I’m starting to think about MdS as a restful vacation with a bit running thrown in. I’m not underestimating the desert...
Bandera 2016 and the Siren Call of the DNFLiza
I started to think about dropping from the 100k at Bandera around mile 22. I attach a lot of baggage to running ultras, so it’s important for me to finish a races unless I’m injured. Of course, there are a slew of great reasons for people to drop from races. I didn’t think that a few years ago. But I do now. Wholeheartedly. Please keep that in mind while you read this post. I’m writing about why I run ultras. Maybe it’s why you run ultras, and maybe it’s not. Surely our own motivations are the right ones for us.
Anyhoo, at mile 22ish I started to feel like Odysseus (in capris and an RWB t-shirt) lured by Sirens to DNF.
Siren 1: What have you got to prove? You’ve run this race six times before. Finishing one more time is unimportant.
Siren 2: No one will care — not your family and not your friends. It doesn’t matter. Nobody’s here supporting you anyway. Just say your back was giving you trouble. Your knee hurts.
Siren 3: You’re not having any fun. Running is supposed to be fun and to make you happy. It’s supposed to relieve stress. You have enough stress in your life.
But here’s the deal, I do have something to prove by finishing these races. I’m proving to myself that I’m someone who can be depended on to do what they say they’re going to do. I fail a lot these days. And I definitely come up short as a spouse, parent, friend, daughter, coach, and trail camp planner. So gutting out these races is a way to reassure myself, that whatever my shortcomings, when push comes to shove, I can be counted on.
And as far as no one else caring whether I finish running 62 miles through Hill Country State Natural Area or anywhere else, that is probably very true. But I’m running to challenge myself, not for approval or praise. (Though those are really wonderful and powerful things, and bring me a great deal of happiness.) Also, I think my coaching council would sound hollow if I’d dropped yesterday. “Things will get hard during your ultra, and you’ll want to drop, but do x,y,z and you’ll make it through.” “Just be patient, and things will get better.” “Don’t make any decisions until you eat something — and then keep going.”
Really, “having fun” was the most compelling siren call. And I never thought I’d have to address that one. Of course running 62 or 100 miles isn’t fun! When I first read a race report about a runner dropping because they weren’t having fun, all I could think was “Running ultras isn’t about having fun. How lame.” But yesterday, that idea really brought me to my knees (along with a large rock.) Ultras are supposed to be hard, but there should be some joy, right? I mean, there are other, more time-efficient ways to suffer if that’s what you’re looking for. And there are other ways to work hard — that are more useful to other people. I didn’t have an answer to “You’re not having any fun.” at mile 27. Four more miles and I’d be able to sit and hang out with friends at the lodge and have some well-deserved fun.
The thought that finally penetrated this self-pitying fog, was of a friend who broke his back in a training accident in October. He’d have traded places with me in a heartbeat to run over the rocks under the bluebird skies. The least I could do was stop thinking and run — simply because I could. Fun Siren and the others finally fell silent. Compassion is good like that.
And, wouldn’t you know it, 32 miles into the race, I started to feel really good. I ran well. And I had fun. I ran the first 50k in 4:50 and the second in 5:10. I didn’t catch any of the lead ladies or run my best time, but I feel better about myself than I did before I finished this race.
And now it’s time for donuts and Sunday with the family. I have used up all Ruby’s patience for self-reflection. Asa’s too. Probably Eliot’s. I’ll have to pick apart my training, nutrition and gear tomorrow.
Thank you to the wonderful and kind volunteers at Bandera. Thank you to my mother in-law for watching the kids all day.
And thank you again to Tailwind for the solid stomach, Drymax for the socks and my blister-free feet, UltrAspire for my tiny racing pack, and New Balance for the Vazee Trails, which are very orange and work so well on the Bandera rocks.