It's not good to be a hypocrite. I was for many years, and I still am. I am also, however, not proud. When something happens, and I have to alter my path, I do it. I do my best to be strong, to be cheerful, to keep moving through everything life throws at me. Sometimes we trip and fall, and when we get up, we dust off, alter our path a little, and keep going.
I admit it. I've sometimes held a bit of snark for those who can't finish the distance they sign up for. Respect for what they did, yes, but that little devil sitting on my shoulder thinking they should know better, should've trained harder. I've pushed myself hard to finish the races I sign up for. I never wanted to be thought of like that. Not so much by other people, but by myself. We are all our own worst critic when it comes to our achievements.
This year, I didn't finish the Oil Creek100 mile race I signed up for. I signed up for the 100 mile race. I knew I couldn't replicate the emotion and the way I dug deep in 2015, but I wanted to try again. I wanted to fix some mistakes I made. I wanted to try harder.
I finished my race at 100k. Sixty-two miles instead of 100. I stopped. But I didn't fall short. I finished something even bigger for myself. I stopped, and I was happy to stop. I wasn't sad about not going on.
Could I have pushed further? Could I have made it to the finish? Maybe.
I spent 19 hours in the woods, most of those spent with some of my very best running friends. I got to see a ton of the people I care about, even if it was brief. I learned that I can push through bonks and bad lows pretty quickly if I keep moving. I learned that I can run hard, even after 55 miles, when I want to catch up to someone. I learned that I get terribly homesick when I'm alone in the woods. I learn that I'm not afraid of bears or noises when I have a goal. I learned which of my gear worked, and what didn't. I learned to push down two weeks of anger and depression and stress and the threat of ongoing health battles and just keep my eyes down on the trail, step step step root rock mud step step climb climb passing on your left breathe in cool breeze step step ahh downhill deep breath step step run run
You know that feeling, you get, when you run down a hill, and the wind is in your eyes, and there are a little bit of tears, and you blink and breathe and it's one of those best feelings...
I was chasing down Rog, and I was running faster at mile 56 than I had run most of the day, and I'm coming down that down hill, right before the sign in box, and those tears were there, and all I was and all I'd ever be was that trail and the night and the breeze, and I tapped that sign in box with my fingers, and the distance didn't matter. The goal was there, under my feet, in the friends ahead and behind me, in the night air.
And I had finished. And I Did Not Fail. And I did not finish. And this year, I didn't have the stubbornness, or the strength to bear down and keep going and chase that finish.
I had the strength to stop, to breathe in the trail and know that this year my goal hadn't been to finish running 100 miles. It had been to find those little moments on the trail that make me love this place and this adventure that is life so much.
Thank you to all that were out there with me, be it for a tiny space of time, or 19 hours. I was so happy for everyone I got to see out there, everyone who gave me a good word, or made me laugh, or think, or inspired. I hope the trail gave you what you wanted, just like it did for me.
And I'll be back next year, all year, whenever that call of the trail pulls me back...