“If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else” -C.S. Lewis

Ah, you’ve felt this way, too, haven’t you? The road stretches out before you, a warm breeze (at your back, of course) and comfortable temps propel you into a state of near-euphoria as your feet rhythmically hit the pavement. You’re in the zone. And you could keep going and going … and going.

Not-so-lucky number...

I stumbled across this quote from the great C.S. Lewis (thank you, ultrarunnergirl) and immediately nodded in appreciation while reading it. Just as quickly, though, I thought about how so very far I was from feeling this way this past Saturday during the Cherry Fest 15k. One word: Ouch. OK, here’s a few more:

Icky. Stupid hot. Ridiculously draining. Depleting. Draining. Discouraging.

Boy, that’s not depressing or anything, is it?

Forgive me, for I experienced a first (and surely not my last, I suppose) in my running adventures: a bad, bad race.

Maybe I jinxed it with my cheeseburger post – bad running karma? Or maybe I really should have taken the advice of friends and practiced (Mt.) McKinley “lots.” (McKinley is a steep stretch of road about 4 1/2 miles into this course that pretty much makes or breaks you.) But I’d run the course in the past with my running group, and I figured I’d be OK come race day since I regularly run hills in my neighborhood. They don’t call it Holiday Hills for nothing.

Maybe I simply had an off race. We all have ’em, right?

I won’t give you the brutal play-by-play, but suffice it to say, the 70+-degree heat plus the did-this-hill-grow-lately? section of the route kicked my butt. I went into the race knowing I likely wasn’t going to run my fastest. I knew the warmer weather and hilly portion would slow me some. I also just wanted to enjoy this race being that it was my first time running this particular distance. It was a beautiful northern Michigan day.

But even a few miles in, I could tell my body wasn’t feeling it. My mental toughness, it seemed too, wasn’t where it should be. I found myself glancing at East Grand Traverse Bay wistfully, wishing I could go swimming rather than finish this $^%&$ race. Um, that’s not good less than a quarter of the way in.

I never was so happy to have finished a race, and at least the final mile is filled with cheers from the people lining Traverse City’s downtown streets for a huge festival parade later in the morning. Friends shouted my name as I somehow powered through the final three city blocks, and hearing the clapping and encouragement did help. I could feel the adrenalin kick in knowing my husband and kids would be in that final block just before the finish line — a finish line I could see, thank goodness. Finish time: 1:24:15.

So instead of bemoaning this race completely, I’d like to share a few positives, both on race day and in the days following:

* Family: Along with seeing my kids’ beaming faces and hearing my husband’s cheers as I neared the finish line, I was able to hug my mom and sister. Having them there meant a lot, and it was my sister’s first time seeing me cross a finish line since she lives in Chicago.

* Friends: Several with whom I’ve shared my disappointment boosted my spirits — thank you Matt C. and Heather E.! — by simply listening, offering encouragement — and reminding me that This. Was. Just. One. Race. This doesn’t define you as a runner, more than one person told me. Another friend looked at me incredulously when I mentioned it wasn’t my best race and said, “But you did it. You finished! And you started it, which is more than I could ever do!”

* Time-out: I gave running a break, just for a few days, and instead spent time just being — at the beach with my kids, working on a (non-running) article and getting a much-needed and, might I say, fabulous haircut and color. Never underestimate the power of a little beauty therapy.

Worth stopping for ~ sunset over East Grand Traverse Bay

* A good run: It was late, about 9 p.m., but I headed out on a favorite route last night. It felt good — I even felt strong enough to challenge myself to a bit of a tempo run — and I was given a gift midway through: a beautifully painted sky as the sun set on the bay.

Ever have a not-so-great race? What happened, and how did you get over the disappointment?

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