Monday, April 5, 2010

Reflections & The Shadow

It is inevitable.

Race week is the hardest of all weeks. The mind and body starts playing tricks on you. All insecurities come to the forefront. If you are not busy, you will go crazy.

I try to use this week to reflect.

I first thank the Lord that I have been blessed with the ability to show up and do something. The event is worth it, even if one does not run. If you want to get a taste of what this is all about, just show up and hang out. You will enjoy it, I promise.

I think back to my first marathon (1991-Chicago). I was TERRIFIED. I was not afraid of the race as much as I was afraid of what would happen to my body when I pushed it to the max. Not pushing it to the max never factored into the equation.

I think back to first joining the Minnesota Dead Runners Society email group. I remember seeing a post by Julie Berg looking for people to get together to talk about running ultras. I thought they were completely nuts, yet something sucked me into to those posts and race reports.

I think back to my first Ultra, Superior 50K. I will never forget Pat Susnik saying "keep it slow... trust me". I kept wanting to run ahead. At the turn around, he took out the shovel and buried me. When I passed the 3 1/2 hour mark in that race, I feared the unknown. I had never run for that long of time.

I think back to my first Ice Age 50M, my first 50 Mile. Mile 32 I crashed and burned, leaving only my teeth as a method to identify my remains. I actually contemplated walking off one of those ridges between "Margaritaville" and Horseriders. That pain would surely not be as bad as what I was experiencing. I got my stuff back together, and managed to have a good final 10 miles. Wow, you can recover in these.

I remember my first hundred..... attempt. Kettle 2008. That word and date says it all. Enough about that (DNF).

My first hundred finish came at Superior Sawtooth that same year. I spent almost 2 months dreading a repeat of Kettle. Fear had taken back control of my body. That day (2 days) are ones I will never forget, and wish to never live again. I was willing to finish at almost any cost. And I almost got to "any". The bees had their fun, my knee went out, and I hit a dark abyss. Physically, I was still there, but The Crosby Manitou Gorge changed me. It was that experience that taught me these races are about something else. I am not sure I can articulate it, but the other runners out there know exactly what I mean.

I will never forget returning to Kettle Moraine 2009 to seek revenge. Revenge IS best served cold, and in this case it was sweet. When I am feeling down, I go back and read that race report. As arrogant as that sounds, I wrote that report for that reason. As a reminder of things gone right. For those new to reading this, it can be found in the June 2009 archive.

And as quickly as you are on top of the world, the slide goes quickly down. And the bottom of the slide dumped me out at the entrance to the Crosby Manitou Gorge at the 2009 Superior Sawtooth 100. There was NO WAY IN HELL I was going to go into that darkness (in case you didn't know, that was around 2 am). Another DNF.

This DNF came with a new stride. I was trying to race instead of finish. Sometimes you pay the price. That one cost $150 plus expenses, and a pissed off crew.

The DNF not only builds character, it reveals it. What you do with it shows who you are.

So now I embark on another one of these adventures. I don't fear the race. I fear my shadow, the guy who lurks behind you but is always out of sight. He creeps into your head and messes with you. He rarely gets any play, and rarely gets heard. But when the chip stack starts to dwindle, the day turns to night, and the mind turns to mush, the shadow gets comes out and stares you in the face. He knows all of my insecurities, secrets, and ways to shut me down. He is a mean SOB, and he does it with a smile on his face.

And now matter how well you perform, he does not go away. He is someone I just have to deal with.

He is the one I am racing against.

And I have a score to settle

13 comments:

Julie said...

Hi Matt,
What a great post!! You have been in so many challenging races...I am impressed:) Chicago marathon just might be my first marathon too. If there is still a spot for me I might run Chicago for charity.

Matt, you are attempting a race that many just dream about running in! You have trained for this and are ready:) You ultra dudes are super studs!! I have a feeling that you are going to rock this one. Just keep a positive attitude and enjoy it!! I will be cheering for you!!! Go Matt!! When is your race?

Helen said...

What a great post indeed! You write so well when explaining the good, the bad and the ugly that us the nature of ultrarunning.

Good luck staying sane for the week.

Julie - the race starts at 8AM Friday morning... If I have cell coverage I'll post some updates on my blog - though I'll only be there for about the first half of the race... and it's only after that point that things start to get interesting :)

Helen said...

What a great post indeed! You write so well when explaining the good, the bad and the ugly that us the nature of ultrarunning.

Good luck staying sane for the week.

Julie - the race starts at 8AM Friday morning... If I have cell coverage I'll post some updates on my blog - though I'll only be there for about the first half of the race... and it's only after that point that things start to get interesting :)

Steve said...

Great, great post, Matt. It concisely sums up what ultramarathoning is all about - facing fears and rising to the challenge. I'll be part of the crew at aid station 1, so I'll be seeing ya twice each loop and, of course, yelling encouragement while serving up food and drink. Looking forward to the whole sha-bang on Friday!

Mike said...

I concur, great post, good luck.

Scott said...

"mind and body starts playing tricks on you. All insecurities come to the forefront." Oh, man this is so true for me! My legs have taken on a dull ache starting last week; I seriously think its bottled up nervous energy. I go from excitement to being freaked out during the day. Friday 8am can't come soon enough.

RichardC said...

Great Post!

And best of luck with You vs You when it is a struggle.

Psyche said...

Hi, Matt
Great post. You really capture the pre-race experience well here. I'm 3 weeks out and already going through it:)

Distance running is ultimately about self discovery and pushing past self-imposed limits, so naturally when you're gearing up to make a big push to grow (race), you're gonna stir things up.

You're handling it really, really well. I know you'll stay busy and positive over the next couple of days, and the best version of yourself will show up to race on Friday.

Thanks for the reminding me that when you're really up against it, words like abyss and character are more meaningful than "PR". I can't wait to read about your experience! Best of luck to you.

SteveQ said...

I always find phantom aches and pains when tapering; the brain just plays tricks that way. If you see me there in the night, it's not a hallucination - unless your kids and Santa show up as well (I still remember that your Superior visions were happier than mine!)

Todd said...

Great Post Matt. Have a great race and happy birthday too. It's always an adventure to enter those dark recesses of one's mind as we stretch ourselves to the limit.

brothergrub said...

Funny that is the one shadow you CAN see at night...Still chasing my shadow since Rocky Raccoon 100 (or 89, more accurately...).

Adam Culp (Crazy Floridian) said...

Nice to meet you Matt. Great write-up. I only have one 50 mile ultra under my belt (and a couple marathons), and know what you are saying all too well. I am off to read your 2009 Kettle revenge.

Anonymous said...

Great post Matt - You just made wish I were running it too. Good luck!

Sean