When I first thought of running an ultramarathon I suffered delusions that it would be awesome. These delusions were grounded in the sense that doing something kick ass such as running on foot for one hundred miles would quite possibly be the best thing ever. Little that I could do alone would ever match such an achievement. Reading about the likes of Jurek, Krupicka and Roes will do that to a person. Then you go and do that thing and reality settles in.
That shit was hard. Unfortunately I did not prepare myself mentally for whatever unforeseen incidents may happen.
Maybe I was enamored with the belt buckle. Who doesn't love a little bling with a kick-ass back story? Quite possibly I was overly impressed with myself and hoped everyone else would be as well. Naively I assumed my trek to the one hundredth mile, though not easy, was well within my ability. After all, you have to want it.
I read a post entry from another newbie ultrarunner this morning. A couple of her bullets points reminded me of the real reason I wandered into the Port Gamble wilderness (even "gamble" seems ironic now). Her reasoning also reminds me why I am charging ahead with another ultra in the fall.
During that cold spring evening when the clouds finally parted and I could see the twinkling stars I was already lost. My knee was already shot and my voices were a chorus of doubters singing out why I was a failure and fool for even making the trip west. How could I even consider running one hundred miles when walking 12 or 8 or 4 or even one more mile is so agonizing. That night I was utterly alone. I had not seen another soul except for the volunteers working the aid stations. However, those kind souls could not offer the aid I needed. So onward I crawled. And with each step the stabbing sunk deeper into my knee. It would be two months before I could run pain-free again. And with each stab of pain the voices got louder. I became more frantic. The only approximation would be losing my children in a crowd. Probably the reason I don't particularly enjoy Disney or crowds.
I sometimes wonder if I could have forged ahead had I not been alone. If I could have stayed on my feet another two or three hours and seen the sun rise over the treetops I may have kept going. I can only speculate.
What I am certain of is that while I remember the physical pain of that night, I have moved past the emotional distress. Failure was the hat I wore that night, but with it a hard lesson was learned about motivation and reward. I was motivated by a trophy and rewarded with knowing when to stop short.
Now my motivation is going farther. To greet the sun while on my feet. While still in the race. My motivation is to survive the night and the terrors and laugh at any attempt to stall my progress.
This next ultra is not about earning the buckle or even surviving the night. It will be about surviving myself.