I had everything to be grateful for. I was doing what I loved. I just watched the sunset, which is one of my favorite things in this world. I was on single track trails in the mountains east of San Diego. I had friends crewing and pacing me. I had family, friends and my girlfriend tracking and cheering me on from home.
But every miscalculated step was a rock stab to the foot. Every howl of the wind was grit in my face. Every second put me further into sleep deprivation.
As I dwelled in the misery, I lost perspective of the gratitude that filled me. It wasn’t very long after that, when I lost touch with my motivation. I became indifferent to my goals and became more and more interested in taking a break and feeling, even just a little bit of comfort.
I was 65+ miles into the race at that point. Still a long ways away from the finish line.
But with the conditions the way they were, windy and getting colder, and my pacer doing as he was instructed, keeping me moving, I could only grasp a few seconds of relief at aid stations and periodically on the side of the trail.
I became my own worst enemy from then on.
I was extremely positive to myself throughout the day but as night fell, so did my walls of fortitude. I know it’s perfectly human to go through the spectrum of thoughts and emotions during a day but I find it sometimes impossibly hard to overcome negative talk late in a race. I think that’s a reason why I want to do 100 milers. To have my positive self win over my negative self. But when I give in to the negative self talk, I feel like I’ve lost the battle and that I didn’t have the race I dreamed of having.
Eventually I did finish. It was such a relief to see the sunrise and I felt renewed with energy seeing daylight and feeling warmth. I still didn’t really care about finishing in a certain time. I just wanted it to be over with as soon as possible.
For me, it was a weird mix of activity going through me at the finish line, including relief and dissatisfaction.
On one side, I am very proud of my finish and the accomplishment for having covered 100 miles on my feet. But on the other side there are the shouldas, couldas and wouldas. Depending on my mindset, I can let those outweigh the overall experience that I had.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Being congratulated at the finish, part of me felt like I didn’t deserve to be congratulated. The other part deeply appreciated the kind words. Part of me knew I could have done better. The other part of me knew I did the best I could on that day. The internal battle continued on even after the race.
It wasn’t until I got home after a few days of driving back to Colorado that my positive self started to win out.
Getting out of the car, I could see my dog wagging his tail and squirming his body on the other side of the gate waiting for me to pet him. I realized he was excited to see me no matter what. Whether I got last or first, it wouldn’t have mattered to him. He still loved me.
And beyond myself, I realized it doesn’t matter to anyone what my time was or what I placed. What mattered, was that I finished in one piece. Everyone would still treat me the same no matter the outcome. My family and friends would still love me just the same as before the race.
And for that, I’m forever grateful.
I’m happy with how San Diego 100 played out for me. I’m no longer wanting to fill the desire to find a redemption race. It was tough, which is to be expected, and I got through it. Every race is a learning experience and I am more knowledgeable now, about myself and about ultra running, than I was before the race.
Our races, and most of everything in life, won’t play out the way we want them to. What matters the most is the mindset we choose to have when things don’t go accordingly. And from what I can tell so far in life, a heart and mind full of gratitude can find peace and joy in any situation in life. Because if you’re alive, there is always something to be grateful for.
And make sure to smile as much as possible along the way.
Written by Joey Schrichte
IG: @ JoeySchrichte