Jenn Cancellier mug

Jenn Cancellier

I’m not exactly sure how to describe it... It doesn’t really make sense, but I ran one of the worst/best races of my life on Saturday. I felt good at the start. Like really good. Like today-could-be-the-day-I-run-50K-in-five-hours good...

Just a month ago, I set out to do a rim-to-rim-to-rim run in the Grand Canyon. It was hard, physically and mentally. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. By the end, I was empty but full at the same time. It was a good-ass day on the trail.

Last Saturday was not that. I finished the race in 6 hours and 13 minutes, an hour and 13 minutes slower than my goal. And the crazy part? My legs were fresh but my mind was heavy. Heavier than it’s ever been.

Here’s the breakdown:

Back in 2018, I signed up for the Deadhorse 50k in Moab and finished in a solid 5 hours and 22 minutes. I was stoked as it was by far one of my best races. This year, I set a goal of finishing the same race in 5 hours. I thought if I hired on a running coach and trained for the race, it was doable.

It was the perfect day — a high of 58 degrees with great cloud cover. I woke up feeling hydrated, fueled and ready to take on a course consisting of 3,000 feet of elevation gain and amazing views of the La Sal range.

For the first 11ish miles, I was doing OK. I was averaging 11-minute miles on the uphill and knew that if I could get to the Gemini Bridges aid station, I would have a flowy, fast downhill to make up time. Then something changed... My mental game started to fall apart.

"Why are you out here?"

"Did you really think you could finish in five hours?"

"You should just stop. Quit. Just stop. What’s the point?"

I put music on. It didn’t help.

"Just quit, Jenn. Next aid station, tell them you are done."

I got to the next aid station and didn’t talk to anyone. I was pissed. Annoyed. I could not shrug this feeling.

For the next 19 miles, I fought with myself. I wanted to cry with each step.

I eventually finished, more than an hour past my goal. 

It was so frustrating crossing that line while my legs were still fresh. Now it’s Tuesday and I don’t have that ultra-hobble; I’m fully recovered.

The negatives are pretty obvious. So why was this the best race of my life?

I persevered through 19 miles of mental anguish — 19 miles of "YOU CAN’T DO THIS!" in my head. I took on my harshest critic a few days ago... and in the end, I won.

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