Crossing the finish line of a race is an exciting and exhilarating moment in time!
You envision savoring the feeling of that experience for a long time to come.
The final – symbolical and literal – step in months or years of planning and dreaming and training.
YOU HAVE DONE IT!
You have succeeded!
Friends at the finish line are cheering and clapping and celebrating with you as they announce your name. They place a medal around your neck. Strangers are calling out congratulations. Hugs. Happy tears. Pictures.
All the good stuff!!!
You are embracing a deep feeling of accomplishment. A sense of completeness. A surge of rightful pride in what you’ve asked your body and mind to do and how fantastically they responded.
It’s that single moment that signifies you can now check something really big off that ol’ life bucket list.
I just finished the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler a week ago today.
It’s been a dream of mine for close to 3 years. I’ve trained for the race for the last few months very specifically, strategically. BUT the bigger picture of this story is that I’ve really spent the last 30 months or so working to build toward this specific race distance.
This one, single day was the result of a whole lot of work.
Years of work.
I felt good about finishing, beating the cutoffs, racing that sucker EXACTLY to the plan Spencer and I had worked out and practiced.
I had a GREAT race and an incredible day.
I remain overwhelmed with gratitude and love for the friends who were by my side. Literally. Josh, TJ, Wade and Spencer were waiting on the course about 1/2 mile from the finish line for Wendie (my friend and pacer!) and I to appear. They hooted and hollered when they saw us and then served as rowdy guardians, running with me right up to the finish area and cheering each and every step I was taking.
Then they were yelling and cheering for me at the finish. Theirs were the only voices I wanted to hear.
I felt a swirl of emotions about it all in that last tenth of a mile.
Very powerful, mixed emotions.
One of the strongest feelings?
WHAT THE HELL?!!
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
I’ve just run 50 miles. I trained for years. I beat the dreaded %$#@ing cut offs! I did better than I thought I could. I had – for me – a nearly flawless race. I am staring at the smiling faces of five people I adore. I can now really, finally, legitimately call myself an ultra runner…
How the hell am I feeling sad?
It caught me TOTALLY and utterly off guard.
It felt like a gut punch.
I spent the next three days cocooned in a great vacation house in Sausalito, sightseeing and being taken care of, building great memories with close and caring friends. We were all aware that I was feeling pretty emotionally raw and fragile.
I felt like I was on the verge of tears. I couldn’t sleep. I was indecisive. I was listless. I felt I was disappointing my friends by not being happy.
I just felt sad and ‘not normal’.
I wasn’t happy or euphoric or elated or energized. None of the things I was expecting or hoping to feel were present.
I was bewildered and confused by this unexpected emotional fragility.
I KNEW I was tired. I tried to chalk some of this odd and not-normal behavior up to being physically and mentally tired and sleep deprived and out of my carefully cultivated routine. I was very aware that I had just put my body and mind through a test they had never been through before.
The problem was I didn’t really understand what was going on in my mind until right before we were getting ready to leave for home. I finally was able to semi-articulate what was consuming my brain and heart and had a long, honest talk with my friend Josh.
He assured me that this was all a fairly normal reaction given what I’d just done.
I sit here a week later and FINALLY, finally I am starting to appreciate what I just accomplished.
It’s starting to sink in.
Josh and Spencer have both told me that there is a sort of commonly accepted catch-phrase for what I’ve been experiencing…
Post-event let down.
It will go away. I will one moment, shortly down the road, feel the full weight of what I’ve accomplished. And whole-heartedly enjoy those feelings.
It’s just a little delayed while my body and mind sort out what I’ve put them through.
You put a BIG goal out there. You focus on it 100% for years. You hit the event start line. You take off. After a few moments/miles you feel the hours of training kick in and take over and you settle in to do the work you’ve learned to do. You’re flying and soaring and enjoying the event, life, the people around you!
Your mind, body, heart and soul are all working together to get you to the goal.
It’s an amazing feeling!
And then it’s done.
One last step.
You cross the finish line.
It’s suddenly all over…
So how am I taking care of myself and recovering fully from ALL of this?
I’m writing things down.
Savoring time with close friends.
I am focused on healing my body with good foods and long walks and lots of water. And sleep. Lots of sleep. 🙂
I’ll keep talking with my coach and close friends as I make discoveries or have concerns.
I am intent on heeding the caution that I take the time and simply enjoy, fully absorb, what I’ve just done. That’s something I’m not very good at. Now’s the perfect time to practice it. 🙂
And I’ll also heed the caution to be looking for that next big goal to embrace and get excited about – but to make NO decisions until I’m rested and recovered.