I am sitting in front of my laptop, enjoying my morning coffee in the travel mug I “won” last weekend at the Teton Ridge Classic. I write “won” here because I was the only one in my age category. But doesn’t that say something as well?
Sometimes I have to remind myself of my background. Never have I thought of myself as an athlete. Sure, I dabbled in gymnastics and tennis as a child, but I was a musician. Early on I had to chose where my time and my parent’s money would be dedicated, and I chose piano and saxophone lessons.
When I started undergrad, I entered a world where I no longer had the time to be a serious musician and I was grappling silently with disordered eating. I had started running the summer before as a tactic to stay skinny, but I was too weak to go more than two miles at a time. But that was about 200 calories, so I didn’t need to go further, right? I auditioned for and made it into the marching band and could hardly physically make it through that first band camp. I was tired. I was weak. And thankfully, I realized that I needed to change if I wanted to be a musician in college at all and if I wanted to survive.
Fast forward to my junior year. I was healthy and I signed up for a marathon. Out of the blue. I had only ever run a turkey trot 5k as an official race and my longest run to date had been 7 miles. A few stresses in my life like a breakup, my grandfather dying, and hard classes might have contributed to my reasoning but I’m still not 100% sure why I did it. After 15 weeks of training and 26.2 miles of pain and pride, I was hooked. I was now dubbed the “athletic friend” in my social circles, but I still didn’t feel like I could be called an athlete. I really did not know what I was doing, I was just running.
In 2019, I moved to Laramie, Wyoming for graduate school and did not know anyone. My roommate invited me to a potluck for graduate student women in science. It overlapped a bit with a trail run planned by the community running group. I had been planning to show up to this trail run, I even messaged the group on Facebook. I had to go and meet the runners of Laramie. So, I said that I’d show up late, it’s a casual potluck right? The run was hard. Running at 8,000 ft for the first time kicked my ass and I went at a fairly embarrassing pace. After the run I showed up late, sweaty, and gross with a bag of carrots and container of humus. All the women were wearing cute summer dresses, made delicious dishes that probably took them at least an hour, and gave me some funny looks when I came in. I sat down next to my roommate, embarrassed for the second time that afternoon. My roommate introduced me to Eva Smith who immediately said something to the effect of “So I heard you’re a runner”. Numbers were exchanged and within a few days we went for a run.
After a wonderful year of running with Eva, we had moved in together and were struggling through the global pandemic. Her partner, Ben, was a Nordic skier. “The ski team is still practicing in person. They do a lot of runs. And you should learn how to ski!”. Sure. I wasn’t doing anything else. And my extroverted self was dying a slow and painful death with the lack of social interactions. But would I be able to keep up? Would I be a burden on the team? I wasn’t an athlete. I never had been. And I definitely did not know how to ski.
So much can be said about that first season learning to ski, but let’s fast forward to the 2022 Teton Ridge Classic. This season, I am not quite in ski shape. I spent the first few kilometers of the race remembering how to ski properly and learning how to do so on my new skis. I spent the last few kilometers trying to keep some semblance of technique while being incredibly tired. When I finished, I was not incredibly happy with my performance.
But sometimes I forget where I came from. This girl who grew up at sea level, who was not an athlete, who used to not be able to run more than 2 miles at a time, who didn’t think she was deserving of calories, who followed a marathon training plan she found on the internet, who learned to ski just a year ago, raced at 14k ski race. And she was the only one in her category to do that.
So, I drink out of this travel mug, and I think the journey it took to get the mug. What I did to deserve this mug. How far I’ve come. How far will I go?
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This blog is a compilation of thoughts, essays, class projects, recipes, etc. from SNOW Athletes.
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