I came back from South Africa inspired and excited. I started plotting ways to return to Cape Town because I miss my friends, the trails and life down there. I started signing up for races for next year that I am excited and passionate about. I haven't felt this invigorated by my racing in a long time.
I came back from South Africa with a drastically different outlook on the way forward too. After being thwarted by high humidity (80%!!) in my OTQ attempt at Cape Town marathon, I was as frustrated as ever with the pursuit of the qualifier time. I have been frustrated for a while but mainly because my life for the last few years has been in no way conducive to running my fastest. Yes, my training this year has been much better but I was constantly working against that with terribly long hours on the night shift, taxing my body and mind in ways that no amount of good training can overcome. I didn't have the luxury of a desk job or a part time job or no job; I am down an dirty doing physical labor on the hardest shift imaginable that messes up even a non-runner. But I didn't accept this. I simply thought I could will my way past it. I can only now begin to understand the toll, as I have "retired" from the night shift and my body is starting to slowly recover, demanding 10-11 hours of sleep a night. I know it will take a long time to undo the damage, especially since I continue to tax my body with hard training.
The reality is, I have not really truly raced an A race since 2012 marathon or ultra or otherwise. It simply has not been possible. And so my numerous marathons over the past two and a half years have instead of filling me with joy and pride for the accomplishments, have compounded over time to just frustrate me. The arbitrary time goal frustrates me. I have run faster than 2:43 numerous times and so the goal of simply running sub 2:43 is not a deep and passionate one. And I failed to see it.
I was only able to remember what it is like to feel passionate about a goal race after running Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km. While UTCT was not an A race for me simply on the fact of my training not being specific for it, it unlocked an excitement and reinvigoration for my ultra goals. I never intended to pursue the OTQ and put aside my ultra dreams, but life/work and circumstances (like injuries and coaching changes) has made my year shape up differently than I had planned. But after finishing UTCT 100km, I have an undeniable thirst for adventure. I went so deep into the darkness during that race and found my way out that I am inspired and eager to continue to explore my limits. I need a break from the clock and again need to just stand on the start line and say, "can I even make it to the finish line?". That is what is making me excited right now. I want to take on things that people say I can't do, I want to take on things that people say aren't my style. I want to seek and explore my running in the way I use to; without bounds or limits. I want to continue to be as multidimensional and non-event specific as I ever have been. I want to run cross country, do obstacle course and tackle 100 milers. I want to run fast on the road and learn how to blast up hill over technical terrain. I came home excited and thirsty for new adventures and I knew that my race schedule for the fall would change. Yes, I still want to be at the next Olympic Marathon Trials, but not at the cost of putting off what is truly making me passionate now. I have been to the Trials, it was awesome, that is why I want to go back, not because I have a snowballs chance in hell of making the team. It is an honor to be there and it pushed me to my best. But I've been there and I represented as the first ultra/trail/mtn runner. If I don't make it I will be sad, but I will in fact have more opportunities. And I don't want to deny the rest of my runner self for that race any more.
I buzzed for days after UTCT. For being so hard, I found it to be an interesting side effect that I wanted to seek out challenges that could be as difficult or even more difficult. So I scrapped my fall plans and cleared the deck. On one of my very first wobbly legged runs after returning home, I was struck with an idea. I "raced" home and emailed my coach, Ian Torrence, with my idea. He was enthusiastically on board and I started to make plans. Things just clicked in my head and I knew what I wanted. I wanted to run 100 miles and I wanted to do it now. And with that, I signed up for Javelina Jundred on Oct 31st. It is my first 100 miler start since 2010 and hopefully will be first 100 mile finish since 2008. Am I ready? Yes. Am I scared? F-yeah! 100 miles is a long way. Doesn't matter how "hard" or "easy" a course is. It is a long long way. But I am ready because I am ready to embrace whatever the day has for me. I am ready because I am passionate about exploring my limits and seeing what I can do. I am excited to be out there. I have no goals other than getting to the finish line. I am just looking forward to being the runner that I want to be.