Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Fellow Ultramarathoners

No fees, no frills, no WIMPS motto really captures the essence of what the ultra is about.

In early February of 2001, my wife and I were living in a small little house in an isolated and very remote little town called Monroe, Oklahoma.  Those were the pre kids days and so without having any parental responsibilities and having completed a few marathons, I decided I would endeavor on an ultra marathon.  At the suggestion of newly made friends and mentors Stan and Chrissy Ferguson, I decided on the White Rock 50K.  This race was close to home in the Ozark mountains in western Arkansas and since it is all forest road, it is easier than some trail ultras although it does have some decent elevation gain having to ascend White Rock Mountain.

This picture gives a good example of what much of the course is like.
I remember not sleeping much the night before and waking up and laying in bed hours before I needed to and staring at the clock until it was time to go.  Finally, almost as though I was resigned to my fate, I drove off to begin my adventure.  I do not remember much about the race except that I think I was 3rd and that although I started conservatively, I ran really hard down White Rock Mountain from 15 - 20 and then really struggled on a climb back up between mile 20 and 25 and I also remember the last  six or seven miles were a never ending torture. 

But once I had finished the race a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  The release of stress and tension from having anticipated the struggles I would endure felt so wonderful.  I was so proud to overcome those fears and that anxiety.  It would not have been possible without the support of the ultra community who as I got to know more of them, began to feel like a family.  Within this family there is a shared and unspoken bond that understands the trials and tribulations that are ultra marathons.  It is only through this quiet encouragement, or in the case of Chrissy, sometimes vocal kick you in the ass encouragement, that we are able to go beyond what we would never think ourselves capable of.

Driving home that day, I turned the music up and sang along and had an endorphin rush that would be hard to duplicate.  I remember returning to our little house in the country and laying my tired body down for a short nap but unable really to sleep because my mind was still racing.

So it was that twelve years and countless ultra marathons later, I returned to White Rock 50K with two friends, Tim Hall and Chris Montgomery.  Driving to the race, they had both told me that they were only doing the 25K and that maybe they would do 20 miles as part of their weekly marathon training run. 

So we started our race as PoDog Vogler said go and off we went.  At the turnaround, I saw Chris and later Tim.  Both were smiling and seemed to be in pretty good spirits.  The weather was perfect and the views on this course are incredible. 

The course is all on forest roads and while there are some good climbs, none of the climbs are too terribly long.  The views are expansive as you run along forest roads that straddle a ridge to the top of the mountain.  There are enough ups and downs to certainly keep things interesting.  The view at the turnaround is breathtaking.

View from the Top.
The rest of the race went pretty well for me.  The first twenty four miles felt effortless and I felt like I floated up the climbs.  I love that feeling!  Especially when I do not have much sciatic pain.  However, I did struggle more than usual the last ten miles but not nearly so much as I had twelve years earlier.

After finishing, I awaited Chris and Tim to pull up after getting a ride.  Much to my surprise, Chris came in after just over 5 hours!  And just an hour later, Tim finished as well!  I could not believe it!  While both of them had mentioned they might try to do the 50K, I thought without a firm commitment in their minds, they would never attempt it.  They really did great.  I could see in them that same sense of pride, satisfaction and relief all rolled into one.

As we drank some beers Tim and Chris told me how much it meant to them to have so much encouragement from so many different people.  We all welcomed them to the ultra club and were happy that they really got to experience what the ultra family is all about.  They are no longer just my running partners, they are my fellow ultra marathoners.

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