Get Up Women Who Race
First or last, just go out and do it — even if you’re over 40
I have a vivid memory of gliding down a single-track trail, through fields of wildflowers racing a half-marathon on Vail Mountain.
In reality, I probably was just hobbling along, not a contender at all for fastest female runner, or even in the top 10 — but I loved that day, and the memory. I ran a course I probably never would
have run by myself; and I met some great people.
Why do some people love to race and others shy away from it?
Roni Sheldon, a 40-something mother in Eagle, has been a runner for nearly 20 years. While she’s done her fair share of races, from a half-Ironman when she turned 40 to the Ragnar Relay Colorado and other, multi-day bike rides, winning is not the reason she trains and races.
“I’m competitive with myself, not with other people. I am not an elite athlete. It’s not about that with me. It’s about being physically fit and physically strong … and challenging myself, and to do different things and get out there,” Sheldon says.
‘I kind of got hooked’
Whereas some may think racing is a cutthroat, solo experience, Christina Hooper started running again as a way to see friends. A group of pals signed up for a Mother’s Day race out in Palisade, in western Colorado, and she was going along, too.
Hooper signed up for a 12-person Ragnar Relay Series event, running from nearby Copper Mountain to Snowmass, near Aspen. The experience just encouraged her more to train and keep running.
“It’s a lot of fun! It got me really on the ball for keeping in shape because I was so nervous about it. One of the reasons I decided I like signing up for races is because it keeps me honest. I can’t say, ‘nah, I don’t feel like going for a run.’ It gets me out there to run.”
Hooper relies on cross-training and the infamous foam roller to keep injuries at bay.
Finding the time
Like many athletic mothers, Hooper and Sheldon have housefuls of kids. They work and they parent, but finding time to workout is a necessity, and a luxury.
I caught Hooper on her way to a lunchtime run. Sheldon, meanwhile, fits running in while her kids are at school and/or when she’s between jobs. Longer workouts usually happen on the weekends.
‘Huge parts of my routine’
Professional mountain bike racer Karen Jarchow has found a way to fit it all in.
She admits, though, it’s taken her a few years to figure it out. She trains, rides and races from 15 to 25 hours a week; that means standing on her feet for 40-plus hours at a retail job was too much and didn’t allow her a chance for recovery.
She found a job where she works from home — putting her feet up literally, and figuratively, while she gets the job done. Just as importantly, to “maintain,” she fits in almost-daily yoga, cross-training and mental preparation.
“Yoga is good for everything: preventing injuries, staying strong, staying flexible… One of biggest things I’ve noticed? It helps me, mentally,” Jarchow says. “When you get to a certain level — everyone has similar fitness levels — yoga adds an extra level of the mental. I practice three to five times a week. Meditation really helps, too. Those are huge parts of my routine.”
‘Getting out here’
Lynnette Ferraro, a mountain biker, yogi, meditator and hiker, loves the workout — but she doesn’t do it for the competitive edge.
“I bike four to six days a week. I just go biking. Sometimes I go hard and sometimes I don’t. A lot of times in summer I go mountain biking, so I don’t have to deal with traffic like on a roads. I also go to the gym and workout. Mostly, I’m getting out here to feel good. I don’t have a training plan; that’s too regimented for me. I just want to go out and have fun. I go out to relax after a long day of work, more than anything,” Ferraro says.
In the past, she raced on skis and mountain bikes, ran a few half marathons — but it’s just not in having a quiver of skills these days.
“Life’s too competitive, ” she adds. “It’s not about competition. There’s more to life than being competitive.”
If you’re thinking of racing but have that nervous thought you might come in last — who cares? You’re off the couch, part of a fun community and out in nature, absorbing breathtaking scenery.
“I try and have fun with it and not take it too seriously. I don’t care if I come in last. I don’t usually come in last, but I certainly don’t come in first,” says Sheldon. “I am a middle-of-the-pack person, and I’m perfectly happy with that. I think my peak is behind me. (I tell myself,) ‘Yeah, but you got off the couch.'”
Wanna run, ride or race?
Vail Mountain Bike Races
Vail Trail Running Series
Ragnar Relay, Colorado
“It’s about being physically fit and physically strong … and challenging myself, and to do different things and get out there.”
— Roni Sheldon
By Heather Hower • photography by linda guerette