*by MacKenzie Ryan
In the middle of the sweltering 80-plus-degree heat at 8,150 feet, Emily Jackson dropped into Gore Creek during the 2013 GoPro Mountain Games' freestyle kayak competition. Last weekend, the hundreds of fans, packed like sardines around Vail's International Bridge, roared when the announcer boasted through booming sound system that Jackson, perhaps the most heavy-hitting female professional kayaker in the country, was eight months pregnant.
Inspiration takes many forms. Though there's a lot of debate whether women can have it all--career, family, friends, fitness, happiness--we've highlighted a few who really take the cake. These ladies manage high-profile athletic careers, their own businesses, families, the works. Here, they weigh in on their experiences at the GoPro Games, how they keep their balance, staying motivated, and their best health and wellness advice.
41 years young
2-time US National MTB Marathon Champion
2-time TransAlp Challenge Champion
7-time member US National Team in various disciplines
2007 Leadville 100 Champion
2-time Champion Teva Mountain Games Ultimate Challenge
*multiple international stage wins and podium finishes with Nike Adventure Race Team
Megan Kimmel, Pro Runner, and Coffee Shop Owner
33 years young
2-time member USA Mountain Running Team
2009 Place Pikes Peak Ascent Champion,
4-time LaSportiva Mountain Cup Champion
2-time Teva/Vail Mountain Games 10k Trail Champion
2012 USATF 10k Trail National Champion
2012 USATF Trail Runner of the Year
2nd place 2012 USATF 1/2 Trail Marathon Championship
2nd place USATF Trail Marathon Championship 2012
MOUNTAIN GAMES HISTORY
Gretchen-"I think I've done the mountain games every year except one. It's pretty awesome to do it in your hometown; it's so awesome to see people enjoying Vail. I did the adventure race when they had the one-day adventure race, then I switched to the mountain challenge. It's a really hard event, but no matter how I do, I know I am going to come out of it stronger."
Megan-"I've been probably been doing (the mountain games) for four or five years. I have done the uphill half-marathon but predominantly the trail 10K is the one I never miss. I love singletrack. It's one of the races I look forward to because it's one of highest caliber races of the summer and brings out great women Colorado runners"
BALANCING CAREER, LIFE, AND COMPETITION
Gretchen-"What I've learned is that the biggest thing is you don't have as much time to train. I make sure my workouts are quality workouts--interval training, strength training. If I have more time, I can do more endurance workouts. This time of year, when business is slower, I can go out for a 4-hour ride. In winter, during tax season, I might only be able to fit in an hour ride. Because I retired from full-time racing, I choose events that are fun and financially good as well, but I probably compete half as much as I used to. It gives me more time to recover between events and have a life besides working and racing."
Megan-"Sometimes I don't balance things very well. I think you do the best you can. I have had a coffee shop, Cafe Mobius, for four years now. Every year I figure a little more out and it makes my life easier, As far as training goes, I really take advantage of time. I do more training in off-season. You have to have a lot of patience, too. Come summertime, I need to give up training for the coffeeshop because it's kind of my number one thing. You have to accept you can only do what you can do. Sometimes you take a break instead of pushing yourself running. Sometimes you take short runs, even if it's just a half an hour."
Gretchen-"I think I'm really fortunate in that I am super-passionate about being outside. I love mountain biking. It doesn't take a lot of motivation to get out. Having events where I want to do well, it motivates me to have some purpose to my workouts. I go out, have a harder, more effective workout. It keeps you in better shape."
Megan-"What keeps me motivated is the fact that none of us are really handed anything. If you want something big, you are going to have to work really hard at it. When I first got into owning my own business it was pretty overwhelming yet I was relatively young and it was exciting to be doing something I was passionate about (owning the coffee shop in a small town) so somehow I just hammered through it by being creative with my training schedule, go when I could for as long as I could-which normally wasn't very long and by taking advantage of the slow times at work, (like the) off-season. Over the years though, stress did amount to being too much. So now, as I push towards the five-year mark of owning the coffee shop, eliminating stress is pretty much the number one thing in my training. Small business is inherently challenging yet rewarding within its freedoms."
TRICKS OF THE CHAMPION TRADE
Gretchen-"Now that I am a multisport athlete, I do a number of things. One thing is keeping my core strong. Working on your core makes a different in every sport you do, daily life, and injury prevention. I think yoga is great, in terms of helping you with your overall balance and reducing stress. Lastly, even when I am really tired from work, I have to get outside to clear my head. If I don't feel like running, I go for a walk. It helps your mental state. I eat healthy--I still like chocolate and wine--but I eat a lot of vegetables, whole foods, organic foods, so I don't have to supplement."
Megan-"More than anything, I think all of us in life are really busy whether we have kids, we're career-oriented, but you do what you can. Sometimes it's better to stay home and do a yoga session if that's what you need. Whether you're a competitive runner or a mom getting back into running, it all ebbs and flows. Get out as much as you can. Be creative, you know, whatever feeds this. The mind is just as important as the body. If I have too much going on that day or I am mentally exhausted, I don't run that day. I just chill. In a busy time of the year, I will simply try to get out every other day. This eliminates a lot of stress, lets my mind and body recover and gives better me more drive to make sure I get out the next day. In this way I normally have more to give on the days I do get out running. When I feel physically tired I make myself go for a 20 minute run, often after 20 minutes I feel much better and can extend my run into a workout. If I have gone too many days without stretching, I will allot my training time to just a yoga session."
*MacKenzie Ryan is a freelance journalist whose writing experience is based in the outdoor, adventure, and action sports arena. Her works have been published in Backpacker, Women’s Adventure Magazine, Bicycling, The Denver Post, and Mountain Bike. Follow more of her adventures at http://mackenzieryan.tumblr.com/