It Starts With the High
On March 20, I ran the Mission 100K, and it was incredible. Covering ten laps of a 10K course, it was 62 miles of beautiful, torturous single track bike trail that snaked through Brown’s Creek Bike Park in Elizabethtown, NC The venue is fantastic and with a 100K relay taking place on the same course, it was high energy all day. I went in expecting to “take it easy” and I stuck to the plan, but the event still managed to strip me down to my rawest form, and by mile 25 I was questioning whether I had what it takes and why I was there…I live for those moments! I firmly believe we learn the most about ourselves when we are facing down our toughest challenges, and a race is the perfect way to make it happen. Coming through those experiences leaves me with the highest of highs, and I feel like I am sitting on top of the world.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Something weird happens after these major highs. I first noticed it after running the Umstead 100 in April of 2018, my first 100 mile event and one of my proudest accomplishments. I felt like I was capable of tackling any challenge and running was the best thing in the universe! And then it wasn’t. In fact, after a week or so, I wanted nothing to do with it. No matter how disciplined I stayed, the joy had seeped out of my training and I soon stopped lacing up all together. Yep…I put running aside for nearly 6 months. It was like working by butt off to climb the highest peak only to jump off the cliff on the other side. What the heck had happened?
The Post Race Blues
I call it the “Post Race Blues,” and the more that I have opened up about it, the more I have realized that other people struggle with it as well. While I haven’t nailed down the exact cause, I believe it is a combination of not wanting to come off the high of a defining accomplishment, physical fatigue from such extreme exertion, and the mental fatigue from the daily grind of a major training block. In short, after a big event, I tend to lose my “Mojo.” And it’s hard. But it’s less hard now that I understand that it’s both normal and just part of the process. So, now what?
It’s All About Grace
For me, it’s all about giving myself some grace in these moments. I used to judge my lack of motivation, feeling that I should be strong enough to “power through.” And while there is some truth in that, I also value joy and being present in the moment. So it has become more about a gentle combination of sticking to some crucial disciplines (these may be different for everyone) to avoid completely spinning out of control, and loosening the reins for a week or 2 as I process my mini-post race running depression.
On this go round, I am allowing some extra sleep-in hours (I am normally a very early riser), I advised my coach I need an extra week of training down time to spend with my family, and I am doing my best to shed the guilt that comes from not forcing myself to “suck it up.” In an ideal world, I would have nailed my recovery and flowed right back into growing mileage for my next big event coming up in May. But I have learned over time that this works best for me and I will soon be eagerly chomping at the bit to get back out there. So, what do you think works best for you?
You’ve Got This
I sincerely hope you are reading this blog thinking “What the heck is this guy rambling about? I don’t EVER deal with this.” But, if you find yourself relating and recognize that you struggle with your own Post Race Blues following an important event, I want you to know that you are not alone. It’s totally normal. And it will get better. Give yourself some grace, put some guardrails in place, and do what brings you joy in the moment. Running is still awesome, and you will be reminded of that soon enough. I promise.
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