I just wish I could close my eyes and wake up from this dream… this nightmare.
Just after dawn in cold pouring rain on February 2nd I completed the Tejas 300 as I finished my 4th 100 miler at Rocky Raccoon. It’s been quite a journey. I know I’m just tempting fate by saying this, but I feel like I’m on the verge of having this 100 mile thing somewhat figured out. For the last two 100 milers (Cactus Rose and Rocky Raccoon) I achieved mental victory: not wanting to quit. My wife and crew chief, Sarah, will attest; when my mental game is on, you can tell. My 4-time pacer, Jon (yes, all FOUR times), has seen me at my very darkest moments, multiple times. He’s seen me at those moments when I’ve been mentally weakest. And now, he’s seen me at those same moments when I’ve had some shred of mental strength. He also tells me it’s like night and day.
In spite of my mental strength in recent 100 milers, I had severe struggles at Bandera 100k (the second of the three races in the Tejas 300). My lesson that day was, respect the distance. 62 miles on that course is no field day. It’s only 12 miles longer than a 50 miler, but that is a long, long 12 miles. I was calorie deficient at mile 47.5. I backed off the calories when it got hot to avoid the barfs. In a 50 miler, 2.5 more miles would have been comprehensible, but 15 was overwhelming. I learned another lesson that day, it’s hard to quit on your crew and pacers. But when you don’t have either, it’s _really_ easy to want to quit. I crossed the finish line at Bandera 100k, but I lost the mental battle that day.
I can only attribute my finish at Bandera 100k to aid station volunteer Gordon, and fellow runner Gina. Gordon took care of me at the 47.5 mile aid station when I wanted to quit. He more than took care of me. He retrieved my bag with warm clothes from down the road (at a different aid station). I ran into Gordon at Rocky Raccoon 100. It was awesome to tell him the rest of the story from Bandera, and to thank him. I wouldn’t have made it without him. Gina is hardcore. She’s done the Pikes Peak double 9 times! At mile 52, in the dark, I needed to run with someone. The last 10 miles went by so easily chatting with her. It was great to see her again briefly at Rocky Raccoon. She finished her 2nd 100 miler at RR. I still can’t believe she was at the superbowl less than 8 hours after finishing a 100 miler. Hard. Core.
The opening quote is from my lowest point in this most recent Rocky Raccoon 100. My foot pain became unbearable around mile 82. I took tylenol at mile 83. When it finally kicked in around 84.5 I was feeling much better. Then when it wore off around mile 90 I began a downward spiral. Finally I took ibuprofen. It had been 2 hours and 40 minutes since taking the tylenol. About 10 minutes later, right before the ibuprofen started working, I experienced the end of myself like I never have before. You could argue it wasn’t really the end of myself, because I recovered. I was even walking forward when the moment happened. I think in past similar situations I wasn’t quite as reflective. Like when I was falling asleep while walking at my second RR100, or puking my guts up at Cactus Rose 100. This time I had successfully avoided thoughts of quitting. That caused me to push myself that much farther. And I was fully lucid in the moment. My feet hurt so badly all I could do was sob in despair. It didn’t last long, and I recovered. But in that moment it was the most intensely broken down, end of myself feeling, I’ve ever experienced.
I’m proud of finishing the Tejas 300. It’s likely one of the most difficult ultrarunning challenges in Texas. But what I’m most proud of is making it through both of my last 100 milers without wanting to quit.
As I progress in my ultra journey, I’m struck with how important it is to know why you want to finish. I was very motivated to finish my first 100 miler simply because it was my first. Since then, it’s been a lot easier to convince myself that finishing wasn’t that important to me. It’s also amazing how quickly you forget about the pain and torture when you’re sitting at the computer stalking your next race. So why do it again? For me it’s all about the beauty of seeing friends and strangers alike pouring into each other’s lives sacrificially. I will probably do another 100 this year. But what I am really looking forward to is pacing and crewing more in the future.