Just a little taste.
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The Living History Farms Off-Road Race is one of the most unique events in the region. Its blend of a no-frills feel with a course of indeterminate length over widely ranging terrain (everything from farm roads to corn fields to knee deep creek crossings to treacherous leaf covered trails) and throw in a hearty post-race spread with solid competition in a format of straight up racing and you have the elements for a great race. This doesn’t even mention the unpredictable weather and the costumed masses. There are a few feelings that I have come to associate with the 7ish miles in Clive, Iowa (ahh yes, a list. The low hanging fruit of blogs all over the Web):
- dry socks after you get done
- hot shower when you can find it
- beef stew as soon as you can get to the tents
- satisfaction of earning crockery awards
- running with a bunch of your good friends
That last one has been new for me in recent years. Not sure how long I have been racing LHF. Seems my first was in ’06, maybe ’05. While I have had a number years as a solo racer, my best memories are synced on racing with a team.
(Writer’s note: It has been 4 months since my last post. My apologies. A busy life, plus some much needed thinking time lead to a lack of insight. Since I am not one to write for writing sake. With a head full of ideas I am back at it with this post about starting lines. I will continue with my update of my favorite things as well. Look forward to more low hanging fruit with my Top 10 best things about running.)
I don’t care how good your training cycle went. What a tune-up race might have told you about your fitness. The fact that you are exactly at “racing weight” means nothing. The weather is might be meaningless. The bottom line of a race, big or small, is that everyone who is serious about the upcoming miles is not completely sure of themselves. Of course weeks of consistent training, a fast effort a few weeks previous, and dialed in nutrition are going to put you in a really solid mental and physical state. But how many times have you controlled those factors to your favor and the race still went sideways?
The point of course is that all committed runners share some version of the same emotion. Some cover it with self-deprecation at the start line. Others look to false bravado. A few use their good luck tokens and routines to get themselves right. There is a whole litany of weird, sensible, and very personal tricks that racers engage in when prepping for a goal effort. I have seen wily veterans tie and retie their shoes a certain way. Borne witness to rookies in their race t-shirts and crooked numbers embrace the excitement of the event. Everyone is doing something to prepare themselves for what they are about to put themselves through. You hope, heck you know, you put that work in. But still, in the back of your head, in the back of all our heads, is that little question mark. That tickle of what didn’t I do to prepare for this?
Even the most confident of runners has this emotion. While running is an incredibly simple pursuit, it is a really remarkable thing that we are able to even partake. Think of all the factors that come together to get you to that start line; physiological, mental, social, the sacrifices and support of loved ones. Just so you can run a damn race. All you want is to run in a way that honors your efforts and those around you. That honors the runners before and those that will come after.
In his book BRAVING IT, James Campbell is describing the Alaskan mountains and wilderness as he and his daughter fly in to the backcountry. There is a word he begs from the Inupiat to describe the emotion going through his body looking out the window of the small plane. UNIARI. No word like it in English, but loosely translated into the phrase “nervous awe”. How incredible a phrase is that? How appropriate. How accurate for the those of us that love to race and know the emotions of a starting line? It is an odd experience that is both shared with hundreds, yet one that is as individual as the ways we train.
Races since my last update have been sub par feeling. Thunder Run 5k, Buffalo Run, Woody Greeno XC (8k), and Des Moines Marathon.
Hoping to bring it back around in the following weeks with Halfsy, Nike Regional 5k, Living History Farms, Feast and Feathers Half-Marathon, Holiday Run, and crewing the Hitchcock 100.
I love to race. I think. Maybe I just tell myself that when lacing up my flats in preparation for a hard effort. It could be that “loving” racing is a justification of the weekly hours I spend running. There HAS to be a reason why I do this week in and week out, doesn’t there?
There is no reason to dislike racing. It is (should be?) the epitome of training. I know not everyone on the start line of any given race is there to race. But odds are really good they have had a goal. Some carrot out there that they have been chasing. An idea that gets them out of bed, or through that third workout of the week. A time to achieve, a distance to complete, a place to be earned, a person to honor. These are enough, with a little bit of luck, to get to a peak race. When that race finally arrives and the running karma goes your way and you just nail that sucker. . . There are few emotions harder to describe than that. But how many races do you run where you question it? Question the effort and the time and the sweat and the frustration.
We can all justify a performance with the common remarks we all hear or make pre-gun. Been fightin’ a little injury. Work has been busy. Kids been keeping me going. Training through. Do you really believe that though? Aren’t you really trying to race hard? You don’t get many chances in a given year if you are like most people. Despite all the excuses, deep down inside I want to race well. I want to beat the previous year’s time. I want to place well. You know what? It frustrates the heck out of me when I don’t.