I think sometimes life is what you do when nothing goes your way.
This is the story of the week of Rocky Raccoon 100 and the best DNF day i have ever had.
The week of Rocky Raccoon 100 was the weirdest week and hardest race weeks of my life. My wife and I a few months ago went through a miscarriage which has lingered in our minds over the past few weeks. As my wife went it to a scheduled appointment on Friday the week before Rocky Raccoon we got news that she needed immediate surgery for things that had not gone all that right with the miscarriage. As the details started to come out I rushed home on friday to be with my wife and we started looking at options, surgeons, prognosis. She had an appointment for wed to see the surgeon and to find out what was next since we thought his surgery was on fridays.
As the weekend panned out nothing made sense to me. I tried to walk through the emotions of wanting to race but honestly I didnt care. On monday morning the surgeon made an appt so we rushed to the office to get his opinion of what was going on and how to deal with the issues. As we left we had a surgery date on wed and nothing but time. I started to call other members of the HATRs to pick up the pieces of the meet and greet that I was trying to put on since I didnt know what was happening. I had no clue on what would happen next or how she would be. It was the most helpless feeling in the world to have your wife in pain and not be able to fix it..
Wednesday morning we woke up and headed into surgery. Upon arrival we were told that our insurance wasnt any good. Interesting enough I had paid the premiums up till end of Feb 5 days prior.. As being in the hospital wasnt enough now we are in the position of having to have surgery and them telling me that I have no insurance.. Another great feeling of being helpless to the situation. No time to fight with the insurance company which we had been doing for days the only option at a hospital with no insurance is pay up.. So my wife and I actually left the hospital and went to the car to talk about options. I love the way my wife isnt afraid to walk out when she dosent feel like something is right. Its probably one of the coolest things ever. As we talked in the car we went over scenarios etc on rescheduling to fix insurance, just pay it and worry about it later etc. We make our decisions and head back in.
As I tell her good bye I kiss her forehead and text the “text my family” list as i sit down. 25 min later the doc comes out and tells me all is well and I can go back. As soon as I see her I can tell that she is in pain. As we get home I resume the responsibilities of trying to work, manage our house and help my wife. As the we get closer to Friday I am unsure of what is going to happen with our family. My wife tells me that her friends are coming over for a little bit friday and that she will be okay for a few hours with the meet and greet.
Friday morning I head out to the meet greet and eat. I had set up a little get together with some elites there in hunstville at the Five Loaves Deli. The place is a great little spot to get some fresh food and grub. Jose picked up Dave James from the air port the night before and showed him our local trails and his shorty shorts. Mark K grabbed dave and told he me was on his way. The strangest thing about all this is that I didnt know how this would all pan out. The night before I picked up some cowboy hats, beer from Karbach Brewery and some HATR gear to give to the elites as a homecoming to the state. So as I pull up the resturant is still closed and I see Robert Smith who lives in the area.. I think well at least i know 4 people are coming haha. I see Pam smith pull up… I know my heart stops.. This is Pam Smith people.. aka WORLD RECORD HOLDER… aka Western States 2014 winner. I am nervous I wont lie.. As Mark Pulls up I see Dave James judging on what I have heard Dave James is super cool and is like meeting someone i havent seen in years… I see Gary Gellin as well who i had no idea was going to come do I am equally excited as I know his resume is deep. As we went the building Ian Sharman and Connie Garnder walk in… If you are an ultra fun and you are standing in line and you turn around and see those 2.. Fantasy land… Move over brangelina this is big time right here. As they come in the deli is slinging out food and more people show up and we head off to an open enclosed spot.. Ryan Ghelfi shows up after this and I chat with him about UROC and how crazy it was since he is from out west.
Mark and I had prepared some information. Apparently I am not very good at keeping track of Course records or achievements. I think 3 of the 3 world records or FKT that i said had been beaten and it was overheard that i was pouring salt into wounds. Honestly I was just trying to give these athletes their due justice and thank them for coming out. So after Ian told us about the course and we talked and laughed. A fee of the HATRs helped me present the athletes with a upside down cowboy hat with beer, a shirt/hat and a sticker. I was very surprised that they liked the idea so much (but my wife did tell me it was smart idea) and they wanted to take pictures with the cowboy hats. The whole idea was to get a chance for regular joes like me to get to meet elite athletes. I think its the coolest thing to meet people that you admire. I think as they become more human to you then you see yourself doing great things. We also met Maggie there who had recently run Bandera and was back for more at RR100.
As soon as we were done I took Dave James back to the campsite and asked him to drop my drop bag for me since I was going to go back home. I spoke to Joe we laughed he joked that I had Dave all HATR out with shirt and hat and I thought it was funny. For those of you who dont know Joe… Probably the best man in the world. My wife calls him Mentor Joe in our house since she realizes that I have the utmost respect for joe and how he runs his events and treats people. He reminds me of the dad that I would have wanted.. Firm but cool as hell. I had home to the house to spend time with my wife and make sure she is okay.
The hours pass in the night as I lay awake. My brain swirling with ideas, concerns about racing, etc.. The minutes become hours as I finally leave the bed at 11am to head to the couch. I have to sleep. I cant run on nothing. As the clock hits 3 o clock i am up. I eat and my ride Daniel is ready outside. I get to sleep half the ride and we show up right at 5am, I run around getting all my stuff together and am supposed to meet some friend and coach at the start. Too chaotic. As the time counts down I just try to clear the space in my mind. Try to erase the thoughts, concerns, emotions from the slate. The only thing that I can wish for is that I have an open mind and I can take it all in stride by stride.
Within the first 8 minutes I feel lethargic. My legs feel like thousand pound bricks of crap.. I am wondering why the hell is going on . As I start to pick the pace I hit the ground. I scurry to get up and laugh as I havent taken a fall in a long time… About 5 minutes later I hit the ground again.. This time I am not laughing as I start to wonder where this is coming from… I remember headed into the first aid station and being in a daze. My crew said I looked slow and confused.. Thats how I felt.. Once to damnation one I did what I planned. I got my drop bag open and ready to go for the day. As I left for the 6 mile hike from damnation 1 to 2 i fell another 3 times along the way. I could feel my right toe now filled with fluid as it slid in the toe socks strangely. Once back to the damnation 2 i figured I had had enough. I had the aid station give me a trash bag and I put my drop bag into it and along i ran. I figured I wasnt going to make it till sunday at noon so why make my crew come and get this. Might as well bring it along if I was going to drop. I ran with the bag switching from hand to hand as I think it weight like 30 lbs along the way. People joked with me on what I was going i told a few of them I was a mobile aid station, or that I was in a tough mudder. But honestly Id rather joke than tell them the truth. But as I went along i saw maggie and told her the plans she looked strong and so did Ryan williams. I was happy to see them knocking miles out. As i came into the last aid station before finish I handed jose the bag and told him i was done. My crew did a great job on giving me shit about dropping etc and i ended up listening and just headed out to finish the loop. Once i started running i started to feel better but my right knee was swelling and i knew it was going to be a long day. along the next 4 miles i fell 3 more times. everyone of them hurting more than the rest. i was losing the ability to lift my knee up to clear anything worth a crap. I did enjoy the last 2 miles where people were coming back at us. I always feel good telling people great job as it seems to lift my spirits as well.
As I got into the finish line. Jose and jeremy did their best to encourage me to keep going. I did have to yell to get my point across and there was a few minutes where i probably dropped alot of f bombs and sorry to all the children around there. In the end Jose i think said if you are going to quit im calling your wife.. I guess this is like saying im calling your sponsor or something. I talked to my wife for a few minutes she encouraged me to do whatever i wanted but i told her i was done. I wasnt do much mad just couldnt explain alot of it. I told Jeremy that I was unwilling to suffer that day. Plain and simple mentally i didnt want it. So with that I took my chip to Joe and i told him it wasnt my day.
I called my wife let her know the DNF king was back and she encouraged me to hang around and help out. I really wanted to just forget all about Rocky and head home. I normally dont mind pacing, or helping out or chatting but I was just over it. Irritated that I told myself this year I wouldn’t race unless I felt good but yet I enter 2 big races and feel like shit going into both.. Then again i signed up for them months ago. I also knew I was going to take off some time after Rocky so I think i was looking forward to starting that.
But good things come to those who wait sometimes and today was my lesson. I spent the next few hours chatting with Joe about being an RD and how brazos was going. I got to talk to Erik about his new coaching opportunities at TrailRoots.. As the day went on I was able to follow our coach Michele Yates through some of the aid stations and talk to her brother and husband as well. I met the Ultra Sports Live.TV folks and had a great time talking about opportunities and the like in the future. As much as this is fun when someone asks you what happened it sucks bad. It really would feel better to say you didnt start then to say you didnt finish.. Just to tell you crew who gets up at 3am to see you run that you are done sucks…
But as I stood and talked I laughed with Dave and his gf and talked to Connie about her day. Then I got into an oddly strange conversation with Pam Smith.. We are talking about Brazos Bend etc and Joe comes over. Pam takes an opportunity to kind of needle joe about my event.. It was a mixture of laughing and me trying to back peddle to save my own ass at the same time. But in the end i talked to Pam about running small circle since she just ran Desert Soltice on a 400 m track and I just ran snowdrop on a .75 mile loop. I talk to her about her plans this year and what is next.. She tells me the plans and asks me well what are you running next?
Pam smith (need i say more) just asked me what I am running next (aka DNF KING-nickname from Jose)? Incredible..
We spend the rest of the day chasing the leaders like school children. Commenting on how this is better than racing. We are yelling at people like we always do, crewing Larry ” The BEA$T” Kocian on his first 3 loops and just loving life. I put this on face book yesterday but you cant compare trail racing to anything. The people, the runners, the volunteers the atmosphere is so organic, raw and spiritual. As the night starts to fall my wife tells me that she is still okay and just be safe. We head back out to catch some leaders and I hear Michele is hurting..
All day we have been routing for our coach and she was dropping the hammer on the field all day. But you know what this is ultras and nothing is guaranteed. As We hear the news that she drops we cant believe it. we continue to follow the leaders and I talk to some of the crews there and enjoy their company. The course was playing havok on some of the best in the field and it was a typical crazy Texas day.
We stay at the finish like to see all the big names come in Matt Laye won the event and Ian Sharman came in 2nd.. As they came in Larry came in for lap 3 and picked up the pacer. Daniel was done crewing so we headed to the car. Jose offered to go say hi to Michele but at first I was hesitant to bother her.. Jose then said some cuss words and I think ungrateful was a word in there.
We headed to see Michele at the camp site. We had a great conversation about running, training, whats next and coming out to Colorado in may. But the coolest part of the experience is that she is the coolest person i could have imagined. Everything you wish you got in a superstar basketball player or someone for you kids to look up to. No glamour, NO fakeness. I am honored that she coaches me (although I pay her) haha but I am so proud to be part of TEAM YATES and to watch her go after her dreams and she helps to guide me to mine.
And I take that away from this weekend. All of these people that we admire that run ultras are just like you and me. They have bad days, they have good days but we are all in the same club. I am always inspired by people that are consistent in the ultra world. Probably since this is a skill i have yet to master. I see people like Cara Bass, Richard Mihalik, Steve Moore, Nancy Marks, Steve Ton, Paul Terrnova and the list goes on and on and I am inspired by what these people do to get it done race in and race out without fail.
As joe and I talked about race directing my first race I am equally nervous as I am excited. I cant wait to try and put on the best event I can for all of these people to enjoy. I cant wait to stand there and put the medal over Mandy’s neck as she get her first ultra medal and watch people get changed by trail running just like it did me. I am honored to get to give it my all just like all of the runners, volunteers, Tejas Trail crew and people do at all of these races.
When i was in a bad place in my life for a few years you look around and think that everyone is either doing to die, end up in jail or you dont care. Its ironic that when you see the other side of life all of the opposites come to be. You can see the best in people at trail races, the enjoyment, the will of a human in its purest form.
So it was probably my worst race ever and the best day ever as well.
Thank you all that make these dreams possible for all of us.
Congrats to all of you who survived ROCKYPOCALYPSE 2014 you earned it!