My response? Head shaking, laughing, shrugging, smiling a "yikes no way!" type of smile or replying that I was not really sure how I would do, and that I was not focused on the win like years past.
Here are how my past two goals looked:
2015 Mount Summit Challenge Goal: To win Top Three Females. I wrote this on my dry erase board and practiced for the win. I won second female.
2016 Mount Summit Challenge Goal: To win first female. I wrote this in a visible place, became obsessed with it, did speed work, tempos, hill repeats, ran the course once a week for two months leading up to the race and visualized the win on a daily basis. I won first female. Why? For my dad, because he said that I could.
Here was this year's goal: To run my best under the circumstances and enjoy the day with friends, the Trail Run Tribe ladies who were running, family who came to support and my husband, Eric, who would be running it for his first time. One might even say I had zero goals and that these were more like soft intentions :)
Clockwise, from the top: Me, Brynn, 5th overall female with a time of 32:39 and first in my age group; Colleen, 4th overall female with a time of 32:26 and first in her age group; Keli, second in her age group; Andrea; Shane; June, first in her age group; and Ashley. Thank you, Rachel, for being our cheerleader and photographer! <3
You may think that these are rather intense feelings for an amateur, local 3.5-mile uphill road race traveling along a highway with 1200-foot elevation gain.
Yet, please understand - my relationship with the Mount Summit Challenge began with my dying father.
In October 2012, as he lie in a hospital bed and told me about the Mount Summit Challenge, my thought was this: "Dad will recuperate, I will run in the 2013 race, and he will be there at the top screaming his lungs out, cheering as he does best!"
He had just missed my 27-mile ultra trail marathon the day before, a 5K in my hometown the week prior and was not going to make it to the Seven Springs Mud on the Mountain the following week, all due to his hospitalization. We were both saddened by the fact that he had to miss three races. He enjoyed watching me race as much as I enjoyed racing.
Even sadder still was the fact that he did not make it to the 2013 Mount Summit Challenge as I had wished... but neither did I. Because soon I found out that Eric and I would be having our first child!
Now, let's fast-forward.
In 2014, when our new baby, Avie, was 10 months old, I longed to race in my first Mount Summit Challenge in honor of my now deceased father, who died four weeks before Avie's birth, but plantar fasciitis and a heel spur squashed that dream.
In 2015, while wearing my randomly selected bib number of 52, my dad's birth year, I won second overall female with a time and personal record of 30:31. Read about it in Spring Race Recap: How Injury, Death & Childbirth Made Me a Stronger Runner.
The miraculous story began on that day, at my very first Mount Summit Challenge, when my dad showed up in a divine way via my bib. Since then, he has graced me with his spirit at nearly all my races (read the miracle list here!). In fact, it happened for the 11th time on April 22, 2018, at my third Mount Summit Challenge. Keep reading to see how, but first, I'll continue with the year recaps...
In 2016, while wearing my randomly selected bib number of 152, my dad's birth date and birth year, I won first overall female with a time of 31:04. Read about it in Dad, I Won the Mount Summit Challenge For You. (warning: grab a box of tissues!)
In 2017, our second son, Grey, was four weeks old. We took him to the finish line to cheer on the racers, particularly the women. Read about it in Running Up That Hill: It All Started With You, Dad.
Thus, on the days leading up to this year's race, I pondered how he would show up, and if he even would. Would it be possible to get another bib reflecting his birthday? Even more, what if he didn't give me any signs of his presence? If he did not, I prepared to deal with a sure feeling of emptiness. Although I had carpooled to the race with Eric and friends, Colleen, Andrea and Shane and had met Keli, Ashley and June at the start line, and had hugged and been eager to see two dozen other fellow runners and friends... still... this is where my dad first met me after his death... and my bib number of 62 did not quite do it.
Off we went! I ran my best under the circumstances, with just 90 minutes of sleep the night before, as Grey cried nearly all night (he sleeps well 99.9 percent of the time lol!) combined with a dry cough and sore throat that suddenly crept up and worsened as the night progressed.
(Read the research on how sleep impacts athletic performance here)
The age of the first overall female was 52, my dad's birth year.
I placed 5th female and 20th overall runner (5/20).
And here's my favorite: Eric placed 50th runner. I placed 20th. 50/20. He connected us!!! What love.
Three times in one race. Impressive, dad.
Thank you for always finding your way to my races, whether my goal is to win or my intention is to simply run my best and enjoy the company of loved ones.