Check out Teagan’s adventure fundraiser page here!
Okay Teagan…so, as many of us are digging out our swimsuits and psyching up for BBQ season, you’re getting ready to “Race Across the Sky” – which is to say, join the Leadville 100! Why this race, this year – and how long have you been envisioning this adventure? What are you most excited and more nervous about as you prepare for this challenge?
I first learned about the Leadville Trail 100 about a decade ago, when I was in college. At the time, I had dabbled in cross country running in high school but I identified as a soccer player, not as a runner – and certainly not as an ultrarunner. In fact, I didn’t even know that was a thing. Right around that time, I was training for my first marathon and imagined it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Every run that I went on was the longest I had ever run as I worked my way up to 26 miles. I thought, “Man, to run 26 miles? That’s crazy!”
So when I read about the Leadville 100 and looked at the elevation profile overlaid with that of the Boston Marathon, making Heartbreak Hill look like a mere slope, I thought to myself, “That is ridiculous. That is not humanly possible.”
But a little seed was planted in the back of my mind.
I started throwing my name into the lottery to get into Leadville about four years after that. Names are drawn at random and chances of being selected have grown smaller as the race has gained popularity. When my name was drawn this year and I read the words, “You’re in” in my email inbox, after years of putting my name in and not expecting to be selected, it felt like a gift from the universe. I am truly giddy. In all honesty, it feels like an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in what I consider to be a bucket list pipe dream. It’s something I never thought I’d be capable of and still don’t know if I am. But I get to find out. I get to try. And that is a gift.
While there are other 100-mile races, Leadville holds a special significance to me. It’s what planted the seed in my mind and my heart to pursue ultrarunning so many years ago. It is a race that brings together a community of athletes both elite and amateur. The race was born out of curiosity around athletic potential and out of support for the unique town of Leadville–a place that is rich with Colorado history and is situated high in the mountains of my home state, the very mountains that I camped in under the stars as a child and that call to me and feel like home.
I am most nervous about making it to the start line being as prepared as I can possibly be. I am humbled by this task and opportunity and am no stranger to the reality of what it will take mentally, physically, emotionally, and logistically. I don’t take that reality lightly. I will have to push further and dig deeper than I ever have before. I cannot do this race alone. I will have a village behind me. My friends and family will be there to crew me, cheer me, and run with me. I am thankful for my village, to my body, and for every step of every run that allows me to pursue this dream. And, hey, swimsuits and BBQ sound like the perfect post run recovery, if you ask me!
Epic goals (like 100 miles across high elevation Rockies terrain) are often long in the making. Tell us about your development as an ultrarunner – how did you get started and why have you stuck with it?
After I completed my first marathon I thought, “Well, now that my body is trained to run 26 miles, I may as well keep it going.” I went on to run several more marathons, getting a little faster and experiencing less pain each time as my body grew more conditioned to running and accustomed to longer mileage. I graduated college, became a teacher, and found running to be a source of stress relief. It was like meditation for me–alone time to process my thoughts. At some point, I brought running to the trails instead of through neighborhoods and cities, and that became an even deeper therapy for me. Being in nature, navigating rocky trails, accessing breathtaking places found only on foot…it brought me alive and it calmed me.
As in life, there is pain and there is elation. The journey holds insights, discoveries, and learning that are nuggets of gold. And the stunning views along the way aren’t too shabby, either.
There were times that I took breaks from running. Life got busy or I experienced injuries. The first time I decided to try to run further than a marathon, I signed up for a 50-mile race and developed a stress fracture in my foot just a couple weeks before the race. I was in a boot on race day and earned my first DNS (did not start). It was disheartening and became a goal that I had worked for and then had eluded me. It would be a couple years before I would try again. By then, I had stopped running longer distances. So when I realized I could give it another shot, I started from scratch and found even a 6-mile run to be challenging. But I slowly worked my way back up and I completed a 50-mile race. The gifts I received in that process are immeasurable. I discovered and surpassed boundaries and limits within myself, which was empowering and allowed me to build confidence and self-esteem.
Through the ups and downs of life, it’s not always easy to continue training and pushing myself. In fact, most of the time it’s the opposite of easy. I have stuck with running because it shows me my strength and my capability. The drive to show up to my own goals must come from me and for me. To seek new heights, wonder if I can achieve them, and then accomplish something I didn’t know I was capable of is a gift that keeps on giving. As in life, there is pain and there is elation. The journey holds insights, discoveries, and learning that are nuggets of gold. And the stunning views along the way aren’t too shabby, either.
As with most outdoor sports, women have been under-represented in ultrarunning – but this is changing, which is awesome! How has your experience been creating community with other women runnings? What gaps do you think remain in this space?
Running has been a gateway to so much more than just running for me. As I learned how happy it made me to move through nature powered by my body, it opened the door to other outdoor endeavors like backpacking, mountain biking, and road biking. These experiences have opened my world up. They have allowed me to build relationships with others who share the same passions and I find that community to be one that is uplifting and grounded in a shared purpose. That purpose is oriented around protecting the environment, committing to leadership for positive impact in local communities, and mentorship to move towards a progressive and sustainable future. I’ve found it all to be connected: endeavors in the outdoors and respecting our earth…and helping and supporting each other to achieve dreams within those realms.
I have not accomplished any of these pursuits on my own. I have been encouraged, inspired, and helped by incredible men and women alike. I want to see women supporting women and also men supporting women and people of all backgrounds helping each other to gain responsible access to activity in the outdoors that is diverse, inclusive, and unifying.
Maybe this connects to why you’re taking on this race as a fundraiser for The Cairn Project; what has drawn you to our community of Ambassadors? What about our mission resonates with you?
It’s through all of these athletic outdoor endeavors that I have connected with The Cairn Project. I am thrilled to partner with The Cairn Project to use my experiences and goals to extend beyond myself and broaden the scope of my reach to help other girls and women gain access to the outdoors, discover the gift of setting and accomplishing their own goals, and to connect with nature. Our entire planet benefits from the presence of empowered women who know their strength and use it to participate in and leverage positive, productive change in our communities and the environment.
Final question is a quick one: what mantra do you pull out when you have to dig the deepest on long runs?
I will have to think about this one and report back to you around mile 75, with about a marathon still to go. But I think I return to reminding myself: “You can do hard things.”