While running with a friend this morning, change and Zen came into discussion. In short there was a race recap and a discussion that change is a constant, as neither of us were certainly the same runners we were a few years back. The transition went on to our attempts, as humans, to harness energy, of a river which is constantly changing, but in those attempts to do so we lose the energy, and thus all we have in just a bucket of water. I believe this is Alan Watts, whose books I have not yet read. What strikes me as more interesting, after the fact, is that my race recap to this friend, was just a snapshot, of not even the energy from that race in the past, but more a snap shot of where my mind wandered post-processing in the two weeks after the fact.
It likely follows, that each my race recaps to any single person over the past two weeks, have also been representative of one specific thing one my mind at that instant. I have have been inadequate in describing it as a whole, as it is these experiences which become fleeting snapshots. Similar to the few photos I took, they failed to come close to capturing anything more than a glimpse into the energy, the spirit and the entirety of what was my Bear 100. I am going to attempt a recap, with words, hoping that I can begin to paint it out loud, partially as an exercise to do it justice and partially to share how amazing these events are (to me).
A bit ironic, I suppose, that I have the intent of not sharing photos, because I signed up for this race nine and a half months ago based solely on photos. Social media porn galore, photos of fall colors at their finest, reds, yellows, and lush soft dirt, later tossed together with images of the torrential rains and slip’n’slide mud shows that were the end descriptors of the 2014 event. Two years prior, this race had snow on the course, and reported overnight lows in the high 20’s. If you know me at all, you’ll know these are almost my most favorable running conditions. Desperation to either rewind time or escape the looming reality of my everyday world at that point made it far too easy to click “add to cart” and “submit”. Temporarily ignoring the fact that I had jumped into the lotteries for two more of the country’s most epic 100 mile trail races made; for a short amount of time, the possibility of three 100’s over the summer was present. Potentially epic exhaustion, suffering and beauty from running in the mountains? I’m all in.
I spent the first half of the summer living life, training while still enjoying all of the reasons I moved to Utah, despite a small bobble and a hamstring injury, I felt in great shape. Yet, I was mentally non-commital to this race and told the most supportive people in my life, that they shouldn’t count on me running and thanked them for gracious offers to travel out here for it. Fast forward through a few mental and physical roadblocks in July, and said hamstring crankiness re-appeared. A taper filled with lots of driving, flying and a last ditch bike ride and impromptu bike trail reconnaissance run had me doubtful at best, optimistic at worst. The Monday before the race, I was not even sure I would start. Wednesday rolled around and I realized I should probably pack drop bags. Thursday, I was in Logan and picked up my number.
The race was one hundred miles (actually 99.7 by someone else’s GPS estimates). I completed it in 26 hours and 18 minutes. While that is barely a day and relatively short in a lifespan, it really is almost a million years and yet a few short minutes at the same time. I can barely summarize it by telling you how spectacular this area is. The colors, the sun rising to reveal single track beneath your feet swapped by screaming yellow aspen. The blue sky; deep, cliffed out canyon walls with muddled oranges and bright red maples. Up one canyon down the next, it became up for 4-10 miles, down for 4-10 miles. Meandering creeks and open high alpine valleys would have convinced you that you were in the Unitas or West Yellowstone, yet portions of the side-hill traverses and scrub oak had the familiarity of the Wasatch. Hero dirt descents and nasty, rutted, steep dirt bike trails under a full moon and sky free from light pollution. And the stars! “For I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream!” (V.V.G.) I ran faster, or slower, than expected, both exceeding my expectations and disappointing myself at the same time. I ran with a friend, but yet wanted to be all alone (not to discredit company in any manner). I spent a great portion of the time both loving the immediate space I was in and yet wanting to ride my bike there, or get out of the damn sun, all at once. A bit paradoxical contrast to your mental love of this space, this challenge and yet the immediate physical desire to either run faster (yelling “wheeeeeeeeee!”) or get out of that spot, that proverbial bucket of water that you can’t fully capture.
I think the desire to do these things is best explained similarly to the way people describe addictions, I don’t know why, there is just a physical, emotional and mental pull that comes with them. That is rarely replaced over the course of a five hour run. I do know why, and my best attempt at description of that, is that I ultimately crave being alone in this head space. 26 hours, relatively alone in your head to turn the world around so many times, to solve problems, and deconstruct and rebuild life, and yet at the same time, empty space to not think at all. To just move, and breath in the surroundings around you, and just be. If you know me at all this is why I “run”. I have offended a few friends this past year by not sharing my runs with them. It has been really hard on me to begin to explain that, my run is extremely personal, emotional, joyous and can be frustrating, if I share one, it is a big deal. I don’t always want to let people in to that headspace, but I love to share it with others. It is important to me. From my perspective. I hope it is important to you.
The recap I gave this morning, is something I am still mulling over. I left Bear, exhausted, exhillirated, and frustrated. Depending on when you spoke to me, you may have gotten any part of that. Two weeks post-partum, I am left with the realization that despite having run my fastest 100 ever, I didn’t push myself that hard (I am fully aware that this may sound pompous). I ran conservatively, for many reasons. It is hard to gauge and turn off your limiter in these races, I played it safe and exceeded time expectations. It has been the more recent thought bubble that I don’t take risks in these “races” anymore though that has plagued me, I haven’t redlined a race in a long time. I do this for a living, and in so many aspects of my life, that the overanalyzed conservative bet is how you should roll. The last risk I took, I lost big; maybe the immediate frustration is feeling that I don’t know how take risks anymore? I look forward to the next race where, at least physically, I can experiment with going for broke.
Well, I l’ve lied to you. There is one picture. The second sunrise, with seven miles to go, on the ridge overlooking Bear Lake. No words really exist to describe this space, but with that I can leave you to begin to imagine…