Thirsty after a long run, I stopped into the store on my way home. At the checkout line, the clerk asked if I was a runner. Either he was psychic or my muddied calves, large GPS watch, and synthetic clothing gave me away. Whichever it was, I confirmed his assumption, hoping that he wouldn't ask about what I run. Standing in a busy checkout line at the store is a less than ideal place to explain the who/what/when/where and whys of ultra running. But my train of thought was cut off when he said, "You don't run those crazy races. You know. Like Leadville." Well yes, I do run ultras, but no I have not run the Leadville 100. "Man!! That's crazy. I just don't know how you people do it. I'd never be able to run that long!" In an effort to move the line along and get my drink faster, I quickly told him that anyone can run an ultra. It's fun! And with that we both laughed a little and I hurried back home.
As I was driving home I realized that I should have put an asterisk next to the "It's fun!" claim I made. It's not always fun. Images and memories of my last race flashed between my ears, making me cringe and drive significantly faster. I thought I should go back and tell that guy the truth, but realized that the damage was done (and I'd rather be at home). So in an attempt to redeem myself, below are thoughts that ensued during my last race. Let these serve as my asterisk.
Warm up: It's not a good sign if carrying my water bottle on the warm up makes my bicep feel like a substance closely related to that of jello pudding.
4km-10km: Wee! These hills are fun! Just like home in Colorado!
Warner's Wall: This is a stupidly steep downhill. In fact, it's borderline dangerous. Look! I'm getting rocks in my shoes. I'm not enjoying this at all. This section is stupid. Maybe I'm just hungry. Eating makes everything seem better.
15.5km: Eating has not improved the situation. A rapid decline in physical and mental (st)ability is noted.
17km: Something bit my ankle. God damnit. I wasn't looking around for snakes, I don't think I saw one, but what else would bite me? Oh god. My leg is tingling. It's definitely, wait let me check, yes definitely swelling slightly. I don't know what the symptoms are for Tiger Snake bites. Shit. I should have researched that. I wonder what happens now? Surely I'll pass out soon. Those saps that just passed me or maybe the gentlemen with congested lungs behind me will carry my lifeless (perhaps convulsing?) body to the next aid station. Which sounds horrible...for them. I think it's quite a trek from here, but I won't have to deal with that. I'll be incapacitated and frothing at the mouth, trying to say something meaningful and courageous in my last few moments. Jesus, I think my leg is going numb. How much time has passed since the snake bit me? Why the hell is it taking so long for congested lungs man to pass me? I should ask him if he spotted a snake on the trail. Who am I kidding? Stop lying to yourself. You know a shitty little ant bit you. Are you really going to let an ant take you out of this race? Well..I mean, if my leg got bad enough... Oh come ON! You're the moron who didn't train. The one who, at the last minute, decided to switch from the marathon to the 75k. Why? Oh because everyone else is running the 75k and you didn't want to be a party pooper. New flash dummy, you won't be much of party animal after this little jaunt.
(Incoherent thoughts. Several lyrics of Miley Cyrus songs on a loop in brain. Obviously at a low functioning mental state. Just the essentials now.)
25km: I hate running. I honestly hate it. I'm never going to do this again. Ever. No, not even if someone offered me like $5,000. Maybe for a million. I don't know. It's a tough call. Fuck it. I'm walking this 10k hill. "Do you want to pass me?" ("No, I'm fine.") Humph. Just pass me, man. I'm not going to go any faster. In fact, I'm going to slow down. Maybe I'm just hungry. No. There is no amount of food that will make up for poor training.
|If I keep eating things are bound to improve.|
29ish km: Oh look its Dakota. Ass hole. Running. Pfh. Who does he think he is. "Good job!! I love you!!" No I don't. I don't love you at all right now. You jerk. This is somehow, someway, your fault... and I've got the next several hours to find a way to blame this situation I'm in on you. muhahahahaa
34.5km: Aid station. Lots of people. Pretend you are enjoying yourself.
37ish km: What is this crap? I have to finagle my way through that chimney of rock? Maybe I'll get stuck and I won't have to run anymore. Also, I hate stairs. I'm not looking forward to going up or down any of those again.
42km: I'm simply smiling and cheering on everyone else because I'm elated that a) I'm seeing people in just as much pain as myself b) I'm further along than these folks c) which means I'm that much closer to being done and d) it's downhill for the next 10km.
44km: Truly regretting my excitement for downhill. Fairly certain that my quads are legitimately tearing away from the bone.
46km: What if I lied and said that I was peeing blood. Kidney failure is a totally justifiable reason for dropping. If it were true. But no one would know I lied about it. What sicko would lie about it? True. And then I'd have to lie about the whole kidney failure thing for like.. the rest of my life. Would I have to lie about it on new patient forms at doctors offices? Maybe. Definitely if I'm with someone from the race. I think I have a migraine. I could probably quit because of a migraine. It's pain that no one can see or question. I'll let that excuse marinate a little longer.
60.5km: I've taken up buddhism. Obviously in Samsara, a cyclical state where I'm grasping and fixating on myself and my experiences. I've come to this point from ignorance (avidaya) and am now going through dukkha: suffering, anxiety and dissatisfaction. It won't be long now. Actually. I have no idea what I'm talking about.
63km: If I convert kilometers to miles, do I lose or gain distance? "Warner's Wall." Goddamnit. I hate Marcus Warner for this. I'm giving him the silent treatment for here on out. This stupid wall and it's stupid uphill-ness. I'd sit here and pout if there were someone near me to ask why I'm upset.
65km: I hate downhills more. I can literally feel the blisters under my toenails smashing into the front of my shoes.
67.6km: I think "Mick's Track" was removed from the course. Maybe the race director realized that going back up that hellacious hill was an unsound idea. Oh thank god. There is no way I could deal with that right now.
68km: "Mick's Track." I never liked that Mick character anyway. Yea, I thought I did, but nope. Add him to the silent treatment list.
|(L-R: Myself, Dakota and Mick. Him and his stupid hill.)|
71km: ohmygod.I'mgoingtorunallofthis. I don't care if my quads literally and/or figuratively snap away from the bone and land on the ground.
75.5km: Finishline.JesusHChrist. Put me in that river. I need to cleanse away all that has just happened. I don't care about anything other than sitting down. What? No, I don't want to party. I want a hot shower and a do over.
|Carnage. My foot and Clarke's.|
It has been twenty days since I "ran" the Buffalo Stampede. Memory, with time as it's cunning accomplice, has tricked my mind. Now that some time has lapsed, when people ask me about the race, about whether or not I had a good time, I can't quite figure out the answer. I stumble over my thoughts, words, landing on something like, "Yea.. I think I had a good time. Well I mean, I got through the race." I say things like that as if I only slightly struggled. In a very Freudian way, time is slowly changing my view on the whole ordeal, perhaps in an effort protect myself. With ultras (Let's not extrapolate to other life situations, please.) it is sometimes best to repress painful experiences because if we accurately remembered these races like the one described above, no one would run such long distances.
So why write down the painful experience, this pseudo guilt prompted asterisk? I didn't write the above as a race report that tells a story of someone who struggled, over came many obstacles and finished with a better sense of self in hopes of inspiring someone. No, I wrote this to serve as a 'gentle' reminder to myself and perhaps a slight warning to others, to not believe everything you hear. Especially when you hear someone say, "Of course you can run an ultra! Anyone can!! It's fun!" It's not that they are lying, its just that they don't remember the truth.