This past Sunday morning I was standing at the finish line of the Sinister 7 Ultramarathon waiting for the last of my participating friends to finish the 100 mile slog through the thirty-hour mountain race.
I had opted to crew, not run. Granted, an important job, but one designed to help someone else run the race. Driving from station to station, lugging water and food and spare shoes in plastic buckets with a hand truck, I'd seen hundreds of ultramarathoners challenge the insane course ... from the comfort of my lawnchair.
To be fair, even if I'd wanted to run I probably could not have managed much of a sincere effort anyhow.
I've slowed in the last few months. I've got a knee that's been bugging me for weeks that would have sidelined me even if I was otherwise race ready. And worst of all, I seem to be struggling to expel the last of the COVID from my lungs even six weeks after peak infection. I had tapped out three klicks into a ten klick neighbourhood run just about ten days ago, coughing and hacking and trying not to simultaneously pass out on the side of the road and scare all my friends into thinking I was spraying virus into the air. (I don't think I was.)
It's a tough place to be, knowing that I should be able to do these things and also knowing that the reasons why are partly beyond my control by then too, something that I could overcome with a bit of grit.
But grit is sometimes hard to come by, and even tougher to keep hold of. It takes something that I can't put my finger on, a kind of single-minded insanity of pushing fearlessly towards a goal that is little more than a moment in time and a state of being.
A couple weeks into summer, a few days after spectating and crewing a world class ultramarathon in the mountains, I see a bit of that grit poking out of the ether and daring me to grab hold of it before it vanishes again. And so I've tried to do so. I've pinched a bit of it at the tips of my fingers and I'm pulling at it, trying to pry it loose and get a better grasp of it all.
What that means in non-metaphoric language is that I've done three (plus one) things.
One, I'm updating my gear. I'm in the market for a fresh set of shoes. I bought a new run watch yesterday to replace my (still good but waning battery) old one. And I'm figuring out what else I need to carry me through a new training plan. Technology and kit are not vital, but they are motivators for me and will get me out the door.
Two, later today I'm going to buy a rec pass. In the months before COVID struck and shut everything down I had bought myself an annual membership to the local municipal recreation and fitness center. Three months into that pass, I never went back because everything slammed shut. I'm going there later to reactivate my membership and start swimming and cross-training on the regular.
Three, I've decided to think differently about races for a while. This is a two part "thing" in that (first) I'm swearing off racing (at least planned racing) for the rest of the calendar year. No more signing up for such and such in 2022. If something happens to pop up and I get a free bib or an undeniable invite, sure I may race, but (second) I'm going to focus my training on rebuilding not on goal times and distances for a race for a while.
And "plus one" I've done this. THIS. I started a new category on this website to write about it, record it, and (assuming more than a few people are reading it) have a bit of public accountability. Keeping track, measuring goals, and thinking them out in words and numbers are something I've always done, and I don't think success will come without it again.
That's the first bit of my recovery and rebuild plan, my first tenuous grip on the elusive grit. It will grow and expand and change and adapt. Certainly. But for now it is enough to start me back towards something ... at least something that isn't watching the running from a lawnchair.
An introduction back to swimming this week:
- renew swim pass.
- swim 40 lengths (1.0km) before Sunday.
- evaluate nutrition plan.
- rest knee.