About 6 weeks ago, I signed up for a 5K trail race – a much shorter race than I would normally have on my race calendar, but my reasons for doing so went far beyond the distance or how it fit in with my training plans.
The last trail run I did was a 10K in the middle of September, and for whatever reason on that day, I had a terrible run. I ended up walking about 4 kilometres of the course and was close to tears by the time I finished. I was disappointed in myself and there was no part of me that was smiling or having fun. I went home with my head held low. I was embarrassed, and in hindsight for no logical reason. I vowed to quit running, throw out my running shoes and “do something I’m actually good at.” The hyper critical part of myself can be quite ugly when rearing its head.
After I took a couple days to get over myself and sort through my irrational thoughts, I decided to keep the shoes and at least finish my run training for the season. In November, I took a month off before slowly getting back into a training schedule for Ironman this summer. I still wasn’t especially jazzed about putting the shoes back on, but I went through the motions anyway, and tried to re-focus my energy. For the most part of the winter, I tried to figure out how to screw my head on differently for 2017. Change is not easy, especially changing a mindset. I knew this was going to be a work in progress.
In early January, after I saw a friend sign up for the first Dirty Feet Trail Race of the season in March, I made the decision to jump back on the bandwagon. I needed something to get me back on course and something where I could leave my goals and own expectations behind – something just for fun. I had done this race four years ago and knew the course wouldn’t be too challenging and the distance was too short for any tantrums. It was a good place to start.
Two months later, I went to the start line with one goal in mind – to not have any goals.
The wind was cool, yet tame, the sun danced behind a sea of wispy white clouds setting the scene for a somewhat grey, mundane morning, yet I was smiling. I felt free and alive as my feet relentlessly pounded the pathway and my heart was beating almost in unison. Winding through the trails, I carefully but quickly sidestepped past the mud, flew down short, quick dips and charged back up. My cadence slowed down then sped up, slowed down then sped up, as I navigated the single tracked course. My mind and muscles felt much more engaged than any other run – a welcome change from the long stretches of flat, asphalt I’m used to from running on the road. Being out there amongst the dirt, mud and grass, and chasing the feet in front of me was wildly liberating. Something I was longing to feel.
I ended up beating my previous time by three minutes and was third overall female. While those accomplishments were amazing, none of it really mattered. To me, it was about my reason for being there; teaching myself how to let go of my own inhibitions. I think I’m slowly learning that I can keep my competitive nature without beating myself up in the process. I can want to win and set goals, but I can’t berate myself along the way.
Signing up for this race allowed me to get back into a competition that would be gentle and forgiving. I’m grateful to start the race season off on the right foot and for the simple opportunity to run wild in the hills. This season I am focused on patience, gratitude, humbleness and perspective, but mostly enjoying the ride. Not every race will be perfect, and there is no guaranteed outcome, but I can control my emotions and my mind set. If I can do that, then 2017 will be a success.