Ultimately, it was what it was….128.65 miles of flat, sometimes paved, sometimes gravel path…sometimes interspersed with cow patties, and sometimes with bodies…sometimes in the daylight and sometimes in the dark. The moon was there, then the sun was there, and then there was fog. Occasionally, there was an aid station, but that was rare. Sometimes, there were other runners, but that was rare, too. There were cows, dogs, and horses…I think I even saw a cat. There were teenagers on 4-wheelers, appearing Mad Max-style in the night, yelling threats and obscenities, seeking to run me over. Always to my left was an ever-changing landscape, full of factories, oil refineries, plantation homes, seedy night clubs, and the occasional post office.
|3am is early|
There were, however, a few constants…things that I could count on. Always to my right was the Mighty Mississippi, with ports, barges, and tugboats. There was the levee itself…always in front of me, always behind me. There was always the shuffling sound of my feet hitting the surface. There was River Road, always to my left. And on River Road, there was always a blue Element, containing both my fuel and my wife, either of which if I went without, I would have been screwed. She was my lifeline. Since there were only 4 aid stations, I relied on my wife’s presence for fuel, both for my body and my mind.
This was the longest I had ever been on my feet, both in distance, and in time.
I had tried to do it a couple of years ago. I got to the starting line moments removed from a boot on my right foot due to tenosynovitis, and was met with tornadic weather that gave way to frigid temps. I quit after 62 miles.
This time, I came to the levee with more experience, and with a determined mind set. It wasn’t gonna get me, no matter what.
The race coordinators set the event up for the solo participants with two start times: 8pm Friday, and 3am Saturday. I started in the early morning Saturday with what seemed like 15 other people. I knew that somewhere out there on the levee were my compadres, already 7 hours into their ordeal. Only thing to do was to follow in their footsteps, one stride at a time, on the levee…for hours.
By the second aid station at mile 55, I was toast. The heat and humidity of the day, combined with the stress of the work week prior, combined to leave me exhausted and tired much sooner than either I or my wife expected. I sat down in my chair and went to sleep for about 5 minutes. This was a new experience for me…sleeping in a race…but my wife re-framed my exhaustion for me as being good training for the CO200. For the past 55 miles, all I had been thinking about was the dang levee, and with this comment came a breath of fresh air. Lest I had forgotten, this was just part of the dream. Maybe not a fun part of it, but a necessary part of it. I rose from the chair, ate some food, and proceeded on, with a renewed vision in my mind of epic peaks and mountain goats.
|How I look...in my dreams!|
The next aid station was at mile 81, but now I was at mile 75. I was completely fried…tired, exhausted, and beat up. I got in the element, and passed out for 10 minutes. When I came to, I was almost in tears.
My wife encouraged me: “You’ve got this…let’s get you some food, and make sure you have fluids…only 6 miles to the next aid station!”
At this point the problem was not my body. I still believed that I was plenty physically capable of making it to Audobon Park. At this point, it was all in my head. The monotony had taken its toll. From my viewpoint in the car, I looked to my right, and knew there was 75 miles of levee behind me…but looking to my left, anxiously awaiting my arrival back, was 53 more miles of levee. I was devastated. I knew how slowly I was moving, and knew how much longer the suffer-fest was going to take…and my brain revolted.
As I climbed out of the car and onto the levee, I turned left, and I quietly sobbed. But I put one foot in front of the other, and moved forward.
This was the hardest experience I have had thus far in my running career. Trying to make sense of what I had done, and what was left to do was too incomprehensible. I was deep in the pain cave, trying to embrace the discomfort of the next 50+ miles, but this time was different…it was the mental anguish and toil that was getting the best of me. I prayed to God for strength and courage, and to not be afraid of what was coming, because I knew that He was with me, and He would not fail me or forsake me. My steps became quickened as I meditated on this passage from the book of Joshua. The context of the verse alludes not necessarily to the physical challenges that we face, but moreso to the fear of what we encounter in our day to day lives, and the various paths that God sees fit for us to sojourn. He gives us the strength and courage to persevere through our most difficult, fearful, anxiety-provoking experienced…His peace is available if we just humble ourselves and
|The nite-time views of factories disguised as cities|
Soon, I was running again, fully enveloped in this idea. I hit up the playlist on the Sony and rode the grooves all the way into the mile 108 aid station, with the distance interspersed with occasional pit stops in the chair. I had developed a pattern of running and walking that allowed me to break up the time and the distance. I was ticking off checkpoints, refueling when I got to them, sitting when I needed to, and taking the levee to town!
The sun began to rise. It was hard to tell where I was in relation to the city of New Orleans due to the fog bank that had set in, but I knew I had to be close. Past Norco…past The Colonial…the traffic was beginning to pick up on River Road…two legs to go…more traffic…a construction zone…then my wife, one last time! I grabbed a full bottle, and hit the gas.
The levee became familiar to me now…I remembered seeing these houses before, on a previous run in New Orleans…the train tracks appeared to the left…the hospital…the levee dives down closer to street level…past this building on the right…
…then, through my tear-filled eyes, I saw my wife, and some signs that pointed left across the tracks. I followed them on across the street, onto the sidewalk, keeping a watchful eye out for the inevitable.
The cars filled the parking lot, but that couldn’t obstruct the view of the most glorious finishing arch I have ever seen. I crossed the street and my feet hit the soft grass of Audobon Park.
I made it. 128.65 miles in 29:58:23…4th OA.
|Me and the RD|
So the second cycle in my dream sequence is complete. Upon reflection, I am inclined to say that this was a nightmare…but it is way too early in the sleep cycle to be having nightmares…that generally occurs in the deep, REM sleep, often continuing on until right before awakening. I have a lot of training left to do, with a few more monster efforts to produce. I guess only the miles will tell how I get through this dream, and if the monsters devour me, or if I devour the monsters.
Thanks be to God, who gives strength, courage, and peace. Big thanks to Rock/Creek for all the love and support, and for the gear that goes the miles with me. HUGE thanks to Fuel-100 Electro-Bites…I ate them early and often and, even though the temps and humidity were tough, I had no problems with dehydration or cramps! And yes, I ate numerous Epic Bars, Bison/Bacon/Cranberry, to be specific…best food EVER! Thanks to JN and the MS Blues for the love, and of course, my wife…cuz without her, I would have quit at mile 55.
MYO RXP 2 Headlamp
Patagonia Air Flow Tank
Patagonia LS Shirt
Salomon Running/Trekking Gloves
Salomon S-Lab Compression Shorts
Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab Hydro Running Pack
Camelbak Podium Big Chill Bottles
Hoka One One Stinson EVO Trail Shoes