Monday Musing 17: Reflections Post Puerto Vallarta by UTMB 100 miler
I did it. I designed some high-performance sunglasses and ran 100 miles through the mountains in Mexico. Well, it ended up being 117 miles, but who is counting past 100, anyway? It all hurts just the same.
I went into both of these journeys blind. Underprepared, severely underqualified, extremely passionate, and determined to see it through even if it wasn’t pretty.
Puerto Vallarta 100 Miler and my rise to Method Seven Ultra Trail Brand Manager were unconventional and much harder than expected. I wondered if I could do it or how it was even possible. But by putting one foot in front of the other and completing one task at a time, the race is finished, and our first product line has been launched.
The closer we got to the launch date, the harder the team worked to get our hard-earned product out there. We scrambled and stressed to figure out how Method Seven Ultra Trail could get on the map. With few resources and limited experience, we were forced to be creative and experiment. Similarly, the closer I got to the finish line, the harder I worked. At mile 100, still, with 17 technical miles to go, I could hardly put weight on my foot, so I fashioned a walking stick and crawled down the trail backward on my hands and knees. It was as brutal as it sounds!
But as the miles ticked on, I fell deeper in love with the race and the sport. I was frustrated with my failing body as my limp forced me back into second place after 20 hours of fighting to catch up with first. However, as I slipped into what I can only describe as determinant tunnel vision, I began to feel at home.
The rawness of the end of an ultra is where I thrive. In this sport, I have a reputation for closing hard and often negative splitting the final 50 miles. The last third of every race is where I am reminded that I love to race and that I am a fierce competitor to the core. The stress of the weeks leading up to the start line, the cough that still lingered after having COVID during my peak weeks of training, the SI flare-up, adding six miles to the course, my foot that I was pretty sure was broken, all didn’t matter beyond being a mere data point. The further I ran, the better my attitude. The harder it became, the more indefatigable I was, basking in the all-consuming monomania.
Again, in parallel, as the product launch approached, we were all stressed and unsure of how to best execute. But we knew we had a really, really good product, so we trusted that we couldn’t eff up too bad. As the deadline approached and my days were packed with meetings, approvals, emails, and copy, I realized I got better at my job. I was more organized, stayed on task easier, and felt more confident to move forward with some of my more creative ideas.
The theme: the harder it is, the better I get. The more pressure I’m under, the more I enjoy the process.
Rewind to last fall on a run through the hills of Marin with Dean Karnazes. As re ran, I recounted to him how I could tap into this raw, competitive monomania at the end of a race. It was just a few months after CCC 2021, a race I started wondering if I should retire, and finished reminded how much I loved to compete. I told him about how I spent 2+ hours at the 50k aid station, resolved to quit, but was encouraged by my crew to continue. I went from in the top ten to 50-something place and was struggling. But as I continued, the hurt mattered less, and I welcomed the veil of determined tunnel vision like an old friend. I hunted my competitors and fellow racers through the night and finished in the top twenty. I realized I didn’t want to retire after all.
Unsurprisingly, Dean, who is an experienced and somewhat fabled ultrarunner himself, could relate. He too, felt the strongest and most himself at the end of a race. He craved the last third of the race and, in his earlier years of racing, could hardly be beaten as he closed in on the finish line.
I’ve spent the last year and a half thinking about that 2021 CCC. It changed my life. Before I entered that cave of pain and persistence in those final miles, I was unsure if I even liked to race. But it was there, in the depths of exhaustion and exertion, where I felt I belonged. It’s where Dean felt like he belonged too, a notion that was also echoed by Avery Collins, the third to our trio of Method Seven pro athletes.
When I was thinking about a name to do our first line of sunglasses justice, I wanted it to have a story behind it. I wanted the athletes that wore them to be able to think back on the words behind the names for strength and courage when shit gets hard in the middle of these trail races. I wanted Dean and Avery to all feel equally connected to the names and to be able to think of a story of their own they could point to when speaking about the sunglasses.
I kept coming back to those final miles of CCC in 2021. I closed hard and hunted in pursuit of a coveted top ten spot, even though I knew it was impossible. I got to give in to my animalistic craving for competition. I loved it.
The Huntress and the Closer is an ode to the final miles and how we choose to respond to them. We don’t give into the hurt, but instead, we give into the hunt, whatever that might mean on the day.
We close hard and wring ourselves out of any last bit of effort, making sure to expend it all before we reach the finish line. If that means scrawling backward down the slopes of the steep jungle dirt as I did last weekend, then so be it. We are closers.
I hope when you wear the Closer on the Huntress, you can feel like miles run, and effort put into these glasses. I hope you can pull power and strength from them. I hope that when it hurts, you enjoy it just a little bit because you chose to line up, and hard things can sometimes feel really good.
Let us know where you’ll take your Huntress or Closer. We want to hear your story of grit and determination. Thanks for reading mine.