Maude's Mid South Double

Photos: Alex Roszko

In life, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone in order to grow as a person. That's not least the truth for athletes. Although most athletic development is based on the persistent dedication to repetitions and routines, athletes also need a breath of fresh air (just as figuratively as literally) to avoid feeling stale or ultimately burning out.

For some, it can be seeking new pastures far from home - riding in vastly different cultural and geographical terrains. For others, it can be to reignite what got them into sports in the first place. A matter of coming home.

That was the case for our friend Maude Farrell when she raced Mid South in Stillwater, Oklahoma this weekend. As a professional off-road rider, there's nothing peculiar about lining up at one of the premier gravel races in the US. But before tackling the 100-mile bike race, Maude laced up the day before to partake in the event's 50k trail run.

Maude wound up as this year's overall Mid South Double champion, perfectly proving that her running roots are an excellent complement to her bike racing prowess. We caught up with Maude to learn more about her impressive endeavor.

What inspired you to do the Double? 

It just felt right to me. I was a runner most of my life and competed in many 50ks and ultras. In the last few years, I was completely focused on cycling. After three years of hard professional racing, I was starting to feel lackluster in my motivation and training for all of the same events.

When I thought about the moments in my athletics that I felt the happiest, the strongest, and the most motivated it was when I had a really complete, well-rounded approach to training; when I had a healthy amount of running alongside riding. This "double" was a perfect target to ensure I had motivation and reason to carve out time for running, while still being able to compete as a professional cyclist.

What was hardest; doing the 50k run or doing the 100-mile bike race with a 50k run in the legs? 

Oh, the run was without question the hardest! I was only running ~5-6hrs a week, which I knew was enough for me to do the 50k, not necessarily feel totally normal at the end of it. My strategy was to pace the first half super chill, feeling medium to low effort (not get caught up by other people's pace), and then let it rip in race mode for the second half. I was fired UP when I ran through the middle aid station - music was blaring, friends were screaming. I felt like a superhero! 

The last 5k of the run I had to dig so deep. I was talking to myself out loud. By that point, I felt like my brain had dissociated from my body so I couldn't tell if I was running fast or slow. I kept checking my watch to make sure I was not slowing down. Somehow my legs just kept moving, like they had their own brain. 

Does running offer you something cycling doesn't?

Absolutely. It feels a lot like coming home, like reminding myself who I am as an athlete and how I started down this absurd path in the first place. It's much slower and less time intensive, but .... a deeper experience, if that makes more sense. There is no "off". You have to be in your body the entire time. It's so different from bikes, but also, IMO, complements them beautifully. Plus you just put on a pair of shoes and go out! It's a relief in its simplicity.

What is your biggest takeaway from the weekend? 

That experience really does pay off. Throughout the weekend in the run and the ride, the in-between and preparations before and after, I kept referring to past experiences and knowledge to keep me sane, to get me through the nerves, to guide what decisions I made. Hard lessons learned in pacing and nutrition in other 50ks gave me a basis for my strategy on the run. Knowing how to move in a group, how to navigate mass starts, how much I needed to eat and drink on the bike all served me on Saturday. While I fixed my flat, I nailed the tiniest details that in past experiences I had botched and that cost me minutes. Those little pieces of knowledge, action, choices all add up in something like this. 

I'm really proud of this achievement because beyond the fact that it's difficult and hard, it validates all the years and years of effort, experience, and execution that I've dedicated to sport. I feel really proud of the outcome of the weekend, but even more so it makes me proud of all the mistakes and failures I've had in the past because all of that prepared me to navigate a challenge like this.

Make sure to follow Maude's journey here

Pictures captured by the talented Mr. Roszko, follow Alex here