This past weekend I took part in Seneca Greenway 50k starting down at Riley's Locke and ending in Damascus. The course was flip flopped form the former years secondary to growth of the race and parking issues. I was excited to run this race. This race alone was the one that got me hooked into ultras. I met so many wonderful people last year running and talking. I remember the struggle, the 6ish miles in the pouring rain before the race evan began and then the ever continuing miles and miles of trail. I remember the pain, the fatigue, everything. But it was fresh. To do something hard and new is exhilarating, there is something satisfying in the achievement of surviving your own self-created challenge. What about after you've done it, over and over.... how marathons do you finish before you no longer question your passing the line, just simply the time it takes you?
So, without sounding painfully conceded, I have no doubt in my personal ability to complete 31+ miles of a 50K on the Seneca Greenway trail. With the exception of blowing my electrolytes by making some terrible known decisions or having a physical accident/ injury occur, there is no reason I can't finish that distance, or even 50, or even 100 miles at this point in time. It changes the game. It changes the playing field in your heart and mind. I don't run to win, and I don't even allow myself to race myself.
I spent the last 4+ years learning how not to compete and to just enjoy the ride (in life), all of it, which still takes practice. So when you put yourself on the ride over and over, the ride everyone else tells you you have to be crazy to be on, you wonder. The more time you spend there, the more times you think, "hmmm, perhaps its true, this is F%#*ing insane."
My 2012 running season was profound, to me. Whatever any one else thinks is irrelevant to this posting, to me- I amazed myself. I built a foundation of strength I didn't know existed, but now its there. I burnt out by the end of the year, fairly enough I'd say. But now I am progressing again with my training, only I am confused on my intention.
I never meant to win last year, I never even meant to place, just simply to complete that which I said I would do. I was to explore my abilities. And I did.
Now, what is the goal? What is the purpose? I'm 26 y/o, I'm in no position in my life to claim stability. Last year I was working and training. I was single and committed.
Fast fwd: 2013: I am not single, I have a job I'm proud of and committed to doing my best at, and I also like to give a variety of my time to help out some amazing ppl in Baltimore whom I hold close to my heart and in my other spare time, I do luckily still have some pretty amazing friends.....so wait, where did the commitment go? I am NOT any less committed to my ultra running, in fact, I may actually be more committed simple due to the fact that I am always trying harder and harder to get in the time and the energy. Ok, but I was thought to maybe be able to "take the ultra-world by storm"... Be the "Next".... Whatever catch phrase is inspired by great achievements. Am I letting myself down? Am I letting others down?
I didn't, I haven't stopped wondering what I can/am able to do, but I wonder how and when, and in the mean time... for who. I LOVE to run, thats not in question. I love trails on warm sunny days. I love muddy runs, and obstacles of nature. I even like competition, but I do Not race, except for the last 200meters of any run ( I call that my speed training ;).)
So getting back to Seneca, not so bad a day, dreary with some random snow flakes floating around, but not TOO cold, roughly 36F with some mild winds. A nice 8am start, that I barely made it too thanks to my nerves making me a but careless. This was my first race of 2013, a test of my heart more than my body.
By mile 6, the course seemed endless. Worst of all, I've run that section of the course 3 times now and knew where I was, it felt like I was on a treadmill, going nowhere but giving everything I had. Eventually we got to aid station #1, I didn't even stop, I had calories on me and wasn't drinking much with the cold weather. Aid station #2 came after what felt like 2 hours, but that was only mile 11, It couldn't be 11am yet, could it? (I wore no watch and never ask what I don't need to know).
I already decided that if Dave, my support crew for the day was at mile 13, I would ask him to take me home. I don't know what I was thinking, I didn't see anyone I knew, the weather was blah, the trees still all wintery and dead, my attitude was trying.... but man... I just wanted to not be running 33ish miles, this is stupid, I thought. However, upon arrival to the AS @ mile 13, no Dave present. And the "which race are you in , marathon or 50K?" came... and of course I said 50K... off I headed to loop around the lake adding miles to my many miles. Running off I was angry with Dave for not taking me away but maybe he'd be there when I finished the loop I thought.
During the loop, my stomach ached and groaned. I'd already needed to "pop-a-squat" for an hour or so, but the course was riddled with male runners and there was no greenery. The loop around the wide open lake was NOT the time. And now my stomach was talking.....I dropped my pace to an almost trot and just HAD to make it. Eventually, maybe as little as 15 min, but feeling closer to an hour my stomach felt better and my kidneys too. I kept on going. No Dave on the other end either. Confused and slightly annoyed I stopped, the race volunteers looked at me and pointed me to the course, asking if I needed anything. My mind screamed, "Yes, I need to stop running, this is insane, take me home!!" but I said "no" and jogged off on down the trail.
This second half or so of the race became continually easier. I wanted to stop so bad I was able to push myself. Recognizing the course was still the hardest part, followed closely by my need to pee, and then the cold that perpetually confused my body. I was hot centrally, but freezing at my extremities and every change I made just threw it back and forth.
In this half of the race I passed by the turn for the finish line for stone mill 50 miler and annoyance again took over.
I passed a girl who'd long past left me in the dust. I just hoped she felt alright. Soon enough I caught up with a very strong male runner who'd sprained his ankle a few hours back and was struggling for a decent finish. It occurred to me that I was running pretty well, not great. But I was moving steadily, still climbing all the hills and passing a number of people.
Eventually at the second of the next two aid stations, Dave was there. Now of course, I was having fun, in pain, tired and cold as the temperature continued to plummet and the wind picked up, but I was okay. I finally asked how much I had left. I was expecting 4miles (or more) to be the answer so when they calmly said I had only 1.5 miles to go, I took off running.... I was almost done.
I ran well, I felt considerably good. And then I saw the clock 5:30...40 minutes slower than last year, and last year I'd warmed up with 6 extra miles and run in the mud. Last year was last year though, and so I let it sink in, that I did well, for that day, I gave what I had and did what I came to do and most importantly what I said I would do. The job was complete. I was sad, sad that it felt like a job. I wanted to go home.
And so we did go home. Within in hours I remembered the run with happiness and content. Naturally I am very confused about why I was upset, or what my expectations are. Perhaps just growing pains? I mean you can't be a naive newbie forever. The knowledge of the pain and the reality of the run is very real. It's no longer a proof of ability, its... its....what? Fun...?? I'm just not sure, am I having fun? No one else can answer that but me... and I can't seem to.
I am questioning giving up my spot at Hat 50K, its a large race with a long wait list- People who really want to race or complete. As qualified as I may considered to be to run, even race it, I feel I should let someone whose heart is 100% there enjoy the day. But when I think about the run... I get excited and thrilled to be preparing for it. So.... no idea.... I am a mess, but at least a glorious beautiful mess with a very blessed life.
Hat 50K is still TBD. But more postings for sure .....I <3 running!