This morning I withdrew my name from the Burning River 100 registration list. Not an easy decision to make. As Volunteer Coordinator of the race I have seen a few withdraws come across to RD Joe via the on line contact form, and it seems like each comes with an emotional explanation and justification of why that person needs to claim a DNS this year.
For me, aside from a nagging pain or two, I haveta-wanna, and I just ... well... don't want it enough now to even try.
If you know me, you know this sounds a little surprising, unlike me, even. But times have changed. The schematic of my lifestyle reads differently than it did years ago. There comes a time when admitting limitations is healthy -- moreso emotionally even than physically. I have been running, I have been training. My body is physically ready to complete the 100+ miles. My mind is just not up to the task.
I am not a quitter. In fact, next weekend I will be running the Mohican 50 on Saturday and the Canton Marathon on Sunday. What makes this difficult for me is having to do it myself --rather, to get myself there, to both starting lines, without the benefit of having a partner or good friend to force me out of the house. No one really even to help me decide, camping or cabin, hotel or driving down morning-of the race. It's all me. Mentally I know this challenge will be quite a win once I complete it. Maybe to you it doesn't sound difficult, but for me, the getting there is the hardest part -- the running is simple.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to support a friend at an Olympic Triathlon event. I have been to triathlons before, but this one hit me in a different way. I looked at the ladies competing and really for the most part these women were fit, built actually, tough, capable happy people, and their events were over in about three hours. What joy it must be to start and finish a demanding event in less than three -- not seven or 24 or 30 -- hours, and have it still count -- have it still feel like a win.
Why do I feel that the only way I can "win" is to run longer than the average athlete? Come to think of it, the men in my life who convinced me that this was the only qualifier for toughness are essentially gone from my life, on the outside of my every day existence. It once mattered to me to have it matter to them. And now, it seems to just matter less.
Of course, as an ultrarunner I have total justification to how I find personal pleasure in completing the "long (really long) run." The event yesterday just opened my mind to the possibility that doing a different sport may actually be good enough for me, someday. It actually would be a challenge to complete a tri, because I am not a strong swimmer. It would actually take training for me to be able to swim a mile. I watched Jeff swim two loops around that reservoir like it was pretty much nothing -- while I hyperventilated on the dock, imagining what it would feel like for me to be in that water. Maybe it is time for me to consider mixing up my sports a bit, going for a different challenge.
Who knows why my attitude has changed. I do love running trails. And I love events like a 50 mile trail race. But the road running during the week is more painful than pleasurable, and something inside me is beginning to ask why.
For the past 8 years I have defined myself, with pride, as an ultrarunner. I don't think that withdrawing from Burning River 100 makes me weak -- or at least I hope it doesn't. I just want that fire back that once powered me, the fist-pumping, high-fiving win of finishing. I know sadly, next weekend, when I get home from the Canton Marathon, 76+ miles logged for the weekend, it will just be me celebrating. I won't have anyone here on my couch who shared that experience, no one to download the information to, anyone to pat me on the back or make me an egg sandwich, to really understand how much it took to finish.
I realize that in this life, we ultimately all are alone and have only to rely on ourselves. And this might sound like complaining -- honestly, it is not. I am just saying that it takes a little of the joy away to be in this sport alone. To suffer through 100 miles at the end of July, I gotta-wanna, and aching alone makes me say I don't-wanna. Right now, it somehow just doesn't matter much.
And I want what I do to matter.
Part of the thrill of this sport, to me, is sitting around after the event talking about what happened out there -- how the river was really flowing this year, or the mud was shoe-sucking deep, how the horse-flies were biting, the waterfall was heavenly cold, or the wipe-out on the rocks really hurt but I kept my leg bloody to look like a bad-ass.
I want to be a part of something, a bigger something than just me. Sure, in my job of volunteer coordinator I am a part of that big effort, and it is super satisfying to work with Joe and Mark and Vince and Jim et al to make it happen. I will put my whole heart into that effort, and it will be so gratifying to see each runner succeed in his own right.
Still, as bad as it sounds, I guess I don't run ultras primarily for the self-satisfaction. I am driven by that community of understanding, of making an effort that others like me see and "get" as a challenge. And right now, for whatever reason -- I rightly take the blame, the responsibility -- I feel a little bit out of touch with that community. I have no front-line connection with a routine, accountability partner. I have myself. "Good effort, Suzanne, it sure was hot out there today, it was fun running with you. Wasn't it a beautiful day though? Thanks for being there with me." The glow that powered me to a 100-mile finish has dimmed.
And to those who take this post as negative, who will look at me like this is quitting -- I AM NOT QUITTING. I have not given up, I have not quit the sport. My life is happy. I am blessed with a wonderful job, a beautiful garden, my loving children, a new man who has all the promise I have prayed for, and a body that still carries me through activities I love. This post is positive -- it is freeing to be able to admit how I really feel these days and have it be okay with ME.
It simply makes more sense, seems healthier even, to accept my limitations right now, be they mental or physical. Because if what I am gonna get after a 30 hour event is the glassy-eyed look of a co-worker, or the "you're nuts" blow off from my mother, then I may as well go for a far less demanding three hour event that takes everything I have to complete it, FEELS LIKE A WIN, but then still leaves me with energy to do my day. It hurts to run 100 miles -- and there is pain and sacrifice for weeks and months before the event even happens. Having someone next to me understanding the effort actually makes the pain go away. Who wants to sit on the couch reliving a memory by yourself?
Ya gotta wanna.
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