I planned to meet Jared at the 50 mile point, make sure everything was going okay, and then ride with his wife to the 60 mile point and run the last 40 miles with him. This plan allowed me to enjoy the most awkward shuttle ride EVER. Imagine this:
- I'm in a school bus.
- Only one other guy in the bus.
- There was the bus driver, a young kid. And his assistant (?) an older, clearly unrelated lady.
- He grabbed his phone and started a play list on the radio. Then these two kind souls sang Josh Groban as we cruised down a dirt road for an hour. Nope. Not a joke. I plead the 5th on whether or not I joined them on a rousing version of "You Raise Me Up."
I waited at the 50 mile point. And while I waited I chatted with ultrarunning legend Hal Koerner. All the ladies in ultrarunning have a crush on Hal. (And if we're being completely honest about this, so do all the guys.) This made my day.
But it wasn't just Hal I talked with. I also visited with elite runner / freak of nature Timmy Olson who has won the Western States 100 the last two years in a row!
Jared's expected arrival time came. And went. A half hour passed. Then an hour. And then another hour. By the time Jared arrived it was cold and dark and he was flirting with cutoffs. I was concerned. I knew that Jared wanted this race badly because it demolished us when we ran it last year. I decided I wouldn't wait to join him at 60, I'd start at 50. We plunged into the darkness.
Jared was struggling. His legs felt like they had been blown up with dynamite. Everything hurt. Every ounce of energy had drained out of him. Then the most incredibly peaceful, awe-inspiring sight opened up before us. The moon rising over the horizon had me stopped in my tracks. It was stunning.
Keep in mind, the Bryce 100 course is BRUTAL. One of the most scenic places I've ever run, but INCREDIBLY difficult. Jared made up a fun game to distract himself from his legs yelling. The game was called Name That Fluid. Barf? Bathroom? Blood? We saw all of the above on the trail.
The reality of the situation gripped Jared and he knew that he wouldn't be making the next cutoff. So when his legs could take no more, we'd sit on the side of the trail for a minute with our headlights off staring at a trillion stars above us.
At mile 60 Jared's race was over. At exactly the same place our race ended last year. I knew the feelings he was having. I know that realization that I gave the best I had, but my best wasn't quite enough. I've been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt in the past, like at this race and this race. That feeling really, really sucks.
I want to say something about this. Getting a DNF (Did Not Finish) at a race is NOT failure. Here are five truths about a DNF:
1) Just clicking the "Register" button for a race shows epic faith and determination. Countless people think these races are cool, but they are too scared to pull out the credit card and make a commitment to run. You were brave enough to take that risk.
2) Running is a gift. I work in a healthcare setting with people who would KILL to be able to run. We are blessed to be able to do this. So whether you make it 3 miles or 89, we are so blessed to even be out on the trail.
3) Consider this from Theodore Roosevelt who said "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." Just showing up at the starting line proves that you "dared greatly."
4) Valuable lessons can be learned when things don't work out as planned. I HATE hearing that kind of crap after I've "failed", but after a little time passes, I can see that every single time I have collected a DNF it has been a valuable learning opportunity and I have bounced back smarter and stronger.
5) Let that "failure" light a fire under your rear end. Ramp up your training. Add some miles to your week. Run another hill. Eat an apple instead of a glazed doughnut. (Just kidding, pretend I never said that.) Make your legs burn. Push out of your comfort zone. Strengthen your mental determination. Do a speed workout. And most importantly CLICK "REGISTER" FOR ANOTHER RACE so you can KICK SOME BUTT!!!!!!
On my drive home from Bryce Canyon there were clouds in the sky that only come around once or twice a year. The sunrise was breath taking. It was the beautiful dawn of a new day.....literally and figuratively.