Traditionally, a month before a race is a low point for me. This time, I'm hitting a new low because you know what? I SHOULD be afraid.
I'm afraid for many good, and some not so good, reasons:
- I'm afraid that my training wasn't sufficient. I got an annoying knee/itb/hamstring injury that has kept me from running much for about a month. I did some long efforts, up to 5 hours, but at a very slow pace. Is that enough?
- I'm afraid that I'm biting more than I can chew. Even if physically I'm ready (after all, I still have a solid base), do I have what it takes to keep moving forward for that long, probably somewhere around 40 hours? Is this a good choice for my first 100 miler?
- I'm afraid because the aid stations are so far apart. In Haliburton, the longuest distance between aid station was about 10k, if that. At Susitna, the first aid station is at mile 22. The next one at mile 41. I'm so happy I got that SPOT.
- I'm afraid because I don't know if I can get going again if I have to stop to sleep. If I let my body shut down while I get an hour of zzz's, it's going to be hell to get going again.
- I'm afraid of the pain. You know what I mean. 50 miles hurt. I can't imagine what 100 will feel like.
- I'm afraid because of all the moving parts. Basically, you are pulling your aid station in your pulk, but you have to make an effort to use it. As I get more and more tired, will I be able to keep making the right decisions? You know how sometimes, during a race, you get a small rock in your shoe and you can't be bothered to stop to take it out until it's too late and you have a blister? I can't let that happen. If I've got cold feet, I have to do something about it. Same if I get too hot and start sweating. I want to come back home with all my digits.
- I'm afraid I won't finish. Better men (and women) than me have DNF'd. I've finished all the races I've started. Will this be the one I don't finish? It's not the money. Most of the money was spent on stuff I can use in the future. It's just that a crazy effort like this requires a huge mental investment and from up there, it's a long way down.
- I'm afraid because of you all. I guess about 5 people read this blog occasionally. I don't want to write about how I didn't finish. Plus, I told my mom.
Obviously, this is why I'm doing it. I'm not sure that ultra running has made me a better person. Anyone who has read various bulletin boards where semi-elite and elite runners cut up back of the pack runners, or even question whether they should be allowed to run marathons, know that runners, good ones included, can still be assholes. The one thing that ultra running has done is allow me to experience something few people get to experience (in a positive way): my absolute physical and mental limit. In a 5k race, you briefly encounter it. In a marathon, you dance with it for a while. In an ultra, you have to experience it in totality. You go to the edge, stare down the abyss and hang on for dear life. Drink enough but not too much. Eat enough but not too much. Puke. Cry. Sing. Sleep, maybe. Analyze the color of your piss. Run as much, as fast as you think you should. Repeat until done.
I've flirted with disaster at Haliburton. To this day, I'm not sure what I did wrong. My mood turned dark at 35 miles and I had a hard time shaking it off at around mile 45. It took me by surprize and still today, I go back to that trail and I remember, but I don't understand what happened. It's so vivid. This time, my goal is to not go to the dark place, even during rough patches. This will be my biggest challenge.
So this weekend, I decide. I have a long workout on Sunday, between 5 and 6 hours. This time, I should be running most of it. I will be trying my entire arsenal: running shoes (La Sportiva Crosslites), Microspikes (Kahtoola) and snowshoes (Dions) pulling my trusty Sancho-the-pulk. Play with nutrition. I might test my stove skills for good measure. After that, I'll know.
I'm afraid. So what?