Slouched between a woman with her right knee openly draining blood through caked dirt and a guy quietly shivering in a Fred Flintstone costume, I smiled tiredly at the idea that everything seemed normal.
We were at the mile 68 aid station at the Zion Ultras, layering up for the night, housing Ramen noodles and bacon, contemplating the 1,500 foot, quad killing, semi-exposed drop onto the desert floor awaiting our exit from warmth and nylon camping chairs. Some of us looked better than others. My mind attempted to spin the story that my body was moving better than it looked. My feet were already riddled with blisters I was trying to ignore and I was way behind on calories. My gut had been inconsistent at best since around 10AM. It was almost midnight.
Primed with a can of Coke and a headful of healthy delusion, I was gearing up to make a serious rally.
I’d felt okay but never great the first 30 miles of the race. The next 30 were roller coasterish with some normal feeling 9 to 12 minute miles (what I was fit enough to run – what I EXPECTED to run) mixed with sections where I was sure Charles Barkley would have put a twenty minute gap on the corpse of what used to be my capable legs. And on the climb back from a semi-techy loop up to the Goosebump aid tent near mile 70, my legs were seriously stalling out. My mind was steady and still in the game. Mentally, I was fully capable of making another charge. I thought taking time off my feet, getting in a bunch of calories, and a change of shoes would be the catalyst for closing fast and still making a run at finishing at 24 hours. Only 50k to go.
“Only 50k to go. Totally. Yup. On it. I’m on that. Right on that.”
The part of me that quit 7th grade track because I hated running two miles wouldn’t understand anything about the me dressed like a hydrovested dork running around desert trails in the dark. But to be fair to 7th grade Nat, this circa 1995 haircut would have been more aerodynamic…
I don’t know why other people sign up for 100 mile races. I’ve read blogs about the reasons people say they sign up for them – the physical challenge, a way to beat addiction, a way to reconnect with nature, the belt buckle.
I have a heartfelt attachment to most people and things I spend my time with and on – but I have always struggled to put that attachment in to phraseology that fits in text messages or bro-speak that is palatable to the modern dudes who are my peers. Thus, I gave a lot of superficial reasons when friends asked why I signed up for the Zion Ultras 100. “Always wanted to do one. Can’t run that long after we have kids. The belt buckle.”
Although true, none of the answers I gave were ever sincere.
Ever since I read about ultramarathons. I knew it would be amazing to finish one. But I don’t think finish lines are as transformative as sport drink and mutual fund advertisements would have you to believe.
I didn’t want the finish line – I wanted mile 70.
If you’ve been there, you probably understand why.
If you haven’t, I’ll try to explain – in the next episode of Serial Running Irregardless.