Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fear of Failure

Well, I completely fell flat on my face at the San Juan Solstice 50 miler.  It was an amazing trip/experience with some really great friends.  We camped in the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, we ran Hope Pass, we hung out in Lake City with many really fun ultra-people, and, best of all, I got to see some incredible sights.....the kinds of things you only see when you run ultras.

David Hill and winner Paul Hamilton

Tony Cesario getting the campsite ready

Tony Cesario and I on Hope Pass

Chey Hasemeyer triumphing at Hope Pass

I knew going into it that San Juan Solstice would be a tough 50 miler, but I would have never guessed that I would have my ass handed to me at mile 15.7!!  I ran at a comfortable pace and worked my way up and down the first climb/ascent at what I thought was a fair pace.  Nonetheless, at the second aid station I learned that I was being cutoff.  That's never happened to me before.  I was really surprised.  I'll be back again to try next year.

But make no mistake about it.  I failed to finish.

I have tried to think of words to describe the San Juan Mountains to you guys.  I'm sorry, I just can't.  It's like nothing I have ever seen in my life.  I've traveled quite a bit this year.  Being on top of the San Juan's is like giving a handshake to god.  You are surrounded by the most awesome and humbling's indescribable.

I may have paused here too long.

Lake City

Next up for me is the Angeles Crest 100.  One of the hardest 100 mile races in the country.  It will be hot.  It will be mountainous.  I will be dealing with these two elements that I have not had the luxury of training in.  It's outside my skill level.  It will hurt.  I may fail again.  Miserably.

I realize I have chosen a sport that entails a certain degree of uncertainty.  If you know someone that has never failed to finish a race, they probably either haven't been racing long enough, or haven't tried anything hard enough to push their limits.  Some people try to excuse their fears, joke about them or brush them under the table and chalk their ultimate failures up to circumstances beyond their control.  I've found that this community of ultra runners is extremely supportive of a specific kind of runner - one I believe I am becoming - the mediocre person that isn't afraid to haul ass head first at a failure waiting to happen.

But make no mistake about it.  I'm scared.  I am really afraid I may fail.  I'm afraid that after my wife and I spend thousands of dollars to make this trip happen and I get cut off at mile 40 she will tell me that my successes to this point may have been a fluke and it might be time to find a new hobby.

This fear of being discovered as a fraud isn't new.  On my first day of college I felt like I had somehow sneaked in under the admissions radar.  That suspicion continued well into law school, the bar exam, my first legal job and today.  In fact, the next time I step up in front of a judge I will have a passing fear that the judge will discover I am a fraud and I have no business practicing law.

Similarly, at times I believe my wife must have caught me on a good day.  I'm not that handsome and I'm not that nice.  Sometimes I fear she will look over at me and let me know that I'm really not as awesome as she thought I was - and tell me and my collection of rather smelly clothes to take a hike.

We all live with these fears.  I know I'm not alone.

What's the point?  Facing these fears head on is what makes us feel alive.  My sincere fear is that there will come a time in early August that my feet will be raw and the majority of my body will be chaffed.  The sun will be beating on my head and it will be over 90 degrees.  I will have not slept in 30 hours and my wife and pacer will both decide once this race is over they are done with me.  I'll be looking up at Mount Wilson and wishing I was dead. 

Then I will face that fear and finish the race.