Lately I have been wondering how much temperament has to do with the kind of racing we choose. By temperament, I mean our natural inclination toward showing emotion. Are you the kind of person who puts it all out there, or do you hold back? I suspect (though I could be wrong) that most ultramarathoners are more of the hold back variety.
Last night I was helping to coach my daughter Nell's swimteam practice. I told the kids that we were going to swim 4 x 100 freestyle. The first and last laps of the 100's could be easy, but the middle 50 was to be an all out sprint.
Nell is kind of like me. As a kid I was hesitant to show much emotion. For whatever reason, I always tried to present a calm face to the world, regardless of what was going on inside my head and heart. I didn't much enjoy being the center of attention. Did not enjoy praise, and often felt devastated by criticism.
The other morning, Nell told me, more or less out of the blue, that when she is feeling excited she doesn't like to show it.
She couldn't answer why.
I told her that people like to know when you're excited because it makes them feel excited, too. What I did not tell her (and I think I will now that I have given the matter some thought), is that it has taken me most of my life to reach that simple conclusion. Emotions are worth sharing. Emotions connect us to other people.
But perhaps that simple fact is not one of those things you can just tell someone. Especially someone like Nell. Perhaps it's one of those things that you must live yourself into. I don't know.
But the fact remains that Nell does not like to put it all out there. And this conversation came back to me last night at the pool. Nell does not like to sprint. She had a hard time sprinting the middle 50 during that 4 x 100 set. And it's not because she's lazy. She swims the 10-and-over practice and she's only 8. She loves to go long. I think, temperamentally, however, she does not like to sprint. Sprinting requires a full exertion. You must give it everything you have at that moment. Nell is reluctant to do this. She holds back. She saves herself.
Same thing in soccer. She'll run her little butt off all over the field. She stays in position (usually halfback), she passes, she runs next to the ball. But she does not want the ball itself. She likes to be on the field and she likes to run, but she wants nothing to do with the ball. She cannot get rid of it fast enough.
(Yes, I was like that, too. Which makes it all the more difficult to watch.)
Perhaps she is destined to be an ultrarunner. It's perfect for people like Nell. There is no danger of being the center of attention. No one can see you way out in the woods. And there is very little sprinting. Actually, I believe it's safe to say that there is no sprinting whatsoever. I have never sprinted in a ultra.
I hate sprinting!