In 2012 I signed up for the 2013 Rocky Raccoon 50. My friend Laz finished a couple of 100 milers. He planted random and constant seeds that I should try an ultra. I'm not a very good road runner so substantially increasing the difficulty seemed like a good idea. :-) I didn't do a lot of trail running that year. I did run a few cow pastures. You haven't lived until you've been nose to nose with a cow on its turf. I thought it was good training so I kept on hurdling cow patties. In October, I contracted an upper respiratory infection that wouldn't let go. I lost a solid month of training. Long story short, I made it through my first 50 miler in February and I didn't die. I told myself as I kissed my finisher's medal "Never again!".
Then in 2013 I signed up for the 2014 race. I forgot that 2013 was an exceptionally good weather year. I had a temporary lapse of what it's like to do 33.33 miles with giant blisters on your toes. I failed to recall how it felt to pray for 50 miles that you wouldn't break your ankle on a root. I erased thoughts about having to go private potty in the woods and pack out any supplies you used to to do the deed. Pure glamour. I forgot what it felt like to have the skin slip off of my pinkie toes and the strikingly tangible understanding of how hard it would be to crawl three miles to the finish line. I forgot how it felt to have another runner accidentally slam me into a tree taking the skin off of my knuckles. What I did remember was enough to make me do it all over again.
I remembered the feeling of taking on a challenge with great, big unknowns. I remembered sitting in a chair as my friend did the best he could to care for my blistered feet. It was a scorching memory of friendship. I remembered being surrounded by my friends running the 100. They left me in awe. I remembered Grady Harrison and his funny little accent. How I love that accent! If he hadn't run with me for miles this story might have had a different ending. I recalled running the second loop with some awesome girls, one of which I've retained as a very funny Facebook friend. I remembered my husband spending 12 plus long hours on his mountain bike as he rode the course unofficially volunteering and making sure I was still going. No matter how tired or hungry he was he always had a smile for me. I remembered the smell of quesadillas the volunteers cooked on the trail, you can't appreciate hunger until you've been truly hungry, and discovering how much I liked unflavored HEED. I had a favorite HEED supplier. He was charismatic and never poured it on my hands when he refilled my bottles. I remembered the young guy that must have weighed 200 plus pounds. He was sweating and laboring with each step. He kept falling and getting back up. It was obvious this was physically beyond anything he had ever done. He would hit the ground so hard! He just kept single-mindedly getting back up. It was the most impressive display of the human spirit I think I've ever witnessed. He never introduced himself to any of us and I never found out if he finished, but it doesn't matter. He became a winner in my heart.
So in 2013 the training plan involves a few more trails, a few more roots and apparently a few more Supermans. Supermans hurt but so does life. Hopefully I'll get back up with the same determination as my stranger hero.