Mine to Mine Failure

I never thought my child misbehaving in school and lying to me about it would hurt so bad. I never thought it would send me into a crippling depression. I always knew these things would eventually happen; I just did not expect it to happen so soon or for it to affect me so profoundly.

Yesterday, my daughter got into a lot of trouble at preschool and broke my heart by lying to me about it. Then today, I blew the one race all year that I care about and train for specifically. I felt like a failure as a mother, so it was all too easy to accept being a failure as a runner as well.

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The Mine to Mine Challenge in Cripple Creek is my coveted race. I successful ran the distance two years ago, after I returned to living in Colorado. Hills are my nemesis, and high altitude only amplifies everything. Even after running two half marathons and a long variety of other races, I consider this one to be my most difficult. Completing it the first time was one of my favorite running accomplishments, one of the highest highs.

While I ran the first time alone (with a supportive driver), this time, I was joined by a contingent of Zombie Turtles. We gathered in the unseasonable sun outside the Heritage Center, waiting for the race to start.

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At the start, we took off down the introductory hill. Just like last time, I gasped for air at the thin mountain altitude of over 9,000 feet (3,000 higher than home). Even running downhill, I was winded. And, just like last time, it caused me to worry for the duration of the race, particularly the relentless hills I knew were coming this time. Yet I just told myself to commit to the breathing, pace down, and take it one stride at a time.

Once the hill spilled down into Cripple Creek and the route began yielding flats and inclines, the heat became painfully more apparent. A fall day in the mountains felt decidedly like the stifling summer that was supposedly behind us. The sun felt low, huge, oppressive, and the sky was wide and vividly clear. While this resulted in gorgeous scenery, my still-weighted body began to roast from the inside, the heat blooming in my core and roaring up into my face like a radiator.

Then the hill started. At this point, the 10 am sun stared me straight in the face as the hill climbed to the east. I could not deny the heat as the sweat poured down my face and into my eyes. I felt nothing but hot. My breathing struggled only against the cooking I suffered. My muscles were exerted but still functional. But that heat.

I pressed, panting and sweating, in deliberate strides. Trisha lingered at my side, sometimes dropping just in front of me, sometimes creeping just ahead of me. Phil blazed ahead; then we steadily crept back up to him. The Zombie Turtles moved around each other as we sluggishly climbed the hill.

After about a kilometer or so of the steady incline and the raging heat, a single tree emerged, casting shade across the asphalt. I ran into the shade, but I did not run out of the other side. Instead, I lingered in the shadow of that tree, basking in the cool.

In that instant, it was over. My goal of running the distance, the object of all my training and killing myself slipped away unconsummated. With the failure achieved and with the dream dead, I embraced the walk break. I resigned myself to it. It was too hot; the nausea was already bubbling up to my teeth. With failure already in my heart, I could not berate myself into stubbornness, into powering through; I could only feel sad.

Usually, when met with a running failure (like the zoo run), I react by becoming devastated and livid, equal measures. This time, I felt the amplification of my existing sadness; then I just went with it. I decided to walk the next kilometer then start running again. I watched Phil and Trisha wog away ahead of me.

Then Trisha waited for me. She joined me on my walk. She allowed me to be distracted from all the failure on my brain.

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My temperature did stop raging while I walked. After a kilometer, we returned to our wog, just as we approached the longest stretch of uncurved uphill. Halfway up the killer hill, the heat flared up again. It felt like the sun was actually pressing on my face, igniting every nerve. Since I had already sinned in walking, I walked again. No quams, no self-deprecation. Just more walking. Trisha and I admired the scenery.

My memory of the route after the huge hill from my first run was completely hazy. Potentially because I was near passing out when I successfully summitted it. I was thrilled to see that the last two kilometers were the gentle downhill, flat bridge, and the finish. A cool breeze lapped at my face as we started to run again. I found my rhythm; I fell into my pace; I felt like a runner again. Until I rounded the corner to scale the last tiny hill to the finish and the heat slapped me in the face again.

But I finished. My original time was :59. My goal for this attempt was under 1:10. I finished in 1:05. So while I failed to successfully run the entire distance, I still finished with a very acceptable time. I walked at least a kilometer and a half, so had I run the whole thing, I could have seen my previous time again.

Trisha kept me in perspective, on both the running and the parenting. She waited for me; she distracted me; she said the things I needed to hear against the sea of bullshit swimming on my brain. For that, I was grateful.

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Phil ran the entire course on a day I could not. Michelle did the hardest race I know to date when she has been struggling with her runner mojo. Trisha hung back to be just the running buddy I needed. On a day I could have classified a failure, I found myself exceedingly proud of all of my Zombie Turtles.

Next year, I want to run the full distance. I will hope for colder temperatures as my running seems to be entirely contingent on the weather. But this year, even this failure will do.

Christina Bergling

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About ChrstnaBergling

Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. In 2015, she published two novellas. She is also featured in the horror collection Collected Christmas. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado Springs. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life. View all posts by ChrstnaBergling

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