For all of you females out there (and maybe Males, what do I know!), do you remember the game of MASH? (The game where you found out who you would marry, how many kids you were going to have, what kind of car and what type of home you would be living in). These games felt SO important and crucial to how my life might be in 20 years. Well, 10 year old little Danielle, you were SO wrong. Fast forward to 32 year old Danielle who is currently living in shack / mansion (shack in a mansion, shack in a warehouse?) A long camping-trip? Hard to say, because it really depends on how you look at it. Anyways, no kids, no home, blue car. There is dog hair on all my clothes, mud on all my shoes, who knows the last time I have actually worn real work clothes (don’t tell my work), done my hair and cooked in an actual kitchen. I gave up my GPS watch, I do all of my workouts based on feel. See, how SIMPLE my life is? MASH, you failed!! I don’t live in a mansion or have 50 kids. I, however, have learned some extraordinary magical lesson about what we don’t need and how to live (a relatively, as simple as I could make it) life. So with my new simple life style… I was certain my life would be full of mountains, running and happiness. Insert real life cue, something about best laid plans never coming to fortunate. My life is still full of stress (surprise ! I am a therapist with an extremely challenging two jobs, I have a partner who also has a challenging job, I have a family back in NY going through their own unique struggles and wonders, I have expectations for myself and the desire to figure out my life). So all this good/bad stress, if want to admit it or not, continues to impact how our mind and body heal.
Fast forward to Race Day, Bear 100, I feel the most prepared I have ever felt for the race. My training was solid, I worked entirely too hard on the mental component and I was trying to talk positive. Yet, looking back now, I am pretty sure I was mentally exhausted. In the past year: I have moved 2x, switched jobs to working with youth and their families (as I said above), tried to have successful family relationships and be supportive for my other family, struggled with transitions to a new area, being lonely, making friends, etc.. Also, underneath it all, I so badly wanted to have a good race to validate myself and the runner I want to be. (Despite preaching success and outcomes don’t define me). Did I really think an effective way to manage all of this was to ignore it? Well, I tried hard! Perhaps some of these reasons impacted my race or I just had a bad race?
Despite these factors, I had the most incredible, frustrating, beautiful race of my entire life at Bear 100. It has to be one of the most beautiful runs I have completed (plus, I love FALL). I started to struggle at Mile 40, stopped doing all the right things, didn’t eat, drink or compose myself. By the time I got to my crew in around 5 miles, I was a complete mess. All of that mental toughness I worked on was lost and I the desire to puke everywhere was all I could think about. One thing about 100 milers that have always been a struggle for me is relying completely on others. I take care of other. Asking people to come, stay up all night, wipe my feet (and basically my ass) feels so strange. I want to be self-sufficient, so much so that after two of my good friends couldn’t make the trip to Pace, I decided to run the first 60 alone. Well at Mile 45, I had that instant realization that A). I couldn’t do this alone and B). Any dignity I Had was about to lost. WHY DON’T I USE A GPS WATCH?!?! HOW MUCH LONGER IS THIS SECTION? Finally reaching Aaron, I fell into his arms, cried, told him I was dying and needed to go home. Jameson and Aaron sat me down, fixed my blister, cleaned my feet and let me ride out the puke feeling. I finally ate something and was on my way, feeling almost human like. I made it to the next aid station, excited to see my true love (this puppy I met at race meeting named Sassy) and I was ready to complete the last 10 miles alone until I picked up Jameson. Then something happened, my moment to run stopped and I got passed by everyone and their mother. I told myself this could happen and prepared myself not to attach worth to being passed. The worked for about 5 FUCKING seconds and I lost my shit. I cried and cried. I cried all those tears I had not cried for the past year that I held. I cried over my stressful job, my lack of direction, frustration over my running career and gave up. Wow, I am glad I worked so hard on all that positive self-talk. I was done. DNF, cool and I quit running FOREVER. I am going to get another dog and spend all my time raising it. MY BRAIN WAS GOING INTO A DEEP DARK SCARY PLACE AND I COULDN’T STOP IT. The tears would just not stop. After a slow walk for 10 miles, I arrived at the aid station, almost hysterical and I did not want to walk another 40 miles. My teeth were chattering and I shook from mental exhaustion. My crew, like angels, picked me up, held me and changed me. I decided (without telling Jameson, my pacer) I would walk 10 miles to the next aid station and then DNF, so she could at least see some of the course. I can’t explain enough how scary it was to bare my soul to Jameson and Aaron and for them to love me despite it. Aaron has seen me in some rough places but this is new level. He wiped my tears and made me laugh. Jameson rubbed my back and let me cry. We FINALLY left the aid station (and generally, I am in and out of Aid. Jameson walked those first five miles, basically feeding me, telling me stories and making me laugh. Every time I would muster enough energy to run a few steps, she was the biggest fucking cheerleader. I would put myself down and she would pull me up. We made it to the next Aid and there was my Aaron, so proud of me. The miles slowly ticked away and every time I was ready to call it, Jameson was there grounding my thoughts, moving me forward and waiting EVERY TIME I had to go diarrhea or felt pukey. The sun finally peaked through the trees and I told Jameson, this was the reason I kept moving so she could see this beautiful site. I felt my Coach, my family, my friends, Aaron believing in me. We finally made it to the last Aid Station and the puke feeling had returned (though, I am not entirely certain that it wasn’t from coughing so hard). Sarah came crashing through the woods like a mountain deer to finish the last portion of the race with us. We crested the last mountain and were honored by a glorious fall collage. We essentially walked the last ten miles to the finish and I promptly ran to the bathroom because I felt sick.
As I said in my IG post, this is no fairytale story. This race took ALL of my grit, determination and strength. I have never been more proud of an accomplishment, I overcame the dark depths of distrust in myself to finish. I completely relied on others to boost me AND at the end of the day, I decided to keep moving. Again, they were witnesses to the vulnerable Danielle (emotional, pukey, embarrassed and proud). And, I let my friends see me. I apologized but I take it back (sorry, ladies). I am honored that I trust you both enough that I stayed with it and let you see me flounder.So this is why I choose to tackle 100’s because I have not yet found my best self. The self that believes in me when shit gets hard, the self that my friends help me find when I get lost. I will always have that desire to cultivate my own inner strength to finish races and I am learning that I don’t have to do it alone (life and races). My sincerest thanks to my crew: without you the finish wouldn’t have happened. And I can only hope I take these beautiful lessons to my next race and challenging life moments.