"Play hard. Have fun. Do your best. Be proud of yourself but stay humble." These are the things I remember from my childhood. Success wasn't always measured in wins and losses. It was measured by effort, smiles, steady improvement and humility. I wasn't a phenomenal athlete. Probably not even considered "good" by most standards but I always had fun, put forth my personal best effort, improved over time and stayed true to myself. I learned early on that competitive nature is much different from driven. Competitions can be won or lost. Drive is that weird thing that never stops. You don't ever lose but you're not going to ever win either. It's always there to push you just a little harder, leave you feeling insecure and can be very humbling no matter how well you perform.
Of course there is room for both. I have ran some races where a window has opened and allowed me to see a legitimate chance to "win". When that happens the competitive nature takes over and it's time to go. But really, most "races" for me aren't about trying to win or compete with the elites - it's about pushing myself to personal limits and looking for that steady improvement. Nobody likes to lose but, honestly, running is a sport that, in a way, rewards us for losing. This sounds bad but it's not. It's the kind of reward that brings us back to the starting line over and over.
Runners are weird. It's not the chance to win the top trophy that brings thousands of runners to a race. Most of us know that we won't even catch a quick glance at the top runners on the course. We go for ourselves. To chase personal records, course records or the reward of another finishers medal. We are okay with coming in 564th place as long as we put forth the best effort our bodies would allow that day. Success is measured individually through a private question and answer session. "Did I leave it all on the course? Could I have pushed a little harder? Did I stay tough mentally? How will I do better next time?" We will ALWAYS ask that last question. ALWAYS.
So... Here I sit. Just 6 weeks from the Leadville 100 miler in Colorado. Probably the biggest race I have ever participated in and I am questioning my "drive". This is new for me. I have a million excuses as to why I don't feel that old familiar push - the VOICES have been quiet for a while - to do the work and make it happen. Don't get me wrong, I have been working - just not as hard as I feel that I should or could. I have mentioned this before but it seems to be more in the forefront than ever.... I always feel like a fraud when I line up at the start of any race, even a 5k, but especially for a 100 miler. I look around and see all the "runners" and question everything. "Why am I here? Do I really belong? Should I get a little further back in the pack to start? Oh... this dude looks fast- don't try to keep up with him...."
It's definitely been a strange year for me up to this point. The Rocky Raccoon 100 was less than spectacular but it was still a decent time in the overall scheme of things. I mean, a 21:30 finish isn't the end of the world and I still placed well and went home with a 5th sub 24 buckle. Obviously, it wasn't what I had hoped for and the "weather" excuse does little to console my bruised ego. That was followed by my big "comeback" in March out in Enid, Oklahoma during the 30 hour endurance run. 6 mile loops resetting every hour and a half had me thinking I could easily go over 100 miles and grab a buckle - if not win the whole event. That went bad and I had to pull out with an calf injury just 9 hours in and left me on the sideline for a couple of months. This forced me to skip my favorite fundraising event, The Annual Honor Scroll 50 Miler in Ouachita. As I eased back into training there was another personal life event that has me distracted and the whole "Eye off the Prize" thing became non-existent.
So... Here I sit. Just 6 weeks from the Leadville 100 miler in Colorado. Probably the biggest race I have ever participated in and I am.... going on the record to say that I will kick ass. It may not be the time I dreamed of when I signed up, it may not be pretty but it will be a sustained, all out, no holds barred effort to push myself over the mountain and back again. I have asked all the questions. "Do you still WANT to run Leadville? Do you still WANT to do your best? Are you willing to hurt and sacrifice? Are you prepared to push yourself to the limit both mentally and physically for a stupid belt buckle that will not change your life one bit?" No matter how many times I ask- the answer is always, YES!!!"
There is a huge difference between saying that you want something and actually doing the work to make it happen. The drive is still there. It's just been buried under a hodgepodge of nonsense for a few months. I am confident that things will work themselves out- they always do - and I will hit the starting line with no doubts about the outcome. I do WANT it and am willing to do the work. I did have some thought about making Leadville an Honor Scroll event but, for now, have decided to just run this one for me. It seems selfish in my mind but I also know that sometimes the added pressure of running for those brave warriors is very difficult and it may be more than I need to take on at this point. Of course... I have been known to change my mind.
Success is often measured in wins and losses by others. I will measure my own success by the drive, effort and pride put forth through the next six weeks of training and the relentless forward progress on race day. I will "win" when I cross the finish line with a smile and a the full knowledge that I did my best. I will remember that the goal is still as simple as it once was...... "Play hard. Have fun. Do your best. Be proud of yourself but stay humble." Eye on the Prize and I'm not blinking......
This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........