“What if we walk together for a while?”
Mo was diving into her psychology bag for some mental EPO.
I had just finished the first 16.7 mile loop of the Rocky 50. I didn’t have anything in the tank. As I limped into the area where the drop bags were, the volunteer asked what I was looking for. A wife, I told him. Here’s one, he offered, pointing to a woman pointing nearby. Luckily, that woman was Mo. She offered a few words of encouragement and shoved me back into the wilderness.
I headed out for another loop to see if things might start to feel better. Things did not. Engine sputtered to a halt at 19.2. I decided to live on a bench near the park road for the rest of my life. I called Mo, who was a couple of miles away at camp (how did people run ultras before iPhones?) She arrived a few minutes later.
I’m done, I said. No, you just need to walk some, she said. I explained I was already walking at a pace that allowed the tree roots to pass me easily. I’ll walk with you, she said. No. We’ll just sit here a little and then you can try again, she tried. No. What if we go back to camp and you rest, then I’ll drive you back here? No. What if you do a second lap and then we’ll see? No. What if you eat something and then we’ll see? No. What if I beat the hell out of you for making me drive through Houston at rush hour, go all night without sleep and then give up for no reason? She didn’t ask that one. That’s why I love her.
We kept going around in circles for a while. I tried to explain that it’s just not there. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to shuffle along for 18 hours just to say I’d done it. It didn’t feel right.
Mo always says she doesn’t get why anyone would want to cover 50 miles. But that day, she didn’t get why anyone wouldn’t. Finally, she accepted it.
What to do now that I’m unemployed as a runner? We sat on a spot next to the trail with runners coming in both directions.
Our peeps started coming by, and it struck me that it would be fun to shoot some video. The ultra experience always seems so surreal. What if you make it real?
And so began the most fun I’ve ever had at an ultra. We got to see everyone finishing, and coming through after laps, and doing damage control on their feet, pit crews whirring about the idling runner like a NASCAR team pushing for a sub-14. Trudging through the icy darkness and cheering Mr. Sun in the morning. Highs and lows, a heartbreaking second set, magnificent finishes.
If I had gone through with the 50 miles, I would’ve missed it all. It would have been just another run. Because I lost, I won. I spent a lot of time with good folks, laughing and crying and worrying and cheering and eating tater tots. I was much, much happier to bask in their success than in my own.
Longtime readers will recall I am a bitter recluse in an undying effort to avoid people altogether.
And I keep screwing up and making lifelong friends. Damn it.
Life is funny …