Bigfoot Part 3: I'm Fine
Elk Pass to Road 9327 (Mile 91.3, 2,543' gain - 3,144' loss)
I rushed the aid station. There is a necessary discernment between taking advantage of the full refuel and recharge -- and getting sucked to the magnet of generators and soup that's too hot. My dad and Ben had the system down: fill pack, food to go, sock change and back on the course. The disadvantage is that I didn't take fuller responsibility of myself, my calories, my other needs. Everything is a blur when you stumble out of the woods and half the time I don't even remember to throw my garbage away. The eight things I memorized to do disintegrates to "food, water." My crew was champing at the bit to help. It killed Ben not to be able to pace; Bigfoot is his dream race. It hurt my dad to see me hungry and poking needles into my toes. It's going to get so much worse, I wanted to warn him.
There is a pace of these races that must be respected. At a 10k, I'll run past every water stop. A marathon I'll bring a handheld. I have a nutrition plan for 100. At 200? After a night of cold climbing through a thunderstorm? As foolhardy as it may be, I signed up for the Triple Crown to compete it, not complete it. I like racing long events with all sorts of unpredictable factors and grit. At least, I did until Bigfoot broke me.
I was still behind schedule and not moving particularly well. The trees were drowning me. Green sunlight cast a hue that haunted me, moss draped over everything like seaweed, my feet throbbed from being waterlogged. I felt like I was underwater. I had clean socks and dry shoes. I needed to go.
The irony of 200s: times I told myself that I needed to hurry were times I actually needed to take an extra minute; the times I was begging for a break were the times to muster up every last molecule of ATP in my body and push harder. I learned by the end, but I started to crack halfway through.
Mentally and emotionally, I was hungry. I left the aid station alone and did not realize the power of company had until Rob caught up and we found Tiger and James. I did not know what mile we were at, but I did notice the burden lift with conversation. I felt stressed and in pain. My goal was slipping. The Cascades were grim. I had goosebumps. I heard Fiona Apple's low voice: "I'm slow like honey, heavy with mood." I solidly reminded myself to toughen up and steel my mind. My legs were fine.
"There are only two options," I often tell myself, "It's either fine or it's not." Ben likes to point it out when I say it's fine because I say it too much. I have said it while I was clutching the pieces relationships, or self-esteem, or memories, in my palms. I'll say it limping into an aid station. I'll say it throwing up in the ferns. Until it's not, it is fine. I have a deep tolerance for what not being fine means.
It's fine. I picked up the pace. It began to rain again.
Road 9327 to Spencer Butte (Mile 102.5, 1,282' gain - 2,852' loss) - No Crew Access
My plan was to push the first 36 hours without any sleep.
"Rob," I said with a sigh, "I am going to eat and close my eyes for a moment." Night had fallen around us and my mind was tangled in the hemlocks. I swallowed a quesadilla and wrapped myself in a wool army blanket. I heard someone brush my hydration pack off into a puddle and I quickly snatched it up. It was dripping. The night air rushed into my tiny tent and offended me. As I burritoed myself together again and closed my eyes, the rain fell harder, louder, and began to flood the bottom of the aid station. I drowsily noticed it running past my shoes and catching on the whiskers of the blanket by my ears. I climbed 20k of mountains. I was ready for a break. I peeked at Rob slumped in his chair; he was already asleep. I vaguely heard a volunteer call us "blanket people" and blacked out.
I kicked uncomfortably and stayed awake in a strangely gray state - maybe it was the color of the blanket or the exhaustion of my mind but I was neither awake nor asleep. Thankfully the storm was short, and in a few minutes we were clipping up and saying thank you. We had two road miles until the turnoff back into wonderland. I had not rested.
"Rob," I said at the trailhead, "I am sorry but I have to lay down." He looked at me with surprise as I spread out my space blanket, clutched my hands to my chest and lay face down. My mind was not clear. I did not feel an urge to get to the next aid station. Everything seemed fuzzy. He unfurled his blanket ahead of me. The course was spread out and no one was coming. I heard him drop to sleep, but I continued to lay shivering with my eyes squeezed shut. Minutes later, raindrops began to fall and I knew we needed to move.
He must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried... trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
When we arrived at Spencer Butte, I stumbled into a sleep tent and did not sleep again. I lay still and drooled for 30 minutes, listening to the HAM radio and volunteers cooking, tended my feet and switched into a clean base layer, and left alone. My dad sent me off with a ziplock bag of grilled steak fajitas.
I had help coming that night. I needed to continue. I wanted to continue.