The TNF Endurance Challenge is just 3 weeks away! I'm registered to run the 50K, and although it's been on my brain a lot, a busy work travel schedule has left my training efforts with something to be desired... until now! From the minute I returned home from my latest trip last week, I've been in focused training mode, completing 6 miles each day, and even a few CrossFit classes. I'm back and feeling strong!
This Saturday, I took my long run to the scene of the big event, picking up the Potomac Heritage Trail from Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling, Virginia. Just 15 miles from my home, I'm ashamed to say I'd never visited previously. The place is beautiful!
My intention was to run around 20 miles of the 50K race course. Fortunately, the Potomac Heritage Trail (trail map) is marked clearly and frequently with turquoise-blue flashes; unfortunately, my trail navigation skills are still at novice level, and I lost the trail around Seneca Park at mile 7, connecting with the Seneca Connector and Bridle Trails instead. In the end, I ran 18.6 miles, content to finish just as a steady cold downpour was gaining strength. I'll be back next week for another go, then again on April 9 for the TNF Endurance Challenge 50K!
"I don't know your name, but you kick ass!" My eyes opened just long enough to realize the words were directed at me, and I returned the spin instructor's smile before giving myself back over to the pulsing music in the dark, blacklit studio, legs pumping in a climb, energy flooding my core.
I'd been in kind of a funk before this. A weeks-long funk I'd like to think all runners - all humans, really - experience from time to time, when work is hectic, winter is long, and obligations are many.
I did what many people do when feeling stretched, and took a day off from work to regroup. The day would include a light and uplifting to-do list ("nap" ranking close to the top) and early dinner with friends. I would burn candles, catch up on reading, contemplate summer travel, and generally go with the flow. I would not set an alarm clock.
So, when the anticipated day off arrived and I woke at 4:30 AM, I didn't know whether to be troubled or delighted. This wake-up time is not abnormal, I'm loathe to admit, but I'd been hoping for more of a sleep-in till 10, slow-start over brunch kind of day, circa me at age 24. No matter - I shook the looming pangs of disappointment and decided to embrace the early morning hours, taking my time to wake up, then attending my usual 6AM CrossFit class. That done, and not faced with the typical post-workout rush of getting to work on time (or at all), I realized I had more energy to spend, so I started running, completing a hilly 5K before retuning to the gym, then driving myself home.
As I moved on - paying bills, responding to emails, catching up on laundry - an excited energy came over me. It was 10 AM, a day of possibilities stretched in front of me, and I had already accomplished so much.
In the original "go with the flow" spirit of the day, I paused to contemplate. How did I really want to spend this time? What activities would serve me best, right now? The answer came quickly - I wanted to move, and I wanted to be with other people! A quick check of my gym's schedule showed a spin class in 30 minutes. My adult sensibilities did their best to guilt me away from the class - I'd already had a bigger-than-typical workout and I'd be sacrificing an hour of what could be productive chore time. Wouldn't taking the spin class be selfish and irresponsible? Furthermore, if I did allow myself to spend even more time sweating, shouldn't I do it while running, rather than biking?? Because, isn't running my "thing"? My passion, even?
I recalled the joy that comes from devoting time and energy to the things that are most fulfilling. The fact that although the recent focus of my own passion has looked a lot like ultrarunning, my true passion - the big thing that drives me - lies in physical activity in all forms, and in sharing the experience with others. How had I forgotten?
When enough of your energy is spent on the things in life that excite you - the opportunities and activities that jump off the page, that enter your mind when your eyes close at night, that tug at your heart - they will never be a burden or a drag. On that recent day off, I realized I'd been defining my passion, rather than allowing it to define me. I'd narrowed my focus on running so much that I'd forgotten to value the other activities I enjoy.
I knew, without question, that if I didn't make it to that spin class, I'd feel regret and disappointment for the rest of the day, at least. I'd be ignoring my passion's innate pull, thus neglecting a significant chunk of what makes me, me. So I went and it rocked! That spin class made me "click" again, and I left feeling elated and satisfied for days.
I was reminded that respecting passion's voice, in the moment and with an open mind, provides opportunities for growth, and lasting satisfaction. And not to worry - I even caught up on chores, did a little reading, and managed to fit in that nap.