Pausing and restarting is a skill that must be learned. As I watch my students in conditioning workouts and look back at my own early running days, I realize how rare it is to embrace this concept without significant time and training. You go as hard as you can, for as long as you can, until you collapse…a victim of Newtonian physics, an object that either stays in motion or remains at rest. If it’s at the finish line, you’ve won, if not, you quit. When your goals are small, this often looks like triumph, but stretched out over time to larger goals, this inevitably results in failure and burnout. So, we must choose, do we stick to safe goals, with finish lines we can see without an eagle’s view, do we embrace a life of inadequacy, or do we learn to pause and restart? This, I believe, is the single skill that allows so many to find new limits along the trails, whether 50 kilometers or 2000 miles…and is also what gets us to the finish line of life with our spirits fully intact.
After the Ultra Fiord 100M last year, I knew it was time to step back from ultra-running. My heart hurt, my body didn’t respond to the stresses by getting stronger or faster (and hadn’t for a while), I struggled to keep the promise to be joyful in every moment I spent on the trails (no matter how painful). I truly believe that if a person is not joyful on a course, they don’t deserve the gift of the trails that day…joy is not happiness or a lack of discomfort, but the deep appreciation of each moment in harmony with the surroundings, to be fully present and realize what a gift that is.
And so, I hit PAUSE, knowing that the story wasn’t finished, but that I couldn’t keep going forward right then. I put more time into the self-defense and conditioning classes I taught and trained for my own upper level Krav Maga test. I rehabbed another shoulder dislocation and spent time with friends instead of so much time alone on my feet. I volunteered at races and did trail maintenance. I helped scout part of the new Moab 200 course and remembered how natural and joyful it felt to move all day and share in campfire community at night. This was my home.
The slow restart began as painfully as getting out of a chair at mile 130 of a 200-mile course…experience tells you that you’ll feel better again in a mile, but in the moment, you just feel tight, chilled, drained, and worse that when you shuffled into camp. So it was with the Black Canyon 100k, a cold and muddy sufferfest in the normally warm and arid Arizona desert. My trail brother Cody and I did our best to see who could toe the start line less fit. It’s still a debate who won that award, but we finished with smiles and promises to never do something quite that stupid again. Needless to say, we probably will, but it did help get the ball rolling toward better fitness for the Tahoe 200 in September. What better way to spend my 30th birthday than by running in a beautiful new place with the people who had reminded me to hit PLAY again?
This isn’t a fairy-tale. Life rarely is. There have been victories and defeats and compromises over the last few months. I’m not sure that the victories will be enough to get me to the finish line in Homewood, but I do know that I’m moving forward again, with joy for the trail, content in the understanding that it’s ok to pause, as long as you find the strength to hit PLAY.