Tuesday, June 7, 2016

After The Storm.....

               “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

               That seems the most logical place to start. How does one go about pouring into words what it was like to complete a 100 mile ultra marathon? I set out to settle a score with the Kettles. My first attempt at the Kettle 100 in 2013, I called it quits at 100k. I had no crew, I miscalculated my caloric intake, didn't drink enough, and started out too fast. Mentally, I was finished. This time I did more research regarding dietary shifts. I have never experienced a 100 miler so I had no frame of reference. I understood the shifts required for a 50 miler. 100 is a completely different animal. I divided the race into three sections. Carbs, proteins, and fat. Yes, fat. I watched a documentary in which a woman set out to tackle a speed record over the course of 200 miles of Appalachian Trail. Late miles she was eating bacon. I did more reading to find that in late miles it made perfect sense. Maple smoked bacon has sugar, protein, fat. After you've pushed your body to the brink, it starts hitting your fat stores. Most everything after 100k made my stomach clench. Later I tried gel, banana, even hamburger, all tightening my gut. I would put them in my mouth and not swallow to see what the taste would do. My crew member gave me some beef jerky as I was out of bacon and needed calories badly. Jerky worked. After that the only thing I could stomach to the finish was Gingins and bacon. Regarding my mental approach, I decided that they were going to have to peel me off that course. If I could take one more step, I could continue.
                I mentioned crew. I commonly go without crew. All of my 50s are solo. My first attempt was no crew. That was a learning experience. Not having someone there to help me focus on getting out of that aid station was too much of a tempting situation. You come into Nordic, there's the car. You're at 100k, you can go to the car, but turn around and you've got another handful of hours to go another 37 miles. 100s are a different animal as I said. I will never do a hundred solo. When you reach a breaking point, there is nothing like having someone in your corner. I wouldn't have made it out of the Nordic trailhead without my pacers helping me keep my head down and get prepped to get out of there ASAP. I most likely would have ducked out. Then, as I continued on, I had someone there checking in on me as I went. Seeing that familiar face was huge. After I made it to my last drop bag, I knew it was about taking another step, and another. I had my nutrition dialed in, just stay alert and keep up with my changes. I didn't get GI distress, and didn't vomit. A Gingin here, a couple strips of bacon there, some water. I just listened attentively to my body.
               I usually think about everything as I run, and I mean everything. Not this time. My head was in the race the whole time. I knew wandering thinking in this situation was my enemy. A couple mantras got me through. One was the fact that "pain doesn't kill you, it just hurts." Another was the 40% rule. There is a theory used by Special Forces that when you first want to quit, you are actually only at 40% exertion and you have more to give. My everything went into staying present. What did my body need? I was probably even a bit stiff and stoic of mind. I did occasionally take a moment to look at the stars since out there in the forest you see all of them, inhale the scent of pine I was surrounded by, listen intently to the wildlife and the breeze through the trees. I did start to see things about 9am. Dark shadows racing by. It was interesting because I wasn't hallucinating, just seeing stuff. I could disregard the visuals easily. 
               Once I crossed that line, I got a little choked up. The weight of what just happened hit me. It hit me that I traversed 100 miles in a single go of it. My crew was immeasurably valuable. I tried to make sure they knew it. When I got done I took a 2 hour nap in the car before I dared go anywhere. Then I slept for 15 hours.
               Will I do this again? Probably, next year or the following. Now that I have one under my belt, I'd like to get one under 24 hours. The support I got on this race was amazing. I felt the love. I'm so grateful for everything I have. I am not the same person I was a few days ago. How could I be?