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a note on authenticity, a dash of a race report

On the trail, it is never fate versus free will. We run as both—the trail ever in front of us, strewn amongst hills and rocks and roots—and we the minds and the feet that dance amongst them.

I entered Rio Del Lago 100 M hoping to validate myself as an “athlete.” I felt that despite moderate success early in the summer, since I had not trained nor tapered properly for anything I’d done yet this year (and therefore not raced at potential), I hadn’t accomplished anything.

[caption id="attachment_702" align="alignleft" width="300"]WURL, PC: MVH WURL, PC: MVH[/caption]

What I didn’t realize was that Rio would bring me to question those two primary principles—what it means to be an endurance trail “athlete,” and what we define as an “accomplishment” in the trail running community.


I put self-imposed pressure on myself to perform well. Companies have invested a lot of time and money into my running. Social media has become a way to reach and inspire people—I get told often that I inspire people—and I fail to understand why that is so! I am just a girl, running about the mountains…

[caption id="attachment_747" align="aligncenter" width="2048"]ridge running in the rain, PC: Chelsea Hathaway ridge running in the rain, PC: Chelsea Hathaway[/caption]

But the opportunity to be able to encourage and inspire someone to get outside, to experience what it is the trails and mountains have to offer, is not something I can discard. I want to do good. Is inspiring good? And what then, is inspirational? Traditionally podiums and fast times inspire other runners. So I looked for a fast fall race to chase that time and podium.


I made poor training mistakes. Necessity has a way of making us numb to warnings—I was taking Tylenol before every run for 6 weeks before the race. I had work done on my shins and calves by a dear friend Steve Frogley. While he improved the situation enough to get me running after each time I would see him, it was my inability to take the time to heal properly that eventually led to my race-day DNF.

[caption id="attachment_750" align="alignright" width="225"]mile 35 of Rio Del Lago, PC: Chelsea Hathaway mile 35 of Rio Del Lago, PC: Chelsea Hathaway[/caption]

I had spoken to a friend at La Sportiva a few days before the race about future projects. I wanted him to know about the time goal I had set, and the hard work I’d done to achieve it. He later commented with words that have haunted me since: “Jennilyn, we love having you on the team because you remind people that there is more to running than podium chasing and fast times. This is such a needed part of trail culture, more and more…” and he proceeded to encourage me in some of my ideas that involve less “running” and more…. what do we call this? RunMo? It’s not peak bagging nor is it running nor is it hiking nor is it ultra running….?

[caption id="attachment_759" align="alignnone" width="1000"]are we still trail running? are we still trail running? PC: Chelsea Hathaway[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_720" align="aligncenter" width="960"]IMG_1448.JPG the day we called it RunMo, PC: MVH[/caption]

Those words were stuck in my head all the way to Sacramento. I felt like I was lying about myself in this race. Still, I was infatuated with the idea of running a sub-19 hour 100-mile race. I toed the line, but with the first 20 miles being a paved loop (I didn’t know that) my shins were screaming from mile 1 and it became a game of mitigating the pain and risk of stress fracture without compromising the intent to continue running.

[caption id="attachment_751" align="alignnone" width="1536"]lots of asphalt on pre-existing shins splits= not delightful lots of asphalt on pre-existing shins splits= not delightful PC: Chelsea Hathaway[/caption]

There were miles where I let my imagination skew my vision—the foothills around me transformed into mountains, the scrubby trees became cliff-bands laced with aspens and strewn amongst boulder fields…

[caption id="attachment_755" align="aligncenter" width="300"]IMG_3981 where I wish I was[/caption]

I found race-day success in my training by running with a low heart rate and dialed pace and nutrition. I found intoxication with pretending I wasn’t there.


So when it came time to draw the line on the injury, I wasn’t sad. I had realized something simple—just because I could do something, didn’t mean I needed to.

[caption id="attachment_757" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Cache Peak in Castle Rocks, ID Cache Peak in Castle Rocks, ID PC: Mark Kruezer[/caption]

Watching friend Dom Layfield race was inspiring. He is competitive in an analytical way, the pleasure he receives from racing hard and his inevitable success are evident in the glow of his face. As he crossed the finish line for the win and a new PR, he looked both exhausted and exalted. I wanted that. Not the win, not the time, not the people handing him stuff (I’ll be honest, I stole his bouquet of flowers as pity flowers for myself). I wanted the look of accomplishing something I loved doing enough to completely wreck myself for it. Running and racing aren’t that for me.


I have support of those telling me to be my most authentic self, to find the lines I love, and to chase them down. I realize that I needed to be ok with listening to them, with letting go with something I can do to pursue what I love to do.

So what is an “athlete?” I’m at a loss. If not podiums or times, then what? And why is it inspiring?

[caption id="attachment_756" align="alignleft" width="300"]Marni on S Ridge of Superior Marni on S Ridge of Superior[/caption]

I’d rather pour my heart into the mountains and the art of the skies than chase a fluctuating CR or podium that that I care not for. This is not to say I am not inspired by quick-footed racers—quite the contrary—I follow them online like an enamored child. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult for me to find value in a different path.


If I am to console myself of the bitterness of a weak running year, it is with two things that I hold most dear—though neither adds so any sort of running resume. One is the 36 Wasatch 11,000ft peaks in just over a month, a project I fell into accidentally halfway through, which came to mean more to me than any other venture I’ve attempted. The other is the Mountain Misfits, a group of artists and art appreciators who meet monthly to share music, poetry, stories, and paintings under the night sky at various locations across the Wasatch mountains.

[caption id="attachment_753" align="aligncenter" width="2048"]tie dying a shirt on an un-named Wasatch sub-peak tie dying a shirt on an un-named Wasatch sub-peak, PC: Chelsea Hathaway[/caption]

Perhaps mountain dreaming is my most authentic self.

Items used during Rio 100M:

VFuel gels

La Sportiva Helios

Gnarly Nutrition Whey (post)

Salomon Sense Set Race vest

Special Thanks to those who came to assist at the race:

Chelsea Hathaway

DJ Loertchester

Ben Light

Gnarly Nutrition and La Sportiva for always encouraging (oft with both laughter and excitement) all the random ideas I think up

[caption id="attachment_761" align="aligncenter" width="1800"]"I carried a watermelon" (watching Dirty Dancing sometimes leads to bad ideas) PC: Kenzie Barlow "I carried a watermelon" (watching Dirty Dancing sometimes leads to bad ideas) PC: Kenzie Barlow[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_748" align="aligncenter" width="960"] back to the mountains yesterday, PC: MVH[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_749" align="aligncenter" width="651"]a recent poem a recent poem[/caption]


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