Six days until my first marathon. I’m tapering, and feeling all the usual gunk that comes with this useful part of training. Slow, lethargic, lazy. I keep waiting for the burst of energy that says this is working, but my energetic bursts are being consistently used up by family and work stress. So I’m just going to have to trust in the process, and trust in the training I’ve done.
Of course, having dozens of Garmin files to explore and obsess over doesn’t help. I’ve been comparing elevation gains, height of hills from sea level, length of hills I’ve done in training versus those on the actual course.
My gear is ready. My body is ready. My mind? Well, my mind is never really ready until I’m in the middle of a race and have nowhere to go but forward. Such is the lot of those of us who obsess over every single detail of training and race preparation. I’d love to be one of the relaxed few who just come along for the views and to take photos.
Six days and counting down. Time for 5, 10, and 5k runs to finish off my training plan. For some short running and nice recovery.
I didn’t post this on the day I first wrote, as I was experiencing a crisis of confidence, and wasn’t ready to tell you the truth. A few runs later (rainy runs into a strong headwind, carrying my newly repaired Hydrapak), and I’d love to say I’m fine now.
In truth, I’m not. I’m poring over the newly released details of race map transition areas, trying to remember which way our course goes compared to the other three race distances starting the same day. And I’m trying to summit some more personal hills.
My seven-year-old is experiencing difficulties at school, and I am her safe battering ram when she returns home. It hurts, all the way down to my soul. But I was coping okay.
Then last week a BodyPump participant offloaded some really heavy stuff on me – a comment I had made in jest was the straw that broke her camel’s back, and I got in the direction of her personal lava-flow. I felt like a kid who had been caught doing something naughty, as she raged and raged at me at the end of my class, as the other participants sheepishly snuck out the door. My apology went unheard, and her wrath untouched. With a sinking heart, I knew what was coming, because this is what happens.
Both things – my daughter’s stress, and this grown-up’s explosion – threw me. I recognised that these things were not about me, but were about the other people going through difficult times. In my head, at least, I recognised that. That wiser part of me was nodding quietly, saying, “This is their stuff, not yours.”
The less wise part of me – who I know well, and see creeping up on me with a feeling of despair – was less kind. It blasted me with self-criticism and doubt, with that hide-under-the-bed-and-quit-all-my-jobs kind of advice that does no good to anyone. My roots were (and are still) shaken. I’ve had some sleepless nights wondering what I could do differently, tearing apart my faults, and judging myself way too harshly. Thank God for the likes of Bon Jovi at such times, reminding me that I am not the first to feel this way, that I am not alone. Thank God for the wise part of me that sits quietly nearby through all the turmoil, and reminds me I’ve survived much worse, that this too shall pass.
Long-distance trail running, alone with my thoughts and a concrete objective is the perfect antidote. Except I’ve been tapering, so even that avenue has been closed for a couple of weeks. Which is why I understood so well a recent trail runner’s message on why he runs so far. He said something like, “Trail running is a drip-feed to my soul.” Yup, I get that. Because sometimes I long for what is soulful and simple and concrete, to escape from the complexities of human beings.
Shaken, but not broken – that is how I’m standing today. Where all of us stand sometimes. Making mistakes, and picking myself back up again, and trying my darndest to learn. It makes running a marathon seem easy by comparison.
Here’s what I’m holding onto – that the people of Marysville have risen from the ashes of the 2009 bushfires. And that I’m going to do just the same in the face my own personal challenges. I need a good dose of trails to lift me back up, the smell of eucalypts and the feel of dirt under my feet. Come Sunday in my first real marathon, I’m going to focus on simply feeling alive to every single footfall, to the simplicity that running can bring, to the soulfulness that will enable me to face life’s many challenges.
Because that wise self knows that I will find my stability and peace of mind again, through a long, steady run in the woods.