Monday, October 5, 2015

Rugged Little Pill


Another race tee-shirt; another stab in the heart.  Another suggested Powell Countian friend on Facebook with a profile picture including a turtle finishers medal.  Another question: “how was the Rugged Red this year?”  I can’t even answer that one yea or nay.
No, I didn’t run the Rugged Red this year.  Mandy and I didn’t help put the race on.  In fact, that day I did a road run and managed a half marathon PR all by myself.  I wanted to do the Rugged Red.  I wanted to do it because I had started to feel a part of a community similar to the Leadville family.  I wanted to do it because it’s a race on my home field.  I wanted to do it because it takes place in the Red River Gorge which is the crucible in which my soul has been formed over the years.
After the 2014 Rugged Red I wanted to help make the event better.   I knew it meant I probably wouldn’t be able to run, but I felt like I had evolved to the point in my life where helping others to have that kind of experience would be as rewarding to me as seeking them for myself.
Someone took that away from me.  And the feelings I have for that person are still bitter, and angry, and harsh.  Every time I see a photo from the race this year or see someone in town wearing a race tee my teeth grind.  I curse under my breath.  Or sometimes above it. 
I wore my own race tee the other day when I was going to be working on and painting a fence.  I wanted to destroy it.  But I can’t bring myself to just throw it out.  The experience of that run was amazing.  It is a great memory for me.  I put forth a lot of energy and effort to finish one tough trail half marathon in 2:57.  I was sixth in my age group.  The only other experience in my life comparable to finishing the Rugged Red was finishing the Leadville 100. 
I believed in the race as a concept.  I hoped it could become something truly positive and beneficial for Powell County.  I saw it as having the potential to change the dialogue and the cultural awareness of a community.  I thought that person believed it, too.  Looking back it seems like he preyed on my hopes.  I was willfully gullible.  I let myself be blinded to what was going on because I desperately wanted to be part of that thing. And so maybe I overprojected my aspirations into it.  That’s on me. 
It was too easy to overlook the warning signs.  Now it is all clear to me.  Then I dismissed the things I should not have dismissed.  And the worst part is that I let my wife be dragged into it as well.  For a time she was the full time race director.  I was simply the “assistant to the race director.”  I let my kids get dragged into it.  That drive home last February after the ugly breakup was hard.  My Bean wanted to know what was going on.  Were we going to be going back to Joe’s?  No.  Why?
I didn’t understand why myself.  How could I explain to an eight year old what had just happened?
It seemed like he picked a fight to get us to go away.  And if he did he got what he wanted.
Living in a small town the drama never seems to end.  It only washes a little further downstream.  You eventually catch up with it, or it sticks to your shoe, or you trip over it unexpectedly.  I was asked to be part of the Slade Trail Town efforts and so was he.  And the race tee-shirts…and the posters, the social media posts, and the questions.  Over the weekend I took my kids to DQ and saw his truck in the parking lot.  We went through the drive-thru.
There have been a few instances where we’ve been thrown into a room together.  He approaches me acting like he wants to be friends.  I can’t.  And for now I won’t.  I have no charitable words for Joe.  I am struggling to forgive him, but I know too much.  It goes beyond my personal feelings of how we were treated.  There are things about the race that I feel make it more of a liability to the community than a benefit.
For the visitors who come for the experience I don’t feel there are any reasons not to participate in the Rugged Red.  I wish someone else would take it over.  Joe was adamant that he would never sell it, but I have my doubts of his concrete resolve in that matter.  But for the community it is still an event to die for.  I get it.  It’s what drew me in.  Red River Gorge.  Trail running.  A challenge for the body, mind, and soul.  It needs someone in charge who understands that and who knows something about running.
I guess I latched onto it because I couldn’t have Leadville.  It was closer.  So close.
Last week I went out and ran in the rain.  I did some hill sprints.  I rambled without purpose for a while.  Exploring.  I poured my soul into the run.  Maybe it felt like the bitterness was washing away.  Time will dilute it for sure.  But I hope that an aftertaste remains forever so I don’t let myself be drawn into that kind of relationship again.
If you’ve been reading me for very long you know I’ve struggled with doubt, depression, and various issues.  For a while now I’ve been doing pretty well.  I’m in constant survival mode, but I have always been really good at adapting to whatever new reality I face.  Summer was good.  I fear winter now.  But I keep my head well above water and keep trucking on down the trail like I always have.
I’m writing about this now because I realize I hadn't addressed it in words.  I’ve only hinted at things that went on.  I’ve not provided any clarity in the Rugged Red saga.  I realize this post is no real explanation of what happened either.  The reminders have been more apparent lately.  I know I’m going to have to deal with this aspect of my past and move on.  I have to find closure and make peace with this shadow.

I know--at least for me--with words come healing.  By avoiding the words and avoiding the excavation of the heart and mind things like this just fester.  I need to move on.


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