One race can change so much!! Staring at the beauty and wonder of the Pacific Ocean I am deep in the thought reflecting on the race Gran Trail Peñalara. It is amazing how impactful these races are for me personally. I type with ease and tired legs but a full heart of happiness and a renewed sense of self belief. Long distance running is hard, the sense of testing your limits physically and mentally. I have such an appreciation for the sport, those committed to it and all those inspiring people that guide others to achieve personal goals and beyond.  I have to give my thanks to @aliciavargo for some advice about taking on this challenge despite ideal training miles and my ever changing schedule. Also, Brian Rowlett and Mike Hirst you really seem to pull me out of all my own personal disbelief and for that I am forever thankful.

The race GTP was 74 miles through the Sierra de Guadarrama, it was a challenge I knew that I would complete however,  unsure how my body would handle it. It was the farthest I have run and the most climbing. I loved the idea of the night start, and racing in Europe is such an experience. The crowds all night amaze me, the support, the party the ENERGY! The race was a rollercoaster; both in elevation but also in feelings and emotions. Knowing the terrain was difficult and the distance, I just wanted to get as far as possible before the feeling of can I go on started… 

Mandatory gear checks reassured me that we were in good hands with experts in charge. It is easy to take off and start a race with the excitement and cheers coming from all around. The amazing energy and darkness settled in, actually I can best describe the race as being dark and peaceful yet you have the confidence of a consistent crowd. The first climb was approximately 3,200 feet on single track, with race officialsscanning your bib at the top as you overlook the village below. The descent was technical and tough, I saw a couple big wipe outs and just tried to take it easy.

When the sun started to rise I could see where I needed to go and that was the moment I dreaded. The feeling of can I do this? The end is still so far away. This race was different for me. I ran what some would say was a smart run, and left ego/pride behind.  I knew it was going to be hot, I knew I was going to be stronger on the climbing then the descents and I knew that I couldn’t go out hard in this terrain. So I just enjoyed the race. Taking my time at the aid stations to fill my water and eat was helpful. The fresh socks and fuel at mile 34 prepared me for thelarge climb to Peñalara, the highest peak in the mountain range Guadarrama. It really seemed to go on for a long time and the peak was steep and technical but after another scan I felt comfortable knowing I was going to finish strong for me.

The next section was a long rolling downhill and then some real hot miles as the sun was blazing. I ran with a guy but he did not speak any english, and unfortunately I have yet to speak another complete language so we just put our heads down and hammered some more miles. Along the trail there was a beautiful little stream with swimming holes and families relaxing. Seriously so tempted to jump in!

I remember getting to the aid station at 100k and was told the next stop was just 4 more kilometers. That later turned into my inside joke, as everyone always said just 4 more kilometers! It made me think of when I hike with my family and I always say oh just around one more corner for the next few hours…

Approaching the town of Navacerrada, what a feeling! One that is hard to put in words but mostly I am thankful and blessed to have had the experience, and so thankful for those who encouraged me along the way.

Another dream achieved.

What’s next?

Thanks to @newtonrunning @guenergylabs @rokasports for the support.

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