Big Piney Trail
The government has shut down, but we don’t care. We’ve had this overnight backpacking trip planned for a while now. Anyway, we figure if the government can’t pay the rangers to police the parks, who the hell is going to be there to tell us the park is closed? We decide that if anyone catches us I will act mentally handicapped. Arturo will be my caretaker that only speaks Spanish. Thankfully we don’t get caught.
Immediately as we get out of the car it starts to pour rain. I’m incredibly unhappy about it. Cursing under my breath I’m seriously considering calling it less than half a mile in when Arturo stops. He throws his arms out and holds his face toward the rain. “I’m glad it’s raining. I’ve never gone hiking in the rain before. It’s a new experience.”
To be honest, I wanted to hit him. It was the kind of blind optimism that drove me nuts. I was used to finding the cloud around every silver lining. And this guy was happy it was raining.
We manage 11 miles that day on some pretty gnarly hills in southern Missouri. At that point it’s probably the farthest I’ve ever gone. I thought it was pretty bad ass, even if we did decide that hypothermia is a bad thing and called off the overnight.
June 3rd, 2017
It starts to rain somewhere around the 15 mile mark of the Kettle 100. Everyone around me grumbles. I look at the sky and say “I’m glad it’s raining. I’ve never run an ultra in the rain before!” I get some dumbfounded looks. I tell the story of Big Piney. We have the time.
This is actually something I do now. Whenever plans go awry I try to find the good in it. You might as well. You can’t do anything to change it. Why waste energy being negative about things you can’t control? It’s an important life lesson that I learned. Hopefully I managed to pass it on to some people that day, running in the rain in Wisconsin.
Arturo and I don’t talk nearly enough since I moved to Chicago over two years ago. But when shit goes bonkers I do try to think positively. If you will, I try to think “What would Arturo do?”
You just have to remember that eating pepperoni pizza from a trashcan in a park in Portage de Sioux is within the realm of possibility.
Seriously. Little Caesar’s pizza. He yelled at me to stop the car. He ran out. He rifled through the box. Apparently whoever left the box didn’t like crust. Arturo took care of it.
I’ve also seen him lick bird droppings off of a car and announce what species of duck they came from. Adult beverages may have been involved.
June 4th, 2017
It’s around 2AM and I’m hurting badly. I’m around 78 or so miles in and I’ve given just about everything I have to give. I’m a long way from the fat guy that thought 11 miles on trails in the rain was bad ass. I’m in too dark of a place to even turn on the music I have on my phone. The idea was to have a ton of upbeat powerful music to get me through. I don’t have the energy to even pull out my phone, let alone keep hitting skip until I find something good. I imagine now, with hindsight, that Arturo would say something along the lines of it being good that I was hurting. I had never run this far before, and how much can you really know about yourself if you don’t push your limits? At that moment though, all I can think of is how I’m done. Two miles later, I drop. There was nothing left to give.
Thinking about it almost a month later, I know there are a lot of things that I can and will do better next year (when I finish the Kettle 100 or die trying). One of these things is having one or more pacers. At Kettle you can have a pacer run with you for the last 38 miles of the race. The pacer’s job is to keep the runner… well, running. And eating. And on course. They push, pull, jostle, and cajole that runner all the way to the end. For me, that will probably mean a lot of cussing and name calling. From both sides.
38 miles is an ultra in and of itself. Kettle lets you sign up for what they call the “Fun Run” so you can have an official, but non competitive, run that day. That way if your runner is injured or otherwise unable to run you didn’t waste all your time getting there.
But who do I know that is crazy enough to train for almost a year to run 38 miles with me? To be a motivating and positive voice while I’m in the worst shape, the lowest point, the most negative I will be. In the woods. At night. On black diamond ski trails.
I might know one person that’s crazy enough.
He’s a weird kid is what I’m saying.