There’s a funny thing no one tells you about failure. It is the unsung hero of teaching you what you didn’t think you needed to learn. Sitting in a camp chair at Ollalie Meadows, whipping tears and trying to avoid eye contact with other runners coming through, I tried to graciously accept both my fate and delicious pierogies from Scott McCoubrey. It was hard to process a lot of what had happened in the last three hours. I had felt relaxed and strong coming through each of the aid stations, and despite being almost 50 miles into the race, my energy level hadn’t flagged yet. The prospect of not pushing through it hurt almost as much as the hotspots that had seemingly instantaneously erupted on my heels just a few hours before and turned my gait into a caricature of human motion. Deep in the infamous pain cave, my type-A brain screaming at me that at least we could do the respectable thing and get to Hyak, every time I shuffled my feet I was reminded of where it hurt. Four days later, it’s oddly comforting that things still hurt- it partially validates my choice to drop. I planned obsessively for the race and prepared myself not just physically but mentally for embracing the suck. It was in the script that at some point it would hurt and I would have to push through the lows to get to the greener pastures on the other side. Being so hobbled by blisters and biomechanical failures by the halfway point that I could barely navigate the technical terrain was not in the script.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Woody Allen
Everything up to mile 38 flew by faster than I could have ever imagined. I spent miles running with familiar faces and getting acquainted with new ones . This is one of my favorite part of trail races- you meet someone, you share a few miles and in those moments you get a candid glimpse into their soul. Usually one or the other of you pulls ahead at an aid station and then maybe you find each other again, maybe you don’t. Each aid station was huge boost in morale, especially when I got to Tacoma Pass and I got to see my crew for the first time and my furball, who was predictably concerned about my sudden disappearance from the Easton Fire Station. Many people describe Sibes as humans in dog’s clothing, and after getting emphatically lectured on how very not okay it was that I ran off, it’s hard to not agree. Addy is among the most human-focused and perceptive dogs I’ve ever known, and she was all business as she navigated the orange ribbons from Tacoma Pass to Stampede Pass. When my crew picked me up from the aid station at Ollalie Meadows, she repeatedly checked to make sure I didn’t disappear again, a humorous process that involved her switching from leading the group to looping around to the back to stand in front of me. When she had reassured herself that I was indeed coming too, she would take the lead again- a cycle so like a doting mother that it was impossible not to laugh at it and start to feel human again.
It’s a disappointment and to some, a failure, but it doesn’t feel that way. Perhaps it’s because the rest of my running this year has been so good. I’ve run more miles than I ever felt was possible and have managed to avoid any major injury setbacks that kept me off running for more than a few days. I have no doubt that I will try another 100 miler and have spent the last few days making Yes/No Decision charts for several. Did I really need to see that Run Rabbit Run has cleared their waitlist? How wise is it to dive immediately into another 100 miler? How realistic is it to plan a trip to Colorado on the fly? Maybe the elevation will help slow my ass down and keep me from going out to fast? Why does this line of thinking seem like a slippery slope…and a profoundly silly idea?! Wait, what about Orcas?! Ooo… I have no doubt that I will have another go at Cascade Crest, despite spending a hot second at Ollalie Meadows never wanting to run that first 50 miles again. Some day I’ll find that wooden token from Blowout Mountain in my Salomon pack and the hunger will reawaken. When that day comes I don’t doubt this experience will prove a great boon.
There’s a disconnect between feeling fine energetically and feeling trashed from the knees down, and after targeting 50 miles a week for the entirety of 2018, losing that regular schedule of training is disorienting. The hell do you mean I’m not doing a long run on Saturday? How about 10-12 on the road and keep the hills to a minimum- it’ll be easy peasy! Then let’s find some hapless marathon or 50K to tear into… That urge to swing for fences is strong. Maybe dust off some of those old road goals you have… Funnily enough, I do have something else on my calendar coming up. A particular race that I have “unfinished business” with, and considering that my favorite 50K is sold out and I have a whole extra five minutes to BQ, that pull is strong to go out and try to find a little bit of redemption on the road is strong. No script and no expectations this time though. Just a girl and her running shoes, and maybe a bit of an axe to grind.