Monday, March 23, 2009

Reflections on PacRim

I wrote my race report yesterday, if you haven't had the chance to read it yet check the previous post. I had to write again because my mind is overflowing, and this is the place for it to spill out.

I've been thinking about PacRim all day. It's hard to describe the impact it has on me. It seems as though running in one mile circles for 19.5 hours would be mind numbing and a simple feat of endurance. It seems that one would tire of the same footsteps over and over, the familiar turn of the path, the sameness of it all. But I don't. Those feelings never came to me. It's a beautiful little park, a busy place in a small town, with a variety of people and pets passing through. The circling runners always have something to say as they pass by, the lap counters cheerfully call out my name and number when I go by, the banter never ceases between friends. And of course, that may be the key for me. I was never alone, I always had Jenny by my side, and Abi, Jessica or Margaret. Jamal ran many laps with us, and sometimes Rob and Steve. Other runners fell into pace for a few steps or a whole lap. I think that feeling of community was and is key for me. It's reaffirming and keeps my faith alive. I mean my faith in humanity - it is a larger feeling than I can describe. It feeds my spirit.

So, first there is that renewal of faith, and then there is that interior struggle to keep going, to push through the difficult moments, the negative thoughts. When the tummy is queasy and the hip hurts, and the blisters are building. When it's cold and the body is weary. The little deals I make with myself, to finish the lap and then I can walk. I walk a bit and Jenny starts shuffling forward, and like one of Pavlov's dogs, I start my shuffle too. Or we both walk a little then giggle as we realize we're hoping the other didn't notice. Or I insist I need more walking and she falls into step with me, because no matter what, we're in this together. I play games in my mind...so many laps till a trailer break, where I will flop down on the bed for just a minute or two - when my back is hurting, nothing fixes it like laying flat out. Hoping which ever of our group is taking a potty break will take just a little longer so I can sit, or even occasionally, lay flat on the nearby park bench. I hear the advanced miles of others - 50 miles, 100K, and we seem so far behind. I remind myself that it doesn't matter, all that matters is my finding my own pace and reaching my own goal. All the little battles overcome to keep moving forward. Small battles, small goals, reached one at a time.

And the physical piece. Little bits of pain here and there. Aching knees. The always present left ITB/hip/knee. The everlasting blisters (though these are getting better). The tired back muscles as the night wears on. Relentless forward motion.

And the joys. Eric arrives with a warm soy chai. His smile feels like home just came to PacRim. Margaret's hug and encouraging words. Jessica's cheerful chatter. Incredible runners, runners I so admire, telling me how great I'm doing. Good friends teasing as they go by. New friends sharing stories, making connections. There are elite runners in this race, and they rack up miles beyond belief, at speeds that are amazing. At the same time, it doesn't matter - in a sense the field is level and we are all fighting the same battle. There may be elite runners, but there is no elitism, there is only a shared bond of endurance and encouragement.

I love the night at PacRim. I love it when darkness creeps over us, and when I think of the race, I think of runners flowing through pools of light, of the quiet town around us. I love the shadows of the shrubbery, the reflections off the lake, the feeling that we runners are the only ones awake in the entire universe. The chatter becomes quieter, everyone turns inward, and the motion continues. The aid station is a warm oasis, waiting for us, glowing across the park. This is the best part of the race. I'm tired beyond belief, everything hurts, and yet, it is my favorite time.

After a day of reflections, I now know that I will do it again. I know that everything that draws me to PacRim outweighs the temporary discomforts of the effort. I find myself wanting to give the entire 24 hours a go. I jotted notes about what worked and what didn't and what I need to change. They are tucked away waiting for the next time, hopefully to ease a few of the difficulties on race day. It is so much more than a race, so much more than the physical challenge, though of course, that is a huge piece of it. I need to run this again, to fill my heart up again and again. Now I understand the lure of 100 milers. I have no desire to tackle trails at night, run solo in the forest or up a mountain. Nor do I have the speed for those races. This peaceful little race is just right for me. It challenges me, it fills me up and one day later, next year is on my mind.

22 comments:

robtherunner said...

Fabulous post, Michelle! I wish I could have read this 3 days ago.

craig said...

I'm glad that you shared these beautiful reflections Michelle. I had a feeling you'd be back.

justrun said...

That's wonderful! I'm so glad you shared.

Jenn said...

What a great post. Don't tell Arthur, but it makes think about signing up for this, in a few years!

Sarah said...

I love this post. From an observers standpoint, I have a lot of the same feelings. It's pretty amazing seeing the fast, the slow, the tired and the peppy coming past the counters table. This is one awesome little race with an incredible camaraderie. If I can ever run again (or even walk long distances) this is the one I want to do.

wendy said...

michelle, congrats on amazing run, and even more amazing mental recovery. =) beautiful post. We're so lucky to have such good folks around us for encouragement...
I hope your feet get better sooner rather than later!
XOXO, W

Cat said...

Michelle,
Beautifully said!

Tim Englund said...

Wonderful post, Michelle.
I too have sworn off Pacific Rim many times, yet I too love that quiet little run. Take care and enjoy your recovery. It was very nice meeting you and Eric again.

Laura H said...

"The always present left ITB/hip/knee." For me it's the right side. I was thinking if I tie my right side to your left side, we could go further. Like a three-legged race!

Very nice post - gets it across really well!

Wes said...

You don't really get it, unless you are also an endurance athlete. When I did Ironman, I just smiled the whole race. I knew long before I was done that I would do another one. That's good stuff :-)

I don't know if I'll ever go longer than 50K. I want to try to to that this year or early next year. We'll see! I've got some serious inspiration out there after all.

plualum said...

I love this post. I think it speaks to what draws us to distance running...the challenges...all of them...more than you can ever put into words. Although I have only gone to 26.2, I completely relate to the saga and enjoyed knowing there will always be more to reach for.
~Heidi

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Ahhh Michelle, a perfect summary of the shadows and light and the crunch of the gravel. We'll be there again and again and again going around and around and around. "See ya around!" Fast or slow, together or not we'll make it around again.
Jenny

Donald said...

These past two posts are fantastic. What a wonderful experience for you, and you did a great job of bringing us along and sharing your emotions and thoughts all along the way. Thanks, and congratulations!

Sunshine Girl said...

WOW!WOW!WOW!

So thrilled for you and I actually teared up! Way to go Michelle.

Sunshine said...

I liked this post, Michelle. Some of the joys of that particular setting/course came alive.
Your experience: What a treasure!

Annette said...

You really captured the spirit of that run. I love it when a run feels like that. You almost make a girl want to try that PacRim out! :)

Joe said...

There may be elite runners, but there is no elitism, there is only a shared bond of endurance and encouragement.

What a fantastic post, Michelle. You write well and capture so much. I've actually thought about coming out and doing PacRim sometime and this post only adds real fuel to that particular fire!!

I'm so grateful for what you captured here...very special. I'm happy for you.

May the blisters heal quickly and the ITB quiet down soon!!!

Jack said...

What a beautiful post, you really captured the moment. Congratulations on a good run!

Steve S said...

Extremely well expressed thoughts for all of us. Thanks

Dori said...

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, 50K was your distance, today it's 24 hours! This was a great post. :-)

lizzie lee said...

I'd give whatever to meet you guys... I wish you the best on 2010 PacRim.

Ovens2Betsy said...

I'm just reading this now as I prepare to run this race (although I believe I'll stop after hitting 50K as it's part of my 13 in 12). However, I wanted to say how much this warmed my heart:

"His smile feels like home just came to PacRim."

The love you two have for each other is ever present; you're such an inspiration in oh so many ways!