bear chase 50 mile race report, part 3: lap 4

(part 1 of this rather extended race report is here, and part 2 is here.  i also plan on writing a post-race observations type blog in the coming days, too… FYI.)

lap 4

as i made my way up the trail for one last time, i was nearly overcome with emotion at the idea i was going to finish… at how bad i wanted that finish line… that it was all really happening, to me, there and then.

but, it was much too soon to get too emotional.  i had to keep moving.

my legs have never hurt like that before.  nothing’s even close.  but, i had a bit of rhythm and was moving pretty well for 38+ miles.

coming into becki’s timing station for the last time!

as i approached becki’s timing station, ben drove by shouting and yelling my name… such a boost.  and i was greeted again, one last time, by becki at her station, who gave me a kiss on the cheek as i went by and that was a boost, too.

and then? ugh.

the sun came back out.  it warmed back up again… my stomach flipped over. again.

and it all became very, very, very hard.

miles 39ish to 43ish are a blur of slow, long, nauseous difficulty.

heading out to lap 4, i knew that i had it “in the bag,” i had the time to basically walk the entire way.  but, now that i was bonking like mad, i had some moments of doubt… thinking that if i moved that slowly for the last 8 miles… it was going to get very ugly.

so, i went back to the 7-up bottle, the drink that had saved me at the aspen backcountry marathon.

slowly, slowly, sip by sip, step by step.

i came up on the second timing station, and found that becki had packed up her station and came over to talk to her friend at this station.  she didn’t quite recognize me with my bad water-style bonnet.  i was moving so slow.  she encouraged and hugged me and i kept going.  (finding out later that she texted a picture of me to my wife, with an understated note that i was “in a low spot.”)

if a picture is worth 1000 words, then this is 1000 words of sadness.

note the bandana covering. if it looks goofy, but works, it ain’t goofy.

around the pond. sip by sip. step by step.

through the woods.
around the lake.
through the field.
sun.
heat.
sip, sip, step, step.

through the field, up to mt. carbon. if you look very closely you can see someone 2/3 the way up the hill. we did this 4 times.

up mt. carbon.  i stopped for potty break at the top.  and then, lots and lots of cold water from the coolers on the golf course. over my head, all over my shirt, all over my hat.

and then the downhill run from mt. carbon… and it finally all to start to turn around.

i began to move well again.  began to pass people again. encouraging people as much as i could, but knowing that some of them weren’t going to make it… soooo tough.

across the stream for crossings 10, 11 and 12 for the day.

up to the fox hollow aid station and i saw tracy and christy hires again, as they were volunteering.  and this was another huge boost.

more watermelon (which i’d eaten at every aid station all day… sooooooo gooooood!  running an ultra sure can make things taste so very good and so very bad. weird.)

up the hill out of fox hollow, passing more people. i began to move really well, again.

up the hill out of fox hollow aid station. pic taken after race.

along morrison road.

along morrison road. pic taken after race.

when melanie and i walked the course just a few days ago, i was surprised at how loud and close the traffic felt on morrison road. but during the race, it was all narrowed down to that small visage of the trail in front of you.  unable to take in extraneous sensory perception… just the trail… wristwatch, feet shuffling… a few bites of food in my pocket… my hydration hose… everything is reduced to those necessities.

as i came out from the irrigation canal area, and back towards the road, i heard a cheer rise up from the last aid station (mile 48?).  there were no other runners around, and i knew the cheer was for me!  such a feeling.

as i got closer, i saw and heard sarah!  she’d come all the way out to that aid station and she was cheering and shouting, “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!” and i was again very nearly overcome with emotion.

the incredibly helpful aid station people (and here i must say that the crews at all stations all day were absolutely incredible.  this is an amazing race.  and the running/ ultra-running community is chock full of beautiful, gracious and helpful souls.) offered whatever i needed, but now it was just another couple of pieces of watermelon and more water splashing over my body, and sarah joined my up the trail a ways…

sarah was sharing stories of volunteering and helping people during the race.  i learned that as i was getting ready to go out for the final lap, she and ben had talked a woman out of quitting and helped her get back out there for lap 4!  never underestimate the power of #wce.

i realize now that i was pretty quiet, pretty internalized at that point, and i don’t really remember much of what i said to sarah over those moments.  but i remember appreciating her presence so much.  she left me for a bit to speak with another runner that i was passing, a runner who was walking it in on a bad leg… messed up IT band, i think, but she was going to finish and sarah was encouraging her, too.

sarah met me again at that last mile marker sign (49!) and clicked a couple of pics of me, one that i knew about and one that i didn’t (which is now my favorite image from the race).  she asked me what my goal was for that last mile… i said i was going to run it all the way in (and by “run,” i mean that slow, hideous looking little stride known as the “ultra-shuffle.”  if you’ve not seen it, i’ll demonstrate it sometime…)

the picture i knew about…

the picture i didn’t know about…

and so, i started ultra-shuffling…

up that little rise.
around the ditch.
across the bridge.
down the hill.

and here i met another runner, and said, “come on, let’s go!” and he politely declined. 🙂  he knew he was finishing and he was good to go.  nothing left to prove at all.  he cheered me on…

down the trail.
to the gravel road.

down the gravel road to the finish area. note mt. carbon in the back ground. pic take after race.

and then she saw me, but i only heard her… my wife… my beautiful, lovely, long-suffering crew-chief wife.

so close to the finish

to the paved road.
around to the boat ramp.

and then i could see her, my wife of 20 years,  jumping up and down and shouting as loud as she could… and that’s another mental snapshot, burned into my mind… seeing her cheering for me at the finish line of my first ultra-marathon… i love that woman so very much.

and carolyn was there, my dear, dear sister (friend, spiritual confidant and at times surrogate mother)  cheering, cheering!

and sarah!  cheering, shouting, yelling! (in hindsight, i have no idea how she got back down to the finish line.  i have zero recollection of seeing her pass me.  shortcut? it’s a mystery.)

across the paved parking lot.
into the finish line area.

and across the line.

done. i love that melanie, carolyn and sarah are all in this picture, too.

50 miles.
11 hours.
21 minutes.
46 seconds.

they put the medal around my neck and finally a huge hug from melanie.

a moment

team aronhalt

and looking up, i saw dave and dawn, who’d driven down from the mountains to see the finish!!! more big hugs. i hadn’t realized they were right there at the line!

and becki, too! there at the line!  aaaahhh!

and then the waves began: of relief and joy and accomplishment and pride and humility and exhaustion and love and grace and gratitude.

i had half expected a big sobbing release, but there was none of that, yet… i had moments of tears later, much later, actually.

at that line there was just something “else” that i’ve not quite experienced before.  something other.

and i’m still not exactly sure what it was.

i guess i’ll have to head out again to see if i can find it…