“You can run on for a long time
run on for a long time
run on for a long time…”
God’s Gonna Cut You Down
I started the last lap, my last lap, basically at midnight. No fanfare and no cheering from anyone. I was alone and I was more alone that I have ever been. No “pacer” and no friend(s) to cheer or help me along. I was alone.
I could not even run. I was power walking and jogging when I could, which was going to be very, very rare. Once I had started the 7th lap I was not cold. I knew that mentally, but my body refused to listen to reason, or my head.
That propane heater is “The Bitch”, but also an angel. She was both to me that night. I loved her and I hated her.
When the witching hour was approaching I had to dig deep in my soul to get going and to see into the future. I saw myself sitting there for the next nine hours, which would be okay, but not okay. Not okay in my mind.
The 7th lap started for me and I had just rounded the small loop at the starting line. This was the final point to determine whether or not I was ready to run and complete another lap. After all, if there was any reason to say “no more” then this was the point to give up. I saw the tent at the starting line and then I saw myself shuffling by. And I did. I shuffled by and saw the first faint glow stick in the distance.
I reached the point of no return and I knew that this was going to be a lap that determined my outcome of the 24 hours of Boulder. As I saw and passed the tent with “The Bitch” I really got choked up. There were no tears, but a huge lump in my throat. This lap meant a lot to me. Meaning, I was going to run 50 miles officially and that meant a lot to me to look forward to.
I ignored every runner who was running towards me. I had neither the strength to respond nor the will to acknowledge the other fellow runners in the middle of the night. I had to concentrate on my lap and ignore all other “things” while doing that last lap. The most important thing was not to stop. If I fucking stop on the course I knew that was going to be the end of me.
I can see myself saying “Oh let me rest for a few minutes,” but that would turn into a quarter of an hour and me still taking a break. I did not want that to happen nor did I want to see any other runners see me do that. Yes, to me that is shameful, but I did not want to be that guy with the Southpark Jersey “taking a break” on the racecourse. No. Not ever.
Oh Readers, It was tough. I struggled, but I made sure to keep moving to the halfway point. The moon was out in her full glory and the night was warm. What a nice gesture by the biking gods. A lot of runners passed me by in the opposite direction, but only a few passed me by while going in the same direction. Thank goodness.
There were some cold pockets of air around the reservoir, but nothing to be worried about. At this point in the 24 hours of Boulder I had been over the racecourse 12 times. I knew the course and I knew terrain. So, when I neared the halfway point I started to get choked up. I think my eyes got a little teary eyed. I was just happy to make the halfway point alone and in with my mind intact.
There was a new volunteer manning the halfway point and he was a very nice guy. I checked in and then I asked if there was a local bus running on Sunday outside the Boulder Reservoir. He said he did not know. He then asked me what could he do for me. At this point I got really choked up. This was not from him saying that, but I knew in my heart that this was my last lap. I asked for more coke and to fill my water bottle with Coke, while I use the potty-a-potty. He was literally an angel in the night.
The volunteer asked me for a picture of me and I said not a problem. I think I smile as much as I could. I hope he remembers me and the kindness I thought he gave to me. I had some pretzels and chips before leaving the half way point. I needed some salt to get me going. I knew the return trip was going to test my soul. I grabbed another handful of pretzels and stuck them in my windbreaker jacket pocket for eating on my return trip to the starting line.
3.57 miles I had left to the start line. Basically, three and a half miles to go. However, I was a fucking mess and I was in no fucking condition to continue. Yet, the mental side of me had to continue since I wanted to say I did 50 miles come after the event. Well, not to say, but to brag to every one. I mean, come on, how many times can you say that you ran 50 miles within 24 hours. Especially 24 hours in boulder, more than a mile high sea level.
To me that is an awesome accomplishment. Out of 20 males that ran solo I was one of those 20 solo males. I have to say that I was not the last solo male to run a last place finish time, which to me was great. Well, more than great. As my ex-co-worker would say just “Awesome.”
I am happy to say that I did not stop once during that return trip to the starting line. Though, I was reduced to a shuffling sort of walking. I was sort of walking like the “Terminator” in the first Terminator movie. Left foot and then right foot, left foot then right foot. One foot in front of the other. You know when the Terminator got blown up in the Gas tanker and then the Terminator was chasing Kyle and Sarah to and in the factory.
In my mind I knew this was the last lap of the 24 hours of Boulder, but I wanted to push myself to the limit.
When I was on that last lap of mine I looked around me. I really looked. I looked at other runners doing the 24 hours of Boulder. I saw for the first time the best of the best of ultra-runners. And here I am in the middle of all of them.
I crossed the first of last two dams and I was hurting. Yet, not hurting enough to keep going.
Readers, at this point I was not walking / shuffling in a straight line. I was walking crooked. And yes, it fucking sucked. I was reduced to walking. And on top of that I was feeling pain in my feet and legs. And to top that off mentality, I was beginning to crack.
What I did not want to think about I started to think about. I started to estimate how far I had to run/walk to the start/finish line. Every step closer I thought about how far I had to go. I saw in the distance where I knew the start/finish line was but could not actually see. To me that is the most dangerous thing to think about when you know that you are at the end of your ropes.
I would have to estimate that I was about 2 miles away when a “fellow” runner asked if I was OK.
“No, I am not.” I whispered.
She looked at me and said something else, but I cannot remember for the life of me what was said.
“Should I get help?” she asks.
“You know better to ask, no help is available.” I whispered
“OK” and she quickly disappears into the darkness.
This was so close to the end and I started to worry about finishing this last lap. Many runners passed me coming in the opposite direction. And the few runners that passed me in the dark asked me if I was OK. Every time I heard that I would get choked up a bit. I mean how often is that someone asks if you are okay to keep running?
The last two miles I estimated were the worst. I was shuffling in a crooked step and I had a mission to finish this lap. I did not want to quit. I have quit before (in my past) and I did not want to quit again. I wanted to come and share with you Readers that I did something extraordinary to you.
I started to change my thinking when I really started to focus on distance. Mentality, I started to count my footsteps. I remembered what I do when I am biking and have to climb a hill. Just like the military “One, two, three, four, I love the marine core.” And I only do that when I need to get into a rhythm. I knew I could not use that exact same line, so I counted each step and I went as high as twenty and then started the count over. I have to say that helped me concentrate on each step taken as opposed to thinking how far I had to go with each step.
I struggled during that last mile of the loop. I knew that I had most likely ran my last loop on the dirt portion of the course and now the pavement greeted me for perhaps the very last time. What I did not know nor prepare for was the other runners knowing who I was at this point in the event and morning. Apparently, I was the guy that had a huge blister and continued to run on it. I was the guy that was struggling to complete another lap. I was the guy with the flashing glow stick.
“Hey, you have 200 yards to go” someone said to me.
With that I knew that people knew who I was trying to complete this last lap of mine. No one special, but someone who was struck down with an injury and was trying to complete another lap.
When I approached that last little loop a woman approached me. She offered water, food, and to accompany me on the small loop portion of the course. And she offered what I needed. Truth be told I did not know what I needed. I nodded no and whispered “no” while going forward.
“Are you sure that you do not need someone to accompany you around?”
Internally I cried. I was fucking beat tired. I did not want this woman to accompany me on the last loop, but I also did not want to really offend her. I was crying deeply inside, but not showing how I really felt. However, I wanted to stop and say thank you for the offer.
I whispered “No. I am okay. Thank you.” And again - I whispered this.
There were no tears shed on that small loop, but I cried a bit. I cried a bit since this was the last lap and I knew that I was not going to go any further.
Before approaching the start tent, the small loop, I heard “hey there is the guy with that blister.”
So, almost everyone heard of me is what I was thinking. With that there was a reason not to give up. I had less than a 100-yard to run; yet someone offered to run those last 100 yards with me.
Wow. I was impressed, but I said no and kept going. After all, I did fucking good up to this point in the race.
Turning the last corner was painful, but also I knew that this was the end. One – I was past the statistics of runners giving up and two I was fucking great for completing 50 miles within 24 hours (officially in 19 hours and 2 minutes).
I approached the table and signaled with my right hand across the throat “No mas” I whispered hoarsely No More. I knew that I should not have done that, but realistically I knew that I was not going to get to the position where I could fucking care for another lap to run with 5 hours left. After all, it was just an event. And I did fucking well.
4:02 A.M. – I was done. I hated to be done, but physically I had to call it. No More. No Mas. No More. Done.
“The Bitch” was waiting for me to accompany her in the tent. She promised warmth and comfort from the cold and tired, which was me. I could not help myself. I walked to the tent and I saw “the Bitch.” She was giving out heat and I could feel that heat from the entrance of the tent. I felt a tear go down my right cheek. I did not realize how emotional I was at 4:02 A.M. but to know that I said “no more” was a relief. Mentally and physically, I was beat, but knowing that I did not have to do another lap was the best thing for me.
I dared not to go to sleep, since I was afraid of passing out so I kept awake and watched others come and go in the tent with “the Bitch” offering her warmth from the cool night.
I am going to write about the solo woman runner who eventually came the woman to run the most laps as a solo runner. She came into the tent after 4 A.M. I have no clue who she was and it is not important to me.
What is important that she showed signs of what I just showed up when I called “no mas.” Yet, in her case she had a pacer.
What I saw and heard in an hour’s worth was amazing. This runner had run her time. She was at the end of her running of her event, but not quite sure if she was done. And when I mean by not quite sure, I would say that she had 99 % given up. Yet, there was that 1 % left that was unsure. With her pacer she was there to change and urge her on for one more lap. Basically, not to give up. There was no yelling. There was “or else” speech. From her pacer she offered support. She offered drink. She offered food (soup). She offered the possibility of just on more lap. Just one more. The pacer told her not to get “too close” to the propane heater, the one I have come to reference as “the bitch.” Her pacer said it is only cold since the heater is giving out heat. Just start running again and the pacer promised to her that it would be okay out there on the course.
Me seeing and hearing this was pretty fantastic to see. I truly saw and heard how a pacer can help a runner in the middle of the night. If I had a pacer could I have run another lap? I do not know.
I am happy to say that with her pacer’s talking this solo female runner to run another lap got the runner the first place among the solo female runners. I witnessed that morning the will of a pacer and runner working together.
Overall, in those last hours I saw and heard the will of many runners trying to get another lap in before the deadline. I heard others trying to calculate in getting their 100 miles in before 9 A.M. I saw the other guy I saw that brought only a backpack like me snoring away across the tent in front of “the Bitch.”
When I saw the morning colors of dawn I was very, very happy even though I did not show it. I made it Readers. 24 hours in Boulder. I made it through the night. I ran 50 miles in 19 hours. Again, I made it through the night. I even took a picture of me sun burned and very, very tired in the last hours of the 24 Hours of Boulder, which is one of the pictures that I have posted on today’s blog post.
Until the next time
The Fallen Athlete