Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Over the years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has observed today with the goal of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. Because it was World Mental Health Day, I wanted to publish this post yesterday but I managed to talk myself out it. I’m beginning to think that’s what I do best.
September was a hard month for me. I scratched the surface in my recent post about dealing with disappointment but to be honest, the contents on the ticker tape of thoughts that continuously ran in my head were taking me to a dark place. And there were times that the constant ticking noise becomes overwhelming and impossible to drown out with healthier and more positive thoughts. Tick. Tick. Tick-tick-tick. Tick. During one particular bad episode, I tried to awkwardly explain through tears to my amazing husband about the onslaught of self-loathing thoughts that were coming at me like 65 mph softballs from a machine that I just.couldn’t.turn.off. Not for lack of trying on his part – but I’m not sure he fully understands.
I spent a lot of September inside my own head and crying in the shower. And for the first time – I felt scared that I wouldn’t be able to emerge from inside the batting cage on my own. No matter how hard or fast I managed to swing the bat, I could not make contact with those horrible, negative, and debilitating thoughts. I still have yet to talk to a professional. Probably because I somehow figured out a way to turn off the pitching machine before the month’s end but I know it is only a matter of time before I will find myself putting on my helmet again and reaching for an aluminum bat.
So in honor of World Mental Health Day, I’d like to say, hello. My name is Karen and I am trying to make sense of a life that no longer feels invincible. I spent my twenties believing that a positive attitude was enough and now that I am quite settled into my thirties, I am learning that life is a little more nuanced than I originally thought. I am also learning that is okay to not be okay sometimes.
Over the summer, my friend L. asked if I were interested in competing in an adventure race with her. She sent me a link with information and upon reading about the race, it didn’t take me long with respond with an enthusiastic YES!
So what is adventure racing? It is a multi-disciplinary sport which involves navigating terrain on an unmarked wilderness course. We participated in the VentureQuest Adventure Race at Fountainhead Regional Park, which was produced by EX2 Adventures as a team. This particular race included trekking, mountain biking, and padding.
On the morning of the race, we staged our bikes and received the course map and rules. We worked together to come up with a rough plan of attack. The goal of the race was to hit as many check points as possible in the allotted time. Certain check points had to be acquired in order and along a specific course (either by trekking, paddling, or mountain biking) so there was an element of decision making involved, which I really enjoyed. I am not a huge fan of running road races so I really appreciated the lack of a pre-determined route.
Over the course of 4 hours, we trekked up and down hills, paddled up a tributary of the Potomac (sadly no pictures of us on the water), carried our canoe uphill (our least favorite part of the race), and rode along the mountain bike trails.
My favorite aspect of the race was the trekking, closely followed by the paddling. I didn’t particularly enjoy the mountain biking portion because it was by far my weakest event. Due to the rainy September northern Virginia experienced, I never had the chance to practice riding the course at Fountainhead because it was always closed during the times I had availably to bike. It is a legit mountain bike trail with obstacles so while I practiced on the wood trails near our house, this particular course was by far the most difficult trail I have ever biked.
We raced as a team and had to stay within 100 feet of each other for the duration of the race. It was a great way to spend four hours on a Sunday morning and we both look forward to participating in another adventure race. Clay really wants to do one so we hope to participate in an adventure race as a co-ed duo sometime in the spring. I learned a lot about adventure racing and hope to put some hard-learned lessons to use in my next race. Like actually practicing mountain bike trails before the race.
*EX2 Adventure pictures in this post were provided by Brian W. Knight of Swim Bake Run Photo.