Today’s hero came in the convenient form of laboratory-concocted organic sugary goo. Clif Shots. These gels have saved many-a-bonk in the past and today was no different.

I was off from work for two days and found myself with an abundance of time. I made a split decision to head up to the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, the site of my 50-mile race attempt this past May, to snatch some of my ego back.

I left Greenbush on Monday night and drove the three hours straight to the Nordic trailhead in LaGrange, traversing Chicago’s suburbs in the process. I slept in the back of my car, but didn’t actually fall asleep until about 2am. The morning sun woke me extra early, which made for a groggy trot of the first few miles.

To my surprise, I remembered the course in its entirety and had no issue with navigation (this is before I had Strava or Gaia). I tried hard to relax into a groove, but to no avail. 20 minutes went by. 30. 40. 50. An hour had passed, and I still had no energy. I was mentally flabbergasted at my lack of motivation. I just wanted to curl up and take a nap.

I soon found a bench overlooking Lake LaGrange and laid down, hoping to settle my monkey mind. I closed my eyes and dozed off for 30 minutes. Upon waking, I sucked down a gel with some water.

Earlier, when I left my car, the goal was to make it to Rice Lake and back (about 23 miles), no matter what.

Soon, hiking turned to trotting. Trotting turned to running. Then, I realized I could open it up just a bit. I looked down at my watch and realized I was running 6:30s. Up and down. It didn’t matter. I was locked in. Before I knew it, I was passing by familiar territory, effortlessly conquering most of the tough hills in those sections.

Not before long, I tagged the Nordic trailhead in 3h11m41s from whence I started. It turned into a great run.

And now, as I type this in the library in Eagle, Wisconsin, I’m filled with gratitude. Running is much more than trying to be as fast as possible. It’s about the purity and unplugged freedom, the sensations of pleasure and pain, and being obsessed with each individual foot placement, connecting with the natural terrain. For me, the experience is ALWAYS enhanced when I’m suffering alone, grinding my emotions into exhaustion.

Not all runs are like today’s.

Today was a tale of two halves. Today was my Victory.

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