If you follow me on Instagram then you know that Saturday was a really tough day for me. I’ve never fallen into such a dark place mentally on a race before that I couldn’t dig myself out of. Yes, I’ve felt bad physically and I’ve had my fair share of moments where I questioned whether I could finish, but I’ve always been able to talk myself out of it and carry on! But this time was different…
Leading up to the race I have to admit I was filled with slight dread about running ANOTHER 50k (especially one with 10,000ft of elevation) given that since June I’ve ran 1x55k, 3x half-marathons, and 1x50miler. I’ve never raced so much in such a short period of time and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it! Having said that, my body was feeling pretty good and I was predicted (based on ultra-signup calculations) to do pretty well. So along with running with Nat and checking out the beautiful views, I was using that as my motivation for race day.
The morning of the race I was feeling pretty relaxed (which is not my normal M.O.). My jitters were at bay, the weather was perfect and there were lots of familiar faces at the start line. When the gun went off at 7am, Nat and I headed out together and stuck towards the middle of the pack. The first 6k was pretty cruisy with lots of rolling down hill and flat single track, but around the 6-7k mark is where the climbing started. At this point Nat took the lead and powered us through a steep up-hill section, passing about 10-15 people on the way.
When we got to the top we headed into a downhill section and soon came to a fork in the trail. At this point the girl just ahead of us yelled back and asked if this was the right way. We both double checked the arrow and agreed it was pointing that direction, so we all carried on following the trail markers through the forest. After about 15/20mins, just while Nat and I were chatting about how good we felt and how beautiful the course was, the girl in front of us (Alex) came running back saying we were going the wrong way. The first thing out of my mouth was “are you sure?” and she immediately apologized saying that she was from the area and should have known better. At first I don’t think it really hit me how far we had gone or what had actually happened, but once we started running back (and got turned around a few more times #cuethepanic), we realized we had lost about 40mins and ran an extra 4km.
Downhill from there (and oh so much upsness!)
When we got back on course I was still feeling positive and convinced we could get back on track to catch up with the group we’d been running with. Once we hit the first aid station at 12k, we saw a group of runners and I remember thinking “okay, now we’re just going to start catching up to people one after another”; but over the next hour or so we hardly saw anyone and Nat and I both got really quiet…not a good sign. I think thats when my positivity started to waiver.
When we neared the next aid station at 23k (it was partly an out and back course), we started to see the lead pack of runners heading back. As we left and continued on towards the 28’ish km turnaround point, runner after runner was heading back towards us, and my heart started to sink a little further. We eventually saw some runners we recognized from our pre-detour position and realized we were about an 1hr+ behind them and it was unlikely we were going to be able to catch up. I think this is about the time when I started to lose control over my mind. I started asking myself why I was doing this, what I was going to say to Nat about stopping, as well as to everyone else about why I quit; I was already writing my first DNF (did not finish) blog post in my mind…not a good thought process half-way through a race!
When we got to the next aid station, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. I was feeling defeated and frustrated with myself and I didn’t know if I could keep going. Nat cheered me up and told me she knew I could do it and that there was only 11k to the next aid station. She told me I needed to dig deep and carry on! So I got my sh&* together and convinced myself I could do 11k (I could only think about 1 chunk at a time), which I figured would take around 2 hours with all the climbing.
For the next 6’ish km I was feeling pretty good, but once the 2 hour mark hit and we still weren’t at the aid station, I started to feel myself crumbling again. With about 2k to go my mind went into an absolute melt-down and the only thing I could think of was wanting to call my husband for a pep talk. I needed someone that couldn’t see me and didn’t know how my day had gone to tell me I could do it. Thankfully he answered and told me exactly what I needed to hear which gave me the push to #keepcalmandcarryon; but Nat and I both knew at this point she had to go ahead. I couldn’t stand the thought of holding her back!
The next 2k to the aid station and 6k to the finish were pretty rough; I shed some more tears, road the struggle bus and yelled profanities into the forest…I wanted to be done soooooo bad! When I eventually saw the sign that said 250m to the finish I took off in full sprint repeating “f*&%k this sh*&” (possibly out loud), sorry for the language, but it was a really rough day. Nat was there with big hugs at the finish line along with the Fraser Street Run Club Crew, and Myke Labelle the race organizer, who was so amazing, he even gave us sweatshirts because he felt so bad we got lost #sonice! I can honestly say I’ve never been so excited to finish a race!!!!
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?!
In the days following the race, I’ve kept going back and forth over what happened out there in my mind. Yes we got lost and that was hard to come back from, but I think that was only a small component of it. One thing that I think contributed to my downfall is that I’ve never been externally motivated on a race before. It’s always been about ME, like completing the distance or beating my own time. I’ve never thought about how I’m actually going to do in the race. Yes I’m competitive, but to be honest in trail races I usually have no idea what my time “should be” or what place I’m in unless someone tells me or its an out and back course. I don’t think that I realized that that was such a big part of what was driving me until we couldn’t regain our position and my mind took a trip to negative town. I think I was so worried about whether or not I was physically prepared that I didn’t take the time to mentally prepare, and now I know that what they say is true the majority of distance running is mental!
With all that being said, I know that my mind and body need a break from long-distance races right now. I don’t know what’s next for me goal-wise but I do know I’ve learnt a lot about myself and racing in the last few months and I’m excited to [eventually] put those things into practice! But for now I’m going to take a well deserved (and needed) distance racing break.