I attempted to race the Quad Rock 50 last weekend, to keep it short, I failed. I trained well and was physically ready to perform what I thought would be a good race. I quit after 25 miles because frankly I didn't care, I didn't feel like running mattered and I didn't want to be there at all. I haven't felt like that ever before. During Mississippi I was stoked from mile 1 to 50 but by mile 18 at Quad Rock while I ran through some of the (honestly) coolest trail racing terrain I've been on I wanted more than anything else to not be running. I ran it into the turnaround point and withdrew myself. The volunteers were quite taken aback because I was clearly (or at least I felt like I was) running fine in a descent position. I'm pretty sure I even ran back out of the turnaround area even while quitting simply to get away.
I'm not saying at all that those 25 miles were too easy for me and I was above the course. I was pushing for 18-20 miles pacing off of fast dudes, its a very difficult course and finishing itself would have been no small feat. Rather, I'm more trying to contrast how you can feel fine physically but not mentally. I've felt the opposite of this many times -- destroyed physically but still with a burning desire -- so it was weird to feel the reverse. A couple days removed and I still have zero desire to go for run, I think an extended break would do me well.
But honestly, how much does running even matter? It doesn't matter any more than any other hobby whether that be video games, art, reading or music. I no longer believe any activity is inherently better in its actions than any other, though I certainly have my own subjective preferences as do we all. Just so long as someone derives joy from the activity and it doesn't harm anyone else I can't find reason to object. So what has made what I choose to do resonate so powerfully with me and why all of a sudden does it feel so vacuous and worthless? I think it comes down to connections and relationships. They can be interpersonal or between you and a broader concept such as the beauty of a painting, the delicate strategy of a game or the grandeur of nature. I think I felt at Quad Rock what I feared so much about in racing versus what I enjoy about running, a cold (in this case quite literally, given the temperatures) battle of unknown competitors competing for some arbitrary abstraction of running in the mountains. Maybe not everyone felt like that, but I think I did.
I wonder how I coped mentally with other objectives then? In Mississippi my friendship with Jack and our mutual desire for both our own successes and one another's felt completely different from a traditional race. During the Boulder Badass (which is a good example of an entirely physical pain induced drop on my part) the passion and drive to finish was shared amongst everyone involved; it was a group effort. In a sort of weird analogy it felt like holding someone's hand versus trying climb over or around them. For 10 laps of Green I was motivated by a connection to a trail and mountain which I had been on so many times.
My conclusion then, is that the reason I couldn't bear to finish Quad Rock was a result of the absence of anything remotely like what I had felt before. The simple act of running doesn't matter at all and measuring oneself based off of times and accomplishments sets a dangerous precedent for egotistical narcissism. I only hope I haven't fallen too far away from what I love in running. I'll try starting things up in a week or two again. It's not a bad time to take off either, weather in May has become rather dreadful and the high country is simply not ready for quick and easy travel. Once I can get the fire started again I'll have a lot to prepare for.