Poking the Tiger

Since returning to Colorado, running motivation has increased from about 5% to approximately 1,857%. That’s good news, and I didn’t really realize that it had in fact dwindled down quite so much until recently, when I noticed that I am actually pumped to get out the door every morning versus simply finding time to get in a run so that I had something to write down in the training log that day so that I didn’t feel like a loser. I had been chalking up my sluggish miles everyday to having no routine or real goals or direction, but really I think I just had a bad case of Texasitis.

Anyway, since getting back onto the trails and into thinner air, I feel like my old self again, just way better and more appreciative than when I left. I was so excited after finishing one of my favorite runs (climbing up Rampart Range Road) last week that I went and signed up for a race! Staying true to my form of putting the cart way ahead of the horse, it wasn’t a local 5k, or a Nielson Challenge to test the waters…no, I went and signed right up for Mt. Washington. I’m still debating upon whether or not this was a good and rational and well thought out decision, or if it was made in the throes of Post-Really-Fun-Run-That-Went-So-Much-Better-Than-I-Was-Expecting Ecstasy, and if come race day I’m going to need someone to remind me on the start line that this was my dumb idea in the first place.

RRR

Mary and I post-Rampart.

In any case, I didn’t come to this without at least some thought, so here was my rationale: Rampart Range Road probably averages roughly a 6-8% grade, begins at around 6,300 feet, and where we finish is probably (and I’m estimating sans an altimeter here) 8,500ish feet, give or take? We start at the base by Balanced Rock and go up about 8 miles. Mt. Washington on the other hand, averages about 12% grade, is 7.8 miles long, but the summit is at roughly the same elevation that RRR begins. So it’s a bit shorter, albeit steeper, and is at a much lower elevation. So why the heck shouldn’t I believe that I can do it? I respect the mountain, but I can’t think of a reason.

Now, I’m not really one to believe that you can get incredible results without investing incredible work. In 2014: lots of work. Lots of investment. Probably too much investment actually. Fast-forward to 2016: not so much. Not to say no work has gone into it, there has probably been more than I think, but comparatively it’s just not on the same level as couple of years ago, and Running and I have very altered, very different, relationship since then.

Sometimes I think about it and realize that I don’t have the same Do-or-Die, Stop-at-Nothing attitude toward it that I once did not too long ago, I don’t really know where that went, or when it went, or why it doesn’t bother me that it’s not there anymore, and I’m not entirely sure how that will translate to actually competing; maybe I’ll get better than before, or maybe I’ll never get back to that level, much less past it. I don’t know. Don’t mistake it for apathy, it’s not, I still care, but it’s like some weird psychological defense mechanism where I won’t let myself get too invested in any process or outcome, because the cost can be a bit much if it doesn’t turn out how you want it to.

To go slightly off-track here, Leah O’Connor, a stud steeplechaser for adidas, verbalized some of this feeling in a far more eloquent and far less convoluted and nonsensical fashion than I ever could:

“When we put unhealthy pressure on ourselves to make our goals happen and attempt to be perfect on our quest, by default we start to tighten our grip on what we want in unhealthy ways… Slowly, our ability to just roll with the punches and manage disappointments starts to fade. Almost unknowingly, we start to tie our worth as a human being into being the one thing that we have decided we want more than anything.”

Speaking of nonsensical, the best way I can think of to describe it in my own words would be this: let’s say you’re bushwhacking your way through the Amazon and you stumble upon an adorable, abandoned baby tiger cub (tigers live in the Amazon, right?). You want to pet it and love it and scratch its fuzzy belly till it purrs, but you’re a little reluctant to do so because you know it could very well rip your arm right off: that’s me and Running right now. Before, I’d be hugging the tiger cub in a smothering fashion while it was eating my face off and about to disembowel me. I don’t want to hug the tiger anymore, I don’t even want to pet it, I’d rather just poke it every now and then but jerk my hand away fast enough so that it doesn’t get eaten off.

tiger cub

I will eat your face off.

No, but circling back around; in all seriousness this particular race and venue means more to me than any other one for a lot of reasons, and that reason alone plus the people who decide to undertake it are enough to make it a great day no matter the result. Last year I legitimately had no business racing, but I know I’d be really disappointed if I let it pass me by again this year without even rolling the dice and giving it a shot, and I would have wondered how it would’ve turned out if only I had tried. Time to rip the band-aid off. Good, bad, or ugly, you gotta find your way back somehow.

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