Road trips are my favorite. It’s nostalgic for me, having grown up in a camper van, touring the United States every summer with my family. The feeling is the same as an adult, the anticipation of the open road and the freedom of having a loose plan. Meeting up with new people to explore their local trails, towns and mountains. I’ve teamed up with Dave and Matt Vans for the next month, as I make my way west from Boulder, CO, to the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder, a gravel bike stage race in Bend, OR and ending at the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run, to pace, crew and enjoy some training of my own.

But how did I get to this point? In fact, I was quite nervous to go on this road trip, since I’m pretty fresh off of breaking my foot and building up fitness again. Not having daily access to my PT gym over at Revo Sports and Performance, or the routine of familiar terrain to train on is a bit anxiety provoking for a perfectionist like me, who’s no stranger to the arduous process of recovery.

It’s easy to look at what I’m doing and forget about all the hard work that got me here. All of the hours spent training inside – at the gym or on my Saris Smart Trainer – before I could even dream about taking a trip like this. After my foot surgery in early April, I spent 5 weeks on crutches. I was completely non-weight bearing and only able to “bike” in the gym by using one leg and propping my healing foot on a chair as I rode. Although I wouldn’t call this training, it did help with the healing process (mentally more than anything I think).

Me and my Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer

I’m no stranger to recovery, yet I’m reminded every time, how humbling a process it can be – to start back from zero and work my way toward my goals again – to let go of expectations and truly do things for the enjoyment and experience of it. So that’s what I did. At the end of May, two and a half weeks before Unbound Gravel 200, I was cleared to start weight bearing. This meant easing off of crutches, learning to walk again and starting to put pressure on my foot on a stationary bike. After I left that doctor’s appointment, I went home and got on my Saris Smart trainer. I think I made the decision right then, that no matter my finishing time, I was going to do Unbound Gravel 200, even if it was my first ride outside, and no matter my finishing time.

Photo credit: Linda Guerrette the last 5 miles of Unbound Gravel 200

After a successful 200 mile race in Kansas, and beating the sun in just over 14 hours (only 7 minutes slower than my time 2 years ago), I decided I had nothing to lose. I decided a road trip, linking up different races, events and places to train would be the best way to build confidence as I built my running back up again. So far, it’s been exhilarating to link up with friends along the way, and have them be a part of my road to recovery.

A photo snapped by Gus Gibbs, on a run in Boise, ID, my longest run post surgery.

I’m reminded to be flexible and kind to myself with the ups and downs of recovery. I’m reminded that there’s not a clear path ‘back’ to anything, but the best way to experience it, is with people who are willing to help you get there. I’m not ‘there yet’ and might not be any time soon, yet I’m so grateful for this opportunity to see new country, new and familiar faces, as my body grows stronger and more resilient.

Exploring the local trails outside Ogden, UT with Tara.

If you want to follow along in my adventures on my road trip, be sure to follow me on Instagram.

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