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The summer’s going by in a whirlwind and with it, mountain running season. While I’m not big on meticulously recapping, dissecting, and picking apart every race—I don’t want to bore anybody to tears after all (like, my mom and maybe the one or two other people who read this)--given that I haven’t had the pleasure of doing so in quite a while, I’m going to allow myself to indulge in that for just a few minutes here. So, forgive me.

I was sort of surprised to find myself back at the summit/finish line of Mt. Washington last month after entering it on a total whim. On one hand, it felt like ages since I crossed any line, but on the other hand, it felt like I was up there just yesterday and that not much had changed: still the same incredible view of the White Mountains, the same feeling of accomplishment paired with relief after finishing, and the same faces of the same great people who I met there in 2014 and some new ones in there too. My time was certainly nothing to write home about; being over 6 minutes slower than in 2014 and certainly nothing that would turn any heads or impress anyone and definitely something my normally hyper-competitive-with-myself self would’ve been hugely disappointed by, but I didn’t feel a whole lot of anything besides gratitude, relief, and little bit of, “Oh hey, it really is gonna be okay.” Truthfully, I would’ve been just as grateful for a first place finish by a landslide and a time 10 minutes quicker as I was for what I got, which probably seems strange and maybe even a little bit complacent to most but….it’s been a while and it sure is nice to be back out there and to be able to have another shot at getting back to where I want to be. Added bonus, since the top 4 women from Colorado (Kim, Mary, Brandy and myself) had the fastest cumulative time, we took home the “team” trophy, and huge props to Brandy for racing up the Beast in the East six months pregnant, I can’t even fathom...Afterwards, I gave some thought to going back out to New Hampshire to race the US Mountain Running Championships. I knew that realistically I did not have a shot at making the team; although some people argued with me on that one, in my heart of hearts I definitely knew. Thing is, not all mountain races are created even remotely equal (a huge part of their appeal) at Mt. Washington you just have to have lots of lungs, at Loon you have to have lots of lungs and lots of speed. Which right now I absolutely do not, the work hasn’t gone in so needless to say, I don’t expect a great result. It was a prove-myself-to-myself kind of thing, 2014 was a really crummy, self-inflicted, and still kind of baffling experience, and I wanted to have a shot at a bit of redemption, or really just to “bury it” as Brandy phrased it. The ultimate decision-maker however was really just that the journey to getting healthy and back on track over the last year and half was admittedly somewhat arduous and often really discouraging with so many missed opportunities, where a few times the question became not so much “when” but “if,” not that I would’ve ever admitted that to myself. I don’t want to go back there again, and at the end of the day I didn’t want to risk un-doing any of that just for pride’s sake.

Fast forward a month and this morning saw a run up to Eagle’s Nest, otherwise known as the Vail Hill Climb. I found myself on the line again with my fellow uphill-only friends Mary and Simon, and finished second. It was five minutes behind the winner—Annie Bersagle—but once again, not disappointed.

I’ve gotten lots of “are you happy with your race” questions since starting back again and the answer is yes, absolutely. I used to find something wrong with every race or workout that I ran; some way I should’ve done it differently or better no matter how good the result was, it never measured up, which turned something I love into something that made me basically a nervous, neurotic, type-A train wreck (there. I’ll say it so that no one else has to), and looking back, for what? What we do is just not that serious. I know there is loads of room for improvement and lots of work to do from here—and it’ll come—but I remember now why I love this stuff, and for now I’m just happy to be back on the mountaintop. Life's better up here.

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Comment by David Mulligan on July 11, 2016 at 6:51am

Shannon, I think you've provided inspiration to more than just a few people through your blogs as you persevered and worked through the injuries. Congratulations on getting back on the line and on the mountaintop!  Stay healthy!

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