Mojo was last seen sometime in mid June in California. Mojo may be along a ridge line in the Eastern Sierra or confused somewhere along the North Fork of the American River, possibly with heat exhaustion. Mojo is unpredictable and may not come when called. Reward if found.
Ok, before you start thinking that I got another dog let me explain. After the L’Amore Montagna Tour I wasn’t myself. Up until last month I barely even felt like running. There were days that I lacked any motivation, not just for running but for living. I would cry at the drop of a hat, or more literally spilled wine or a stubbed toe. I cared little about returning to work and even less about spending time with family and friends. Ladies, imagine PMS angst for weeks; Gents, imagine your lady having PMS angst for weeks. When I saw people for the first time since my trip they’d ask how I was and I’d tell them, shocking people with my honesty. I had no energy to fake it, I was down, I was blue, I was depressed. I’d read other runner’s accounts of how running had saved them from their demons of depression but I felt like running had caused mine. My eternal optimism was no where to be found. My mojo was gone.
For the last so many months my life has rotated around running more then ever before. All winter I would wake up at 4am before a twelve hour nursing shift to go running in the dark and snow. I would plan out my schedule between two to three jobs a full month in advance, being sure to fit in my long runs. When I met my boyfriend I vividly remember telling him, “running comes first sometimes.” Now I questioned if I even wanted to continue to identify myself as a runner.
Lets keep this pity party going! On top of this I have had a rash on my face for months. The rash resembles cystic acne and started shortly before leaving for the Tour, only getting progressively worse while traveling. Blood work came back normal, I finished two separate antibiotic regimens, eliminated gluten (mostly) from my diet and still I cringed when I looked in the mirror. So far the best answer I’ve gotten is an allergy to cow dairy and a leaky gut, more on that in a later post. I never realized how much my appearance affected my attitude and that too has been a rather disillusioned yet honest realization of self.
Leading up to Western States 100 and the Tour I went around spewing inspirational statements to anyone that would listen. My glasses weren’t only rosy, they were bedazzled. It got so bad I think I claimed that unicorns were real at one point. As those little gems began to fall off one by one I realized that the glue holding those sparkles on wasn’t as strong as I thought.
I returned to work, to running and a more scheduled life. I signed up for races as a last ditch effort at trying to spur up some excitement for training. I’ve always needed a distant goal and for so long it’d been about running. *Gasp* I began thinking about life beyond running.
A month ago I went to Canada hoping to find some of that missing sparkle. The Ultra Trail Harricana 125km takes place in the wilds of Quebec on a mix of dirt road and plush singletrack. My only goal when I discovered the race was to finish, earning me needed points toward Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2018. I hoped putting myself back into the race routine might bring some clarity. Secretly, I really went for the poutine. As the race date grew closer I was worried I was undertrained but was ok with spending a day in the woods.
The race starts at Notre Dame des Monts at 2am, yes 2am. Trying to stay to my traditional pre race routines I slept for a few hours, waking up at midnight to eat and have coffee. I listened for anyone speaking english and buddied up to them for the pre race meeting. The race directors warned us of bears, to keep an eye out for the flags and that the recent drenching rain had created new ponds and never before seen streams on course, great. After my experience at Western States I now saw water as my nemesis. But I was prepared. There is only one crew/drop bag location for the race at about half way. My one man pit crew and better half was there to change my socks and shoes, I let my feet air out and used a top secret powder to prevent blisters. (Not really top secret, just 2Toms Blistershield) I literally tiptoed around puddles and muscled my way through brush to avoid mudpits. My nutrition was on point, my body felt pretty good and the changing scenery kept my mind occupied. This was the type of day that resembles an endangered species; days that once seemed to be common place but are now rare and remarkable. In the days following the Ultra Trail Hurricana I found myself daydreaming about running. When race day photos were uploaded I noticed something familiar in them; could it be, a distant sparkle, my mojo?
As snow starts to fall here in the Adirondacks, I have crossed over into the “offseason”. Competitive endurance athletes tend to break their year up into cycles; training, racing and an offseason. For me the offseason is full of rest, reflection and baking. This year will go down as one of the hardest for me, not only physically but mentally. Athletes have been talking about the link between running and depression for some time and ashamedly I haven’t really listened until now. What felt like a step back four months ago is now a leap forward. I’ve found growth even in the dark times; part of the balance of life.
Going into the Ultra Trail Harricana I had little to no expectations for the outcome and wound up finding what I’d been missing. The reward after coming through this onto the other side is a new perspective. I still define myself as a runner but my definition of runner has changed and on the right day unicorns still do exist.