Fears, demons, whatever you call them, we all have them; the things that scare the crap out of us. They hold us back, keeping us from reaching goals, aspirations, or our best self. Last weekend I was signed up to run a local 50k trail race. It was a bit of a last minute decision, but my training was there to support it. I signed up for this race because it’s put on by a great group, and I really just needed the break from road racing. I wanted to run this 50k for fun, not worrying about my finish time, and to enjoy running with others again. I wanted to strike up conversations with strangers and not be worried that it was slowing me down. I wanted to stop and take pictures and enjoy the beauty of the trails.
The race was at Lake Cunningham in Nebraska. It consisted of three, 10’ish mile loops. My husband saw me off at the start line and told me he would be back to see me finish. Off I went, into my first loop. My body felt good and I was enjoying the run. It was a nice slow start which was great for pacing. I crossed paths with a few friends and chatted for a little while. It was great seeing them! As I came in from my first loop I grabbed my drop bag and swapped out my water bottle. I hadn’t finished the one I was carrying, but figured I would need more fluid my second loop so I wanted to start with a full bottle. I ate two of the energy balls provided by at the aid station and set out on my second loop.
Still feeling pretty good at this point, I remember hitting mile 15 thinking I was on top of the world. I had a spring in my step and mentally I was where I needed to be. Then somewhere around mile 17 or so, I started to fade. And I was fading fast. I started to notice my feet shuffling and the mental clarity I had earlier, was not there. My thoughts were negative and mumbled. To save from falling I started walking more than I was running. I tried drinking more water and taking in a gel. I managed to pull myself together to finish the send loop getting me to 21 miles. I saw my husband standing there with my drop bag ready to help me get whatever I needed to be ready for my third loop. I looked at him and told him that I didn’t think I could do it. I knew that I could go more, but I was worried about the length of the loop and getting out half way and having to walk the rest. My feet were hurting and I was feeling a lack of nourishment. I knew at this point I had significantly under-fueled early in the race. My husband told me he would support my decision either way, whatever I needed at that point. I looked at him and said I’m done. I told the race timer that I was dropping down to the 21 mile distance.
When I made the decision I was 100% okay with what I had decided. But then through the day and the next few days I took a really good look at what happened that day. A few things stood out to me.
- I significantly under-fueled.
- I let my fear win.
Knowing that I am capable of completing the distance, I had decided that I would try it again the following weekend. I spent the rest of the week analyzing my fueling during the race and comparing it to recommended fueling strategies. I made the commitment to myself that no matter how long it took me, I would complete the distance. I was ready to conquer and overcome the fear that I had let get the best of me.
With a fresh perspective and well thought out plan of nutrition, I headed out on my run. I ran the first loop by myself. I had my headphones in and just cruised along. I came in from the first loop to meet up with a few ladies that agreed to run a loop with me. I grabbed my second water bottle, some energy balls and a bite of orange, and we headed out for the next loop. It was great having company to run with. We did walk up the hills, but for the most part, we kept a pretty steady pace. We finished up our loop and said our goodbyes.
I filled up my water bottle again and restocked my pockets with more energy bites. I took a few minutes to just hang around and enjoy the day before I headed out for my third loop. This time there were no doubts or contemplations; I was prepared to take on that last loop. Other than my feet hurting a little, I felt good. I knew this was a sign that I had been fueling properly this time. My approach for the final loop was slow and easy. And that’s exactly what I did. I walked when I needed to. I stopped and looked around at the lake and surroundings when I wanted to, and I ran when I could. Surprisingly, I ran more than I thought I would be able to.
I came through the trees finishing my final mile, ahhh- what a feeling! I had completed 31.25 miles, my longest run to date!! I felt like I could have kept going, too. I stood there and just soaked in the feeling of my accomplishment. I had done it. I faced the demon that had won last week. And that my friends, is bigger than the number of miles I had traversed.
Fears, demons, whatever you call them, we all have them. Make today amazing and face your fears; don’t let them hold you back. There’s so much joy on the other side waiting for you.
What fears have you faced recently?