Going off Course Sometimes is Part of the Journey...

Gore-Tex Transalpine Run 2015

I don't believe that one year is harder than the next when it comes to the Gore-Tex Transalpine Run. (TAR)  Every year I have ran this race, it has been hard, just for different reasons.  This is partially what I love about this race and what has kept me coming back 5yrs in a row.  My experience in the Alps has taught me a lot about myself, built strong friendships with my running partners, allowed my family and I to travel to places we only dreamed of and further connected me with my community in a way I never imagined.  With these examples alone, I am bursting with gratitude. 

I celebrated my 4th consecutive finish of this epic stage race in 2014 and this year, I was well on my way to completing a long term goal I set to finish 5 times.  Unfortunately, on what felt like my strongest year yet, I pulled out 15km into stage 3 due to unbearable stomach pains (which started on stage one) & was diagnosed with a stomach/intestinal infection.  I was given medication and told to take 3 full days off running.  I knew this was part of the risk in making such a long term goal and that something like this could happen, however never in my wildest dreams did I think it actually would. 

Driving in the paddy wagon back to the finish, part of me felt relieved not to have to run with such intense stomach pain and the other part of me felt this sobering acceptance and started to grasp for what to do next.  I was 4yrs into a 5yr goal and poof! Game changing moment. 

I ended up taking one full day off running, missing stage 4 and happily still managed to plant my feet in the Alps 7/8 stages.  I would , however have to accept a unofficial finish which also meant that my 5yr finishers plan wasn't going to happen this year either. 

Partnership and teamwork is the backbone to a race like TAR and teams either get stronger through the ups and downs, or they fall apart.  There is no middle ground.  I am really proud of Carrie for her finish this year and how we were able to honour the twist and turns in our journey, together as a team.  Even though I was no longer going to be an 'official finisher", it didn't mean it was suddenly only Carrie's race or that my role in the journey didn't matter.  We both worked hard to get to this point and on any given day during the race, we held the weight for each other and helped one another through the low or downright desperate moments.

We have an inside saying among TAR participants, well, actually more of a hashtag: #TheRealTAR.  Under this hashtag you would see moments of great suffering.  Crying.  Moments so low, your partner has to push you up a hill or give you a pep-talk or maybe ten pep-talks.  Where you sing, shut up or laugh so hard you could pee your pants.  Where you cramp so badly you have to sit down and wonder, truly, if you'll be able to continue.  When there is so much cow shit on your shoes, for so long, you stop noticing the smell.  Hand holding, hugging, matching EVERYTHING, tilting your heads back & leaning into a spirited laughter that only you and your partner understand.  It was some of the #TheRealTAR that helped us still earn the finish as a team and strengthened our bond & friendship. 

Photo: Luc Van Oost

Here's the thing. Races come and go. You win some. You lose some. You let it go. I didn't put any energy into feeling sorry for myself and I certainly didn't dwell on it or mope around.  Racing sometimes comes with disappointments and how you handle setbacks is also part of the responsibility of racing and being a well rounded athlete.  It isn't realistic to think that things will always go my way or have a satisfying outcome.  I suppose the uncertainty of our goals is what keeps us so motivated and interested in them.  If the finish (or outcome) was guaranteed, it wouldn't provide a challenge, reward or the opportunity to rise up and/or grow. 

Going off course sometimes is part of the journey.  What's more important is how you get back on track and not giving up.  I feel like this year has held a lot of small defining moments that have really helped me grow.  I have been spending time reflecting the past month and I am reminded that this is what living is all about.  Therefore, I am excited to get after it again in 2016, along with another stage race and a few other personal adventures I am planning.  I signed up for Singletrack 6 before I left for Europe this summer thinking this year would be my last year running TAR after completing my 5yr goal.  It's is wonderful how life surprises and challenges us.

Thanks to Salomon Canada and all my friends and family who continue to support me year after year.  Your encouragement and support really means a lot and this year, receiving all your messages and acceptance during the low moments... cheers and celebration during the high moments, were not only felt but completely cherished. 

Photo: Luc Van Oost

Photo: Luc Van Oost

Watch for my next blog post on 6 steps to meaningful goal setting.  Coming soon!