Saturday, January 14, 2012


I've talked about it before, the quitter voice. It's the voice in your head that feeds itself on your failure, that gets off on your weakness. The quitter voice woke me this morning at 6:30. I'd laid out my clothes, filled my hydration pack, laid out my gels, dropped the orthotics into my shoes, and did the hundred other obsessive things I do before a "big" run. The quitter first reminded me how cold it was; 11 degrees with the wind chill. The quitter reminded me that long hours alone in the woods after this past week could do more harm than good. The harm would come from the dissolution of something beautiful , best described by the band Egghunt, from DC, when Ian Mackaye said that "what was ours, is now yours and mine". I got out of bed, got dressed, and figured I would at least drive to the trail head and see what happened. Then I got out and started South on the AT. The quitter reminded me how cold it was, how it would be easier to just give up now rather than face the disappointment of walking it out of the woods once I finally gave up. Somehow I was able to quiet the voice, control the endlessly looping inner dialogue about how everything between she and I went so horribly and irreversibly wrong, and at some point early on in the run, I decided that I was going for 18 miles. It wasn't a matter of whether 18 miles was a good idea or not, no weighing of options, just 18 miles and then stop.

At some point I'll post a video clip of Gary Robbins, a Canadian Ultra Marathon runner who has set both the East and West Coast trail speed records. On his East Coast run the pain started early on and never seemed to leave. It was a 218km (135.5 mile) run, so there was an enormous amount of suffering to be had. At one point he talked about running through the pain and how the brain, in an effort to protect the body from damage, relentlessly sends out pain warnings and by ignoring them, that protection mechanism eventually gives up and allows you to keep running. He was far more eloquent than I, but there were some rough patches where I used his technique and it cut the throat of the quitter. I remember miles 11-13 being particularly shitty. I was a little bit cold, my legs were getting clumsy, I was tripping on rocks and roots, and she started swirling around my head like a hurricane. I knew that it would eventually end and it did. The final low point, the last 2 or 3 miles, was purely physical. My legs were shot, my left knee felt like it was being drained with a 12 guage needle, and I'd almost completely lost the ability to run downhill. Uphill and flat were okay. Down, not so much. The last mile was a pattern of walk/run/walk/run but I eventually ran into the parking lot and felt like I'd laid to rest so much of the failure and disappointment of the months since Labor Day.

The days tally:

96oz of Gatorade
1 Bacon and Egg sammich
6 Chocolate Outrage gels
1 Drake's Coffee Cake
2 trashed quads
1 angry knee

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