The Other Side of Darkness: Finding my way to HURT 100
Darkness. For many, it's the most difficult time during a 100-mile race. As night falls, the terrain becomes harder to traverse, we fight every instinct that says we should be resting, and everything starts to feel foreign.
Fall and winter have been a very dark time for me. At the end of August, I took a hard fall and injured my meniscus, forcing me to sit out my last race of the year. Just when I started to regain momentum, I was laid up with pneumonia for three weeks. As an asthmatic, I was forced to take time off again. After that, I continued to battle issues that arose during Badwater and never quite resolved. In general, I felt terrible. My asthma was the worst it had been in years, my energy was extremely low, and my muscles ached all the time. I wasn't depleted; I was eating and fueling well. I wasn't overtraining; I was resting often and consistently. I was simply burned out after a mentally- and physically-exhausting year of preparing for Badwater, and constantly feeling horrible with little reprieve began to weigh on me. I questioned whether I had what it took to run HURT. But, after many long, soul-searching runs, I decided it wasn't in my nature to quit and that I definitely don't give up without even trying, so I pushed. I pushed when it hurt. I pushed when I was exhausted. I pushed when I was cold. I pushed when I didn't want to. I pushed when I was afraid. I pushed harder than I ever have.
I went into a long, dark training tunnel, one enveloped in cold, rainy, foggy, icy, snowy mornings and long, dark nights. Every single minute that I wasn't at work I spent training. I prioritized sleep and recovery. I never let anything slide for even one day. By early November, I slowly started to feel better. I slowly started to get stronger. My skin got thicker. I started to feel like me again more days than not, and it was enough to give me hope. By December, I was moving the best I had since injuring my groin and hip in February. I wasn't quite me again, but I was a stronger version of the me I had become since the injury.
Then, one very cold, foggy morning, as I ran down the road at 4:00 a.m. thinking about how tired I was of running in the dark -- always in the dark, always cold -- I realized it was December 21, the winter solstice. Every day from that one on would be a little lighter for a little longer, I told myself. I was on the other side of training, and Hawaii, HURT, those trails I wanted so desperately to run, were in sight. Like running into the sunrise after a long night during a race, I was, both literally and figuratively, on the other side of darkness. My perspective changed.
They say the hardest part of training for a 100-mile race is getting to the start line. I'm so close I can taste the pineapple. I will run every step of HURT the same way I trained for it: relentlessly moving forward with no intention of stopping. This winter, I learned what I was made of. This weekend, I'll learn whether it's enough.