44 Days Until The Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

“So… do you guys always eat like this or are you just eating like this because you’re with each other?”  David A, Dawn, Mark and I were sitting on the patio of our local pub, waiting for the rest of our teammates to return from the mountain after practice.  It wasn’t an accusatory question at all.  Mark was sincerely wondering.

“Yeah, actually I do,”  I smiled as I dug into my steak, avocado and tomatoes.  “I mean, of course I’m not 100% perfect all the time, but this is an area of my life I choose not to cut corners.”

“I just like how real food tastes,”  Dawn said, while enjoying the exact same thing.  I was liking her more and more each day.

It was only the night before that the group of us, minus one, plus a few more, were enjoying a celebratory dinner at T Phillips, talking about the Mt. Disappointment 50k.  The topic of the overall health of the sport of ultramarathons came up.  I would hesitate to say this is an ongoing ‘debate’ between Eric and I, because quite honestly we are on the same page.  But it has certainly raised some heated discussions over the last few years of our coach/athlete and now even coach/coach relationship.  The truth is that putting a body under that kind of stress is not a healthy thing, and there are long term repercussions for people who select it as their ongoing sport of choice, inclusive of myself.  His question to me is always ‘Why do you do it?’  That is a hard question to answer.

Sitting at the pub the next morning post practice, the same topic was raised again, minus our fearless leader.

“I’m in love with the sport of ultrarunning,”  I explained.  “Because I choose to do something unhealthy to my body by running 100 miles periodically, I have to choose to make healthy choices in other areas.  When I finish a race, I do not reach for a pizza.  I compliment my recovery with anti inflammatory foods.  I get the sleep that I need.  I limit my alcoholic beverage consumption.  I do not train using high ‘junk’ mileage.  I do not race every weekend, but choose a few big events a year.  No one wakes up every morning and makes every healthy choice there is to make.  We all make sacrifices in one way or the other for the things that we love.”

Being given a position as the ultrarunning coach of our team, my job is to get each of our runners across the finish line of whatever their goal may be, as healthy and uninjured as humanly possible.  Having been at both extremes of training, I have a pretty good understanding for this.  But the dangers of the sport are still prevalent.  As I paced the Davids across the finish line of the Mt. Disappointment 50k in the extreme heat, it was only days before that another experienced ultrarunner that I know, braved the heat in a solo run, and died.  The dangers that we face when selecting that distance are very real.

So… WHY?

There is something absolutely life changing about running while watching a sunrise, sunset and the sunrise of the next day.  It is a physical and spiritual journey that unless you have taken it, you simply cannot understand it.  It is a challenge that digs way past the human body, and touches your soul.  I’ve learned more about myself over 100 miles than I have in anything else I’ve ever done in life.  Whether I’ve succeeded or failed, I’ve come out of each of those events better for having experienced them.

Maybe even larger than that is the people that I have met along the way.  There is something extraordinary about the human spirit that reveals itself only in extreme situations.  The friendships I have made with those that have helped me and those that I have helped in events like this form a completely different type of bond than I’ve had with anyone, ever.

When I paced the Davids, of course I did it to help them, but I did it for me too.  Nothing will ever compare to that finish line moment, and especially the journey that the three of us took along the way, and the things that I learned about their spirits that I would never know otherwise – things that I really like.  I believe that we get back from the world what we put into it, and yesterday, my plans for the Rio Del Lago 100 seemed to come together completely.  I was contacted by Steve, an AC100 runner up North that our team helped across the finish line this year.  Grateful for what had been done for him, he generously offered his pacing services to me and I was eager to accept!  Steve was exactly the piece of the equation that was missing for me, having failed at his own AC100 attempt last year, and returned to crush it this year, going top 10.  Between Monya and Steve, I am well equipped to do what needs to be done out there, for myself, and for the love of my sport.  I couldn’t be more excited!

Why?  Because sometimes the body has to make sacrifices for the soul to be complete.  Life isn’t always black and white.  And 100 miles is who I am.

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