People often talk about work/life balance. Less frequently discussed, however, is the balance between a sport, when embraced with the same fervor as a career, and other interests that spark joy and serenity. Given the tenacity with which athletes approach their sport, it’s inevitable that they experience stressors from the training, racing, performing, fueling, competing, injury, etc. Therefore, striking a balance between sport and self-care becomes a necessity in order to maintain the intensity, duration, and frequency required to participate competitively without cracking under pressure. Staying grounded is such a uniquely individual endeavor that not only can we learn from the journeys of others, but we can partake vicariously in their joy through their accounts--Instagram accounts included! The stories below reflect the strength and vulnerability inherent in these athletes as well as their personal quests for balance.
For many, their first introduction to Club Northwest happens at the start line of local races. Whether toeing the line alongside a CNW runner or spotting the recognizable orange singlet from afar, people who attend Seattle-area running events regard Club with varying degrees of familiarity but familiarity nonetheless. What many people may not know, however, is that Club Northwest is more than just a hub for a select few pursuing Olympic trials qualifying times.
Living authentically opens doors, and I couldn’t have predicted the winding path that led me to coaching. I had agreed to pace a friend’s high-school aged daughter at a CNW All Comer’s Meet. Together we successfully smashed her PR, and she introduced me to her coach. I was giddy with the joy of mentoring a young runner and was delighted when he emailed me and asked if I’d like to come assistant coach cross-country. Coaching has always been a dream of mine, so I was really thrilled that I was finally in a portion of my life where I could. In my excitement, I started researching the school, only to discover that it was both private and Christian.
I remember people by a collection of poignant memories, a handful of individual moments that collectively illustrate their whole. The tapestry of memories woven together to form Ashley Nichols includes reimagined Disney tales fireside at the 2017 Northwest Women’s Retreat and strategizing with teammates at the start line of the 2018 Sudden Valley XC meet. The most defining moment, however, took place on the lake trail at Moran State Park. Likely somewhere within her umpteenth mile, Ashley came charging around a bend in the trail, with the fierceness of a warrior charging into battle. It is this fierceness--this outward expression of her fathomless internal grit--that is the Ashley forever etched into my memory.
An increase in daylight and mild weather coaxes even the most reticent runner out of their winter hibernation to join the throngs of people who take to the pedestrian paths along Green Lake and the Burke Gilman. Further motivating folks looking to jumpstart their spring running, Spencer Walsh, Club Northwest athlete, coach, and the feature of this article, offers year-round Tuesday evening workouts open to the community, at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School track.
Running Seattle’s red line hurts; it empties the lungs of oxygen, recruits those sleepy, hill-charging muscles, and negates the commonly held belief that gentrification within the boundaries of the red line honors the pre-existing communities. This route and the activity of running it are a lasting reminder of Seattle’s racist history. If you are looking for a way to honor Black History Month and experience Seattle’s history, I invite you to get uncomfortable and run the red line.
Nothing brings out squad love quite like cross country, and this is also true for Club Northwest. While Club athletes compete regularly in individual road races and USATF track and field events, runners donning the hallmark electric orange singlets swarm en masse to the golf courses and the infamous hills and slippery turns of Lower Woodland to compete in the fall XC season.
As autumn approached, fall marathon training cycles began for those runners targeting one of the season’s many prestigious road races. Over the years, Club Northwest has noticed an increase in participation among its athletes in road marathons, including those that take place in fall. In response, Club’s Vice President of Teams, Waqar Shaikh, and Team Manager, Mark Bloudek, launched a pilot program to assist fall marathon participants with race registration and travel expenses.
Communities and our participation therein come to form the crux of our identities, often defining and redefining our concept of self. And, so, from a very young age, we embark on a search for the intangible: that sense of belonging. For some, finding a community of like-minded individuals comes easily. For others, finding their tribe involves years of trial-and-error, heartbreak, intense highs, traumatic lows, and a labyrinth of self-discovery. My search falls squarely into the latter.