This week is bittersweet for me as a runner; Trisha is gearing up for her first ultra at the same time I am coming to terms with my own first ultra, the Ironhorse 50 Miler in Florahome, Florida, being logged as a DNS (did not start). Since my injury occurred about 9 weeks ago, I’ve sort of wondered how I would react when The Day arrived. Would I feel disappointed because I had not attained a goal I had set for myself? Sad, simply because I won’t be at the starting line? Or angry because of…well, everything?
But in all reality, if I had to give a simple answer to the question “how are you handling not even starting your first ultra?’ it would be “Eh, whatever. Pass the wine.”
That’s not to say that I’m not a bit bummed about not waking up in the pre-dawn hours to trek 50 miles through the backwoods of an obscure part of Florida enjoying blisters, baseball-sized rocks, more blisters, and probably lots of Ben-Gay. I remember from last year that the Race Directors also supply things like cookies, soup, bonfires, and beer.
I was looking forward to my husband’s antics, too. He’d devised all sorts of creative ways to keep me motivated, like equipping his Jeep with speakers to sound like an approaching ice-cream truck. I couldn’t wait to be crewed, maybe even paced, by my smiley-awesome-triathlete-gym buddy Holly; she was itching to see if she could remain perky throughout any middle of the night crankiness. I wanted to run the last few miles singing Pocket Full of Sunshine with Tom, my friend who possesses bomb-ass ultra skills, because the idea seemed funny during the late stages of his ultra. I wanted to run through the woods for my long-time friend Kelly who simply can’t run because of a non-running-related accident.
But all those things that I was looking forward to aren’t exclusive to this race, the race itself doesn’t actually mean anything to me. The idea of me completing a 50 miler was hatched sometime mid-2011 and based on my achievements at the time; if my rate of progression continued as it was then I would be prepared to run an ultra in February 2012. Running an ultra was a simple equation: Lynsey likes to run + Lynsey runs often + Lynsey is slow x Lynsey is slightly off her rocker = Lynsey does an ultra. Any race that was mainly off-road, flat, and shady would suffice because the race itself is just a picture of my journey, and the journey is the accomplishment.
Funny thing happened about 12 weeks prior to The Day: I got nervous. I started over-thinking my progress; have I completed enough really long runs, is my weekly mileage high enough, when should I peak? I consulted way too many training plans created by people whom I’ve never met and began tweaking my routine. Changing the routine that had allowed me to run 20 miles just whenever I felt like it, the routine I had become comfortable with over the past few years. My husband recently noted “You are not the least bit normal – when was the last time you accomplished anything by following someone else’s rhythm? I don’t know why you thought you had to this time.” I’d like to take this time to thank The Husband for refraining from doing his I-Told-You-So dance once my running world collapsed around me.
I don’t know specifically about what I was nervous except that, like this dude Rich Davis once said, “Long distance running is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” I think I allowed my general competitive, compulsive psyche to infiltrate my running, the one activity that helps relax those very characteristics. Metaphorically it changed my very reason for running; the mental clarity and freedom I normally glean from repeatedly placing one foot in front of the other took a backseat to those arbitrary deadlines and benchmarks. I got so caught up in The Race that I forgot about The Run.
Yesterday I donned a race t-shirt I had recently found amongst all my crap, not realizing it was last year’s shirt from the race I planned to do this year (I have last year’s shirt because I paced a friend through the last stretch). When I finally realized which shirt I was wearing, my world didn’t implode. The letters “D-N-S” did not suddenly emboss themselves across my chest; neither did the words “slacker” or “poser.” Incidentally, I did find the word “weirdo” written in a ring around my belly button but that might just have been dirt. Regardless, my first DNS has not been as life-altering as I’d once thought.