"Was it worth it?"
Of course I said yes. I didn't think about why. I just knew it was. I knew those 51 hours had changed me, for the better. I also knew that couldn't have happened without the crazy amount of work Chris puts into his races - all of which are free.
So I decided to keep looking for races like that one - races where, instead of trying to make a buck, the race director focuses on providing an experience.
In the end, there were more amazing experiences than I can count. There were more gravel and mountain bike races, an ultramarathon, a 24 hour mountain bike race, some trail running races, the "6-Hour Round Trip IceBox 5k," and finally, Winter Wilder. (Pretty amazing that a girl can do all that for under $10 a pop.)
Winter Wilder starts and ends at the same spot where we'd finished Alexander. I hadn't even thought about it when I'd signed up. In fact, I didn't really even think about it when we first started running. I ran the first 16 miles with Dustin, the race director, chatting non-stop. When he stopped to wait for others at the checkpoint, I continued on for the last 5-6 miles alone. As I approached town, I came to a turn I recognized. It was the point last May where I'd finally let myself accept that I would finish Alexander. I'd ridden over 380 miles at that point, but I was so worried about another mechanical I wouldn't let myself get too excited about finishing. Finally, with about two miles to go, I'd come to this turn and realized I could walk it in if I had to.
I ran the last two miles, nearly identical to my last two mile of Alexander, thinking about the Year of Racing Simply. I realized it hadn't really been about racing at all. It wasn't finish lines or times or places I remembered. It was moments shared with other people. So perhaps it would have been more fittingly called, "The Year of Amazing Experiences with Good People."
Of course, the big question lately has been, "What about next year?" To be honest, I don't know. Part of what made this past year so special was that so much of it was unplanned. I took opportunities as they came up instead of spending so much time planning a race calendar and making a training plan. So I don't have a plan for this year, except to keep living outside the comfort zone and keep enjoying my days outside with good people.
Thankfully it only took four days to get started. Nothing better than a night fat bike race to kick the year off!
Hope to see you all out there soon!