Amy Golumbia wins Canadian National Trail Running Championships
Get to the Canadian Mountain Running Championships and qualify for Worlds in Italy: that was my focus since coming back from an Achilles injury over the winter.
Transitioning back to regular training was tough. Getting out of the pool and transferring back to trails and hills was painful, but my first mountain running coach once told me that I had to "get comfortable with the pain", so that's what April was for me—pain. It took two months of swimming and biking and my incredible physiotherapist, Somer, to get me back on my feet and training near my home in Calgary, but whatever I did must have worked.
Race day was chaotic as usual. I performed my usual routine: forgetting a pair of shoes or shorts, then spending the hour before the race madly running back and forth between the bathroom, my car, and the start line. (That actually works as pretty good warm up and certainly gets my heart rate up.) I also psyched myself out by meeting a few of my competitors before the race. Fortunately, my kids were there to watch me race, which distracted me from worrying that I might not be properly warmed up, hydrated, rested, or trained.
Then it was race time.
When the gun went off, the only thing on my mind was to secure a front position. I don't know that I've ever had any serious coaching on strategy in races. I usually just give whatever I've got the day of the race and hope that it's enough. My only strategy, if you can call it that, has always been to try to get out front and hold the position. I learned early on that if I got stuck at the back, it took way more mental energy to reel in the people in front of me than it did to just hold them off and refuse to be passed. As we started up the hill I was about 4th or 5th but within the first kilometer, I was closing in on the front women.
Because I'd walked the course a few days earlier, I thought I knew where it went. I saw the other runners head off in one direction and, thinking I was helping out, yelled "Wrong way!"—only to hear "Nope, look at the tape!". Wow, what an amateur! It turns out that not only was that not the top of the course, but there was one more uphill kilometer to go.
See, this is all part of my strategy of not having a strategy. Just go balls out the whole time. Since you don't know what's ahead of you, why not give it all you've got until you can't give any more?
By the time I got to the first section of the climb, I was ready to let go on the downhill. I knew that if I didn't catch people on the downhill, or open a gap, I was going to have to work way harder on the uphills, so I just let go. "Let go, let go…" It's my mantra on downhills. "Stop trying to control it…just let go." (That's been a good mantra for my life, too… good things happen when I let go and let the universe take care of it.)
The rest of the first lap I stayed in front; I managed to pass a few of the men at one point, and that always feels good, too. [The?] Devonian drop, a technical downhill for hardcore mountain bikers, didn't feel as brutal this year, but the fear of pursuit by the incredibly fast women behind me was enough to keep me pushing every ounce of effort I could on every single hill. I had no time for breaks, coasting, or catching my breath. If I was going to hold the front spot, I'd have to work by butt off for it.
The rest of the race was a blur of thinking "Let go", calling out to friends and family for my times, and feeling how close the women behind me were.
And somehow, in all of the heat and sweat and sun, and beneath the incredible beauty of Canmore, I held my #1 spot. When I crossed the finish line and my twin daughters came to dump water all over me, I couldn't have been happier. Chandra Crawford was right when she said after winning the World Cup on home turf, "Canmore is the best place in the known universe!"
What a privilege it is to race with the best in Canada. They were formidable competition, but it just so happened that on that day, I was the fastest woman there. Worlds will be tough, the competitors incredibly dedicated and strong. But I will be spending the summer running up any hill I can and getting comfortable with pain.