Now What…

In the past 2 years I have run A LOT!  I’ve gone from race to race and constantly been in training mode.  After the Fall 50 though I pledged to take a break to let my body rest.  As I crossed the finish line after completing my 1st 50 mile event I was overcome with emotion.  The rawness of that experienced changed me.  To be expected I felt accomplished, but what caught me off guard in the days following was the feeling of emptiness.  I was lost.  I had set my sights on this event and tailored my life around it.  Countless hours running, racing, preparing, and sacrificing had gone into finishing.  Now that I had I was left without a direction.

No one talks about this feeling in running, it is our little hidden secret which is not so little.  The depression that followed the Fall 50 was heartbreaking and set me off my game.  I did not realize how much of my daily functions were designed to support my training.  My free time was no longer filled with running or preparing to run.  I did not need to stay on top of my supplies or track the weather to hit optimal run time.  The “now what” or “what’s next” question ripped through me like a knife.  I always had my answer ready – the Fall 50, I didn’t have that anymore and I felt like less of a runner…like I was fading into the background of my sport.

My relevance in the sport was challenged. I felt like all eyes were on me and the pressure to figure it out weighed a ton.  This seemed so silly and ridiculous, but I could not shake this feeling.  I was losing my identity as a runner because I did not have my next big race figured out. I wasn’t training or pushing towards a goal.  I scrambled and struggled to grasp at something to ignite my soul like the Fall 50. Searching websites, Twitter, and Facebook I desperately wanted to find an event that awoke my heart and soul, but found nothing.  Why?   I just completed something I thought was impossible. Why was this feeling of emptiness haunting me?

The Fall 50 was special to me, it represented the impossible.  In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be able to run 50 miles. Even after training for months I hesitated to register doubting I could do it. When all was said and done I crossed the finish line, but the sense of accomplishment that I anticipated was fleeting.  The days following I replayed the event in my head and was distracted by an empty feeling.  The race had tested, drained, and almost broke me, but I survived it…why could I not focus on that? I am not one that is good with expressing my emotions.  I put on a smile and faced the questions of how the race went knowing that something was off.

My running and life track record is to bury these type of feelings and move on, full speed ahead until a clarity was achieved or I had something new to occupy my mind. The pattern seemed to serve me well, but to be honest I didn’t enjoy the way that I was feeling after the Fall 50.  I had accomplished a dream race and was not grateful for all that had gone into helping me get here. I did not find pleasure in the struggle while pushing through each obstacle. I was acting and responding like a spoiled brat!  Now what?  Now what?  Now what? This conversation in my head was loud and overbearing. I was searching for my next star to hitch my wagon to in order to stop how I was feeling yet I could not pin point what I was exactly feeling.  I could not put into words what my heart and head where going through. When the questions came from others of “what next” I just about lost it.  I did not have an answer.  Should I have an answer. Is a big race or goal needed to hold onto my identity as a runner?  Did I need to best my experience and showing at the Fall 50?  These questions swirled and haunted me.  But why? Why did it matter?

Answering the question of “why” I felt so lost after the Fall 50 became my focus not “what next”.  I had worked so hard to achieve one specific goal and I did not enjoy the accomplishment of it.  That bothered me.  I was racing through the journey to get to the end prize that did not fulfill me in the least bit.  I anticipated this unbelievable result to feel a certain way and put blinders on to get to the finish line.  I had missed the joy in the process to get to the finish line.  Sadly this is how I approach many things in my life.  I put my head down and move. Getting the job done is my strong suit. I am known for my determination, work ethic, and perseverance…it is costing me though the enjoyment of the little things.  Which brings me back to “now what”!

Well, life is to short to bulldoze through just to accomplish a task, especially if one cannot enjoy the end result because the “what next” question supersedes all other thoughts.  I need to flip my script.  It is not about the medal, but the journey to achieving the medal.  Following the Fall 50 I took several weeks off from training. I ran when I wanted to and how far I wanted to.  My passion for the sport needed to be restored.  I had forgotten why I loved to run.  Pulling away and taking a break was needed in more ways than I even realized. My fears of becoming irrelevant in the running community were dispelled, my body was able to rest, and my soul missed pushing hard towards a goal.  Still there was not a race that spoke to me like the Fall 50.  I registered for the Zumbro 50 in April hoping to ignite a desire to get back into the mix of training, but it did not wake my heart.

Black Friday I met up with a group of trail runner friends to #OptOutside.  I was in no way ready for the beating I was about to take.  My ankles were not strong and I stumbled on the uneven surface of the trail.  Running up the hills made my lungs burn and my legs ache, I was struggling like I had not done in awhile…it felt amazing! Not once had I thought about what was next for my running journey. On the this run I was in the moment.  I am huge believer in things happening when they are suppose to.  I needed to sit in my discomfort and emotions after the Fall 50.  I had gotten over confident as a runner and the race beat me into a vulnerable place during as well as after.  Sitting in that feeling of uneasiness though was something I had to do.  My “what next” was not meant to be until I settled up in my head what I truly desired.  It is not that a race would speak to me and excite me it is the challenge of the unknown that I was looking for, that next task I viewed as crazy or impossible.  When I finally submitted to this on the drive home from the Black Friday run I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.  I was a runner regardless if I ever raced again.  It wasn’t about finding a further distance or proving I was a tough runner, it was about enjoying every moment…chop the wood and carry the water.

So what is next for me…well I did find my next big race, the Marquette Trail 100k in August.  I could not be happier to put in the time to get prepared for this grueling event.  It doesn’t scare me that I’ve never running anything remotely as difficult, it excites me! The journey to Marquette will be filled with challenges and I intend to embrace all the ups and downs.  Running is so much more than putting one foot in front of the other, it is a metaphor for life and the lessons are priceless. Onward friends, the best is yet to come…

#BeHappy #BeKind #BeActive




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