3 days, one race and one resolution
My great joy in racing in the snowdrop foundation ultra 55 hour race is that it isnt about me. i worked ferociously the days leading up to the race so that I could just go numb.. i finished all the posts, the blogs and was reassured by my working partners that all was well as I began to settle into race mode.
we arrived at the snowdrop hq on monday morning around 9:30 we set up our new Kelty tent which is SUPER AMAZING.. only 3 poles and this monster was up and done. we set up the mini aid station about 3 feet off the course and picked up our packets. it was nice to see the klines, patty and the whole snowdrop gang. we kicked out early and went to our favorite indian spot near the house. when it comes to pre race day meals i like to pack it in before 4pm. my body usually will take almost anything in and then usually an hour before race time allow me to run empty.
with the bags packed and my stomach full we went home. we spent the day with Wes just playing games and hanging out. i can remember going to bed at 8:30 and that was perfect. i woke up at the first alarm. had my clothes laid out and was in the car right on time. we got to the start about 45 min pre race. it was perfect timing for all to happen.
i did ad instructed my Vince who is owner of trail toes on prepping my feet for this race. i have had a HISTORY of horrid blisters, toe nails everywhere and my feet are always a mess. Well between the trail toes care, my new altra paradigms and injinjis i had something for the trail.
i towed the line in what would be my race uniform. Trail Racing Over Texas Team singlet, by north face short shorts which are really long for me and 3 jugs of pre mixed tailwind. i knew this race would change over time so i have 1 box of clothes and also 1 box of goodies. this included reeses trees, goldfish, pure maple syrup, cheese crackers, hammer gels, bearded brothers bars, quest bars and of course my favorite Turkey epic bars..
with about 5 min before the start it hit me.. as my wife and son began to watch me and ask me how i was doing. i started to cry as our sweet Gods Sons pictures aligned the tables… our good friend Mark Kenney made us shirts with his picture and my wife made a custom shirt vest… here i was numb like i wanted. no worries of work, everything here… all i had to do now was get 100 miles done.
The snowdrop foundation is my family. all of the people that run this race run for something bigger than themselves and we support each other in a way that had bonded us forever. there isnt anything that i wouldnt do for any of them on or off the course.
As my wife and I talked tonight she asked me what are my resolutions. i told her i dont have any. i truly believe that everyday is a resolution.
as we towed the line i knew that #1 i was going to finish 100 miles. #2 i was going to try and be the life of the party and #3 i would honor my God son and the snowdrop foundation all around this .76 mile loop as long as i could.
the first 40 miles i think i could tell you went by quickly. i did a combo of run/walk just to keep the knee swelling down as much as possible. i can remember laughing, dancing on the mud and really doing my best to encourage all of those who were around me. i knew that many of them would use most of the 55 hour to make it and i also told them each that I would watch them finish. i have a belief in ultras and that is you GIVE what you NEED. i was giving the trail love to as many as I could because I NEEDED it back. i knew that at some point my knee would go and i would have to fight to finish.
at mile 40 i started to weep. i have always known that if i can get to mile 40 on this shit knee than i can finish the 100 miler. i could walk the rest, crawl the rest but this has always been the distance. i remember weeping on the back side of the track for a bit and my mind saying get back into this Rob its not in the bag.. push to 50…
i hit 50 in good spirits as Rachel and Wesley had arrived. I took about 20 min to get new socks, re lube everywhere and get back to moving. feeling the knee inflamed i knew that it was going to get touch. at mile 63 or so with friends there with me i was beginning to have to walk backwards, hobble and just hold the pee in from the knee pain. with the opportunity to go home i did. i got home at 1am and my wife had to be back up there at 6am for the relay i slept 4 hours and was back on the track. i was able to run from 62-80 before my knee went boom again. this time i was frustrated as i hated being stopped. i resolved myself to laying in the tent for about an hour or so with my feet up trying to get some sort of knee relief. back on the track from 80-95 i was basically just trying to run as much as i could. seeing everyone out was so much fun and i tried to continue to have a good time..
at times when i crossed i heard people say that i looked pissed or too smile.. when i could smile i would. but honestly most of the miles past 50 were painful. i couldnt hide the fact that it hurt even when those around me were cheering me on.
at mile 95 the knee gave out.. i was beyond irritated. i was walking backwards, hobbling.. this fking close and here we go again. instead of trying to walk 2 miles an hour i did what i needed. i went into the snowdrop heated tent and laid on the ground. put my knee up for about 30 minutes and came out determined to finish this. as i got a decent little trot in i could feel the adrenaline kick in and when i hit the line they with 5 laps left they told me that someone was on his last leg as well.. i was like ohh really who… Robert Key…
I could write a blog on how wonderful this man is.. but thats not the point. he beat me last year by a lap… i know this because he has told me this… so with 5 laps to go apparently adrenaline can take over your body. i set out on a pace that i hadnt seen in 96 laps… determine to find Robert. I ran around the first loop and when i got back i looked up and said did he come through… No…. I was stunned. where was he.. So i started to run again… I got through another lap and No Robert Key.. what has happened to grandpa?
Along the back stretch with 2 laps left i think i found Robert. We exchanged words he scolded me for lapping him while he had to change his diaper and eat more fiber i think or something like that. I took off and headed back in for the bell lap. I hit the bell lap and grabbed my In Loving Memory Shirt that Mark had made me.. Kees Poole was the reason I was running and i needed to feel him against me… I ran around that track one more time, touching all of kids pictures and enjoy the moment.. I couldnt hold back the tear any longer as I wept along the Mt Kline hill. I stopped out of sight of the finish line to say a prayer for my Kees and all of the kids affected. As I start to make my way towards the line who do i see Tony Constanzo i think in any other type of race you might just pass a man by on your way to victory.. But this isnt those kind of races. I stopped for a moment and put my hand on Tonys Shoulder and thanked him for the support. We hugged told each other how much it means for us to be there together and that we loved each other.
The final 20 or so steps was one last touch of a child on a poster and hitting the line.. I would be foolish to say that i felt anything other than numb… I saw my friends, Kevin, Trish and Patty. Countless others congratulating me on the accomplishment.. It was a nice gesture and the buckle is simply put amazing.
But the truth about this race for me is that its truly about the people that run, the snowdrop foundation and the children we support through our running.
I had the opportunity those 3 days to see some amazing individuals do something incredible things. I saw many of my friends get 100 mile buckles. But the real gift was seeing us all run for such a great cause.
As Jered Mansell who won the event with most miles and a child cancer survivor finished his race the air stood still. Time didnt tick, birds didnt chirp and the lone sound were those of a young man who just gave everything he had for “his people”…
I can tell you that i have been in tons of races. I have put on many and will for a long time. There is nothing more powerful than watching someone sacrifice it all for something greater than themselves.
This is why the Snowdrop Ultra 55 is so important to me and this is why so many of us are able to accomplish amazing feats but for only a few days.
This blog dosent allow me to tell you the 100s of stories from watching Ian wallace crush his first 100, mark kenney get 2 buckles in 14 days, brian and jered going stride for stride for hours, linda with her unrelenting willingness to run, catra lighting up the track, franks selflessness to see others achieve, dee on the brink of missing the buckle coming back to crush it, becky “buckle” spaulding finishing a 100 miler and cussing at the tv crew, gordon christie fighting his ass off through injuires to get it done, Denise representing the AIR FORCE getting it done and did i mention Grandpa Key coming in shortly after me… And if you werent there you missed the Abney boys showing up for that buckle party or maybe Tim Neckars flying 100 with texas shorts… My point is that i have 100 stories from those 3 days and thats why I love this race.
I want to thank those who supported me on these efforts that I live. I want to thank all the Houston Area Trail Runners that came out to see us those days, I want to thank my boys at TTR timing for the support, Kevin and Trish Kline, Patty Godfrey and the Snowdrop Foundation. Thank you to Altra for the killer shoes, Trail Toes for giving me something that kept me blister, chafe and rubbing free. Epic bar for the grub, Zeal optics for the glasses, Hammer Nutrition for the gels..
Thank you to all the runners, volunteers, crew, staff and snowdrop foundation for everything you are doing..
If you want to still donate to my snowdrop page here is the link. Our race company Trail Racing Over Texas will match the donation $1 to $1 for race credit for any of our races as well.