“The people that I have met are not foolish; they are aware of how tired and cold and hungry and frightened and hurting and discouraged and disoriented and how possibly injured they will become. They know they will face great physical, mental, emotional, and possibly spiritual challenges as they make their way to the finish. This is what they are racing against. This is their challenge. This is what I admire.” – Carolyn Erdman
Lap 2: Miles 16-30
I made a point not to spend too much time at the aid stations because that’s a weakness of mine. I tend to linger longer than I need to, and those minutes can add up significantly over 100 miles.
At the start line I quickly refilled my handheld, then set out again on my own. Shacky had already passed through, and I didn’t expect to see him again for a while.
I ran along happily, and grabbed more cookies at the first aid station. Then more cookies at the second one. A small voice of reason in the back of my head asked, “How many cookies can you eat??” But I tried not to think about it.
The great thing about an out-and-back is that you get to see all your friends. I made the time pass quickly over the next few loops by counting off the runners that I knew.
First there was Andy (Catra’s partner) – moving like a speed demon. I was excited to consistently see him as my first familiar face. He would go on to finish in 20 hours, 8th place overall.
Then I saw Ed, the Jester we all know and love. Before the race Shacky told me he was thinking of using Ed as a pacer overnight because of Ed’s steady, slow pace. But Ed was aiming for a sub-24 finish so that he could be done in time to race a half marathon the next day. He would go on to kill it at 22:54.
Then Catra, a lady that needs no introduction. I looked forward to seeing her at every loop. She would finish in 22:21.
Next came Carlos, who had finished this race before and was aiming for a significant PR. He was wearing his InknBurn tuxedo shirt and carried a single red rose in his hand. I only saw him with the rose on one loop. Then the next loop, I saw it in the hand of a pretty young girl. For the next three loops after that, I saw the pretty young girl’s boyfriend running pretty closely beside her.
Shacky was next, moving smoothly. I’m always awed at how effortless he looks when he runs. I was so proud of him.
Throughout the course, people somehow figured out Shacky and I were a couple and kept giving us random updates on each other’s progress.
“Your boyfriend’s up ahead of you,” I’d hear.
“Your girlfriend’s flying those hills,” Shacky was told.
Sometimes other runners would start chatting with me because Shacky had already introduced me a few miles ahead. Other times I’d come across blog readers that I didn’t recognize right away. They’d greet me warmly like old friends and it would take me a while to figure out who they were. So I learned to just greet everyone warmly on sight.
“Did you get any naked folding?” One guy yelled as he passed.
“Naked folding! For Valentine’s!”
(What the hell?….)
Ten minutes later it hit me: He had read my Valentine post.
After Shacky I would see Rachel. She had attempted this race before, planned out each loop in advance, and was moving at a slow but steady pace. She was so cheery that she completely lifted the spirits of anyone who passed her.
Paul was a wild card. He was running the 50-miler, so his start time was later than ours. He ran at such a quick pace that he ended up finishing his race before we hit 50 miles, even though he started later. Seeing him at any point was a pleasant surprise – I had no idea where he’d show up.
The leaders were moving smoothly and insanely fast. Watching them, I remembered a comment that Frances left on this post before the race:
We need people (to run 100 miles), just like we need people walking on the moon, and people singing with voices that can be heard over an orchestra without a microphone.
It’s part of demonstrating that there is much more to us as people and that we can go beyond the way we’re using ourselves right now. That our bodies are truly amazing.
The leaders in this race moved like artwork. Gliding effortlessly, flying over the trail as if their feet weren’t even touching the ground. It’s one thing to run a fast marathon, but watching someone run a fast 100-miler is a deeper respect. And yet these are names and faces that many won’t recognize. We admire all the wrong people.
“How many 100-milers have you run?” I heard a voice behind me. A young Asian guy was passing by.
“This is my first one,” I smiled.
“Oh no!” he gasped, “You’re going much too fast!”
Huh? But this was a comfortable pace…
“What’s your best marathon time?” he quizzed.
“Well, I’ve only run three marathons….”
I reluctantly told him my best time was 4:20, then tried to explain one of those was my very first marathon, the second one I ran the day after my first ultra, and the third was the Disney marathon were we stopped to take a ton of pictures… but it was too late.
“OH YES!” His eyes widened in horror for me, “Way, way too fast! The runners in front of you are amazing. There’s a girl who ran Badwater three times!”
I wasn’t yet convinced that I needed to change my pace.
“How many 100s have you run?” I asked him. Maybe he didn’t know what he was talking about?
“Ten,” he answered, and then went on to name his other stats.
Now I was starting to get nervous. He seemed eager to dispense advice, so I asked some questions and he had a ton to say. I tried to keep pace with him, but he was a very sporadic runner. His running was faster, but he’d stop to walk more often.
“Don’t walk for too long and don’t run for too long,” he said. “Change it up.”
But I knew from experience that wouldn’t work well for me. I need to run at a steady pace, until I’m forced to change it up. I’m more comfortable with consistency, even if I’m consistently slow.
He eyed me over and estimated the number of calories I would need to consume every hour for my weight and frame. Then he advised me on wearing more supportive shoes. The first place runner whizzed by us.
“That guy is in first place!” he exclaimed. “Don’t follow him! Don’t even look at him!”
I had to laugh. This was a very different approach to ultras. This runner had good intentions and was genuinely trying to help me, perhaps also deriving some satisfaction in being the “expert”. But his advice made me start to doubt myself.
I wasn’t counting calories. I wasn’t wearing supportive shoes. And I apparently thought I could hang with the Badwater finishers. I didn’t want doubts filling my head this early in the race, so I slowed down to let my mentor slip ahead.
But before he left, he said one thing that burned in my mind and would come back to haunt me hours later: “Remember, the race doesn’t start until mile 80!”
Shacky and I later analyzed our pace in the first three laps and wondered if a slower start would have helped us in the second half. We decided no. We weren’t exerting ourselves at the beginning, and the issues that slowed us down would have happened regardless.
I was also uncomfortable with the concept of comparing myself with “better” runners and holding back because I felt I should be behind them. After Noble Canyon, I stopped doing that. I wanted to run my own race.
Nearing the end of the second loop, I noticed that my feet were starting to hurt in the VIVOs. The grip on the Neo Trails had proved excessive on this untechnical, too-similar-to-road trail. That’s when I realized: I don’t own a road shoe. I felt a slight rush of panic. I knew that I had to get out of my VIVOs as soon as possible, but what was I supposed to wear for the rest of the race??
Next: Part 3 – Frustration at the aid stations, and I start to get really hungry.