Everyday we get to age, is a privilege.
Sit with that thought for awhile.
If you have recently reached a milestone year, or have experienced a health crisis, or have suffered a loss that reminds you that life is fragile then maybe you already know this. More importantly, maybe you already live this. There’s a quote by someone old and wise that I really like, that goes something to the effect of “You get two lives, and the second one starts when you realize you only have one.”
Or wait, was it Mackelmore that said that? Hmmm no he said you die twice.
Either way, there’s some pretty powerful truth in knowing that we only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
Ok, that’s Eminem. I’m gonna stop quoting white rappers and move on to tell my own story.
I turned 40 this month. And to celebrate, I ran one helluva trail race called Diez Vista 50K in Port Moody, B.C. I wasn’t really planning on doing this for my milestone birthday, in fact, I had meant to do this in 2020 but, well, you know what happened. Two years later, and I was feeling pretty fortunate that it coincided so nicely with my fortieth birthday weekend. An early spring getaway to find some green trails sounded like the perfectly irresponsible thing to do. So that’s exactly what we did.
I was hoping that my Tuesday morning speed work all winter with Need for Speed would pay off and I could deliver a super fast 50k. But in truth, I haven’t had the best winter of training and wasn’t feeling overly confident. Some hormone issues, related weight gain and a few concerning incidents with my heart had shaken my confidence a bit. I’m working with a cardiologist and naturopath to sort things out and I’m confident that a few lifestyle changes will help, but it definitely didn’t leave me feeling all that quick for race day.
I decided early on that I wasn’t going to let that deter me from enjoying the day. With such a deep field of B.C. runners used to technical trails and tons of elevation, I certainly didn’t expect to finish near the podium anyway. Afterall, the whole purpose of the trip was to celebrate being alive for forty years, no one cares how fast I am other then me, so ultimately it was up to me to just let that go and choose to enjoy the race.
I spent my actual birthday (April 8th) with my family, wandering Stanley Park trails, eating donuts at Granville Island, going to the Vancouver Aquarium and eating sushi without thinking about the cute fishes from earlier. It was a fantastic day, but I was eager to get to sleep at a decent time for some pre-race rest. I was tucked into my bed and nearly asleep, while the kids and Kirk watched Brooklyn 99 in the living room of our Air BnB, when I heard some shuffling around outside and the door of my room open.
There was Tania! My best friend and run wife had flown from Edmonton to surprise me for my birthday weekend and to volunteer at the race! I was a little confused, very delighted and not to sure if any of it was real until the next morning when I realized it wasn’t all a dream, she was really there, and it was time to hit the trails.
Other then some small local races like BarKaKoo, it has been a really long time since I’ve toed the line at a big mountain trail race with hundreds of runners. Sinister 100 miler might have even been the last time I felt that stomach churning, ‘bring on the adventure’ pre-race nerves! I reminded myself to start conservatively so that I was doing more passing then getting passed, and to settle into a pace I could sustain for the full 50k. That is easier said then done when you’re engulfed in the energy of 300+ other racers and the sun is shining, but by the time the first few kms were done, we had crossed the peaceful bridge of Sasamat Lake and started the first major climb, I was happy with my place in the pack and was warm and ready to work.
And wow, was it ever a lot of work. The race has 2000+m elevation gain, most of it on quite technical, rooty, rocky, mossy glorious B.C. trails. The first big climb was pretty grueling, but extremely rewarding with a ‘summit to sea’ view of lower mainland and beyond. No time to stop for a picture though. No way I was gonna lose my place in line after all that hard effort. I was feeling strong and steady on the uphill; young and agile as a twenty-year-old. But once I started the steep descent on those same technical trails, I was feeling like a little old lady picking my way carefully down and choosing my steps wisely. I used to be a lot more confident on the descent, but ever since my accident, I have noticed I’m more cautious, afraid of a fall and its negative consequences. A few people started to pass me, mostly young males full of ego and no fall trauma to contend with. Although, at least one guy definitely earned some trauma that day when his reckless descents cost him a couple bloody knees. Welcome to the traumatized old lady club buddy.
Seeing Tania as course marshal on the trail brought a fresh surge of energy, as did seeing another Edmonton friend Dan at the front of the pack and already returning from the out and back section. I caught up to another Edmonton guy, who I had never met before but he was wearing and Attitude Over Altitude shirt, which is a dead giveaway that we should probably be friends. Throughout the day I had also been playing leapfrog with a girl with a blonde ponytail that I thought looked pretty strong out there, so I made it my goal to keep her in sight. After the out and back, I knew she wasn’t too far ahead but that I had better keep working if I wanted to stick close. I was still feeling great at the 40k mark and was even passing several people who had perhaps gone out too fast and were feeling the toll that distance starts to take. This again reminded me that I may not be the fastest, but I sure like going far.
Last aid station down. One small(ish) climb and a few km to go. I knew the next female was only a few hundred meters behind me but hadn’t seen anyone else on the trail in awhile. Then I caught a glimpse of blonde-ponytail girl (gah, I miss having a long ponytail!) and Ted Lasso’d myself for kickin ass and hitting my goal of ‘don’t lose pony-tail girl’. I caught up, and we start chatting with usual pleasantries about how the race was going and how we must be close to being done. As the conversation turned to the next stage of ‘where are you from?’ we were both pretty pumped to realize not only were we both from Edmonton, and both leaders of local run groups (Laura leads Wildrose Runners and I lead Trail Sisters), but that we had, in fact, met each other before but just didn’t recognize each other. Our excited chit chat made those last kilometers sail by and we finished the race together. If you are wondering if this makes us bonded for life, the answer is yes. We should probably get matchy Diez Vista tattoos.
Most of the race pictures from the day, show me with a big stupid grin on my face cause that is pretty much how I felt all day. I was just so happy out there in those beautiful, mossy B.C. forests. The icing on my big old metaphorical 40th birthday race cake was finishing with Laura, Tania on course, my family at the finish line, Edmonton friends, a BBQ burger, winning a Solomon run pack and race director Gary Robbins and everyone on White Pine beach singing me Happy Birthday.
What an absolute privilege it is to get to live another day.
What a privilege to level up to a new age category (and finish 3rd in F40-49!).
And what a privilege it is to keep putting one foot in front of the other through the forest.