Salt Lake City

Just as you are- reflection from Outdoor Retailer

Running back from the Wasatch Wobble with a fast crew

Mark Darcy: "I don't think you're an idiot at all. I mean, there are elements of the ridiculous about you. Your mother's pretty interesting. And you really are an appallingly bad public speaker. And, um, you tend to let whatever's in your head come out of your mouth without much consideration of the consequences... But the thing is, um, what I'm trying to say, very inarticulately, is that, um, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much. Just as you are." (Bridget Jones Diary 2001)

I've always loved that quote (and that movie for that matter) and I feel that way about the ones I love: I love them just as they are. I love them when the grow and change, I love them when they stay the same. I love their faults and mad skills. Just as they are.

Krissy and Ellie running back from the Wobble

Reflecting back on my few days at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, I realized that is not often I ask myself if I extend that sentiment to the way I feel about myself. Do I love myself just as I am? In running, as well as in all aspects of life, I continually try to grow, improve, and better myself. I work hard to do these things and that journey is not always an easy one. There are not always confidence markers along the way to make you feel like you are heading in the right direction. I love to grow, learn, change, strive. But in that pursuit, it is easy to lose sight or focus on the person that you are right at this very moment. I realized while I was at OR that I don't always give myself for the person I am right now, just as I am, this work in progress.

Bonneville Shore Trail.

The fantastic folks at Salomon flew me out to Salt Lake for the show and it was an overwhelming experience to check out all of the new products and see all of the excitement of the show. I had fun talking to Salomon product designers and offering feedback on things, it was cool to check out all the Spring/Summer 2012 products. I got in some great running including a night run with a fantastic group of speedsters in the Wasatch (followed by late night burritos!). 

One of the things I was participating in at the show was the TrailRunner Magazine Uphill Challenge. I came into this challenge with a great deal of self doubt and trepidation. The Uphill Challenge is 15 minutes at 15% grade on a treadmill (up from the usual 10%). You run head to head with another competitor and there are about 20+ total participants over the course of the day. Whomever runs farthest wins (man and woman). 

Boxing Bear Running Climb- night run in the Wasatch

Arriving in SLC, I was definitely feeling tired, slow and nervous. After smashing the SF marathon the Sunday before as a training run and then picking right back up the peak training, I was daunted by the idea of the Challenge. I tried to laugh it off, tried to push out the self doubt but the negative thoughts proliferated as my turn crept closer and closer. They say, I thought, I am not a good hill runner. They say, I am a good road runner, flat runner, downhill runner. I admit it, after its been said so many time both directly and indirectly, I started to believe that sentiment, I started to believe that I am some how less because my best skill is not uphill running.

Krissy and I atop the Wasatch. She is a true inspiration and friend.

I warmed up in the parking lot, watched Krissy and Liza go head to head and was further made a nervous wreck when Krissy had to stop half way through because of a strange flutter in her lungs/chest. I see Krissy as an extremely talented uphill runner and watching her have to pull out mid way through did not instill confidence. She told me that I shouldn't take what happened to her as an example of how it would be, but its hard to accept since she is one of the toughest cookies I know. I was glad she was ok and made a smart decision to pull. 

I stepped on the treadmill, feeling tight, sore and unenergetic. A small crowd was gathered round to watch Gina and I face off. We were the last ladies pair and Gina, running for team Inov-8, was the defending champ. I flipped on the treadmill and did a bit more warming up. I had the incline on 3.0 and inquired (probably a bit desperately) if 3.0 was equal to 3%. I was hoping not, since it felt incredibly difficult, but alas, it was so. I took one deep breathe and thought, hell, its only 15 minutes of my life. I just have to keep going for 15 minutes, I don't have to necessary do it hard or fast.

With a countdown, Ashley Arnold sent us off at 15% and I cranked up the speed to around 5 mph. My strategy was just to run steady and not try to go out to fast. I planned on increasingly slowly, then in the last 1-2 minutes cranking it up to "one misstep and you are flying off the back" speed. I focused my eyes, not on the speed or incline, but on a single spot on the ground. I focused, not on the "I can't do this" sentiment, but on the "I CAN do this. I don't care what anyone says. I can do this." I realized that to succeed I needed to accept myself for who I am, just as I am. I am a good runner, uphill, downhill, road and trail. And I have one thing that mattered more in a challenge such as this than anything else: true grit. For 15 minutes at 15% grade, it is a lot more about what you can bear mentally and physically than skill. For 15 minutes, I could hold on, I could run harder than I thought I could. I could say YES I CAN, instead of I can't, this is hard. I'm not good at this. 

Yes I can get 12+ people into one self-portrait. Oh wait...

Gina and I clicked off identical 10ths of a mile. Holding the same speed steadily as the seconds slid away. 10 minutes gone, I still had legs. I pushed a bit. 13 minutes, I started cranking, pushing and finding my body still had more to give. In the final minute, I had it cranked up to 7.5 mph and felt like I was flying. 15 minutes, done. 1.35 miles. I had won my match up and was the 2nd woman overall for the day. There was a moment on that treadmill when I was able to see that who I am right now, even as I pursue challenges, goals and growth, is worthy. I realized that I am good enough, just as I am. I am good enough not when I achieve those challenges, goals or growth, I am good enough right now. I think it is amazingly easy to forget to give yourself credit for who you are right now, flaws and all, halfway there (half way to where? There is no destination), smack dab as a work in progress. 

Ellie left a piece of herself on the Wasatch

I stepped off the treadmill genuinely surprised by myself, not because I did so well, but because of the depth of self-doubt that I had to overcome. I was surprised that I had forgotten to give myself credit or celebrate the person that I am. We all do it, of that I am sure. But I am happy that I had that moment as I was cranking along, where I said Yes to myself again. It makes you feel superhuman to believe in yourself, just as you are.

Over the rest of the show, I walked and ran around feeling renewed. I have been challenging myself with big pursuits this year and it is the first time that I have genuinely felt empowered by how I am going after it, instead of feeling like I am not doing enough, that I could be doing more. I let go of the self doubt and with it came levity. To face challenges with yes instead of no makes the difficult pursuits seem so much easier. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way I think.

Joe, the mountains and the sunset.