As I arrived at the aid station at mile 23, I was greeted with the words “3rd place female.” “Really?!?!?” I exclaimed with a huge grin and a look of total shock across my face.  Never had I imagined that I would be placing in a race, let alone THIS race!

Three weeks prior, I tagged along with a group of new friends to support them in their 50K up in Silverton, CO and offered myself as a volunteer at the start/finish.  There, the race director invited me to race their next 50K in Flagstaff, AZ…. I hadn’t been training, but was still doing my “fun runs” along the La Luz trail in the Sandias, so I figured “why not?”

While I had been offered free entry to the race, I still had needed to find an inexpensive way to get to Flagstaff.  I tried rallying friends to carpool with me and even put posts on craigslist Rideshare, but just a few days before the race I found myself with no affordable option.  Instead, I had accepted the fact that I would not be running the race and took an offer to drive to Colorado to support a friend in his first attempt at a 100-mile race.  Unfortunately for him, he missed the registration deadline, but I had already arrived.  “How about we drive to Flagstaff together?” He suggested. After a couple minutes of mentally scanning the items I had packed and deciding I had enough gear, I replied “oh what the heck! Now it’ll surely be a challenge and adventure!”

So the two of us headed south and arrived in time to pass out for a few solid hours the night before. With our kind hosts, and fellow badass ultra runners Sean Meissner and Kristina Siladi, we left the house long before day break, and arrived at the chilly start. I exchanged a few words with the race director, Jamil Coury, and with a few other women about my crazy and convoluted arrival at the race, told a bit of my MMA career, flashed a zany smile with the words “hope I will finish!” And off we all went!

Now, at mile 23, I was astounded to be in 3rd place! The news fueled me with more energy than the banana, PB&J, and Gatorade! After a brief fuel stop, I darted off on what felt like fresh legs! And then I realized, “did I just leave that 2nd place female behind at the station? Could that be??” I chose to leave that thought behind and focus on bounding away and along the last 9 miles, determined to not be passed. And so it was.

After slogging up the wet, muddy and rocky trail, I crested the hill to find my friend waiting and grinning with excitement at my arrival! He joined me down the most beautiful 600 meter finish- a flat, pebbled runway bordered with wide fields of yellow wildflowers and the finish line dead ahead. Pure bliss.

I coasted into the finish fifteen minutes behind the first female finisher, and was instantly overcome with disbelief and sheer joy. Never had I imagined this for myself. Having tasted the victory of placing in such a long and arduous race, I now know that I will surely be challenging myself again – and to even more miles.

The best part was the child-like giddiness of Sean when he told me this story:

After the race, two guys were standing around and one of them said to the other “Hey, did you see that female MMA fighter in her barefoot shoes and her tiny little handheld waters? She didn’t look prepared at all! I bet she didn’t even finish!!” So Sean turn to them and coyly informed them that in fact I had finished second and had already gone home to take a nap!! Ha!”

It was true. I had only the running clothes I packed, my every’run’ Merrell Barefoot trail running shoes, and my 2 – 8oz Salomon handheld hydration soft flasks. But that was all I needed!

Back at home in Albuquerque, NM I’ve had time to sit and contemplate my entire race experience and what that means for my future of racing, fighting and other endeavors. In the past, I have been pretty hard on myself with high expectations for my physical fitness and appearance, as well as my performance. But today I am ready to give myself a break from my self-criticism and take a moment to embrace all of my accomplishments, and appreciate myself as true professional athlete.

Furthermore, I am forever grateful for all of my friends, my family, and my fans who love and support me every day and in many ways on my journey. Thank you.