About three years ago, I took a year off to build a cottage and look for a new direction in my life. During that time I ran every day through the sand dunes but that was it. In fact from September of that year to March of the next I did not race at all. Around the Bay in March would be my return to racing. I took all of February for a trip out west which included several weeks x-country skiing by myself through Yellowstone. When I returned I had more questions than before I left. Though I would have only a couple weeks training, I felt I could do ATB and then get ready for Boston. I had hoped, as many of us do, that the time away would help me think through what I wanted to do next. Certainly a return to some sort of work would be necessary and most likely returning to the job I had taken a year’s leave from presented the best financial option. That meant a return to Toronto and very uncertain prospects for buying a house. Returning to Toronto and the job I had before would be ok but what about the other things in my life. At the time I wrote this about running. I can still feel the emotions I felt then while writing it:
How can you fail at a race you didn’t run, or more exactly at a race you couldn’t run. No New York. I am under trained and alone. This year I didn’t make the effort to get ready for the race. I worked hard and went through so many things but running suffered and the loneliness was a huge factor. The race was cancelled and I almost feel relieved because then there is no 3:05 in my file that I have to explain to almost no one. I think it would have been a 2:57 or slightly better but I know it wasn’t going to be my finest hour. I can easily see the struggle up the side of Central Park, the series of rallies in the park and then the long looks up Central Park South as I put hands on hips and gathered myself for the last mile. I have been there before, actually most years or at least half of the years. At 49 I am not playing with house money anymore. A bit of remaining talent and hard work must carry the day, no more youthful fire that can take moderate training and create a magical day. I have a small but growing feeling that running is slowly falling from me. This time off has not made me hungry but has made me scared. I think I am scared. I think we are all scared of our finest moments. We are all scared of what we have done and becoming a fraud by what will do next. You can never take away the grandness of your greatest moments but you can always not live up to them and then you just don’t have it anymore. Strangely I rarely find myself competing against others, that happened when I was young, now I find myself competing with me. This is most difficult when you are not who you were. Aging gracefully is not competing with your younger you but being at peace with who you are at this time in your life. This means I am old, in the numerical and physical sense but also in my time. My time was 1:10 in a half or 31:57 in a 10K but my time was also piggybacks and homework with Kate (now I am crying) and that is not my time now and I am not at peace with this time. Perhaps another bike trip through some foreign land or a race that remembers the old days will help me find some of what was – like last march when I ran 1:15 flat at Peterborough or 1:52 at Around The Bay. These are not days gone by but days that just went by. So off to the Grand Canyon with Kyle, or off to Boston for a 2:47 or perhaps Mongolia, though a trip across the US seems more likely and less expensive. Did I fail?
I was feeling quite down and sometimes quite lonely. A winter at my cottage is both very very cold, only a wood stove and a small fireplace for heat, and pretty isolated. An incredible best friend in Maddie, my golden retriever, and 3 cats who were always snuggling under multiple duvets, did make for wonderful companions though. I am not sure why I am sharing this but here it is.
Here is a picture I rather like from that era