Happy (?) Anniversary

I realized the other day that my beloved Pikes Peak Ascent takes place in exactly 24 days. This year is its 60th anniversary, the field is super solid, and I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my first time doing it, nor did I think I’d miss training for it quite this much. Actually I assumed I would be training for it. Anyway, it will also mark my one year “anniversary” of no races. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without a race since I started running at 15. I love that stuff, so needless to say it’s pretty much my least favorite anniversary of anything ever.

But, even though sometimes you really have to dig for it, there can sometimes be a lot of value in not getting your way with things that you really wanted to turn out a certain other way. The slump that’s defined the majority of the last year–discouraging, annoying, and mundane though it has been–hasn’t been entirely devoid of epiphanies and changes in perspective (the biggest of which I’m going to blabber about in coming paragraphs) although admittedly also with a few tantrums and a couple small identity crises thrown in there for good measure.

You hear about how some people use running as sort of a kind of “venting” or as this coping mechanism to deal with whatever internal chaos that they have going on, and how when running goes away or goes awry, they pretty much just go off the deep end. We all know (or maybe are) these people. That’s often really true and can obviously sometimes present a problem and I would love to launch into a bunch of psychobabble right now, but I won’t.

However, I think that there can be also another side to that in that we’re all wired to always need a goal and a challenge, or a “mission” so to speak, because it gives more meaning and purpose to life. And what’s more tangible and satisfying than setting running-related goals, making a plan, going after them, and attaining them? So, I know at least for myself and probably plenty of other people, running more or less fills a great majority of that need for a challenge.

But since setting those types of goals has, for the time being, really sort of gone out the window since last fall, quite frankly I’ve since found myself to be sort of…bored. Bored and antsy and meh.

That doesn’t really tell me that life isn’t interesting enough though, instead it tells me that I didn’t have enough other challenges set up for myself or goals outside of running, which can sometimes be easy to overlook or put off or ignore altogether when you’re busy chasing after something that you want, and you forget that something you’re after is fleeting and fickle and that there have to be other things too.

So, while training and competing is a gut-check, not training or competing has been a reality check. The “security blanket” has been ripped away, and there’s this question of what other endeavor(s) would provide the same satisfaction and joy? In other words, what do I really want to do with my whole life besides just run around?! I haven’t done a good enough job at addressing that stuff over the last few years and I think I may have almost made things too easy in a sense, but maybe not necessarily in an entirely good way.

So needless to say lately there’s been a lot of soul-searching. A lot of brainstorming. A lot of lists. A lot of vin-diagrams. A lot of comparison charts. A lot of pie charts. Not nearly enough pie. A LOT of paralysis by analysis. Basically a lot of pre-contemplation and contemplation and potential plots and plans ranging from about a dozen different master’s degrees I want and jobs I’m interested in, to thinking too much in the wee hours of the night, getting really desperate, and considering tossing it all out the window and just converting to the Amish (this was actually something I gave real thought to) or moving up to Pikes Peak to become the reclusive pancake and pasta maker/caretaker at Barr Camp (this option is actually nowhere near off the table and is probably the most plausible path I’ve thought up so far). It’s been sort of like a quarter-life crisis, but without the chaos, drama and anarchy (well, maybe mental chaos and anarchy) that the word “crisis” implies.

For some reason, right out of college I had always sort of thought that to pursue a “real” job or another degree or something basically meant you had to give up running or you couldn’t take it seriously enough to get better anymore. But I’ve also come to wonder if it’s possible to take it too seriously and mentally invest too much and maybe that’s actually really detrimental to success? I kind of think yes, and that’s been another epiphany in recent months, but that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, I don’t really remember all the reasons why I thought all of those things, but I didn’t want to give up when I felt, and still feel, like I could still get better, so I looked for an easy path of least resistance that would accommodate that. Enter: professional shoe-rat at local running store. I’ve been lucky enough to have a job that pays the bills for the most part, immerses me 24/7 in a lot of what I like, that is fun enough so I don’t just look forward to days off, with people who totally get the running thing, and it also accommodates all the things that I like doing, which is awesome and hard to come by. So it’s served a few purposes over the years beyond just paying rent. But, it isn’t really something in which you drop anchor for life, and again, and maybe more importantly, the last year or so has showed me that it also lacks any real challenge or growth and sometimes all signs seem to point to “move on!”

Or I’m just listening too much to everyone else and I really have it all and should just leave well enough alone, I’m not really sure. I think maybe that’s just the “I love routine and I hate/fear change” part of me talking, which I should probably get over.

Anyway, all that stuff is To Be Continued. All this is to say that despite coming up on a year’s worth of disappointment and setback, it hasn’t really been without value and there have certainly been quite a few eye-opening revelations that I think are pretty likely to be more beneficial over the long haul than if everything had turned out how I was envisioning they would this time last year. So regardless of the fact that it may not have been fun, it hasn’t been a waste.

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