Retirement doesn't sit easily. I retired from racing once before, just to take on trails and ultras as a new field. I had to learn a lot; all the "rules" I'd developed in shorter races just no longer seemed to apply. I'm not good at it, but I liked the fact that I was challenged to see things in a new light.
I see now that the challenge to come is to use what I learned in running what I used to do. [I'll give you a while to chew on that convoluted sentence.]
Once you get past all the gels and lamps and bottles and lubricants, what is there really that I learned from the long trails? There's something about heart rate training, which I picked up tangentially. There's mental preparation. There's muscular recruitment - tiny muscles you didn't know you had can be important. There's some practical technique stuff (for example, if you run uphill and throw in a sprint at the start, it's much harder than if you throw one in at the top).
I had to look at why I competed and at what I enjoy doing. As much as keeping score in beating people can be entertaining, I really compete because competition brings out just a little extra effort from me (and I can quantify it!), but in ultras, that extra doesn't mean much to me; I'm not designed for it and while I can finish 100 miles, I can't be competitive at the distance; an extra 20 seconds per mile by racing is meaningless.
I like pushing myself. I've always thought that most runners never know what their limits are, because they've never pushed themselves to those limits. I'd see someone win an award by cruising most of the way and throwing in a burst at the end for show and they're soon off chatting and running another 10 miles; in contrast, the last athlete I coached (I'm newly available for coaching, by the way), when he refused to work until he puked in front of me found the puke came out through his nose (a proud moment for me as a coach and one reason I'm available as a coach. [Reasonable rates. Unreasonable demands.])
I'm starting to see what I want to do. If I don't have a goal, I don't run at all and that doesn't work well for me. That goal just won't involve racing, unless and until there's no other way to get there. Racing should be the frosting on the cake and I've been trying to live on frosting.
It's going to take a while to find my direction, but I think I'm on my way.
Bonus: 2005 Chiwaupee Trail race footage: Dave getting to the start line
5 days ago