I found myself asking that question several times throughout 2015. Ok, maybe on an (almost) daily basis. (And then it’d be followed by hours of trying to get “Bohemian Rhapsody” out of my head)
But, no, seriously – 2015 was a trip. Tumultuous at times, but so incredibly, freaking awesome at others. I constantly have to remind myself to take a look back at the last few years and really take in and embrace the sideways turn my life took back in 2011, and where it’s brought me to today – the highs, the lows, and sometimes, the utter ridiculousness.
But as the sport continues to grow and evolve (and actually be defined as “a sport”), I’d like to think I continue to grow and evolve with it. And I do so, in part, by taking stock of what has happened, and letting that help shape my future.
So what did 2015 teach me?
I can hang on short courses
If you know me at all, you know that I will be the first to whine and moan about short races – my loathing for Spartan Sprints is well-known and well-documented. I have one gear: grinding. Just like I avoid speed work like the plague, I’d prefer to avoid races that are shorter than my typical week day runs. But while I’ve had a hang-up over not being able to compete on a short course, my results from this past year show otherwise. While I didn’t win either the Montana or Breckenridge Sprint, sold 2nd places showings gave me some confidence that “heeeeey little speedsters, you can’t shake me. I’m gonna hang there like that annoying gnat that’s just not going to go away.” Or, you know, just hope for some hills on those courses.
…but I still prefer long courses
I can’t emphasize this enough. Before World’s Toughest Mudder this year, Matt B. Davis asked me if I was nervous. I believe I told him that this is the LEAST nervous I get all year. I love the long courses. I love the slow grind. And that’s where I’m happy. My experience at the Georgia Death Race this year (despite some mid-race wheels coming off), only solidified that. Long makes me happy. Short makes me nauseous. And that’s totally cool. Speaking of…
FINE. I’m a runner.
For the last few years, I’ve maintained that, “hey guys – I’m not a runner.” I trained primary with CrossFit. I ran maybe 15-20 miles a week. I’d only run one road race before in my life. I didn’t own a Garmin. I had no idea what a tempo run was, and hadn’t set foot on a track since I finished dead last in the 100m dash in middle school.
But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy running. I always have. I just hated running in Chicago. Because you had one 18 mile stretch of flat, FLAT ground, and that was about it. But this year, I finally had the opportunity to get back on the trails, trails like I grew up running and hiking and backpacking in the Northwest. And I rediscovered that love. That feeling of pure joy climbing up a mountain (I
still hate the running down).
And I discovered how much I love running for hours on end. How exhilarating it is to find a new trail, get lost, and have a 15 miler turn into a 22. So, FINE, guys – I’m a runner. Maybe I’ll do a 5k this year.
Speaking of love and joy…
Sometimes, if you can’t beat ’em – join ’em
I was the first person to cry foul when Spartan partnered with NBC Sports to start televising races back in 2014. I didn’t want it. I avoided the cameras (I remember literally running away from the cameras in the first televised race in at Tuxedo in 2014). And I viewed the media and TV as a chore, not an adventure.
I finally realized, however, that the cameras weren’t going away no matter how much I protested and/or rained out expletives on national TV. I had two options: be butthurt or miserable about it, or I could embrace the opportunity and hey, MAYBE, just maybe, have fun with it. So the 2015 season was an adventure in this. Unsurprisingly, once I stopped resisting, I actually found it was possible to have fun with the cameras (and they really are a GREAT crew of folks). Even when they show you crying on national TV. (Whatever, I ain’t mad about it). However, even though I (reluctantly) let the media into my life…
The answer to “are you a professional…?” is still “no”
Well, if the full question is “are you a professional attorney?”, then the answer would be “yes.” (not that anyone phrases a question like that). But it’s been a tricky question for me that I get asked more and more often as of late. Admittedly, it’s mostly asked when I’m on a plane traveling to a race decked out in Reebok warm-up gear. In those situations, I’ll get asked if I’m a collegiate athlete. Which I’ll always respond to with “about 10 years too old for that one. But thanks for making this 32-year old feel good about herself.”
I will concede that racing has certainly moved past the “hobby” stage, but the cocktail party answer to “what do you do?” is still “I’m an attorney.” Along the lines of attorney-ing…
Change is good. I think. (Ack! Ask me again in 6 months)
I’ve never been great at change. I freak out. I try to embrace it. But I second guess myself and constantly look for the “right”
answer. Leaving my firm job for an in-house position, moving across country, all right in the middle of OCR championship season wasn’t my most brilliant idea (timing-wise), but opportunities don’t always wait. Especially when they are pretty damn awesome ones
So while I’m learning to embrace change (and get better at dealing with it), there are certain things I’m ok with…
I’m never going to be super regimented or dogmatic about my nutrition. And that’s ok.
One of the questions I loathe the most in interviews is when someone asks me to describe my diet. I generally answer with “you don’t want to know.” Look, I’ve tried. I tried to go Paleo. I tried ketosis. I think the idea of being a fat-adapted athlete sounds phenomenal.
But I simply love things like ice cream and ketchup chips and Pop-Tarts too much.
Is it lack of will-power? Probably. But I’ve beat myself up enough over not eating “clean” for so long, I’m over it. Honestly, 80% (ok, maybe 70%. 50% on bad days) is generally healthy, simple stuff – veggies, chicken, etc. But I also eat a fair amount of processed, nasty crap. (confession – I love a good can of Redi-Whip). And until it adversely affects my performance as an athlete or I see abnormal health effects (high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc), I’m going to enjoy myself a little. And stop apologizing for it.
So get off your “holier-than-thou” clean eating train and recognize that, hey – Cheez-its and wine is sometimes a perfectly acceptable dinner.
In more self-love type of news…
You are not your race results. The people that matter don’t give two flying flips how you finished in any given race. Or any race at all.
I met up for coffee with three of my best friends from high school when I was back in Oregon for Christmas. We chatted about our lives. Where we’ve been this past year. Where we’re going. Not once did one of these strong woman, whom I call my best friends, ask about how I did at a particular race. Because really, they don’t care. They love me for Amelia, as their friend – not Amelia, the OCR athlete.
I think Ryan Atkins said it brilliantly in a post leading up to Spartan World Championships: when we are SO caught up in our sport, when it seems like EVERYONE is focused on one race, you lose sight of the fact that 99% of people out there don’t care. The result of a race doesn’t change who you are as a person. And who you are as a person is what matters to those in life that actually matter.
As to deal with the people in life that definitely DON’T matter…
Ignore the peanut gallery
The internet is a funny place. It’s full of good – you can make great connections, learn super cool stuff, and hell – change the course of your life. But It also can be an extraordinarily awful place, with people feeling super confident in speaking their minds, shielded by distance and behind a computer screen. I’ve run into many situations this year where people have said, well…less than flattering things. Nevermind that 99% of comments or a post or a picture that someone has shared are super complimentary, I will fixate on that one bad thing. For example, a picture that Spartan posted of me crossing the finish line after winning the NJ Super, and one ashole who commented “weird body.” Despite everyone else congratulating me, all I could do was fixate on that one idiot. My immediate reaction is to defend – it was an awkward angle (it was), I was jumping over fire (I was), and yeah, I’m kinda built like a ruler (my waist and hips are pretty much the same size). But if I feed the internet trolls, if I acknowledge it, what is that going to accomplish?
Along those lines, there seem to be a new crop of “OCR commentators,” or, as I’ve called them, the “OCR peanut gallery.” They think it’s fair game to comment on people’s performance in a race. “WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE?” for instance. Or “WHY DIDN’T YOU WIN?” Well, gee sir. There were hundreds of people in a race and only one can win and sometimes that person isn’t you. How about you – did you win?
And perhaps it shows evolution of our sport – that it’s popular enough that people want to comment on it, want to make predictions, want to pick ponies before a race. But it’s still a small enough community that, as racers, we read that stuff. We control our own social media handles. And (some of us) still do this mainly for fun. So, if I have one request for anyone reading this – think before you post. Anything. I don’t care if it’s Kim Kardashian, JJ Watt, or an OCR racer. That’s a human you are talking about. “Fame” doesn’t take that away from someone. Hell, at least I hope not.
But even when people get you down, just remember…
This sh$t is bananas
2015. Let’s see…I was on the cover of Runner’s World. I was mentioned in Christopher McDougall’s book. Tim Ferriss let me ramble for an hour and a half on his podcast. I won some polls and popular votes about best OCR athletes and what not. I claimed my third World’s Toughest Mudder win. I was the Spartan Points Champion. I randomly appeared on NBC Sports late at night. I filmed a second Spartan TV show (teams!). I did a photo shoot with JJ Watt. I went to Wrestlemania. And Summer Slam. And the Super Bowl (for the second year in a row).
Hot damn, I’ve done some freaking cool things in the past year. If I believed in hash tagging “blessed,” I suppose this would be the place where I would do it. But I try to not be a social media asshole, so I won’t.
I list all these out not to brag and peacock (is that a verb? I’m making it one) about my year. I list them out to remind myself that, hey – life is pretty rad. Because despite all of these cool accomplishments, I find myself, like many others do, in periods of self-doubt, or of random sadness. And 2015 was also a year of personal upheaval and other matters best left unpublished on the interwebs. So, the goal, like always, is to find that happiness. To find that joy. To seek a new challenge. And to constantly better myself.
And I’ve come to realize…
I’m truly happiest when lost on the trails
Ok, maybe not the “I’m going to die out here” kind of lost, but you get my drift. The more time I spend out on the trails, climbing mountains, hours at a time, the more I realize how much peace I find out there. And to paraphrase what a wise Norm Koch told me this past year (while I was bitching about “having” to do the Montana Sprint, and not the Beast, because of the NBC cameras…), life’s too short to be spending it not doing what you want to do. (man, I just butchered that into a double negative. Sorry, Norm).
So 2016 may be a year of doing what I want to do. A year about my joy. My happiness. I’m not sure exactly where that’s going to take me yet, but I have a good idea.
Happy New Year. May each one be better than the last.
(and yes…I will be fixing my website. 2016 goals)