This was supposed to be my one and only ultra this year. After getting injured in early April and recovering six weeks later, I signed up for a 50-miler as well as a 100K to get my training back on track. Except it didn’t, and I took my 100K off the table.
I’ve been on a bit of a free-for-all over the past two and half months. A marathon and half marathon – two distances I could get through with minimal training, were completed. Pacing 16 miles of a major 100-miler was also done, so a 31-mile race should be doable, right? As the SOB (Siskiyou Out Back) approached, I was excited about the opportunity to visit Ashland, camp solo for the night up at Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge, and run on the PCT. What I wasn’t anticipating was a lack of mental drive, crabiness from a miserable night of sleep, and a strong desire to get back to my kids who’d been gone during the week prior.
I was planning on dropping down to the 50K (from the 50-miler) the morning of the race, as I was instructed to do by the race directors. Unfortunately, my one fellow running friend that had signed up, also had to drop due to injury – so I was looking at a very solo effort, with no one holding me accountable. After arriving to a full parking lot at Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge the night before, I holed myself up in the back of the truck and tried to enjoy the quiet, disconnected evening by picking up a book and actually reading(!). As the sun went down, the view of Mt. Shasta faded, and off to sleep I went.
Unfortunately I woke up freezing cold numerous times and was unable to rest soundly. At 4:45 a.m. the van next to me started up its engine. And at 5 a.m., the race directors gave us a hearty wake-up call by blasting the Beatles into the parking lot. It was race day. I opened my eyes that morning, unmotivated, and thought about dropping down to the 15K which started at 8:15 and then realized I could be close to Salem by that point. At 5:30 a.m., I pulled out of the parking lot with no regrets. It was Salem and my kids, for the win.
I used to think that if I bailed on a race without any physical injury to blame, it was because of performance nerves and anxiety. And there are still race day mornings when I wake up anxious, asking myself, “Why do I do this?” But this was not one of those days. I felt tired, and knowing I had a 4.5-hour drive once the race was over, was nagging at me. I would be even more tired after the race. And god, I missed my kids.
So I drove away from the festive start line still in my pajamas, and made my way up I-5 knowing I would being seeing my kids much sooner than I had originally anticipated. Yes, I knew that the post-race comments on social media would give me pangs of immediate regret, but I am experienced enough to know there’s always next year. My bigger realization was that I had signed up for the 50-miler which was truly the race I wanted to run. Not the 50K or 15K. 50 miles. A race where you are awarded with a sweet-ass cermic mug at the finish line. Because I’ll do any race for a mug.