This family handles stress in drastically different ways. Mark micromanages and cleans. Natalie snarks and cries. Noah gets mean. My stress hits me in my sleep.
I know as soon as my head hits the pillow, if it is going to be a restless night.
There is a point in an ultra-marathon, where you totally lose it. It is usually in the middle of the night, but can and does happen in broad daylight (i.e. the last four miles of the Beast). You are sleep-deprived, physically exhausted, cold, hungry, and incoherent. You are more than likely hallucinating. Roger tells me this is when you should just let go---cry, swear, yell, sing, punch a snow bank--do what ever it takes to get through it. It will pass, even if you can’t see how. It is a very dark and lonely place, where for me, my thoughts turn inward, and I give myself a good emotional beating for all of my shortcomings. I do NOT like to be running with anyone when it hits me, but I have both been with and watched others go through this. It is not pretty, but it does solidify a friendship and actually makes for some great stories the next day!
This is the dark place I go to when I run in my sleep.
It normally starts as an innocent trail run. The sun is shining; my spirits are high; I am happy to be alive. Then something changes. I stub a toe---stumble---fall. I have to fight to get back up, to get going again, and when I do, I face my demons head on. Mark tells me that my legs are really moving at this point. I’m in full sprint mode.
I usually wake from such encounters breathless, restless, and alone, as Mark has long since retreated to the guest room. The best thing for me to do is grab my Brooks and head out the door for an actual run. It is then that I can really process what is bothering me. It helps.
Once my feet hit the pavement, my mood is light again. The world is empty and is mine to explore. I run hard, fast, strong. I don’t try to think about what is bothering me, but rather let the thoughts pass at will. This way, I am able to process my concerns and put them in perspective, rather than trying to control them. I let my demons come to me, rather than trying to chase them down. They are easier to slay that way.
When I return home, sometimes I’m lucky enough to return to a blissful sleep. Other times, I am forced to jump back into my silly little life. Regardless, I always feel better equipped to tackle the concerns placed at my feet. I am stronger---focused---centered. I know my problems will pass, even if I don't see how.
Running makes me feel powerful. Running in my sleep forces me to run towards what is perplexing me vs. running away.
It’s how I run through it.