Today’s post is from Dr. Dennis Claire DPM, Podiatrist and UtraRunner.
Success, Personal Record, Pace-per-mile, 5k, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, Ultra-marathon! All of these words are derivations of the human need for competition, completion and personal gratification. I can’t say I haven’t felt each one firmly, like the grip of a firm handshake or sometimes like the string of a noose around your neck. What I can attest to, however is that these goals and gratifications can be the source of suffering, and of failure just as likely as the the sense of happiness and success a good result can highlight!
In the last several years, I’ve had several significant failures in the realm of running. After a period of time off due to school and residency, I attempted a marathon in 2011. I was doing it with a group of Marines for a great charity, Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness, and I had twisted my knee a week before. My pride was too great to quit. Even though I ran at a slow pace for me (10-12 min miles), my knee quit at mile 14. I limped my way to the finish in just under 6 hours. This year, I thought I had trained adequately for a relatively flat trail marathon (Bear Brook Trail Marathon). I ended up with heat exhaustion at mile 21 and could not continue. This past weekend, I dropped out of my goal race for the year, the Jay Peak Ultra-marathon 50k. This was a challenging race with a significant amount of climbing. Most of my running this year was geared towards big elevation gain and not as much strict running. I thought I was well prepared, but I cracked at the 30k mark. I pitifully made my way through another 5km of climbing before I decided to call it quits (GPS said 21 miles of racing with 7300′ elevation gain). After a lifetime of outdoor pursuits, I am proud that I know my limits. As embarrassing and frustrating as it was to pull out of my 2nd race of the year, I think I made the right choice. As a consolation, myself and others failing to finish the 50k were given an official spot in the Jay Peak 25k.
I can give many excuses–father of an extremely energetic 18 month-old, husband to a wife with medical issues, a foot doctor just over 2 years out of residency trying to pave his way, but none of these excuses matter. Success doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the trail. The mountain. The next rise and the next descent. I live to enjoy my family and get on the trails. If I didn’t sign up for any races this year, things would not change. I pine for the mountains of Acadia, 30 mins down the road, I ache to get back to the White Mountains, to Katahdin, to Marcy, to the high peaks of the Northeast and hopefully beyond. In the summer I run the mountains, in the winter I will snowshoe and ski them. I will keep trying to do my best, but I will not let several days of timing and competition ruin the rest of my year in the mountains. In running mountains, you cannot be fixated on finishing and competition, you must be fixated on survival and living to the next day. If you feel good, go. If you don’t, stay and enjoy the view.