It’s probably not healthy to be so viscerally angry at a hurricane.
But here we are.
Last week when I sat down to write about the number of random fears that were causing me anxiety about the upcoming Barkley Fall Classic, I failed to list a direct hit of my house and hometown by a massive category 4 (potentially a 5 when it’s all said and done) hurricane. A slight oversight, indeed. Now, just three days out from the biggest race of my life (so far), I’m no longer contemplating how to outrun angry wasps or sneaking around conga lines on single tracks that might impede my ability to make cutoffs.
Instead, I’m sitting three states away from my home, incessantly watching the weather, but not for a race day forecast. Rather now we watch with bated breath, wondering if we’ll be able to get back home through potential devastating flood zones, or even we’ll even have a home to go back to.
I’m still worried about running out of water, but rather in my home if we loose power for weeks on end, rather than in my hydration pack during the 3-4 hours between aid stations.
I’m still numb from the 8 hour car trip to get to my sisters house made on 36 hours of zero sleep, with 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 cats, 3 rabbits, and a goldfish all tucked into the confines of one mini van.
Yes, only 3 rabbits. I’m still absolutely reeling from the loss of one of my very best friends, who quickly and tragically fell fatally ill just hours before the emergency vet boarded up their own windows to evacuate. I can’t even formulate the words still to explain this deep level of hurt. I think I’m still in denial.
I’m numb from the emotional turmoil that comes when people are under a ton of stress and are forced to make rash decisions, especially if they don’t agree.
I’m numb from having to be the happy, smiling adult that confidently reassures little humans that everything is going to be just fine with their homes, their “stuff”, and their friends that chose to stay behind, when you really aren’t sure if it actually is going to be just fine.
Mother nature is a fickle, unpredictable force.
None of us are immune from her wrath, and therefore I don’t write this for sympathy. If not me, it would be someone else. Hell, I actually heard from a woman who had to miss BFC50K last year due to Hurricane Irma, and she lost her entire home. So you know, perspective.
But it still sucks.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that missing a race is very, very low on the totem pole of “things that actually matter”. Especially compared to, you know, natural disasters, keeping your family safe, potentially losing every worldly possession you own. Or death. Not in the “you’re going to die” way that race directors like to taunt us, but legitimate, heartbreaking, loss of life. Something still raw and real in my heart. Things that do matter. Further, I’m no stranger to DNS’s or DNF’s for that matter. But now that we’ve established all of that, I’m going to get this off my chest:
This one hurts.
We’ve been given multiple offers of places to stay with both strangers and social media acquaintances alike, in Tennessee. While I desperately want to accept these offers, the reality is that driving my entire brood 8+ hours to stay with strangers that probably don’t realize how incredibly high maintenance this zoo is (seriously, rabbits are the worst, who would of thought) for an indefinite amount of time, simply so I can race…
…is an incredibly selfish move on my part.
We are now in the open arms of family who can put up with our chaos indefinitely, because we don’t know how detrimental the storms will be to our area, and how soon we will be able to get back. Putting your dreams aside for the safety and comfort of the ones you love, and the ones who depend on you to make the best decisions for them, is instinctual. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes without disappointment. Yes, I realize how selfish that sounds. I’m an inherently selfish person. I think all extreme endurance athletes are in one way or another.
Last night, I canceled my hotel room in Tennessee and emailed race director Steve Durbin (Laz is finishing his cross country hike as I type this) and withdrew from the race.
Then I cried.
At the gym Monday morning I put in a heavy, hard lifting session like I haven’t done in months. I felt so much anger welling up, and it was a therapeutic release to let that aggression go on lifting heavy weights that I probably didn’t have any business lifting on taper week. I guess that right there was a telling sign that I knew what was to come.
At one point my husband looked at me and said out of the blue “Remember when you used to be big into obstacle course racing?”
I quickly responded without skipping a beat: “Yeah. Now I just let ultra marathons break my heart.”
Real (taper-tantrum and possibly irrational) talk:
I almost wish I hadn’t put so much effort into training.
Or that it was another “eh, I didn’t spend a ton of money on it, it’s no big deal” kind of race.
I wish I hadn’t spent hours, if not days, daydreaming about this course, and the challenge I would be up against.
I wish I didn’t care so damn much.
Because then it would be easier to stomach the inevitable FOMO that I’m going to feel come Friday night, when the pictures from packet pickup start rolling through my Instagram feed (assuming I still have power and the ability to check Instagram)
It would be easier to feel happy for friends when they post the pictures of themselves exhausted, filthy, and covered in scratches from thorns, but holding their Croix de Barque finishers medals…instead of feeling that awful pang of jealousy.
It would be easier to read the race reports on Monday morning.
I’m sure deep down there is a lesson that I’m meant to learn here, that goes beyond remembering what’s important, and remembering to stay humble. I’m listening and searching. I truly am.
I am grateful that my family is safe.
I am grateful that we had the financial means to evacuate when we were told to do so.
I am grateful for an incredible family that opened up their home to our chaos.
I am grateful that I have other races to look forward to, even if they aren’t this one.
I am grateful for this outlet to voice my frustrations, to an audience that understands that even though it’s just a race…it’s more than a race.
Life goes on. It always does.
To my friends battling BFC this weekend: have fun. Seriously, have a ton of fun, and when you are halfway up Rat Jaw, take a quick pause, turn to the East, and yell “F*CK YOU FLORCENE” for me, will ya?
To my friends battling Florence: stay safe.