What I Learned from Today’s Loss (or Win?)

Photo Courtesy of Debra WuksinichAs I made my way north to the Big Eau Pleine Park Trail Run, I had a lot on my mind. I had just come from delivering a speech at the CTU rally and the news that Act 10 was ruled unconstitutional was all over the airwaves. It was plenty to occupy my mind, but I couldn’t help but think back to last year’s race. The plaque with “9 Mile Female Winner” is still proudly displayed on the wall in my bedroom right next to my autographed picture of Dean Karnazes. I had won the race in an unusual turn of events that I will save for another post. The bottom line was that I was heading north to defend a title I never truly felt was mine.

The weather for the race was perfect and the trail could not have been more beautiful. I managed to beat last year’s time, but it was not enough to defend my title. I ran steady, but the other runners were faster. Yet, I learned so many amazing lessons out on the trail that I still feel as though I pulled off a win.

Don’t Run for the Beer  The words, “Go!” were bellowed over the crowd of runners and my feet began moving on their own. It felt comforting to be moving and I looked forward to the race ahead. The man next to me struck up a conversation, “I wish someone had told me there is beer at the finish.” I politely asked him why. “Well, because I would have run the 4 instead of the 9 mile,” he answered. I smiled and promptly took off. I was not here for the beer.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Frenzy  My first mile and my last mile were the fastest. This is not how I run. For the first time in a long time, I had positive splits in the race. Why? Because people took off and I took off with them! I use that first mile or two to get into my run for a reason. It puts both my mind and body in the right place. Go slow to go fast.

Who You are When You are Alone on the Trail speaks Volumes  This year, it was just me and the trail for the majority of the run. There is nothing like being alone on the trail, especially at Big Eau Pleine. Almost the entire run is among trees and puts you right down by the water. This sort of peacefulness is the reason I run. It is also where I do my best thinking. It is was a great time to get my mind focused and renew my connection to the world.

Though Others May Have Cleared the Path, Look for yourself. There may still be some poo. At the start of today’s race, Jay Punke, the race organizer, clearly stated that rocks had been painted and horse poop removed. Jay Punke either overestimated his help or underestimated the horses. Clearly, there was poo. My distrust in this case served me well, as I made it to the finish line manure free.

Stop and Say “Thank You.” About 3 miles into the race, I heard cheering and the clanging of a bell. I was excited, because I assumed there was a crowd up ahead. Feeling confident, I picked up my pace. When I turned the corner, I grinned from ear to ear. It was one woman and her young daughter, but they were filled with energy. I stopped to take my water and let them know how well they were executing their responsibilities. The volunteers may not be running, but they are clearly important members of my team!

Run for What is Important to You  After that water stop, I was smiling and feeling alive! I felt so great that I found myself singing the tune “Union Maid” while I ran. As I sang, my mood was elevated by the current court ruling and my own feelings about my Union. I looked down at my watch and glanced at my pace; I was soaring! Maybe I’d catch up to those two women who had passed me a mile back. I ran harder. Now, I was focusing on my time and began moving my feet with effort. The thoughts in my mind changed as I focused on the race. A few minutes later, I checked my pace again. Thirty seconds per mile slower and a huge lesson learned. Don’t run just to win. Run for what inspires you, run for what fills you with hopefulness and truth.

Don’t Get Distracted by Dead Mice Okay, this isn’t really a lesson, but why were there dead mice on the trail? The first one surprised me, but when I nearly stepped on a second one, it was simply bizarre.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up. Defeated People Don’t Run  I had my share of negative self-talk out on the course. When someone clearly in my age group hustled past me on a hill, this negativity reached its climax. I asked myself why I was running. Told myself I was slow and reminded myself that I couldn’t possibly win now that I’d let several women take the lead on the trail. I doubted myself and I beat myself up, but luckily it didn’t last. Defeated people don’t run and I found that I was defeating myself. Running is a mental game. Training helps, but what you tell yourself out on the course can make or break your run.

If You Can’t Smile, You are Running Too Hard  The Tararhumara tribal athletes featured in Born to Run teach the author this mantra. Whenever I near the finish line, my smile grows and my feet step lighter on the ground. It is my fastest pace in the race and I quickly figure out that I still have some energy to burn. Today was no exception. I knew it wasn’t a win, but the clock read one less minute than last year’s time. Besides, I’d be back.





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