This little community is known far and wide as an excellent location for high altitude training. In addition to the many athletes that come here to train for specific world class events, there happens to be a large number of world class athletes who reside here. I am far from a world class athlete, although I'm honored to be friends with quite a few.
Growing up, I was one of those kids that had to face the difficult position of being born with natural athletic skills, yet my parents had little interest in me joining any sort of athletic team outside of standard school-day events. I can (sort of) understand where they were coming from. They both worked a fair distance away, and each of them commuted about an hour each day to work. Due to our rural locale, grocery shopping, and other such mundane errands required a commute as well. By the time the weekend rolled around, I imagine they didn't want to get tied down with running me all over the northern half of the state to soccer games, or gymnastics meets, or volleyball tournaments, or swim meets. It was easier to say, "why don't you go play outside," and be done with it.
Granted, as a result of our rural locale, I spent the majority of my childhood outdoors, and I loved every bit of it. Between the ponds, the ditch, the river, the horses, the Barrancas, the arroyos, the bikes, the acres and acres to explore, I definitely kept myself busy. But the reality was, I wanted to play soccer, I wanted to take gymnastics, I wanted to be on the track team, and I wanted my own horse. As I got older, and it became evident that band was the only extra-curricular activity I would be encouraged to participate in, I gave up my athletic interests for chain-smoking Camels on the Plaza with my friends. Naturally, we ended up walking quite a bit as we searched for friends and parties within the city limits, but it was certainly a far cry from joining my peers at the track meet for the weekend.
My senior year in high school, however, I hooked up with my future husband and he happened to be an avid outdoorsman. Being a guy, he was able to spend his teenage years camping with his best bros, spending all weekend long hiking up and down mountains, through canyons, and everywhere in between. When he wasn't in the mountains, he was skateboarding, and when he wasn't skateboarding, he was practicing martial arts, and if he wasn't doing any of those things he was playing his drums. It became evident pretty quickly that if I was to keep this fine catch, I was going to have to give up the nasty cigarrette habit (fortunately that was simple), buy myself a pair of hiking boots, and whip my butt into shape. The first hike he and I took together, I seem to recall dying about 200 yards from the trailhead. My lungs were bursting and stopped working, my legs were burning from a fire that began from within my very bones, and I was sweating something awful. I felt like a total wimp. I probably cried, too, but he was kind to me and has memory issues, so he probably doesn't remember that.
As the days wore into weeks, and the weeks into months, it soon became obvious that something was happening to me; I was getting better and better at hiking. Soon, I started running after school--just for fun, I became a pretty darn good sipa sack player, I needed a new pair of hiking boots because mine wore out, and I took up karate.
When I went off to college, I kept running, I started swimming, and I bought my very first mountain bike--a "purple haze" colored GT Karakoram. It was a dream. Soon I was navigating the sopping wet, moss and root-laden trails that went down to the beach on our campus, and maneuvering the steep climb back out. Over the next several years I became a full-time bike commuter equipped with plastic bags over my feet, my books in garbage bags inside the panniers, and outfitted in full gore-tex due to the sodden conditions I lived in. It was awesome. And honestly, I was quite righteous about it.
As my love affair with mountain biking progressed through the years, I dappled with a few mountain bike races--but puking in the woods on a Sunday pretty much cured me of that. So, I just satisfied myself with long, beautiful mountain bike rides, bought myself a road bike, and continued with all my other interests such as climbing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, swimming, running, karate, and taking my dogs for hikes.
Then one day I decided to try a sprint triathlon. Much more fun than any mountain bike race, I thought I might like to train more seriously. I didn't, however, have a clue what that meant. I consulted with my personal trainer / world cup mountain bike racer friend. She helped me develop a training program, performed all the baseline tests to help me guage my progress, and provided me with a workout calendar to track all the training. I was stoked! Then I got pregnant, and my training program pretty much went out with the wash.
Despite the short interlude during which time I still swam and did karate regularly, I came back with gusto. Birthing a baby at home sans doctors or drugs surely helped to fire me up. I was ready to start training again!
My next triathlon, however, was nothing to write home about. I was slightly under the weather, and it became obvious pretty quick that my idea of what I'd done to train was really not worthy of even being called training. The next triathlon was a bit better, I trained much harder, got a gold medal in my category, and wasn't even sore the next day. Pretty cool!
And here I am today. In the midst of week 5 of my new training program. A real training program, with a real coach, a real team, and with a race goal at the end. And this time it's a 1/2 marathon trail run. The Jemez Mountain Trail Run, which is notorious for its climbs. I'm not really a runner. Not in the ultra-runner sense of the word. I'm just hoping to improve my running even more.
In retrospect, I can see that I might be trying to make up for the lost athletic time I could've spent during my childhood. But, then again, maybe I'd be just another jock burnout if I'd done athletics all through school. So, with all the focus on training, and supporting the body during periods of high intensity exercise, I'll have several posts this week on herbs and supplements that have been proven to be helpful for athletes.
But for now, I'm going to go prepare a nutritious feast, as all that exercise is making me hungry!