This is a blog by Betsy “Boots” Nickle.  It’s been some time since we’ve someone else write here, and some of you may have forgotten that is not my personal blog and is a platform for all wussies to publish race reports, videos, random freeform train of thought, and poems.  You can even register and publish it yourself (or I’m happy to post it if you email it to me).

Holiday Lake 50k

“Mindfulness is about being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment, without filters or the lens of judgment…Put simply, mindfulness consists of cultivating awareness of the mind and body and living in the here and now.” – Stahl & Goldstein

At Holiday Lake this year, I tried a different approach than years past. I ran mindfully. It meant that I evaluated my thoughts carefully (i.e. notice when I was agitated and identify how it was manifesting in my emotions). This approach gave me the space to enjoy the experience much more.

In the past, I have tried to push past the basic realization that this race should be a training run for me because of when it’s held. I have experienced the great crash, burn, and self-loathing for several miles. Even if you don’t want to admit it, we have all had those moments where the following questions arise: Why did I pay to run a race? Or is it okay to sit on the side of a trail on a flat runnable course because of the pain in a particular part of my body seems crippling at this time? By employing mindfulness early on, I quickly realized that this race was going to be a training run. Since this race was the only thing that I had to do on 2/14/15, being mindful forced me to be in the moment as much as possible.

I noticed so many beautiful things that I have overlooked in the past like the lake with docks along the course, the sunrise, or even the pine trees that lined a part of the course. As I ran this race, I found myself really dipping into the experience. I embraced setting a pace that suited me and ran my own race, which reduced the impact of difficult emotions.

In our lives, we have so many emotions coming and going at times and barely enough time to notice them.          During this race, some difficult emotions arose for me as a result of being cold.   By giving myself the space and time to identify my emotions than push them away or ignore them. It allowed me to label them and become more compassionate toward myself. When I labeled the emotions, it enabled me to feel them and let them go.

I have found that a deep exhale is one of the best ways to deal with difficult emotions that arise on the trails. Along the course, I strategically used well timed exhales to release emotions that arose that would not help me proactively finish the race. Funny thing is that exhaling is so easy, which is exact reason why I overlooked doing it for so long. I found that balancing my inhales and exhales made a major difference for me because it gave me a technique to get out of my head, come back to the present moment, and connect with my body again.

By embracing running long distance as extended meditation, it became seamlessly easier for me. Yes, there were times when I had big dreams and other moments where I wished the scenery would change. Yes, I felt tension in my muscles. Yes, my butt hurt at one point and my knee at another point. Those pains were just a time and a place in the run. By being mindful, they did not become a dark cloud that did not pass during this run. I found that coming back to the moment (i.e. the place where the mind-body connects). It was one of the most refreshing experiences in trail running because it creates a sense of being alive.

Along the course, I found myself embracing the core tenants of trail running: nature and community. I noticed the beauty of winter because it allowed the sun to shine on the trails creating shadows on the trails that looked like elaborate patterns.

I also interacted with some neat people on the trails. I enjoyed chatting with a young woman who had completed several Ironmans. Holiday Lake was her first 50k. I had a guy comment on my shoe (a regular occurrence in every Horton race/training run). In the past has bordered along the lines of creepy because I was seemingly alone in the woods with a limited exit strategies running with a man who openly shares his foot fetish. This time, I just laughed it off. Finally, I found myself running along side of a woman who continually sounded like she was going to cough up a lung. I provided her with a 5-minute pump up talk, where I continually re-enforced that she would finish the race. When she came across the finish line, I saw her with tears in her eyes looking for a hug. I provided it to her only to receive a huge thank you.

Honestly, I find that the courage and strength of trail runners is amazing and invigorating. It gives me hope in humanity because every time it shows me that when people put their minds to something they will achieve it regardless of any initial perceived obstacles.

Often I bomb down the hill at the finish, but I didn’t this time. I took it at a steady pace. I saw my friend Martha. I stopped and we talked for a few minutes. It was uplifting for me because I was happy to see her and celebrate in her success of setting a course record. When I crossed the line, I was pleasantly surprised at my 5:45 time. That was good enough for me! The next day, my body felt relatively good for a person who has not run a 20 miler in the past month. I attribute to the fact that I kept my mind relatively calm during the experience, so my body did not take a beating (i.e. mind-body connection).

At the end of the day, Holiday Lake helped me to re-kindle my love for running again. I had been put on hold for the past month as I made a huge transition in my life (a job change). I connected with old friends. Most of all, I spent time with one of the biggest love affairs in my life ‘trail running.’ I really live to explore the world through the medium of running. I love putting on a pair of running shoes and going to play in the dirt. I end up with more dirt on me than you can ever imagine, but I continue to run dirty because it teaches me more then I can ever put into words!


4 Responses to Betsy Nickle uses ninja mindfulness tactics to actually *enjoy* Holiday Lake

  1. […] gal ran a deliberate, in-the-moment 50k at Holiday Lakes and learned a lot more about herself in doing […]

  2. Donnie Chapman says:

    Boots you are one of the most current positive influences in my trail running life. I greatly enjoy when I get to run with you. I love trail running because of the interesting opportunities that nature provides. Thanks for the great article on mindfulness.

  3. Shalynn Howard says:

    A beautiful unique report identifying a skill that we all wish to develop. You are headed to more beautiful runs Boots!

  4. Kirstin says:

    Love your insights, Boots and your indomitable spirit!
    No one would ever guess that you have “dark clouds” by seeing you running out there!

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