I’ve been asked the question countless times; why do you do it? As in, why do I run 100 milers? As in, what is it somewhere within me that can’t be satisfied by a marathon, a 50K, or even a 50 miler?It’s a question that’s as easy to answer as it is difficult.
I do it for the moment.
The moment comes without fail, each and every time. If I’m lucky, it might come more than once, but that’s been rare. I do it for a moment of sheer and undefined clarity. If I couldn’t run them “fast,” if I couldn’t place, I would still run them for that moment. But that’s the difficult part of the answer: somewhere along the way, I discovered I was somewhat good at this, and at this point in my life, I also like doing them fast.
But even then, I do it for the moment.
Now the moment itself can’t be put into words; I can’t describe to the reader or another person the precise feeling in my soul. All I can tell you is that whether it’s a breeze or a noise, a temperature or the way the air feels, or the point at which I’m moving inexplicably fast for the mileage I’ve already run, there’s this moment. There’s this moment where everything else in the entire world falls away – dissolves almost – and I’m alone in the woods. And the clarity in this moment is so deep, so moving, so profound – that it’s worth every single step to get there.
They are moments held and treasured in my heart; moments I return to when I get lost in the minutiae of daily life and need to remember who I really am.
I’ve also placed in the top 3 in three of the six 100 milers I’ve run – and let’s make no secrets about this, I’m ready to win one.
It might not happen this weekend at Burning River, but when the time is right, I’ll be ready.
This has been a tough training cycle. The heat has been the toughest part, but my confidence hasn’t been what it should. I’ve done all the work. I’ve done more than when I popped off terrific performances at Umstead and Rocky Raccoon; less than I did last summer when I went into Burning River overtrained. For the sake of numbers, a general synopsis: my official training cycle was 13 weeks. I averaged 81 miles per week, with three 100-mile weeks, two of which were back to back. I did 16 runs between 21 and 30 miles in distance, 4 runs of 30 miles or more, one 40 miler (keystone workout) and a single 50-mile day, when I paced Grandma’s Marathon, flew home, and then paced the final loop at the Mohican 100, all within 24 hours. I have done considerable heat-training, continued to adjust my nutrition based on the type of performance I’m hoping to have, and remained consistent and injury free. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt my fitness or my ability to run my goal time – except, of course, the part where I run 100 miles in August. Well, I haven’t exactly shied away from that in the past.
The pace chart is done, the drop bags on paper. The nutrition is set and the outfit is chosen. Now we simply wait.
We wait for confidence. We wait first to get a spring in the step, then to go stale from four days of not running. We wait then for the nervous energy, the jitters, the excitement and exhaustion of the taper melding into an emotional mess come Friday. Then, the easiest part – because as Skinny Beast would say, “it’s just running.”
Well, kind of. It is just running, but make no mistake: I’m running for the win. That doesn’t mean it will happen, and I’ll be running from behind as I always do, but if Saturday’s the day, I’m ready.
And if Saturday isn’t the day, the moment in the woods will more than make up for it.
I struggled once with what to say to Skinny before one of his big races. I knew how well-trained he was, how prepared and ready. Saying “good luck” seemed somehow flip to me, as if merely wishing him “luck” was disrespecting the years and months and hours he’s put in. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that luck was actually all he needed. You see, those who have not prepared need more than mere “luck,” for luck cannot replace training or mental preparation, a proper nutrition plan or heat adaptation. “Luck” will not get you through those moments you want to quit for inconsequential reasons, nor can it teach you on race day that multiple rough patches can and will be overcome. But those who have prepared – those who have trained legs, mind and heart; those who have tested their nutrition, adapted to the heat, and fought through those rough patches long before race day – well, in the end, luck is really all they need. Well, luck and faith and belief and probably a couple jars of Vaseline. But “good luck,” in these matters, is actually quite a compliment.
So one last thing, Salty Readers, as I close out this week’s post to go elevate my legs, rest and carb-load.
Wish me luck.