The Beast Bites Back
So, not finishing Oil Creek got to me me. I was determined to run another 100, and fast. However, my choices were somewhat limited, and I kept coming back to the Beast. Although, I did keep looking for ANY other race I could do, as I’d already double buckled in the BoB.
Finally, I decided, what the heck. I needed a race, and here was one right in my own back yard, surrounded by friends and on a known course. It would be nice to knock out an “easy” 100. I didn’t really think through that “easy” part.
The weather looked like it was going to be mild for the race. The polar vortex had past. No major storms were on the horizon. I ran the course the week before with my friend Jim, and besides a bunch of downed trees and their branches, it looked pretty good. I was even cocky enough to say that I didn’t think the weather was going to be a factor in this year’s race. Jim told me I was an idiot and thanked me for jinxing the race for all of the other runners. Then he took me to see the chicken silo. Sometimes, I need to learn to just shut my mouth.
I decided to run the race in my cousin’s honor. Immediately, I chose to run in memory of his life, not about the way he died. I went to his Facebook page and printed off a bunch of pictures. On the back of each one, I wrote a memory I have of Michael. I kept these papers in my pocket and would pull one out periodically during the race, and reflect. It kept him with me in the race, and I know his spirit helped me when the going got really tough.
The race started as all Beast races do, with a reunion. Lots of hugs and pictures and laughs. It’s kind of a magical feeling. Everyone is reconnecting with people, who you know have your back. And then the gun goes off.
The weather was in the 20’s with winds about 25 mph. It made half the course quite pleasant with a tailwind that helped you keep a nice pace. It made the other half of the course like the hand of an angry god who wanted to punish me. I finished the first 50 miles with a personal record time.
I was feeling great until I stopped to put on some additional clothing to keep me warm throughout the night. I don’t know what the temperature was that night, but somewhere in the “freaking cold” range, with relentless increasing winds. I began shivering pretty badly. I ducked into the aid tent to grab some heat, veggie broth and a slice of cake. I was ahead of pace, so I could spare the time. (I know, I know, Roger--"absolutely NO lingering at aid stations!") I told Jim I wanted to be out of the tent, no questions asked, by 11pm. At EXACTLY 11, Jim told me if I didn’t get moving, he was going to “introduce his steel toe to my ass”. I knew he meant it. I got going. THANK YOU JIM!
The winds continued throughout the night. I could dress for the cold, but the wind found me every way it could. It blew those downed branches at me. It mixed up the gravel from the path and tossed it at me. It made it hard to breathe. Finally, by dawn, it started to calm. I was psyched. I was on a personal record pace, and hoped to finish this thing in about 27 hours. Cue angry god.
The final 16 or so miles were unbelieveably challenging. My friend Gary found me and told me “There is a high wind warning. 60 mile per hour gusts and 30 mph sustained winds. Have fun”. I was heading directly into it. This was on top of the plunging temperatures and the snow that seemed to be coming directly at my goggles in little white spears.
My phone had decided it no longer liked the cold and died. I had no connection to friends or weather info. I was alone—just me versus the wind. I wanted to be resuced. I kept secretly hoping that they would pull us off of the course. I reached the final aid station almost expecting it. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t even considered. It’s what I love about ultra racing. They didn’t pull me, but they did offer me a lifeline. They were able to charge my phone. At least I knew I could reach someone if the wind threw me into the canal. Hey wind---it’s go time.
I had 7 miles to go and the wind was going to do all it could to stop me. I could see it swirling in front of me and I knew when it would hit me dead-on, in great punishing gusts. Gary found me again, and said I was doing great. (liar). I knew the best I could pump out were 30 minute miles, which would add hours to my time. There goes my personal record. Dammit. Nothing left to do but maintain relentless forward progress and bitch a bit. Luckily, I have become adept at doing both together.
With two miles to go, I could see people who could pace me and make my final moments easier. Funny thing though, I no longer wanted to be rescued. I’d pushed through every step of this race and I wanted to finish on my own accord. And I did, every damned step. My “easy” race turned into the hardest 100 I have done….so far.