Earlier this week, I was laying flat on my stomach with electrodes hooked up to my leg, chtaaing with the physio in charge of my treatment. We were discussing my problem when I heard myself say: "I don't mind the pain so much while running, I just don't want to do permanent damage." What? Who said that?
I've been noticing lately that my attitude toward pain was changing. I accelerate in the uphills. When I turn around, I turn at the top of the hill instead of just before. I now always finish my runs, any run, with a hard sprint. I guess running 5 or 6 ultras in the same summer is another example. Things like that.
Don't get me wrong, I am still a lazy person. It's just that I now seek the rush that comes with doing something ridiculously hard. That means some level of pain. This Spring I broke 20 minutes in a 5k for the first (only?) time. Some of it was fitness, but a lot of it was embracing the pain. That was the sharpest pain I've ever felt during a race. It was exhilarating. Then you have the long distance pain, maybe enhanced by a good bonk, running (you wish you were running, you're shuffling) by yourself in the bush, minutes feeling like hours, thinking that maybe you could just lay down in the leaves, right there by the trail, and pass out. Maybe they'll find you and maybe they won't. You don't care all that much. It takes a while to come back from that. It changes you a bit. Some people call it "seing the bear" and I can see why. I've seen it. I know the price to pay if I go just a bit too far.
During a race, there's usually a point beyond which I can't really remember why I thought this would be fun in the first place. I now have this rule that I never question my motives during the race. Another rule is to never decide anything during a race, including deciding to never to run an ultra again! Big no-no.
In a previous post, I mentioned how difficult it was for me as an ultra runner to communicate to "civilians" why I do this. I think that this relationship with pain might be why I'm not comfortable explaining it. They don't understand the rewards, they just focus on the pain. The term "epic" has a meaning for endurance sport junkies that other people don't understand fully. Their loss. I've had a few glimpse of the epic. I want more. The price you have to pay for the experience is pain. In that way, pain is your friend, singing in your head, guiding you. Sometimes, your friend will tell you that it's time to back off. You have to learn to recognize those times and listen.
If you're not an ultra runner and you're thinking of trying an ultra, don't worry too much about what I wrote. Maybe my family is right and I am crazy. In the mean time, I'm going to go look for the epic. It usually hangs out with the bear...