I was thinking about this scene on-and-off this morning as I made my way through the Harriman Trail 10 Miler. While on paper I had a great race - finishing 5th overall and only a handful of minutes down on the winner - I was left wondering about my will - not to win, per se, since that's rarely a chance I have, but to suffer and to excel.
What really brought this issue into relief for me was the lead woman who paced off me for much of the race. Now, she was suffering, and to a much greater degree than I knew I was. Yet she hung in there, huffing and puffing, right on my heels, until the last couple miles, where she barely lost contact.
Despite a few surges, and a few tests, I just couldn't put myself through that today.
And maybe it was simply smart racing. A hard, uphill 10 miles is on the edge of my fitness with the reduced miles I've been putting in, and one of my main goals was to race hard but also not to blow up and have the wheels fall off. So I was constantly doing the self-checks - taking stock of all the sensations to make sure I had the legs, lungs, and energy to finish well.
I accomplished that, which feels great - but not without concern that something's changed inside, that I've turned some corner when it comes to the will to excel, that I've become Kevin Costner in American Flyers. The horror. The horror.