My phone buzzed at 3:00 am and I woke ready to stop trying to sleep and just start running. Finally, after months of waiting, at 5:00 am we were off headed for Altadena. We patiently climbed the acorn trail in the dark, hopped onto the PCT, and were cruising down to Inspiration Point by the time the sun came up. Everything felt right. I was running comfortably, letting Chris, Dom, and the others speed off ahead. “We’ve got plenty of miles to tire ourselves out,” I thought.
Over Baden-Powell, splash in Little Jimmy, Islip, Eagle’s Roost, slight low point, climb out up to Cloudburst, float down to Three Points, and off to Hillyer. It all seemed somewhat effortless, but before I knew it things were turning on me. By the time I arrived at Chilao my gut was beginning to be non-cooperative. “I can’t run downhill without it feeling like its going to explode,” I thought, “Fuck!!!” So I walked out of Chilao, shuffled up to Charlton Flats, and walked down the canyon to get to Shortcut. There was no part of me that could fathom walking the next 40 miles. At Shortcut Peter dumped coffee down my throat trying to convince my gut to let go of whatever it was holding onto, but the pain only increased. I still don’t know if there really was any other choice, but then and there my only option was to call it a day.
Two days later and I just sit here to try to experience those moments somewhere in the illusionary land of my memory. Could something have been different? Could I have turned it around? That time and place it over a dead now, and yet in my mind I have carefully tried to recreate the scene of my crew trying to push me out and down the road, and me only knowing the pain of my bursting gut. In this imaginary movie scene I float around searching the place for a hint of something that I couldn’t see then. I can hear Peter’s stern words and see Jess’ looks of support and concern. I see the faces of the people I wanted to impress and I can still feel the weight of letting them down when the scissors cut through my wrist band.
The more time I spend replaying that scene the more I get lost. I can’t find that missing piece, and none of it is real anymore. The race is over. I go back and forth trying to tell myself that I doesn’t really matter anyways. Its just one race in a niche sport that most of the world doesn’t even know exists. On the other side of the coin is a long focused effort that ultimately was unsuccessful, and that does seem to have some level of tangibility and importance, even if its only in my own myopic world. Any real resolution continues to evade me.
Congrats to all of the finishers, and especially to Ruperto for running a very smart and calculated race. Thank you to all of the people who spoke encouraging words to me during the race, most notably Katie’s mom Joan: what a wonderful lady. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew captain in Jess. She was encouraging when I needed it, and militant when it was necessary; she’s a true bad ass.
In a few hours I will have to sign up for next year’s race, and the journey starts all over. And so it goes.