Moving onward from the summer that wasn’t


Today is Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer. The holiday usually is a time to look back at all the fond memories from the past several months, often filled with back yard gatherings, sporting events and lazy summer days.

But this is 2020.

March lasted approximately 429 days. April delivered warmer weather but increased concerns about the coronavirus. In May, when much of America usually gets the first glimpse of summertime revelry, this year the majority of us continued to social distance, wear masks and visit with each other virtually.

Then the summer months of June, July and August came and went. Races were canceled and replaced with solo Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts. Virtual races substituted for in-person contests. Trails were closed and when they reopened, newly minted walkers, hikers, runners and mountain bikers joined in the fun.

As the calendar closes the door on the summer that wasn’t, we can look back and reflect on what we lost. Or what we gained, and I don’t mean the “Covid 19” weight gain.

The consistency of training

For me personally, the summer of 2000 was an opportunity to try something new. As of this writing, I haven’t raced since I squeaked in a 50K in mid-March, before everything shut down. But I attempted two FKTs, setting one and failing spectacularly at the second.

I feel fortunate that I have a race coming up at the end of September. So what did I do this summer when it comes to racing? There were virtual challenges I completed. But more importantly was the consistency of training. I answered the 4:30 a.m. alarm, churned out the miles, ate the hills and devoured the trails.

Over my years of running, that’s one of my biggest takeaways — the consistency of training is where the growth happens. I haven’t been able to test myself at a new race distance, try to set a PR or achieve some other milestone. And that’s OK.

This summer was about more than that. It was part of the process, the build to something amazing that maybe I can’t quite envision just yet.

Looking forward

As the summer of 2020 fades, we can’t forget the lessons we learned. They will be with us for quite some time. When it comes to ultra races, we will miss the hugs from volunteers, the start line buzz and the finish line party.

There will be changes, of course, some of which I predicted five months ago. But this is a time to look forward. Fall is almost here. And with it emerges renewed hope as smaller races appear to be figuring out how to survive in a pandemic.

Soon winter will send fall packing. The trails once again will be covered with snow, ice, mud and who knows what else. As the temperature warms once again, we will look toward spring with renewed optimism. There will be more races held, Golden Tickets to be handed out and trails to explore.

Dwell not on the past, runners. Summon your inner drive, train wisely and be ready when the start line beckons once again, whether that is this month, later this year or not until 2021.

One of my athletes summed it up best to me earlier today, when she wisely withdrew from a race because of smoky conditions, using a phrase that I regularly summon.

“Onward.”

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