I left my own front door for my traditional pre-race jog. I felt good. By that I mean running wasn’t a struggle and my brain wasn’t totally in a fog. I was excited to race and there was a spring in my step. Was I healthy? Would I race today? I mean, actually race? Despite what I might say, I hadn’t been healthy for weeks. Over the past months I struggled with various unidentified illnesses, Did I have mono? A cold and sinus infection? The label didn’t matter to me. I pushed through workouts I shouldn’t have done and spent hours curled up on my bed longing more than anything to feel the way I had before I got sick.
At our coffee conversations, we talk a lot about restoration. What does it even mean to restore a landscape, an ecosystem, a body-mind? Can you bring something back to the way it was? When? How do you know what it was like? Is that even a good idea? These are the questions we discuss. As I ran, I thought back to myself. I tried to remember what it was like to get out of bed in the morning before my alarm, excited to run. I felt good, but did I feel 100%? Like the way I felt “before”? I couldn’t tell.
It doesn’t matter. All I know is I feel good. I told myself
At our coffee conversations, we also talk about the desire to restore or cure and what that implies about the thing being “cured”. If we say a landscape needs to be restored, that generally implies that there is something wrong about the way it is now. The same goes for the human body-mind. As a society, we often find ourselves feeling the need to cure any body-mind that is different from our own or from that perfect, non-existent “reference man”. We’ve talked in depth about how just because a body-mind is different, that doesn’t mean it is broken, that doesn’t mean it is less.
My body-mind isn’t broken. I repeated to myself as I ran.
I have to say this because the human body and mind are so interconnected. Skiing is a mental game as much as a physical one. It hurts. It hurts no matter what. Healthy or sick, it will hurt. I have to tell myself that everything is fine. The hurt is good, that I can do it, that I am not broken.
Hours later I rage up campground hill, even as Anna Johnson passes by. It’s slightly demoralizing that she’s passed me here on every lap even if she is the defending classic sprint national champion. But I fight. My body screams out in protest, my legs burn, my chest hurts, my stomach churns, my back aches. I hurt. I want to throw up and collapse on the trail. But I don’t. I race. This is what racing is supposed to feel like, and that makes the pain feel good. It’s a type of pain I haven’t felt in a long time. I cross the finish line of my final lap, gasping for breath. My side feels like someone is jabbing me with a dull knife every time I breathe in, but I can’t help but smile.
My body is not restored to a former version of itself. I may have won the 21k skate by minutes last year only to place 5th this year, but a year ago, this body would have been hard pressed to be top 8 in total individual time in that classic team sprint. This year I was 3rd, behind the top two classic sprinters in USCSA. Restored? No. But definitely not broken either.