Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Northface Endurance Challenge 50 Miles

Current Mile total: 1316.25 miles

Well, its come and gone. A summer to remember with lots of new friends and a wealth of knowledge about my favorite sport. Its kinda sad to write about this because I've put so much energy into it. Without a doubt this truly has been the best summer I've ever had. Its had its share of difficulties but I know years later I look back and reflect fondly of the great adventure that was my first 50.

Wow, over 800 miles have been logged since I started this blog early in late spring. And it all came down to Saturday's performance. But I guess when I write it out like that it becomes obvious what the results would be. Scott and company really did us all a first class job of preparing us for our task and after 800 miles, of course I was ready. Baring injury there should not have been doubt in mind mind that I was prepared.

Its amazing how my perspective has changed over the years. From someone who couldn't believe they had just run a few miles without stopping, to someone who can run 50. Every non-runner seems to think that running long distances is some crazy. From that perspective a marathon seems unbelievable and ultra's, well, those people are nuts. I always knew I would eventually try longer distances but I still had that non-runner perspective. "yeah, I'll be that crazy one day." But the fascinating thing is, something a non-runner will never truly understand or believe until they do it themselves, is that its not hard.

That's right. It's really not that hard. It just takes lots of practice. Like anything else. Put in the time and the impossible becomes possible. So each time I complete a new distance, my paradigm shifts. I find out that the way I feel at the end of a marathon is the same way I feel at the end of the 50 miler. It's not like I'm exponentially tired and hurting. So now that I've done 50, I look to the 100. Is it crazy? I used to be one who thought so. But now I think its possible. And not only possible, but I have it in my sights. On the list for next summer. And the crazy thought that the non-runner in me is thinking, the same thought about the 100 before I ran the 50, is maybe I could do more than 100. Will I finish I 100 and think, "wow, that wasn't that hard, I need to go farther." I think its absurd now, but there's the little twinkle in my eye and a smirk on face that is beginning to reveal that maybe I don't think its that crazy anymore.

To be honest, I think I got inspired to do all this because of a macho desire for bragging rights. I think there's something inherent in me that wants to prove that I'm a tough guy. It does boost the ego a bit to be sure. But lately I find I really enjoy running. I'm quite addicted to trail running; something that road running could never do. And I think it was because road running was for all the wrong reasons. Speed and Ego. Trail running is about being connecting with nature. Taking the time to remove yourself from everything that is man and just be a simple animal running free in the wild. I know that sounds pretty hokey but nature is pretty fantastic without any help from man and to experience it on that level in such a primal way...

well, its a religion of sorts. It's time to think and time to not. Time to resolve conflicts of the mind and time to zone out until your thoughts are just reactive to the terrain. It's therapy for what ails the modern man/woman. Spend a few hours with a group of ultra runners and you'll see they're the most humble down to earth people you'll ever meet. I hope to be that way some day. Still working on the humble part.

So clearly from my rambling one can tell that I must have had a good time on Saturday. The race went well. And I wish I could say that there was some cosmic earth shattering revelation that came forth during the run that has forever changed me, but not yet. In fact, it was all rather matter-of-fact. It just happened. Time went by and then the race was finished. I accomplished my goal and that was that. It wasn't some great struggle where I had to drag myself to get across the line. I guess that will be reserved for the 100?

Saturday is kinda a wash on the memories so I'll try to sum it up the best I can. Jenn drove me to the start at 4 am and just as we were pulling into the park a coyote ran in from of her car. It avoided being hit and we then wide awake. I see Cathleen and Kevin and the beginning and wish them luck. The race begins and half of the group goes out slow and half are gone from site in a matter of minutes. Oh, its pitch dark outside and we all are running with either flashlights or headlamps. I use a flashlight and I'm glad I did as I soon realize that with a headlamp you need to move your head to expose new ground. With a flashlight you have the flexibility to expose anything with a flick of the wrist. We enter the trail after a few minutes of access road and I'm immediately behind Cathleen(notice this is Cathleen with a C not K, two different runners). I hang behind Cathleen for a while because I know it will keep me from going out too strong. But after a while I ask to pass and run my own race. Soon I'm all alone in the dark out in the middle of the woods. This is so much fun but my nerves were on edge because at any moment I could trip, fall and injury myself and it would all be over. I find that trying to pull stuff out of my camelbak and then wrappers in the dark while running was very difficult but I managed to do so without killing myself. I get to the first aid station and Brian is there. "How are you feeling? Can I get you anything?" It was great to see him out there but off I go back out into the dark. Then its up Wilderness Creak for a little climb and down, down, down the other side. I thought it would be lightening up by now but it hasn't. I get all the way to the 900 aid station to see Sean there as a volunteer. Sean used to run with our training group but injured himself. I was so glad to see him out there volunteering. I know I need to do this one day because races are possible only because of the volunteers. Off I go up west access into Squak Mt. Up, up and up. Eventually I'm running behind Van Phan(regional champion) and realize that I might be going a little too fast. She's and front and there's a guy right behind me. It finally starts to lighten as we summit the central peak and this is where I discover that the guy behind me is Michael, the same guy I ran my first ultra(R2R) with. We let Van go on but from here on out Mike and I run nearly all the race together. We take it easy going up hills to conserve our energy and again take it easy going downhills. Coming down off Squak I see Jim, Heriberto, Francis, Tracey, Alley, Cameron and Jerri. I think in that order. Its great to see them all looking strong in their 50k race. On we go back into Cougar Mt and about 3 miles before the loop end I start getting tired. I think it was all in my head as it lasted about 3 miles after I headed out from the start area. When I went through I see Jenn, get a kiss and head on over to the food. Brian and Micheal are there and they both say I look great, doing good. Michael asks jokingly, "is it everything you thought it would be?" As I said, a few miles after the start of my second I begin to feel better. Way too good in fact. Its like I'm starting with a clean slate. My legs feel great and my mind clear. I get to the 900 aid station for the second time and realize that did it faster on my second loop(due to the dark no doubt). Squak goes by for a second time and we bid a fond farewell(maybe not so fond). At the 900 aid station for the 4th and final time we discover that many have dropped out and that Uli has won in 8:17. It has long been appearant to me that I will make the 13 hour cut-off but now I find out that it has been extended due to the course difficultly. So we head out on our finally 8 mile sin high spirits. After some climbing we get to the last section of downhills and I decide to open up. I had been walking all the uphills for a while so I felt I couldn't go any slower and no was the time to use whatever strength I had. So I flew down the hills like the jackass that I am. I believe this is what got me to finish in under 12 hours. We get to the last aid station with 3 miles to go and 50 minutes to make under 12. It sounds easy but the last 3 miles is almost all uphill. I hand off my camelbak to a friend of Mikes and hit the trails feeling light as a feather. In the last half mile I had to give myself a peptalk to get myself running uphill so I could beat the clock and in th last quarter I was running full speed ahead feeling great and knowing that I had just finished my first 50.

So that's it. Jenn was there to give me a big hug and kiss at the line. I tried to hang around for a while but the weather turned sour and I was started to get hypothermia.

So, now I look toward Sacramento and hopefully Boston.

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