Pikes Peak and the F*** It Moment

Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent weekend is arguably the biggest deal in the Colorado Springs running ‘hood, and it was a blast being totally immersed in it a few weeks back, all weekend long, working the expo for Salomon. It’s a pretty special race, this year as much so as any. Seeing old and new friends kick ass, take names, or just crush whatever goal(s) they had in mind; whether lofty or humble. I admittedly was just as amped for everyone racing as I’d ever be for myself. Working at the expo was interspersed with obsessively catching up on Leadville 100 progress and the men’s Olympic marathon. There was so much epic runningness during a 48 hour span that my mind was blown.

And yet…something was missing.

Oh yeah, I should’ve been running up Pikes Peak with all those other brave souls that day, and I realized that as we packed everything up as things wound down, and it just didn’t feel quite right. I’m healthy, I’m not super-fit by any means, but plenty runnable.

I was sort of 50/50 about going into race day whether I’d toe the line or not. I picked up my bib, went to the press conference, gave some absolutely ludicrous advice to a small crowd and talked a kickass game, and then didn’t race. Anti-climactic to say the least.

It was an insanely hectic last 7 weeks, I told myself, and I knew I had not invested enough time into preparing (and in some cases, maybe letting preparation slide a little where I had the option of doing better). I know what that race is like. Pikes will chew you up and spit you out and make you her little b**** if you don’t respect her. But in my heart of hearts, in places that I don’t like to talk about at parties (when I go to them, which is pretty much never, because it entails mingling, which is terrifying), I believe the real reason I chose not to race was because the bar has already been set, and I knew I wouldn’t surpass it (or likely even come close to doing so) and I was afraid of what I’d feel like if I didn’t do better than before, I was afraid of any disappointment, and I’ve been a bit bothered by that realization ever since.

Afraid of disappointment…geez, if that’s going to be the case, you’ll never do anything again.

Granted, it’s not as though I’m being eaten alive by regret by any means–I know I’ll be clawing my way back up there again–but that little epiphany from the weekend did make me reflect just a bit on the last few months and spurred on the confrontation of an uncomfortable truth that I think I’ve more or less been avoiding thinking much about, and that is that I’ve let myself get okay with only going half-way out of fear of what disappointment awaits if I try to go the whole-hog but fall short.

While the last few months of running have been some of the most joyful and freeing miles I’ve run in several years, part of that has been because of an underlying hesitation; there’s been a lot of reluctance to really mentally/physically/emotionally invest in it the same way that I used to. Honestly, that’s not such a bad thing, being overly-invested in anything has just as much potential to be really destructive as it does to be really productive, depending on how the cards fall and of course the perspective that you take on things. But there has been a certain amount of having to work really hard to convince myself that none of it really matters to me anymore, because it actually does.

I was emailing a bit about this and other running things with one of my friends (I mean mostly a social media friend, but we’re all friends in this sport, right?), an awesome trail and mountain runner himself and a terrific writer for Trail Runner Magazine to boot; more or less about how to really get back in the saddle because I do want to, but how to do so and not repeat the same old mistakes that always lead down the same road, and how I feel like I’ve really been a bit apathetic about things, and how that’s really not me at all, and I’m honestly not sure how to address the situation.

His response was full of a hilarity, some wisdom, a bit of profanity, and a whole lot of truth, he said to me,

“Life and what we decide to do only has the meaning that we give to it. Running is an amazing way to derive meaning from what can be a daunting, scary, fun, and sometimes pointless-seeming journey. This is the point that will decide the relationship that you have with running for the rest of your life. I call it the F**k It Moment. There are two doors: One, you can say, ‘F**k it, f**k running, whatever.’ Or two, you can say, ‘F**k it! Let’s make this fun and sustainable and adventurous and insane and ultimately not give a single s*it about anything other than enjoying the process.”

Seems reasonable enough. Let’s take door #2, shall we?

Now, I don’t know if he took this straight out of a Prefontaine quote or whatever, but regardless, I realized that although I have been loving running, maybe even a bit more than I used to, in a way I’ve also simultaneously been saying “F**k it” because I don’t want to get let down again. But the truth is, I miss making myself hurt and battling it out and going to the well and “leaving no stone unturned” so to speak, but I let myself get too timid to do those things. And while talk is cheap, that’s not how I want it to be from here on out.

Like they say, “The fear of suffering is always greater than the suffering itself.” Whether I set some lofty goals and fall miserably short, get injured, get disappointed or whatever, those things will always be possibilities that are more likely to happen than not. Anything you really invest yourself into can be the greatest thing, and sometimes the biggest heartbreaker. But f**k it. I still want be striving for something other than just going out for a run every day. That’ll be enough one day, but right now it’s not. There is too much fight left in the legs and too many other awesome things I want to try to do, whether they work out or not.

Pikes Peak has taught me and plenty of other runners a lot of hard lessons, but this year, I have her to thank for one of my most valuable ones: my F**k It Moment.

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