Relentless forward progress is the art of finding finding oneself by becoming lost to the world...
The taper. The dreaded calm before the storm of your big goal, your day, your race. It's a terrifying and frustrating time in an endurance athlete's life when, instead of enjoying our reduced energy output and increased healing time, we put that energy into holding everything together as it seems to be falling apart.
We feel the physical pain of old and new injuries that come on without cause or explanation. My knee hasn't hurt this whole training season, yet I limped up the stairs while listening to it grind on Saturday night.
Our mental demons pop up and remind us how much that daily dose of endorphins helps us through the day. For me, it's a slide into the trap of diminished self-worth and self-love. It manifests with a need for companionship and spontaneous affirmation (my profound thanks for those who unknowingly provided just that over the past two weeks, you are a daily blessing in my life) , which I am objectively aware is a response to my rejection of myself. While I enjoy good company, I only crave it when no longer at peace with myself. In turn, I become someone who I respect and enjoy spending time with less... And the vicious cycle becomes hard to break.
Sometimes, luck and all things out of your control seem to take advantage of the fact that your guard is down. So while you use your suddenly old, aching, and fat 28 year old, 130lb, ultra runner and fighter body to stare down your self-worth demons, your truck breaks down, your clothes get stolen, and your replacement driver's license gets lost or delayed somewhere in the mail.
Tapering almost makes running a 200 mile race seem easy by comparison, right?
Last Tuesday, after the "Go get up and run you lazy girl!" voice finally won over the "Just stay under the covers... And maybe eat some cookies" intonation, I ran up the road to Mt Bigelow under brilliant blue skies does with white clouds. As I neared the crest, I could hear the faint echo of thunder. Staying at the top, there was a wall of black on one side, allowing me to have one outstretched hand and rain and the other in sun. It was like standing in a real life analogy of dark and light, if climbing a hill only to have a storm. And yet, all I could do was smile and turn my face up to feel the contrasting breezes of dry warmth and cool damp. You probably know by now that I love running in the rain. Especially in the mountains. It fills me with joy as each step feels like an accomplishment; as the tactile stimulation of each raindrop grounds me and tells me Be Here, Be Present, Just Be, This Is Real, You Are Real, You Are Enough, This Moment Is Enough. For an instant, for a series of moments, for a ten mile loop, the trail of the taper cycle is broken. Soaked to the bone and sliding along rocks, I am light and beautiful and alive and free.
Some day, I would like to say that I respond to the things I cannot control in the same way I do getting caught in a thunderstorm. Right now, getting stuck in the taper blues tells me I'm not there yet, but today it's raining hard enough that I can feel a smile building and am ready to make my own luck on the way to a great adventure.
Bigfoot 200, here I come!