It’s been a little over a month since my last big race. I’ve run a grand total of once or twice, just enough to blow a little air on the embers of my fitness.
The truth is, it’s just taken a while to get my head right. For a while I thought it was how the race went down. You know, falling short of the full distance and all, but that’s not it. Sure I’m bothered by the fact that I didn’t put a check mark beside “first 100 miler”; I would be lying if I told you otherwise. But it’s not that big a deal to me. Both DW and I felt fine at mile 80, and if it weren’t for injury, I feel 100% certain the next 20 would have been no problem, so the fitness was there. There will be other races, some shorter ones and some longer ones, and we’ll rock ‘em as best we can.
I just got burned out. There was a nine month training buildup to that race, and an even longer 12 month mental buildup. Everything we did running-wise in the year before was in service of the higher goal which always loomed off in the distance. It became a normal state, looking forward to February 2013. So much so that when it arrived it took me by surprise. I had gotten so used to having it “coming up” that I felt almost ambushed by actually having to run it! I hear stories about Olympic athletes entering a deep depression after the games because their sole purpose in life is suddenly stripped away, over and done. I feel like I’ve gotten a small glimpse into that brand of directionless despair. For the most part it has lifted and the constant beauty of the life that I am fortunate enough to lead has driven away the darkness, but now and then I still get an uneasy feeling. It’s the feeling of expecting something when there is nothing to expect.
Physically, I have been grateful for the respite. I had ignored or managed all pain for so long that I had forgotten how to run without it. It was a constant balancing act, keeping everything intact with the only goal being to handle the ever increasing load. It’s what I absolutely love about this sport, but it takes its toll on the soul. When everything is clicking, when the wind is kissing your face and burning your lungs, when the rocks are flying up to meet you and carry you forth, it is a feeling like no other. It is a complete and vivid immersion into the immediate moment. It is living.
But when you eat nothing but chocolate cake for months, you get sick of friggin’ chocolate cake.
Taking a break from my beloved sport has allowed me to regain focus. It hasn’t become a job. It hasn’t become a burden or a penance to be paid. It is an honest friend waiting for my return. There will be countless good times in the years to come, and I aim to run faster and longer with each passing year. The only way I know to do that is to temper my tendency to sacrifice my comfort on the alter of ambition with the desire to retain my passion for it. If that requires me to pour gasoline into the bonfire at times, so be it. If that requires me to go take a walk and let it smolder, it will be done.
It’s been a month, and that chocolate frosting is looking pretty good…