Unfortunately I wasn’t at mile 70 this time. Not even close. In fact, I would never see mile 70. Not because I would not finish or due to an injury but because the race I was “dying” in was a 50k. 31 miles total and I was struggling hard at mile 20. Mile 20? Dude.... You just ran a 100 miler. HOW can you be done at 20? I struggled to understand. I made excuses. I made up lies and turned them into excuses. I thought about faking an injury.... nah... I didn’t go that far but you see where my mind was, right? Let me back this story up and start from the beginning....
I was born on a Wednesday in June of.... wait, not that far back let’s move up a *few years. In 2010 I decided to run the Dogwood Canyon 50k in a pink tutu. Not because I think it makes me look manly but rather as a way to raise money for the Relay for Life and promote Breast Cancer Awareness. Not only did it turn out to be a great fundraiser but it was also good for me personally. It allowed me overcome some insecurities and fears. At first, it was embarrassing but I soon forgot about all the eyes on me and the snickers that came from many. The race was tough but fun and at the end of the day the pink tutu had placed 5th overall. Not bad.
Naturally this lead to a return of the pink tutu in 2011. Again, a great success as a fundraiser and another tough race. Interestingly enough, I placed 5th overall for the second year in a row and I was MUCH more comfortable showing off the tutu. This pretty well cemented the idea that the tutu would return in 2012. I registered early in the year and marked the date on my calendar. I don’t usually like to register that far in advance because it’s likely that I’ll do something stupid and end up injured during the “training” period but this one was a definite “go”.
Then a funny thing happened that put it all in doubt. I signed up for the Arkansas Traveller 100 Miler on October 6th. Since it was only two weeks before Dogwood Canyon, I doubted that I would be able to recover in time to “race” in the tutu. After successfully completing the 100 miler, my recovery went well and I decided that, while I couldn’t “race” the 50k, I could certainly “run” to cover the distance and carry a few ribbons along the trail. So with a week left before the 50k I asked for some help. The response was, once again, awesome. It always blows me away to see how generous and passionate people are when it comes to beating the monster. Together we raised over $750 in just about one week. Sure, that’s probably not going to be the final piece that brings cancer to an end.... but it will help and one day it will come to an end.
Before the race it was pretty cool to see several of the safety green Idiots Running Club shirts mixed in. It was even cooler to meet some the people that I had only had contact with through facebook and twitter. It’s hard for me to believe that our dumb little club has grown so large. Runners have issues. I mean, who in their right mind would want to be called an Idiot? Better yet, who would join a club and then wear the shirt to proclaim to the world that they are indeed an Idiot? I love that dumb little club....
On to the race..... By the time the National Anthem was over, I had convinced myself that I was recovered and ready to "race", so I started out fast. Probably too fast. Not unusual for me here. I do it every time and eventually settle into a slower pace that will allow me to complete the distance. After a couple of miles we hit the first hill. It is crazy steep and seems to go on forever. I could feel the burn in my legs and they felt really tired before I reached the halfway point. Huh? I usually had no problem with the first few hills on this course so I kind of ignored it and pushed on towards the top. Looking back, this was the first indication that things were going to be a little harder this year.
Things went along pretty well for about 10 miles and then.... POW.... It was like I had run 60 miles already. I decided to push a little harder and get out of the funk. Yes, I said push a little harder. Yes, I should have probably backed off and regrouped but.... well, you know how it goes.... By mile 14 I was fading. By mile 18 I was zapped. By mile 20 I was done.
The 50k has always been an enigma to me. I can’t figure out how to run the distance. At marathon pace? Nope. The extra “5” miles will make you pay dearly if you go out to hard. Take away the roads and add trails to the equation and things really get confusing. Factor in they type of trail, the amount of un-runnable sections, the monster climbs and about 15 creek crossings.... uhhh.... well, my brain explodes. So what I usually do is exactly what happened on Sunday. Run some, walk some, drink water, eat food, smile and don’t die.
Somewhere around mile 25, a friend caught up to me on the trail. Jeff had been running towards the front of the pack but had taken a wrong turn adding an extra 1.6 miles to his 50k. He was pretty much in the same boat as I was, both mentally and physically, at this point. We decided to run/walk the remaining miles together. We talked and laughed about our situations. I vowed to “retire” from running ultras after this was over. He just wanted a cheeseburger. At the time both of these statements seemed to mean the same thing. We both just wanted to cross the finish line and sit down. I had never felt this tired in any race of any distance.
We made our way through the final miles without much care as to where we placed. Some dude passed us and I thought he was probably in my age group but didn’t really care. Turns out, he placed 2nd in my age group. Whadd’ya gonna do? I stopped a few more times for picture because for some reason, people want a picture of a dude in a pink tutu. Weirdos.... Finally, the finish line was in sight. Many friends were waiting at the finish line, clapping and cheering as we crossed. I hit my not-so-good cartwheel and called it a day at 6 hours 14 minutes placing 20th overall and 3rd in my age group.
I went home disappointed in my performance and had a laundry list of excuses. Thankfully, that pity party didn’t last long. After a night of sleep and some thoughtful reflection I came to the realization that It went exactly as planned. I ran, walked and pushed through the hardest miles that I have ever encountered in an effort to honor those whose names I was fortunate enough to carry with me that day. I struggled that day and my body ached. All I wanted was to stop, quit and give up. I had to deal with that for 6 hours. 6 hours. That is NOTHING compared to the struggles, pain and despair known by those that ran “with me” that day. I have no reason to be disappointed. No excuses to give. I am pleased with the result of that particular day. I will forever hold the memories in a special place. Thank you to everyone that supported this event for allowing me the opportunity to grow while fighting for a cause that we all so passionately believe in. I am in your debt.