Forest fires caused a last minute course change for Waldo
100K. The race is already tough enough
with 10K of climb all on single track at just enough elevation to make a
flatlander tug. Just before we left our
house I get an email, "Waldo is on".
A new course was approved by the forest service but would increase the
mileage to over 66. I have run Waldo 3
other times back in the early days when the course was long. I was sort of looking forward to the shorter
version. It didn't really matter
though. I wasn't properly trained for
In a last minute ditch to remind my body how run I turned my
High Cascades 100 MTB/ PCT 50M week into a 100 miles of running in 6 days and 4
hours of mountain biking. 15 days, 130
miles of MTBing and 100 miles of running.
Not at all smart and a bit reckless.
Cramming! I came away tired but
not hurt or sore. Waldo 100K is not the kind of course you show
up HOPING you can run it. You actually
have to train and spend time training your legs.
It's never good to
start an ultra with a bad attitude. It
will most certainly get worse as the miles tick on or until it gets beat it out
of you. I think that sums up my
day. I started the race wondering how
long this baby was going to take me and just how much it was going to beat me
into the ground. I finished with more
appreciation of what my body will do for me. I came away with a deeper
understanding that I, at times, need to be beaten down and rebuild myself
mentally. There's no better way to do that then run a grueling ultra where you
are stripped of all your walls and have nowhere to hide. I also learned that I refuse
to be unhappy. If I am unhappy then I am
going to spend as much time as necessary to change it. If that means I need to dig
and dig until I bleed then I am going to do just that. I am going to find out
how, what, and why my mood is bleak. I need
to be authentically happy. This isn't
really a race report of how I endured a day or how tough I may be for gutting
it out. It's really more of a story
about why I continued and the mental battles I and I'm sure many endurance athletes
go through when things are going south. I am not tougher than any other runner
I was just willing, on that day, to strip myself down enough physically to get
a deeper glimpse of who I am.
THE DAY UNFOLDED AND SO DID I:
The temperatures in Oregon have been blistering (for
us). I was prepared for a day of baking
sun but instead we woke to cloud cover and perfect temperatures. The immediate climb out of the ski area is
straight up. General hiking ensured and
lots of fine dust kicked up. After about 10 miles I knew my legs were
empty. They lacked any vigor. I wasn't
surprised and shouldn't be shocked but that didn't seem to ease my
frustration. Great! I get to spend 56
miles dissecting myself worth...fabulous!
The course continued on with its first relentless climb while bits of
rain began to drop. I would have never
guessed we would get rain? It was warm and the sprinkle felt good. It turned the
trail into a perfect tacky mix. Once I climbed Mt. Fuji and descended back into
the aid station I see the sweeps coming up the trail. Clem was covered with
markings. That was a brutally crushing
sight. I was near the back of the
regular start and the sweeps were not
more than 2 miles back. I began to take
stock and check in. I was already
slightly sore at mile 15! My demeanor was lack luster. Things were just not clicking. I felt
dehydrated and probably was. I began to
put down as much water as I could coming into mile 20 where I would see Bill
and Chris. I drank extra before leaving the aid station. I left with the intent to find some peace
with day. My body was tired and my mind
wasn't able to rally another gear. Why?
What was my biggest issue? Was it fatigue, lack of motivation to see it
through, my ego or all of the above? I
tried to get positive and cut myself some slack. Trying to give myself credit for what I have
accomplished this year. The interesting part about this method is by the time I
reached Charlton Lake, mile 30, I had decided I had done enough this year and
traveling another 36 miles on this tired body was not necessary. I came in and called it a day. Bill just looked at me, speechless. I told him I had nothing! I was spent, my legs were wood and I was
dehydrated. Chris just stood there with
a puzzled look on her face. I noticed
and I felt crushed. I hadn't found a bit
of peace so I guess I'm not done.
I put on my sunglasses, took my 2 water bottles and told
Bill I would try to pull myself together, get re-hydrated and would see him
again in 5.5 miles. I left with tears
running down my face. I wasn't really
crying but water was coming out of my eyes. They were silent tears. When you've
done over 100 ultras you know what's in store.
There's nothing you can do to re-boot over cooked legs. The only thing I could do was DECIDE to
finish. So I released my body and
focused on my attitude. I didn't want to have to go here. It's not an easy place to be sometimes. So it began.
The questions of who you are, why you do this, should you do this, what
are made of and most importantly who do you want to be. Good Lord, I answered those questions 100
times and got different answers depending on the moment. Who's going to win the
battle? The crazy journey of a beaten down endurance athlete. Therapy on the go. Once you leave the aid
station you can't just end your session and walk out. You have to make it to
the next aid station. All the while
beating yourself up, building yourself up and pressing on.
The miles ticked away slowly and just before the aid station
I see Bill walking down the trail. I
knew he would do that. I saw the worried look on his face when I left Charlton. I also knew he was mostly worried I was going
to quit, regret it and he has to live with me. When you're married for almost
20 years you don't even need words you just need expressions. I saw his sweet mind grinding away as he
walked me out of Charlton. He sees me
and says, "Someone came all the way
out here to see you so be sure you give him a hug". I go to hug him and he laughs, "Not me,
there's someone at the aid station".
I'm thinking... did he have Alex helicoptered in to ensure I don't bail?
It might be a cost effective solution in his mind. I arrive to see Don, (our new Bend neighbor)
volunteering at the Road 4209. Hilarious!
I come up and he says, "Rooster, make the neighborhood
proud". I bow my head in my own
mind, grab my stuff and again leave with hidden tears. Still on a quest to live without regret. Will I regret not completing this? Trying to
talk myself into being okay with sadness and a bad day. Every darn time I would get myself convinced
that bad days happen and it's okay to quit I would relent. This was my first insight that this is the
game I must play with myself whether I want to or not. I am simply not okay
with a bad day. There must be a bright
side and I must find it.
Things begin to look up.
I think it was a combination of few things. I had gotten myself re-hydrated and the
people around me gave me so much support how could I ignore it. I was almost done
with my personal therapy. I just needed a few more miles. My next stop was Twins 2, mile 42. I knew the section from Road 4209 to Twins 2
was long and generally hard for me. Today it wasn't so bad! Better than other times I've run the
race. Hey, there's a bright side. I
marched along feeling more in control of my mind. Maybe because I am closing in, getting it
done and overall feeling like I can't turn back. Almost if there is no other
choice. Maybe I just ran out of reasons
to be mad at myself. After all, the body I brought to this race was exactly
the body I should have brought. I made the
racing schedule. Or.... maybe I had simply bled myself dry. There was nothing left of me to beat up.
Better yet I had determined that I need more than a bad day to quit. It was time to rebuild. You know when this time comes. It's not only a mental but a physical
shift. Since there's such a correlation
it's a double win. You can feel the resurrection with every mile.
I arrived at Twins 2 and Tia's generous smile and warm
welcome made me feel good. I left there
with tears but this time they were different.
Instead of being somber that were thankful tears filled with some
strength. I made my way down the twins
trail to crew at the road. I get to pick
up my friend and pacer Chris here. I was
really looking forward to it. At mile 35
Bill told me she was ready to run with me but declined at that time. I wasn't ready to give up on my punishing
ways then. I still needed to work
through this anger, disappointment and frankly just indulge this plain old pity
party. I needed more miles to get the
monkey off my back. By mile 44 I was
done! I had come full circle.
We left down the road and I was really happy to have someone.
Chris had some great observations. I got
to share my journey with her and she shared her observations. It was fun and filling. Not often are we
broken down enough to let all the guards, fears and judgments be seen. In these
kinds of scary raw moments when others can see you at your worst are times of
depth. Even better... when YOU see yourself at your worst! I am sort of sucker
for these kinds of opportunities. It's where real foundation is built. The kind that lasts. I am guarded, planned
and thick skinned. At mile 30 when it
was really clear I had no body to work with I knew in order to finish I would
have to dig deeper than usual mentally to finish. That was not something I wanted to do because
I know how I go about it. It's a mental
blood bath of exposing all my tucked away weakness, bringing up all my flaws
and making me ponder my worthiness. It's
like a bad reality show where you're the star.
In the end it can become a priceless journey I can draw from. But, you have to endure the process and have
to have the guts to even take it on.
The climb up to Maiden Peak was hard but less hard now. Thunder boomers and lightening greeted us at
the top of the peak. By this time my
legs were jello and I was rebuilt from the inside out. It became fun. It had become a valuable finish. Are you ever happy you chose to finish the
day after? Not really. It's easy to sit here today and roll my eyes
at post. But, when you're deep in, it's
rough. The daily guards come back, the
general, "what's the big deal it's just a run" enter your head. When it's in your face at that moment it's a
big deal. I want to recognize it and not
brush it off today. I spent 15:29 minutes pushing myself so hard physically but
even harder mentally. I owe it to myself
to make sure it meant something. I also
asked others to help me and I owe it to them.