They say the first step to recovery is an admission of guilt. This is my story.
It started out like this. Some months ago Darren-endurance-athlete-extraordinaire-McGregor sent me an online communicator note asking, “BF100 registration opens today, do you want to?” I paused, my mind spiraling into the permutation and combinations of repercussions. “OK”, I replied. “Really??” the message came back. Seconds later we were both signed up for our first 100km trail run.
Fast forward some months later. Saturday May 25, 4:59AM to be exact, I find myself in an outhouse near the start line at the Cooking Lake Blackfoot Prov Rec Area. “Chad, I think they just started,” said Darren also dropping a pre-race deuce in the next outhouse. “I’ll wait for you.”
We walk quickly but casually over to the now vacant starting line, the race director standing there blinking at us. “Uh, we missed the pre-race meeting. Is there anything we need to know?” I ask him. “No, just GO GO GO!” he yells at us.
Knowing a couple minutes won’t make or break a 100km race, I slowly shuffle off down the trail. Darren-I-don’t-know-how-to-pace-McGregor sprints off ahead. “See ya at the finish!” I shout after him. A few minutes later I catch up to him as he latched onto a pack of runners shuffling along even slower than me. We keep pace with this group for a few kilometers before we decide it’s too slow. We find our own pace and settle in for a long day.
For those unfamiliar with ultra-marathon running (i.e., anything longer than 42.2km) the pace is typically slow. For mere mortals, you conserve energy by walking up hills, you stop at aid stations to eat, you run the rest, but slowly. We’re not Kilian Jornet. We don’t have a VO2 max of 89.5
Mortals suffer. Badly. Pain management is the name of this game. They say ultras are 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Some people think we’re totally mental.
My day is spent thinking about each and every footstep, trying not to trip or slip, trying to keep moving forward, somewhere. In the Blackfoot PRA the wetlands are too numerous to keep track of, the hills too insignificant to be memorable, the trail too consistently muddy to be recognizable. The only way to track my progress is by the aid stations spread at approximately 5km intervals around the 25km loop we have to do 4 times. 100km is too far to comprehend. 5km to the next aid station makes it mentally manageable. And with each aid station brings the satisfaction of fistfuls of salty potato chips, fruit and soup broth.
Hours blend into each other. My kids are waking up now and watching cartoons. I’m still running. Now they’re probably eating lunch. It’s starting to rain. “Is that all you got?!” Darren-I’m-too-muddy-to-care-McGregor screams at Mother Nature. Now it’s a downpour. I’m still running. It’s afternoon, I wonder if they’re napping. The mud is thicker and greasier. A cold wind howls. I’m still running. Finally, late afternoon and I see the finish line. I want to cry but I’m too tired. A small crowd cheers me in. I cross the line but find it hard to stop moving. Endorphins and adrenaline surging. I pace around grinning like an idiot. Oh man, this is going to be hard to kick…
Hello, my name is Chad and I’m an ultraholic, results here.