it was something i knew was going to be hard. really hard. but i signed up for it. i did the training. i prepared mentally. i did the hills, the speed work, the miles. and then the diet and the taper. and b/f i knew it, it was Saturday morning, 6-4-11 at 3am and i've only managed four hours of sleep and it's almost time to run.
i got there early enough to get my race packet and take a half hour power nap in the truck b/f the start of the race. i warmed up and sauntered into the middle of the pack. some of the folks looked pretty strong and confident. i wondered if they'd finish. i wondered if I'D finish. it was hot. seventy-eight degrees at 6 am is not a good sign. the gun went off and w/in a mile, i was sweating. i was running w/ runners who just want to finish. they walked all of the uphills right from the start. i walked a couple w/ them. i wondered how much energy should i conserve? but this didn't feel like much of a race so i took off and tried to just settle into a comfortable pace. MY pace.
the course is tough but i've run it many times b/f. it helps to know there's nothing out there that i can't handle. now the distance and the heat, i worried a little bit about. but it's not like i'd be climbing mountains out here. two-thirds of it would be in the woods. lots of hills, switchbacks, roots and rocks. the other third would be through meadows and fields where i'd have no protection from the sun and heat. i wore my trusty camelbak that would hold enough water and supplements to get me from aid station to aid station. i wore a hat to shade my eyes from the sun but my shades had broken on me a couple of weeks b/f and i hadn't found the time to pick up any new ones.
i purposely left my Garmin at home, so when i settled into a comfortable pace i was going strictly on how my body was feeling. not too fast, not too slow. run about three-quarters of the hills. keep taking little sips of water. no matter how much you don't want to--you have to keep drinking. salt tablets and gel supplements every 45-50 minutes. no matter what. don't kill yourself. easy pace. enjoy the day. thank the aid volunteers. thank the good Lord for giving you the strength to do something like this. and just enjoy the moment. there's really not much else i'd rather be doing than running through the woods on some killer trails.
once i found my rhythm, i started to lighten up and chat w/ folks. there was a runner ahead of me that looked exactly like my friend Henry. so i just called him Henry. i noticed he was wearing the New Balance Minimus and so i asked him how he liked them and then we talked shoes for about the next eight miles. now that i'm spending my weekends selling running shoes, i happen to know a bit about the subject. a couple of others joined in the conversation. Henry started getting cramps, so he had to fall back. then i met Dave who had never run a 50 miler but here he was, running a 100 kilometer race. he said / it's gonna be tough either way, right? / and i agreed. then i met Travis. he was shirtless and had a large tattoo of a bonsai tree on his back. he carried two water bottles and his pace was strong and relentless. he said this was his third 100 miler and two years ago, did the Leadville 100. i told him that was my goal for next year. so we talked about Leadville and he gave me lots of tips and advice. his pace was just a little bit out of my comfort zone, so i decided to stay w/ him for the next ten miles or so. it would be just enough to push me up a bit and make some miles go by. after a while, we were both tired and ceased talking. just running along at the same pace, passing people and offering encouragement. Travis was strong and on a mission. when i made it to the halfway point, he didn't spend nearly as much time at the aid station as i did. i was still fumbling through my drop bag when he took off. go Travis! / i yelled and he didn't even look back. i used the restroom, put on sunscreen, refilled my camelbak for the third time w/ ice and water, washed my face and neck w/ cold water, grabbed a couple of gels and hobbled off into the woods. my legs were hurting but i knew they wouldn't feel TOO much worse at the end of the day. i was half done. i tried not to think about it. i tried not to think about anything in terms of distance or miles. it's just aid station to aid station. i put in the earphones and listened to a two hour podcast while going back through the hot meadows where the sun beat down on my skin. i put ice in my hat whenever i could. i was still moving. not only moving, but i was still running. i wasn't walking yet. eventually, i caught up w/ Travis. he was battling the heat and at a low point. i told him if he was okay to run, i could pace him. he said okay but was struggling. you have to listen to your body and you have to go at your own pace. and Travis was doing thirty-eight more miles than me. i told him to be strong and he said / i will / and somehow that sounded tough and meant a lot and resonated.
by mile 30 i was drinking Mt. Dew at the aid stations. i'd purposely cut caffeine out of my Life for days like today. slam down a couple of Mt. Dews and that caffeine is going to make you run fast for the next eight miles or so. at mile 47, i was struggling. just wanted to be done. switched to music. this was my running mix, so this was going to help keep me company until the end. it lifted my spirits and my pace picked up. i never felt weak and i never felt like i wasn't going to finish. i stayed strong most of the day and remained relentless in my pursuit. if i saw a straggler on the trail, i attacked and then put some distance btwn him and me. and then i'd rest. if i saw anyone behind me, i'd take off and push two or three miles b/f slowing down. i was barely hanging on but i was still attacking. the last ten miles, i could barely stomach water or gels. i was operating on will alone. i had no idea how many runners were ahead of me. i didn't even know what a good time is for 100k. i was just going for it. i knew my family was at the finish and i couldn't wait to see them. the last nine miles is about the hilliest of the course. i was power walking the uphills by this point but still moving. the last five miles have mile markers up, so that's all your looking for. marker to marker is torture when you just want to be done. each mile seems like ten. each hill seems like a mountain. my heart rate was through the roof, mainly d/t the heat. and then...there it was. the glorious finish line. i couldn't believe it when they told me i was 4th overall, 3rd for my age. they awarded me. i awarded myself w/ a garden hose of cold water over my head for about five minutes. my family was amazing and brought me cold beer and a chair. i took my shoes off for the first time and my feet were mangled. but it felt so good! that solid runners high along w/ the sense of accomplishment. it was the farthest i'd ever run. my pace wasn't bad either. 11 hours and 40 minutes. for sure one of the hardest things i've had to push through. but it seems pushing through the hard stuff is one of my specialties.
i received lots of encouragement from friends and family via text, FB etc., and it was all GREATLY appreciated. it inspires me to keep going and keep pushing on. this is the stuff i live for. this is how i do...