Training for Masochist is draining my desire to run. What seemed relatively feasible six months ago is becoming increasingly frightening, the self-doubt is mounting.
To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I jumped with little consideration into the distance for which I’m unfamiliar on either how to train for or complete. A few months ago I sincerely thought a determined effort and mental fortitude would be enough. I thought I was determined, I thought I had the mental fortitude. Turns out I am unsteady when it comes to effort and completely unsure of myself.
In September, at the 40 mile Trail Running Rampage, I encountered a bit of a hard time. At the time I would have said it was just a bad fall but now I see that it was the beginning of an unraveling that has continued in the past few weeks. During this hard time I wanted to quit. Not quit for the afternoon, quit for forever. I wanted to throw out my shoes, drop out of Masochist, and return to a life of frozen pizza and blogging. A first place finish at the 40 miler was a nice Band-Aid and I thought I was fixed.
And then a little more than a week ago I had a bit of a hard time at Deep Hollow. Again, it wasn’t a complete failure by any means but it wasn’t the success I’d been striving for either. A slip here, an episode of cramping there, I knew there were some things I had to work on but I thought an extended rest and recovery would suffice.
Then there was Saturday’s run, twenty miles on parts of the Masochist course and Appalachian Trail and once again a bit of a hard time. Except this time I didn’t even try to put up a fight when the unconstructiveness arrived. I let all the dark, uncooperative thoughts move in and take up residence for the last half of the run. I got quiet if not a bit ill-tempered. I let the group pull away from me so I could sufficiently wallow in my self-doubt and loathing. You won’t even finish Masochist at this pace I berated every ounce of my being. Add wet cold feet and 30 more miles and you’re a goner I told myself.
I managed to complete Saturday’s run, but that was about all. I put on a happy face for my comrades but I didn’t tell them how miserable the run had been. Despite the beauty all around me in the mountains, the magnificence of the scenery at the summit, I had wilted in the cool temperature. I ached to just be content with the run but the feeling eluded me. My love for running and the trails had been replaced by an obligatory necessity to reach high mileage weeks, essential long runs. I felt broken.
In an attempt to hit 30 mile weekends I needed to go back out on Sunday to run another ten. I did not want to go. I did not want to run. I wanted to stay at home with my family who I miss more often on these weekend runs as of late. And to make matters worse, I had to run alone. I tried to wiggle my way out of the run. I made the argument that I didn’t have time but my husband caught me in the lie immediately, go put on your new Hoka’s and go run, he urged.
A week ago, Todd had visited the Aid Station in Forest and purchased a set of shoes I’ve had on hold there for weeks. I had put them on but not run in them. I was hesitant about trying them; honestly a part of me was ready to not like them so I didn’t even want to give them a chance. At Todd’s influence I reluctantly went upstairs, got dressed and pulled the Hoka’s from their box. With only a quick stop back through the kitchen to grab my Garmin and iPod, I was on my way.
I, as mentioned before, loathe the solo run. I can easily identify the reason. Fear. I am afraid. I am afraid of dogs, of strangers, of getting lost, of falling and needing help. The list goes on. I know I need to overcome this fear, at times I think I want to overcome this fear, and then I do little to actually overcome this fear. Due to this fear I headed to the Blackwater Trail System on Sunday for my ten miles. The whole way over I wanted to turn around, head home, go anywhere else really other than for a run. I wondered if I would be strong enough to go the ten miles alone. I figured probably not.
The first few steps were uncomfortable so I sat down and readjusted my new shoes. I turned on my iPod and settled into the run. The paved trail at Blackwater is undemanding. The first mile flew by and I actually found myself enjoying the run. The new shoes and I became acquainted, and more mile markers appeared and then disappeared. I made the decision to not look at my watch but just run, listening to my body, enjoying the run. By three miles I was in a rhythm, I could feel the steadiness of my pace and I began to grin. At five miles I was at 39 minutes, I had found my legs and my desire to run. I turned around and decided to try for a negative split. I took pleasure in feeling the small changes in elevation; I let my body feel the pace instead of having the watch inform me. Focusing on the actual act of running allowed me to revel in how amazing a process it truly is, I’ve lost sight of that lately. I seemed to have forgotten that girl who just wanted to make it to the next mailbox, who got anxious but also equally excited about racing.
I finished the run in 77 minutes. I felt strong, like I could keep going, I needed that. I needed to feel like I could go on, that I wasn’t’ done running’ when I was finished. I felt revived and relieved. Turns out I haven’t lost my legs or my will, just my direction.-Alexis