Yamacraw 20K | You have to be brave somewhere

Heading into this weekend, I was stepping into and out of my comfort zone all at once. Trees and the mountains have always been my true love. Running is a close second. Heading towards the mountains for a trail race felt as natural as raising my children.

As we made our way west, it dawned on me I had no idea what I was driving towards. I had done little research. I didn’t scrutinize the details of race day. Dropping from the 50K to the 20K after a small tear in my quad sidelined me a few weeks ago, I had a false sense of confidence heading into race weekend.

I was “only” run 12ish miles. I could handle whatever came my way.

My false sense of confidence worked in my favor this weekend. I followed the race instructions, boarded a bus, got dropped off at a trailhead with a cone and a timing may start line, and I ran when the race director shot off his gun. I had zero race day nerves until I hit the trails.

“You have to be brave somewhere.” ~Brené Brown

Christian and I started together. We would decide as we went if we should stay together or run separately. Out of respect for other trail runners (because I assumed everyone else at the race was experienced and more trained than me), we started at the back of the pack. One by one we ran single track trail into the woods. We descended stairs. We crossed streams. We slushed through mud puddles. We played.

I started this race timid. Slipping and sliding through mud, I wondered how long it would be before I took a tumble. Slipping on rocks at river crossings, I wondered how long it would be before I fell into the river.

“You have to be brave somewhere.” ~Brené Brown

I read these words on my way out of town, and they echoed in my head for the first few miles of the race. When nerves and doubts bubbled, I repeated them. Pick brave. You have to brave somewhere.

A few miles into the race I found my footing. I became comfortable. I quit second guessing my ability to run hills. I didn’t over analyze where I should take my next step. I just ran what was in front of me. This crazy trail run become an extension of me. By mile 6 when we approached a river crossing too deep to cross by foot, I felt alive. We crossed the river by raft and ran on.

From here everything went up: the elevation, my attitude, and my confidence. Christian and I were still stride for stride quietly taking turns leading and following. He pushed me passed my timid ways in the beginning, and now it was my turn to push him to finish stronger than he started.

During one of the final descents down the mountain, another runner yelled out to me: fake your confidence. I glanced back, laughed and replied: “it’s like you’ve known me my whole life.”

That gentle nudge to own my run allowed me to open up my stride, to embrace the downhill and to trust that I could run this trail. When the finish line bridge became visible, I felt a strange mixture of pride and sadness. Proud because I finally embraced myself on a run. Sad because I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready for it to be over.

Christian and I crossed the finish line together, and I know we are both eager to get back out there. The trails have so much to teach us, and this weekend we just scratched the surface.

As we make our way back east towards the beach, my heart aches a little. There is something about the mountains that can’t be replaced. I need them in my life. My heart exists within them.

For now, I’m going to carry their lessons with me. This year my goal is to observe, and yesterday I saw a new spark in me. I saw a girl who chose brave and who gave herself space to work through timid in a way that works for her.

“You have to be brave somewhere.” ~Brené Brown

Finding myself in comfort and discomfort is invigorating. I’m coming home awake.

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