Monday, September 12, 2011

Mind Games

I lived in Boulder Colorado for four years while I was studying at the University of Colorado at Boulder. During my time in Colorado I fell in love with the mountains, skiing, hiking, the dry air, moderate winters and gloriously sunny summers. I never went 'home' to Chicago over the summers but instead stayed in Colorado so I could take summer classes and be around my nephews at the time. I always had the desire to be an athlete while living in Boulder but never the drive.

About six months ago I started planning a vacation to Colorado centered around a 50 mile bike ride in the foothills of Boulder and of course to visit my brother. What really happened amazed me. I started my journey driving out to Colorado from Columbus Ohio, logging some decent runs along the way. I had extreme trepidation as I began pondering the 20 mile training run that was scheduled for September 10, 2011, just one day prior to the Buffalo classic.

My brother informed me that he took Friday off from work so that he could ride Vail Pass with my cousin and a friend who came to town for the Buffalo Classic. I am not going to lie, I was less than pleased because I had this 20 mile run looming on Saturday and the 50 mile ride on Sunday; all I wanted to do was log some hikes, go site seeing and be around some people I don't see very often but love dearly. Seriously, why would I ride 9 miles uphill at what is extreme altitude when I have other events/training goals? I simply said that I wasn't going to do it...

3 miles up Vail Pass
As I began planning my week I decided that I would run on Wednesday to try and get acclimated to the altitude and then attempt my 20 miles on Thursday so I could spend as much time with my people as possible. What happened next amazed me! Wednesday I ran around a lake a couple of times logging 5 very easy miles. On Thursday morning I woke up with a pit in my stomach, got dressed, left my friends house and headed to the South Platt trail in Denver. I started running and I just kept going, I seriously felt like Forrest Gump (this is where you are supposed to laugh)! At about 9 miles south of my starting point I turned around and headed back to Denver. I ran as if I were at Columbus altitude. I admittedly had to walk up a lot of hills so as not to destroy my knees, I also had to walk mile 17 and 18 because I ran out of water but the reality is I finished 18 miles at altitude. I felt untouchable, grateful, accomplished, proud; you name it, that was how I felt.

On Friday morning, as we were loading the car for Vail Pass and other mountain adventures I told my cousin to throw my bike in the car, I put on my cycling gear and much to my surprise decided to attempt Vail Pass. I did not 'summit' the pass but I did something I never knew possible. I rode 4 miles uphill and never blinked an eye. I decided to turn around, not because I was particularly tired or thought I couldn't do it but instead because I wanted to save my body for the remainder of the trip.

Getting ready for the 50 mile ride
On Sunday I headed out from my Alma Mater to ride 50 miles. Not only did I finish the ride but I completed the ride with a smile on my face, riding up the same hill I found every excuse to drive up when I lived in Boulder. I fell once, saw some interesting cycling outfits along the way, encountered people who were encouraging (and less so) and enjoyed outstanding views of the Rockies!

I was recently talking with a friend about how we wish we had discovered our love for running many years ago because we would have a better base at this point and we couldn't imagine the type of mileage we may have logged at this point in our lives. Reflecting back some years and relating it to this week has been especially telling. I realize that if I always let my mind win I may not have had these experiences. My mind has limited me in the past using excuses such as the human body is not meant to run a marathon (while deep down I want to run a marathon), riding on highway 36 in Boulder is stupid and dangerous (well it is dangerous but I still did it), running at altitude for this flatlander is not wise (but I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my life), riding Vail Pass is only for the elite (I did make it 4 miles up, which may not seem like much but is something I would have never tried in the past).

Picture from the hike
The point is in the text somewhere but to summarize, I have discovered that my mind has limited me in the past and I believe that limit was fear. I have to say though, I am happy and grateful for how this journey took shape in my life. I used to live with a fear that I could not run the three miles, could not cross the finish line, could not accomplish lofty goals but this week has made me realize anything is possible. I will no longer live in fear or allow my mind games to set my limits, only my dreams will define my limits!


  1. Am so glad you got lured to Colorado so long ago. And even tho you weren't building your 'base' as a runner, you were surely building your 'base' as a swimmer. Remember all those miles we logged in that grotty YMCA pool?

  2. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this with me, it is really inspiring.