Let me start out by providing a short disclaimer about what you are about to read. I am the Veteran of "One" 100-mile start, and "One" 100-mile finish. I am preparing for my next one but that is months away. Therefore, I am not a technical expert. Still, I will write on this subject because I am not thoroughly convinced that an ultrarunner can ever be "ready" for the 100-mile run. If one is clicking on all cylinders; physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared then one still needs an immense amount of Faith, and even more Luck.
So here you are. Just considering an attempt takes a certain type of soul. A true dreamer, a sort of space traveler, the adventurous sort who believes in the possibility of what seems truly impossible. A child of nature wondering about the boundaries of the human spirit. In the 100-mile run strength and training are but a Small Portion of what will be required to finish. This event is truly a metaphysical challenge of all that you are, and what you may become. This is what we search for out there. The True Self. And, my friends, this event is a sure way to find it.
Be prepared to face fear as the energy that you are is drained from your very existence. You will walk in the shadows of light and follow the footsteps of darkness. Your journey is long and difficult and you must ultimately come to face your grandest opponent. That opponent is no other runner, but yourself. You will discover in yourself weakness, and you will struggle with your pitiful human desires of survival. You will be reduced to a staggering corpse, barely able to move. This is when you discover your very essence. Your most basic and deepest strength. You will be pulled apart, and you will know pain. You will feel misery as you sink to the very bottom. This Beast, the 100-mile run, will claim your soul. And, you can't stop it.
Is this what you want? Are you sure? Signing this race application, and sending in your check guarantees a date with destiny. A race with time, when you may become what you always hope to be. This I know. And, I know it because I was out there. It changed how I think, and what I am. And now, the dreaded beast calls my name again; and, again I will respond.
A natural progression it is. We ran the marathon, and then doubled the distance. Many times. So for dreamers like us what must come next? And, I jumped at the bait. Standing on the start line in South Woodstock was surreal. It's four a.m. and you look around you at the faces. These are not crazy people. These are people who know exactly what they want, and are going after it. For 24 hours we will cover one hundred miles of dirt roads, trails, and forest paths, climbing and descending, struggling with doubt and reaching for hope. Such a noble dream. Surely we humans were bred for such challenge. The mind-body connection allows humans to dream big-dreams. And, this is one.
The early miles, even through fifty, are familiar territory. We know that road. Reaching past the sunrise, the warm heat of a New England afternoon, and approaching evening we will pass new limits, break new grounds. Slowly we build, surely we finish. As we move into the darkness, and the second half of the event our conditioned, comfortable, and lazy minds become more and more dependent upon our natural animal instincts. We move as never before. Every single cell in our fragile human shell is now under attack. Yet, we have no intention of stopping. There is no Quitting. Only the finish line or death itself will interrupt this mission. I reached 85 miles in 17 hours. And, i was badly hurt. And, I do mean Badly Hurt. I was unable to keep solids down, and regurgitating the ginger ale the doc was trying to push into me. My mind was in shambles. My actual recall of that aid station is shady to non-existent. Still, on faith alone, I walked out of that aid station into the dark, cold Vermont night, alone. Stumbling by starlight and genuinely hallucinating I lost touch with the reality of my situation. Between 87 and 88 miles I lay fast asleep on the cold dirt trail, curled into a fetal position unable and unwilling to move. All by myself in the deepest, loneliest part of the night.
As I dream I am approached by a little girl, flowing golden hair and white ruffled gown, smiling and dancing. She touched my cheek and sadly smiled at me. She said, "You must rise and walk into the light; out here you will freeze." I didn't know who she was, or where she had came from, but I knew exactly what she meant. She was right and I knew I had to get up. She seemed to help lift me, as I struggled to my feet. I stood slowly, one foot in front of the other, and moved toward that light at the Jenneville Aid Station at 90 miles.
Twenty hours into the run I lay shivering and completely defeated on the cold, wet grass at the 90 mile aid stop. My wife Mary covered me with a blanket. I was now more tired and hurt than i had ever been in my life. I had 10 miles to go, and 10 hours to do it. I didn't think it was possible. I thought i may very well die right there. But Mary hadn't given up. She found a pacer willing to help. Willing to march ten miles through the dark, mountainous Vermont forest with a complete stranger. This is where and when i met Tracy. She looked me dead in the eye as i lay there feeling sorry for my pitiful self, and announced we would be finishing tonight. There was not a doubt, or quiver, in her manner. I immediately believed her.
And we were off. Walking out of the aid station slowly, then a downhill grade where i tried to run. No good, but at least i was moving. I remember the dry heaving and moaning and aching. But Tracy would not give up on me, even when I had quit believing in myself. She literally talked and dragged me into 94, then 96. A final three-mile trail climb before a long descent into Smoke Rise Farm and it was over. Twenty four hours, forty seven minutes, and five seconds. And it was over.
The finish line, like the start line, was surreal. Finshers lay around in all states of disarray and confusion. Human emotions were abundant and overflowing. I lay on a cot surrounded by family, new friends, and medical care. The bloody socks came off with nine of my toenails. The I.V. went in and I cried out, but am not sure whether it was out of pain or joy. I knew immediately this would change my life forever. The air I breath would smell better, i'd care more about those around me, and I would truly be thankful for the opportunity to live on this wonderful and tragic planet.
This all awaits you my friend. This journey of your lifetime. But, if you go, remember that you must be 100% committed to it physically, mentally, and emotionally. Any less and you are doomed to fail. Your heart and soul must be surrendered to the beast. In return, you receive the blessings of this lifetime on earth; where you realize the dream that you can achieve anything that you desire. This realization is a beautiful gift to yourself, and to those around you. Good luck to you my friend, and may God Bless you greatly.
With my old buddy, Tracy. If not for her I wouldn't have finished that night. I'm thankful to still call her friend, and couldn't imagine a more caring and compassionate person to help me in. That last 10 miles she was an angel. The dry heaving, and moaning and whining. Somehow she talked me in and saved me from myself. I'm still thankful today. Incredibly enough, later that year she went on to finish a 50 herself, and over 10 years later has now finished several 100's.