I flew down with friends Tony, Emmy and Marge and we met Lynne in Atlanta and then Meredith, Eddie and Zoe later that evening. Our north east contingency made up about 15% of the participants at this small event. Also running was Lane (his wife Jen crewed for him) who I met earlier this year while crewing at Badwater.
The race, 18 loops. Soooooooooooooooooo painfully monotonous to say, and even more so to run. Therefore I will not bore you, or myself (again) with the details. What I really want to focus on is the meat, not just of this race but all races. In my experience there is always a moment or series of moments, often quite lengthy in every ultra when I question what I am doing. Whether its, total exhaustion, incredible pain, hallucinations, disappointment or just an overall sense of being totally beaten down mentally and physically, these are the times when endurance athletes really have to dig down. These are the moments when we see what we are made of, what is possible.
First a couple of quick highlights.
Race begins at 8am on Saturday. It was a beautiful morning and day, mostly sunny with a temperature of 35 eventually rising to near 60
I ran the first 5 loops with Lynne and we had a blast. Congrats to Lynne on her 100k finish and good luck at the Brazil 135.
Tony lapped us and when he caught up I ran the next 70 miles with him until he finished. An awesome sub 22 hour, 4th place finish for Tony who is preparing to run the entire Caminho Da Fe in Brazil next month, 350 miles.
Now the meat. I recently wrote about my struggles at Javelina 8 weeks ago with serious dehydration issues. That was the meat for me at Javelina. Once again at Bartram there was a long rough patch, different but tough none the less. Around 1am, after 17 hours of running it had once again grown cold, and now it was raining. And not just a light sprinkle, a total down pour. I have heard the Forrrest Gump reference many times but this reminded me of the scene where he describes the rain:
One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain...and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night...
After a couple hours of this torturous torrent, I was becoming very weary. I was so tired and so cold for so long, struggling to move or even just to keep my eyes open. I actually fell asleep on my feet, having come to a complete stop. Fortunately, two new friends Chuck and Jason had come out in the middle of the night to run with me and Tony. A big help for sure, not to mention if it had not been for Chuck waking me up I may have just tipped over on my face. The conversation is short, matter of fact and kind of comical if you can picture me standing, head down with a hooded rain jacket, wet muddy and sleeping. Chuck tapped me on my shoulder and said almost in a whisper "Hey Eric! Are you sleeping?" I tiredly replied "Yeah". Chuck then said "Well stop it and get moving" and I simply said "OK" and started walking. So crazy it makes me laugh every time I think about it.
Thanks to Jason and Chuck for coming out to run with us. It was unexpected and so awesome that they just showed up in the middle of the night to help a couple of strangers while gaining some insight for their first 100 miler coming this spring. They picked a perfect moment to show up as things got nasty during those cold wet early morning hours.After 17 loops and about 70 miles with Tony, he was done in around 21:58. Awesome job Tony and I will never forget those many hours. The laughs, the pain, the struggles and of course pushing through it all and helping each other when the we were down. With just one loop left I moved right through the aid station and Jason was there to pace me. I told him my goal was to get done with this ASAP a not spend one more minute out there than we had too. I was so sick of this loop by now. We ran that last 5.56 miles like it was my first, about 69 minutes walking the hills and running everything else. 23 hours 9 minutes and as I said to some friends after, 7th place overall but I feel like I won.
It is amazing how my overall state went from a blurry and hazy crawl where everything seemed like it was in slow motion to clear as day in an instant. This is where I pose the question. What is it that motivates us to push through moments, often very long moments, hours upon hours of pain, discomfort, exhaustion and disappointment? I had made a plan and stuck with it. I focused on pace, nutrition and hydration with the goal of avoiding the physical breakdown I had at Javelina. I was feeling great for 17 hours running in a beautiful place on a perfect day with lots of great people. Then out of nowhere I was smacked in the face, with cold, wind and rain that completely sapped my energy and will, making it incredibly difficult to move forward. I wonder each time how this happens so quickly, one moment all is perfect, the next swallowed up by exhaustion. But yet, somehow I and many others keep pushing forward, even if its a slow zombie like walk. I assume every endurance athlete has these moments when continuing seems nearly impossible. But why is there no quitting? Although I bitch and complain during these moments, not for one second do actually tell myself to just quit? But why? It would be so easy to stop. And who could blame me right? Well it just doesn't work that way. I keep telling myself or others struggling to just keep moving and it will pass. I don't always believe my own BS but I say it and do it and then without warning it's as if the sun has risen and I have woken up from a good nights sleep. Obviously that's a load of crap. Still tired and in pain of course, but it becomes easier to ignore as suddenly everything looks, sound, and smells crisp again.
Anyway, I would love to hear other thoughts on the meat:) I for one can't wait to be in it again. As always, I must thank Tani for all her support. Totally impossible without her. Enjoy the slide show.