Here are a few thoughts after my recent run at Rocky. From an objective standpoint, things went well. I had set a primary goal of a sub 24 hour finish and made that goal in 22:23. My 20 mile splits were 3:40, 4:00, 4:20, 5:00, and 5:23. I won’t go into everything that made that happen here except to say that I focused on an overall effort level and never really wavered from that.
The lessons learned are much more interesting to me. This is only my second 100 miler but I’ve run a good number of ultras now and I really figured out a big key during my training and this race. Essentially, I figured out how to embrace living in two states of mind at the same time. Or maybe it would be better to say I figured out how to just deal with things differently. I’m having a hard time expressing this still because, well, I think it’s just not the way most of us think. To better illustrate this, I’ll just give a couple of examples.
When explaining that I ran one hundred miles to people, It’s hard for most people to wrap their mind around it. I certainly have difficulty doing it myself so I understand how they’re feeling. I was pretty tired after the first twenty mile loop. Therein lies the challenge. You just ran twenty miles and you absolutely cannot dwell on the fact that you have eighty miles to go. You have to keep it in mind, that’s important, but it has to become something you keep only one eye on. The rest of your attention has to focus on things like getting from one aid station to the next, not tripping over that root, running form, etc. The end goal is ultimately important and you have to have a laser focus on making it, but you almost need to dissociate your thoughts from it to where you have a very dim view. The thoughts have to be associated more immediately on the present moment, lest you trip over a root and go sprawling like a newborn fawn, as I did at about mile 96. The wonderful thing about this approach is that it can be applied to anything you put your mind to, even a lifetime of events. Grand ideas lose focus when they seem so far away. We have to always have them in mind, but it’s better to focus on the present.
I would like to say that my running is fun and that the races are always full of enjoyment but that wouldn’t be very true. Yes, there are times when I am really enjoying myself and running has taken me to places most people will never see in person. I’ve learned that they’ve become more about adventure, friends, and an experiment about what my limits are. And since I mentioned limits, that brings me to another interesting observation. The thing I’ve really picked up from moving a hundred miles on foot is pretty interesting. I am simultaneously empowered and humbled at the same time. That’s the big lesson here. It will make you feel like you can do absolutely anything, and I’m not necessarily talking about running. Whether it’s work, a sick family member, a tough decision - that’s the kind of endurance I’ve gained. It’s like there’s some supernatural endurance that has nothing to do with my physical self. At the same time, I’m also the guy that tripped over two hundred roots stumbling around in the dark and just barely trotted across the finish line. A hundred miles will take everything you have to finish and will humble you for sure. I’m cool with all of that. I can accept both the endurance gained and the humility.