Oil Creek. It all seems to start and end with Oil Creek. This year, I ran the 50k. As always, the trail was rugged, I had a blast hanging out with friends. I got to pace two runners to their first 100-miler finish. I could have done without the bear encounter, but I digress.
Finishing the 50k felt empty. I needed it to collect all four buckles, but I crossed the line with more in the tank, and sort of a “now what?” type of feeling.
My personal tradition is to take a break after Oil Creek. No running. Nothing. Nada. Normally, I enjoy the first few days, and then I get the itch again.
This year was bad. I didn’t feel like I earned the break. There is a lull in the racing calendar from Oil Creek until the Beast in January. There is nothing locally, if I wanted to run, I’d have to travel. And, here I was with a travel certificate just I was just itching to use.
It finally dawned on me why I was so desperate for a race. This past summer, I was in a position that not racing anymore was an option. I finished up a race in Chicago, firmly believing that I had crossed my last finish line. I was not okay with it, but it seemed like what needed to happen to regain balance in my life. I was able to work through the obstacles in front of me, but I was still unsure what my future-racing schedule would look like. I felt unsettled.
Stone Mill 50-miler was a game changer. I was pouring through races with Mark, he wanted me to run a marathon. The idea had merit, but I wanted more. I needed trail. I needed longer than 50k. I needed to be challenged. I found all I wanted.
Stone Mill 50 is not to be underestimated. It’s full of quad-crushing rollers, mud and a gazillion roots covered by leaves. Top it off with a low $45 entry fee, and I was sold. It’s like the trail was flirting with me.
It was probably about 20 miles in, that I realized something. I was happy! Mother Nature was doing her thing. I was dirty. I was working my butt off. I saw animals mauled by what I’m going to assume was a rabid chipmunk (PLEASE do not offer another option). But, I was singing (loudly). I was smiling. I was happy, really, really happy. Nothing replaces that feeling of digging down, and realizing something is there. I felt blessed to be able to do what I love and to love what I do.
I’m a trail runner. I know this sport is not for everyone. Lord knows I had no idea it would be for me. I get to enjoy the spectacular beauty of nature. I get to challenge myself to run faster and further than I have gone before, or slow it way down and take it all in. I run on my own power but NOTHING beats getting a text asking how I’m doing. Every ounce of me is exuberant when I cross the finish line, not for what I had done, but for knowing I want to do it again.
Often in a race, there are challenges that make me want to stop. I might be cold, hungry, exhausted, hurting or ill. Time and time again, I must find a way to work through it. I repeat to myself during these trials, “this will pass”. I must learn to integrate this strategy in my non-running life.
Rather than disrupting the balance in my life, running gives me a center. I am a trail runner. I’m not done. Not by a long shot
Oh, and that travel voucher. Yeah, I took care of that..stay tuned.