Lakewood I was able to have thoughts and use my brain again. The remainder of the week was mostly recovery, a few outings to stretch my legs, and painfully learning the lessons of how to properly change bandages. 

Week 10 was a bit of a roller coaster. On Tuesday I finally felt good enough to go for a ride, as since I had been suckered into doing Evans again the following weekend I figured I should probably ride my bike some. I ended up doing 3 hours on Squaw Rd, and although my hr was elevated by around 20bpm the entire ride, it felt good to be back in the saddle.

Mt Evans for the second time was an incredibly painful and long experience, I’ll be writing a longer trip report for that. Whenever I get around to that I will link it here! Story short, it fucking hurt but I got a really good picture out of it.

Lessons Learned/Thoughts moving Forward:

During this training block, I really experienced what it feels like to put your body into the deepest hole of your career, empty the well to the dirt, and still find a way to keep climbing. I put in my biggest day of climbing ever, as well as more hours climbing than I care to count above 8,000 ft. I suffered in the heat of the canyons and the cold winds of the high Rockies. And overall, I did it for nothing. I didn’t Everest, I didn’t win any races or even take any “important” QOMs. I only accomplish one of the goals I set out to complete before the end of the summer, yet it was the happiest training that I’ve ever done. Both during this block and the SKIMO block, I have found myself yearning to be back out climbing while eating dinner, and in the mornings I’m excited to put on my kit and head out the door. Obviously the lack of friends and contact was difficult. While I did have a wonderful time talking to myself for over a hundred hours in the saddle, it would have been nice to do even a few group rides. But internally this was the happiest I have been with a training cycle. Although I made a lot of mistakes, I also did some incredible training and found some pretty promising fitness. More importantly, I learned how to enjoy riding around a cul-de-sac with two 5 year-olds, (almost) as much as crushing 3 hours in the foothills. I also finally found a training rhythm that excites me each day. In past years there’s always been workouts and entire training cycles that I dread and despise doing. And while even though I wasn’t always the most excited to do every single ride, I found the days I was least excited for were rest days because it meant not riding or only being able to ride for a little while. 

This year has been a year of discovering how to get out and train 15h+ a week while maintaining a normal life. During the winter I was climbing over 20,000 ft a week while taking 16 credits at UVM, working at the Y, and making sure I spent fun time with friends. Over the summer it was more a game of balancing training and recovery, as staying inside was the name of the game. 

With the cancelation of racing, I’ve found so much joy in ‘playing’ in the mountains all day. While I still do my intervals and repeats to keep the legs sharp, I do them now so that when I go to ride 6 hours it doesn’t hurt so badly. Instead of dragging myself day in and out dreading workouts, I decided this year that I was done forcing myself to train in order to beat other people. Instead of training for podium spots or time cuts, I now train so that I can play in the mountains longer. During the ski season I did my treadmill intervals nearly every day of the week, but instead of feeling like I was forcing myself through 8x2min@14%@5mph so that I could try and race for a spot higher on an emailed results document. I did those workouts on the treadmill in the CWP gym every day so that during the weekends I could escape to the mountains and chase good snow for 5,000-7,000 ft of climb Sat/Sun. These were amounts of climb I once thought reserved for 10h+ long ultras, yet by February I was clicking off 6,000 ft of climb in under 3h30 twice a week. And yet, come race time in March I was still able to come within 5 minutes of Jonathan, who in the previous race finished well over 70 minutes before I did. Changing my mindset away from racing and towards playing has allowed me to train stress-free and more than ever. This summer I did my biggest weeks of training by volume&RE all time, and I never had to drag myself out onto the bike. I have been able to post some pretty high-class climbing numbers, and I did all of it without a powermeter or a trainer roads style training plan. Being able to climb 4,000-6,000 ft day in and out without much trouble is one of my favorite feelings in the world and I am so excited to convert this fitness to skis so that I can lap all that Colorado pow. 

I’d like to thank all of my gals (Emma, Georgia, Gabby, Maggie, Zoe <3) for countless FaceTime’s and thousands of texts, my grandparents for allowing me to live with them for 11 weeks, all of my Strava friends for the banter and kudos, Wheat Ridge Cyclery for keeping my bike running and all the help, Charli and Erik for dragging me up Mt Evans, and the cycling community of the front range for giving me insane QOM’s to chase and so many waves. This summer was certainly one to remember, and I’m so happy that I got to walk away with a better perspective on life/training and a few more watts in my back pocket. 

Living My Truth

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 ❤






2020 Bromley SKIMO Race Report

Link to the  Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/3182789629

Training/Pre-race:

The previous 8 weeks of training have been some of the toughest I’ve done. I totaled 126.1 hours and 134,868 feet of climb in the lead up to the Bromley race. Training consisted of brain-numbing treadmill power hikes/runs between 10%-15% during the weekdays, run commuting to work, bike commuting to class, and long frigid skins at Jay Peak during the weekends. I feel that throughout this block I did a really good job of building to a peak, 25,324 feet of climb in 16 hours (week 5), and then tapering down to be fresh and ready to give a good effort on race day. I’ve put in some really impressive workouts and earned myself quite a few QOM’s on Strava because if it wasn’t on Strava it didn’t count. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the past couple of months about training and myself, and I look forward to the running season this summer and finding some new limits. 

The 24 hours before this race was a complete shit-show. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak (hello people from the future, what a crazy time spring 2020 was) nearly every event, organization, school, and business has been canceled or closed. Around 5 pm the day before race day we learned the race would be officially canceled, and times/placing would not be for any official USSMA points or rankings. While absolutely heartbreaking, I and 5 other racers decided to go out and time trial the course anyway.

I arrived in Bromley on race day, March 14th, around 9 AM. A few other races were there, and we chatted about the recent events and awaited for Jonathan, the race director, to arrive. Once Jonathan arrived the group headed out to the start line, took a few pictures, and with a countdown from 10 we were off!

Course Description (numbers are elevation gain or loss in feet):

The initial outer loop, done once:

904ft skin

312ft bootpack

12ft skin to the transition area 

886ft descent 

Three inner loops of the circuit:

870ft skin

870ft descent 

The race:

As seems to be the usual in these kinds of races, the pace was hot off the start and I was hurting within the first 500 feet of the climb. From my experience at Middlebury I decided to settle in behind Laura and Jonathan and let the front pack run away. After another 200 feet, Laura made a move and left Jonathan and me behind. I reached the boot-pack with my breath mostly settled, still nearly dead even with Jonathan, and Laura was only 20 seconds up. The boot pack proved to be the slowest part of the course as per usual for me (although you think of all things in this sport I’d be good at the running uphill part). Both Jonathan and Laure pushed ahead and I was content to take the climb easy and save my energy for later.

The first transition to descent was a little difficult. Right as I came up to the transition area a 30mph gust knocked me off my feet. After recovering from my slip I was able to rip my skins and get onto the decent. While the descent was pretty icy, it was nowhere near as bad as Okemo was a few days before the race, so I actually felt pretty confident on the descent, which was unusual for me. Once I finished the first descent and put my skins back on, it was time to start the next hour of suffering. 

My goal going into the race was to put myself into a good position going through the 2nd inside loop, so for the first time up the inside loop, I tried to keep things somewhat relaxed and keep reminding myself I had time. At this point, I was about 10 seconds behind Laura and 30-50 seconds behind Jonathan. I took my only nutrition of the day up the first climb, 1 normal Gu, and a drink from my soft flask that had Gu Roctane in it. The climb ended up being much steeper than expected as it averaged a 30% gradient for almost the entirety of the 900 feet. I made it to the top and felt pretty beat up. While I had been trying to stay relaxed, Laura and Jonathan were pushing the pace hard and I was struggling to keep up. Fortunately, I had a solid transition to the descent and thanks to all of the Ice Coast skiing I’ve done this winter, the choppy and bulletproof snow was pretty easy to handle. 

Starting the second inner loop was when things started to get really hard.  Jonathan had put over 1:30 on Laura and I, and I was struggling to stay 30 seconds behind Laura. Every hundred feet I was worried she was just going to run away from me and I was going to fall apart. Somehow on the last pitch, I was able to dig deep and keep moving at a decent clip. I crested the end of the loop 2 climb and had one of the best transitions I’ve ever had. Going down the penultimate descent went so well I was worried something bad was bound to happen. But, fortunately, I screamed into the last ascent transition, threw my skins on, and clicked into my skis in well under a minute. 

Laura and I left for the third inner loop with only a couple of seconds between us. Within 200 feet of the climb, I was able to catch up to the back of her skis and was surprised to feel like I was having to slow down to stay behind her tails. After 100 feet of sticking close behind her, I decided that if I was going to make a move it had to now. I knew that the second pitch was much steeper, and that time would be difficult for either of us to make up. So, I summoned all of the strength that I could find and shot up the last 200 feet of the first pitch. While usually in a situation like this I would make an effort to pretend like what I was doing was effortless, this time there was no way I could even pretend this was easy. My heart rate was north of 180 and every breath was a desperate reach of my lungs to find any air to supply to my desperate quads. Cresting the first pitch I could feel that Laura hadn’t covered my move and I had put in about a 5-second gap between the two of us. The next 500 feet of climbing was probably the hardest out of the whole season. I knew that with the growing gap between us I would be able to keep the lead as long as I didn’t blow up, but the only thing my body wanted to do was lay down in the snow and take a nap. This race is the shortest “endurance” event that I’ve ever done where true exhaustion crept in. It took full concentration on every “step” and pole plant to ensure that I was continuing to move forward. The last 20 feet were truly miserable as thanks to the warm sunshine, the icy snow had melted into slush causing me to slip twice and almost fall again. Thanks to mostly sheer luck and some pushed beyond their limit quads, I was able to top out the final climb. I again had a terrific transition and had both skins off and was clicked into my skis in under 30 seconds. For the final descent, I didn’t bother to fold my skins as I was worried any wasted seconds would hurt me. During the descent, the icy snow had softened up nicely, but it didn’t really make a difference as I wasn’t planning on making any turns. Tucking into the finish I saw Jonathan and enjoyed the final few hundred meters to the end. This was a season’s worth of work that culminated in a brutal, but nearly perfectly executed race. There was no fanfare or spectators to congratulate me. But, Jonathan’s praise for my performance and appreciation for pushing him throughout the morning was far more meaningful. 

Season Takeaways: 

I think from this race, and my first SKIMO season in general, I’m going to take away that things can get better in a race or training workout. I, for the first time ever, put in 3-5 hour training days 2 days a week for over 8 weeks. Throughout those workouts were a lot of terrible lows, but also some amazing highs. While the weather might be bad now, the wind could be harsh, stomach problems could be rampant, water could be frozen, skins could not stick, or any other host of issues could be going on, they will all get better with time.  Not always before clicking off the watch at the end, but things will get better. I’ve had a problem both in races and training of getting too caught up in the moment with how hard things are, whether the climb is really long, or the weather/trail conditions are terrible, or the pace is too hot and I can barely hold on, it has been hard for me to find a way to stay calm and wait out the bad times. But, thanks to this winter, where I wasn’t given a choice as to what the weather could be or to just drop out and go home (The bus arrived at Jay Peak Resort at 10:30 AM and didn’t depart until 4:15 PM). That lack of option forced me to find solutions and persevere through difficult hours. Although as I write this we are amidst the  COVID-19 outbreak and nearly the entire world has been shut down, I am looking forward to hopefully racing the Dirty 30 50k and SUM100k this summer. I believe that thanks to all of my early season training and hard work throughout the winter, I will be poised to run well this summer, or whenever races start back up again.                              

Gear:

My gear for this race stayed pretty identical to my Middlebury Race, with only a few noticeable exceptions.

I used the Black Diamond Mont Blanc glove, which I cannot recommend enough. More than enough warmth for any skiing above 10*F, good wind block on the top of the hand, and amazing grip on the palm and fingers for holding skins and skis, even when things get wet. https://www.skirack.com/black-diamond-mont-blanc-gloves-13132860

I swapped from using poles with basket straps, to poles with hand grip straps. Although they are slightly more difficult to put on, the difference in power transfer has made such a difference I think the trade-off is worth it. https://www.swixsport.com/us/poles/nordic-poles/racing/quantum-6/

I wore a pair of Oakley M-frame instead of Oakley Wind Jacket 2.0s

Instead of wearing ski pants, I wore only 2 pairs of leggings in order to have easier access and transition speed with my boots.

Nutrition:

Because of how short this race was, I treated it like I would treat a half-marathon. I took 1 Gu Salted Watermelon Gel and about 10oz of Gu Roctane Lemon Berry

2020 Middlebury Snowbowl Skimo Race Report

Here is the Strava link if you’re interested in the data https://www.strava.com/activities/3083396688

Pre Race:

Since moving to Vermont in Fall 2019 my eyes have been set on Winter. While late summer was fun and I certainly enjoyed the fall foliage, it was the freezing cold and snow that lingered tantalizingly close in the back of my mind. Although I did get in a few days on snow prior to winter break, most of the ground was still green until mid-January. When the snow finally did arrive for real it was a much-needed reprieve from miserable outdoor running. My training for Skimo has consisted of power-hiking on the treadmill with running intervals at grades between 10%-15%, and skinning as much vert as I can squeeze in on the weekends. Prior to Middlebury, I had only gotten in 3 skinning days with ~ 15k feet of skiing vert and 30k feet of total vert over the previous 3 weeks. I signed up for the race at the last minute thanks to finding a ride from a wonderful new friend named Sammie. We both were new to Skimo, and this was both of our first big races on skis. 

I woke up on race morning after a less than stellar amount of sleep (7h22 according to Garmin) to my watch buzzing at 5:42 AM. After shaving, getting dressed, getting my gear ready, grabbing as many Clif bars and Costco crepes as I could stuff into my pockets, filling up my bottles, and triple checking I had everything I was  finally able to head out the door. Sammie and her wife picked me up around 6:15 and we were off. While it was bitterly cold (3* at 7 AM) and the previous days 15+ inches of snow still littered the road, we were greeted with a gorgeous sunrise over the Adirondack’s. We arrived at Middlebury around 7:30 and headed inside to pick up bibs and for Sammie to set up her new skis. After eating some more breakfast and getting all my race kit laid out, Sammie and I headed out for a warmup skin at 8:42 AM (https://www.strava.com/activities/3082489363). We skinned up 90% of the first climb on some of the most beautiful trails ever and got to have fresh tracks on some massive powder fields. I felt good and shed my windbreaker after only a few minutes. After that I ended up staying in my usual base layer and rabbit quarter zip for the rest of the day. Originally the race was supposed to start at 9:30, but due to some last-minute course remarking Jonathan, the race director, didn’t start the pre-race briefing until 10:00. After walking outside to put our skis back on, Sammie and I did a couple of strides (On skis: https://www.strava.com/activities/3082568661) and got ready for the race to start. 

Race:

The gun finally went off at 10:22 and we were off in a sprint. Similar to a HSXC race the lead pack went out at sprint pace for the first 400. Yet in comparison to my glory days of racing Varsity 2 VHSL 5ks that were less than 20 minutes long, even the leaders would be taking 2h+ to finish. Realizing 100 meters in that I would not be remotely keeping up with the front pack I dropped back into the 2nd chase pack and settled in for the first 800 foot climb. As we crested out of the first climb onto a flat 600 foot plateau to the first transition I found myself near the back of the pack. The first transition to the descent went fine and I was feeling calm and collected at this point. But, 20 meters later when I saw what we had to descend, and the beginning of everything falling apart began. For some reason, Middlebury had opened the trails we were descending on for the first time all season that morning, and they had gone completely un-groomed for the entirety of the past 3 months. And while I am a competent skier, double blacks on 20 inches of fresh un-groomed snow on top of a season worth of un-groomed snow is pretty much my worst nightmare. While I was able to make it through this first descent without falling, it was exhausting fighting through the moguls and making hop turns in order to stay in control. After finishing the first descent, we started the boot pack section of the course. It was a .2 mile long climb at an average grade of 31% and a max of 63% of fresh snow with footsteps painfully cut out in the morning by Jonathan and his team. I caught up to Sammie halfway through the climb and we forced our way through the deep snow while recreational skiers screamed past us. Finally, after an agonizing climb, we topped out the bootpack only to realize there were another 30 feet of flat trudging to the transition area. Making it through the next descent was nearly as rough as the first one, but I made it to the final climb of lap one without any major issues. Sammie had dropped me hard on the descent but I nearly caught her as she was transitioning to the final descent of lap one. The last descent was easier but much icier than any of the other snow on the course and required a lot of quad energy to hold edges. I made it through the first lap in 1h5 and took 3 minutes to transition and ready myself for the next 2 laps.                  

Looking down on the first big pitch of the boot pack

Lap two started out strong and I had a decent climb through the first section. The first descent went pretty poorly and I was struggling even more with the snow as it was being continuously skied off as the day went on. I made it through the 2nd boot pack much quicker than the first time and felt like I was regaining a little momentum lost on the 2nd half of lap two. Unfortunately, as I came down the end of the 2nd descent I took a massive crash. Popping out of both skis and smashing every part of my body into the ground at 30 mph thanks to catching a lip hidden by some fluffy snow sent me into panic mode. Quickly grabbing my skis and trying to get myself back in one piece I assessed that I was okay. Nothing seemed broken, I didn’t feel any muscle or ligament tears, and only my shoulder really hurt which isn’t the most important part of the body for skiing. I made it through the rest of the descent without any accident and got to the transition area for the last climb of lap two. Right as I began my climb I could hear the leaders coming down into the transition area already on their last lap. While I gave it my best effort to stay ahead of them, the crash combined with exhaustion from fighting the downhills slowed me down enough that they lapped me going into the last descent. I had a slow transition onto the last descent of lap 2 and accidentally got snow on my left skin which would prove problematic in only a few minutes. I made it through lap 2 in 1h8 and took 5 minutes to transition and try and get some calories in.

Lap three started as a mess. The leaders had just finished and were celebrating that they were done, a number of spectators were crowding the transition area, and my left skin would not stick to my ski under any circumstance. I, fortunately, was able to swap it out for a spare and start moving, but the crazy of everything cost me several minutes. The first climb up lap 3 was the first time in a number of months that I had to force myself forward and keep reminding myself that it would all be worth it. My legs were shutting down and my brain, starved of glucose and running on only whatever my adrenal gland was drip-feeding it to keep me conscience, was ready to be done for the day. But, I kept pushing up the last of the hard skinning for the day and was able to pass someone and move out of the last position! This was a much-needed morale boost and brought a nice bit of energy back to my body. I pushed hard to the transition area for the first descent and took the it nice and easy. Knowing another crash could very well end my race, if not my whole season. I was able to make it down to the boot pack without issue and even was cheered on my a couple of recreational skiers who were out on the course. The last boot pack went moderately fine. I was able to pick my way up easier thanks to the steps being more prominent now, but each time I had to take a step that required me to pull myself up with one leg I had to take a few seconds to recover. Cresting the top of the boot pack there was a course marshal with a cowbell cheering on and I even got a shout from someone on the lift telling me to “Go get it, girl!”. This was more than enough to get me moving quickly up and onto the last transition area. I made it down the 2nd to last descent without a problem and thankfully avoided the spot where I crashed the previous lap. On the last transition, I was able to get in and out in under 2 minutes and begin the final 750-foot skin. The climb was exhausting and I was redlining to try and secure my not last position. I was able to make it to the final transition before collapsing and did one of the worst sins in Skimo, not folding your skins, in order to get down and be done. I shot through the last descent at a reckless pass that was far too fast given what had happened earlier in the day, but I was lucky and made it through the icy snow without issue. Coming down back on the groomer I did my best aero tuck and flew into the finish area. I stopped my watch at  3h30:34. Thankfully I was able to lean on my poles instead of falling down in order to spare my body the pain of getting more snow on myself. I skated over to the lodge and dragged myself inside to find a seat which I promptly plopped down into. 

Post Race: 

The recovery from this race felt equivalent to a short ultra. My legs did not want to function for a couple of days and it took until Wednesday for everything to feel normal again. Thanks to the previous day’s snowstorm I had been unable to eat dinner, and because we left before the dining halls opened I was unable to have a real breakfast on race morning. These two events combined with my appetite gone post-race led to what was probably a 3,000+ calorie deficit over two days. Thanks to this Sunday consisted nearly of only sleeping and eating as I tried to heal my body. Thankfully within only a few days, my body bounced right back and I was right back into training by Tuesday. 

Overall Middlebury was an amazing experience and a fantastic way to finally get back into a race environment and fight tough conditions. Over the weeks following the race I have been putting in massive volume weeks in an attempt to get ready for Bromley Skimo on March 14th. I have high hopes for the race and in bizarre twist am hoping for no new snow and only the most groomer of groomer descents! During this season I have really fallen in love with Skimo and cannot wait to continue to improve my skills at this odd sport. The community has been so welcoming and it’s been wonderful to find a way to work hard in the mountains during the winter. 

Kit: 

My kit is pretty much a hodgepodge of running, cycling, and XC skiing gear all smushed together. Fortunately that seems to be the norm for this sport so I guess I fit right in.

Ski Equipment:

Skis: I’m currently skiing on a pair of Hagen X-Race with Hagan ZR toe pieces and Ski Trab race heels. They are proper race skis (63mm underfoot and 163cm length) and weigh in at 860 grams per ski. 

Boots: I’m using Dynafit TLT6 Boots (The green wider model) which are very comfy. 

Skins: La Sportiva and Ski Trab yellow race skins.

Pack: The pack that I wear is a Dynafit DNA 16L race pack which has functioned wonderfully throughout all of my skiing adventures thus far.

Poles: For the race I was able to borrow a pair of Sammies 135cm Swix poles, which I have now acquired my own pair. During the race I used loop straps but I know have swapped to using the hand straps.

Clothes: 

Bottoms: For the race I wore a pair of Compress-sport half calves with Dynafit Mercury Pants. Although a pain to have to move my pants around in order to transition my boots between ski and walk, it was great to have a waterproof bottom layer with all of the snow.

Tops: I wore a base layer with rabbit quarter zip over top, a pair of Swix XC gloves, a heavy neck gaiter, and a thin buff on my head to protect my ears.

Helmet: I borrowed a friends Petzl Meteor climbing helmet. 

Nutrition: 

Throughout the race I took in 3 Gu octane and around 800-100ml of water. I feel that for next time I need to take in liquid calories and less overall fluid to ease the burden on my kidneys. 

2018 JFK 50 Mile Race Report

After having a few weeks to fully reflect upon finishing my first 50 mile I figured it was time to write about my experience. Here is a link to the Strava activity https://www.strava.com/activities/1970598587

Pre-Race- This summer I decided to fully commit to ultra running, after a 12 year career in swimming with top 7 performances at the Virginia State championships and TYR Junior National Cup (while battling major burnout for 3+ years) I decided my time in the sport was over and it was time to move on. This summer I ran my first ultra as the Night Train 50k and finished in 6:12. After battling temps in the 100’s and humidity in the 90%+ I was hooked on the sport and in love with the challenge and amazing community. In August I ran a PR half in 1:40 as a test to see how I could do running faster. I felt strong and was feeling like with 3 months more of training I could be in serious contention for a sub 8 hour 50 mile debut. Unfortunately with 1.5 months to go to race I started to develop overuse issues in my left hip flexor, and combined with being swamped with homework, many training runs had to be scraped to make way for applying to college and 5 AP classes of work. After a college trip to Vermont that included a 10 mile “easy” jog at 7:50 pace and a run in the mountains with over 1800 feet of climbing while maintaining sub 11:30 pace j was feeling strong with 2 weeks left. My final big run was going to be a 24 mile multi looped road run around my house. This went terribly. From the first mile my legs were dead and after 3 hours of freezing rain and nausea I finally called it quits at mile 18. I was worried starting to become worried about how the race was going to go.

Race night/pre race

Going into the race I drove up to Hagerstown where I picked up my bib at the Race Expo. While I was there I got to meet Kaci Lickteig, who would go onto finish second the following day. After the expo I got pizza and pasta at a local Italian dinner where I meet up with a couple other runners and talked shop about ultras and the looming day. After getting back to the hotel room, I readied my race gear and triple checked all my nutrition and backup gear. Around 9:15 I turned off the light and tried to fall asleep. After tossing and turning for the next 4 hours I finally managed to fall asleep for a measly 2.5 hours. Awaking at 3:30 I decided it was time to just get up and go. I had never had issues sleeping before races before, and although certainly sleep deprived; I felt awake at the moment and ready to go. I had a decent breakfast of coffee and a beagle with peanut butter. My parents drove me over to the middle school where I got to have a quick conversation with Billy Yang, one of the filmmakers who inspired me to run, and Zach Miller, the to be 2nd place finisher. As I walked the mile to the starting line I could feel the buzz before a race begin to build, my legs start to shake a little, and a fire start to brew. I had been chopping wood for 5 months and it was finally start to set myself ablaze. 

The Race

Lining up for the race I pushed myself up towards the top 50 or so (out of 1200 runners). With the firing of a shotgun the sound of a thousand watches being started at once drowned out the cheers, if only for a moment. Through the first quarter mile we were out in 6:30 pace, which the leaders would hold up for another 5 and a half hours. After checking my watch and some string of common sense going around the front group, we all decided to slow down and take it easy through the next 5 miles. As we climbed the nearly 2,000 feet of the early road climb we all began to slow down. Gels and water bottles were pulled out on the final climb up the road onto the AT. As the next 10 miles rolled by we battled conditions that could only be described as dreadful. Post holing in snow, ice, mud mixes that went up above the calf in some areas took a toll on everyone. Spirits finally lifted as we descended the 1000 feet onto the first major aid station at Weaverly cliffs. I was about 25 minutes back of sub 8 pace, but still feeling strong and ready to push hard. I was scared I had been passed by others in my age group and that i would need to push much harder than I really needed to to win the 19&under award. A quick shoe and sock change later, I was ready to go. I came tearing out of the aid station at 7:30 pace and was ready to put on the jets for the next 26 miles until I would hit the road at the last aid station. I ended up rolling with a pack from mile 15-21 where we cruised at 8:20 pace and had a nice chat. Going into the mile 22 checkpoint I began to feel some tightness behind my knees. This would be the start of an agonizing 6 1-2 hours of battling against the fatigue of pushing so hard for the first 20 miles, sleep deprivation, and the cold to find the finish.  As the miles and hour dragged on, the cramps behind my knees continued to worsen. I got to the halfway point still on sub 9:15 pace. With 25 miles still to go I tried to walk as little as I could and focus on moving my feet as quickly as possible. From seeing my crew for the last time at mile 35 to the end of the Canal at 42 was where the race really fell apart. I had my slowest mile of 21:44 at mile 41 and not much improvement was found thereafter. I made it all to the way to the final aid station at mile 42 and ate as much as my stomach could handle, and tried to move quickly up the last big climb. The final 8 miles were agonizing. The setting sun and rolling hills brought my already slow pace to an utter crawl. As a rounded through the final checkpoint at mile 48.5 I decided to just run as hard as I could to try and finish before the sun set. Climbing the final hill at mile 49.5 I could see the lights of the finish and the roar of a crowd. Running down the downhill my leg speed started to pick up and I could feel the finish line pulling me in, and the crowd willing me to the end. Coming down the chute I checked my watch for the last time and gave it everything I had left. Crossing the line felt like knocking out a home run. 10 hours of fighting myself and the elements culminated in 2 minutes of euphoria over conquering the distance. After receiving my finishers medal I was reunited with my family and announced as the youngest finisher. It was an amazing moment and certainly was worth the effort. 

A person who never took a chance never had a chance. When quitting swimming I knew I was taking the chance of a lifetime. I was turning down D1 scholarships and shot at swimming in the Olympic trials, a dream I had fantasized about since the 2008 Olympics. But, I decided to follow my heart, and not the marks on the wall. I took a chance, gambled my future, and decided to push myself into a new frontier, and I haven’t looked back for even a second.