Feb 10, 2009

further thoughts on rocky raccoon..

Shortly before 11PM, with a mile to go before dropping, I sat down on this bench, exhausted, with my head in my hands, just wanting it all to be over. I shot this photo earlier in the day, thinking about this particular bridge - it used to be a part of the course until this year. Hardly even noticed the bench at the time.

"What was wrong with the 50 mile distance? I liked the 50-mile distance! You start in the morning, you're done at night! 100 miles, on the other hand - well, that's just stupid!!" - me

That sounds a lot like something an emotionally and physically distressed person would say in the middle of a death march in the wee hours of the morning. If it happened to me under those circumstances, I probably would attribute it to the physical circumstances and at least try to intellectually blow it off.

But that not how it happened.

I said that while I still felt fine physically.

At around mile 52. 8PM.

It wasn't something that had been brewing all day long, either. I was having fun, right up until that point.

The thing that gets me in retrospect, and which threw off my mental game at the time, is that thought occurred to me in the same way an "ah ha!" moment occurs when I'm trying to solve a programming problem, or tinkering with a gadget, or just thinking about life in general.

I'm sure you've had these "ah ha!" moments. They're rarely, if ever, wrong.

5 days later, it's an interesting thing to think about.

"If you can't learn anything from losing, don't lose." - Unknown

The fact that my wife and kid were not there was a huge emotional drain on me. Really. I thought about them often, and - to be honest - what occurred to me immediately after the mile52thought was, "I wish I were home with Alex and Joe." I sung happy birthday to Joe while on the trail at Rocky. I said I have no regrets in this race - that's not true. I regret not being there for his fifth birthday.

If I ever do attempt a 100-miler again, they're definitely coming with me.

"It's the quitting that really is hard." - Gene Thibeault

The one nagging thought about completing a 100-miler is the mystique surrounding it. There's a quality to 100s that no other distance has. Even if it sucks and I hate every moment of it - I still want to experience this, once. The belt buckle. The second sunrise. The two weeks of recovery. Needing help walking after you finish the run. You know, maybe this 100-mile business just isn't for me - but how could I know that unless I actually finish a 100-mile race?(mile 52 epiphanies notwithstanding.)

People keep saying the second half of a 100 is all mental. I always thought I knew this, of course, but maybe I didn't after all. Is this - indifference when I was feeling fine physically - what they were talking about?

"Steven, when you cross that finish line, it's all worth it." -Andrew, on Sunday Morning

Finally, I. just. didn't. respect. the. distance. Physically, or mentally. The last 5 miles definitely indicated that I physically wasn't prepared to complete the 100-mile distance because there was no way I could have made it under the 30-hour cutoff. But there's a mental component to the distance as well - and maybe I'm just not ready.

If it turns out that 100s aren't for me, my long-term race goals are a little different, aren't they? I will say this: If I ever do register for a 100 again, it will be with a lot more reflection on my physical and mental state. I want to be ready, because DNFing at any race is not a pleasant idea, even if it's the right thing to do, as it was at Rocky.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Perhaps I'll post more thoughts about this experience in the future.

Once last note: I love opinions by all, but I especially love the opinions of experienced 100-milers. Thanks for all the comments you've made on this blog, in the past and in the future.