Chapter 1. Business As Usual
A fire burned in a nearby campsite. How I longed to be wrapped in a cozy blanket, sipping life-giving Nuun, and warming my cold hands by the fire! Instead, I was here—lined up in the dust, the dark, the cold, fiddling with my gear. I was shivering half to death in my short shorts. My nipples, crotch and toes greasy with Bodyglide, my nerves jangly. Frantically trying to figure out my new Garmin; Why the fuck did I buy a new Garmin?
At least as far as I could tell, it was a perfectly normal start to an ultramarathon. The only difference was that instead of everyone looking really, super fit, in this race everyone looked disturbingly, unnaturally fit. It was like a crowd of Navy Seals who dropped out of Crossfit because they really liked the cardio. Well, most anyway. The remainder were more like forest-people that had killed mountain lions with their bare hands while through-hiking the Appalachian Trail with those aluminum pole, canvas backpacks. Hugh Glass meets Scratch Labs.
I wasn’t that nervous, truth be told. I was mostly bored, tired of uncertainty, and just wanted to get going. I fucked with my headlamp, wondered if my gear was right, tried to convey my love for my crew, and then got in line.
I lined up at the front. I wanted to win the race. The race started.
We ran quickly out of the gate. One guy jogged really far ahead, very fast. Call him “Yellow Shirt”. One woman (hereinafter “Board Shorts”) and a few other guys, e.g. “Old Blue Shirt”, went quickly (but more reasonably) and I let them all go. I planned to let about 10 people ahead, then try to stick to that pace. I think about 5 to 7 went out ahead of me, and I fell into a pace and place I was happy with. Yellow Shirt was already like a mile ahead, and Board Shorts was also pushing the pace, I guess to catch him?
I suspected strongly that “Board Shorts” was in fact a runner that we’d heard about at a running shop in Breckenridge. We’d been told (warned, ominously) she had recently “run a race outright” and that she was one to watch out for. If this was her (it must be?) I knew she wanted the win, and wasn’t just a dumbass. Well, she could still be a dumbass? But in this race, unlike most 100’s, I figured anyone at all could be a God(dess) of running. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. I let her go, and off she went, chasing Yellow Shirt.
I knew the route as I’d run this bit in training. It was even more fun the second time around. Jackson Trail, this part was called. I felt pretty good. It was fun. A few more people passed me. I lost track. Was it 7 ahead of me now? 8? I guess it didn’t matter, we were about 20 mins into a 3 or 4 day race. Let ’em go.
We ran and ran and the sun was mostly down, but the weather was perfect. We ran and ran and ran. What else is there to say? The weather was perfect. The desert was perfect. The silence, nothing but my nervous thoughts and my constant evaluating of my legs and body.
As we turned to head South, we had to descend this really super steep bit. It was fun. I scrambled down a bit off the trail because it was crowded, and nearly died on a giant loose boulder. Fun stuff. I passed like 5 people going really slow. I probably should have slowed down but they were descending really slowly. I got to the bottom of the chute and then got lost. I kinda ran around in this field of sand, looking for the trail. I was following Board Shorts, who I had seen a moment ago, quite a long ways ahead. Eventually I met the trail and the rest of the guys caught me, and we ran on. The trail was smooth, kinda sandy road. Pebbly. I was in the lead (of this pack), by about 100 yards, despite having no idea of where I was going, and I didn’t have my phone on me with the route in it. I couldn’t get my fancy stupid new Garmin to show me the trail, so I was lost at an intersection already. Ugh.
The guys behind me got nearer and I yelled “Which way?!” and they checked their phones and pointed straight ahead. One guy (was it Old Blue Shirt?) asked “She can’t be that far ahead, can she?!” and I laughed and thought, dude, she is fucking gone.
Old Blue Shirt passed me, clearly chasing She Who Couldn’t Be That Far Ahead. God help him, I thought.
At one point I was running with some guys, maybe I had caught them (back down to 5 ahead of me?) and they were talking about expected finishing times. They reckoned winner in 55 to 60 hours, judging by Bigfoot, Tahoe, and how this terrain was much flatter. I wondered if they would try to win it. You never can tell, out here, you know? Pam Reed was in this race! God knows what other demi-gods might have registered.
I lost these guys. They were slow and pacing weirdly and inconsistently. Although one of them chased for a bit. It was hard going in this point. Really sandy. Really loose. I have steadfastly refused to ever wear trail shoes, but in this damned loose sand I wondered if a couple little nubs on my soles might help… Anyway, light, fast feet, like one of those desert lizards. Maybe my hips and hip flexors would stop being sore, some day?
I rolled into the first aid station called Hurrah Pass. I was only 15 miles into the race. I grabbed some chips and water and rolled out in about 5 seconds. I thought I was in fourth, at this point. Yellow Shirt, Board Shorts, and Old Blue Shirt, somewhere off in the distance. Some other dude was right on my ass but I’m the fastest aid station user in the West, when I even bother using them. So, catch ya later, homey.
I kept running. It was getting hotter now. I had my adventure hat on. It was amazing. Best thing I ever did for myself was buy that Adventure Hat. I loved it. Love those arm sleeves too although probably unnecessary. They feel cool. The sun wasn’t bothering me in the least. I felt like a real explorer.
Chapter 2. Finders Keepers
The next bit of the race, at least judging by the maps and my faint memory, was really flat, boring, and fast. Here it looks like I put the heat on a bit, and made up some big distance on the people behind me. The crew in front was still far away. I don’t think I ever saw them. I kept looking out on the horizon, trying to spot them. Nothing. For being so flat, you can’t get a good view very often. I just kept plugging away.
I had it set up my Garmin really poorly. I had decided to set my lap to 3.85 km. So there would be 100 laps to finish the race! Seems like a cool idea, right? Well it was fucking useless. How fast are you supposed to run 3.85 km in, if you’re on pace?! Fucked if I knew. I kept running like 27, 26 minutes. I figured that had to be too fast. That means … 0.5 hours x 100 = 50 hours to finish? That’s way too fast. I should slow down. But then I thought of Hal Koerner’s advice. If you think you’re going too slow, slow down. Wait, no, I thought of his other advice: You trained all this time—Go for it. Fucking get after it. Paraphrased. Which was also Big Johnny Burton’s advice: Run fast & take risks!
Well, I was taking risks. I was practically leading a 240 mile race, and was running like 8:30 miles. I know this seems fast, but you see, the course was dead flat. Am I here to run, or am I here to walk? Is it a running race, or a walking race? Fuck man, I only had one goal, you know? Win the race. Well I had two goals in my head: a) win, b) finish. I didn’t see value in any other goals than that, at this point. So I maintained my pace. Let’s see how fast I can finish this thing. Let’s take risks! So on and on I ran.
Soon though, incredibly, off in the distance: Old Blue Shirt. Holy shit, you fucking bastard, I have you now! I love chasing people. It’s so incredibly fun. He was way off, but every time I saw him he was walking. I was feeling great. I was forcing myself not to run the hills, but was pumped. I caught him, after a while and … It wasn’t Old Blue Shirt! It was … “Light Blue Navy Seal”?! Who the fuck was this? Ok, now there’s three people in front of me. Damnit. Anyway Light Blue Navy Seal was looking kinda ragged, or sore or something. I think his calf was hurting. So I blew past him.
I found one of those magnetic key holders in the sand. With a key in it. I felt like Mad Max, collecting supplies that I might be able to barter with. I wondered how I could possibly return it to its owner? I threw it away into the desert. It had been there for months and months. I too lost a magnetic key holder, once. It might still be under my truck.
I kept plugging on. I felt very alone. Somehow I’d run this entire race nearly entirely alone already. Like was that just coincidence? Review the live tracking, I’d say so. But it was really shocking. These huge expanses of just, open Moab. Not a soul to be seen. Neither ahead, nor behind. The sun was coming up. It was hot. Goddamn my adventure hat was amazing. I actually felt great in the heat. I wasn’t thirsty, I wasn’t too hot, my keto-power was in full effect. I felt like every time I ate it was just for kicks. Like “ok I guess I’ll eat a nasty fucking gel.” Thank god for being keto.
Ok, but now, as we start coming in towards the next aid station (Breaking Bad, mile 34?) I round this big corner into this giant amphitheater type formation and … holy shit! All three of them. Lined up like little ducks in a shooting gallery! Ha! I had been feeling good and had been running too fast, but this was awesome. I just got super pumped. Yellow Shirt was in 3rd, and moving really slowly at this point. He was a cheerful fellow. I passed him quickly, and set my sights on Board Shorts and Old Blue Shirt. They were sorta running together, it seemed. Well kinda. It looked like he stopped to wait for her at the top of this little hill. But they hadn’t been running together before? Weird.
Anyway, I caught them. They were moving quite slowly. A lot slower than the beginning of the race, anyway. I felt good about that. I caught them and Old Blue Shirt stopped and stared at me. A look of amazement, or confusion. Or hunger? And said “You’re looking good.” (and I thought, “to eat?”) and I said “You too!” really cheerfully. But I didn’t stop. I also thought “I had better be fucking looking good, we’re only 30 miles into a 240 mile run.” Board Shorts was with him, and I passed her too. I think I said “Hi there”. She said something similar. I didn’t want to be unfriendly, but honestly I felt like people talk too much in ultras some times. I felt like this kind of crowd was more into solitude and peaceful company. So I didn’t chat anyone’s ear off this entire race. Well, I’d been alone the whole time anyway…
And now I was well and truly alone. We immediately got to another aid station, and I zipped through again. I tried to look back (“The hunter has become the hunted, motherfucker”) to see if Board Shorts or Old Blue Shirt had dilly-dallied, or been quick. I guess I decided it didn’t matter. I couldn’t see them though.
And from now on the race was mine to lose, I told myself.
Chapter 3. Missing Persons Report
The next part of the course was this big, impressive entry to this massive amphitheatre of rock, then this absolutely horrible descent on a road, more like a river bed, of horrific boulders. I think my quad was starting to hurt a bit, at this point. My left abductors were really sore, and well, and these damned pebbles and boulders were not easy to run on. But eventually that crap gave way to (a gravel road, yay?) and some more flat stuff. I wasn’t as alone as I thought, as I intermittently caught sight of Board Shorts, keeping pace behind me. I knew she didn’t like being passed, and was definitely running faster behind than in front, as she had done with Yellow Shirt.
After long amount of running, we followed that up with some more longer, interminable running. I will say that in the past, people have asked me “Isn’t running 100 miles boring!? What do you think about?” and I’ve always said you’d be surprised how not boring it is. You are always busy thinking, or planning! That was … not the case here. Holy God, I was so bored. Maybe it was the long distances between aid stations? The unchanging terrain? But wow, I was really bored. According to my tracker, I eventually reached an aid station: Hamburger Rock: 90 km, or 56 mi.
This was the first time I got to see my crew! It really sucks to have to run that far without seeing them, but finally they were there. I was supposed to run this next short section with Trish, but I was moving pretty fast, and I knew that Board Shorts was right on my ass, so being concerned about the pace, I decided to run alone. That was a mistake, and I regret it still, 9 months later. Anyway, we swapped packs and I was quickly off. Immediately after doing that, I realized I had left my SPOT (GPS) tracker on my other pack! As I ran down this awful gravel road for a million miles, I eventually saw a car and waved him down and said “Can you tell my crew that they have my spot tracker?” and then I kept running. I certainly wasn’t going to run back. I’d rather die out here than run an extra 2 km.
After that, you hit a main highway. I can recall being in pretty solid pain at this point. Which disappoints me, in retrospect. To be working hard at 60 miles is kinda shitty, in my opinion. I guess I was doing pretty well though, because I think I was on track to run 100 miles in like 18 hours or something. Too fast…
Finally, finally, the pavement section ended, and just as I turned off, I saw The Mothership. I waited for them and they rolled up, and told they couldn’t give me my tracker until the next aid station. Makes sense. No cheating! So off I went, and off they went.
Even now I recall much of the next section of trail: fucking pure misery. Running along a sandy road. Then a sandy riverbed. Then a wet, slimy, muddy (but still sandy!) riverbed. Ugh. It was hard going. I didn’t get wet, thankfully. But it was slow. Finally I had calmed down to the point of doing 9 and 1’s (that had always been the plan, haha), so I was running 9 minutes and walking 1. Honestly though, I was working pretty damned hard for those 9’s. Still maintaining a decent pace, but… the legs were sore. My abductors were really sore, is all I can remember.
This segment was really brief. Actually only like 20k. I got to the next aid station and it was still light out. I looked around for The Mothership and… She was nowhere to be seen. Fuuuuck. My crew wasn’t there. I had half expected it, given the remoteness of these aid stations, but it was still a bit of a nerve wracking moment. No matter, though, I was more worried about my crew, than me. I grabbed some chips a couple gels and filled my water and headed out.
Night fell. I vaguely remember this part: Looooong section of due South, just roads and kinda what felt like grassy terrain. Slowly, slowly climbing. Running lots. I was ahead of Board Shorts, but how far? I kept looking for lights in the woods. I would stop and turn off my light and the blackness was just awe inspiring. You would just be crushed by the overwhelming blackness, all around. It was bonkers. Then your eyes would adjust, and the stars would come out and you’d be like “holy cats“. The entire galaxy just right there, so bright! Then you’d reluctantly start running again. Staring at stars isn’t getting you any closer to the next aid station.
Chapter 4. Mitchsomnia
I reached the aid station. We decided that since I was in first place and that I was like 9 hours or something stupid ahead of my plan, I should try to sleep. I had been quite sleepy previously, during this section, so it seemed like an ok plan. I decided to sleep for 30 mins.
I didn’t get any sleep, but laying down was nice. The aid station was noisy, my dog was annoying, and my legs were really, really sore. I felt dirty, sandy, and my heart was beating like a heart does, but loudly. It was uncomfortable and kinda weird. Laying down I mean, not my heartbeat. I didn’t get any sleep. After that little nap (much too short) I was incredibly freezing cold too. I learned a lot during these 40 mins of suffering! Some aid station people came over and convinced me (wisely) that once I got going it would be so much better… so I hobbled away into the night. God, if you can imagine a hell, it cannot be much worse than leaving an aid station after napping, in the dark, after running for a whole day. But eventually I did warm up, and I actually felt pretty decent.
While I had been “sleeping”, Board Shorts had passed me, as expected. I now knew her name was Courtney. The aid station guy had screamed at her “FIRST PLACE IS FUCKING SLEEPING IN HIS CAR, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!!” which was hilarious, but somehow not conducive to sleep.
Anyway, I ran off. I kept looking for lights in the woods. How fast would she be going? Would I ever catch her? Man, my legs were sore. It was really dark and really lonely out there. I was bored, again.
For the first time, the race actually became a trail. The shittiest, gnarliest trail in the world, but actually a trail. I got kinda pumped for a few seconds. It started to get steeper and tougher.
Eventually I actually did see some lights in the woods. It was Courtney and her pacer! They were moving uphill, much slower than I was. I caught them with little difficulty. But of course she hung with me, breathing down my damned neck, while I hiked hard up the hill. Of course having just passed her, I felt I was obligated to stay out of her way! But she was riding my ass, so I ended up powerhiking like trying to set a record on the Grouse Grind. Fuck I’m dumb.
It was very very steep and really slidey, rocky, sandy terrain. Oh my god it was hard going! But she and I hiked together, and I knew the hill was (it had to be, right??) pretty short. It looked like we were dropping her pacer a bit, which made me chuckle, but he was probably just trying to slow her down. Maybe that was just my egotistical imagination. I certainly wasn’t losing her.
When I got to the top I oddly felt super good, and I immediately started running. She said “Solid effort” and I said “Thank you, you too, you’re awesome” and ran off. She let me go! I was pleased. Running uphill felt so nice.
From there I felt pretty good, and wanted to make some distance. I pushed harder on the downhills, but at this point my quad was really sore. It was work to run downhill, that’s for sure. Finally then it was all uphill walking with a few intermittent jogs. I pushed moderately but comfortably and made some more time on her. The uphills just felt fantastic and I was loving this road climb. Then it was the aid station! Shay Mountain! 103 mi, and the time was 4:00 AM.
Courtney and her pacer were right behind me, but I didn’t stay at the aid station. I started off down the hill. I was hoping to make good time but damn, my quads were shot. I was really struggling. I also thought this was a road section the entire way, and that turned out to be completely false. It turned off quickly, onto a trail. It should have been super duper fast section, instead I was barely moving. I kept expecting to get fucking passed at any minute, and was fearfully checking behind me for headlamps. I don’t mind being passed, to be honest, what I mind is not keeping my pace. And I was definitely losing my pace. My quads were really an issue, at this point. My feet were sore too, and I was trying to not step on rocks and stuff. Hard to do on this entirely gravel and rock course!
I felt like this section took for ever and it was supposed to be really quick. And honestly, it was barely downhill. It looks like a really nice descent on the map, but the scale of this course is just nuts. It felt flat, if that. It was tough. And eventually the sun was coming up. I was hoping to make it to the next aid station before morning, because I didn’t have my adventure hat! Haha. Actually I just wanted to do that for a fun little own-goal. But it was not to be. I saw an elk in the morning light of a desert sunrise. I was extremely sore, and working really hard. I wasn’t hitting my 9 and 1’s. I was hitting my “run when you can, because you’re fuckin’ dying, and you’re going to get passed like a shithead.”
In the end though, I didn’t get passed like a shithead. I struggled my way to the aid station, and according to the tracker, I did pretty well compared to Courtney. By that I mean, I didn’t lose much time, if any. I think I was about 30 minutes ahead of her, all of which was due to her resting at the last aid station. The next runners (Yellow Shirt and Old Blue Shirt, still rockin’!) were only just getting into the last aid station, so her and I were about 4 hours ahead of them.
Chapter 5. Dawn Of The Second Day
At this point I slept again. I planned to sleep for 40 minutes. It was 8 AM, and I was really beat up, and really tired. I was fuuucked up. I managed to sleep for a few minutes. Some dogs nearby were quite loud, and their owner, much to my crew’s chagrin, ignored them the entire time, as she played her kazoo. She didn’t pick up their shit, either. [Don’t worry, RD, my crew did it for her.]
After waking up, I actually felt pretty good. It was morning, the sun was coming out, and I hadn’t lost too much time on Courtney, again. I felt like I was getting free sleeps, and would be well positioned for running into the next night. I had lost about 45 minutes, as she had flown through that aid station. But I didn’t mind, and figured by the next-next aid station, I could probably catch her again. I was finally going to get a pacer too, which was pretty fun.
It was tough going. It was cold out, and really windy. We did 9 and 1’s, and I was moving, but really working hard, my quads were fucking destroyed. I mean, not good. Not good. Ugh, bad times. It was really hard, and my feet were sore. This section was basically a dead flat road half-marathon, and it took us about 2.5 hours, which is still pretty much on target. I gained maybe 10 minutes on Courtney, if that, but essentially we ran this at the same pace.
Coming into the last aid station was brutal hell. I was dead, and my right quad was suddenly sheer agony. I hobbled my way up the hill, tried to get some soup (it wasn’t cooked, or warm, it was just… crunchy Mr. Noodles.) It was non-ideal. Then I tried to get down to the car and I literally couldn’t walk. My legs were completely fucked. My right quad was so sore, I could barely use it. I couldn’t bend my leg, I couldn’t even touch it. But for some reason I still didn’t think much of it?? I just kinda though like “damn, I’m sore.”
Unfortunately, we left that aid station at the slow walk, and… I was unable to get back to a run. I just couldn’t use that leg, and every other part of my legs were now being busted. Both hamstrings, my right plantar part of my foot, my left achilles. The whole thing was falling apart. We walked. I was really over it. I didn’t come here to walk, I kept thinking. I am done. I didn’t want to be out here anymore.
It was sunny, but fucking freezing. Of course I didn’t have my jacket, because it was the desert in the sun in the middle of the day! But it was freezing. Had I been running I guess it would have been perfect. Alas, I was not running. I walked. Slowly. I sat in the sand. I just really wanted to sleep in the sand. It was warm out of the wind. I wanted to build a little sand nest, and hide in it. Nigel and I looked at rocks, and found nice rocks on the road. God, it would be so nice to just stop walking, and sleep in the sand. I told Nigel to go ahead, go get Trish, and I’ll just wait here. Come get me. He wouldn’t let me stop. He refused. We walked forever and ever and then we were only halfway. We saw some super creepy cave homes and cave people. The Hills Have Eyes village.
We got angry at all the garbage. Rednecks. We looked at more nice rocks. We walked in sheer. fucking. agony. Goddamn I was sore. My quad! Holy god it hurt. I fell into the ditch, kinda. I mean, it was like a shallow hill. I stumbled down it because my leg wouldn’t work.
But of course, after the longest walk of my life, we finally made it to the aid station. You can walk for a long time if you have no other options. I sat down. I ate like 15 lbs of food. Noodles, candy, chocolate, more noodles. I love noodles. Chips. The dogs were annoying. I drank some Nuun. Some time passed. And then? I pulled the plug.
Chapter 6. Life Changing Decisions
Nigel was like “What!? You’re in fucking 2nd place, why would you drop?! You have like 2 and a half more days to finish! You could crawl that!” and maybe it was true, but I didn’t want to, and I didn’t care. I really didn’t care, and I figured I’d just hurt myself anyway. Do I really want to walk (hobble) through the mountains for 100 more miles? For what? I didn’t even want to run this race in the first place.
So I got up (haha, my leg did feel a bit better, if I’m honest) and walked over and gave my tracker to the lady and I was like “I’m done” and she was like “Are you sure? You’re sure-sure? You’re sure?” and I started to have a flicker of doubt but I said yeah. I hobbled back to the truck, and just like that, the race was over.
I was a failure, and a quitter, but I barely cared, to be honest. I was just … neutral. I was over it. I was sore. My legs were sore. I wanted to get out of Moab. Get away from all these hardcore runners and their supportive words they have for people that drop.
Courtney, obviously, went on to win the race, as everyone in the world now knows. Yellow Shirt, who it turns out is Sean Nakamura, an amazing runner who set a course record at Bigfoot 200, went on to finish 2nd. Old Blue Shirt, aka Christopher Cappellini (I think), went on to finish 4th. So that is really cool, that those guys who set out to lead the race managed to hold on right to the end. Impressive stuff.
Chapter 7. On Being A Quitter
It’s really hard to organize my thoughts about quitting.
First of all, and probably most importantly: I finally learned first-hand how fucking bad of an idea it is to DNF. For me at least, I was haunted by the decision for months and months after. I couldn’t run without thinking about it, I couldn’t sleep without thinking about it. I couldn’t live without thinking about it! Now (8 months later?) I can finally say I don’t agonize over it. But it has changed me! I have self-doubt. I might even feel more pressure to be fast? Now I either become a true quitter, or I go back and re-do the race. And even that decision isn’t easy. Do I even want to go back? Or am I going back just because I failed, and think I need to redeem myself? Am I going back because of my ego? Does running 240 miles actually mean anything to me? Does running even appeal to me anymore? So far I’ve been unable to train again, just barely managing 50 miles a week. Any more than that feels selfish and excessive and pointless.
Never DNF, Redux
The second issue is: Why did I quit, really? My leg was hurt, no doubt about that. But would some rest and massage have helped? In retrospect I wasn’t even that hurt. Everyone else’s legs hurt just as much, I’m sure, if not quite as cripplingly in the right quad. So I also doubt my reasoning. I’m just weak. A quitter. A loser. In retrospect the inability to actually run meant I didn’t want to continue. True. But that’s only because I didn’t realize how badly I would regret quitting. I could have certainly found some poles and dragged myself to a finish. And then I would have had a sense of accomplishment, instead of a sense of being a loser.
Know your pace!
Did I go out too fast? It’s important to understand that I wanted (and still want) to run the distance. I didn’t want to walk it. I don’t want to fast-pack it. I knew that I should do 9 and 1’s or even less, because I was so far ahead of schedule, but the course was so flat and runnable, I didn’t. If you look at what Courtney did in this race, she was pretty much maintained our same pace the entire time. So it’s possible. I was catching her and I was taking it really easy, so she was taking it slow. But, as I learned, and should have known going in, maybe this is not a sustainable pace for anyone who is not elite? If I went back, would I take it slower? The answer is no, I wouldn’t. Maybe a couple hours slower pace, but no sleeping. So I am thankfully able to say that I don’t regret going out too fast. I think I climbed too fast, and descended that rocky bit too fast (and probably that’s where I hurt my quad?). But those are pretty minor. Mostly I just wasn’t generally fit/healthy enough.
You gotta want it
The biggest issue was (and still is) certainly my lack of motivation. I didn’t care about training. I didn’t want to train. I didn’t want to race. I didn’t care about the race, I wasn’t excited about the race. I had no motivation, I didn’t see “just finishing” as a meaningful goal. (Now I do, of course, but only because I failed.) I didn’t have a good mental state in training, and my training was bad. I mean, I did a ton of running, but it was junk. Many 100 mile weeks: All of it depressed junk. I didn’t hit the gym, I didn’t train on trails, I didn’t train on steep stuff. I needed strength more than anything. This is relaxed running but really hard on the ab/adductors! I am in the worst shape of my life right now, and my decline certainly started before Moab training was over.
I also felt like I ran this race wrong. I feel like trying to go fast and push the pace was making me miss out on everything. Especially in this race, where you are out there for so long, why bother hurrying? In a 100 miler, ok, I can see it. Orcas was like that: I wasted zero seconds. But here, not only do you run the very real risk of blowing up, you miss out on half (more like 90%) of the fun. We were told to bring cameras, and I didn’t. I took my time a tiny bit. But I should have relaxed and taken it even slower. I’ve known this! It’s the Kilian approach: stay relaxed, have fun, rest lots, and run smooth. Don’t rush it. But I’d forgotten everything I had learned over the years!
Listen to your shitty body
This was a weird one. I had ankle pain—It took me 10 km to realize my shoe was done up too tight. I had quad pain—It took me 140 km to realize it might be an injury. I just was not able to separate normal pain & tiredness from injury and over-doing it. I just kept thinking “well, this is what running 100 miles feels like!” I was wrong. I think it’s because I got caught up racing. And although I never felt like I was chasing a pace (except during that steep climb), and ran my own speed, my attention was still elsewhere. Worried about other runners. Worried about the lead. Real stupid beginner shit.
Learn sometimes, idiot
So in the end, I’m honestly glad I DNF’d. I didn’t deserve the finish, and I certainly didn’t deserve the win. It’s a line I use now, when I coach or run with others. Do you think you deserved to beat that person? Did you think you really deserved to do better, given the training you did? I think it’s an important question. And in this case, I didn’t. At all. And had I finished, in all my undeserving debasement, I would have lost even more respect for the distance. I’m glad the distance became meaningful. I’m glad it was hard. I honestly thought it was going to be easy, and I’m glad that a race this long is challenging.
What are some of the positives of this race?
- I felt like 100 miles was really short. Like one day and night of running basically felt like nothing at all. Even the whole second day felt really brief.
- I learned that I can sleep or nap during a race and, although it’s the most horrible thing in the world, it does feel fairly better afterward, at least for a while.
- I learned absolutely never to sleep until it becomes 100 % necessary, because it’s so horrific.
- I learned how terrible it is to DNF. I always said “Death Before DNF” and I meant it when I said it because I cared, at the time! But it’s easy to say when things are going well. People said to me “I assumed you were really hurt because I knew you’d never quit!” Once upon a time that would have been true. But now I know that you have to want it in your heart! And I’m embarrassed when people say that, because I’m not the winner they make me out to be.
- Being fully keto worked really super well. Energetically I was perfect the entire race.
What is next?
I still think I can do well in this race. I still dream of running far, and being in the desert. Some sort of Mad-Max-esque dystopian fantasy of mine really draws me to this course, despite how gravely & roady and boring it was. Obviously dystopia is boring.
Should I take time off? Hit the gym and get muscles again? I’m kinda chunky at the moment. Keep half-training and do a 100 miler? Try to run a race without putting pressure on myself to be the best? (That feels impossible, regardless of how shitty a runner I actually am, haha.) Maybe I should quit running and do something else? Maybe I’ll never again have the drive to suffer, like is required.
No idea. I wish I could pull a Gary Robbins and go back and race hard (and go back again and race hard again, if need be) and have drive to succeed. To overcome! Inspire! But if I can’t find the desire to train hard, I shouldn’t race it. And it seems that drive is gone, at least for a while. The idea of lining up at the start line appeals to me! Re-reading my first few chapters gets me pumped. But again, “the will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.”
Grease Rat: Like the sign says, “speed’s just a question of money. How fast you wanna go?”