Some people battle with injuries, I have mental breakdowns. Or maybe more like mental blocks as they are not to the point of zero function but to the point in which it does limit my ability to function to my normal capacity. And to simplify,I usually go hard in life, push past many stressors until at some random point I crash.
For me these stressed induced breakdowns started after I lived in the ‘fight or flight’ response for 2.25 years brought on by a large shift in the sustainability of my small business at the time which was a small town coffee shop. It happened to be the time of the recession but had more to do with my original landlord and my lease to rent his space.
When this period of life ended, I couldn’t not form sentences without words popping into them that did not belong. Truly, words would pop out of my mouth that made no sense. My mind was fried.
From that time on I have been very sensitive to stress, mostly in the way that it makes me very tired and very detached.
I have DNFed in 4 races in my life. In 2010 at Barr Trail when I was overworked and hadn’t had a day off in much too long. 2014 TNFEC 50miler when I was physically no longer able to run due to a physical manifestation of stress. Zermatt Ultraks in 2015, when I was traveling for races a lot and gone from home almost all of the summer/home sick. And this day……………..Tromso Skyrace, perhaps another version of homesickness.
This was the race I was most excited about for the 2017 season because of the course that summited an amazing peak via an incredible ridgeline and the Series it was apart of and because it was Norway/Scandinavia a place I had not traveled to before.
I arrived early in the week because I had come from a race in Spain the weekend before (that race was bad too) and for the first time all summer I had a peaceful rest in an airbnb that made my life seem like the home I used to know for the 3 days I was there. I was psyched on Norway and its fun wilderness running potential, I felt comfortable in my temporary house, my fitness felt good and I was really looking forward to the race.
After a bunch of messing around (there is NO FREE PARKING in Tromso to the tone of $30/day) I settle into my hotel room and my heart had this really odd palpation. Later in the night, a bad pain in my solar plexus slowly traveled down into my stomach and dissipated. After dinner, I was ready for bed and as my head hits my pillow, this huge amount of dread about running the next day hit me out of the blue. Separately, after that I am up for hours tossing and turning. Life things start rattling in my head and sleep did come, but not before me thinking that I really hoped I would sleep through my alarm the next day.
I woke up a minute before my alarm, and hopped out of bed. If we didn’t race every time we dreaded it the night before, 1/2 the runners wouldn’t show up.
Short sleeve or long sleeve. I chose long sleeve because this race was more of an adventure run than a sprint.
I started off slow, slower than the lead pack and I had no desire to be up there with them as it was going to be a long day and I didn’t want to burn through my energy before the big, rad 2nd summit. That was what this race was all about to me.
But as the race continued I just lost touch. My body felt fine, I still felt comfortable in my position in the race, it was fun terrain, the day was young. I just wasn’t engaged……with the one race I really really wanted to do all year.
All of the sudden my Dad who has had cancer for 5 years popped into my head accompanied by a burst of tears. I cried then I stopped crying all the while continuing to run. I shook it off, but I was drained: travel, a recent move, lifestyle transitions, my dad, it was all too much for me that day. I knew the 2nd peak was a long ways out and it was a long ways back after that. Also, the 2nd peak was technical, something you need to have full awareness for.
I knew I was going to mess up my whole season by not finishing the race. But everything was telling me to stop.
I have had countless days making decisions in the mountains and when I feel like I did this day I turn around. This race was not a race that was on single-track through mountain villages where you could just stop and walk to town. It was far out, with slow moving, technical terrain, on a mountain top with loose rock and vertical drop-offs plus you are already fatigued from running many miles to get there. You need to be present, strong and stable. I felt none of these things that day.
There is a fine line to pushing ourselves. Most of the time it is healthy, sometimes we are lucky, sometimes we regret it, sometimes its not worth it.