Some of you may know that my husband, Mr. Prepared, went to run the Leadville Trail 100 Run this weekend. He has been working his tail off since January training for this weekend, which was also to be his first 100 mile race. He has completed many 50 mile races, and he thought it was time for a new challenge. His season so far has been excellent, knocking an hour off his 25 mile time in April and 45 minutes of last year’s San Juan Solstice 50 time in June.
Mr. Prepared meticulously completed and tracked his training, and I have been running a pretty tight ship since January, making sure we both make use of the time available to train allotted by the Almighty Schedule. Consequently, when Mr. Prepared said to me on the drive up to Leadville, “I know I have done everything that I can to prepare for this race. Everything that is in my control I have done,” I kind of started to assume that we had this one in the bag. As a matter of fact, I had assumed that from waaaayy back when. Mr. Prepared is one of the mentally toughest people I know. He holds firm belief that “anyone” can “gut out” a marathon. I think he doesn’t live in the same mental solar system as “anyone”, but I don’t argue. Too much.
Fast forward to Saturday (I will save my color commentary on Leadville for another post, but believe me, there is A LOT of color, and it deserves commentary). Anyways, there were many lessons to be taken away from this weekend, regardless of any result of any runner. Mr. Prepared didn’t make it to Mile 100, or the belt buckle, a result of injury and under the strongly worded advice of medical personnel. He made it to Mile 60 (or 63, depending on if you count the “newer, less dusty” section of trail as you know, actual mileage). Up and over Hope Pass twice, which is an accomplishment in itself. I couldn’t be more amazed or proud, but I am a little emotionally raw from a full day of watching this race. Nevertheless, I picked up a few things to absorb as nuggets of wisdom:
1. You can do more than you think you can. This is the motto of the LT100, along with “Commit not to quit.” I saw some amazing feats out there- many mere mortals trying to achieve a goal they set for themselves. Some had more ambition than skill, and some had the skill and the ambition. Some we like to call “triumphs of will and spirit” in our house. All are admirable, no matter what, and this race is a live-action show of people doing more than they ever thought they could, or at least more than they ever attempted before.
2. Running 100 miles is f’in hard. I said to Taylor as we were driving on Friday, “You know what will be great about doing this race? When people tell you they have read Born to Run and ask if you’ve ‘done Leadville’, you can now say yes and leave it at that.” But running 100 miles is not just something you “do”, like taking up kickboxing. Most people cannot conceive how difficult this is, not just physically but mentally. I watched grown men vomiting, shaking, and crying, and that was just at mile 50 (BTW, the women just crumple in a heap if they’re suffering, not quite as loud as men…). Your body and your mind have to be of iron will to finish a race like this, and there are HARDER 100 mile events out there than LT100. Many people say, “I just can’t imagine…” and believe me, you can’t. If you would like to see a slice of humanity without traveling to a 3rd world country, you should really check out a 100 mile race sometime.
3. Human beings need each other. So many, many amazing people were not only out on course yesterday, but on the sidelines. While this race has somewhat less of a “community” feel than other ultras, there were so many amazing teams of support out there. There were T-shirt wearing support teams (Go Team Texaho!), costume-wearing teams (the gold spandex bodysuit girl and the guy in the banana suit are a firm tie), and cause-supporting teams. In any form, most of these runners could not do what they did without their crew and pacers. In the lowest moments, someone else can spur you on. I know that the guy who was crying out, “Momma, Momma!” certainly needed his momma. STAT.
4. It is all about the journey. So Mr. Prepared didn’t get a belt buckle. Neither did most of the people who started that race. Yes, I said MOST, but that’s commentary for someone else’s blog. But ALL of the people there started on a journey that I imagine changed their lives forever. Some will try again, if not LT100, then somewhere else. Some will remember it fondly as making good on a New Year’s resolution, or a bet, or whatever, but all will be affected by the experience. And that is what they really came for- not the buckle. Runners who have been afflicted with “buckle-itis” are doing it for the hardware to display, not the lessons learned along the way.
If you are living the motto “You can do more than you think you can” you are going to have to embrace the journey at some point because a life worth living is not only running the red carpet and belt buckles. Goals accomplished only become truly sweet if we experience eating dirt and the disappointment that comes with DNFs, because DNFs are just temporary placeholders until you finish what you set out to do.