As in thoroughly cooked.
I think at my final race this season, the Chris Thater Memorial Classic, I learned what it feels like to be truly, utterly burned out. I've shown up to most of the races I've done this season with a big fire inside of me. But this weekend, instead of a burning fire, I felt like a big pile of ashes. It's been a long time in the making. I just tallied 42 races for this season, 31 of them within the last three months of summer. So I guess that explains it. I've never done anything close to this. The last couple weeks I've felt the fire trickling down to just the final little embers, so I'm not sure what prompted me to go to NY for a race like Chris Thater anyway. But I guess I'm a sucker to the NRC (National Races), big prize money, and a weekend trip to NY at a race hotel with my fun teammates. But because of the burn out, this was one of the mentally hardest races I have ever done, right up until the final two laps when it is naturally always fun.
Sure, racing is always going to hurt a bit (if you're doing it right), but excitement and passion go a long way to masking that pain. Not exactly mask. Convert it to pleasure. I usually love the physical burn. But burn is different than burn-out, and this race was just agonizing. I know it was more mental than physical (but I think burn out affects both), because in the end I finished well at 10th. I had nothing in me to even try to go with a break - which I would usually give an arm and a leg to get in - and seven girls got away without anyone from our team. Kristy had already used up her energy chasing earlier breaks that didn't end up sticking. I took 3rd in the field sprint, deciding that after torturing myself for 35 miles I might as well try to win some money for the pain. Jen also finished well at 14th. But really all of us felt pretty off. What a mental battle it was - spending the entire race convincing myself I was not allowed to pull out. Of course when you're wishing for a flat tire is never when it happens! I spent more time at the caboose than I ever have before - not a good spot but I had made a deal with myself to just get to the final five laps (which at 5 I changed to 3) and then race. I don't know how hot it actually was, but the heat got to me more in this race than it has all year. Right after finishing I was all lightheaded, woozy, nauseous and was told I was white as a ghost. From warm up to race to recovery, I went through 9 24oz bottles of fluid, and still hardly peed a bit the rest of the day. No wonder I was white and woozy.
Usually I can say that racing is really fun, but this time, really, it wasn't. But there are bigger reasons to race than just fun, and I am still glad that I went. At the end of the day there is something so fulfilling about knowing a that you pushed your limits. That you felt awful and wanted to quit but still succeeded. That you're growing and experiencing - and this time it was much more the mental/emotional aspect than physical. Although they are all so connected. It's funny that some things that feel so awful at the time can be the very best things to do. Is it true, for most athletes, that we process what we do like a big analogy of life? Every time I reflect, I feel that way.
Burn-out = time for change. Focus elsewhere for a while. Coaching cross-country, running, cross training, teaching, helping more at church. Rejuvenate, reflect, renew. Come back stronger.
How is it possible to be totally burned out, yet totally excited about next season at the same time?