43 Miles

image

A story is ready to be written every time you lace up your sneakers and head for the start of a race.  And today was no exception.  It starts with me in Tucson, AZ, for marathon number three, an ultra in this case (that is longer than 30 miles) and I was met with a spectacular desert landscape, with mountains and trails in such abundance that hosting a 50 mile race appeared to be de rigueur.  The story, in this case, comes from the predictable that became unpredictable and ultimately downright challenging.  In Tucson the weather in March is usually perfect and experienced race organizers do a good job marking the course.  And when said truths did not come to pass today this is is where the story starts (and ends).

Yes, Mother Nature won today – she threw at us 42 degrees, 30+ mph winds, and a driving rain that lasted for essentially the whole race.  The “trifecta” today hit everyone very hard as we were not truly prepared for such a circumstance.  It would have, sort of, been survivable but for the fact that the course markings were essentially non-existent and the majority of the participants too wrong turns on a regular basis and some of these turned out to be serious in their implication.  And so it was that after a few minor inconveniences, I arrived at mile 29 ready to go to the next aid station at mile 33.  What unfolded was the beginning and the end of my race.  Turning up hill on a trail from the aid station, cold and wet but not undaunted I pressed on and on and one and after quite some time hit a dead end – a locked cattle fence.  Realizing I had taken a wrong turn I worked my way back and found a few other lost runners and we proceeded (without any proper reference info) to make, what seemed like, endless circles in the middle of the mountains.  For the better part of two hours, I wandered getting colder and colder, with limited nutrition and  no certain way to find my way back and I pressed on.  I was fortunate to run into an amazing guy, a member of our National Guard and he stayed with me to figure out a way to mile 33.  We did finally find a few runners and they pointed us in the right direction.  But it was a bit too late – too much rain, wind, cold, and a lack of nutrition put me in a compromised state such that walking was hard and I while I could go on, this kind of situation needed to be addressed. And so when we finally reached mile 33 and found out that had travelled 43 miles to get there (GPS knows all).   -  we knew our day was over. 

Hours later, I am recovered and reflecting on the day. I am sure this one will stay with me for a long time.  An official DNF does not sit well with me and while I would like to have “reasons” why I did not finish – the bottom line is I did not.   But on THPL journey these moments are bound to happen –the challenge is what we seek, and we do need to put everything we can into finishing what we started.  But there is more to learn.  Today I learned that I could stop when I should stop. I learned that I can have others help me.  I learned how I need to do more pre-race planning when in new areas.  And I learned that 43 miles is still a great accomplishment.  Yes, I worked hard to get here and to put it on the line.  It cannot, however, end there.  We must give ourselves the opportunity to come back at it.  And Yes, the day was epic and epic is where it is at.

Loving life, having written yet another story

Ciao

Joe