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Each one of us has stories about COVID-19 and its impact on our lives, our goals, our mental well-being, but it is the emerging from the pandemic which currently holds my attention. How will I approach this sudden freedom to run, to travel and to set goals? Am I happy with my small, contained lifestyle which has been constructed to eliminate risks and challenges? Or do I need to burst out of the cocoon and aspire to those lofty plans from before?

On one hand, being comfortable is comfortable. Fat and lazy is new to me and it definitely has its draw. Although I have kept up some running and more mountain biking throughout the lockdown stages, I have also been quite content to stay at home, putter around with my flock and bake. Some pants no longer fit. I have enjoyed the lack of obligatory miles and the loss of that nagging voice that endlessly reminds me that I shouldn’t be relaxing or content. It has taken 16 months but she has finally toned it down to a whisper.

On the other hand, I feel a real void in my life. There is a deep hollow that needs to be filled. I’m pretty sure I could fill it with any number of hobbies but my fallback is mountains, trails and occasional suffering. I know how to run ultras and, with well-placed effort, it would come back. But it would entail a lot of hard work and I have only just recently realized that long-term comfort feels nice.

But who am I without those ambitions? That is the fork in the road for me. I have always known that my running is 100% goal-oriented. Without an end or a purpose, I am quite content to stay on the sidelines. But with a specific race date, I am the most committed out there.

I do actually have a race on the schedule but not until 2022. My hard-won lottery spot for Cascade Crest 100 2020 was generously rolled over twice due to COVID and ensuing cross-border travel restrictions but, at this point, it is still in the distant future and I have even questioned whether I will toe that line or not.

And so. Who am I and what am I doing with my life?

In mulling all of this over with FM, he let me in on a brilliant piece of running wisdom. He reminded me that I don’t have to win, place or even show, as the saying goes, in a race this season. I could enter a race and essentially plan on using every minute of the allocated time, racing cut-offs instead of racing. The concept instantly resonated with me. Imagine taking the pressure off but keeping the goal of finishing intact!

With my newfound inspiration, I hit <Register> and am now happily on the list of entrants for the Finlayson Arm 100km. This is a race that is dear to me. I have run the 50km twice and the 100km once and I have twice volunteered at the all-nighter aid station for the 100km. I know that out-n-back course so well and love all that it offers. And now I am allowing myself all 25:59:59 to complete it.

Run out then back and repeat
Do this twice!

A thank you now to Robert Frost for poetically rendering my feelings, to my dad for often quoting this poem and, above all, to FM for his wisdom in all things running and his belief in me.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Taken!

I have cleared the schedule, hung up the shoes and found a new pastime. 2019 will be remembered as the year that ultras went on the back burner.

Last spring and summer, my running struggled along as I battled twinges and tweaks and resulting low motivation. My achilles injury forced me to forgo a bunch of races and it was really difficult to get the proper training in for my ‘A race’ of the season, the Mighty Quail 100 km. In the end, I got it done but I lost something along the way – the desire to push through.

For me, running long distances requires strong focus on a specific end point – usually a certain finish line – and that focus will pull me through the long hours of training. I really love being out in the forest, deep in the lesser known trails, reminding myself to eat and drink and watch my footing as I go. There is a purity and ease as I clock the kms but that ultimate race goal is truly what gets me out the door.

I have always been one to take time off from running once daylight savings ends but, last fall, I took it to the level of hibernation. I had no desire to run in the snow or rain, nor solo or with the group. Instead I read, became a homebody and allowed myself to get soft around the edges and it has been fabulous. I got a new-to-me mountain bike and have been learning to rip up the trails (a little). I ride purely for fun and usually in a group. There is no goal except perhaps to end the ride without any new bruises.

Last night, B and I were talking about his upcoming Tor de Glaciers race – a 450 km loop of the Italian alps in Sept 2019 – and reminiscing about our Tor de Geants race five years ago. I found myself wishing aloud (again) that I could have a re-do of that event. I believe I could have done it better. B was quick to suggest a number of other 100 mile and 200 mile races which would allow me to prove myself to myself.

As I scrolled through event pages, looking for an ultra race that would fit in my 2020 fixed summer holiday, I had to laugh at myself. Here I was, searching for that goal race, ready to click the ‘register’ button, despite the fact that I haven’t laced up my running shoes for weeks. But perhaps this summer of rest and relaxation has worked its magic. I knew I needed some time off – not to consider quitting for good but simply to come back with a thirst for that next finish line.DSCN0370

 

 

For a few years now, my mantra has been that rest is a key factor in running well.  I fully believe in taking some time off  during the off-season.  But six months have gone by since I last ran an organized race.  I have taken a significant break from running, but even I think six months seems to be a bit of a long hibernation.

Since realizing this, I have begun to worry about this year’s running plans.  Have I completely lost my fitness base?  How badly will those first long runs hurt?  Will my running clothes still fit?  Are they still in fashion?  🙂

White River '10

Motivated Martha

But then a bigger problem came to light.  Why should I even bother going out for a run?

Motivation to run comes to each of us in different ways.  Some are looking for the challenge of a new course or new distance.  Others may want to improve a PB on a favourite course.  And some simply want to fit into that size 2 bikini.

I had been analyzing my lack of motivation for running when I bumped into a fellow runner-teacher at an educational workshop last week.  She had recently improved her half-marathon time and was now on track to run her first marathon at the beginning of May.  Her eyes lit up as she described her new goal and the training she was doing in preparation.  Her optimism and keenness were truly contagious.  I could almost detect the slightest bit of fear as she spoke.  Then she said something that amazed me.  She said that reading my blog has helped to motivate her.  Wow.  I can’t put into words how motivating that comment has been for me.

Squamish bike trails

Fun times on trails!

Suddenly, I have put running back onto my schedule and I have begun thinking about registering for a race or two this season.   The combination of her excitement about running a new race and her compliment about my blog has made something click for me.  I’m back in my shoes and I’m hungry for some hills.

Thanks Shaista!

The Happy Wanderer

My Paths on Strava

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