Mile 18: I pass the leaders of the 27 miler as I come into the Start/Finish Aid Station which elated me as I saw on my friends in the lead pack on his first time crossing the marathon distance. Although, it didn’t take much to elate me as I was currently in my first of many pain caves for the day as my knee had been throbbing for the past 6+ miles or so. But never in that hour or running in pain did I think this would take me out of the race. I just saw it as a problem that needed to be fixed and that’s what I attempted to do while in aid. It’s not a good feeling when an old injury from 6 months that you haven’t felt in any of the 60+ mileage weeks resurface when you’re only 1/10 of the way through your goal race. But, if ultra-running has taught me anything, don’t plan on anything going the way that you want it to.
As I was leaving the aid station I had flash backs to conversations with my friends and to myself on the many training runs. These were the conversations that got me to the race. This race was all about redemption. This was my 2nd time attempting the 100 mile distance at Lake Martin and was to be my 3rd 100 mile finish. I really needed to prove to myself that this race was not harder than me and that I really become a regular 100 mile runner. This day was more than just running a race for some finisher medal or buckle, it was bigger than that. Having that reminder early on in the race did more than I thought it would.
Mile 50: As I came into the Start/Finish aid station, it was so good to see everyone one more time before the sun set. One of my closest friends, Adam, who I work with decided to spend the weekend hanging out and helping. He’s the one that brlught the dog sign from my students. My good friend and pacer Jonathan asked if I was ready for a pacer, and I turned him down feeling in good spirits and knew there were some dark times ahead as the sun was just going down. So after some fluids and food from Sachiko, I was back on the trails. Then a mile or so after that I remember my left foot striking the ground painfully and I was thinking to myself that really hurt and should not feel that way. It almost felt like a really bad foot cramp. Right afterwards I linked up with a guy from Atlanta who was feeling much stronger than me and we ran together for about the next 10 miles and would have been shorter if I wasn’t going in and out of aid stations so quickly. Everytime I hit an aid station, I’d hand my bottle off, chug a few cups of coke, eat a handful of candy, and grab a sandwich. Then, I’d be off into the darkness of lonely single-track again. Since I run 99.9% of my runs by myself, I feel very comfortable by myself and with my thoughts. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect all the time because around mile 65 was when it started getting dark mentally as I was getting winded much easier and my ankle was hurting more and my knee was still throbbing from earlier in the day. Also this was in the range of 17+ hours on my feet.
Mile 68: “Let’s Get Weird” is the caption on Jonathan’s Cruel Jewel shirt that he wore during the night hours and that’s our saying for every over night run we go on. This time we had coordinated weird cat shirts to get through the night and being with him really boosted me. This was my first time having a pacer and it was perfect, just what I needed. The first 7 miles were tough, but those are hard miles anytime of the day, even more so at night. But once went through the Start/Finish aid station, I knew I only had one 25 mile loop left. So every time we went through something that wasn’t fun, we marked it off the list. It was a great feeling not having to go over some of those climbs, walk through the mud, or stumble through the uneven rooted and rocky trails again.
It was around mile 88 when the sun came up and it was a great feeling knowing that when I ran my last trail 100, I only made it to mile 81-82 when the sun came out. With 12 miles to go, I was ready to finish this beast. My stride had greatly suffered by then, and when I decided to run it could barely be called a trot. This “trot” though kept going up until the mile 90-91 point. After that was a tough 7 mile section which in my condition would be deemed unrunnable.
But finally after more lows than my first 100, we emerged on the smooth dirt road leading to the finish line. I saw my wife and 2 kids, waved them down as I started my strongest run I could muster and crossed the finish in 27:40 taking almost an hour off my Pinhoti time (almost beating my SCAR time). After some pictures and congratulations from everyone I sat in a chair in the warm sun drinking a really good beer and nothing could be better. I had my friends on one side of me, my wife and kids on the other, and we cheered on the next finishers.
When I train for ultras spending the 8 – 11 hours away from home each week, I often wonder why I’m out there doing it. There is a big feeling of accomplishment when you finish, but it’s more than that to me. It’s more than a finish line, it’s how you get to the finish line. Now after traversing multiple overnight runs I’ve drawn many parallels between racing and life. I’d like to say running ultras has made me a better person, but I have no perspective on that. All I know for sure is that running and finishing this race definitely made me a happier person and almost 2 weeks since the race, I’m still elated I made the time to train and run this race.
So what’s next? Not sure, but Blood Rock is defintely on my list. That’d be my 3rd Tosch’s 100 if I do go for it which would be awesome. So who knows? Time to heal and recover properly to do it all over again. Happy trails.