The 3rd Annual Honor Scroll Run.... I’ve been struggling to find the words to properly describe the events of that day. I still don’t quite have the words but I will give it a shot here.
Some days are harder than others. Some days are more challenging than others. Some days ask more from us than we want to give. These are the days that test our physical ability and mental toughness. This was one of those days. To say that I was surprised by this would be an understatement. Coming in, I felt fully prepared and ready to set a PR for me on this course. I was very confident that this would happen. Uhhhhh......
I love running. I love ultras. I love the trail. Everything about the Ouachita 50 Mile Trail Race screams my name. It’s a rugged trail that starts with a huge climb over Pinnacle Mountain at mile four that leaves your legs begging for mercy. Normally, I love this climb but not this year. I could tell even before starting the ascent that it was going to be a loooooong day. My legs were toast before the climb which was not a good sign.
I felt completely drained and didn’t seem to have any energy right from the start. This wasn’t too alarming because, like many runners, I have a lot of days that start this way but get to feeling a little better with each passing mile. This is what I expected to happen but, oddly enough, it went the exact opposite. By mile 5, it felt like I had ran a marathon and at mile 10 I was ready to quit. Yes, I said quit. Of course I didn’t but I was ready to. At mile 10. Ridiculous but true.
There is an opportunity to drop down to the 50k at mile 15. Take the left fork and tell the race officials you’re scaling back- no big deal. This option was added for days like this and people like me that just weren’t “feeling it”. ~Take the left fork. Do the 50k. Otherwise you are screwed, dude.~ Yeah. I never was good with directions. I took the “other” left and continued on the 50 mile trail. Why? Because that’s what WE came to do.
WE? Oh yeah.... WE. There were 110 names on the Honor Scroll this year and WE were on a mission. 50 miles. Each year I draw strength from those names and their stories. This year, I had to tap into that power much earlier in the race than I had in the past. The emails and stories that come in during these events are unbelievable and inspiring. I really don’t think I would have made it much past 15 miles without that “secret weapon”.
From mile 15 to about mile 22 there is a long, lonely stretch of trail that seems to go on forever. I always end up running this part by myself and this year was no exception. It is a great time to reflect on life, the universe and everything in it. This time I spent these miles in a silly and senseless state of self pity. I was very disappointed by my progress, pace and the lack of energy I had. I was less than 20 miles in. ~20 miles? I can do that in my sleep. What the hell is going on??~ Basically, I was in “crybaby” mode and looking for excuses.
I hit mile 26 and the turnaround area at just under 5 hours. This was about 45 minutes slower than I had planned. Whatever. I decided to spend about 10 minutes with my drop bag and tried to regroup. This strategy has worked in other events when I was starting to feel zapped. It seemed to work. I jumped back on the trail and took off with a smile. Things felt great. Time to find my stride..... This lasted about 30 seconds and then things returned to “normal”.
At this point, I decided to embrace the fact that “my” day was shot. I reconciled with the notion that this would not be a PR day. In fact I knew that it would be my slowest 50 mile time yet. I had been humbled by the trail and I decided to just shut up and run. Self pity is not something I’m good at or accept from others. Time to get it together. ~Some days you set a State Record and other days the trail kicks your ass.~ This realization helped put things into perspective as I continued through the miles.
It still hurt, I still struggled but it was with a new outlook. I was back to joking with people and screaming WOOOOOOO!!!! as I hit the aid stations. This always gets a positive response from the spectators and volunteers. I passed a few runners and was passed by a few. It was a strange feeling to be passed in the late miles of a race and NOT really care. I was just happy to still be moving in a positive and relentless forward motion.
Coming down the final stretch I thought about my day. It was hard. It was tough. It was, at times, miserable. It was over. It was NOTHING compared to a tough, hard or miserable day for those on the Scroll. They’ve all had days that were 100 times more difficult before breakfast. Mine was a simple mind game not the horrible reality faced by those I had the high privilege of carrying with me that day. ~It could be worse. Much worse.~ Anybody that has raised money knows what an emotional drain it can be. I’m a teary eyed kind of guy so it wasn’t surprising to me that I cried with only a few miles to go.
In the end, WE crossed the finish line in 10 hours 21 minutes for 19th place overall. Not exactly what I had planned but the fact is that I have been blessed with MANY good days- one bad day is fair. In the end, I didn't carry the Honor Scroll, it carried me. The event raised over $1,600 for the ACS and brings the yearly total close to $5,000. That blows me away and makes me tear up when I think about how AMAZING your support has been. By myself I am just a wanna-be runner but with your help I have a purpose. Thank you.