by Fred Thompson
October 31, 2009
Drew Meyer told me before Cactus Rose that once I completed my first 100 mile race I would feel different. He wasn’t sure he could describe that difference, but assured me that I would feel different. He was right. I did feel different and also was unable to articulate that difference. It’s as if some long-annoying itch got scratched. But soon that different feeling becomes the new norm.
I picked Cactus Rose for my first 100 mile run because I love the rugged trail, love Joe, Joyce, and crew, and love the zombie bees that their honey attracts. Several questioned the wisdom of picking such a tough race for my first 100, but my theory of being better-suited to a more technical trail seemed to prove itself to be true. My issues were more in the realm of electrolyte imbalance and, perhaps, sleep-deprivation. Due to the aforementioned, there will be no detailed account of my experience. Let it suffice to say that, for whatever reason, there are big gaps in my recollection of events throughout the weekend.
The logistics of a 100 mile run take things to a different level. And with the structure of Cactus Rose in particular, the whole nutrition plan took on a life of its own. We eventually could have supported several runners. Luckily, the one thing I did absolutely right was assemble the perfect crew–Team Gotta Run. I would not have finished this race without them–literally. My wife, Char, kept a laser-beam focus coupled with enthusiastic support, efficient organizational skills, and enough energy left over to accompany me the last 5 miles. My good friend, Annie, brought her California hill-training strength coupled with incredible energy to get me through the night and 20 miles of hills then picked me up off the ground for another 10 miles to hand me off to Char and the experience of Dave Billman. My good friend, and regular training partner, Dave, led me out on the first 15 miles of loop three then literally propped me up for the last 9 miles as I had developed the dreaded “20 degree list to port.” Paula Billman was our “Cowboy Chef”. She set up camp at Equestrian and fed our crew from her stove and fed my soul with her amazing spirit. My daughter, Leslie, her fiance, Mitch, and my grandson, Jacob, surprised me Sunday morning wearing their Team Gotta Run shirts and quickly assimilated and assumed roles to ensure my success. Sharing this experience with all of them has been incredible.
The race itself was life-changing. The weather was almost perfect, the format, allowing us to see friendly faces regularly, was encouraging, the Halloween costumes were laugh-out-loud respites from the running, my finish was rewarding, and the encouragement and caring of friends and family at the ugly end was life-affirming. You see, this is really a story about a journey from my best expectations to DFL. Things were going great for the first half, still on track for reasonable expectations through 75 miles, and then a slog through a foggy abyss for the last 15 miles or so. The last 5 miles took 3 hours, all of Dave and Char’s patience, and all my stubborn will to finish. I won’t try to relate here what happened to cause my condition to deterioriate. In fact, I’m not real sure I know. I do know I learned much during and after the race.
The week following the race was very emotional for me as well as Char. A combination of fatigue and realization of a huge life goal kept emotions raw. I was moved to tears several times while reading emails from NTTR & HCTR friends and family. Photos from Annie and Paula were particularly moving.
I want to thank all of you who offered advice, encouragement, and congratulations. To Joe and Joyce, thanks for keeping my cup full and the finish-line light on for me. Thanks to Matt Crownover, my spiritual advisor, for his enlightenment. And thanks to all who have read this for allowing me a forum for a different kind of race report. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got this itch I can’t seem to reach…