How I Got Here
To some this post will be like a broken record to others it will be the beginning of the story. For me it’s a chance to look back at it all and take a second to catch a deep breath before diving back in. For those that have been reading from the beginning of this blog you all deserve an award not me, for those new it’s a chance to see how it all began. How did I get here? I promise I will try to make this short.
At the age of two my parents put me on skis and pushed me down a little hill at our camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. My first word was “deer” then followed by “tree”. Something now tells me I was destined to find comfort in the outdoors. I grew up skiing in the winters and playing tennis, swimming and spending a month in the Adirondacks growing up. I built moss gardens, dandelion headbands, picked blueberries and raspberries, climbed mountains and built sand/mud castles. Basically much of my young years I remember leaving our home in upstate New York and heading to the Adirondacks. In the winters we skied.
It’s no wonder than by the time I was thirteen all I wanted to do was be outside and ski. I had taken up ski racing a few years earlier and as high school approached so did my choice of schools, and I turned to Stratton Mountain School. My high school experience was less than normal. I lived and trained like a professional athlete at the age of fourteen. Our days began at 6:30AM with a morning workout, followed by breakfast, then a morning training on the mountain. We returned back to school for lunch, then an afternoon of classes, afternoon workout, dinner, study hall then bedtime at 10:00pm. And honestly, I loved the experience and the values I learned then have shaped who I am today. I skied over 100 days a year and trained year round. I was never destined for the US Ski Team, I was never that good. I always had to work to get into the better race series and built a solid work ethic by always being surrounded by those better than myself. This is how I look back at my high school experience.
After four years of this life, I moved on to college playing two varsity Division 3 sports, alpine ski racing and women’s lacrosse. Both again shaped my experience. After college, in order to fill the void I became a coach, I coached the at college level in lacrosse and at the ski academy level in alpine skiing. I clung to my athlete self image as I coached while slowly falling out of shape myself. I was enjoying wing night and $2 drafts a little too much.
In the beginning of 2009 I was housesitting stepped on a scale and saw a number which frightened me. I was twenty pounds and several clothing sizes larger than I am today. However, this wasn’t my call to action but it was a wake-up call. I wasn’t the athlete I once was. That summer a had a seismic life shift, the kind that shatters everything you know and you are forced to start over. This event in hindsight was the greatest thing that could have happened to me. A few months later I found myself in another job, a new home, and in many ways a clean slate.
It was not until May 2010 that really the first piece of this puzzle was laid down. Early that spring through Facebook I saw a friend “Like” this thing called Spartan Race. It was a new race touted as two miles with some thing like obstacles mixed in. This was to be the first Spartan Race. It was not far from where I live and I thought why not I should be able to get two miles. Seriously, at that time I was questioning two miles. I got there and the whole thing had changed, it was longer and I worried a bit. During that race I met Lynn Lena, and saw (didn’t meet) Grace Cuomo Durfee, these ladies would go on to later become good friends of mine.
After the race was finished, I was hooked and I was sold and coincidentally, that was the day Spartan Race was really born. Later that summer I went on to race in another Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, and Shawnee Peak Challenge. All of them I finished in the top 25% and thought I was a hero for doing so well. Along the way I saw a banner for an event called Tough Mudder. I googled it and found out it was a 10 mile race. No way could I do that I thought. Up to that point a 5K was a challenge. One day however, I pulled the trigger and signed up.
In April 2011, my journey sort of began. I began running one or two miles at a time. I would be psyched if I made it to six! The one run I did to eight miles you would have thought I had just won an olympic medal. I was quietly doing this in the woods of Vermont without a clue what was in store. The race day dawned and I was scared shitless, I had never gone ten miles before and didn’t know if I would even complete it. I remember being on the course chanting positive mantras to myself as I moved forward. I crossed the finish line in just under 2:30 finishing third for women in the first heat and among the top 25 for men and in the process qualifying for World’s Toughest Mudder.
Now you can fake a 5k you can even fake a 10 miler, but you can’t fake a 24 hour race. Not one to back down from a challenge I knew I had to attempt this race. It was time to draw on my years of experience of devoting myself to athletics and couple it with the knowledge I had picked up in the last eight years of coaching. Thus I decided to start Dirt In Your Skirt, purely to hold myself accountable since this time I had no coach or watchful eye over my training. I had no idea where it would go or even what the desired outcome was for the blog. I posted on Facebook in the morning the workout then wrote about it in the afternoon/evening when it was complete.
Then an email to Joe Desena and a meeting later pulled me into the Spartan Race world. I found myself being profiled on their blog and Dirt In Your Skirt exploded. All of this was happening and I was still quietly racing under the radar and silently picking up top ten finishes at all my stops. My readers were building and people outside of my family were following the blog. I remember the first fan note I got and was so taken aback that anyone was actually reading the blog.
In July, Carrie Adams asked me to join the Spartan Chicked Team. At the time it was a concept she had to bring more light to the women competing. We were to depute at the Spartan Beast held here in Killington, Vermont. Before the event I did much of the organization with Carrie, dubbing me Team Manager 4 Life (the 4 life came later). It was on August 6, 2011 two days before my 28th birthday that I came out of the shadows. My third place finish for women thrust me from an unknown to one of the best known women in the Spartan Race world. A position that at first was extremely hard to image for me and a lot overwhelming. I was the same woman who in April was barely able to run two miles and was now doing interviews and talking to some media. I followed up that race with a top finish at the Warrior Dash the next weekend. Two podiums in seven days let me know this wasn’t a fluke.
I continued to race for the rest of the season building up to World’s Toughest Mudder. One of the greatest accomplishments I have felt to date was crossing the finish line of the Vermont 50 (50K) in September. My path was accellerated, the woman who was overjoyed with eight miles in late April had just ran 32.5 miles (I got lost on course). I would go on to compete in Spartan Race World Championships and finish 6th for women. Most at this point know my World’s Toughest Mudder story, after 21 hours of racing I pulled myself from the race due to hypothermia and extreme fatigue. I was the last woman to drop out of the race, a race of which only two women would finish. If you don’t know the whole story you can read the blogs, but the end result was a DNF.
The last year has not been without it’s ups and downs. I have had great days and had some really bad patches. I trained too little at times and trained too much at others. I learned a lot in the last ten months but still feel like a newb almost everyday. I learn something new about myself and my sports each time I lace up my shoes. So why write this post? Well in many ways when I am in the woods I still feel like the little girl out exploring all the vast possibilities in life. A good trail run is about as close to Nirvana as I can get. I also write this post because I am just like anyone else, I just am able to craft my experiences into semi-coherant thoughts most of the time riddled with typos.
As we are starting to get closer and closer to the 2012 Race Season I tell my story not to rest on my laurels but to embrace all I have done so far. I do this so that in the moments where I am frustrated and the negative feelings take over I can draw back and think a year ago I could not do this! So what do I have next? Well Dirt In Your Skirt will be expanding a bit in the next couple of months and offering some pretty sweet upgrades and stuff. For my racing look for me to attempt my first 50 milers in May followed by the Death Race in June. A lot of other things in life are happening in this timeframe as well but it’s the other side of my life, the personal stuff that I am sure will come out in the writing over the next couple of months.
So I thank you all again, those that are still sticking with me and have since the beginning. As well thank you to all those new who just jumped on this train. I hope you are able to draw pleasure and enjoyment out of the posts each day. If nothing else you got to see some pictures of me through the ages, some flattering some not as much.