Last year, my first race back after injury was at the Indian Creek Fifties 15 miler [officially declared to be 14.25 miles, but we all know better]. It was a beautiful, runnable, rolling course with bomb-able downhills and sweeping views along the Colorado Trail. It was the beginning of an incredible year. I’ve had my eye on one more ultra this year, but didn’t officially register in order to allow space for recovery after Mt Hood. I was pretty set on running the 55k since it is three months post-50-miler. But I’m not ready.
I’m not ready because I wore my body down little by little with every race after which I did not allow space for recovery. I’m not ready because I refused to miss an opportunity to take advantage of every chance to explore a new trail. I’m not ready because I never go to bed early enough for the 3:30 am wake up calls and the sleep deprivation is compounding. I am not ready because I am depleted. Every run seems to feel more fatigued than the last, to the detriment of my attitude, my enjoyment and the quality of my company for those with whom I run. I am tired of feeling slow and weak. I am tired of tripping and falling on the trail. The only way to correct is not to push harder, but to pull back.
Yesterday I ran a classic part of the Colorado Trail with a friend who is recovering from injury, which gave me the permission I needed to slow down. Stopping and waiting for her afforded me several chances to rest along the way and to take it easy without self-judgement. I felt neither strong nor fast, but I did feel good. I enjoyed the slow and steady turnover of my legs as I took in my surroundings and connected with my friend. I checked my ego and acquiesced to my body’s plea.
I have the unfortunate tendency to feel betrayed by my body when it won’t let me do what I want, when I want, despite this toddler mentality and my poor attention to its maintenance, and then wonder why. I have a bad habit of berating my body for how it looks and comparing it to others despite the strength, loyalty, and persistence it’s shown me. The reality is, it’s afforded me some pretty incredible experiences and done the hard things I’ve asked of it this year and indeed, I am the one who has betrayed it – it is just responding in kind. I recognize that I’ve been a poor steward of this meat-vessel over the years – I’ve been really mean, judgemental and I’ve kept my expectations high and my appreciation low.
Hey body, I appreciate you! I appreciate that you’ve carried me to places where I could encounter the real-life squeaky toys that live above 12,000 feet and witness some of the most glorious visions one could possibly imagine. I hear you crying out for rest and I’m listening.
So, do I have any more races coming up? The answer to that, for the rest of the year, is a definitive no. I have been trying to do too much. I have been pushing myself, literally falling down along the way. I am still managing injury and I do not trust my legs to perform at the level to which I would push myself in a race and that is a recipe for disaster. I am researching 50-mile races for next year and the intimidation factor alone is enough to initiate the rest and care that is a critical part of training for next year. Another ultra will not be possible if I do not replenish my energy, focus and strength.
It feels important for me to investigate why I can’t let myself rest and my gut tells me that it’s because I am afraid. Afraid of what is another question. I know on a superficial level, I’m afraid of gaining weight, but I also know that it goes far deeper than that. To be completely honest, I don’t know what I’m afraid of – is it mediocrity? Complacency? Inadequacy? Being left alone with my anxieties and fears of mediocrity, complacency and inadequacy? I have always had a hard time staying still in a constructive way. Often when I am still, it’s because I’m frozen – overwhelmed by tasks, emotions, racing thoughts and responsibilities – binging on Netflix and making poor choices. This type of inactivity is time wasted. It is not restorative, but rather a black-hole that allows anxiety about incomplete tasks and unfulfilled responsibilities to accumulate.
There is a tug of war inside my head between the knowledge of what I think will lead to fulfillment and the lies I believe that I have to outrun my perceived inadequacies and punish myself for my shortcomings for reasons I’d rather not go into. I am human. I am evolving. Consider this conclusion to be a step in the direction of fulfillment.