The last drop bag has finally been emptied and its contents put away in the linen closet (thank you, honey :) It contained gauze pads, bandaids and all kinds of other first aid stuff I never did use. What's left of the race is the sweet memory, a sore spot on my hip and back of knee, the rather large medal belt buckle and a lingering happy feeling that I've carried around for over a week.
The big question this week from so many is either, "So, what's next?" or "Will you do it again?" Both of which have gotten the answer, "I don't know." I do realize that this experience was unique. It will never be duplicated nor will any other race even compare. That does not mean that I won't have other awesome racing experiences, but this one was one of a kind. In fact, each marathon I've done is one of a kind and my first ultra was also one of a kind. I think it's pretty normal to want to duplicate all the feelings that come with a good race and if I could pack up the same people (and this time add Suttan) and relive that again, I would. But the odds of that are slim to super slim.
I believe most of the crew have been inspired to at least do a 50k. Whether they ever do or not doesn't matter. I know for a fact each of them possesses the ability to go at LEAST that distance. Being at Burning River allowed them to see runners at their worst come back to life and continue on. In some respect, I feel like I cheated them out of seeing me curled in a ball, sucking my thumb and crying that I was done. I warned them that may happen and they were instructed and prepared to kick me out of the aid station in spite of that. I actually think a few were looking forward to it! But that moment never came. John saw me at my worst, which comparatively speaking, wasn't that bad. Again, a journey not taken alone was the reason for that.
I'd like to say I am completely recovered, and parts of my body are. My feet are nearly back to normal, minus the dirt that just won't come out of my toenails. I have caught up on my sleep thanks to super early bed times this past week and I feel good. I ran trails with John on Sunday and discovered that the hip and back of knee pain that gave me trouble during the race are going to require a bit more down time and care as not to turn into full blown injuries. Signs that my body is definitely not totally recovered. Before the race, I was prepared to takes weeks off to recover. But now I can't stand that I am not running since I feel good and "normal". But Sunday showed me that for a 100 mile rookie like me, one week simply isn't enough. And I am going to let this one dictate. I'd love to do just one run where I am not coming home and rolling and icing a tender spot. It's been a long time since I've had one of those runs!
As much as I can't wait to run, I have nothing in the works for the fall and it is a great feeling. I have the Stone Steps 50k on the back burner as one I'd like to do, but I feel confident enough to say that if I keep running trails, I can do that with little notice. Starting tonight with 3 soccer practices (and one high school cross country schedule that owns Will), my kids' sports are dictating my schedule and are going to keep us ridiculously busy, if not downright crazy. If I can hit the trails every Friday while they are in school for a longer run and nothing is glaring on the schedule for Sunday, October 27th, then I will sign up and run it. The race is local and at a notoriously beautiful time of year... perfect for running trails with the fall leaves littering the way.
I continue to pray and seek guidance for where I am headed. Is running supposed to continue to be what helps me develop spiritually? Do I continue to pull others with me along the way? God sure knows how much I love it, so it may very well be. My awareness of what a true gift it is, of course, is at an all time high. I also want to be careful that I am not just deciding that this is my path because it is one that is so easy for me to follow. Burning River most definitely was, but that doesn't mean that my love for running and racing (and I use the word "racing" loosely) will be where I am called in the future. I sure hope it is and in some way, I imagine that God is pleased with me using whatever it is that I love to better myself and pull others with me. There is always that knowledge that He loves us so much and wants us to experience joy and happiness in our lives.
So from here I head into the unknown with a continuous quest to seek God's will. The unknowns in life are so scary, yet very exciting. Without a doubt, if I listen and follow, I will never be steered in the wrong direction, even if it is a direction I never imagined myself headed. God NEVER steers us wrong.
That makes the journey a little less scary and a WHOLE lot more exciting!