As with most races, adrenaline (no pun intended) and excitement often gets you fired up at the start of the race. Because the first 4 miles of the course is pretty smooth, it makes for some good single-track running...
I went out pretty fast on the first loop and was probably expending more energy just trying to stay hydrated and cool - which wasn't easy. I went through 1.5 L of (tepid) water in the 4 miles prior to the first aid station! Though I had taken headlamp as well, I somehow got this crazy idea that I could finish the first loop by the time it got dark...why?! I have no idea. After stumbling on one of the many rocky section on the back half of the course, it didn't take much convincing to turn on my light.
|First lap done (way too fast I might add)|
Oh, how my tuned had changed by mile 15.
|Mental abyss #1|
"That cactus looked at me funny"
"I don't like the color of this dirt"
"My bib number isn't pinned on straight"
Seriously. Anything to make it end...
|Pity party for one|
After weighing my options for a while (and confirming my race bib was on straight), I decided that I would wander over to the aid station to at least get some fresh water and cold soda. One of the great things about volunteers (at Aravaipa events) is that they're not just anyone off the street...these are runners who know what you're going through. After a bit of self-loathing, empathy and chit-chat, I was feeling a little better mentally and decided to fill up my bottles with Tailwind again. I set out into the night for my third loop.
Night miles are long(er) miles but I was constantly reminding myself to just take the course 4 miles at a time - aid station to aid station. Do the time and the miles would follow.
I made it back to the start/finish line shortly after midnight and again, was not in the mood to discuss anything except ending my misery and writing it off as a sub-40-mile training run. I parked my sweaty ass on the cooler again and tried once more to persuade myself that I would feel better driving home while stewing in my own wretched body odor, sweat and caked-on dirt.
And yet again, for every reason I tried to conjure up to end the madness, I couldn't bring myself to give into the course or my own lack of confidence. It was a rare instance in which my body was the one forcing my mind to get its shit together. So I kept going.
Loop 4 proved to be better. Perhaps it was the relative temperatures dropping that were made everything less labored or that I had my don't-give-a-shit-blinders securely on...either way, I ran through the night. Up, down and everything in between. Aside from my feet, I felt physically strong.
This time, there was no internal monologue or discussion as I approached the start/finish line to end loop 4 and begin the last 8 miles. I did sit down to rest my feet and stretch a bit. Jay Danek stopped over to see how I was doing and to help me refill my pack...he relayed how his night went and we had some laughs catching up. It was a good comedic interlude and definitely helped lift my spirits.
Nothing spectacular about the last 8 miles other than I just ran. I ran what felt like 8-minutes miles the entire way (they were actually more like 11-12 minute miles!) The only thing motivating me was the idea of coming in under 9 hours. Which I did...
8 hours and 52 minutes. Good enough to finish 11th out of 20 finishers...
I'm glad I stuck with it. I've learned quite a bit about my mental fortitude lately and it will go a long way in helping me get through the Black Hills 100 here in a couple weeks.
At least in South Dakota, there won't be any cacti taunting me...