The Heart & Mind of a Newbie

Credit: Kaori Funahashi @

By Samantha Pruitt, Founder & CEO, Race SLO

I’ve spent the last 15 years rebuilding my body, mind and life through endurance sports. Many of you know my ex-couch potato story already, from fluffy 0.0 to 140.6 IronWOman then onto 100 mile UltraWOman.

From desk-couch jockey to Personal Trainer, Coach and Race Director, I know first hand how endurance sports changes lives and communities.

So this year, as I lean in and push my 48-year button, I am surprised and fascinated how once again I have come full circle as a newbie athlete.

After last summer’s train wreck at the Western States 100 Run, I decided to take the second half of 2016 off from structured training and racing to ensure a full recovery of both my body and my mind. This simple gift of taking my foot of the pedal has proved to be a wise decision. Sure I gained a few pounds and after a 5 month ‘off season’ felt like grumpy cat in my menopause body. So come December 2016 I decided to get back into the ole’ sweatbox and rebuild again in a completely new way. Instead of racking up huge mileage and focus towards one beloved sport, I turned to diversity, strength and exploration of other athlete tribes. I joined the C5 CrossFit family and dug a deeper connection in the mountain biking community to both reignite my love of the trails and build FULL body functional fitness.

Credit: Kaori Funahashi @

Investing in a worthy cause — myself — these last four months I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting new like-minded people, learning new things while challenging my body in a uncharted territory. Within a few months of training my passion for racing was reignited. This time however as a newbie in mountain bike racing, adventure racing and CrossFit. I still LOVE to run but shorter, harder, faster for now. Mountain biking, adventure racing and CrossFit each force me to use my entire body, develop all of its capabilities and learn a vast array of new skills. Not only do I feel ‘whole person strong’ but opening up my mind and heart to both new people and new places has also proven to be more rewarding than I ever imagined. I look forward to workouts again and that itch for the next LEVEL UP is exactly what the doctor ordered for my middle age prescription.

Willing to learn by doing, this last month I towed the line at two races as a newbie. I pinned on bibs at my first mountain bike race and first ever adventure race. For both, I had never seen the course, didn’t know the rules or even really worry about the fact I may not finish. This lack of pressure and not truly knowing any better allowed me to relax and be in the moment. I simply showed up with the virgin newbie mind that told me to simply do my best. At my Fort Ord Cross Country MTB I rode my clanky old bike in three 5 mile loops of single track as hard as I could trying not to crash. Shockingly I ended up 2nd in the women’s Masters 40-plus field. More rewarding than that podium however, was meeting all the other Masters women who, like me, are choosing a different path for their lives.

Then on April Fools Day I showed up lathered in poison oak protection, carrying a slew of technical gear I had never used before, this time with a new sexy Juliana mountain bike I had ridden only twice for my first adventure race. The long course Check Point Challenge at Santa Margarita Lake proved to offer another epic schooling. Harness, ropes, map, compass, rented kayak, bike gear, trail run and trek gear, pack full of food and water plus a nothing-to-lose attitude. Driving out to the wildness in the pitch dark by myself I was nervous, excited, but mostly curious after having to abandon all expectations just knowing that adventures races mean zero information until the gun goes off! As a newbie all you can honestly do is show up reasonably prepared and take one challenge or mile at a time. Laughing helps, talking to other racers can be a good distraction from the suffering or ease the anxiety but mostly living in the moment by connecting to our magnificent outdoors. Hell, just putting on the race bib gave me a huge sense of pride by knowing I have what it takes to dare greatly.

Credit: Kaori Funahashi @

As a Race Director and someone who professionally produces endurance sport experiences for other humans, this has been a deeper journey for me this time. Being a newbie once again by dreaming, daring, committing then towing the line for a race has reconnected me with my Race SLO tribe on a whole new level. I was meant to build and run Race SLO. There is nothing more I can imagine doing with my life’s work, but this authentic personal journey through the endurance sport lifestyle has truly created something special. This years newbie experience has added fire to my belly for giving back and hunger for connection with my athletic tribe. My creative energy and power for developing new races as well as raising the bar on all we already do is almost hard to contain. This is the result of being completely open to possibility and of willingly stepping out into the arena.

Completely shocking to me I won 2nd place overall woman at this badass 7 hour adventure race. Not surprising at all was the fact I LOVED it. I have decided that I must forever choose the evolving path of the newbie by saying yes, getting bloody and striving valiantly each day. I invite you all to dare greatly with me — you won’t be disappointed, I promise!

Credit: Kaori Funahashi @

The Woman in The Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt

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