Since my experience at the Haliburton 100 mile trail race I have been trying to find a way to say: I failed. In a year where you experience so many personal successes, it’s a hard pill to swallow. The question at the end of it all is: can you be proud of putting forth the effort but not succeeding?
I think about the Canadian boys and girls, the ones that come together as a team and represent Canada in many different international hockey tournaments. They are expecting to win gold, so too is everyone in Canada. Hockey is our game, and nobody else belongs on top other than Canada.
On the morbid side, a nation doesn’t go to war with aspirations to loose. Whatever the nonsensical ‘reason’ to risk you life, the goal isn’t to go and die. Lucky for me running isn’t really a life or death matter. The only thing I think I risk by entering a race is perhaps a damaged ego.
Running isn’t a matter of ego for me. Though I am proud to run, and if you know me, you probably wish I’d shut up about it. But it’s deeper than that for me. That is why I surprised myself.
Before the Hali 100, you’d hear me say, I’d crawl it in if I had to. Nothing short of death is going to stop me from making it to the finish line. The last 10 km of my race was filled with, I guess you’d say, soul searching. I came to realize that the painful step forward was in fact, much too slow. I had been trying to muster up a shuffle in an effort to keep up a pace. But I couldn’t hold it.
The thought had entered my mind before I made it to 50 miles – Maybe I should pull the plug. My whole chain from my low back straight through my knee and shins was pretty adamant at each step that I was in for some serious pain. I found that side stepping down the hills would calm the aggravation. Since there was a massage therapist at aid station 2 (AS2), I focused my thoughts on making it there and shut out any thought of calling it quits.
When I got there, she had been out for a run, so I made my way around Norwac trail with a new friend, David. On my return to AS2, I stopped in to have my leg loosened up. Rhonda noticed that I was in bad shape and actually applied dynamic tape (a version of KT tape) hoping that it would help take some of the tension of my IT band (what I thought was the problem). Even after spending 30 minutes (and possibly more) hanging around AS2 I still managed to complete 50 miles in 9 hours 45 minutes and I was holding on to 6th place.
During the introspective hours in between aid stations on my way to the 75-mile marker, a thought pattern started to develop. I would ask myself what it would mean to me if I stopped. As I sit hear a write, I think back onto the several failures I dealt with throughout my life. To me they feel like they were expected failures. They were a result of a half-assed effort at something that I had no desire to succeed at. When I want something, I obsess over it. Practice and practice, learn, develop, succeed. Having let the doubt enter my mind, I squash any thought of pulling the plug as quickly as possible.
It wasn’t until I was hobbling along my last 10 km of my race that I let the thoughts of pulling the plug manifest. I finally came to terms with the fact that I was in no shape to make it to 75 miles, let alone making it another 25 miles back to the finish.
“Are you ok?” A fellow runner asked as he was running past.
“No.” Admission is the first step to recovery.
“Do you want me to send for someone when I get to the aid station?”
“Sure, but I don’t think they will be able to make it back here.” I was in the wilderness on single and there was no way even 4-wheeler was making its way back here. Thankfully, with about 1 or 2 km to AS7 I turned a corner and I was back on a road, and then a small mercy was offered to me. Greg pulled up, got out of the car and confirmed with me.
“Is it over?”
I had never been happier than at that moment to get in my car. Greg drove us back to AS7 where there was a campfire going and I sat around it with volunteers and runners for another hour or so before we headed back to Base Camp, cleaned up and went to sleep.
In the morning (4 hours later) I got up and helped myself to some food. I made my way over the finish line and hung around as people continued to cross the finish line. It was actually very moving to see people come across the finish and burst with emotion. “I fucking did it” I figured they were thinking to themselves. Some cried the thought; others expressed it with excitement and enthusiasm.
I saw Real whom I was running with as we made our way out from AS5 to the turnaround. It was his first 100 miler and he had a sprint finish to keep his 6th place finish, something I haven’t heard of in a 100 mile race.
The brunch and award ceremony had been delayed. Gerg and I decided to head back home since it was getting close to 2 pm. Though it would have been pretty amazing to see this fella make his way in. An older guy, had been there year over year trying finish the 100 mile race. This year on his tenth attempt, he finished it.
Never give up.