What is a successful race?
Everybody that runs races has a different definition. To some it is finishing 1st, for some it is being in the top 5 or top 10. For some it is just being out on the trails enjoying the experience. For some it just finishing, even if it is in last place, but maybe if you learn something, no matter what the outcome, it is still a successful race.
Going into HG, I just wanted to finish. Training had gone well, enough. (You always wish you had run more) I had run most of the course over the last few weeks. I had the utmost confidence that I would be able to finish. I was not stupid enough to think it was going to be easy, but I really thought it was doable.
I had my strategy; I had the best crew ever (thanks Randy, Mark and Brian). I arrived at Camp Bethel Friday afternoon. I had plenty of time to make final preparations and relax. My crew and I went over some last minute details and then it was time to head to Natural Bridge Station for the midnight start. By the way, the race starts at the parking lot for the Glenwood Horse Trail near Hellgate Creek. That is where the name of the race comes from and there is even a gate. That is where we all gather. Horton says a quick prayer for our safety, we all sing the national anthem and we are off. We had been running about a mile or so, when I realized that I was, dead last. I have no problem finishing last, but I thought I probably shouldn’t stay in last place this early into the race, so I picked up the pace and started passing people. The first few miles pass uneventfully, even the infamous creek crossing wasn’t so bad.
The climb up to the parkway was absolutely gorgeous. I had been here a few weeks ago in the daylight. I thought it was beautiful then, but God had something special planed for us this night. The stars were so bright this night. It was hard for me to look down. I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky. The 1st major climb ended at the parkway. I grabbed some PB&J and started down the other side. I don’t really remember much about this section. It seemed like it was a really long way from AS 2 to AS 3 at Camping Gap. The section from there to Headforemost was going to be one of the longest of the race, but I had some incentive to get there. That is the 1st place since the start that I would get to see my crew. I made it to AS 4 in good shape. I was glad to see my crew and I was about 30 minutes ahead of the cutoff. It sure would be nice if I could run faster.
The next 20 some miles were pretty uneventful. I got to see my crew a few times through here, but what I was really looking forward to was, getting to Bear Wallow Gap. That is where Randy would get to start running with me. I finally did make it, but I was only about 15 minutes ahead of the cutoff. I knew that I had to hustle the rest of race, but now I had Randy to run with me. Man, this was a tough section. It was a really long way between Aid Stations. Even Randy became silent for long stretches of time. When Randy stops talking, you know that he’s suffering. At one point, Randy was trying to get me to hurry, but I said the “tank” is empty. In the days after the race I realized how profound this statement was. I just continued to grind down. I was moving and I was even running, but I was so slow at this point. Randy said we needed to get to the last AS by 5:00 pm to have a chance to finish in the 18-hour time limit. I had figured the same thing in my head. The problem was. I was just barely moving. I began to realize that I was not going to be able to finish by 6:00 pm. That means that I would not be an official finisher. There was a lot of stuff running through my very tired brain.
We finally made it to the last AS. It was 5:15. I figured that at my current pace, it might take me 2 hours to cover the last 6 miles. I had a decision to make. Do I finish, do I put my crew though a couple more hours of this, do I put myself through a couple more hours, just to be “NOT AN OFFICIAL” finisher? Do I put the volunteers through this? I decided NO. Was it an easy decision? No, but I think it was the right one
So I did not finish, but I had a successful race, because I had a great time with great friends and I learned a lot.
Here are just a few of the things that I learned.
I learned to pee while walking. (I am getting older, so I pee very often)
I have to eat more high calorie food while doing these long races.
I have some REALLY good friends. Thanks guys.
I can run 60 miles in about 17 hours. If I can double that, I should be able to finish Grindstone.