…better late than never?
I was trying to think of a way to sugar coat the fact that I had a pretty terrible race, but I’d like to think that I’m an honest person and something wouldn’t sit right with me if I either wrote a lame and happy report (you know, the one where I say that I had a “decent” race and I’m happy with my results) or didn’t even write one at all. So here it is.
I heard this quote about a week too late: During the first half of the race; don’t be an idiot. The second half; don’t be a wimp. That pretty much summed it up; I felt great, so I went out hard. I felt not so great, then felt bad, then felt awful, then I saw that I had 12 more miles to go.
I think the fact that I was under-trained and over-confident led to the most epic of blowups at mile 38; yes, there’s that but more importantly I realized after looking at my training logs leading up to April 13th I was trained adequately to run about 38 miles.
Rewind back to last October when I ran the Dick Collins Firetrails 50- now that race I was adequately trained for. Then I took some time off in November and December and could never seem to get back into the swing of things; planning a wedding, drastically changing my diet, shin splints, the flu, everything hit at the worst possible time and what I was left with was about 25% of the bulk of my training just completely missing.
Anyway, the actual race went unbelievably well; my legs felt so rested and i was able to charge as hard as I could and hit the 25.5-mile turnaround at 4:57. I was thinking “whoa, I’m on pace to go under 10? This is crazy!”I figured, let’s see what I can do with what I got and figure things out along the way. I would soon learn that I was being that very same idiot from the above quote.
The middle section of the race was these three huge climb-and-drops and by the end of the third one, right at the 30.9-mile aid station I was realizing how trashed my quads were. I wasn’t charging the downhills like I usually do and noticed something was wrong. I could not run down hill.
I could run the ups and flats pretty well, albeit slow but the downs were excruciating. I now knew that this was to be a long day. 10 hours was out of the question. Maybe I could go under 11?
Pulling into the aid station at 38.2, I still felt good about how much I was still running the flats and ups, so I stopped to eat, re-fill water, share a Coke with a guy (they went “cupless” at this race so there was a lot of sharing) and grabbed a handful of jelly beans and set off. Ouch. Ouch, ouch ouch. My quads and hips were useless.
I sat down in the creek crossing just out of the aid station for an impromptu ice bath. I kept thinking, “finish in 2:20 to go under 11 hours, I can do this- I have to run it all, though…” I’d learn soon enough that 11 hours would not be happening.
So much inner drama occurred in the next 12 miles- I basically had an existential crisis every other minute broken by a passing runner asking if I was okay followed by me thanking them and waving them off. I’d forget about the pain for a minute or two and be able to do some decent running, only to be met with another mini-crisis.
The thought kept popping up: “why the hell am I doing this?” I briefly considered quitting running altogether, envisioned myself as an endurance cyclist or mountain climber or a myriad of other hobbies and pursuits but the answer kept coming: “you love this, you love the unknown…”
That’s probably why I run. Because I have no idea what’s going to happen. I might never run at the front of the pack, might never cross the finish line first. But I’ll always beat myself and my expectations. I had been saying in the weeks leading up to this race that I might just DNF because I was so under-trained. I guess I forgot how tough I was, I forgot that the voice in my head that says “can” will eventually drown out the voice that says “can’t”.
I rolled into the 45.5-mile aid station at 10:49 and gave up any hope of going under 11 hours. 12 hours was still a possibility but I wasn’t counting on it. At this point it was all about survival.
So, 12:25:19 after I started this journey I crossed the finish line. I was able to run a really awesome last mile, thanks to the sign marker at mile 49. But really what this race was about was noticing how the inner workings of my mind can sometimes be set against me. Given the opportunity in some of those weaker moments I may have dropped out of the race (if I saw a pick-up truck at mile 47 taking runners home, I might have jumped in that thing). But I would’ve never ever forgiven myself for quitting.
Sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps me going.