Sometimes I make plans and then I wait and see what will actually happen. I know what I think will be a good scenario but often there are unknowns that have to be filled in later. Yesterday was a perfect example. I spent all day Saturday at the race volunteering in extreme heat and mostly in the direct sun. The heat is usually pretty debilitating for me, so I am not sure why I thought I’d just keep motoring along at normal speed , but I didn’t. After my volunteer shift , I went home, drank a coconut water, and went to bed, planning to wake up at midnight , two and half hours later, and go back out to the race to pace my friend through the night.
Nope, not happening. I woke up feeling horrible and weak and my back hurt. Checked my friend’s status in the race, he was still going along towards the goal of 100 miles, after starting at noon on Saturday. He was looking good. I went back to sleep . Got up at 4:00 A.M. and checked and he was still running, hadn’t quit like people usually do , but I still felt horrible, so I went back to sleep. I finally got out of bed at 7 something. I checked the results and he was still going. I then realized that I felt so bad that I might not even be able to WALK the course with him, which is pretty much what you do in this hot, sandy race. I decided to try a short run by myself. After procrastinating and eating a banana and drinking a Coke Zero, I went out and ran two miles. I felt slow and tired and discouraged and terribly guilty for not being out there at the race with my friend. I had to do something! He was expecting me!
I drank another Coke Zero. I decided I’d just go out and support him mentally, encourage him, even if I couldn’t run. I put on regular clothes, not running clothes. But then I checked his Live Stats again and saw that he was slowing down. Hmm, maybe I can keep up! I hurriedly switched into my running gear , packed my hydration pack , grabbed a few things and headed over there. The funny thing was that knowing that he might be struggling gave me renewed energy. I had to go help my friend! As long as he was cruising along loop after loop, I thought, oh he’s doing okay without me, but I could not let him quit because I was feeling bad! Suddenly my focus was shifted to his needs and I no longer felt the physical symptoms I’d had earlier, back pain, weakness, uterine cramps. They just disappeared! It was like I had been purposely held back and now God was saying, it’s time, GO!
I found myself driving fast even though it’s only five miles to the race location. Thankfully there was no long line of slow moving cars on the road like there was yesterday. The previously packed parking lot was now almost empty because most of the runners had either finished or given up. I hopped out of the van with my stuff and hurried over to find out if my friend had come in from the loop he was on when I was last checked. Each 10k loop was taking him 1.5-2 hours. I only had to wait about 10 minutes and here he came! I ran out to him and told him I was there and ready to run with him. The look on his face was all I needed to know that I had made the right decision to come out. I was there at just the right time. This guy is a machine at finishing 100 mile races, but everyone gets tired and bored after a while and can use someone to talk to and listen to while getting those last miles done. I only wish I’d been able to go sooner, but I think I had to wait for my body to be able to do it. It was high noon, in the low 90s and a beautiful, hot, blue sky day when I went out with him. We had plenty of time for me to explain why I wasn’t there sooner and for him to tell me all about his last 24 hours of running. He had been through a lot in that time, but he is tough! Even with a bum knee and shoes full of sand and no one to talk to for hours while walking across the dark pasture under the stars, he kept going. Now we had a goal, two more loops , a little under 4 hours, and he would be done and get that special Two-Time Finisher Buckle.
A little information about this race: http://www.trailracingovertexas.com/habanero-hundred/ the first year it was held was 2015. There was ONE finisher, a female. The second year, a whopping 13 finishers. In 2017 there were 7 finishers. This year, the hottest year, but with less humidity, there were 18 finishers! The allotted time to finish is no more than 30 hours and most people use most of that time. This year first and second place overall were females and they both beat the course record. The race starts at noon, is run on a 6.3 mile loop in a cattle ranch and includes deep sand, grass, not much shade and a few small hills that grow during the race. The ones who finish have figured out how not to get overheated, dehydrated, blistered and completely mentally wiped out. You cannot finish this race if you are not prepared for the extreme heat. There are runners who have run the Badwater 135 in Death Valley who come run this race and find it difficult! There are shorter distances offered for the ones who just want to get a feel for the course and not push themselves to the brink.
So back to my friend, we walked his next-to-last loop, which was the 15th time he’d traveled that sandy line and his shoes were full of the evidence, with lots of talking and catching up. He always gets a mental second wind on the last loop when he knows is going to finish, so we did a little bit of very slow jogging on that loop. I was so happy for him to see him cross that finish line AGAIN! He got his special buckle and the satisfaction of knowing he did not quit. I’ve watched him grow and become a stronger runner, mentally and physically, over the years we’ve run together and I know he can do this without me, but I am thankful that my body recovered enough and I was able to run a few miles with him and share a tiny part of the experience.