It happens every time. I cross the finish line of a goal race. I celebrate. I bask for a few days or weeks. Friends and family join me in celebrating. And then at some point I have to take off the medal or belt buckle and get back to my daily life.
This transition is always difficult. My spirit feels free at the end of a training cycle. I’m on a non-stop runners high. And as soon as I cross the finish line it starts to fade. I was lucky this year. My goal race was in the fall. I was able to do several “B” races (and a few “C” races) in preparation and I was able to take that high and ride it through the next training cycle. But the “A” race is done. The race, and training required, were both big enough to really tax my daily life. So there was a lot piled up and waiting. (Both literally and metaphorically.)
The physical recovery from the 100 mile run took longer than anticipated. The muscles were in pretty good shape by the end of the following week. The trauma to my feet to this day (about three months later) is still a bit of an issue. Most of the first month was spent wearing flip flops. When it was cold, toe socks were involved. That actually limited some of the literal piles I could address. For example, it took all I could muster to wear boots long enough to get the last of the firewood buttoned away for the season. And I even broke my own rule and did a fair bit of the stacking in flip flops.
The high from finishing lasted much longer than I expected. I’m not sure to what I should attribute that, but I guess it shows just how much of a stretch goal it really was. I think part of it had to do with all the friends and family that kept making a big deal out of it. Every time I ran into someone that I hadn’t seen in a while the subject would come up and it would start all over again.
But here’s the embarrassing thing: I can’t seem to let myself claim any glory. Oh sure, the first few days I was on such a high it didn’t matter much, but at this point, I’m just a guy who went for a run. I haven’t really lapsed into avoidance type behavior, but there’s no swagger. By now, even the online bragging has dwindled to a few inside jokes with my coach, pacers, and crew.
I chose to celebrate my run by ordering a custom belt for my new belt buckle. It’s being shipped right now. And I’m not sure I’ll allow myself to wear it more than a couple times. And that’s a shame because the thing is beautiful. OK. That might be avoidance type behavior. But the glory has faded. I don’t need to be reminded of that every time I put my pants on. I don’t even need to be reminded of the race all that often.
What I need is to move on. I need to find something else to draw my focus and my attention. My kids haven’t seen much of their dad since February. My performance at my day job has been a far cry from what I usually do. And I haven’t really been much of a husband. We won’t even go into the neglected housework and honey-do-lists.
But I’m stuck. I made one of the classic mistakes. I ended something big without another goal in mind. Sure, I put in for the lotteries at Hard Rock and Western States. But I know enough about math and statistics to know that my chances of getting into either were pretty dang slim. So I’m wandering.
I’m still running. But I hate my shoes and can’t seem to get comfortable in the winter layers. I don’t want to run any of my usual routes. (And where I want to run becomes dangerous this time of year.) That is to say, leaving the house is a chore. I’ve joined a gym. I now have access to a treadmill and weights for the first time since… Well it’s been a while. And I’m using the weights. I’m working to correct some of the flexibility issues and muscle imbalances that kept me from feeling as healthy as I could be through the last training cycle.
For the time being, my diet is rubbish. This isn’t just a post-race thing. Every winter I have a hard time eating healthy foods. I’ve learned to live with it a bit. This year though, I seem to have embraced it. My shopping choices look almost as if I let the five year old write the grocery list.
Clerk: Cake and ice cream! What’s the occaision?
Me: It’s Tuesday.
Ski season is here. I’m excited to hit the slopes with the kids. I’m looking forward to logging some miles (and elevation) on the cross country skis. I tell myself once I get in the habit of getting up there I’ll be fine. But I’m even resisting that.
Reading through this, it sounds like I’m complaining. Maybe I am a little bit. But it is intended to be an example. It’s that time of year. Looking through the RunJunkEes Facebook group, I’m not the only one struggling with the changing seasons. I know all the usual fixes – sign up for a race, set a goal, get a hobby, move somewhere warmer. But none of that fits my lifestyle right now. 2016 is a down year for me. My wife will be ramping up her training cycle and I will fall into a support role. I may still get some longer runs, but I’ll have to hire a sitter for the kids. Do you know how hard it is to find a sitter to show up at six in the morning?
As painful as it will be to live through this year, I’m actually OK with it. I know the time off will make me stronger. Not running 8-16 hours every weekend will allow my body to heal. The weights will make me a better all-around athlete. The diet will come back in line. I’ll get some quality time with the family. I’ll be able to show my wife and kids some of the incredible places I ran this year. And it will involve a real picnic and a nice relaxed pace.
I’m struggling for a good way to wrap this up. I guess all I can offer is, “It’s going to be OK.” This is normal. Everyone goes through this to some extent. If you’re in a funk, ride it out. Make the best of it. The magic is still there, it just might not be as easy to find.
Just keep moving friends.
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