I’ve spent most of today playing avoid-the-computer and I suspect I have something to say that I don’t want to say, so I’m sitting down now, at 8:04 pm just after the kids are in bed, and I’m going to say it.
Ah, but what is it? A gnawing sense of “it’s not fair”? The North Face 50 (TNF 50) trail race is happening this weekend, and like the Two Bays 56k in January, and the Buffalo Stampede 43k, it will be happening without me. I’ve known that for ages, but I somehow kept hoping. Hoping that despite the knee injury I suffered in November last year, the calf-strain in January, and the face-plant a week ago, that I’d get the mileage up to be able to do it. I’ve done the math again and again (and again) and such an outing would no doubt lead to injury. My biggest week since November has been 44km, and my longest outright run 23km. That’s far short of what TNF 50 requires.
So it stinks. And it isn’t fair (well, it is really, no one can hurt us but ourselves). Last year’s TNF 50 was life-changing for me and my family. We hadn’t stayed in a hotel in five years; we hadn’t traveled anywhere other than our beach house and back. I finally managed to break us out of that pattern, by booking a race that required us to break it, and suddenly the world opened up for us again.
But part of me, to be honest, didn’t see the sense in returning to do it again. It was a challenge I’d conquered already. I had learned what the race had to teach me, and put the lessons into play by seeking the help I and my family required. I’d seen what I went there to see.
Right after the race, I decided I needed an even bigger adventure, and planned that it would be racing somewhere in New Zealand. There were places there that were calling me, vistas I longed to see.
But I never sought out the races. I got scared. Time slipped by. It seemed too big of a stretch. And I’m a creature of habit; I tend to sign up for races I’ve done before, simply because I know them. When TNF 50 registrations came up, I was one of the first to enter.
I’m at a funny place in my running, and I was even when I signed up for the events of the last year. I’m not really enjoying the super long-distance stuff and I’m missing my speed. For me, running has always been about an endorphin blast. Today, I ran for 5k on the treadmill for the first time in ages, and did my favorite speed workout, one minute fast, one minute recovery, getting faster in speed by .2 for about 10 cycles. I’d been too injured to do it recently. My new “normal” pace has been 6 minute kilometers: that’s the one I’ve used for my long, slow distance, and it is comfortable and easy. But my body doesn’t like it.
And when I translate that into the numbers I’m used to on the treadmill, I want to cry. I used to run at a speed of 12 as a baseline and went only up from there. This pace is more like 10. Numbers matter to me; speed matters. Today, I crept back up to 12, then did my one minute intervals, increasing by .2 up to 13.8, with rest intervals of 11 in between. And suddenly, I came alive again. The cadence felt right, my feet were flying, and I’d found the flow that has been absent for so long.
Now the question weighs heavy on me: what do I want to do?
I’ve signed up for the Surfcoast Century 50k (SCC 50) in September, but the thought of it fills me with dread. I don’t want to run slow; I want to sprint like a Cheetah. I’ve also signed up for all four long courses in the Salomon Trail Series, but “long” tops out at 23km, which is just a nice distance. I’m planning to be fast in those, so that’s fine. But do I do the SCC 50? I’ve seen half of it already, having done the first amazing leg as part of a relay team; will the second leg and the extra time add so much?
I’ve been debating this question since the Marysville Marathon, when I declared at about 38k that it sucked and I was never going to do that kind of distance again. I haven’t. Due to injury.
Now it comes down to choice. I think that is what I’m struggling with. Not so much despair at the race I’m going to miss on Saturday, but where I’m going to next.
The other thing I did at the gym was lift some big heavy weights, to try to wake up the muscles that have disappeared from my arms. It seems I’ve burned them off, an unwelcome side-effect of running far.
Where to next? A question I’ll be contemplating carefully in the coming weeks…
Do I run far or fast or can I do both?
Funny, I thought the sense of unease I was feeling all day was about not doing the TNF 50 this weekend. Really, that was the line I’d drawn in the sand to call an end to the ultra-running. Because I don’t get to jump over that line, it seems I’ve drawn a new one in September. Do I really want to do it though?
No answers right now, just questions…
And here’s the other thing: I’m afraid the followers I’ve built up through my blog and other social media won’t find me interesting or inspiring if I cut back on my distances. That’s a hard thing to admit.