Avoiding the post race slump.

After a focused effort like Ironman, I consistently find myself asking, “What’s next?” I thrive on a steady effort towards something, and when it’s done, I miss it. To keep my mind well, I need to plan the next thing.

The obvious next thing for me is Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013, but that’s not until next June, so I’ve been thinking about things I can do in the interim to keep myself active and happy. I’ve scheduled a few marathons between now and then, but the much more immediate goal is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Trail running.

I run all the time on Lady Bird Lake, which is a trail, but it’s not really trail running. That’s path running. When I say “trail running,” I’m talking about running on the greenbelt or somewhere similar that involves narrow paths, rocks, and navigating somewhat through the woods. I’m talking about running where people like to hike and mountain bike. I’ve avoided trail running in the past. I don’t much care for narrow paths, rocks and navigating through the woods. I much prefer not to have to think when I run. But I’m intrigued by trail running because the people I know who do it really love it. They do 50 and 100 mile runs, largely on trails, which I believe is much harder than straight running on the road or regular paths. So in my off season from Ironman training, I’m going to give it a try.

My friend Susan coaches a trail running group called Trailhead Running. I popped online once to check it out and decided I’d sign up after seeing their slogan: “You’re not lost. You’re with us!” That’s perfect for me because anyone who has traveled anywhere with me knows I have absolutely no sense of direction, which is part of why trail running scares me. I did one trail run in 2008 as part of a triathlon endurance camp with Texas Iron, a great training group. The very first run was a short trail run, and everyone described the path and swore we wouldn’t get lost. We didn’t, but I did. I fell behind and somehow ended up running all alone on a path that felt like it led nowhere, and it scared me to have no idea where I was or where I should go.  Somehow I made my way back to the group but it scared me enough to keep me off the trails for the last four years. This week that changes.

Trailhead Running has an all women’s introductory group starting this Wednesday. It’s eight weeks of learning the basics of trail running. Best of all, they have a “no drop” policy, which means no one gets left behind. I’m doing it, and I also plan to do the trail running race they are encouraging us to do at the end of the course. It’s a race on November 17 in Warda, Texas. (No, I don’t know where Warda is.)

I’d ask you to wish me luck for the class, but I’m pretty sure I won’t need it. I won’t be lost. I’ll be with them!

So jealous.

While I was biking 112 miles during Ironman Canada, Erin got to meet Jordan Rapp.

I’ve said before how much I adore Jordan Rapp.  He inspires me. He is a champion of Ironman races and of life given that he came back from a bike accident where he was left for dead and re-emerged an Ironman champion. I saw him win Ironman Canada in 2011, and I heard him speak at the awards banquet with humility and grace. He is gentle and kind. To see what I mean, listen to this video where he talks about the bike accident:

I had hoped he would race Ironman Canada this year, so that he could win it again and greet me at the finish line, as the champions do during the final hours of the race. He had won the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York just two weeks earlier, so he didn’t race, but he was on site in Penticton to serve as a commentator.

On race day, Erin had just seen me heading out of town on the bike, so she went to a cute little place on the bike route in Penticton for breakfast. Standing in line, Erin heard his distinctive voice, and without even turning around, she knew that he stood behind her. Normally, she would have done nothing but maybe steal a glance, but Erin knows how much I adore this guy, so she worked up the nerve to talk to him. I’m so glad she did because now I have this:

I am jealous she got to meet him, and I’m thankful she thought of me when that opportunity presented itself. Normally, my favorite photo from an Ironman is my finisher’s photo, but not this time.

Thank you, Jordan, for being a champion in so many ways. And thank you, Erin, for knowing how much this photo would mean to me.