I’ve been having an identity crisis of late. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis or an existential crisis. Maybe it’s not a crisis at all. Maybe I’m just trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life and why. My last post I wrote about running 16+ miles on the trails at the site of the North Fork 50 race that I am registered to run on June 4. In the weeks that followed the run in Pine, I was worn out. Not just tired, but legitimately fatigued. I’ve been tired before. I’m a mother of four children – I’ve been tired. But this felt different – there was no strength, no energy, no motivation. I wanted to sleep and was having a difficult time even doing that. Nothing else in my habits or life had really changed to make me feel so exhausted. My work load had lightened since April 18th had passed. My diet wasn’t terrible – probably a few more trips off the plant-based train than usual, but still healthy eating. I wasn’t drinking a lot of alcohol or eating a lot of sugar. The only thing I could really come up with was that my body was needing recovery time from the long runs I had done. Sometimes as runners we think that the answer to every ailment is to run more, but this was not going to be the answer to my problem this time. I decided to just take it easy for a while. Let myself rest. Take a few days off from running. Do some yoga. Sleep in when I could. In general be kind to myself.
The running community is generally supportive of rest and recovery and listening to the body. But there is an underlying pressure to push one’s self in spite of what the body says. Listen to your body, but don’t let it push you around. On one hand we talk about training smart, how important recovery is and taking time off. We hear from experienced runners that tell us not to make the mistakes they made of over-training and getting injured – the wise side of running – taking care of ourselves and being kind to ourselves and cross training and being a runner for the “long run”…yet, we applaud the high school runner who ruptures her Achilles tendon during a track meet, but continues to run to the finish to get her team a point, which of course leads to the team win. Or the ultra runner crawling on hands and knees to the aid station, continuing to run another 25, 50, 75 miles in spite of her broken condition in order to get a finish at a 100 mile race. And don’t even get me started on the whole “Death before DNF” bullshit. Runners finishing a race with a broken bone or stress fracture or torn ligament or nonstop vomiting or other breakdown that could potentially be career ending or life threatening, but Wow! they kept going. Give me a break. And then us ordinary runners take that on ourselves and when our bodies become tired or broken or worn out or stressed, we are torn between being a wise runner and being kind to ourselves, or being a hero and pressing thru the pain and agony and “getting it done”.
Or maybe it’s just me.
I find myself thinking about why I am choosing to run the distances I am running. I realized that I am in the middle of a running journey – my journey – not anyone else’s, and no journey is complete without bumps or detours or just a change of direction. I feel like I just need to stop and look at the map for awhile and make sure I’m headed in the right direction, and figure out where I really want to go. What is my running goal? Where does it fall in the priorities of my life? Why do I want to run these longer distances? How much time am I willing to dedicate to training to run these distances? Am I doing it for me, for my health, for recognition, for attention? Am I running towards something or running away from something?
Initially, running helped me to lose weight when that was my goal. Getting to my first marathon was my goal in 2014. Then running became my therapist and helped me through grieving the loss of Brice. And now I’m onto a new season in my running life and I need to know what my focus is. I still love it. I love how it makes me feel. I love being outside and making new running friends. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I reach a new distance or conquer a tough trail or hit a faster pace. I love how much more I can eat and drink when I am getting those long weekend runs in. But….there’s some things about my running life that I want to change. I want running to be more of a social activity. I would like to participate more with the local running club. I want to do some more local runs and activities, and do some races with my sisters in Denver. I love running with my friend Lisa and would like to run with her more often. I love running on the trails and long distances, but I also enjoy running short distances and trying to go faster. I want to be able to run when I am an old woman. I run to be healthy, happy and confident.
There’s so much stuff going on and I’m conflicted about whether or not to share it in this space. Nothing like throwing all my demons out in the yard for the neighbors to see. The whole fatigue thing after training in Pine really bothered me. In my heart of hearts I know that I am probably healthier than I ever have been. I don’t have any family history of heart disease or any cancers or diseases or anything. I had a heart murmur when I was a little girl, but I’ve never had another doctor mention it or even detect it. When I was training for my first marathon, I started getting dizzy during the last 6 miles of a 20 mile run, which was my first experience with bonking, but it scared me. So much so that I made a doctor’s appointment as soon as I got back home, had some blood work done and the doctor ( who happened to be a runner) suggested that I probably had bonked. Remember my rough patch during the Desert Rats marathon? It was partially a result of not fueling enough, but also an indication of where I am with my conditioning. When I do speed work or hill work, my heart flutters in my chest. Not just beating hard – it flutters. And I had a full on bout of anxiety a couple weeks ago that shook me to my core. Am I being ridiculous? Maybe. Maybe I’m just not comfortable with being uncomfortable yet. But I need to know that I am healthy enough to continue on this journey of ultra running.
So where does this leave me?
I’ve jumbled lots of words together to say this: I have decided that I will not be running the North Fork 50 on June 4. I have run less than 30 miles in the month of May and the biggest month I’ve had this year is February with 114 miles. I haven’t put in enough miles to get me to race day. I can go to North Fork and keep moving for 50k and maybe even for 50 miles, but in my heart I know I haven’t done the training I need to get across the finish line well. I have 14 hours to go the distance but I don’t want to just crawl across the finish line either. Training has to be consistent and I haven’t been, not just in my running but in my strength training and recovery routine. My lower back has been giving me grief again which is a direct result of me not being consistent with strength training and stretching and core work. I feel like I’m rambling, but until I get a warm fuzzy from the doctor that I am healthy enough to pursue the running that I have been planning, I’m not going to push myself too hard. I need to know that what I am doing is benefiting me and not damaging me. I have a doctor’s appointment on May 31 and then I will decide what my next step is after that. Until then, I will continue to run 3-4 days and do my core and strength work. My bedtime during the week will be after the sun goes down so Wayne and I can sit in the hot tub and watch for satellites and shooting stars. I will be staying up later on Friday nights with family and friends knowing that I don’t have to get up early on Saturday to run for several hours. At least for a few weeks. Running is not going anywhere. The roads and trail aren’t either. I am simply taking the next step for me – what I need to have peace of mind about my running journey.