I'd say the biggest joy came from sharing an athletic event with my wife where we were on the same team. This is only my second relay race (and I really like them) but passing the baton with the woman I love was special. I take it for granted occasionally how great it is that we share a passion for the same activity. We have plans to one day purchase a motorhome and travel around to see the country, popping into races as we see fit. We both love the excitement of race day and the culture that seems to surround runners. We love the fit people, the endorphins, the energy and the challenge. Pride is too small a word to describe how I feel when I see my partner crossing the finish line.
Still nervous about heading back out again for my second 20km I went back to the hotel, took a long hot shower and ate a little. I was super worried about what to eat as stopping for a two hour break between efforts and taking in food was completely new territory for me. I settled on a pear, some water, a handful of pretzels, a Vega electrolyte drink and a couple squares of dark salted chocolate. Interestingly the hot shower really felt great and seemed to loosen me up. I also put compression sleeves on my calves during the break leaving them on for my second leg & changed to fresh running clothes.
The first 9 km went by in a blink, I was cruising easily and feeling similarly relaxed as the first lap. Knowing the course though (it's half paved and half dirt trail) I knew some hills were coming up and decided ahead that on the second lap I'd walk two or three of them just like the ultra runners doing the entire 80km were doing. It turns out that on my first hill I had the chance to walk beside a female ultra runner. She was struggling and feeling badly on her third lap and I wanted to help make her feel better. I gave lots of words of encouragement and left her on the top of the hill. Walking two more hills left me with a chance to really make the run social and I spent time jogging with some slower runners from other teams in the relay. Generally I was just enjoying myself, but I was also tired. It turns out 40km of mixed surface running was a lot for me after a week of illness and it was only enjoyable I think because I hit a pace that made it easy. And it did take a toll on my body as I didn't run for 5 days following the event as my calves were rather sore in large part I think to all the hills.
I'm torn about whether to make this event my first ultra run in 2016. Part of me wants to return with my wife and move our team from a second place finish (out of 5 two person teams, two of which dropped out) to something more spectacular. Then again, I'd really just like to run it for fun once again or invite another couple out to do it with us for a 4 person team. But an ultra does draw me in on some level. I'm curious about it in the way you might be about eating a really spicy pepper but feeling reluctant to actually put it in your mouth.
Running is a wonderfully confusing sport. I've signed up for the 7 race Island Series starting in January where I know my competitive spirit will return and I've booked my flight to Boston for the 2016 marathon. Yet on some level jogging an event for the sake of participation is equally enjoyable and maybe more so. I envision a time when I'll just stop trying so hard, when I'll lace up my sneakers as more of a jogger than a runner and be perfectly content with that. I just don't know when.