Breakneck.

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

The quickest way to put myself into a coma for 14 hours and repair terminal jet lag is to try finishing one of these things.  Two months later.

breakneck

I found a rock taller than a man on which to leave the the hardened layers of my knee.  My flesh and blood .  Mountain art for the person behind me, breathing up my 2 inch splits.

26.2 miles of choking on the ambition, hope, despair, symbolic death.  I took three more miles to stand in awe and plaster myself against the landscape praying for a gallon jug of water to materialize out of thin air.  Three miles to watch helplessly as runners prance by, like the love children of Richard Simmons and Jim Walmsly.  Shadows of the competition, splintered by beams of sunlight as they pass over rocks that I wish to pass over but can’t because… I’m parched.  Famished.  Wekdeb’d.

Give me Saturday so I can beg to see Sunday.

I climbed a race last weekend.  And ran some.

In the context of my story that I’ll retell to myself before stabbing it to the cyber bulletin board that is my recklessly crafted social world with an imaginary and small pink thumbtack, it makes the most sense to start on Thursday.  Only because I want myself to read about sleep deprivation the night before the night before a race and still believe that I might survive a race the day after the night after sleeping like a mouse trapped in a litter box the next time I’m up at 3 am the night before the night before a race.

Here, a paragraph that looks like a fucking Formula 1 car.

I helped my girlfriend with her Supper Run Club at the Rochester Running Company the Thursday prior to the race.  An event that fuses the concepts of running as a group and eating as a group.  Healthfully.  I brought a dear friend of ours out from the North to attend as a surprise.  We stayed up and drank too late, courtesy of the finest brewery in Geneva.  I ate too much.  I was distended and sore.  Core work for the lazy.  These things are not abnormal.  I fell asleep around midnight.  Maybe at one.  I awoke at six to walk dogs and go to work.  I worked until 12:15. Raced home. washed 20000 dishes from the previous night.  Loaded the dog in the car.  Packed everything except for the things I needed.  Drove to Medved. Bought an Ultimate Direction handheld to use for the race the next day because life is all about trying new things…on race day.  Bought 5 Huma gels.  Went to pick up our travel partner for the weekend, elite Rochester human being Mitchell Ball.  Drove back home to break into my own house through the window because somebody absconded with my key at some point.  Grabbed a growler of beer from Bottomless Brewing that was sitting in the fridge.  Grabbed a Salomon hydration vest that I hadn’t used since January of 2013.  Got in the car.  Drove to Wegman’s to buy Emmy’s Macaroons for us to eat during the race the next day (or to just leave in the heat of the car during the race the next day), and eventually proceeded to pick up Natalie and drive to Beacon, NY for Red Newt Racing’s Breakneck Point Trail Marathon (and Half Marathon).

We arrived at Beacon after several hours of talking about driving to Bacon, NY and turned left into the nearest burrito place.  We ordered a bunch of burritos.  We ate the majority of them and set the men’s and women’s FKT’s on the staircase that climbed the wall of the burrito place.  We went back to the campground to stretch and roll and go to sleep.

In the morning it was 5am.  In the morning it was too early.  In the morning I took the biggest shit of my life while eating oatmeal out of a pouch and getting peanut butter and maple syrup all over myself.  I tried to put my bib on in the darkness of the porta john and stabbed myself twice with a safety pin.  Moments later I was doing the New York Times Daily Mini crossword on my phone and waiting for the rest of yesterday to vacate my being.  I got hung up on a word about the Sahara desert and gave up.  Race time.

I arrived at the line just in time to hear the end of Ian Golden’s pre-race talk and quickly became sidetracked by Jay Lemos’ hair.  The Ram’s horn was blown and everyone started running.  I started my watch (turned it off) and settled in a cluster with Natalie, Lemos and Nick Kirk.  After one mile and 500(?) or so feet of climbing I realized that the old Garmin was in power save mode.   This sent me into a panic.  I spent the next 8 to 10 minutes thinking about Strava and how fucked up my day just got.  Then I separated from the group and bombed a descent with Jay and forgot about all of my worries in the midst of a proper ankle roll.  These are becoming commonplace as life goes on and I’ve begun to look at the fact that I have two (2) ankles as a positive thing.  The wonderful man that drove me from Austin to wherever Bandera started in 2013 only had one leg.  He dnf’d because his prosthetic kept falling off in the mud.  Things could be far worse.

After the second mile I realized that the crippling knee bursitis (hopefully) that had been plaguing me all week, had registered for the race also and was going to be pacing me all day.  This is good.  I love having friends along for the ride.  Especially a swollen sack of fluids wrenching itself into the joint that was going to carry me over 29 or so miles and 10 or 11000 feet of rocks over the next five or so hours.  Or so.

I felt good.  By mile three, the wave of anxiety that had collapsed my chest all week and left me in a state of nervous disengagement from the idea of bothering to compete with anyone at my first race ever that involved more rocks than it did dirt or pavement, had been put to rest.  I was feeling as though I could do this all day.  Or for at least a big chunk of the day.  I ran relatively effortlessly over the next miles and consumed the better part of my gels just in time to realize that there were not going to be any gels at the aid stations on this day.  I’m sure this detail showed up in race literature somewhere and I’m sure I overlooked it because quite frankly, I’ve usually just rolled into aid stations and eaten the first thing that looks good before complaining about some ailment and leaving.  For whatever reason, at Breakneck I brought gels.  And go figure, I felt quite youthful and spry.  Even the stabbing pain in my knee was fine because I could deal with that sort of thing later in life.  I ate some of Justin’s Nut Butter at mile nine just so I could use that line in a sentence in this post and not feel like a liar.

The couple of hours after this went very well.  I hit mile 16 right around three hours and was feeling no fatigue whatsoever going into what I thought would be the much easier half of the course.  This blind, ambitious stupidity carried me through another two hours and 8 miles or so.  At some point I went through an aid station and pondered all that I’d heard regarding the gap between the last two aid stations while chatting with race veterans the night prior.  I stood and drank cup after cup of fluid and probably ate a bunch of shit too, but can’t remember.  I filled my 17 ounce and 10 ounce handhelds and began my confident walk back onto the course.  “6 miles to the next aid station,” they said, as I double checked my bottle caps and looked at my watch to see when six miles would be coming.  5 miles later I was starting to feel the heat and downed the last of my fluid.  A mile later I was compulsively doing the math of hydration+mileage+welden (rocks)/temperature=death.  Somewhere in the miles between then and when the next aid station arrived, I started looking more and more like David Carradine in the opening credits for the Kung Fu tv series.  My condition then rapidly declined to that of a wilted flower.  I took my ‘old man’s lean’ straight through the next couple miles and right into the last aid station, where my coach and main homie Dick Vincent was volunteering.  He told me I had goosebumps and that I was dehydrated.  I responded by eating a tray of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and snorting some coke.

Get your mind out of the gutter.  I was drinking cola like like my type 2 diabetes depended on it and it came out my nose because I prioritized it over breathing.

After that I began running.  There was work to do, after all, and I had to catch the army of runners that passed me over the past two miles.  I caught zero of them.  It was good.

I was ultimately satisfied with the way that this race went, mostly because I didn’t die and because Ian’s events are the single best reality check in regional running.  I had a satisfactory hair day and gambit got to play with several of his friends all day.  More satisfying, was that Natalie crushed the race on minimal training and without re-injuring the ankle injury that she sustained during her absurd performance at the race the year prior.  And the tent was comfortable.

Onward to Laurel.

Here’s a picture of me being easily outkicked by a man with superior musculature and glasses.  Joe Azze of Mountain Peak Fitness took this one, and many other great shots that can be found here.18118607_1748633691819227_8974787857907859601_n

 

Laurel. 2017.

Posted: June 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

19274976_10102325536667915_402205771300282383_nThe Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a permanently marked 70.5 mile trail that runs from Ohiopyle to Seward, Pennsylvania.  For 38 years, people have been showing up on the 2nd weekend in June and seeing how fast they can get from one end to the other.  They’re so ambitious that they even pay somebody to impose cutoff times for them.  This year I was one of those ambitious folks.  I made the trip down the night before with my wonderful girlfriend and training partner Natalie, and my friend Jon, with whom I’ve been sporadically working on a film project that will ultimately, with any luck, someday be the Spinal Tap of trail running movies.

How did I get into this mess?

December 2016:  “Yo, anyone doing Laurel this year?  Cool, I’m in.  Good talk”

January 2017: “Hey Dick (Vincent), wanna coach me for Laurel Highlands?  Cool.”

February 2017: I’m trying my hand at down hill skiing.

February 2017:  I’m out cold, pretzeled in a tree with a broken branch jabbing into the soft flesh that protects my cranium like a 1908 football helmet.  I regain consciousness and quickly credit my hair with saving my life.  The next day I collapse trying to walk to the bathroom.  My spine doesn’t work.  Death is imminent.

Later in February:  I receive a call from my sister informing me that my brother has died.  The world stops moving.  I pause reality.  I unpause it intermittently in moments of lonely despair, screaming silently for an alarm to go off and awaken me.  I want to wake up now.  I go to the mountains.  I ski up Whiteface.  I ski down Whiteface.  I bury the tip of a ski in the ice at top speed and learn that I can do a 360 degree rotation, pivoting at the knee and not care that I may have just detonated a soft tissue grenade inside of my most valuable joint.   Running is not life.  Anymore.

For a minute.

Its March now.

The slow crawl toward an inevitable departure from this life of scattered joys and sorrows is no longer enough.  Pick your head up.  To the front.

Later in March 2017:  I can run with only ‘severe’ pain.  This is one Welden pain meter level down from ‘crippling’.  I resume training.

Even later in March 2017:  I toe the line at the Syracuse Half with weeks of something like 6, 8, 12, 2 etc miles under my belt.  I PR with a modest 1:22:27

It’s April now:  I’m at Breakneck Point Trail Marathon.  I’ve been poking at the corpse of a dnf’d race report for several months.  Here.  It’s partial and poor.  It’s me.

May:  I’m at Thom B. in Ithaca running a 52 kilometer looped trail race as a final tune up for the big dance.  Scotie Jacobs is becoming one of my favorite runners each time I pass through the start/finish and hear that he has put another 10 minutes on me.

Hello June: I’m in Ohiopyle with my spectacular squad. We eat dinner in the hotel room and I drink a single beer after a peaceful walk along the waterfront.  I’m grateful to have these two with me and my love for them both is immense.img_4483

^Beautiful beet and sweet potato gnocchi dinner with a beautiful girl and a beautiful ridge.

Naturally, like every other transcendental experience I’ve had in my life that I later wish to write about, I wait two weeks too long and the memories occur only in blinks.

I blink.  I’m on the toilet eating oatmeal in the hotel room cursing myself for not being fast enough to be competitive at shorter distances.  I tell myself I should have been a sprinter.  Sprinting sounds exhausting too.  Everything sounds exhausting at 4 am when you can hear the dead silence of people still sleeping six feet away.

I’m walking across the hotel parking lot thinking that it’s really nice to be able to walk to a race and wondering if I shit enough a minute ago.  Or ate enough.

I blink again and I’m ducking behind a tree to unload my bowels 100 yards from the start line in a sleepy panic, watching the sparse headlamp beams of nervous runners slice the blueish black air of dawn.  “Should I have a headlamp?  There are three in the car.  Can I get to the car?  Do I need a headlamp”

I blink again, again.  I’m grimacing at the only wiping utensil in sight; a broken stick that my dog was probably grinding in his teeth last night while we walked the waterfront.  It’s not smooth.  “Has anyone ever run 70.5 miles with a fresh splinter in their sphincter?”  I congratulate myself preemptively on winning this category.

There’s a prayer before the race.  I’d forgotten about this happening when I’d come here as a pacer a couple years ago.  I look around to make sure it’s okay to leave my hat on while people that believe in God ask him to help them with the journey ahead.  Instead I find myself looking at last year’s CanLake 50 winner Brad Popple’s crop top and being glad that I don’t look like Jim Walmsley.  Looking like the best guy in the sport must be as exhausting as waking up at 4 am to recycle your breakfast in real time while wiping sleep boogers from your eyes and wondering if you just inadvertently gave yourself  pink eye.  Looking like the fastest guy that slept in a dumpster fire last night is easy.  All I have to do is show up.   I start my usual pre-race ritual and stand in a middle row judging people by the length of their shorts and what kind of hydration they’ll be carrying, as though I’ve ever made the right decision in the matter.

I go through the names of the people in the field that I expect to beat me and try to figure out who they are.  There are numerous previous winners in the pack and several other runners that have spent the last several years assembling far more respectable resumes than my own.

The guy in charge says go.

Everyone goes.  I let 20 or so people get out in front of me and hope for a slow bottleneck at the trail head a half mile up the road.  Something to control me.  Something to make me crawl.

The first several miles of the trail go toward the sky.  My ‘old man’s shuffle’ is on point to the extent that I’m running with a guy that appears to be in late 90’s.  But this is ultra running, and for all I know he just hit the sport too hard after kicking an addiction and is in his early 20’s.  I wonder if I will look like a well-loved leather couch by the time I hit 35 in October and the sound of 50 watches chirping the first mile into the dense air lets me know that I have 69.5 miles to go.  Or 71 miles if the guy that wheeled the course once was using a functional device.

There are a few downhills the I run hard because bombing switchbacks in PA when you’re half asleep is a good way to wake up.  Or to lose your teeth if you don’t wake up.  And then we’re climbing some more.

Here is the course, if you’re the kind of person that does better with visuals.

laurel

Once you’re on the ridge here you’re greeted with about 50 miles of rolling single track broken up by a few aid stations and a mile or so of serene heat stroke inducing exposure through a ski resort.  The relatively runnable nature of this middle section makes strategy a bit tricky if you’re the kind of guy that has learned over and over again without ever learning, that running fast for a little while is irrelevant in these things if you can run just under fast for a long time.   It’s really easy to become comfortable at a pace that is just a bit quicker than responsible, leaving yourself blowing fumes of despair out your ass on the fastest section of the course.  As you can see from figure 1.1, the fastest part of this course should be the several miles of free falling to the finish line with occasional ground contact, but only if you’ve run a smart race.  To make a long story completely short so that I might ramble about more important things, I managed to turn this section into the slowest few miles of my racing career somehow.  Science explains this quite well.  Fuel the fire, or it goes out.  On to more important matters.

The more that I reflect on this whole experience, the more I find myself thinking that it wasn’t running a race that mattered on that day, but rather suffering yet another tragic loss and finding a deeper bond with my best friend and partner as we stumbled blindly towards coping in real time with a race going on around us.  Somewhere stuck within the early moments of ambitious forward motion, time was shattered by the confusion of learning at an early aid station that my favorite cat, Natalie’s 1 year old furball Henri had been discovered lifeless at the bottom of the driveway back in Rochester.  Anyone that has lost a pet knows how much this can destroy someone.  Henri was literally the most perfect cat in existence and his lifetime of enriching our worlds with his antics was painfully short and ended without reason at all.  It presented me with the most confusing and difficult decision I’ve had to make during my hobbyist foray into this sport that I’ve come to love so much.  My partner in every single thing that I do in life is in tears trying to explain what has happened since I saw her an hour ago, and all I can do is offer to pack it in and head home.  She says no.  I can never repay her for pushing me out on to the trail.  For six hours I engaged the trail in a staring contest and experienced a flaming 72 car pileup on memory lane that was only broken by occasional opportunities to quietly banter with other runners as I passed.  I ran in a state of mourning and for the first time ever I wanted to finish a race due to the suffering of someone that means more to me than running, and not because of my own self-induced suffering.  When Natalie stepped into pace me for the final 25 miles, she had harnessed all of her sadness and provided me with the smile and voice that have been present for the hundreds of runs we’ve done together over the last two years.  She listened to me when I was able to speak all two times and she talked me into a place in which I felt only the ground under my feet and immeasurable love in my heart.  I crossed the line in Seward because of Natalie and Jon and that’s the most real thing that I can say.  Except for perhaps this:  There’s a section at the end of the Laurel Highlands trail that leads runners or hikers through several densely covered tunnels of foliage that comprise my favorite tenth of a mile of the course.  If not racing when I’d reached them, I’d have sat in the middle and closed my eyes and breathed deeply for as many hours as I felt necessary.   Passing through them I thought of the notion of despair.  In my physical reality I had finally reached the point where taking further steps seemed silly and impossible and meaningless.  In my emotional reality, I’d reached a point where taking further steps was all I had left.  It wasn’t just possible; it was critical.  People go to dark places at times like these.  They transmute pain and suffering into locomotion.  I’d spent the last 3 months controlling the equalizer knobs on my pain and suffering so that I could find tomorrow each day.  Fucking give me tomorrow, I’d ask, and only for that.  I’d turn the death knob to six and the joy dial to eight and the complacency knob to 10 and the survival dial to 11.  I’d let the tidal tragedy come in slow and silent waves so that I might survive it.  Every time I found myself alone in a car I would have a complete fucking meltdown.  For months.  There are no demons to exorcise in these situations.   The only thing I see every time I am alone is the brother that taught me to tie the appropriate knot for hanging a hammock from two trees in the Adirondacks one summer, sitting alone in his cabin tying a knot in a rope and looking up at the rafters.  A knot that he hopes I’ll never learn to tie; or want to.  He’s going through the required emotional thought process of optional survival versus optional death.  The despair I suffer in my solitary outer space oxygen deprived cries for a brother that won’t ever hear me again is perhaps nothing compared to the the despair that my brother felt in his final moments knowing what his family would go through in the coming decades.  I’ve never been one to expect the suffering people of my life to survive their agonizing realities just so that I wouldn’t have to suffer losing them.  When I was a naive 23 year old crying on the floor next to my father’s corpse I accepted that nobody owes my happy existence the suffering of their survival.  This is a sad reality.  In the darkness of the laurel corridors that signal the descent into the finish in Seward PA, I stopped picturing my brother panicking on his couch, looking at his aging mastiff and best friend, wondering which friend to leave him with and if he would be okay.  I stopped picturing, for a moment, the last breaths of the loved ones I’ve lost in recent years and  I focused on the breath of the loved one behind me.  A person that devoted an entire weekend of her life to the idea that I wanted to run 70 miles and risked serious re-injury to run and talk me through the last 25 miles of the race.  Most importantly, the last 10 miles, when I’d lost the ability to talk myself through ten steps at a time.  I focused on Jon at the finish line and that he drove 5 hours with the intention to shoot several hours of footage for an ongoing film project and ended up gladly stepping into the roll of dogsitter.  I pictured him sitting patiently with my 9 year old border collie, waiting for me to finish so that he could suffer through the five hour drive home and celebrate his young daughters birthday with her the following day.  In the darkness of the laurel tunnels of the last few miles I pictured myself running my first race ever- clumsily and with hope that I might stumble on some hidden ability several decades into my life.   And I pictured being done.

henri2

^Friendship.

henri

^Love

word

^Natalie, Coach, Me – Pretty much summarizes the happy side of 2017 thus far

When I’d started this race, I had a cascading list of silly goals, just as any other race that I’ve done.  Here is a retrospective look at these goals and how they panned out.

  1. Win.  Obviously this didn’t happen.   But what did happen, is that I learned I’m damn sure that I CAN win this race.
  2.  Beat Dick Vincent’s time from the mid nineties, because he’s my coach and he said I could.  And I did.
  3. Beat Jamie Hobbs’ time from when I paced in 2015.  Cut it way too close for comfort on this one.  But managed about a 2 minute gap.
  4. Ingest 400 calories per hour.  LOL.
  5. Hydrate responsibly all day.  Aside from becoming severely dehydrated for 20 miles or so, this went really well.
  6. DON’T STOP COMPETING UNTIL YOU CROSS THE LINE.  I think that in my ever broadening and ambiguously brave (or cowardly) definition of ‘ultra’ running, I’m finding that perhaps the greatest gift that is bestowed upon  us through these self mutilating journeys, is the idea that competition doesn’t mean shit.  If it takes me 60 miles to realize that I don’t care about beating x,y or z, then it took me sixty miles to realize that this isn’t about them.  It’s about me.  It’s about beating myself.  It’s about being better than I was when the guy said ‘go’ 13 hours ago, or 2000 words ago.  It’s about survival and detachment and reattachment and despair and breathing so hard that your diaphragm bleeds.  It’s literally as easy as doing the best that I can do.  Or that you can do.  That’s all it is.  And someday, in a complete blowout, referencing the thousands of races that happen each year in which someone wins with a time that would take 5th most years or in which someone takes 10th place in a time that would win most years, or about the time I won one of the areas most prestigious trail races with a time that most previous race winners could have walked in, I’ll elaborate on this notion that most people probably already understand and that my developmental delays only allow me to learn and unlearn over and over again- our only competition is ourselves and our only responsibility is to beat the person that we were before the race started.   Until I lay those thoughts out for myself, I’ll probably spend a lot of time toeing starting lines and staring at shorts, quads and gear while wondering who means business.

I finished 6th. 5th dude. I am content.

 

I started writing this the night after the race.  It’s 9 days later now.  Seriously, how many times can I sit down and waste a night staring at a paragraph while restarting the same Arcade Fire song over and over again and getting mindlessly lost in Win Butler’s existence, before I stick my digitally metaphorical pen down my throat and gag the words out of myself.  I should finish it. Okay.  Finished.

I found a pack of AAA batteries buried in the wreckage of my life last week.  I threw them in a backpack with the old Energizer headlamp that Dan Ostrander gave me before a group run a couple years ago.  My race prep had just gone to the next level.  I rode that wave of adulthood to the grocery store and bought some maple syrup.  I figured that since I hadn’t trained for the race, I would be fine by just doing things other than running.  In Hammondsport the night prior to the race, I portioned the syrup into small Ziploc bags and felt good about it.  I even laid my clothes out. Shorts.  Shirt. Bib. Where the fuck are my socks?  I set two pairs out.  They were clean and great.  One was red one was green and my day would be splendid because of them.  And they were back in Rochester.  Typical.  I raced up to the car and frantically searched for socks.  I found the remains of some brooks running socks from 2009 stuffed under some shit.   I was pretty excited about the holes in the heels.  What really made me smile though, was picking them up and observing that they had the consistency of a tortilla chip.  One of my favorite things.  Everything will be fine…

I rolled my ankle five times in the first 4 miles of the race.  The right ankle.  Needless to say, I was totally jazzed about how good my left ankle was holding up.

I got to the top of the first significant climb just before dawn.  There was a bench there.  It was fairly inviting.  Also there was a rather satisfactory overlook providing a view of an expanse so vast that I was perhaps looking into the future. Or the past.  The sun, though sitting behind a hill being lazy and ignoring the fact that I had a race to run and couldn’t see well, was bathing the landscape in a legitimately breathtaking deep purple hue.  I peed.  Probably also a deep purple hue – but darkness and cognitive dissonance are like peanut butter and jelly.

After descending out of that place for a while I got to the first aid station.  My surrogate mother Shana was there and made me feel okay.  Bertrand too.  I got some quick updates on the lead pack and charged forth.  At the end of the trail was a gate.  There was a girl providing instructions and I ignored them in order to ensure that I cleared the gate.  Confirmed.  Welden still has mad game.

There’s a road section here.  I remember getting lost on it once a couple months back and was excited to have people pointing and telling me what to do.  I ran really well and jumped back onto a trail after a couple miles.  One maybe.  Who knows.  I remember another longish descent and then I remember catching Scotie Jacobs.  We chatted and began was would be several hours of leap frogging or talking about things that hurt.  We descended from there to Naples Creek and both ran well through the first crew accessible aid station.  The climb into Hi Tor is the kind of thing that is typically hiked in a 64 mile race.  I was feeling pretty good about myself at the moment and ran casually up most of it.  I had been careful to watch for the reroute that I’d been made aware of on at least three occasions.  I decide that the race wasn’t long enough and there wasn’t enough vert, so ran right by it, all the way up to the top of the park.  Actually, I just ran right by the fucking thing because I’m me and it’s what I do.  After a brief chat with a park ranger, I ran the half mile or so back to the turn and corrected my journey.  We were still only 14 miles or so into the race, so I figured there was plenty of time to turn this into a hundred miler later in the day.

Out of Hi Tor I remember significant nausea starting.  I was ready for this, because when I went to take a shit while eating my oatmeal 6 hours prior, I felt a sweet stabbing pain in my solar plexus and realized that my GI issues got a serious head start on the rest of the field.  Every calorie I took in came back up into my mouth.  I swallowed it again.  I was my own mother bird, feeding regurgitated food to myself, and beginning to think that dropping out was a good idea.  I recall a rather steamy road section here.  It led to the meth lab aid station that I recalled being my favorite as a crew person last year.  Mort, Howland and Dan O awaited me here.  I remember sitting on a cooler, eating a piece of melon and walking behind the lab to vomit, so as to not disturb inbound runners.  I was in 10th or 11th place at the time I think.  There was never an aid station I’ve been to in which I had more a sense of “these guys have all been in the shit before.  These guys can all help me. These guys all want me to do well.”  It was a comforting and wonderful place and after dumping ice water on myself and going into shock briefly, I sauntered back to the course.  It was finally too hot to feel like surviving was a good idea.  I spent the next mile trying to invent a hydration vest that comes equipped with a 456 horsepower central air unit.    Shortly thereafter I found myself wondering if Freon was more functional as a gas or a liquid and how much of it I could consume without dying.

The suffering from there to the aid station around mile 34 was very real and enjoyable.  So much so that upon staggering to the table I looked for the vehicle that was gonna drive my ass back to the finish area before I looked to fill my bottle.  I slumped in a chair. I watched four or five runners come in and go out.  I accepted the fact that I had nothing left.  It was as though food was not clearing my system and ending up in my muscles or bloodstream, but rather just sitting on top of my intestines, anchoring me to the ground.  Danielle Snyder came blazing out of the woods at this point, all like, “what the fuck are you doing back here?”  I got lost.  I’m going back out now.  I’ll see you later. “Hopefully not,” she says.

A brief period later I once again got bored with what Scott Magee thought the course should look like and took the liberty of going down a reasonably long hill for quite some time before the whole ‘whats up ribbonless trees!’ thing set in.  Who really cares anymore?  I’m going to Bud Valley and dropping anyways.  40 miles on the day?  That’s a perfect tune up for Flagline in September and Oil Creek in October.

And then there was Bud Valley…

The Ascend Collective captured this very telling moment of me staggering into the aid station. man-gets-divorced-drives-in-a-hit-and-run-spree-kills-6-06

I remember seeing Jeff Green and Chris O’Brien before anything. I muttered, “these fuckers better be ahead of me, because I’m dropping,  and if they’ve dropped too, that’s three of us, and that’s a bad fucking day.”

There was a very comfortable chair there. And some very comfortable paramedics.  They had some things hooked up to me and much to my dismay, they said that my vitals were fine.  Shut up. Check them again.  Tell me I can’t go on.  Say it loud enough for everyone else to hear.  I explained that my kidneys had been hurting for quite some time (they actually did, really bad), perhaps since I took my first salt pill at mile whatever.  While lost, I’d run out of water numerous times.  Upon then arriving at aid stations my natural response was to drown myself.  At some point I stopped sweating.  After that I’d peed some sort of rusty looking fluid.  Let’s focus more on the language of DNF’ing instead though.

“I’m done.  It’s all good.  Live to fight another day.  Fuck this shit.  Running is dumb.  It’s hot out.  40 miles is a good day.  My rectum feels like someone lit a Gu fire in it.  I wanna go home.  Take me to the finish line to drink.  Beer.  25th place, eh?  So this is what that feels like, huh?  26th place?  Was that guy even real?  Oh, Feissner. Sup fam.  See you when you finish.”

Then there’s this dude, Jeffrey McBeth, and his wife Elnora.  I don’t know really what it is.  Something about these two has always made me feel like I should get the best out of myself.  Something about unwavering compassion and personalities that for whatever reason chip the cement away from my legs.  And then that fuck O’Brien comes in with his, “man, it would mean a lot to me if one of us rallied and finished this thing right now.”  Have at it, Hoss.  This shit is stupid.

And then I thought about SHVP endurance prodigy and teammate Laura Kline sitting 20 miles away, waiting to bring me in over the last 5.  I had someone tell Eagan to contact her and tell her not to bother.  I drank a pitcher of water with an entire vile of Nuun tablets and drank two cans of ginger beer while listening to a story about my dear friend and previous years winner Daven Oskvig rolling into the same aid station and dropping out before sitting for 40 minutes and dropping again…and then running.  And finishing 4th.

“This whole dropping thing is just not going as well as I’d hoped.” – me to myself

And then I stood up, either to ask for a ride back to the finish, or to ask Jeff Green for socks so I could walk toward the trail instead.

Jeff McBeth looked at me and spoke some kind words.  If I had to pinpoint a single moment in an ocean of thoughtless progressions that actually made me keep moving forward, I’d pinpoint these words that I can’t remember.

I asked a timing person how many people had been through and they told me that after sitting there for the entire afternoon 31 people had come through.  I decided to go find them.

So I ran.  I’ll drop at the next aid station.

Slowly but surely, here comes the trail, here comes the fun, here comes the people, here comes the race that I failed to start running when it started 9 and a half hours prior.

Positive Self Talk ensued:  Don’t stop running now, you fucking marshmallow.  Fuck you Wekdeb.  Fuck your goals.  Adjust accordingly.  You suck at almost everything else in this world.  Don’t let this become one of them.  Run to run, walk to walk, suffer with grace.  Top 20 by next aid.  Top 15 by the following.  Don’t look down.  This singlet is not flattering right now.  Watch out for Ron and Lesher.

I ran more comfortably over the next 20 miles than I had at any point prior.  And most importantly, out of the fear that stopping meant losing this new found rhythm, after 8 years of racing, I finally peed while running.  I didn’t even piss on myself.  It was pretty much the only elite execution that I managed all day.  Nobody can ever take that away from me…

When I got to the bridge that crosses the creek into the farm adjacent to the Urbana aid station, I was finally deceased.  It was here that I was overjoyed to finally catch up to Angie Darbyson and her crew/pacer Kevin Courtney, who had been my partners in a relay to Boston a month prior.  Angie and I were both feeling the effects of the day and Kevin’s calm demeanor was as helpful as it had been at the first few aid stations when I was fortunate enough to run into him.  I pointed to Mt Washington (the Urbana Mt Washington) and said, after that, we’re done.

These undertakings present me with a moment in which I must take my eviscerated soul and stuff it back into the open chasm where my previous understanding of myself once festered.  This usually comes when I have reached the point of deathlike exhaustion and stumble upon familiar faces.

As I approached the aid station I hit the inevitable emotional stew that is only possible with a certain degree of fatigue, dehydration, carb depletion, death/rebirth and a single day of rapid decay and atrophy.  Or evidently the effort to recall the moments that make a given day worth surviving through, as all I wish for as I write this is that these people know just what they mean to me.  This transcends the silly endeavors we subject our bodies to for whatever reason we find to engage in such behaviors.  These people are my friends and my family.  They’re the meaning of life as I know it.  Literally the meaning of my fucking life.  The reason I survive when I know 98% of the time that I’ve got better things to do than survive.  Better things to do than drop an Ani Difranco quote into a race report.

When I was about 100 yards out,  I saw some vibrant rainbow arm sleeves.  As I got closer I saw that they were attached to Laura Kline.  She had come to save me despite my plea that she not waste her afternoon because I was dropping.  I saw Eric Eagan and scored a hug.  I saw Jamie Hobbs and told him I was embarrassed about my day.  He said not to be.

Laura and I began our climb as I repeatedly apologized for how slowly I was moving.  She provided me with all of the conversation required to soften the “STOP MOVING YOU FUCKING IDIOT EVERYTHINGS BROKEN,” screams that my legs were going on and on with.  Oh, here comes Danielle and Jason.  Again.  This fucking leapfrog thing never got old and when she finally passed me for the last time I thought to myself that there isn’t another runner that I’d rather get smoked by.  With just under a mile to go, as I embarked on my final agonizing descent to the finish area, I remember Laura saying “got a runner coming up behind you.”  Naturally I stepped off the trail to let him pass.  Laura followed suit.  In perhaps the rudest and most thoughtless, impulsive move of my life, I stepped back onto the trail and started running.  I ran the fastest mile of my entire day.  Even when I looked back and only saw my pacer, I ran as hard as I could. Right into the fucking highway.  Right into the end.  Right into that small moment of electric, silent elation that ultimately ends up being why I do this stuff.  If the hair on my arms stands up and flutters through the exasperated, thunderous clamor of my dying heart, and the day was well spent.

I haven’t much to say really about any of this. Running for 15 hours fucking sucks.  And I’m going to do it until my body no longer permits me to do it, because that’s going to suck a whole lot more.  Despite that commitment to mindless suffering, I hope that it never takes me that long to run 100 kilometers again.  Ever. There are a couple of key things that I feel like self indulgently glazing over so as to hopefully highlight their importance for myself 20 years from now when I read this again.  If.

-The purple pine forest, standing uniformly like soldiers about to die on a Colonial battlefield, was the most beautiful that I’d ever seen it on this day

-Natalie Thompson.  As always.

-Laura Howard, Jen Lacey, Matt Bertrand, Shana Feissner – Talk about people making an event possible, if not survivable

-Volunteers.  Your day is harder than some of ours.  Thanks. You’re all very loved.

-Mike Mertsock. “See you at the finish.”

-Danielle Snyder and Angie Darbyson…amazing work.  Truly proud to have stumbled upon you guys in this lifetime

-The descent out of Mitchellsville is still the best few miles of trail within 100 miles of my doorstep

-If I ever work at an aid station again my goal is to be every bit of Mort, Tim and Dan that I can be.  I’ve said it several times and its not enough.  Truly spectacular personalities to encounter amidst moments of a self inflicted deathlike stagger

-Rob Feissner is a better person and ultramarathoner than anyone I know or you know

-Mom and Dad – Y’all are indescribably swell.  Thanks for existing.

tb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve returned to two 50 mile races in my life.  Each 2 years after my initial respective success.  Each resulting in quitting at the 50k mark.  Let’s see if I can write one of these without coming out of the closet or plugging intermittent anorexia as a means to a faster 5k.  

Yesterday:
Went out at 7:20 pace and comfortably sustained for a while. Got through aid 1 and grabbed a gel and a larger handheld.  Was sweating more than normal, but not concerned.  Spent about 20 seconds at the aid station and took off.  Stayed fast through aid 2, in and out without stopping.  Ate a piece of pb&j while ascending a mellow climb, and began running more comfortably than before.  

Actually, fuck it.  I’m sitting at a horse stable right now punching this thing into my mobile device like a typical millennial, pretending I have a thirst for escape from the bullshit of society yet squeezing my fucking phone so hard my knuckles are white.  I have nothing of interest to say regarding a single failed attempt to run a race. I’m at my happy place right now getting drizzled on and periodically listening to a small stampede.  I’ll put my shoes on in a minute and run my best friends favorite trail once because she can’t do it right now, and then I’ll carry on with my recovery and my life as though there was never a blip.  I went off course.  Not like, “oops, haven’t seen a flag in a while!” But more like, “hey we’re really killing this thing right now.  Look at all these course markings.  It sure is nice to be on course.”(banter with last years 9th place guy from bear mountain)

And then a person.  One that’s like, great job guys, you’re one and two.  And we’re kinda like, no.  We’re not one or two. Maybe 12 and 13.  But not one and/or two.  So we turn around and walk curiously back down a hill for a few minutes.  Can’t figure out what we did wrong.  Walk back up.  See the actual first and second place guys. Yea, we missed a turn.  I frantically started retracing my footsteps…for a fucking mile.  Two miles off course.  Two miles of getting passed by people.  Two miles of standing around trying to figure out what happened.   Two miles of deciding this race is over.  

Don’t be a pussy, wekdeb.  

Okay Michael. 

Run. 

But first let’s sit at the aid station for ten minutes eating watermelon and trying to figure out if the pink hat looks faster than the purple hat in my wardrobe.  

And let’s run really well to the next check point and be more pissed because you’re running perhaps better than you ever have but you managed simply by being Welden and fucking everything up, to let insurmountable leads be put on you.  So let’s sit here and eat freeze pops and mainline pickle juice and hope cardiac arrest finds us before someone tells us to stand the fuck up and run. 

Run, Welden. 

No. 

Basically, I’ve finished enough of these to know its okay to not finish one.  I’m not about to risk my season to finish an hour off my goal.  My failures from the past have all left me.  I carry that awareness with me and it makes life a bit more digestible.  It’s 24 hours later and I don’t care anymore. Maybe I never did.  I know somewhere in the deepest recesses of my being that I had at least an 8:30 in me.  Wasn’t interested in a 9:30. So I bagged it. Got smashed.  Worked on my skin cancer for a bit.  Packed my things.  And left running behind.  

That’s it really.  Sometimes I need this sport like I need food and air.  Sometimes I need it like I need to wake up to Liam neeson holding a detonator in his hand asking me where his daughter is and telling me about his unique skills and the explosive device in my rectum. 

My ego gets me into and out of every mess I’ve found myself in.  Yesterday my ego saved me and broke me simultaneously.  I ran thirty miles,  spent time with people that have made life absolutely worth living over the last few years, watched some amazing runners do some amazing things, and walked away from a night I’d been looking forward to for 6 months.  I’m okay with all of those things except for the last one.  But I’m getting there with that one as time goes on.  Because, surprise. Time fucking goes on.  And the wonderful condition of being human has provided you with innate amnesia so that you can always move on in conjunction with time.  

I tried talking about running.  And ended up with this mess.  Much love to you all.  

Pinch Your Fat

Posted: May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

531Here’s a completely irrelevant picture of my toe from the week BEFORE the Burning River 100 last year.  I’m using it because its nasty as fuck.  I’m pretty sure that’s what the muscles on the back side of my right leg look like right now.  And after all was said and done, I had a pretty good second half of last year.  Anyways, onto my gripes and optimisms about this year…

Last year, when I was in shape, and could run, and was fast-ish… There was this scholarship race entry essay contest thing put on by the fine folks at Trailsroc.  I wrote my second blurb about why I don’t deserve to have a race funded for me, but why a couple of people that I know probably do.  As if by some cruel stroke of luck, I managed to have my entry to the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile National Championship Thing paid for as a result of my rambling about all the great people in this little town.  A condition of this is that the entrant writes a report about the event.  I figure, what the fuck, I’m writing 2 posts a year now, so I may as well get them both out of the way in the next 3 weeks.  Here’s one about the race I trained for versus the race I’ll probably run.

In October of last year I ran a 50k in 3:55.  A month later I ran 50 miles in 6:55.  At that point I kinda figured, hey, if I can pull a 2:5x marathon at DC in March, I’m pretty much on course for something close to 8 hours at Cayuga…just going kind of by feel.  So I ran a 2:56 with what essentially amounted to an intravenous stream of alcohol flooding my bloodstream and several weeks worth of crippling insomnia bogging me down.  10 weeks.  Don’t do anything stupid, Wekdeb…

Anything stupid.

Gain 20 lbs.  Run sparsely and keep saying things that addicts always say, like “yo, yea, I’ll start tomorrow…after these six packs.”  So when my volume should’ve been 70, 80, 90 miles a week, I was pulling down 25, 35, fucking 5.  Whatever.  I really injured my hamstring/glute/entire right side of my lower half about a week before DC.  It got better once.  Then twice.  Then I fell a couple times as I was trying to get my trail legs back after a winter of road running and pretty much destroyed every muscle on the back side of my leg.   So I ran more.  I figure, I’m 33 going on dead, there’s no seconds to waste not seeing what I can do.  Give it my best.  Right?  Even at the expense of the possible future that lies on the other side of me NOT DYING tomorrow or the day after.  Whatever.  I set this goal, 8 hours, and you better believe I’m going to do it…

Can we respectably use “LOL” in these posts yet?  What is it, like 2016 now? 2017?

So, with 2 weeks and a day to go, I’m starting to feel fit again.  For like 13 miles at a time.  It’s a shame I have to run 50.  Taper psychosis started like 2 months ago, when I decided to start training for this thing.  So now that that’s out of the way I guess I can just enjoy the last couple weeks of staggering around and squeezing my butt and pinching my fat and saying shit like “yea, I’ll quit drinking tomorrow.  I’ll quit mainlining veganaise for lunch tomorrow.  I’ll become Mike from 2012 again tomorrow.”  But that’s probably not in the cards.  I’m happy.  Typically.  I’m 33 and still alive.  I’m 33 and still kind of fit.  I’m a liberal-alcoholic-pansexual-vegan-black metal musician that is only hated by trump supporters, anti-woman-women and people that don’t find nipples and dicks funny.  I’m okay with that.

Now that I’ve sat down to write this and think for a bit about it, and to pretend that anyone should give a fuck about what I think or do, I guess running has been bizarre for me this year.  Which I should probably just smile about after having such a great 2015.  While my dearest friends and training partners are getting shoes sent to them by potential suitors and speaking on panels and joining semi-illustrious race teams, I’m comfortable trying to be that guy that the guys up top at Nike will shit their sweatshop stitched pants over because I’m poorly representing their women’s line.

I laid out a series of B, C, D, E goals for CT50 since realizing that my hamstring and ass will not let me run 8 hours.  The goals have been progressively forlorn.  B goal was stick to Amanda Basham for as along as humanly possible, before noticing that she’s been hammering 90 mile weeks with more climb per square foot than I have available to me in any square mile of this town.  C was to shit fewer than 13 times on the first loop.  D was to have Jamie Hobbs push me in a stroller.  He’s signed up for some other race that day.  E was simply to start the race.   So Ima stick with E and be happy that I’m spending a long day in a great town with some of my favorite folks.

Word.  See you guys out there.

 

Figured I should do one more of these for the year.  Bringing the grand total to 2.  TWO.  Too. To.

I ran a race the other day with over a thousand other people.  They were all like, “yo, ask not what your country can do for you, but let’s run fifty miles too.”  And there was the JFK 50.  53 years of people lining up at this intersection in this beautiful Maryland town, charging up a two mile hill, dodging right, off onto the Appalachian Trail and ultimately getting after the proverbial ‘it.’

I started writing a detailed account of this whole thing and then deleted it because fuck it.  There are details, and then there are details.  What I’m most concerned with are the details.  Between the lines.

So we drove down Friday.  Me, my mentor Daven Oskvig, his folks and my training partner, best friend, crew extraordinaire Natalie Thompson.  We went to a hotel.  Checked in.  Left.  Returned.  Left.  Ate.  Talked.  Met Sean Meissner by some random chance in line at a restaurant, and went to sleep.  Sean Meissner is significant because he contacted me and Daven to be on his team with Mike Wardian several days prior.  So like any good subcultural athlete, I stalked him on ultrasignup and determined him to be legit as fuck.  He explained his ongoing efforts to break 6:30 at this race on his 4th attempt, and I explained my joy that I would not be counted on to score points for our team, as only the top three runners score.  We parted ways.  Nat and I ate noodles and tofu, broke life down to its simplest meaning, digested it, returned to the hotel, stretched, talked to the rest of the fam for a bit and crashed at 10 or so.

Alarms at 5.  This is the biggest reason not to do this shit.

Breakfast down the hatch by 5:02.  Toilet by 5:06.  and again at 5:18.  And more miffed attempts at like 5:36.  In a hotel you are afforded the opportunity to retreat to the lobby 2 floors away and reenact the Tet Offensive at full volume while pounding caffeine on the toilet and occasionally dealing with hotel staff peering through the gap between the frame and the stall door to see if you are actually a real human being.

We left at 6.

We got to the starting area at 6:30.  A beautiful small town center, glowing with the volcanic anticipation of a bunch of cold people in short shorts, goose bumped, shivering and wishing they’d gotten to the nearby portapotty before I did.  Some day I’ll probably rename this entry as “The Fruitless Adventures of a Cold Man Trying to Shit With 1300 People Standing Around Wanting Also to Shit.”  But for today the Vonnegut quote will suffice.

At the line I look at peoples quads, hamstrings and hydration choices while judging the shit out of them and deciding who to stay behind and who to stay ahead of.  Then someone sings the star spangled banner.  I continue checking out dudes legs and ponder the eternal question of whether or not such thing as an adequate pre-race shit actually exists, in the most patriotic manner possible.  Then we run.

The hill that the race starts on would’ve been challenging and worrisome. Fortunately, people like Jamie Hobbs and the aforementioned Natalie Thompson exist, and through my tireless efforts to be their equal, I have developed some degree of skill at climbing these things and not dying.  A couple of miles later, after a sharp right hand turn, we’re on the trail.   I immediately confirm my suspicion that Hokas were not an adequate footwear choice for the first third of the race.  The jagged rocks and utterly insane footing were pretty much just like, “lol fuck you buddy.”  Face plant.  Hydroplaned cold flesh on abrasive rock, get up, assess damage, repeat.  Fall again, break nozzle on water bottle.  Groan.  Fall again, shatter entire cap and lose every available calorie into the brush and leaves.  Fall again, bleed.  No time to bleed.  Fall again.  Knee stops functioning.  Consider dropping.  Can’t drop.  Stuck on the mountain.  Fall again, squeezing remaining hydration out into the dirt.  Stand up.  Laugh.  I’m four miles into a  50 mile race with no liquid and no calories to consume.  I won’t see crew for another 12 miles.  Everything’s okay, Michael.

Lesson 1, for the tenth time this year: when everything goes to shit in the beginning, the end becomes a wonderful abstract painting comprised of completely random and ludicrous brushstrokes.   Like Chuck Palahniuk says, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything, we’re free to do anything.”

It’s all just a joke by the time I get to a water stop.  Filling the remaining ten ounce bottle I have with cola and charging back up into the woods to further pick perennial 6:30ish finisher Sean Meissner’s brain about the rest of the course and develop a reasonable strategy considering my current plight.  I’m probably about 12 miles in now and completely behind on hydration and calories.  Grossly, actually.  The cola is causing severe cramping now, because go fucking figure, I haven’t trained to run 8 minute pace, archipelago hopping on jagged rocks in moon shoes with fucking cola in my system.  5 miles of this left and I can drop into the safe and loving arms of my crew.  I fall a few more times and people continue to wonder if I’ve ever actually run trails before.  I tell them, bro its the shoes.  And carry on.

The switchbacks comprising the descent to Harper’s Ferry are probably the craziest shit I’ve ever seen in a race.  Without 33 miles following them, they would probably be the most enjoyable running ever.  Today, at race pace, with heavy traffic, they were fucking insane.   At the bottom I could see crowds of cheering people and for a minute I felt like I was at a European race.   I wondered if I would be able to find my crew, panicked briefly, and was relieved when she found me and began running down the chute of spectators with me.  We stopped at Roger and Melissa and I gave them my broken bottle and asked if they could perhaps find me a new one.  I dumped my cola out and refilled on Tailwind, and began to run.  Natalie asked how I was feeling.  I told her that”Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.”  Roger tells me there is an aid station several hundred yards ahead.  I roll into the aid station and grab some potato chips.  A volunteer asks how I’m doing.  I tell them, “Everything hurts and I’m dying.”

Someone says something about my hair and I disregard it and start running.

26.4 miles of slowly climbing river trail await.  A full marathon to open up and make up some time.  Problem is that the nimbly bimbly shit on the AT has left my smaller stabilizing muscles feeling tapioca-ish and I can’t lift my fucking legs because my hip flexors have long since determined that running is dumb.  Gonna be a long afternoon, Welden.  Get your shit together.

I managed a 3:20 something marathon over this segment of the race.  I picked off a few people here and there, worked my way into the top 20, and held on for dear life.    Really, this is the part of the race that I found the most challenging.  It was like the middle section of the former Rochester Marathon course on bath salts and the Potomac flowing toward me quickly began to feel resistant and awkward.  The scenic beauty possessed on the hillsides across the river was an occasional distraction and the supportive spectators and volunteers were really what made this section most runnable.

As the race wore on the lack of salt pills of any variety at the aid stations became a problem.  I could tell that my electrolyte deficiencies were taking a toll on my performance and I was beginning to develop a severe headache, along with ongoing muscle cramps throughout my entire body and increasing difficulty focusing at faster paces.  But this is a 50 miler.  There isn’t any time for fucking around with 9 minute miles.  8 minute pace or bust.  This became more and more challenging as the only available calories between the 3 crewed checkpoints on the course and my 10 ounce tailwind refills, were GU brand energy gels.  The kind of thing that induces gagging and vomiting just based on its packaging alone.  I managed to choke down 3 of these over the marathon section of river path and gagged each time.  Hard.  A couple of potato chips at one aid station and a cup of ginger ale at another and that 400 or so calories carried me to about mile 42.  Pretty serious deficit at this point.  My salt woes had pretty much deep sixed my life and I met with my crew for the last time at mile 38.  I explained my issues and Natalie was all like, “yo, you need salt. I got this,” and proceeded to dump several metric fuck tonnes of salt into an empty zico coconut bottle, top it off with a couple sips of water and hand it to me.  Sure.  I didn’t vomit.  It was a great success.  A meaningful gesture of loving friendship at just the right time.  One last gel down the hatch and into the lonely horizon I am pushed.  There is however, a light at the end of this headwind laden tunnel of monotony and sunken goals.  After 26.4 miles of “what the fucking” every turn that just revealed more of the same, I was finally informed that I would be leaving the river.  A course marshal instructed me to turn right onto an adjacent road and run up the hill.  It was the single greatest hill ever.  Steep.  Winding.  Sustained.  Runnable, but slow.  And finally, not fucking river trail.

Beyond this point the race was incredibly fun.  Aside from the ‘bone on pavement’ feeling that I began to feel right about 5:30 into the run, the scenery was beautiful  and the weather was utterly perfect for running.  I was still managing a pace between 7:30 and 8:30 and knew that I would break 7 hours unless I broke a bone first.  Not even a stress fracture though.  Compound. Tibia through flesh.

With five or six miles to go, the girl that had ensured my survival all day long came running toward me and said that she was going to run for a while.  Or until I finished.  Whichever came first.  We careened through the countryside and I complained about things that didn’t quite exist.  Gale force walls of hate that in reality were just a breeze that couldn’t lift a kite off the ground.  Mountainous climbs that more closely resembled small downhills.  At one point, my good Samaritan crew person decided to reset a course marking that had been hit by a car and launched across the highway.  I absentmindedly followed her into the highway before being told “no, stay on the shoulder…like everyone else.”  I was passed by three far more experienced runners at this point.  I’ll credit them instead of criticizing myself, as I was happy to have suffered through 8:30 miles for the last 5k of the race.  These people remind me more than any others, of the work that I still have to do.

And then the finish.  And then the deafening silence and confused gaze.  And the loving, congratulatory smile of the person that helped me prepare, train, race and survive.  And a medal that will hang in a pile of other medals.  And a chair.

Always a chair.

 

 

 

 

I’m not an emotional man, but I am.

I’m also completely fucking smashed.

Similarly, I was 1,234 words into my attempt to put a literary stamp on my most memorable year (not my most successful year) as a runner, and every single one of them is completely void of the great value it should represent, so I’m probably better off just writing a paragraph here and being done with it.

I’ve loved you all so dearly since day one and owe you each on some level that I will forever dream of being able to repay.

Thanks for the miles.  Thanks for the adventures.  Thanks for the trails, the mountains, the stumbling, bumbling fucking fumbling, mind numbing descents into madness and ascents into transcendent, meaningful existence.

If I could offset the reality of my humorously catastrophic impact on the lives of those around me, I would do so by attempting to express the comfort with which I’d take a bullet for any one of you.

Thanks Natalie for being the best friend I recall ever having, Chris for making sure I don’t die every day, Jeff for taking it easy on me at the finish line all the time, Daven for believing so honestly in me even on the days I provide the least reason to do so, Jamie for every day that I’ve been privileged to share with you, Josh for making me run in the first place, Matt for being the most inspiring and genuine person I know and Laura for throwing gasoline on the small flame I handed you.

Sincerely,
your humble soul mate, friend, student, idiot, brother, servant, coach, twit, nincompoop, knucklehead etc

Party, Always

-Muddy Sneaker, Win

-Medved Madness. 3rd

-OSTM, 3rd

-Burning River, Survived

-Ossian , Win

-Watergap , LOL

-Brain Cancer 5k – PR

-Mudslog -3rd

-Rochester Trail Runner of the Year

-:Likely Very Temporary Course Record on Outer Loop at Bristol

-JFK , Let’s see

These pictures belong to someone.  Mostly to Ron Heerkens.  Some to other people. Maybe Laura’s dad or something.  Or To the Mountain Peak Fitness people.  Or to Roger O.  Or Maybe someone else.  And Mertsock, who deserves much credit for his role in the entire game this year.

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