|I'll follow you into the dark. |
Credit: The amazing Jenny Maier.
If you want to learn pretty much everything there is to learn about me, transport yourself to the finish line of the 2016 Way too Cool 50k. You hear the loudspeaker announce the first finisher coming over the hill, with just a few hundred yards to go. You cheer politely, expecting to see the usual Peter Pan in split-shorts coming over the horizon. Instead, you see a guy wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts, with running form like a rhino in need of hemorrhoid medication. Finally, after 31 miles, the rhino turns the final corner, with just 30 yards to go...
And eats shit. Followed by a full-body cramp. Followed by a mud-covered walk of shame to break the finishing tape at the biggest 50k in the US.
All while laughing really hard and smiling even harder. Well, smiling up until the moment that the rhino has a cheek cramp.
Seriously, I crossed the line covered in mud and blood, with my face spasming uncontrollably.
And that, my friends, is me.
I haven't blogged in a while. However, my puppy photos have gotten a bigger audience with Trail Runner Magazine, where I am writing weekly articles online and in print. People say print is dying, but I say hold the phone until we see how far printed poop jokes get us with the millennials. #poop #blessed
|You can read Trail Runner's post race story here|
With the tens of thousands of my words that are floating out there in the ether, I decided against writing a traditional race report. Instead, I am giving myself 30 minutes to write a stream-of-consciousness summary of everything I remember from Way Too Cool. Ready...set...POOP!
1. Northern California had been flooded biblical-style in the week before the race. It got to the point that most of Marin County was seeing if they had any Facebook friends named Noah so they could put two of their backyard chickens in his Prius.
So the course was wet and muddy, with more than a dozen creek crossings. Wheeeeeee!!!!!
|Splish splash, taking a mud bath. Credit: the epic Mario Fraioli (subscribe to his newsletter here).|
2. If you forget to buy anti-chafing cream for a wet ultramarathon, you can go to a 24-hour Rite Aid and buy intimacy gel. I didn't chafe, plus I got a refreshing tingle about 15 minutes after the start.
3. Megan has been working nearly 80 hours per week in the hospital, and she gets 2 days off over the next month. Her quote, "Well, if I only get one day off every two weeks, I might as well run 31 miles."
|It's like fording the river in Oregon Trail.|
4. In the car before the race, we cuddled with Addie and listened to "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab For Cutie. You should try it! It is very hard to take anything seriously, especially a running race, when you remember that it truly does not matter. All that matters is (1) love; (2) community; (3) pancakes. All of those are inextricably linked, in my experience.
|PUPPIES MATTER TOO SNARF|
5. The race began with a couple miles on roads, and I went to the front when people seemed willing to chat like it was a group Tinder date. The chase pack consisted of a dozen studs, including Alex Varner, Dylan Bowman, Jorge Maravilla, Paddy O'Leary, Chris Denucci, Levi Miller, Brett Hornig, Chris Vizcaino, Chris Mocko, Daniel Metzger, and a few others handsome devils. Speed demons, the lot of them. Run from your fears!
|STUD-CITY, POPULATION 10. Credit: the badass Eric Schranz.|
6. I think I fell 8 or 10 times on the mud. Falling was never bad though, because you just ended up sliding and coming up covered in brown. It was like using a slip-and-slide after your cousin pooped on it.
7. The amazing Eric Schranz of Ultra Runner Podcast gave me a time split at mile 8, and it seemed like a good gap had formed. It's daunting to think about 22 miles to go though, especially with such long-distance studs closing fast.
|Credit: Jesse Ellis, Let's Wander Photography (the best photographer I know).|
8. My strategy with stream crossings was to do a shallow-water dive if they were deep enough. In retrospect, that was kind of stupid. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.
|Credit: NorCal Ultras.|
9. The energy from the volunteers and spectators was incredible. Everyone was so positive and supportive. I tried to tell everyone I loved them on the course, which probably scared many innocent folks manning aid stations. But, to be fair, if you give me a Clif energy shot with 100 mg caffeine, I truly do love you with all my heart. However, it's probably a good thing they didn't know I was all lubed up.
10. Speaking of Clif gels, here is how I fueled for those that might want to emulate my plan. At 1 hour before, I had a gel with lots of water. At 30 min before, another gel. Then I carried a 16 oz soft flask and filled it up with sports drink at every aid station, and had two more gels (on the hour marks). I think the mini-breakthrough can be credited partially to staying extremely well hydrated. Stopping at aids to fill up the flask probably cost 90 seconds of stoppage time, but saved 10 minutes on the final big climbs. I was sipping fluid so often that I felt like Marco Rubio.
|Coming out of the 11 mile aid station with a fresh flask.|
11. At mile 25, Jorge Maravilla came up on my tail and passed me like I was standing still. And he did it with such joy and kindness. What a wonderful person.
|I love this man. Credit: Jesse Ellis, Let's Wander Photography.|
12. Fortunately for me, even wonderful people get cramps.
13. Of course, it's Jorge, and he continued to smile even as I passed him on the final big climb.
14. In the end, I won by 2:30, with Jorge 2nd, Dylan 3rd, Paddy 4th, Alex 5th, and Jeb Bush last. Poor Jeb.
|Megan in the jungle. Credit: Jesse Ellis, Let's Wander Photography.|
15. As soon as I crossed the line and stopped spasming, I asked about Megan. The entire race, I was thinking about her and gaining strength from love (Ed. note: yucky). All I cared about was her. Finally, I got some news--she came through mile 8 in first place, but no one had any other updates. Okay, I thought, at least she felt okay enough to be in front early. But nerves continued to eat at the pit of my stomach.
|Credit: Jesse Ellis, Let's Wander Photography|
16. It's impossible, right? She had debilitating mono all last year, followed by shoulder surgery, followed by 80 hours a week in the hospital. Just showing up to the start line was such a huge victory given the obstacles that she had overcome. But, if there is one thing I have learned about Megan, it's that doubting her is not a wise move. 3 AM treadmill workout with 5 x 1 mile at 5:40 pace? CHECK. Amazing wife after 3 hours of sleep and constant stress? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT. Smells like roses all the time? UMMM...I PLEAD THE FIFTH.
17. Then, I saw her. 400 yards away, cresting the hill like a beautiful woman rhino. The PA announcer asked me to call her in over the loudspeaker. For the next minute, I just said "I love you! Keep going! I love you!" over and over until I'm pretty sure the hundreds (thousands?) of spectators thought I was the human embodiment of a malfunctioning CD player. As Megan skipped across the line, I yelped in joy, and did my best hobble over the barricade. She was laying in the mud.
18. "I can't feel my legs," she said.
19. "I can hold you up," I responded.
20. So we stood there, holding each other up. It was the most memorable hug of my life.