“You do that too?!”
“I didn’t know anyone else did that!”
We sat across the table from one another excitedly and quickly letting each other into our usually guarded individual worlds. Our commonly misunderstood, misjudged, moderately obsessive, and singularly-focused worlds.
Finally. Someone who appreciated and made emotional and physical space for this other part of me. A part of me that has pushed people away and alienated others in the past. My running has been the only constant in my life, the one thing that I knew would always be there for me, that I could take with me anywhere, that no one could take away. And I found someone who not only thought that was admirable, he shared a similar connection with it.
For the past two years, Jared (J) and I have spent nearly every weekend exploring new and familiar trails, climbing up steep mountains and down into deep canyons, supporting one another through long runs and tough training blocks, or crewing and pacing one another at races. Having someone next to you to share the highs and work through the lows with: great.
Patience and Understanding
The weeks and months leading up to an endurance event are spent carefully preparing for, obsessively thinking about, and constantly talking about the event.
The weeks (and sometimes months) following an endurance event are spent recovering from, obsessively thinking about, and constantly talking about the event.
Having someone who has the patience and fortitude to listen to me rehash and relive every moment surrounding my most recent events over and over again, all while carrying me and all of my bags through a busy airport because of my post-race DOMS: good. He is someone who never complains about the multiple nights following a race during which his sleep is abruptly interrupted by painful cries due to muscle cramping.
My running shoe size, not my ring size. Having someone who knows your shoe size across all of your favorite brands, genuinely enjoys surprising you with a new pair, and knows exactly when your current pair is due to retire: SO good.
No Voice of Reason. Whatsoever.
J and I have gotten ourselves into more than one summit-at-night, rim-to-rim-to-rim on a whim, a-single-Snicker-bar-for-the-next-4-hours predicament. On more than one of these occasions, physical and mental fatigue and distress has lead one of us to blame the other for not moving quick enough, not sticking to the plan, or not doing their assigned job of accurately calculating calories for the trip. Which, on more than one occasion has escalated to heated discussions about how the other simply cannot do anything right, on or off the trail: bad. Although, later observation of GPX files indicated that the temporary, agitation-induced spike in epinephrine made a few negative splits possible: not bad.
The ABC’s of Vacations
Vacations and long weekends are planned around races: A-races, B-races, and C-races. All of our travel time is planned around either a long training adventure or crewing or running races. Sometimes, when we are out on multi-day adventures in beautiful places, I pause to observe the relatively clean, comfortable, day hikers as they leisurely move along the trail without packs, scraped up knees, headlamps, and free of visible misery. I watch couples relaxing in their hammocks along the trail whose only goal that day was to get into their hammock and relax. I wonder what that must be like as we shuffle by covered in dirt and sometimes blood, dehydrated and depleted, hours from our starting and ending destinations for the day.
Relaxing beach vacations simply don’t exist…and when you do happen to stumble across a beach at the end of your running vacation, that long, tan, legs-in-the-sand selfie just doesn’t quite have the same effect.
“If you want to run faster, just go.”
“This pace is fine, I wasn’t trying to get a workout in anyway.”
Sometimes, our energy and motivation are in sync. Sometimes, we run alongside one another for hours and it feels completely natural and effortless. Most of the time, this is not the case, as this is not sustainably realistic. Most of the time, one of us is unintentionally (ok, sometimes intentionally) half-stepping (at least) the other: ugly. I have been both the culprit and victim of this antagonizing act; as the victim, on the days when my legs feel heavy and my mind feels tired, it feels like a blunt, callous reminder of inferiority.
Given the central role of running in both our individual and shared lives, it goes without saying that prolonged periods of injury have the potential to add stress and interrupt our flow. With excessive amounts of physical and emotional energy and limited means to expend them, the injured watches the uninjured log their “Morning Run: Legs are Feeling Great” runs on Strava, wear out their running shoes, plan long weekend runs, and recklessly consume everything in sight. While happy for the uninjured, the injured has been known to have the occasional emotional meltdown: ugly.
Our relationship very much resembles an ultra-marathon: the terrain is variable and challenging, the weather is unpredictable, and great, good, bad, and ugly forces push us to continuously adapt and grow.