Jason Bryant

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Firefly Race Preparation

By Jason Bryant

My running journey for the past couple of months has been about recovering faith in my running and renewing the joyful aspects of running.  Last year was a rather miserable running year.  I started out fit, but soon had back issues that varied from constant discomfort to complete shutdown.  I had a DNF and several should’ve DNFed in races.  Every training run was forced, convincing myself to maintain some fitness for whenever I got the back issue sorted out.  Well, the back got headed in the right direction in November.  I built my training back up over December.  I raced a couple of ultras early in the year, the second being Nueces 50 when I turned my right ankle around mile 5, but finished.  The ankle left me barely running for a couple of months, thus progressively losing fitness again.

I didn’t race for nearly two months.  That was my longest stretch with no races in 3 to 4 years as I had been doing 2 to 3 races a month in that time.  I tried to refocus but would describe my faith in my running as pretty low.  The end of May I ran Rock2Rock and grabbed a win passing first place on the descent.  I had been working on my descending skills for the last few years and especially last year as my back made climbing wretched most of the time.  So I stumbled onto a positive out of last year’s frustration.  The following weekend I ran Rothrock Challenge, another LaSportiva Mountain Cup race.  I was 6 minutes faster than last year, but dropped a spot to finish third.  I really enjoyed both races, not just the socializing with friends and other runners.  The joy in racing is not something I would have said anytime in the last year.  I enjoyed pushing myself and competing.

 The best aspect of my running recently has been training runs.  Several have probably been pretty sorry training to tell the truth, or maybe not.  I met up with a group from Charlotte to take them on some real trails, ones where your expenditure is greater but the efforts are rewarded with views.  I‘ve been able to get in several runs with a good friend, Cory.  We always say running with each other is like running without realizing you’re doing it.  We’ve run around home, repeated loops in town, across the top of Stone Mountain in NC, but the best was this Monday.  We were up in the Appalachian Mountains outside Boone.  I think most people would have considered my decision making very questionable since my ankle is still not 100% and big race this weekend.  The questionable choice was to run a highly technical trail that we couldn’t finish before it got dark and do it with no lights.  It was a great choice.  The near full moon began to creep through the trees casting spotlights on random trunks, ferns, and rocks.  The effect was one you don’t get with a headlamp.  Then we ran into the fireflies.  As the trail snaked along the
mountainside, Cory stopped and told me to

come back.  In that perfect hollow if you looked uphill, there were uncountable fireflies firing off in chorus.  They seemed to pause, then with their own unseen signal all twinkle at once.  A firework display of fireflies set against a background of dark 

shadows under cover of trees scattered with moon beams.  We probably watched for 20 minutes, philosophically pondering what it meant to find ourselves in the midst of nature’s display.  Maybe it was just bugs, trees, and some moonlight, a chance occurrence.  Not for me, maybe I found a designed moment of strengthened faith.  I felt ready to explore my personal limits at Saturday’s race, the World Long Distance Mountain Challenge in Slovenia.  Whether I find those limits more or less constricting, I’m looking forward to the journey and another run in the dark.

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