Not starting is a great way to finish

I’ve had so much support in my pursuit of Leadville. From the kind ultra-running enthusiast stranger who paid my hefty registration fee, to my mother who upon my request started memorizing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” in order to sing it to me and keep me awake/entertained as she would pace me for the last 13 miles, I’ve had such a wide array of friends, family, loved ones, acquaintances, and all around special people in my life support this journey. 

As I made one of the toughest decisions in my ultrarunning career this weekend, I realized I had even more support than I thought. 

The decision: I’m not running Leadville. Mentally and training-wise, I’m completely ready to go and know I could finish Leadville within the cutoff time of 30 hours. In fact, I’m almost certain that doing it in 27 or 28 hours is totally something I could achieve—even if it killed me. But that’s just it…I’ve come to realize that this race could potentially kill me, or at least cause some serious and possibly irreparable damage to my innards. 

Because while I’ve been awesome at following and maintaining my running schedule, my inner organs are in no way ready for this race. Nausea, dehydration, dizziness and a very huge electrolyte imbalance puts me at high risk for muscle and organ failure. 

 

And I don’t want to be a failure. 

So my success in this journey comes from knowing when to call it quits. Last year when I paced my uncle for Leadville I wrote/thought a lot about how a person knows when to call it quits, verses how she knows when to push through the pain. I worry that if I started this race I would push through the pain so hard that I would possibly push myself to the hospital. 

Talking to my uncle about all of this, he says that the decision I made is harder and smarter than trying to listen to the body amidst all of that chaos—that deciding whether or not to start the race is a tough and wise decision. While every second I’m tempted to take back this decision, I know all of my supporters would immediately start not-supporting me. 

I also know that even if I flew through Leadville like I was born to run it, I’d still have a hell of a time recovering from it. And considering that my mental health (which is finally starting to take an upswing) is hugely depended on my capability to run, I’m not in the right space to take 2, 4, or possibly 8 or 12 weeks off of a solid running schedule. I like my sanity, thank you very much. 

So alas, Leadville, we’ll do our little dance some other time. Next year? Maybe. But, as my therapist, co-workers, and family reminded me, I’m only 27 and have a hell of a long time to run 100s—especially if I run them when I’m in awesome health. Because that’s the other thing—I don’t want this to be the only 100 I run. I have a feeling once I do one, I’m gonna get hooked. I don’t want this race to be the end of my ultrarunning career. The first 100 I run is going to be one that springboards me into running better, stronger, wiser, and with more joy and less worry. 

So with all of this in my head and the final decision made at 11:15 on Saturday morning, I took myself on a 15 mile run on Sunday, and did something I haven’t done in over two years: run a short-long run because I could and not because it was part of my training schedule. 

Since I started training for ultras two years ago (and by ultras I mean 50s, because at this point I don’t consider the 50ks to be ultras even though they totally are—is that ultrarunning snobbery? Damn, I never thought I’d be like that), I haven’t ever NOT been training. I’ve just done cycles of train-race-recoverish-then jump back into training within a few weeks of crossing a finish line. 

So the run Sunday morning and subsequent rock climbing session (which is also something I haven’t done in MONTHS) wasn’t part of a plan. It was me going with what I thought would feel good and be fun. 

Not that training hasn’t been fun—in fact I’ve totally loved the 30 miles on Saturdays, 20 miles on Sundays, and a some good fast-paced and hill running miles during the week—but it’s weird to run from a space of “why not?” instead of “I have/need to.” But, I’m an ultrarunner, so of course I’m already planning my next race J 

This next leg of my journey will be to accomplish the amazing feat of getting my nutrition and electrolytes balanced for a solid month or two before I even start to consider what 50 or 100 I want to train for next. (Although, I do already have my sights set on the Kettle Moraine 100 taking place in Wisconsin next June). 

Alright, so now it’s time to get back to that whole recovery and healing thing. And while I’m not doing Leadville, I am still going to Colorado for a week. I was thinking about hiking up Pikes Peak the weekend of Leadville to a) honor the fact that I did do some good training and am in good shape, b) distract myself from the fact that I could be doing a 100 miler then, and c) to do something I’ve never done before. (I know…I’ve lived in Colorado and have visited it at least every year since I was 12, but I’ve still never been on top of a mountain. Shame). But lo and behold, the Pike’s Peak Marathon is that weekend. Yes, a bunch of runners are going to spend 8 hours running up and down Pike’s Peak. Fucking extreme runners…they’re everywhere! But like my aunt said, there are other 14ers in Colorado. Oh yeah, mountains. And maybe I’ll still be able to get my mom to sing some Lady Gaga to me afterall, as she can distract me from getting too sick from the altitude as we hike it 14,000 feet into the air. 

So, to all you Leadville go-getters out there: you’re awesome and don’t forget to listen to your body!  

And to all of the me-quitting supporters: thanks for your love. I never could have gotten through or even faced this challenge without you.

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Cheryl said,

    You have a common sense attitude that many runners lack. I am proud of you. Knowing when to hold back is just as important as knowing when to push it. You have so many great races ahead of you. Congratulations.

  2. 2

    Hard decisions are life changing. Perhaps, by making this step to not start at all you have achieved much greater things than if you finished the race. It’s a fine line between a winner and a loser… a fine line we walk each day… those of us, who are true warriors… i think you just made a huge leap forward in finding who your true self really is. ( and from running standpoint, you must get the hydration/fueling down to a T… something I noticed when i paced you last fall during the 50 miler…)
    aloha, Toney

  3. 3

    Kayla said,

    I was deeply touched by your article. Always TRUST your instinct, ’cause no one knows your body better than you do. Also, what’s this with “winner” or “loser”? It’s really all relative…and the most important thing is that you feel satisfied with your decision, having worked through all your fears of possible regrets or what-nots. Much love and luck to you! :>


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