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  • Writer's pictureMandy

Self-Doubt on the Trails

“Maybe this isn’t my thing anymore. Maybe I am not a trail runner anymore.”

It’s hard for me to believe that those words came into my head and eventually out of my mouth today. It was a rough day on the trails and eventually the mind was caving in much like the body already had.

Today was my first in person, live race since the beginning of February, 2020. It is a race I have ran several times before and I knew the course pretty well. I knew it is always challenging but with good company and lots of familiar faces in attendance, I was pretty optimistic.

The butterflies started on the drive over to Chester Woods from home. I wasn’t sure why I was having them. Races for me are actually just social gatherings with some time on the trail thrown in between the pre and the post race parties. However, with COVID restrictions, there wouldn’t be much of that today, at least for me and Bill. Our comfort level is still quite low with gatherings of people. However, this would be outside and we figured with me being a Back of the Packer, we wouldn’t see too many people once the race started. We figured this would be the start of our baby steps back into participating in races. Or were the butterflies caused by the fact that I really haven’t been running consistently and here I was trying to bang out 10 trail miles. Undertrained or uncomfortable….I wasn’t sure which one was causing the nervousness. I am thinking now it was the latter.

Already around 1 ½ miles I felt like the struggle bus was coming to pick me up. We were on a slight incline so once we got onto some soft, flat ground I felt better. There are some big climbs at Chester Woods. This is not running around a flat, paved lake path. There are some big damn hills and lots of rocks that can make sections quite challenging. Around 4-5 miles or so, we started to see runners coming back at us after they had finished the loop and were heading back to the finish line. This part of the race really got me fired up and energized. As much as I feel like I am an introvert, cheering people on during races and seeing familiar faces out there really gives me an energy boost!

It wasn’t long after that when we entered the loop where it was just us and the fast 50k runners passing us. No more two way traffic and at this point in a race, people have their speed set and everyone kind of stays in the same order. I am not even sure what mile we were at when the doubts started to creep into my mind. The struggle bus was certainly taking me for a wild ride today! During one of my walking breaks...there were so many of them, I started thinking to myself “Maybe this isn’t for me anymore. Maybe I am not a trail runner anymore. Maybe I am fooling myself thinking I can run races anymore.” Being slow isn’t really an issue in my mind. I am the self-proclaimed Queen of the DFL and a proud Back of the Packer, but today something just felt off….felt different.

Doubt can creep up on you anywhere in life. Be it at the office, at the gym, at a social gathering (not that there have been many to go to!) and for me, on the trail. I try not to let my mind wander to those thoughts as I know how detrimental they can be during a race. I have seen it at many trail runs and ultra races. I like to think that I can handle those voices telling me that I am no good at this and to give up. I mean I finished Zumbro 50 miler in a flippin’ BLIZZARD! This was a 10 mile race, on a 70 degree November day! There should be no reason I can’t finish this race. So why were those doubts creeping into my head??

We really didn’t do all that bad as far as time goes. I figured 2 ½ hours and we finished at very close to where I thought we would be. This race just really got to me mentally somehow. I guess anyone can have a day like that. Not all days are good days. Not all races are good races. So I am going to leave it at that. No excuses about my workout yesterday or a lack of nutrition or not enough hydration. It just was not a great race day. Period. This one day and this one race does not define me. It does not get to tell me that I am not a trail runner. It does not get to decide that I should no longer do something that I love. I AM a trail runner and I WILL run another trail race.

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