“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lessons afterward.”
My Vermont 100 experience was a hard test. I’m trying to decide whether I passed or failed.
When I grade my students’ work, I assess it based on what I want them to learn and how well their work demonstrates that they’ve learned those lessons.
In the case of racing, these “lessons” come in various forms, and one way to assess a race is to think about the goals I set for the race. For Vermont 100, I had my usual tiered set of goals: A) “super secret” goal, B) “good” goal, and C) “just finish” goal.
If I evaluate the day based on my A & B goals, then there is only one assessment to make: I failed, by a lot. Yes, I finished – but I missed my “big” goals. By hours.
This race stomped and kicked my ego into submission. My pride was squeezed into a tiny pellet that I swallowed somewhere around mile 75. It is now lodged in some dark hole in my psyche – afraid to come out for fear of being reminded of how epically off the mark I was in setting expectations for racing the Vermont 100 – how epically arrogant I was about the challenges this race presents.
After a magical first 100 miler at Javelina Jundred, which lulled me into a false sense of my ability, this race was a serious reminder that I am but a wee babe when it comes to the ways of 100 mile running. I knew the race would be hard – it’s 100 miles! But, I underestimated the difficulty of this course, and as a consequence, showed up unprepared – both mentally and physically – to achieve my big goals.
That’s a hard lesson to learn–honestly, to re-learn–and to admit here publicly. And it’s part of the reason it has taken me 4 weeks to work through this race report, which is turning into something of a mea culpa for fucking up one of my key races of the year.
Yet, I finished the race–trudging, shuffling and at times limping through heat, hills, mud, rain, fatigue, and pain. There are many lessons in that kind of gritty finish. That has to be worth something, right?
When everything goes well, I don’t always learn that much. There’s no need to interrogate the day: it worked out.
But, when things go off the rails, I reflect significantly more, digging for kernels that will help me avoid those pitfalls in the future. Despite the challenges, there were great moments within the Vermont 100 – just not as it relates to my A and B goals. If I let those go (aarrrgghhh, so hard…), I can evaluate the day through a different lens.