In Newtonian mechanics, momentum can be defined as the product of the mass and velocity of an object. Another definition that sometimes underlies my search for motivation after a period of time off from the run is “the impetus gained by an object in motion”. The search for motivation I sometimes wring hands over is usually the byproduct of time off from injury or rest at the end of a big race-year, or an unforeseen distraction; life can throw an infinite array of curveballs.
This morning I left at first light, resisting the lure of a second cup of my favorite of pressed coffee with goat milk and coconut fat, abandoning my warm house after 36 hours of rain. Pushing out into drizzle, the fresh winter air wringing from me weeks of accumulated procrastination and avoidance, I knew I made the right choice. Most times it’s easy, with an accomplished training load or race results pulling me forward like my own personal gravity, and at those times there is no other possibility, and my mood floats with my stride as I slip into flow and adrenaline and a place free from the modern world, and into the natural world – the ultimate reality. Other times…well, those other times tend to be a byproduct of personal strife: injury and the inability of my ego to be at peace with missing a big goal race while I sort out a plan to repair the damage after months of training, or pain management, or any of the million other things. Emotionally, a loss of momentum can be a response or a cause, or the question to an answer, and impossible in the moment to sort through without stepping back to look with an objective eye at the bigger picture. This can feel like being trapped in a hole.
In the 30 days after my last run at Rio Del Lago 100, Rebekah and I have hung on to the rollercoaster, sometimes desperately. There is a place few talk about, yet many visit, where surprise is something either cherished or lamented, and plans are made and broken in preparation, where priorities are reassessed as numbers are crunched, and loss can slam you like a freight train. When Rebekah found we were to be new parents after our time spent in recovery from Tahoe 200 this year, we embraced the surprise with everything we know as parents of three, and the passionate humans we are and strive to be. We made plans, we shuffled and placed on hold annual race schedules and running dreams, and we went all-in on the idea of bringing another soul into the world: maybe he or she would be a runner, maybe she would hate running; perspective parents can have funny thoughts. Suddenly my qualifier at Rio become merely a shot at a PR, a different focus, and I learned that WS100 offers a single, lifetime lottery bye for men, and a pregnancy deferral for the fairer set; in my mind’s eye, I’m always gonna get back there again to see what’s possible. Suddenly the idea of a year off made complete sense, which went against everything I used to know and have learned over the past decade since I discovered and redefined the run, and then the long run. Suddenly Moab 240 became a distant aspiration for Rebekah instead of this coming year’s objective. Suddenly, our whole running world changed. How would we manage the new aid station we have committed to: the hand-off is official, the RD already in the loop, the announcement made to the club. I honestly didn’t know, but we would somehow just figure it out; somehow, we would just get it done. Running an aid station with a newborn can’t be harder than spending 4 days awake in perpetual motion around Lake Tahoe, right?
But no one is ever ready for the disappointment when it comes. It truly is amazing how often it apparently occurs when you open up to others – to friends, to co-workers, and when they suddenly spill forth with their own tale of disappointment and the winding road, you realize you are not special and neither are your dreams. Grieving, reassessing, soul-searching; coming to terms with mortality and legacy and the creation of life from intimate passion, like magic: what a range of emotion. And what an exponential gravitational pull toward an inertia of sedentary stillness when the reality of loss settles with the dust.
It took pushing out into the first light of this morning’s mist, in post-frontal drizzle with windy chill, to pull my slumbering, running self from that inertia of sedentary grief. Cruising across a coast highway made empty by weekend’s morning, my strike of stride reaffirmed my connection with the outside world as I pushed up into the local muddy Coastside hills. And it occurred to me how important the run really is. Sometimes, it is everything. Clearing my mind of loss and dreams along cliff’s edge of space above the sea, embracing that inundation of crashing winter’s waves along the Rockaway sea wall, with welcoming arm outstretched into the drenching explosion of sea water that soaked all I am into connection with the vast energy of the Pacific Ocean…it was all so crucial. After weeks of darkness and questions and sitting still even as peak fitness after a most amazing year melted away, my connection with the trail and the elements had suddenly grabbed me by the collar and b-slapped me into focus. And I am so damn grateful. The run has given me such amazing perspective. It has informed my existence, allowed me to see the world with objective eye when all else has failed to do so, and has lent immense appreciation for all I am and breathe, with love and forgiveness and the thousand emotions.
What a gift.
– Alan Reynolds