I met with my coach last week and we had a wonderful, honest discussion about my Mt. Hood race and how I felt afterward. She listened and also validated my feelings so I didn’t feel silly about it all. I still have plenty of self-reflection to do before I come up with anything definitive, but it was a great start. We both agreed that there needs to be a shake-up somehow, but just not sure with what exactly.
So, to start working it out a bit I’ll do some writing…
Why was I disappointed in my Mt. Hood 50 performance? I finished it (although now I know I can). I will admit to feeling slow and was disheartened by the fact that there were, at most, a half dozen runners after me. I appear to have a higher expectation of myself, but it’s buried deep in my brain since speed hasn’t yet been a goal for me. That’s why I left road marathons – to avoid that pressure and the uncomfortable intensity that goes with it. I’ll admit that I’d rather not bring that into trail running, but I also don’t want to be dead last out on the course! So…I’d like to be fast without trying. Every runner’s dream, eh?
I also was unhappy that I didn’t enjoy it. Although, because I take all this far too seriously, I certainly don’t have a race mindset of enjoyment. I need to find the joy in this or it’s just a masochistic slog. Yuck. (Although, if we’re looking more broadly, I take LIFE far too seriously, so…it’s systemic for me.)
And if I’m going to be honest with myself and look back at the original reasons I chose to pursue ultramarathons, that potentially sheds another light on it. There are likely a few more, but the ones that come to mind immediately are:
- Curiosity – To test myself – could my body go X distance? That’s what led me to marathons and beyond.
- Fitness – To be in the “best shape ever” (i.e. finally love my body because I’d be as fit as I think I should and want to be.)
- Location – To see amazing vistas and be a part of the glorious environment in which we live, and to enjoy being there.
With #1, I now know I can do it (up to 50 miles, anyway). And although I’m curious about further distances, I sincerely don’t think I’m in a good headspace to pursue a 100 miler, nor does it appeal to me at this point. But looking down the road, a 100K wouldn’t be out of reach. I also think I’ve come to the conclusion that ultrarunning likely isn’t the most effective way of reaching #2. And obviously there’s a deeper insecurity there, and I will truly be impressed if I’m able to come to peace with that in my lifetime. Only now, after completing a few ultras, would I say that #3 has jumped to the top of the list. I’m no longer looking for the “easiest” races, because they might be boring to run and #1 is no longer a concern. I want to see scenic vistas and be grateful for being there to enjoy them. I also would not be adverse to using beautiful courses as an excuse to travel internationally (or nationally). Just saying. 😉
I do think I should stop discounting shorter races. I’ve got too much of the American “more is better” attitude when it comes to distance. It could be very interesting to try out some shorter, more sensible distances in beautiful locales so I truly could enjoy it. Although, I struggle a bit with the thought of paying to run a 5K, 10K, 25K because I do those distances for training. Why would I pay for it? Also, those distances that would seem to lose the “challenge” aspect, but again I’m only considering a distance and that’s not the only metric of difficulty. And it doesn’t HAVE to be a challenge, it could be just for fun! (I’m trying to convince myself, is it working?)
I’ve clearly got some more “noodling” to do on this, to quote my coach. However, I’ve also got more races upcoming (two 50Ks and a half marathon), so racing those will hopefully assist in concluding this “Why” question and guide me to some answers.