This past Saturday, I ran the New River 50K, a 31.1 mile
trail run along the New River in Virginia. It was gorgeous.
The leaves were beginning to turn, the sun, once it rose, glinted off
the water, and it was perfect weather for a long run. It was also brutal; it was, after all, 31.1 miles.
I did not run the best race of my life. I began to fall apart at mile 22 with
some pretty bad nausea, but even when that cleared up after a mile, I had the
mental “bad patch” that so many runners of long distances talk about. Basically, I was having a mental
breakdown on the trail.
For three long miles, I fought with myself and ended up
walking more than I was running.
In a nutshell, the internal dialogue went something like this: “I’m just
going to walk for the next 8 miles, walk across the finish line, walk straight
to the car, get in it and drive home.
I’m never running again. I
don’t care what anybody thinks. I
just don’t care.” And the caring
part is what really got me. I always
care… always. That, to me, is
racing. You stay focused on the
task at hand and you care; otherwise, what are you doing? But I just couldn’t do it on
Saturday. I just couldn’t care for
When I described this to Jason, he said, “Well, what you’re
describing is pretty much ultra-running.
Everybody feels that way.”
And I know that he’s right, that what he says is true. Still, I don’t know if 50K is my
thing. If I’m going to race, I
want to care—the whole time.
Fortunately, I got my crap together at mile 26. A potty break, some food, and friendly
volunteers at the aid station helped bring me back to reality, and the reality
was that I had five miles to go, and I needed to quit whining and just get it
done. It didn’t hurt that Rob
showed up on his bike with about four miles left. He might not think I was happy to see him. (I think I said, after he tried to give
me a rah-rah pep talk, “Look at my face.
I don’t care. I just want
to get back to the car. I am never
doing this again.”) But I was
truly happy to have him come by, and it did put a little pep in my step… sort
For the next few miles, I just concentrated on one person at
a time, and I passed a lot of people with this strategy. I was surprised by how many
actually. But by that point, many
people were struggling with themselves and the little devils on their
shoulders. Ultimately, I finished
pretty well. My mental meltdown
cost me several minutes, and I’m disappointed in that. I had wanted to break 6 hours and came
in at 6 hours, 7 minutes, but even that failure really hasn’t diminished the
pride I feel at having completed the race.
I’m not really big into “just finishing” a race. Generally speaking, I like to do well,
but I have to say that in this case, I feel pretty happy. Crystal, who broke 6 hours by 2 minutes
and who clicked off the miles at a pretty steady pace, may have found her
racing niche’ though I think it’s too soon for her to feel really happy about
that. I, however, have found that
this is not my niche’, but I’m OK with it. For one thing, it has clarified what I do want to focus on
in my training and racing, and I am able to mark the ultra-marathon off my list
of “Things I Want to Do Before I Die”.
I wanted to do one, I
did it, and I think I’m satisfied with that. I won’t say “never” because I know how that tends to play
out, but I feel pretty certain I won’t do another one though, as Michelle,
said, “If you do decide to do another one, I bet you won’t make the same
mistakes.” She’s right, but for
now, I think I’ll apply the lessons I learned to shorter distances either on trails
or on the road again.
I’ve really missed training with the kids at Surry Central
so I may work on getting faster now.
Lord knows, I think I have a good base. I might as well do something with it.
Overall, I think the race was a good experience, and even
after all of my self-doubt and negative talk, I have found that I do still
care, and as long as I care, I’ll keep running.