Sunday, September 11, 2011

GH100 DNF Part 1: Bipolar

I stumble into the brightly lit motel room with Dad in tow. He scurries behind me picking up the scraps left in my hobbling wake, as I make my way towards the bath. After a few agonising and suspenseful minutes I have removed the mud-caked Mizunos, holey socks, ripped shorts and thermal top, and am caressing the dirt and pain away under a torrent of heat. Eventually, the plug goes in and I recline, my mind reeling.

I couldn't even begin to process the entirety of the day's events in a meaningful and conclusive way. I couldn't rationalize what had happened into a neat summary or even a loosely cohesive narrative. So I felt nothing - not happy, not downtrodden, not empty, maybe just a little weary.

But there were two polar opposites running through my brain. Two moments that I knew would come to define this race for me, being burned deep into that corner of the human consciousness reserved for the most powerful experiences. Two moments that gradually converged.

Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch.
The sun set about two hours ago, and the night has finally closed in.
It's dark, and it's getting colder.
Dressed in a pair of shorts and t-shirt, you stumble along, shivering.
Your headlamp illuminates the miserably sandy trail underfoot, which has reduced your pace to something between ridiculous and geriatric.
Quads are destroyed - 15 degrees is all the bending that can be extracted from your knees.
"Ok, try to push as hard as you can, atleast for a second" - now you're moving at 2.5km per hour.
It's hopeless, dangerous even - there is a serious possibility of causing yourself long-term damage. So you make a decision and feel relieved, disappointed, calm, yet still despairing that it will be another hour of cold and pain before you can stop.

The sun is setting, providing a glow of warmth to my bear back. The pineapple farms and pine trees roll by as I run comfortably, quickly, within myself. It's primal, it feels good. I know I'll finish - I'm certain. My legs know what to do, they turn themselves over time after time after time after time with minimal conscious effort, leaving my mind to consider the finer points of the roots on the ground and the feeling of the air. But inside me there is a deep fear - I've heard about the "abyss" of suffering that runners face in the latter stages of a 100 miler, and It's obviously yet to come - shudder.

Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch.
The dark wall of the pines rises ominously ahead.
Let it end. Let it fucking end.
Maybe if you lay down here they'll send someone for you.
But it'll be even fucking colder if you stop.
You consider eating something to generate warmth, but nausea wells up at the thought of another fucking Gu.
Pain radiates from the quads and left foot with every step - but the decision has been made, it'll be over soon.
And the road turns left, downhill.
Spud and Gordi run past, graciously offering to help, but there's not much now that can be done.

I step timidly into the creek and run up the slight incline at its far bank. I'm a bit disappointed that the sun had set before I arrived at Wild Horse, but it's ok. We're making good time, and we'll finish. The clay, rock and chalk send my feet in all directions as I try to focus on the pool of light in front. Avoid the puddle, miss the root, skip over the rock. I come up a small rise and the world opens in front. There's an expanse of free space, marked with a single light and a few friendly faces. I get to the checkpoint, take some great food and a coupon for the top of the hill, and have a quick chat with dad and the others. I consider running to the base, but figure that it's better just to walk at this stage. Better to save myself for later.

Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch.
There are lights and voices ahead, and you're filled with relief. You come into the checkpoint and look to the left. There's Vetti, Angela and Marissa, and you're completely delighted. But you just accept a hug, grunt, groan, whine, and sit down. Now it is over.
They try to encourage you to have a sleep, eat something, try to rest, but it doesn't get through. Before long, Geoff is patting your head through the car window as Dad starts the engine.

I stroll up the wide concrete path without too much effort. Well, of course it hurts, it's 122km in, but it's really not that bad. It does seem to drag on and on but soon, after realizing that the man dressed in a KKK uniform is actually a water tank, I'm at the top. Hooray!
Now descend nice and slowly.
Oh god, running is so painful.
So I walk-shuffle.
Slower and slower.
My legs are unraveling before my eyes.
And slower until you get to the bottom, and jog pathetically back to the checkpoint.
"You've still got plenty of time Zac",
"I don't want to know about time".
You don a shirt for the first time of the day, making the fatal mistake of rejecting the offer of a thermal top, and shuffle away. And then you walk.
Mike LeRoux comes past in the opposite direction, looking strong.
Dave Waugh comes past and stops for a chat - "See you soon" he says.
Still walking - no more running till checkpoint ten.
Arriving at ten, you reject the thermal top again, take some food, and stroll away, into the deep sand and the dark of the night.
Slower and colder and slower and colder.
Fuck, why didn't you just take the damn thermal.
Slower and colder and slower and colder.
Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch. Sliiiiide crunch.

1 comment:

  1. ha ha ha - I didn't think I was the only one who felt that way. Almost sorry to see you're human, Zac! Rest up, I bet the experience makes you a better runner.