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I’ve received such incredible feedback from friends and family regarding my TransRockies Run recaps. A sincere thank you for that. It means so much to me to be able to share my adventures with all of you. And it also means a lot to know that so many people actually take the time to read this blog, haha. But since finishing the very last TRR post eleven days ago, I’ve completely lost the desire and enthusiasm to write. This of course isn’t a good thing, considering I pay rent with the articles and blog posts that I write. Oops. I’ve been stumbling around in a lackadaisical stupor, reluctantly going through the normal daily motions for the past few weeks.
This is not like me…at all.
Having been around the running block a time or two thousand (ahhh suburbia), I’m aware of the fact that many athletes suffer from post race depression. I can hear non athletes scoffing at the notion now, but I assure you this is a real, recognized condition.
It goes a little something like this: you spend months, and in some cases even years, preparing for a race in countless aspects, physically, mentally, even financially. The anticipation of this event consumes nearly every fiber of your being. You play out various scenarios over and over your head, imagining what the race itself is actually going to be like, if you’ll be ready, best and worst case scenarios, you name it. You pour over elevation profiles and race recaps from previous years. You share your hopes and concerns with other runners that have either completed the race in the past, or will be there with you this time. You seek advice from complete strangers, and you stress over the most ridiculous details, like “do I have the right type of shoelaces for this race?”
And it almost goes without saying that the physical training and subsequent recovery consumes a significant portion of your time…if not all of your free time. Turning down countless invitations because you’ve got a long run on the schedule becomes so common, people eventually stop asking. There are endless 4:00 am alarm clocks, preceded by incredibly early bedtimes. Countless miles dutifully covered, good, bad, and ugly. For big events, such as marathons, ultras, or Ironmans, it feels as though you fumble through a fog of eat, sleep, train, work, repeat, on autopilot.
But you do it because you know all of this sacrifice, of your time, of your body, of your relationships with others, it will all be worth it in the end when you cross that finish line. You do it because this has become a significant portion of your identity, of who you are.
And then race day comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Your immediate emotions are that of pride mixed with relief. You are so proud of yourself for finishing what you set out to accomplish, and you are so relieved that it is finally over. No more 4:00 am alarms. No more turning down invitations from friends. No more long runs in the brutal heat. You finally get to take a break and relax, without any training commitments.
But a day or two later, the runner’s high, the excitement, the pride, it all starts to wear off. And suddenly…you feel down. Blue. Depressed. As one expert describes, it is almost a feeling of immense loss. The “thing” that once consumed so much of your very being is now over. And not just the race itself, but the training, the planning, the anticipation. There is a giant void. You are left with an empty feeling of “now what?”
Well, the answer according to almost every article in the aforementioned Google search, is to sign up for another race to give yourself something new to focus on. This is why in the past I’ve never personally experienced post race depression.
At least not like I’m experiencing right now.
In the past I’ve certainly had quite the full race calendar. Just looking back at my list of race recaps, I am shocked at how in 2014 it appears I raced nearly every single weekend between April and November. (Oh, obstacle course racing, what fun memories we share…) The years prior and the years past were not much different. So it’s no wonder I never experienced any post race depression…I didn’t have the time.
But this past year things have been vastly different, for a few reasons. First, I broke up with OCR back in early 2015. (It wasn’t you, it was me.) And instead I fell in love with ultra running. The very nature of running really, ridiculously, long distances means you simply can’t race every weekend.
Well…at least most of us can’t.
Second, our 1,000 mile move from VT to SC took a massive financial toll on us, so races have once again become a luxury, and something we really have to plan for.
Third, I’m finding so much more personal satisfaction in picking a BIG race to focus on, then training my heart out for that goal, rather than having a calendar full of races simply for the sake of completing them.
But…this leaves me where we are today. Post TransRockies Run has been really hard, as I’m sure you’ve gathered by this long rambling post. Coming back to reality after spending 10 days in the Colorado Rockies, 6 of those days doing nothing but running, eating, and relaxing, was a big slap in the face. Yeah, yeah, welcome to the real world Heather. But it is far more than the reality of facing responsibilities. As you may know, because I blathered on during eight (yes, eight) blog posts about it, it was one of those “once in a lifetime incredible experiences that changed my life” kind of events. And frankly, it’s hard to face the reality that it is over.
But, because I’m 34 years old and not 6, I move on. Albeit slowly. The kids are back in school, I’ve caught up on deadlines (oops) and it’s time to get excited about what I’ve got coming up. In case you are wondering what that may be…
Ragnar Trail Relay (Carolinas). Oct 7 & 8 . Geoff, myself, and 6 other amazing friends from here in Myrtle Beach will all be taking on our very first Ragnar relay. On trail, of course. Our team is comprised of runners of all abilities…and some that would even deny the title of “runner” in the first place. I’m super excited to share this experience with all of them in exactly 4 weeks. It will also serve as our official bachelor/bachelorette party, because two weeks after Ragnar we are …going to:
Get Married. It is still SO STRANGE for me to say “I’m getting married”. Not because I’m NOT excited to marry Geoff, quite the opposite. It was just an unexpected wild card thrown onto the 2016 calendar, and I still can’t wrap my mind around it. Turns out, even the simplest non-traditional weddings require a good bit of planning, something that I truly never expected to do. Now don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t resigned myself to spinsterhood for the rest of my life, I just didn’t have “be the star of a wedding” anywhere on my bucket list like so many other females in our society. (Sorry ladies, just calling a spade a spade. No offense meant.) Regardless, I truly hope people don’t interpret my feelings of being overwhelmed for apathy. Anyway, I’m including this on my list of race events because I’m absolutely wearing trail shoes and a running skirt. Though instead of a medal, I’ll leave with a ring.
One Epic Run (24 Hour) I’m incredibly excited to give this race another go. We ran 52 ish (?) miles last year, before I bonked in a pile of tears and tomato soup somewhere around midnight. A year later, a handful more ultras under my buckle-less belt, and a ton of training completed, I feel confident that I can do much better. I also feel confident that I was such a fool thinking I’d get 100 miles in 24 hours on my first attempt, hahahaha. I’ve got big goals this year, with of course one of them being as lofty as 100 miles in 24 hours. But I have other more attainable, more important goals for this race as well. More on that soon…
Knock on Wood 100 M. Let me tell you a little story: Last year Geoff and I would run around our local trails, just wishing we had trail running friends to spend the miles with. We also wished for some silly, crazy friends with personalities similar to ours that we could hopefully tell jokes to and make fun of each other while running those miles. Fast forward to today, and I can honestly tell you I spend more time laughing on our local trail than I do running. Our little group of trail runners is quickly growing with people who are discovering a love for running off road, as well as a true love for running not dictated by paces and PR’s.
But what does this all have to do with Knock on Wood? Well…when we pitched the idea of this race to our pals, we had hoped maybe one or two would tag along. As of right now, we have 17 people who will be running. Most are doing the 50K, and many of them attempting this distance for the first time. I’m overwhelmed, excited, and proud of our little group for banding together to encourage each other to do big things.
A couple of us are attempting 100 miles. And if I don’t hit 100 at Epic, I’m truly hoping Knock on Wood will be the first successful finish.
Desert RATS Stage Race. This one. This is my next huge adventure in the near future (not that getting married and running 100 mile ultras aren’t pretty huge) . I will be attending…and racing…the Desert RATS stage race next June. The course covers 148 miles over 6 days across the Kokopelli trail from Grand Junction, CO to Moab, UT. This one came to me in a very random, spur of the moment way, but once the offer was on the table I knew I couldn’t turn it down.
I am nervous, as this course is longer than TRR, and includes check point cut offs, a much more extensive required gear list, medical clearances, and two 40 (+) mile days. Oh, plus we are in the DESERT in JUNE. I don’t mean to make the TransRockies Run seem like it was a walk in the park… it was far from it. But Desert RATS appears to be much more intense. The excitement is beginning to build as I’m even talking about it…
So, now that I’ve written it all down I’m feeling much better. Diaries…I mean blog posts that I share with the entire world…are so therapeutic in that capacity. I am truly grateful for every experience and opportunity I’ve had in the past. But now that I’m done reflecting, it’s time to move forward. As C.S. Lewis and all of the super emo pinterest and tumblr pins say: