When Being Smart About Knowing Your Athletic Limits (And Playing It Safe) Kinda Sucks
A few months ago, Peter and I did a fast hike of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Kilarney Provincial Park, in hopes that later in the summer, I’d be able to run it and make an attempt at the fastest known women’s time. Our total hiking time of around 22 hours while carrying full packs made it seem super do-able. We set one date, then another, then another. Things came up: the realization that travel to and from Nationals was taking longer than we had planned, the chance to race the 50km mountain run in Killington, the opportunity to go to Reno CX to announce and then to Trek World Cup to report… One thing after another kept pushing the date back.
When I came home from the 50km, I was feeling good, but Peter needed a couple more weeks of run build-up, and when we stepped back and took an honest look at how I was feeling, I wasn’t as fresh as I wanted to be. I didn’t have the right run pack sorted out, Peter didn’t have one at all. MEC didn’t have any running vests in stock. We didn’t have a perfect plan about food. So we shifted the date to early October.
I came home from RenoCX and Trek World Cup the same way I always do when a week of travel is compounded by weird weather shifts and an overnight in an airport — I was getting sick, and my mileage had dropped lower than I had anticipated while I was on the road. Peter had been running, but now his hips were acting up.
80 kilometers and a ton of technical terrain and climbing was starting to seem harder and harder — and the weather turned chillier, rain poured in Ontario, and it started getting dark wicked early. All of these things were things we knew were possibilities, but somehow, I had managed to put out of my head during long, warm days of summer when doing 18 mile runs felt chill.
And so, we made the call — this isn’t our time.
I felt a huge amount of guilt — I had been putting it out there, talking about my goal, getting really stoked. My legs were functioning, I wasn’t that sick. But I also wasn’t the only one in this. From a safety standpoint, I wanted Peter on the trail behind me, and I’m just not comfortable going it totally alone. It was a mutual decision to wait until spring to make my attempt, and I know in my heart and head that it’s the right one. But it’s so damn hard to put a plan like this on hold.
It does, however, give me even more impetus to plan for next year with a serious focus on ultra distance and mountain run races… Especially if you consider that until this summer, I hadn’t done any kind of ultra, so this was all a brave new world. Right now, that means while the weather is decent, keeping mileage as high as possible and hitting the mountain whenever I can. It also means getting back into the gym and focusing on strength training — I have a sneaking suspicion based on my last week of gym sessions + mountain + a run yesterday that was ‘as long as I felt like going’ that ended up being a solid 2.5 hours on trails with zero tiredness later or soreness today that this is A Good Plan. But still, it’s frustrating. I’ve never been one to DNS a race, and that’s what this feels like… But I’m reminding myself that that’s what a pro athlete would do when faced with obstacles that would make saying ‘let’s try this anyway’ a risky, potentially season-screwing option.
Let me know in the comments or on social—ever have a moment like this?