Have you ever dragged yourself on all fours toward the bathroom in the wee hours of the morning and then kissed the toilet seat in an attempt to bring yourself to a seated position? If you have had this experience and you were sober at the time than you can relate to how I feel each time I run in a 100 mile race. The feeling of accomplishment inside is amazing but I can not overlook the toll that I take physically nor can I overlook the risks that I have taken to accomplish a small feat in the grand scheme of things that happen in life.
In ten years time I have completed twenty-five one hundred mile races not including an impromptu run that I did in 2005 to benefit the Hurricane Katrina victims. While in the world of ultrarunning this pales in comparison to some but in the real world where even one would seem quite impossible my twenty-five would put me in an elite class. The reference I have made to elite is not an indication of my skill but instead it is an indication of how many people would consider an attempt at running this distance.
There was a time when I believed those who made such attempts were superhuman or even heroes. As I entered the sport and became more aware of the ins and outs I realized that most were just average people who stepped outside of the box. No matter the level we are all equal. Those that excel are those that are willing to teach what they have learned to help others improve.
I started to run as a way to release negative emotions generated by a divorce but as I progressed I became possessed and maybe even obsessed. The positive effects were many as I gained confidence through my ability to run which allowed me to shed all of my fears. As I grew in the sport I also grew in life and ultimately I came to realize that my obsession with running took away from my quality of life. I have many stories that I could share of times when I neglected my family and friends just so I could run but I won't share as I don't care to rehash the past.
In my mind there can be no moderation when it comes to ultrarunning so in my case a choice has always had to be made. Will I share my life with others or will I remain wrapped up in my own wants and needs? I lived with being selfish for a very long time but I learned how valuable friendships can be in each and every race in which I participated.
When I failed at my first attempt at running one hundred miles I swore I'd never return but the lady who drove me back to my hotel told me I'd be back. Sure enough after a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself I was back on the horse and working towards my second attempt. Four months later I finished my first and focused on my second while never failing to realize that I had some unfinished business with OD. This would be the beginning of a viscious cycle that would have no door leading me to a safe exit. The goals would never be achieved as I always set the bar higher. Even after gaining redemption at OD I found no satisfaction in such a minor feat. I worked by myself only using the stories of others as a guide. I failed miserably in my attempt to stay injury free as my penchant to do things in excess always caught up to me in the end. My performances improved as I increased my training mileage and with that I would increase even more. Eventually I tallied enough miles each day that my body became worn and battered. My crazy mind believed it was a good thing in that it would prepare me for the war of a one hundred mile race but when my limbs shattered to the point where I couldn't walk I shockingly realized I was wrong.
I never ran the same again after my injury in 2006 in fact the pain from that injury still riddles my body even as I write today. Despite the injury I continued to run at a lower level than ever. I lowered my expectations but still felt disappointed that I was not the same. As my training miles decreased my thoughts increased and became more logical. I learned to take things in stride and to prioritize the important things in my life. In "o7" I barely trained for Western States but still entered with an agressive goal only to walk away disappointed despite my finish. In "08" I gave one last gasp effort at reclaiming my past when I crewed 70+ hours at Badwater returned home twenty four hours later to participate in my own twenty four hour event. I completed just over 100 miles in 99° heat but the satisfaction that I felt inside was not due to the miles but instead of the havoc I wreaked on my body. I was blistered from head to toe and for the first time ever spent time in an ambulance. I didn't realize how odd my feelings were until two weeks later at mile fifteen of another one hundred mile race. It was at this time that I finally said I've had enough and almost walked away from the race prior to completion. My heart was the only thing that stopped me because my brain had given up. Though I finished I made some very long term final decisions at that race. I would run Cascade Crest in two weeks time but I would do so as a non competitor. I would be there to have fun, to experience the mountains one last time and to look deep inside of myself to gain new perspective on what I want out of life. My fourth event in five weeks would take place on the hardest course but with my mind at ease it would not take much effort. However when all was said and done my feet were more than two times their normal size. I barely made it through the airport as with each step I grimaced in agony. I finished, I hobbled away with another buckle but my body received another terrible beating.
I am still an advocate of distance running but I now stress the fact that once a distance is defeated there is no need to have to come back to do it over and over again. I did it and I was not a hero and my life never changed. However when I helped those who were in need I accomplished something much more than I ever could on my own. I shared what I learned and others were able to grasp the meaning and use it to their benefit. Hopefully the message I am sending today will also be understood and used in the life of another.
I fear that I will lose the admiration of many but I am willing to risk the loss for the chance of obtaining something even more. I once stepped outside of the box to attempt running distances that most would find unbelievable and now it is once again time to step out of the box to experience other things. I love my family, dad, mom, brothers, sisters in law and nieces and nephew and soon to be wife and step kids. It's time to conquer challenges outside those which present themselve in the sport of ultrarunning.
Always remember to share what you've learned and never feel as though you've learned enough. No matter who you are or what you do there is always someone who is better.