I am three days out from the Squaw Peak 50-miler.
I learned a lot. Not just about myself, but about running in general. The thing is, there is a certain amount of athleticism to run a marathon, or even a 50K. You train hard, you eat well and you don’t hit the dreaded wall. But when you are running for 12+ hours, you hit many walls and then you work your way back to many high points. You swing violently moment to moment, like an angry child that suddenly smiles. Every step of the way beyond the marathon mark was because I told myself I could do it. And I did. The thing is, anyone can run a 50-miler but the only thing that will stop them is truly knowing that they can do it. There were times I was barely moving at all, walking up hills when all I wanted was to sleep and there were moments of glory, where I was dropping sub-8 minute miles after already having 47 miles on my legs. Looking at your watch and seeing 28 miles and knowing that you have 22-ish to go is horrible and demoralizing and wonderful all at the same time. I’ve never been so tired in my life, but at the same time, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more present.
The real lesson I learned from this race was my tendency to always look to the future. Mile 39 started a massive hill, climbing 3000 feet before making the 12 mile descent to the finish line. I would constantly find myself looking up, seeing little progress and immediately becoming discouraged. My pacer, Dan, would remind me to look down and just keep moving, that it would be over soon. And when I focused on the task at hand, I felt great, but when I looked to the height of the mountain, to the future, the work still to be done was daunting. Everything about running that far is daunting, but it can be done. Running 50 miles is nothing but a lesson in remaining present to the moment you are in and in the consequences of swaying away from the present moment.
There were high points where I passed other racers, feeling strong and ready to take on every mile. Despite the pain in my feet from massive blisters, I managed to finish the final 4 miles in under 32 minutes, averaging just under 8 minutes per mile. I was flying into the finish, passing everyone in my path and sneaking under 13 hours. As the final miles ticked by I knew I could run forever. The finish line could have been in Nevada, and I would have found it. It’s that kind of mental strength that can pull you out of any low in any situation. It’s in that place that I will need to go to finish the Javelina Jundred in October.
Running an ultra has far more to do with what is within you than what your body is capable of. I’d heard many times that the first 26 miles were physical and the rest were mental and that couldn’t have been more true. But the thing is, everything is temporary. Happiness, sadness, pain, elation, excitement and disappointment all happen but becoming attached to those feelings is what will do us in. Running 50 miles forced me to let go and run my race and my mile.
I was made for this.
And so were you.
If you are someone who has ever thought about running 50 miles and haven’t because you think you are too slow or that you can’t go that far, believe me, you can do it. One foot in front of the other is all that is needed to finish. No speed, no secrets, just determination.
In the next day or so, I’ll post a video recapping the race and getting into some of the specifics. Thanks for supporting me in my crazy ideas, there are more to come.
Javelina Jundred, here I come!