Tips for the Trail – Everyone Matters – XTERRA 6-22-2012

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 6/22/2012

When it comes to competition, the elite athlete is typically heralded and perceived as a hero. This is beautiful, as these athletes dedicate enormous amounts of energy to their chosen sport. They are examples of human potential. They inspire us to inquire what is within ourselves waiting to shine.

What’s important to remember is that there are so many more heroes in the race scene. The importance of every person involved in an event can sometimes get lost in the glory of the elite results.  Everyone brings their history, current story and reason for racing behind the lines.  Whether acknowledged publicly or not, what is brought to the race immensely increases the energy of the event. I absolutely enjoy the fact that every athlete matters at an XTERRA event.  No one is just a number. We all have a name, a story, and a reason we are racing. We have value and are celebrated.  We are a tribe.

For myself, athletic competition has served as a crucial and savored component most of my life. Growing up, I played fast-pitch softball and competed and performed in dance.  As I grew older, I discovered my passion for running and cycling.  Ever since my teens, I have raced bicycles and run competitively.  It is my way of finding my own human athletic potential. The thought of toeing the line next to other fit and talented athletes is exciting and scary and inspiring all at the same time.  I love that my high energy is channeled into drive and the vision of, “what can my body achieve?”

Sometimes I fly fast and strong and come out on top. Other times, I fall hard and learn to find courage and humility. When I am strong enough, I stand up and try again. To this day, I love the thrill of pushing the edge to find a stronger, faster, happier, me.

My broad racing experience has made me realize many things. One is that not all events are put on with the same energy. Sometimes even in a huge crowd, I feel alone and separate, and there is a sense of disconnect between all involved.  I am made to feel that some are more important than others. The athletes are numbers or dollars, rather than humans.  I personally don’t like that feeling.  I want to know that each person matters in an event whether they are competing or supporting.  I want a sense of community.  XTERRA magically has filled that void.

Of utmost importance to me is that I have found my tribe in the XTERRA events. Without each competitor, the spectators, and volunteers standing for hours — in often unfavorable conditions — what would we have? The careful planning and hard work of the XTERRA crew, as well as private and government entities working with everyone to allow permits and a welcome to their beautiful places, there would be no races.  Each person within these realms plays a crucial role in creating the full circle of fantastic events we are privileged to be a part of.  Each person is a member of the family.

When there are no corrals separating the “elite” from everyone else at the start line of a race, it brings a big smile to my face.  We are equal. Some may be faster than others, but that is the beauty of it. I can’t imagine XTERRA events without the broad spectrum of athletes, all crowded behind the start line wherever makes them smile the most.  We all have reasons to run.  Not everyone has a wild heart about the win, nor do we all need one. Perhaps you run because someone else cannot.  Personal records, charities, social groups. The list goes on.  I always have reasons above and beyond just the win as to why I race.  It is what keeps me going when I have difficult moments in races.  Why do you race? Think of it like a mantra in your races if it ever feels like too much.

After finishing my races I enjoy watching the excitement of each competitor finishing, and the looks on their faces.  To me there is no other greater expression of soul as an athlete pushing their own edge and finding a new level of their own human potential.  I love watching the crew, volunteers, and all involved take an active role in creating the best experiences possible.  I love it that with XTERRA events we all matter as individuals and as a collective whole.

With all of that said, bringing back my 21 day challenges, I am currently spending time each day doing running form drills and core work.  This way as the season progresses and the races get faster, risk of injury is minimal and enjoyment of running stays high.  I encourage all to remember that just as each individual plays a role in creating the entire XTERRA experience, each positive choice you make in training, nutrition, and preventative care will bring you to the line healthy and enhance your overall race day experience.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached via e-mail atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.