I've got this sweatshirt. I wear it when I'm building...when I'm studying...when I need to get something done...when I lump out...and, sometimes, as much as it is protested against: to sleep. I've cut off the hoodie. The sleeves are too long. It's stained. It's too big for me. Those I live with roll their eyes when they see it. Noah calls it my "get sh... stuff (edited) done" shirt. I've tried to donate it a 100 times, but I rescue it, every time.
It's from Oil Creek, and not from a race I finished. But, it's from a race I struggled with. That shirt and I...we've got history. That shirt reminds me that I know how to get up when I’ve been knocked down.
As I sit, reflecting on my running year, I know there are less buckles than I had planned on receiving. I lost fights with gravity, earned a medical time-out, messed up my wrist; collected a bunch of bruises, both inside and outside, and added a couple DNF’s. I also ran my second fastest 100, ran my second furthest distance (and, I’m not done upping that), hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail, came back and kicked the butt of a race that had kicked mine, and learned a heck of a lot about myself. And, challenged myself every step of the way, regardless of my finish status.
I am thankful for those pitfalls, as well as the milestones. Had those races gone as planned, all I would have to show for them is a few more buckles, and the misinformed notion that the only finish line is the one at the end of the race. I may go into a race wanting one thing, but the magic is coming out learning something entirely different.
I know that the growth is in the struggle, and the struggle has kept me showing up, and giving all that I have to a sport that I love. I never want to take my accomplishments for granted. I like to feel like I am applying for the job, with just that much more valuable experience, each time I show up at the starting line. I’ve earned that experience by having goals that sometimes take me several attempts to reach.
It is a change of perspective. I am not in control of the trajectory of each race. I am emotional at each start, because I know that I will face uncertainty, exhaustion, and whatever Mother Nature dreams up to throw at me. I do not win them all, but I give each one a hell of a fight. I love that this sport has taught me that when there is adversity, sometimes my only course of action is to just take a step…. to just start (again)…to keep moving. It’s become a bit of a mantra….”Just start, Eva…just start.”
When I was sitting in a lean-to on the Appalachian trial. I was flipping through a notebook kept to record the musings of those passing through. One entry stuck with me, “When you start talking about quitting, you’ll find a reason to quit”. I can honestly say, I did not quit on any race this year. There were some that bested me. Last weekend, I fell more times than I can count. I learned that should I find a mishap on a trail, that my last word would most likely cause my mom to wash out my mouth with soap. But, I also learned, that I got up, dusted myself off, and started again. Each attempt hurt more than the last, but I kept going, until it was truly unwise to go any further. I’ll have another opportunity to grab a buckle, but I will never get to learn that lesson, at that moment again. I am grateful for unexpected opportunities to learn and to grow from unexpected experiences.
So, here I sit. Getting ready to pack for my last race of the year. I have set my basic, target and advanced goals. I don’t know which, if any, I’ll hit. But, I do know, I will give it all I’ve got. I am ready both mentally and physically, and have just one lingering question: Has anyone seen my sweatshirt?