Knowing when to say "enough".
While at dinner last night after viewing My Run, the conversation turned to racing and my upcoming foray into ultra marathons. A friend asked "when is enough going to be enough?" At first I thought she was referring to the long-term view of racing. How many future ultras? Actually the question was more about the immediate. At what point during the hundred miles would I know it was time to stop? What are the signs telling me to get off my feet before I'm on my back?
Of course my wife was a party to this conversation. We returned to the topic on the way home. She is afraid I will kill myself in pursuit of this goal. I discussed my eating plan. I discussed my hydration plan. The course layout will never have me more than two miles from an aid station.* If my handhelds go dry I won't have far to go for a refill. And the run is outside Seattle so chances are it will be raining. Like manna from heaven.
All the advice I have been given says that the challenge is all mental. My body will ache. The pain is unavoidable. I will hurt of a long time. The trick will be in pushing the pain aside and continuing to move forward, whether I run, shuffle, walk or crawl.
So I come back to the question of when I will know if I am "finished" before the finish. It may be a physical breakdown. The moment could come from a mental lapse. I hope the wall does not collapse on me, but I have to accept that the wall begins to crumble from the very first step I take. So the true race is not to the finish line and the belt buckle trophy. Rather the true race is time and distance against my body and endurance.
I will not pick a number and predict "I shall be satisfied if...." It will be very in-the-moment. I believe I will know when I know. My hope is that the knowing will come after the finishing. After the eighth and final loop.
*Twelve mile loop with aid at the Start/Finish, Mile 4 and Mile 8.