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.


  1. I would hammer out a bunch more 50 milers and go from there. Getting your 50 mile times down will help you greatly at the 100 mile distance. The average finishing time for first time 100 milers is 2.5 x your average 50M time. Also, the more experience you have at the shorter ultra distances, the better you will get at the mental part of the game. A 24 hour race would be a good training ground for you.

    It's hard to know what to expect from a race and a course that is across the country. If a race offers a 50 mile option with the 100, you can always do the 50 one year, learn the course, and go back the next for the 100 miler. This way, you will know how to specifically train for that specific race. Unfortunately there are not a lot of 100s near us to go scope out.

    You did well, Steve. 60 miles is no short shakes :)

  2. I agree with Meredith. Get some more 50 milers under your belt and give it another go.

    But, there is some thing you said that puts things into place for me as far as your getting back out there for another 100 miler. You said, "Finally, I. just. didn't. respect. the. distance. Physically, or mentally."

    Steven, this is well over half the battle. The distance for the average runners is brutal. It brings with it tremendous ups and downs. You hit wall after wall after wall. Respecting the distance in your preparation, physically and mentally, and respecting the distance while you are out there is what it is about.

    So, now you know. Now you have gone out and understand what starts to happen when you go beyond the 50 mile mark. Now you can better prepare, physically and mentally for another try at 100. If you set your mind to it, you can do it, and I am rooting for you to do so.

  3. Steve,,,MTRC
    you made the right choice for you on this day..this was not about quitting...MTRC....God willing you will go for it again. Always here for you my friend