This post is part 2 of our recurring Chaski Race Reports series, which we'll be publishing every week.
With racing put on hold all across the world, we'll be spotlighting past races from our Chaski coaches. Week 3 is Dani Moreno's recap of the time leading up to to the 2019 World Trail Championship.
Dani's original post was featured on the Rabbit blog here.
While regular race reports focus on the race itself, I decided to shed some light on what happens beforehand. I think it's easy to feel alone in your thoughts and doubts, and this blog post aims to demonstrate that a lot of people are quite often thinking about the same things. Welcome to what my coach dubs as "The Witching Hour," with this one taking place the days leading up to the 2019 World Trail Championship.
I arrived in Lisbon Sunday before the race. I did this because I would be working remotely, which allowed me to get settled before the work week started. (#worklifebalance) While this part went according to plan, it wasn't long before I ran into my first fork in the pre-race road: the unprecedented heat waves causing me to question what race day conditions would be. This became the focus immediately as I began thinking of how long it had been since I ran a hard workout in the heat. And it's safe to say my mental heckler started growing.
With the thought of humidity leading the charge, a few other things began to fog my confidence, one of them being my PMS. I have found that not many women talk about this topic since it can sometimes be misunderstood and seen as an excuse. But at least for me, it's just what it is, and we can't help it! In my opinion, it's best to educate yourself and acknowledge what your cycles are like, especially when you have a competition coming up that is going to require a lot of you. For myself, when I have races that fall into this period (no pun intended haha), I know I need to be attentive to weather conditions. Like many women, I tend to overheat, making it difficult to sleep, and umm .run in the heat! Over the years, this phase has lined up with some warm races, and while it can be tough, it isn't impossible, it just requires careful attention.
Typical to many "Witching Hours" self-talk is helpful along with the ability to come up with band-aid type solutions. So, in this case, hot weather and PMS..mmm not too bad as statistically, I was sure at least 30% of the field would be dealing with it. The band-aid solution quickly became to drink more water and consume more electrolytes than I typically do. While the heat did die down in the days leading up to the race, I believe this excess hydration helped me and played to my favor considering race day did end up being quite warm.
Alright, so heat, PMS, where else did my mind drift during the week leading up to the race? Well, I had a tough time letting go of the fact that I felt like I lacked emotional and mental strength. (#woof) It had been a long training block filled with international travel for work, buying a Condo with my significant other (which alone felt like a dumpster truck of mental labor), and long weekends filled with heavy mileage. So when I got to Portugal feeling like I was just hit by a "this is adulting bus," I was bummed. Blame it on the excess estrogen, but I had no idea how I would conjure enough grit to pull off a solid race. My past few races, I had trended towards feeling overly excited and filled with energy when I tapered, but those first few days in Lisbon had me feeling unexcitable.
What about the self-talk? It was tough, but eventually, I found enjoyment in the alone time. I told myself that I had five days to rejuvenate my energy stores with space to think freely, most of which would feel restored once my teammates joined me. Not giving into the swing of emotion, I was able to take control of the situation and decided to take that time to think about where I was heading, where I was, and where I had been. I think it's essential to have those moments, and it seemed appropriate considering I was getting ready to race against a very competitive field. This was a pivotal moment in "The Witching Hour" because while the tiredness made me feel uneasy, the time alone helped me to rediscover my "why," as in "why am I doing this race?" The answer was to represent my country and do the best I could for my team. Thus, it should come as no surprise that things began to change when my team showed up. (queue national anthem)
Most of Team USA showed up on Wednesday before the race. While some last-minute roster changes on both the men's and women's side, we made light of it, and this is where I think "The Witching Hour" began to take a turn for the better. Thinking back to those first introductions, it was clear that the chemistry amongst the team was unique. Everyone was down to earth, friendly, humble, and addictingly optimistic. Heck 2 of the guys didn't even have their bags and could care less! For them, they had packed their jerseys and shoes into their carry-ons, and in their perspective, that's all they needed.
We all traveled to the Miranda Do Corvo from the airport, the city where the race would be taking place. And, from that moment on this particular "Witching Hour" began to fade from existence. While we did run into the realization that the course was not any of us had expected my mental heckler stayed silent considering at that point, we had no time for hesitations. My team's good faith and optimism helped me feel at home and recognize that this is what these competitions were about: camaraderie.
"Witching Hours" can be tricky as each one is different. I have grown to appreciate the time leading up to each race and think it's important to recognize a scale of emotion I can encounter beforehand. Having done this running thing for a while now, I embrace the mental challenges it presents and how it requires me to have a resilient self-talk toolbox. A toolbox that helps me in other areas of my life as well. While it can be daunting at times, it's essential to have a constant belief that it's nothing I can't handle, especially with the help of some friends. ;)
The Result: I placed 27th with the best part of my race occurring after 16k. I passed 28 women in total and got re-passed by one of them in the last 5k. Team USA had a great showing, and it was only the second time in the history of the event that the entire US team finished the race.