For a few months I posted a blog every couple weeks and then a little over a year ago I stopped. I didn't stop running and I didn't run out of time to write. What I had was a whole lot of denial about how much of myself I have poured into this experience of running and racing. I started to write a blog to share my experiences, to share what I learned. Every time I raced I posted a race report, every time I learned something new I talked about it.
So what happened? Well, I got over confident or over eager or maybe a little of both and I ran too many races when I should have been recovering. At the 2011 BT50K, the one year anniversary of my first ultra, it caught up with me. I finished and even in fairly good time, but I finished hurt and needing two weeks off to recover. No big deal really. Somehow though, that race got in my head. That race felt like a failure to me.
Intellectually I know I finished an ultra and did no permanent damage to my body and that's a great success. I know all kinds of facts. The biggest thing running these very long distances is teaching me about myself is how much of a disconnect I have sometimes between what I think and what I feel. I'm sorting that out, or at least accepting it and learning to see it, which is almost as good. It took a whole year for me to really learn how to handle a race that feels like a bad race to me. It was even harder because really looking at that part of myself that chooses to feel like its a bad race? Ouch. Those looks don't make me feel really mature or emotionally evolved or....well, it makes me feel weak. It made me feel weak last summer and I let it for a little while. What's that adage? 'Pain is weakness leaving the body'. Sometimes pain is weakness leaving the brain. I'm not saying I won't have races I feel bad about, just that I think now I can feel bad and then smile anyhow and then let it go.
So here's a quick summary of what I've been doing since race-wise. Soon I'll write a little more about some of them and about some of the training and nutrition I've been experimenting with. After BT50K 2011 I healed up and ran the Oil Creek 100K, finishing right around 12 and a half hours with just one guy ahead of me, breaking the women's course record and running 22 miles longer than I'd ever run before. The most exciting part? I ran into a black bear around mile 42. This is when I should have begun writing again but what had failed wasn't my body so just running a strong race didn't fix it.
The following month I ran the Mountain Masochist 50 miler down in Virginia. The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains were fantastic, I won a sword in a post race bench press contest and I got to see the shack my grandmother's parents lived in when they were first married. These are the adventures that should be shared but I had lost my confidence in having something to say that other people would want or need to hear. If you know me this will not seem believable. Its not as though I stopped talking, I certainly didn't stop running.
Spring time meant the Green Jewel 50K, my one pavement race, the Forget the PR and then the Ice Age 50 miler. Mainly I ran Ice Age to run in a more competitive field but also with an outside chance at earning a free and automatic bib for the Western States 100. I finished sixth and needed a third place, a little disappointed but a little relieved because going into it I wasn't sure I was ready for a 100 miler. I had been pushing my Saturday and Sunday runs up to 60 mile totals, I had run some 90 mile weeks, but 100 miles in a row?
I drove home from Wisconsin, not thinking too much about 100 milers until a couple weeks later, recovering fast and not hurting really much at all, someone pointed out to me that Mohican 100 had not sold out. Its possible that someone was a little voice inside my head. I listened, I entered, I started, I fell and sprained my knee around mile 28, I tried to finish, and had to DNF around mile 76. I tried to be happy, it was still the furthest I'd ever run. Having to pull out of a race is character building, much more character building than most of the things grown ups said that about when I was a kid.
I didn't have time to be upset, I was focused on going to Canada In August my running partner, Gabe, and I flew out to Alberta and ran the Canadian Death Race solo (most racers run on relay teams). Almost 80 miles of the Canadian Rockies and 17,000 feet of hill climbing! Afterward we found out that ten percent of first time solo racers finish and we did it, we started and finished together! It took 21 hours and 23 minutes. It was a fantastic experience and the most beautiful course I've raced so far. Even more amazing? No blisters and no lost toe nails. Seriously.
The next race, my most recent race, was the Hallucination 100. I'd been registered for the 50 miler but after two weeks of recovery I decided that it was time to finish a 100 miler. In fact, I fixated on it, it had to happen. I had something to prove. A couple friends and maybe a physical therapist suggested more than five weeks of recovery would be a good idea. What?! Well, I finished the Hallucination 100 in 22 hours and 43 minutes. There were a few miles late in the race when it felt like I was in trouble. I decided to write my blog again. I hadn't thought about it much but there it was, solid in my head. For me, whether I finished or not, I had to go back to writing it down. I had to share it. There are a lot of kinds of toughness. The kind that got me through 100 miles of trail and weather still physically standing is great, but I've got some work to do on some other kinds of toughness. I don't mean everyone has to blog to have well rounded toughness, but from me its a challenge I need to meet. It took two weeks move from thinking to writing but my blog is back. Race reports will follow soon.