When I look back at the video my crew took of me at the May Queen aid station (mile twenty-three), I don’t look like a runner that’s going to run nearly another eighty miles that day. I don’t look fit. I don’t look confident. In fact, I look like I just ran one of the bigger runs of my life. I barely remember that aid station. I remember running into the first place I’d see my crew thinking / My legs feel like they’ve got eighty miles on them, how am I ever going to get this thing done? / I’m pouring sweat. My crew is looking at me, dumbfounded. Karlen just stares at me with a look that says / What?!—You’re out of shape?—You’ll never make it! Why did you drag us here? / The video shows an uncomfortable silence. No one knows what to say.
I know better. Luckily, my crew chief knows better. Heather wipes the sweat out of my eyes and waits for me to use the bathroom. We both know that three hours into a twenty-four hour event is not a good gauge. This is the first time Heather has taken one of my races as her responsibility. She knows me well. She hands me my food and says / Okay, you’re good! / and kicks me out of May Queen. I walk out thinking / How am I ever going to do this?
He can pull a run out of his ass / I later found out Heather told the rest of the crew / —don’t worry about him.
My plan was to start slow and ease into the first fifty miles. At mile twenty-three, I’m whooped. Not a good sign. I force food down. I force myself to run but thirty seconds later, I need a break.
You have to turn this around, Adam.
Be grateful. Grateful for your health. For your crew. For the fact that you’re healthy enough to make it to the starting line of such an amazing race.
I put the headphones in—something I normally save for WAY later in a race. I stop thinking. I just move. I feel. If there is a need to walk, I walk hard. When I can run, I run. That’s it. I encourage others, which somehow encourages me. Over the next eleven miles, I somehow come back from the dead. I gather up a few guys that are moving well. They follow me and we charge. We steamroll people by the dozen. I bark orders like a drill sergeant and they are all in for the ride. There’s about six of us, charging into
(mile forty). I know I have crew there,
waiting. I can’t wait to tell them I’m
back from the dead! Twin Lakes
Joel calls my name and waves me over to the set up. This aid station is short and efficient. Not slow and confused. I know what I need and I tell them I’m about to crush Hope pass.
I’ll see you in a few hours!
And just like that, almost as soon as I leave the aid station, I feel like death again.
is supposed to be my
specialty. I love going uphill and
normally that’s where I pass tons of folks.
However, today, as I climb up to 12,800 feet, I need lots of little
breaks. It’s like I’m carrying a hundred
pounds on my back. I begin vomiting. I sit down.
I worry. I get up and move. I need another break. Hope
I know enough by now to know—this is just how it goes sometimes. Bipolar ultramarathoning. High highs, low lows. Suck it up and keep moving. I’m moving SO slow that when I make it into Hopeless aid station, they ask if I’m okay. They can tell I’ve fallen off pace by quite a bit. I’m wrecked but I tell them I’m feeling great.
, I’m embarrassed to
admit…I needed a ten minute power nap.
COMING DOWN. This is supposed to
be the easy part. This is supposed to be
where I rest. Hope
When I make it to Winfield, Heather is right at the edge of the woods waiting for me. I’m at nearly twelve hours. This is not shaking out the way I wanted. She tells me
Logan is going to be my
first pacer. Thank God. Logan and I have slogged hundreds of miles
together. He knows me and I know
him. Lucas has joined the team and this
is the first time I’ve seen him all day.
We bro hug and just like that, he’s on the team. I refuel.
I try and fake strong. They tell
me I’m doing well. I cringe. Logan and I head back up the big hill.
C’mon dude, we gotta pass twenty-five people on the way up.
I don’t say anything. He’s lucky I’m moving at this pace.
Twenty-five people / he says again.
I projectile vomit everything I just ate at the aid station.
I breathe deep and loud. Logan plays music on his phone, loud enough to annoy folks but his only concern is me and he knows how to get me to move and feel like a gansta when I’m doing it. He calls me a pussy and a cocklicker at least fifty times. Two-thirds of the way up, we’ve passed our twenty-five people. Does that shut him up?
Twenty-five more / is all he says.
His words just go through me. Impossible goals. He can say what he wants, I’ll just keep moving.
You’re turning it around! / he says / —Hope Pass is easy, bitch!
My head is down. I’m marching hard and hyperventilating.
A little chicken broth at Hopeless and I know we’re running down whether I’m able to or not. It’s a six mile descent. We pass more folks. He keeps playing music and others are annoyed. He says things that I don’t hear. We just crush. We cross the river and jog into
. Twin Lakes
We passed ninety-six runners and pacers on
Hope Pass / Logan tells me.
Ninety-six?! / I think.
Lucas is a work buddy. Lucas is an Ironman. Lucas shaves his legs…and I’ll never let him forget it. At work, it’s ultrarunner versus triathlete…all day. Our friendship is literally just smack talk. I don’t know if we’ve ever said anything nice to each other. We just make fun of each other. Sometime we go too far. However, here he is, volunteering to stay up all night and get me to the finish. If I can’t be a wuss in front of ANYONE, it’s Lucas. I know this and it was all planned. I have no choice but to be strong or I will NEVER hear the end of it.
I thank him for shaving his legs for my race.
However, Lucas is perfect. We talk about everything. We tell stories about work, women and life in general. He does a fantastic job of keeping me moving just a bit above my comfort level.
After ten miles, I break Lucas. He admits what must be painful for him:
I’m impressed / he says / —if you finish this thing, I’ll never make fun of you for being a power walker!
He gets me to May Queen. Crew crews me a like a Naascar pit stop. I give Lucas a hug. We’re closer than ever before. I’m handed to a stranger with wide eyes. He’s a pacer my crew has set up for me and I trust them. He tells me he’ll get me over Sugar Loaf. I tell him I don’t want to lollygag on this climb, I want to get it over with. His name is Dave and he assures me, we won’t be messing around.
No talking up Sugar Loaf, we decide. We need to move hard. I lead the way and give a hundred percent. I’m hyperventilating.
I wouldn’t want to see you climb with fresh legs / Stranger Dave tells me. We pass the few people that have made it this far.
I’m just thankful to have him. He pushes me. He keeps me running when I don’t want to. He tells me I’m a badass. He’s very encouraging. He gets me to eighty-seven miles. I fall into a chair. I’m stupid with exhaustion. Thirteen miles to go. Heather takes over.
God bless Heather for her thick skin. She got the brunt of everything.
I was not nice to her and I wouldn’t let her push me. I refused. I was a baby. I was rude. I hadn’t eaten for hours. I’d been throwing up. No sleep. All compounded, it came out over the last thirteen miles. I argued with her about our pace. I complained. I whined. She was encouraging. She was firm. She was beautiful. God bless her. I was not a nice person to be with at that point.
We made it past
, to the boat
How much further? / I ask someone.
I complain some more. I look at my watch. We can walk it in and still get in under twenty-five hours.
We hike a couple of miles. I ask the next person we see / How much further?
Six and a half miles.
We’ve gotta move. We’re running out of time. I want the big buckle. We run a mile or two.
How much further? / I ask the next person we see.
We’re running out of time / Heather says / —you’ve gotta go!
You have to!
I don’t care! I don’t want it this bad!
I DO! / Heather screams.
Silence. I process this. These guys have spent tons of time and money to come out and help me finish with a respectable time. I can’t quit now. I HAVE to push.
I leave Heather. I run the endless gravel road into Leadville.
Forty minutes to get in under twenty-five hours.
I look at my watch.
I see lights—they’re miles away.
I’m finally coming into town. There are a few diehard spectators.
Will I make it? / I yell.
If you hurry!
Will I make it? / I yell to the next person I see.
If you hurry, you’ve gotta move!
I turn around. Heather’s headlamp is trying to rush in to see me finish. I don’t have time to wait.
Finally, I see the finish line. I have ten minutes to get the BIG buckle. It’s mine. Karlen and Joel run in to the finish with me. I run up the red carpet. I’m the last person to get the BIG buckle. The LAST!
I was happy to have finished, but I wasn’t done for the day. I owe apologies for my behavior. I owe thanks for everything that was done for me. I couldn’t have done it without my seamless crew and supporters. Saints, all of them. Now, if they just get me to a warm bed and put a beer in my hand, I would owe them my life.
And they did.
And I do.