The Ego and the Intellect
“Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called ‘Ego’.”
One foot in front of the other. Repeat until the end. Running seems so simple but it rarely is.
This weekend I was supposed to run a 50k fat ass event from Nederland to Boulder called the Frozen Dead Guy Fat Ass. It didn’t exactly go as planned. My plan was to wake up at 4:45, leave my house by 5 am to take Moose to daycare, drive to Boulder’s Chautauqua, walk/run the 1.6 miles to the Boulder transit center, and catch the 6:50 am bus to Nederland to make it to the 8 am start. Well whatever they say about the best laid plans, it’s true.
I did set my alarm for 4:45 am, but it was set for Monday – Friday not Saturday. Luckily I woke up at 5:45 am and briefly debated rolling back over and scraping the run, but my brain woke up and convinced me that was a bad idea. So I quickly threw on my clothes, grabbed my bag that I packed the night before and piled myself, my stuff, and Moose into the car. The drive to doggy daycare is in the opposite direction of Boulder and has approximately one bajillion lights. Somehow I only hit a couple of red lights and made it to the daycare place by 6:15 am. After I dropped Moose off I realized I would never make it to the bus by 6:50 am, even if I parked at the transit center, so I changed my plans and headed for the Chautauqua with the anticipation of catching a ride. I got there right around 7 and frantically ran from car to car asking if anyone had room for an extra runner. Luckily a very kind soul (who I met at the last Human Potential Fat Ass) had room so I piled in with his three friends.
We made it to Nederland without incident, milled around for about 20 minutes, listened to a few words from Sherpa John, the owner/organizer/genius behind Human Potential Running Series, and then we were off. The appeal of this specific fat ass was the net downhill so I could really work on my downhill legs. Since I started running, my strengths have lied in downhill running, the more technical the better. Despite the net downhill the race started with a 500 foot climb. But it was slow, mellow, and mostly runnable for me. My heart rate spiked, like it normally does when something starts with a “hard” effort and I haven’t had time to warm up, so I slowed to a fast walk. A bunch of people passed me, which always frustrates me, so I decided to run, expecting it to be hard. But it wasn’t. It was so easy. One foot in front of the other. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. My splits from mile 3 to mile 17 are all in the 9 – 14 minute per mile range and I averaged 11:36 min/mile. My heart rate was hovering around the high 140s with the only spike above 170 happening during the first climb. I can’t remember a time when running seemed so effortless.
And then my ego got the best of me. I had somehow made it into the mid-front of the pack. When I slowed down because of a rocky trail I could hear people approaching behind me. I didn’t want to get passed, at least not until after the last aid station at mile 21.5, so I picked up the pace. And then trail became more congested so I sped up even more to take advantage of people stopping on the steep, rocky climb up the Eldorado Canyon trail. And then when I actually had to stop on the trail to let two moms with their babies in front carriers pass by, I made the stupid decision to try to stop on the top of slanted rock. In my shoes that were made for gripping snow and ice, not rock and slippery dirt. In an instant I went from standing upright on the top of the rock, to sliding down with all my weight landing on an ankle that was turned to the angle of the rock, not parallel with the ground. I heard a loud pop and crunching noise and collapsed to the ground in pain.
The mothers looked at me horrified and hurried on their way. Luckily some people that I had a just passed heard the commotion and were kind enough to stop. And then the whole main pack of runners caught up with me. One of the random hikers that had stopped happened to have an ace bandage and wrapped my ankle up, which in the span of a couple minutes went from normal to swollen and blue. Two of the runners offered to help me walk down the rest of the trail to road but luckily I didn’t break my ankle and could put weight on it to walk down by myself. I hobbled myself and my bruised and battered ego (and ankle) down the trail to wait until I could get a ride back to my car, which was still 6.5 miles away.
This was an eye opening experience. I’ve always had a strong ego, but I’m usually able to keep it in check with my intellect. But on Saturday that didn’t happen. It was sort of a perfect storm situation, but that perfect storm can converge on any situation without warning. The highest of highs are usually followed by the lowest of lows, and that’s exactly what happened.
In other news, I’ve hired a running coach for myself. I’m tired of trying to navigate the complicated world of creating and modifying training plans, and honestly I don’t think I’ve had very much success doing everything on my own. Once again, my ego tried to get in the way and convince me that I can figure out this simple running thing on my own, but my intellect kicked in and brought me back down to earth. Anyways, I have a new coach, which scares me. But the races I have planned scare me more. So why not combat two fears by addressing a third one? After meeting with her yesterday I have high hopes for this season. At least she’ll help me set realistic goals instead of the crazy ones I usually set for myself. She is also encouraging me to try different types of runs (tempo, progression, slow) which I haven’t done in the past. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!