Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Trails

Wow. I've never thought I'd write the word "happy" again. It only took over 8 months to feel it, but there it is. I'm a little happy.

I guess the turnaround was my 50K on March 6th. That was a huge one for me. I wrote a lot about it my running blog, but not really the big emotional part of it.

I signed up for this race in October of 2009. It was a sad time for me and I needed something to focus on. I needed a direction because at the time I didn't feel like my life had any direction. We had made all these plans and they weren't going to happen and I just didn't know how to deal with that. As a lifelong planner, it scared the crap out of me. I was so depressed and miserable, I just needed something to look forward to. I knew that registering for a race would give me some sort of purpose and another reason to get out of bed in the morning.

I wasn't sure what race I wanted to do. Another marathon? Nah. I needed something completely different. Something low-key and not stressful. Why put pressure on myself? Because if I chose another marathon, I'd have it in the back of my head to train hard, improve my time, etc. I didn't want that.

I started trail running in September. It was a liberating thing to do. It's actually quite hard to be sad and in a depressed state of mind when running through the woods. Getting covered in mud and crossing creeks and jumping over rocks is so much fun, it's hard not to run with a goofy smile on your face. Well, for me anyway. So, I decided to focus on a trail run. And that left me with the Senceca Creek Greenway 50K. It's a 31+ mile run on the Greenway Trail from Damascus to Potomac. Sign me up.

I'm not going to say that training was easy and the road to the race was paved with gold. Because it wasn't. I still battled my emotions and my depression. My friends were all having their babies, my due date was approaching, and it was getting hard to focus on things. I felt like I was going through the pain of losing the baby all over again only it was worse the second time around.

January 5th came and we had a very nice family day at the National Harbor. We went to this crazy Ice show and had a nice lunch. We placed flowers in the Potomac River in honor of our lost son. It was a very sad day though being together and acknowledging it really helped.

January itself was a long, cold month. Between the emotional side of things, work getting busy, the weather being ugly, I was just on autopilot. I just went through the motions of being alive and getting through my day. Training for the race was difficult because of the weather but I did what I could.

February came and there was more snow and ice. Work was crazy since we were moving locations. Then we headed down to Myrtle Beach for the marathon and half marathon. Well, the races were canceled because of the weather (it snowed there and it was the most snow they had in 10 years). I felt like there was some cosmic thing against me and I just couldn't get a break. WTF? Who goes to Myrtle Beach and worries about snow storms? Only we do.

I did the best I could preparing for the race for the rest of February. I ran as much as I could, I rested when I needed to and I didn't think about how sad I was. I just compartmentalized my emotions and basically just stuffed them down as far as they would go. I know, maybe not the healthiest thing to do, but it worked for me.

Then came the week before the race. I was nervous about whether or not I could finish. I did a couple of trail runs and they went well, which helped give me some confidence. Race morning came and it was a cool but gloriously beautiful morning. And something changed in me. I was out there on my own, doing something only for me. Something I needed desperately. And I finally felt good. I felt hopeful.

The race itself was hard but fun. Friends ran with me and gave me a boost. John and Keller saw me a number of times along the course, which was great. It wasn't really as bad as I thought it would be. Because of the snow, I wasn't able to do a lot of the long runs I had hoped to do. So I was really nervous about how I'd do in the race. Well, it was long and slow but I got through it better than expected.

Which was an odd experience for me. I felt really strong, both physically and mentally. I had an absolute blast running the race through the snow, ice and mud. I loved crossing the creek in ankle-deep water and running in wet shoes. I just really had a great time. Don't get me wrong, I hit my wall and was tired at times. But overall, it was my best race experience.

When I crossed the finish line, it just hit me. All the emotion and anguish I had been through just came flooding out of me. I bent over and just cried. I couldn't believe I had made it through the last seven months. The finish line to the race was kind of like a finish line to my grief. Trust me, my grief isn't over, but I felt like I had made it through the hardest part of it. I made it through the worst time of my life.

I have to say that since the race, I have felt good. I'm not saying I haven't thought about what we've lost or what could have been. I have. And I've cried. I will always be sad about that and will never really be over it. But I feel a sense of peace about what happened. I'm accepting it and I'm trying to move forward. I feel like running those 31+ miles brought me to a place where I can see things clearly and I can deal with them better.

My road hasn't ended. It's only just beginning.