Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/10/11 and the monkey is off my back

top of the first climb, above Layton, Utah
It's been nine years and three DNFs in the making.  Way back in 2002 was my first drop, at mile 75.  Then I decided to try it again in 2003, only to drop again at mile 75.  This was followed by several years of mountain biking and a smattering trail running here and there, purely on a just-for-fun basis.  The bug caught me again though, in 2009 when I paced my friend Eve for 25 miles to a 34 hour finish at Wasatch 100.  I decided to go for it again, and in 2010 my hopes and dreams were yet again dashed at mile 62.  I had run 22 miles on a bum knee (the pain actually started at mile 40 but I continued on to mile 62, almost in disbelief that I would DNF for a third time at this race).  I was extremely disappointed in myself and felt as though I had let my friends down, who had dedicated so much of their own time and energy to my effort.  I was also a little embarrassed, and wondered if I even really had 100 miles in me.

thunderstorms over the Wasatch from Alexander ridge
After several encouraging comments over the winter, I decided to enter the lottery once again to try and finish Wasatch.  And to my surprise, I got in.  I was almost hoping that my name wouldn't be drawn, and that the opportunity to run could be given to someone else who wanted it more, like my friend Brian whose name was not drawn.

Ashley has a 3mph internal clock that got me to the finish with time to spare

I took it as a sign.  My name was drawn to run this race, because as several people had put it, "This is the year.  I can feel it."  There was a reason that my name was drawn to run this race, and I was going to give it everything I had.  First things first, hire a coach.  My on-line coach, Ian, is also an acquaintance of mine from running events in years past and a friend of a friend, and I knew that I would be able to communicate well with him for the 3 months leading up to the race.  I had already been running for a couple of months after transitioning from ski touring, and I felt like I had a strong foundation.

Mrs Speedgoat, Cheryl, my night pacer
I worked for three months with the training plan that Ian set up for me.  It was so great to have someone planning my weeks and mileage and time, and giving me feedback on how I was progressing.  It was also great to have someone to report to and answer to!  I think I missed maybe 2 or 3 days of training in 3 months.  I took the plan seriously in order to give myself the best chance of getting to my goal. 

I ran consistently well all summer, until about 3 weeks before the race when I developed bilateral lower leg pain after running King's Peak in a Day with my friend Sue.  No matter what I did (acupuncture, massage, taping, resting, stretching, foam roller... you name it) it never really went away 100% and I was so afraid that my hopes for finishing Wasatch would again be dashed by an injury.

into the darkness that would soon be 2nd morning
I muddled through the week before the race a bundle of nerves.  Trying not to think about all of the little aches and pains that I was having, spending way too much money on massage therapy (which I'm now very glad that I did!), trying to eat but so nervous that my appetite had diminished (my friend Sallie took me to lunch on Wednesday and practically force-fed me.  Thanks, Sallie!).  I think I was pretty much a mess.  I talked to Ian on Tuesday afternoon and he reassured me that I had done all the hard work needed, and that I could have confidence going into the event.  I worked on Wednesday and Thursday and wonder what my work-colleagues thought of me, but going to work actually helped to take my mind off of some of my race nerves.

deliriously happy at Point Supreme
I showed up to the pre-race meeting at Sugarhouse Park on Thursday afternoon and had a good chat with several friends, and my mind was oddly set at ease.  I think one of the biggest boosts of confidence I got was following the Gore-Tex Trans Rockies race on-line two weeks before my race.  If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a 6-day stage race from Buena Vista to Vail, Colorado with teams of two, who race about 15-20 miles per day everyday without a break.  My coach competed in this race and it was so great for me to know that this amazing athlete was also in a sense on my team.  He knows what he is talking about and backs his words up with amazing effort and results.

raising the roof at the Homestead finish line
Race day in itself is such a blur in my memory today, only one day after the finish.  It is a blur of happiness, pain, nausea (and one episode of vomiting in the Brighton bathroom after trying to brush my teeth that I'd really like to try and forget), discouragement, elation, remorse,self-doubt, determination, love, and most of all relief.  So many people came out to see me cross the finish line.  So many more followed my progress on-line and sent me encouraging text messages and Facebook updates.  I know that I couldn't have done it without the support and love of all of these wonderful people.  But most of all, I know that I got it done because I believed in myself.

The monkey is gone.


  1. Once again, your accomplishment has me a blubbering mess. I'm so glad you took the time to write, as I have really been wondering where your head/mind/body is at after your race and I'm glad to hear that you're in a good place. One final note... you and your brother really do think alike. He had been on a fire and when he got home I started crying again when we began talking about you and what you've done. The first thing he said was "She's finally got that monkey off her back." I love you Boo Boo! - Abigail

  2. Well said! Strong work Missy.

  3. I've had a bit of social media hiatus and feel so bad that I totally missed this whole event....

    This was the absolute BEST blog post ever in the history of blog posts. Strong, emotional and well-written. Not to mention the event you wrote about was incredible.

    What a thrill for you to conquer this. I am so, so happy for you!!! I've told everyone I know that I know you, and what you did.