Well, I managed to keep my emotions in check until the end. Then, as I was first saying goodbye and congratulations to Western States President and 10-time finisher John Trent, and then finally saying goodbye to my dear friend and Assistant Race Director Craig Thornley on the Placer High School track, I simply lost it. No other way to say it, I just started sobbing like a baby. Then, as quickly as I could, I ran to my car and drove away.
While I was making my way to Reno last Sunday afternoon I reflected on the weekend and asked myself, “Why have I all of a sudden turned into a puddle of mush? It’s just a race, Andy! Snap out of it.” I even said it out loud to myself.
Of course, the thing is, for me and for many others, it is way more than just a race and that is why my heart was torn asunder as I departed and flew east and back to the rest of my life. The weekend had been filled with indelible memories; running with friends on the Western States trail, sharing my thoughts in two pre-race discussions, getting a glimpse inside the iRunFar.com race coverage machine, spending time with Aid Station captains Bill Plexico, Dennis Zilaff and Larry Roedenbeck at Robinson Flat, Devils Thumb, and the Rucky Chucky River Crossing. Heck, I even had the honor of interviewing the two winners immediately after they had finished. Why, all of a sudden, was I overcome with such deep emotion?
The more I thought about it, the more it started to sink in. As much as I had enjoyed the weekend being part of the race as a spectator and supporter, I had not run. That really hurt. Every June since 2004 (with the exception of 2008 when the race was canceled), I have run Western States and every year I have felt a certain sense of wholeness upon finishing the race. This year, as much as I tried to simply accept the fact that I could not race due to injury and every time I told someone that it was fine to be “taking a year off,” there was a big part inside me who knew that wasn’t true. And, in the end, it made me feel empty inside.
On Saturday evening, I ran up to Robie Point to meet up with the 9th and 10th place male finishers and to jog a few miles in with them. Given my obsession with the top 10 at Western States, I am sure those guys understood why I was doing that. Especially since over the last three years I finished 10th once and 9th twice. Something in me simply wanted to experience a little bit of that top 10 feeling again even though it was Joe’s and Neal’s experience rather than mine. If I couldn’t have the entire experience, I realized I was a bit desperate for a little piece of it.
Once again, running had taught me an important life lesson. This time, it was the rather simple and painful lesson that all good things come to an end and that looking on the bright side of life and maintaining an optimistic attitude when it comes to accepting disappointment does not always do enough to assuage sadness. In the end, my melancholy nature took hold of me as I struggled to come to grips with my own limitations. I admit it, it was not something I wanted to learn in that way. But, in running as in life, most of the best lessons we learn are the ones we didn’t know we needed.
AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
The week’s Beer of the Week comes from Ashland, OR, home to three cougars. Standing Stone Brewery’s Double IPA is surprisingly smooth and quite a bit less harsh than some other DIPAs. The brewpub at Standing Stone is one of the nicest I know. Next time you’re in Ashland, after you’ve seen some Shakespeare and visited Rogue Valley Runners, stop by Standing Stone, you will not be disappointed.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- Why does Western States… or your favorite race, mean so much to you?
- What’s a good beer to cry into?