Pre Double Top musings
The days before a big race are always full of contemplation- did I do everything I could to prepare for this? am I remembering everything I need to remember? why the hell am I doing this?...reflecting on all of the hours of training- all of the great training runs when I felt certain I could conquer this and all of the shitty training runs when I totally questioned that I even had any business showing up at the start line. Obsessing over all of my lists- food, clothes, gear...and checking the extended forecast at least once an hour...everything becomes about the race. I always start to feel like I’m withdrawing from everything around me, I go through the motions of the daily tasks, but my brain is working out the math of my pace and the details of my nutrition plan. This race in particular brings with it some new challenges, some things I’ve never faced, and admittedly- I’m a little more nervous than normal. I’m pretty comfortable with being uncomfortable, so in some odd way I’m enjoying the feelings of fearing what’s ahead. I always want to know what I’m capable of and I’m always saying that I don’t want to live a fear-based life. That being said, I’m ok with doing what needs to be done to alleviate the fears that might keep me from experiencing things I want to experience in this life. Hence the taser I purchased this last week ;) I’m running a 72 hour endurance run. The course is rugged and a little unforgiving...a 20 mile loop consisting of a 5 mile inner loop and a 15 mile outer loop, like a figure 8 folded onto itself. Each 20 mile loop offers over 6,200’ of climb including a mile long climb up a rocky power line cut with nearly 1000’ of elevation gain to reach the top. The first 32 hours are unsupported, meaning the aid stations won’t be open yet (there’s a 100 miler starting on Saturday morning at which point the aid stations will open shortly thereafter) and for the first 24 hours no pacers are allowed. With the race starting at 5:00pm Thursday evening, this obviously puts me running alone on the trail in the dark that first night. There are only 9 of us registered, so I’m guessing by the time dark falls, we’ll be pretty spread out over the 20 miles. At first I thought I wanted to try to stick with another runner, but the more time I spent mentally preparing for this, I realized that I really just want to put myself out there in the fear so that I can once and for all get over it. There are so many things about this race that make it monumental for me. A year and a half ago I showed up to run Barkley Fall Classic so deathly afraid of getting lost and eaten by a wild boar that I could hardly breathe. I begged my ex-husband to run with me because he wanted to run it on his own...I ended up getting out there and thinking I felt comfortable so I left him when he couldn’t keep up and I did in fact get lost- for 3 hours...I clearly didn’t get eaten, but I learned so many valuable things. I took an online navigational course before returning this past September to finally get it done right and I didn’t get lost once- and at no point was I afraid of anything at that race. I now frequently lead the way on the trails when Rich and I are running and point out where I know other trails lead to. We’ve been out to the Double Top course a few times now and this last time I led us successfully through the 15 mile outer loop without missing a turn. My confidence has grown immensely and my fear is shrinking...and I know the only way to overcome it is to face it, so I plan on running this one alone until I get my first pacer. The timing of this race has added to my reflection and introspection. Way back when I started this blog I talked about the first miscarriage my ex and I experienced back in 2013. I had become friends with a group of other women who were expecting babies the same month as us. We were all due in April of 2014. Specifically, my due date was April 20th. At the time of the miscarriage I didn’t know how I was going to be able to stay friends with those women...watching their children grow up and knowing I would have had a child that age and wondering what they would have been like. By the time April rolled around that year I took a 12 month hiatus from social media- I couldn’t bear to see the birth announcements. By that point we had managed to get pregnant again and sadly I was grieving a 2nd miscarriage when they all started having their babies. Grief is an odd thing. We get attached to it without realizing what we’re doing. It took me a couple years and a few more losses to realize that I was associating my sadness with those babies- it was all I had left of them, so I believe somewhere inside I feared that if I let go of the grief then there would be no memory left of those babies and it would be like they never happened...so I clung to that sadness like it was a lifeline. Making the decision to quit trying to have a baby sent our lives down paths we didn’t expect. We both handled it in different ways and I can only speak to my own thoughts and feelings. As I started finding myself again and realizing that I wasn’t defined by what I had perceived as failure, I experienced a feeling of almost duty to help other women who have experienced the kind of desperation and helplessness that goes with pregnancy loss. I remember myself in those weakest moments of feeling like I had failed my ex, my children, myself...I remember that person and barely recognize her now. When I think of the difference between that woman who felt so helpless and the empowered strong runner I am today, it makes me think anything is possible. I don’t have much in the way of religious beliefs, I’m not sure that I believe there’s anything after this, but if there is and the souls of all those lost babies of mine are out there somewhere, I think this is what they wanted for me. Everyone says that struggle makes us stronger and maybe some beautiful force in the universe wanted to make me stronger. Strong enough to run alone in the dark. Strong enough to reach out and hold the hands of others who have experienced loss and give them hope and let them know they aren’t alone. Strong enough to be the mother my grown children need me to be as they navigate their adult lives. Strong enough to be the best version of me for Rich- my partner in this life. So with my 15,000+ calories packed into plastic containers, my multiple pairs of waterproof socks and borrowed rain gear, my trekking poles, my taser ;) and the support of my friends and family, I’m heading out into those woods alone Thursday night to do what I do best- run until they tell me to stop.