Friday, March 28, 2014

Mountain Sports Suck

As I stuffed my refilled water bottle in my shorts and began to walk out of the Candy Store aid station, a volunteer shouted to me, "You have about ten and a half miles left." Exhausted, I turned and shot him an evil scowl, to which he replied," if...if you care."  I tried to change my scowl into a smile, but all energy for any niceties was being preserved for my slog back to the finish.  With in half of a mile I was back on the technical single track I had already covered three times.  As the sun beat down on me I thought for a second how nice it would have been to drop from the race at the last aid station.  My legs decided they had had enough a couple miles before, but somewhere in my exhausted mind I was convinced that they didn't know what they were talking about, "We've still got to get our tired ass back to Blue Jay Campground," I thought.  It was time to grit my teeth and run myself into the ground, and as I attempted this, I couldn't help but to think, "man, mountain sports suck."

I grew up the son of a surfer, and thus was thrust into an early life that revolved around the ocean.  Tides and swell were the subject of constant thought, drawing perfect "A-frame" peaks and hollow right handers in my school note books instead of math equations or important dates in history. Summers were spent surfing fun south swells in San Clemente and when the weather got cooler and the North Pacific began turning out swell we would head down to San Diego County.  This was the world I knew, but somewhere in there, at some point the mountains began to interest me.  This was my down fall.  I began climbing and then running.  I gave up the snow board for the more efficient skis, but efficiency in the mountains only means that you have a better means to suffer.  If you carry less you can move faster, but this also means that you have less comfort, less warmth, less "# 1" type fun, and more "# 2" type fun (#1 being having fun in the moment; #2 being the event is fun after it is finished).
Mike cruising in the Santa Monicas

As I ran and hiked in the hot sun at mile 43 I thought to myself, "I could have just stuck with surfing, I could be hanging out on a beach," But, instead I was learning how to suffer better, developing the ability to harness any grit I might have.  And why? Why do this to yourself again and again, returning to the mountains whom seemingly, at least, are indifferent to you and, at most, hostile to your presence? I am not sure of the answer.  Perhaps its an unhealthy addiction that many of us share for the energy of the mountains.  Or perhaps its that this environment allows you to dive to the depths of your own being, and suffering is the vehicle which helps you feel the reality of your mind and body.  The more suffering, the more you are stripped down.  All things become simplified enabling the movement of the body and mind in unison.  Miles, eventually tick by, step by step.

Old Goats 50 miler was a great experience, and although I would have liked to have a few more weeks on hard training under my belt, I learned where my weak spots were, and what I can focus on more in the next few weeks before Zane Grey.  "Thanks" to Steve for putting on the race and for all of the supportive words from the other competitors.  The ultra community never ceases to amaze me.
Jess and I atop Timber Mountain
The sight of future suffering: AC 100

And for those who are curious here is my race set up:

 Top: Patagonia Cap 1 Camo
Bottom: Patagonia Strider Pro 
Feet: Patagonia Everlongs, Injinji LW
Food: I mainly just used Hammer Sustained Energy in my bottle, but I carried some powergels and Pocket Fuel Java Shots for a quick boost if I needed it.
Other: Soft flask bottles, Trout headband.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Erik

    I have been reading your posts and I can relate to much of what you say. I want to provide encouragement and support. You are an amazing athlete. I am a runner who likes running the mountains as long as I don't sprain my ankle which I do all too often because I am clumsy and uncoordinated. I have not run an ultra race and admire those who can do it. But despite this I am almost 57 years old and have been running since I was 15 so it does remain enjoyable and fullfilling.