Tuesday, May 8, 2018

In the Tent

Note: The 2018 Zumbro Endurance Run was one for the ages.  Of 120 runners who started, only 20 finished. This post is not meant to be any disrespect to the runners who did not finish.  Everyone had their reasons, and they were all making the best decision for themselves at the time they decided to either stop or keep going.  I have Huge respect for everyone who toed the line that day and DNF or finish, they were all warriors. This is just me struggling through understanding the day for myself and explaining the moment, for me, that decided the race.

It’s been almost a month since Zumbro.  I still have times where the full magnitude
of the race is lost on me.  120 runners, strong trained runners, started the race,
only 20 of us finished.  People tell me that it was amazing, that they could never
have done it. They are trying to be encouraging and congratulatory to me, but it
doesn’t click for me.  My coach tells me that I am still underestimating the
accomplishment. He’s way more experienced than I am, and really knows his stuff.
It’s still hard for me to believe.

I suppose they are right.  A 100 mile race is a huge undertaking, it took months of preparation and more than a day of running to finish.  I know it was something big. Logically, I can look back at the distance, the time on feet, the weather, and understand what they are saying. But….
I don’t understand it, I don’t really see what I did as anything that anyone else couldn’t do.  I mean, I’m a 35 year old special education with hypertension. What makes what I did so “amazing?”  
Then I think back to the tent.  Maybe, just maybe, the tent is where the “amazing” happened at Zumbro.

I remember going to the tent to warm up and possibly change shoes. I entered
the tent and was given a chair near the woodstove. Then I remember sitting in the
chair by the wood stove, talking to Rick and Jim.  I was uncertain about continuing.
I had been running for almost 27 hours, I was tired, I was sore, and I knew the
conditions were getting worse. Jim was telling me to go for it. He had dropped
after Five laps.  FIVE LAPS where he had fought a nagging foot injury but kept going.
Rick told me that I should go for it. He had been with me for 34 excruciating miles
of snowstorm. He knew what it was like and maybe, just maybe, he saw what I had
in me more than I did.

I was angry, A strong part of me wanted to quit, but the voice inside was saying to take the chance.  In the tent I was trying to wait for my shoelaces to thaw out so I could change shoes and socks. I had already swapped out the top layers I had been wearing for 83 miles.
My gloves were, literally, frozen.  I had had my hands balled in fists the last 10 miles because the fingers of my gloves were chunks of ice.  Pulling out a soft flask with frozen gloves is no easy feat. “Ok,” the the doubt whispered to me, “your gloves are frozen, you NEED to stop.” Jim handed me his gloves. “You can get them back to me later,” he said. Excuse gone.
I looked down at my shoes.  The frozen mud was the size of ping-pong balls on my laces, they would not budge.  Rick went out and filled my water bottles with water and fuel. I looked at my laces again.  They were never going to thaw quickly enough.

I knew that the longer I stayed by the woodstove, the more my resolve would weaken.  The little voice in my head said I can’t run in those shoes.. I needed new shoes, and my old ones were frozen and muddy.  New shoes would be great, but there was no way these shoes were coming off quickly.
I thought about what Jim and Rick had said.  I thought about the clock. I had more than seven hours to complete 16.7 miles, though a blizzard, going solo.  That was the moment that I found “amazing.” It wasn’t the miles I put on, or the conditions, it was what I thought and said next that, looking back on it, are amazing to me.

My thoughts were starting to form something coherent. “Ok, these shoes are not coming off any time soon.  This really sucks, my feet hate me, and new shoes would be awesome.  I’ve run in muddy shoes before, so what’s the problem? Are you looking for an excuse to quit?  If you’re going to go, you need to go NOW! I looked around the tent. These shoes REALLY aren’t coming off.I looked at Rick and the others.  “I’m not switching shoes, I’m going now.” Rick put
my bottles in their pockets and loaded my fuel in my pouches and that was it.  
With no fanfare, I exited the tent.

Looking back on it, to me, THAT was an amazing part of Zumbro.  A year ago, attempting a 100 mile run was nowhere on my radar. Even 6 months ago, after Wild Duluth, I might have allowed myself to drop, knowing that I had already done something amazing.  Zumbro added a new meaning to “hard” for me. It pushed me to limits that I didn’t even know I had. Maybe that is the amazing thing? All I do know is that the turning point happened, for me, in the tent.

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