By no means am I an expert at, well, necessarily anything, depending on your definition of what expert or expertise entails, but the least I can tell you–or probably safer still, promise you–is that consistency will take you pretty far… as will a sense of fearlessness and a relative comfort in failing.
At the end of this week, I hope to be comfortably collapsed on a piece of furniture, with my young daughter and husband probably dogpiled on top of me, as I stretch out my super-fatigued muscles, addaday-ing them away, while deeply and gratifyingly exhaling… taaaaaaaaaaaaaaper.
When I began my marathoning endeavors back in 2007, and really, probably until sometime after my first few marathons postpartum, tapering was the worst part of training for me. It was as though there were some crazy disconnect going on in my life as suddenly, I was re-handing to myself hours and hours of my life that I would normally be spending on the (Chicago) roads, churning, churning, churning, working for whatever probably-arbitrary goal I had set for myself.
Suddenly, my training volume and intensity decreased, and all I had to do was wait.
and not think.
and think about not thinking about the race that I probably shouldn’t be thinking about.
As you can surely glean, things got messy in the space between my ears, and come race day, I shit you not, I would be damn near SHAKING, literally, friends, as I toed the line because of all the self-inflicted anxiety and second-guessing I had thrown at myself during the taper… thinking that made me think that suddenly, all the preceding weeks and months of ass-kicking training, the sexy (mileage) and unsexy (crosstraining, flexibility, strength work, all the prehab stuff… basically everything but running) stuff no longer mattered or were somehow magically insufficient now.
As I look back on things, I think one of the biggest changes that came to my training and races from my prepartum days to those postpartum is that over time, I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea that, while I might fail to reach my A or B goal for the day, chances are, the race isn’t going to be a complete bust because I’ve gotten a lot of consistent years of training behind me by now. That’s not to say shit can’t happen during a race, because it most certainly can, but by and large, chances are that everything will be a-okay.
It might not be pretty, there might not be unicorns, but barring absolute, absolute, absolute catastrophe, I will finish vertically instead of horizontally.
Failing, and the idea of being comfortable with failing, is something that has been on my mind a lot these days because as I alluded to earlier, this week is my final peak week before I begin tapering down my mileage and intensity in preparation for my first 50k on December 14.
The nice thing about doing an event for the first time is that it’s your first time, so there’s really no standard to worry about or any metric against which you can measure yourself. I’ve never run 31 miles and change before, so the mere fact that I will simply focus on finishing the event before the time cut-off is worthy of celebration in and of itself (in other words: instant PR, baby!).
The bad thing about doing an event for the first time, though, is precisely that– it’s your first time, and no matter how much you’ve read, studied, damn near interviewed people more experienced and wiser than you, you still have no idea of what you don’t know. You think you know everything, that you’ve got it all figured out, but really… you have no fuckin’ clue, my friend (sorry, but the truth can hurt sometimes). I felt this way going into my first marathon in ’07, and I felt this way before giving birth in ’11; some things you simply have to do, or experience, for yourself. No amount of studying or interviewing or anything but the straight-up experience, itself, will suffice.
To be sure, there’s a decent chance that I’ll fail on the day of the 50k. Maybe it’ll be my first DNF or hell, a DNS; anything can happen. Maybe I’ll get mauled by a random mountain lion who decides to hang out along the 50k route and go after ginger ultramarathon novices. Or good grief, maybe I’ll get lost and have to somehow rapel my way down the hills days afterward because a search party can’t find me because I’ve gotten myself *that* lost.
While some of these scenarios are probably at least a bit more unlikely than others, I guess what matters most is that before we do anything–in terms of our running, in terms of our career aspirations, or hell, in terms of our relationships or families or whatever–there’s always that chance, that crazy possibility that something will go so profoundly and catastrophically wrong that it’ll make make us regret and resent the initial decision we made however long ago to go outside our comfort zone and try something new. Fear of failing is real, and profound, and scary, people.
To that chance though, to that chance that I might fail, or DNF, or DNS, or GMBAML (get mauled by a mountain lion, obvs), I say: fuck it. Life’s far too short and far too precious to stay comfortable and to grow complacent. It’s not until we get so far above and beyond and through (all the prepositions!) our comfort zones that we grow: as people, as members of society, as runners, as whatever. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we only learn by experiencing… by growing… and by exploring.
There’s always that chance of failing, but seriously, there’s always that chance of succeeding, too.
Besides, you never know what you’re going to find along the way.
all my love to our upcoming racers in Philly, Dallas, and CIM, as well to everyone else who’s finally saying ‘eff it’ and going after those crazy-ass goals… fear of failure be damned.