One of the 'opportunities' of growing older is the ability to accept that what you once did fast and often you are now lucky to do at all. One morning this week, my alarm went off to get me out of bed for my usual pre-dawn, before-work run, and I no more wanted to get out bed than the man in the moon. I knew it was cold (ok, it was only 43 degrees, but anything cooler than bath water is cold to me!), and I grumbled about putting on a long sleeve and whether it was cold enough for gloves (of course it was). I struggled to brush my teeth, get dressed and lace up my shoes. Each physical movement to get ready was an effort accompanied by an appropriate grunt or blow. At each pause along the way to the front door out of the house, I ALMOST convinced myself to just set my watch alarm, put my head back, and wake up in 45 minutes. But, being the hard core runner that I am, I just kept aiming to the door, stepped outside, waited while Mister Nike+ Watch acquired the needed satellites so I would know how far my 4.06 mile loop was today, and eventually I got going down the road. Now, this tale should tell about what a pleasure it was to run in the morning coolness (cold) as the day transformed from dark to light, and how glad I was that I had defeated my morning gremlins to hit the roads. Sorry! My legs felt like
This morning, Moha and I ventured out to Oak Mountain to put in some miles getting ready for a trail 50K we're doing next week. We did the same "race" last year and we call it "The Sissy Trail 50k" because it's 10 loops of a 3+ mile trail that has gentle, but constant rolling terrain. Well, this week, I get an email from David Tosch, the Race Director, about the details of the race and while cursively reading the course description, I notice we're on a different trail this year! Now, I don't consider myself a creature of habit, but dagnabit, don't change the course on me a week out. It's really no big deal as we quickly dubbed this trail "Sissy Trail #2", but after 4 loops (13+ miles) I was questioning how another 6 loops would go. Guess we'll find out next week. But, although the course is relatively the same terrain, I had all these voices going through my head about "hillier, more turns, more rocks, more roots"... all fabricated and I'm sure things will go fine...at least if it doesn't go fine, it won't be because of the course.
I have been an ultra-runner for over 30 years and have certainly have had to confront those little voices to just "shut it down" many, many times. Back in the old days, in many races I could finish in the top 10% of the field. Sure, there would be bad days but they were few and far between. Segue a couple of decades ahead... Very few of my former peers are still running, let alone running ultras. We get slower, stiffer, crankier, and hopefully, I guess just more accepting of the way things are. Somedays, I think maybe I don't need to run for 3 hours on a Saturday morning, or I don't need to set my sites on an ultramarathon a couple of months ahead. But, you know what? I really enjoy doing this kind of stuff. I've written on this site several times about how long distance running is part of me. It is not what defines me, but it is part of the fabric that holds me together. I still shoot to finish for that 10% finish, but it's the bottom 10% instead of the top. But, that's more than ok with me. I like the fact that I can go the distance, even if that distance seems to be MUCH longer than it used to be when it's actually shorter. I try to replace these "Shut it down" voices with my own "Shut the hell up" voice and keep trotting down the trail.
The new crop of runners are where I was in 1980, only they are faster, better equipped, and but, as I did, know they are indestructible and I am now on the trail behind them. But, there is nothing wrong with that...just give me enough time and I'll be there. They'll stop running when they get to the finish line and I'll catch up. Then we'll hoist a beer together and times will be irrelevant. We're both doing what we want to do, and hopefully, keep doing it.
Wait for me and I'l see you on the roads - AL
"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world"