Coach Salynda’s Inspiring Running Journey
For anyone who knows me there is something synonymous with my entire being-I am a runner. I love to run, it’s more than a way to stay fit and healthy...it’s deep part of my being that is vital to my existence. Obsession? I think it’s more of a link to my true self, a time for peace, to do my best thinking, creating and innovation...it’s also a place I can escape stress, fear and sadness a place I fee alive and free. So, yes my running is an essential part of my day, my life and to who I am as a person.
I began running late in high school. I was pretty confused in my early teen years and was not involved in any organized sports. I was blessed to attend Jefferson County Open School, a pre-school-12th grade school based upon the Australian Walk About program...it emphasizes experiential learning. While attending JCOS I participated in and ultimately led several backpacking trips, some for younger students in Colorado Wilderness areas, some chasing Anazazi artifacts in remote canyons of the four corners region and even canoeing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for 9 days, three of which was a solo.I developed a deep sense of place, comfort and absolute love for being immersed in nature. I also developed a huge sense of intrigue for the natural world which led me to pursue a degree in Biology/Ecology at Western State Colorado University.
While on a casual afternoon run at WSCU an older gentleman approached me, he sternly asked me my name and introduced himself. He was Duane Vandenbushe-the legendary WSCU XC coach who had led the team to many championships and coached many Olympians. He informed in his friendly yet stern tone that “I looked like a very good runner and should join the team”. I ended up joining the team for my freshman year. I learned so much and really enjoyed the friendships. However, I was pursuing a double major and working several jobs to get through school. At the time I just wanted to run free and explore on my own.
I did discover my favorite thing about running with WSCU XC, the long run! Coach Vandebushe introduced me to some of the most beautiful trails in Colorado through the Gunnison National Forest and beyond. Trails like 401 in Gothic, West Maroon Pass and Taylor Park are still among the most beautiful my feet have ever run. I also discovered that not only did I love the long, rough hilly runs but that they were where I excelled the most. So, as a young free-spirited mountain loving girl I took to my own direction with running.
I spent the next three years filling an insatiable appetite for exploration-running throughout the Elk, West Elk, San Juan and Sawatch mountain ranges that were in my backyard. My botany professor who was an avid mountain athlete suggested that I try the Pikes Peak Ascent. I did have a bit of a competitive spirit so I went for it...I was hooked! I vowed to return the next year for the full marathon. I went back and had a great first marathon, I placed 7th overall in a World Mountain Running championship year. I wanted to improve and go back-I was hungry! I graduated that year and spent the summer camping out, waitressing and training vigorously for PPM, my efforts were fruitful I won the women’s race!
After the race a new chapter of life was waiting for me: love, marriage and motherhood and family life. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in September of 2008. I would never be the same...I could not bear to miss a moment with her and dedicated every ounce of my being to loving her and soaking up every moment. I did run through this time, we spent many days exploring nature together with the good ol’ baby jogger. I returned to Pike’s Peak within a year of her birth but I was more just wanting to be out there for the community and challenge, I wasn’t very focused on a specific goal or outcome.
My husband, Chris and I decided to have a second child and he was born in December of 2011, he was a handsome, healthy, gentle natured little guy. Life was so perfect...happily married, two beautiful, healthy children, I could not ask for anymore. My husband also had a huge passion for the outdoors and his main love was skiing. He was a great skier and wanted to share that love with his children. We went skiing every weekend from the time our daughter was two years old...it was a huge part of our lives. Then one weekend my daughter was not feeling well and I stayed home with her and our newborn son. Chris went skiing with my father one sunny, powder day and never came home.
Chris was caught in an avalanche and killed on January 22, 2012. It was a tragedy and horror that I never could have imagined. I cannot adequately describe the grief, pain, sadness and bartering for not only my loss, my children’s loss but for his loss. He was an amazing husband, father, friend, son and brother. His infectious humor, gentle, light hearted nature, and generous spirit left a huge void in the lives of everyone he knew.
In the months that followed I went into a level of survival mode, that I still can’t understand. It was like something external took over, maybe it was God and Chris’ spirit? I like to believe that Chris has had a lot to do with the fortune we have had since his passing. The only comfort I can take in such an unexplainable horrible tragedy is in my ultimate surrender to God’s plan. Although I will never understand I have learned to accept God’s plan and embrace the goodness of life beyond the tragedy. In my survival mode I planned my husband’s funeral while nursing a newborn, I attended play dates, camping trips, airplane trips, attended weddings and reunions- I maintained a sense of safety and normalcy that instinctual I knew was critical to my children’s well being. My daughter was three and my son seven weeks old when Chris was taken to live with the angels. Looking back I have no idea how I did it…
I do know one thing that was absolutely essential to my survival in that time, I had a place to grieve, to honor myself, to cry, to scream and even just to play...it was on the trail. Along with the many wonderful, incredibly generous, kind people that came to our rescue and into our lives in this time (I am forever humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who supported us)...I ran to take care of me on the inside. Self-care is a critical and under looked essential to being a whole, happy person-in this time of tragedy it was probably a huge part of why I could carry on. I had to be there for my children and be my best self, even in the absence of tragedy we need to care for ourselves so we can give our best in life.
I did a lot of my grieving on the trail, and ended up re-kindling my competitive drive for running. I think this was because I finally gave myself the permission to step-away from my mom role, just for a bit to take care of myself. I ran multiple fourteeners and incredible routes and even ran my first 100 mile race (Run, Rabbit Run). Running helped me survive the unthinkable.
In this time I met a new friend and training partner. I like to think of him as one of the angels Chris lined up to help me. Ryan and I began to run and climb peaks, and we fell in love on the run and in the mountains. Ryan loved and embraced our children as if they were his own. I was blessed to find love again and learned through the deep pain of grief and loss to never deny a happy moment. Ryan and I went on to marry and have a beautiful, sweet healthy daughter together.
I held onto my competitive hunger a bit more since the tragedy and have taken my running and training more seriously. In this time I have trained for and competed at the front of the pack in several PPM’s mountainous 50’s and 100’s. Yes, it has been difficult juggling three young children, a part-time job, volunteering and trying to be a loving supportive wife, daughter, friend and the many roles we all fill each day. Many people think I’m crazy for even trying. But, I have learned from coming from such a huge life altering experience that life's too short to not do what you love and to take anyone or anything for granted.
Now, I’m entering a new life chapter. My children are getting a little older and my youngest will be going to Kindergarten next year! This will be another huge life transition...it has left me soul searching and trying to find something to learn and grow with. I found out about Rugged Running through Run, Rabbit, Run. Michele is a super star and a huge inspiration of mine-and undisputedly the Queen of Run, Rabbit Run. I am inspired by the adversity she has overcome, her perseverance, kindness and athletic ability ...turns out we live in a small world and our daughter’s attend the same school and we live in the same beautiful mountain area.
I joined the Rugged Running community and was blown away by the support, kindness, and tremendous knowledge they offered. I reached out to Michele to learn more about Rugged Running and was interested in having her coach me to help me get to the next level in my running. It turns out that we have so many of the same goals: to help people, improve the lives and well being of others; a passion for helping children and families get healthy and fit along with our shared passion for running. I took the plunge and applied to be a coach and was thrilled to get hired to join the Rugged Running team! I am so excited for the opportunity to work with a company with such genuine talented people. I feel so fortunate to learn, grow and help others run healthy, happy inspired lives.
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