Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Coming to Grips

In the early morning hours of May 5, I was running in familiar territory – the Massanutten Mountains of Virginia.    My training had been very focused upon this one day for the past five months.  I was poised and hoping for a good day; a PR on a course I know well. 21:37 was the mark I was aiming.  Failure was nearly inconceivable.
From the gun, there was something missing.  The gentle climb up to Moreland Gap felt more labored than it should.  “When the sun comes up, I will feel better”, I thought to myself.  I came in to Edinburg Gap a full ten minutes slower than my time from two years prior.  “Hang in there, things will turn around”, I calmly told myself and plodded on.  By mile-20 at Woodstock Tower, I was continuing to really struggle.  My body felt like I had already run 50-miles.  Slow, sluggish, and as if I had a “restrictor plate” on my engine I proceeded.  My central governor felt broken.  My stomach and legs were fine, but I simply could not will myself to propel forward the way I normally run.

I discussed dropping at Elizabeth Furnace (mile 33) with my crew made up of my good friends Pete and Jim.  They urged me to go on.  I yearned only to make to simply to Camp Roosevelt (mile 64) where I would have pacers to the end.  “One aid-station to the next”, my positive self-talk went.  I felt terrible for having them out there with me.
I slogged on in deep contemplation and assessment of my mind, body, and soul.  In the end, it just wasn’t my day and I put myself out of misery at Habron Gap (mile 54) after 13-hours on the course.  I thought about all this failure meant:  Nullification of my sacrifice of training time away from my family and the loss of 5-years accumulated tickets for Western States.  In the end, I could do no more; or I would not do any more.  Whichever it was, it mattered not.

I have had plenty of time to dwell upon my failure.  My conclusion is that I simply have too many life stresses to focus on training and running 100-miles for the next few years.  I believe I was over-trained.  On paper I believe my training was spot on – running slightly over 1,000 miles since January with a high level of quality and specification for MMT.  What I did not account for was the accumulation of stress from work and home.  I have two young children at home and that’s comes with its own myriad of stresses – good and bad – but my job has become increasingly demanding and stressful over the past few years.  Unfortunately, I can do nothing about either currently.   Guilt constantly riddles and haunts me – my life it not my own.

In conclusion, I still love to run and I still love to race ultras.   I love my wife and two sons even more though and I value my career and the difference I am making in my community.  Sacrifices must be made and some dreams must be put on hold.   It’s simply a season of life to take care of first things first.  So 100-milers . . . until we meet again old friend!