Note: I wrote this post back in November. As an update, I'm now off the medication described below, giving my body a chance to "reset" for a cycle, and I'm finally able to run again after four weeks off. My poor legs and lungs feel like they've atrophied a bit, but I'm motivated to build back speed and endurance over these next six weeks.
At the very beginning of this year, I settled into the idea that this would be a non-ultramarathon-focused year. The plan was that Joe and I would try to have a kid. Honestly, I'd burned myself out doing too many ultras too close together in 2017, and I needed a break, so it seemed like perfect timing. As it's turned out, though, it's not that easy to just go have a kid for some couples -- including us. Man, that's a bummer discovery to make at age 36, when you feel the pressure of the clock ticking down.
It's a given that pregnancy destroys your running. But you have a baby at the end of it, so who the hell cares? What's interesting has been the discovery that infertility, too, can hijack your running. Let me count the ways.
But first I'll start with the positives.
1. I'm definitely getting a rest and mental break from running. So whenever I'm able to return, hopefully I'll feel the fire and be able to work hard towards some "A" races.
2. Through this bummer of a year, I've gotten to see the amazing support of people such as Victor Ballesteros and Jena Rose, of Victory Sportdesign, who are committing to keep me on Team Victory, and Rob and Rachel Goyen, of Trail Racing Over Texas, who are keeping me on Team TROT -- despite the fact that I haven't won a single race in 2018, and am not sure I'll be racing in 2019 either. I'm not keeping up my end of the bargain, so to speak, in terms of getting out there and doing well in races, and yet they continue to support me, which feels like a huge act of love on their part.
3. Over the past five years, my identity has become so closely aligned with being an ultrarunner that it's almost like I didn't think I had an identity beyond that. Take that part of my identity away, and now I've had to find out what else makes up the core of who I am. That's probably not a bad thing to have to figure out.
4. Without the pressure of training for races, I've been able to just walk out the door and go any distance I feel like during my daily runs. I've even gone watch-less a couple times, and haven't posted them to Strava, which is very unlike me. (Did these runs even count??) Running has just been about maintaining fitness and enjoying being outdoors, instead of feeling the pressure of a quota of miles to hit for the week.
And then, of course, there are the challenges.
1. Not being able to plan for the future messes with my running and racing, as well as my motivation. Take, for example, Cactus Rose, which was at the end of October. I have run 450 miles at Cactus over the past 5 years, and was thinking I could do some distance, maybe the 50 miler, this year. I asked my nurse if I could run it, and she told me I wouldn't be able to, because I'd be taking a medication at that time in my cycle that wouldn't allow for the bouncing that running involves. So I didn't sign up, and didn't train. As it turned out, I wasn't put on that medication at that time, so I could have run it after all. Now I'm being told I'll be taking that medication probably at the end of November. It's just a moving target that causes me to not be able to plan for any races at this time.
And I certainly am not able to make plans for next year, either. Joe's thinking about racing another Hardrock qualifier, while I'm sitting here hoping my brains out that I'll be pregnant by then. And if not, I'll still be stuck in this purgatory of fertility cycles. Who knows? I'll likely as not end up not getting to do any races, for no good reason, as happened with Cactus. That's pretty frustrating.
2. That motivation part is hard some days, when it's not clear what the point of my run is. Without a race to train for, I can easily tell myself that just going for a 3- or 4-mile run is fine, and not push myself to go farther or faster. In allowing myself this slack, I miss out on the pleasure I used to feel in pushing myself to accomplish things I wasn't sure I'd be able to do.
3. I do feel the loss of my identity as an ultrarunner. I know that I can come back to it, whether that's at age 40 when we give up trying to have kids, or here and there when we have a break from cycles of trying, like I did this August. But that doesn't allow for ramping up to ultramarathon fitness and achieving my best efforts at races. I can finish ultra-distance races by fitting them in between cycles of medication, but I can't really hope to win races with this sporadic approach. There's something disheartening about knowing you're putting in less when you remember how it used to feel in the past, to give it your best and succeed.
4. I'm also feeling a little bit of a loss of community. As soon as I moved to San Antonio, I started running with folks; that's how I met people here and made friends. The Rockhoppers have felt like my family here, and I love hanging out with them at group runs and races. This past year, I've still gone to some group runs, I did a couple races in August, and I volunteered at a race in the spring. But I've missed a lot of races, and have avoided a lot of social media, such as Facebook and some people's Instagram accounts (because I can't stand to see posts about people who have kids), so I do feel a little "out of the loop." However, at the same time, I know I'm still part of the Team TROT and Rockhoppers family, so it's a bit of a stretch to put this item in the "negatives" column.
Typing this all out has been a good exercise. It's helped me see there are as many positives as negatives in this process -- even though the negatives (especially #1) feel a lot weightier than any of the positives. My comfort zone during this whole process has been Negative Nancy -- because it's easier than being positive, getting my hopes up, and having them slammed down again. It would be an improvement, at least, to be Middle Ground Mary, and at least consider the positives as well as the negatives -- maybe I'll strive for that.