Musings of a mentally competitive, physically completely Average Runner

I’d been wanting to write this down in words for a long time, somewhat therapeutic, and ranting and ramblings of how I see things that may help others, or maybe just an entertaining snip of the world I am inside.

I am an ultra runner. I am competitive with myself and others if I can be, as I have an extremely high drive to succeed. I am not fast. I am not slow either. I have been fighting for a while to not be a back-of-the-packer. Having the body I have probably does hinder to me to some extent, as well as genetics playing their own role. I have larger legs, sensitive skin, and hormonal imbalance issues. This kind of stuff doesn’t mesh well with wanting to come out on top. Every day I try to be better though, regardless if I can or can’t. It keeps me going.

So many confounding variables for myself. I can run a 6 minute mile. I can run one 6 minute mile. I drop off pretty fast thereafter, and I’ve gotten slower since entering the ultra world. I love a good 5k don’t get me wrong, but the distance is where I feel at peace. I got super discouraged when I started training for marathons. I knew what Boston Qualifying was and is, and still to this day think that is a goal I will never be able to touch physically with a 20 foot pole. But also I know working on such speed goals, would feel so forced and not natural…I am not a natural at maintaining speed, it takes super hard work and dedication and a high heart rate as I have found. I found myself at the back of the pack in marathons every time. This was always so discouraging and taking the fun out of running. I had conquered the marathon distance. Mastered it? By far, no. Mastering would require the speed I didn’t possess. Thus no more fun. I didn’t want that, and I still don’t. Keep life fun.

I found my way into the 50k distance via mountain running. What a thrill to be grinding out something un-runnable, whether that was a steep incline where falling backwards would mean certain doom, hanging onto trees for balance, scrambling rock fields, or passing through overflowing rivers. The mountains gave all…but speed. I’m sure some are good at speed, and making up time on the downs, but it was something I was only recently getting better at. My ultra times started to get more competitive. But there’s no way to catch up with those putting up 5 hour 50k times on stupid mountain courses with where I am now?! There are incredible people out there, I aspire so hardcore to be one of…

I had fun. Sometimes I would sit at the top of the mountain eating a Popsicle stick admiring the views on a hot and humid sunny day before scrambling down. Sometimes, most times, I would stop and take photos for my memory bank. Those are priceless to me. Sometimes I would help others out in their own race, forgetting my own time. I don’t regret any of that. I think we oftentimes miss out on what’s around us for racing’s sake. I learned I was improving my running even if I took these breaks. But I am not complacent.

I went further and further in distance to experience the most of the world as possible (mostly why I never race or do shorter courses). I wanted to see, I wanted to think about the trails were made, how many of those came before…what was the weather like? My body was sturdy, and I could withstand just about anything, toughing things out when all others would skip out. I still wasn’t fast though.

I still argue with myself daily if what I do is even worthwhile sometimes since I tend to be so competitive with myself and others, but I celebrate my own landmark runs and what I was able to do, as everyone’s situation is different – what training was put into it (or not), what mental state, what weather, was this for fun? Some people are just talented, and that person is not me. I am that fighter in the middle of the bunch climbing my best climb to keep that strive to improve alive.

With that said, I’m not trying to be a poser by any means. I want to show others, especially women, that they can get out there too and try their best. My records are quite weak compared to an elites’. I still try. I create new challenges, to be there first. Even if my time falls. I want to hold out that I could someday be someone special. I am in my early 30s. I have time. But I have a stubborn body in more ways than one, good and bad. I did not start out with that 20 minute 5k and just kept adding distance. I added the distances, and now I am slowly bringing my average times down. Still you can be fast in a shorter distance and still get dunked on longer ones. Experience plays a huge role I am to believe.

Regardless I am special to myself, having found the spark at last of what it means to live life. I have searched for it for years, traveling and doing the things I thought would bring me to that answer. Every one of those races and moments from the past have led me to this moment in time. Though I have to respect my body for it to respect me back… rest is necessary. I have pushed so many mileage boundaries this summer that seems so crazy looking back on. I am still in one piece too! I want to be greater.

I just wanted to say to those of you who are like me, who don’t have the natural ability to just “go fast”, and are of competitive nature, that you are not alone. Maybe people get shut down by the thought of being average and don’t think any more of it. I can’t stop thinking I can do better. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It’s so hard doing something and knowing someone can come smash your record out of the water given the opportunity. That’s my difficulty in even starting. Sometimes I think it’s embarrassing. I get super down on myself as a result and it’s hard for me to push forward, to light that fire under me again. What am I good for compared to the best out there? They have impossibly good abilities!

I am also at the point where no one can answer my questions about what is the “right amount of rest”. Unknown territory. My mind says I can keep truckin’ on, do the impossible, set out for exploration. But I have to listen to my body even if my whole heart is right there. I’m always conflicted between competition and doing things for myself too. I am not weak. Or at least I do not consider myself to be. But in the moment of mental doubt, I can tear myself down quickly that I shouldn’t be allowed the chance to try when someone can do it better. What can I do for meaning? What am I doing wrong?

It’s also very difficult because a lot of effort and long distances typically require support. Maybe one day I can cut off that line, but I would give up so many comforts… Perhaps there’s a better time later on in my life to answer that. I feel guilty oftentimes asking for help. Why would I need help? “Strong independent women” here. I also have a great desire to share what I do with others too. When you involve other lives, things become even more complicated.

I sit here and muse over all these things. They aren’t even the most important things of life, but these goals, and pushing myself, learning what I can and cannot do (maybe yet), is living life. I have never felt more fulfilled than I do right now and I know it’s only the beginning. But how can I stop the negative streams of thoughts of how mundane and normal I am as a person trying to do great things?! I know I have my level of great, and that often can’t compare to others’ level of great. I’m not at the bottom of the totem pole, though it often feels like it. As you can read, I have a very big internal conflict going on! I do deserve a shot at being competitive, even if I am not the best. Keep thinking forward, step by step, just like walking through life. Sometimes I need help mentally, nothing a therapist could ever hope to touch on. I rely on my ultra runner friends a lot in this case, even if sometimes I am beyond what they may have experience. But that conversation is dwindling with every new distance I tackle and how I end up tackling it. Unknown territory.

What’s fun then? The mental struggle with myself trying to be “good”, is not fun. Seeing the world is fun. Pushing my limits is so much fun. Winning is fun too, not going to lie. Fun must outweigh the negative. As it always has and still does.

At this point, I am rambling on and on. But writing it out and getting it out there does help me a lot. I don’t feel like I have finished. I don’t feel like I have reached a limit in myself at all, maybe more so in speed, but I haven’t broken. So what now?

What are my strengths? What can I now capitalize on to go further and faster for myself even if I remain un-elite? What can I do to inspire others? How amazing would it be to have this companionship and comradery of long distance runners you can surround yourself with, going out on endless adventures?! Is that the end goal? How can I get more people to enjoy the world we live in to the fullest? Inspiring others keeps me going too…

Fastest known times, or FKTs, are a sort of adventure. It’s a risk. If you are the first, you get to blaze the trail, set a challenge (hopefully) for someone else to come by and do the same to beat you. If it already exist, try and beat it, it’s fun too. It’s an alternative to racing for sure, with and without some of the same pressures. I have since found a lot of joy in exploring the routes and seeing what is possible lately since they have no real timeline. But like I mentioned above, I feel rather guilty setting a time sometimes that others can easily beat, that it shouldn’t be a record. That’s where I get down on myself. But I still start, I still try. I still get to see the world. It’s a confusing world. But also again, so what now?

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For those who follow my blog, No, I have not written about my North Country Trail Wisconsin FKT. I am not sure I am inspired to do so right now even though it has only been a month. I feel lost a bit right now and need some away time. Thanks for understanding.