|Horndlwand (~100k into the race)|
“I’m going to show you how great I am”-Muhammad Ali
The two weeks between helping my friend Douglas Long pull off a sub-30hr Badwater and leaving for Europe seemed to dissolve like sugar into hot coffee. Before I knew it I was on a eleven hour flight headed to a country where the only word I knew in their language…We’ll truth be told I didn’t know a single word in German. I was headed to give a go at this hundred miler I had heard of forever ago in the USA, the Chiemgauer 100 “the Hardrock of Germany”.
After too many plane & train transfers, I finally ended up in Ruhpolding, Germany, a place where when I asked Germans back in Berlin in Munich, no one had ever heard of
Upon riding the train into Ruhpolding and staring at the massive Bavarian Alps was “wow…these are a lot bigger than anything we have in San Diego…or that I faced in Tennessee” The steep bright green hills contrasted the stark and steep gray cliff cap rock. I could make out a few Para-gliders floating some three thousand feet above me.
I spent the day before the race trying to meticulously absorb and understand the race map, the climbs and everything I could. Dirk, who was staying in the room across from me spoke English and had completed the race twice before. He was kind enough to take me under his wing. He taught me everything he knew about the course as I asked him question after question while we enjoyed some delicious schnitzel overlooking the valley during sunset.
In our conversation I had learned about Rudi Dohnert and Thomas Wagner who were both extremely talented and fast athletes and not that I wasn’t, but they were not to be underestimated. The course? Dirk mentioned that it was pretty well marked so getting lost shouldn’t be an issue (out of habit from Barkley, I was still hesitant to take the compass out of my pack) As far as terrain and climbs, “Nick there are cliffs adjacent to almost all of the upstairs and downstairs sections, the hardest and most difficult climb comes to you from 90km-102km, the climb to Horndlwald, literally translated Nick as ‘horn wall’” I would know why the translation was so fitting in about twelve hours…
Unlike the hundred’s in the USA the Chiemgauer 100 was a split night start. Meaning that you could start at any full hour between 2pm-7pm, the faster you were the later it was suggested that you start. A few hours before the race I met Rudi and Thomas, both decked out in their seemingly fancy Salomon gear, admittedly they both looked pretty intimidating. I could tell from the frequent stares, that my short shorts and skull Ink N Burn tank top that I stood out to say the least.
|Me, Dirk & Thomas|
I looked at the clock and suddenly it was 6:59pm, one minute to go. Four of us myself, Rudi, Thomas and another German runner toed the start line as we shook each other’s hand wishing each other good luck. And then we were off! I joked with Thomas and Rudi that this was one of the smallest starts to a hundred ever!
And although we had started five hours later than some we were all technically in last place at that moment. The four of us came out of the stadium and I instantly started leading the group the wrong direction, Thomas quickly corrected me and I joked “alright…don’t let the American lead…I got no idea what I’m doing!”
|Myself & Rudi, spreading the great Injinji sock!|
And although we had started five hours later than some we were all technically in last place at that moment. The four of us came out of the stadium and I instantly started leading the group the wrong direction, Thomas quickly corrected me and I joked “alright…don’t let the American lead…I got no idea what I’m doing!”
The first five miles of the course wound throughout Ruhpolding and along the river, deceptively flat and easy, giving me a false impression that perhaps this course wasn’t going to be all that difficult. When we started the first climb, Thomas and I ran everything and Rudi hiked right behind us using his poles ‘click, click, click’ I thought in that moment…That clicking would be the sound of impending doom when I hear it in the distance around mile 80. The climb was a graded fire road, no different from what I was used to in the USA and then we turned uphill and onto some overgrown single-track, steep but not anything too out of the ordinary, HURT, PLAIN, Barkley were all still much more technical.
We hit the downhill or a Dirk said ‘downstairs’ and I pulled a little bit ahead of Thomas and Rudi. Rudi intelligently held back and Thomas pushed on down with me. We hit the 18km (~10 miles) mark in just under 1hr and 25mins, and I couldn’t help but wonder why no one had completed this 87km (~54 miles) loop in under 9hrs, Thomas laughed at my ignorant remark as the three of us pressed onward.
Somewhere along the way and after a few more downhill’s I remembered to “run my own race” and started pulling away from Rudi and Thomas. Night fell around 10:00pm and foolishly I had thrown new batteries into my headlamp without checking them to see if they were good. And what happens when you do that? Their near dead of course! The fact that I was on single track under a thick forest canopy wasn’t helping either, I could see the ground and about ten feet ahead of me, which was enough to move slowly but I couldn’t help but draw similarities between the poor visibility in this forest and the poor visibility I had experienced while climbing rat jaw at loop 2 during Barkley.
On a fire road heading towards the 36km Kontrol (aid station) I saw Rudi and Thomas’s headlight in the nearby distance and decided to pull back my pace in order to run with either of them and their brighter headlamps. Click, click, click the impending sound of doom… “Nick…Didn’t think I would see you” “eh well…made a stupid mistake on headlamp choice and I underestimated the darkness of your forests, mind if I run with you?”
We took off together with Thomas maybe two or three minutes back. We entered into some single track and Rudi started pushing the pace, amidst the tree roots and rocks, it was difficult to keep up with him as I noticed my heart rate begin to lose its cool. I couldn’t lose Rudi though, he was my guiding light!
When we hit fire-road again (~31km) I decided to go run ahead of Rudi and at the top I got my first taste of what this race was really going to be like. The fire road abruptly ended and large chalk arrows pointed to the right which my weak headlamp revealed was at least a 35% grade…mmm Barkley style…I kept losing the exact trail, looking from flag to flag and hopping over logs, Rudi was catching me again and it seemed moving forward with a weak headlamp was a dumb decision. I started an extremely steep descent where I thought the flags were marking.. Only to fool Rudi into following me down there…Shortly followed by Thomas. The three of us wandered around for a second until Thomas (two time winner of this race) took off and Rudi and I followed him. We wondered off course for about ten minutes before communally deciding that we had gone the wrong way. As I had learned in Barkley “community creates false-confidence”. We got back on track and my stomach was now growling, headlamp nearly out and water low, I hoped that the 36km Kontrol would appear soon.
Rudi and Thomas noticed the Kontrol first and we began descending down to it across a cow field scattered with various ankle twisting pot holes. I was told by Thomas after I finished that the aid station volunteers noticed that there were two runners (Rudi & Thomas) coming into the aid station from a distance and were completely surprised when I randomly appeared from the darkness aside them.
I prayed and begged an aid station volunteer for spare batteries, luckily he had some. “Thank you! You may not know it, but you just absolutely saved my race!” Rudi and Thomas were anxious to get going and I saw them begin to take off, I had to fill my water though “run your own race Nick” I said to myself. When I came back out, I figured they had taken off so I started flying down the hill after them. My Garmin beeped at me “6:20min/mile” woops…I dialed it back a bit and figured I would catch them when I catch them (little did I know they were actually back at the aid station sharing a non-alcoholic beer). The next full aid station was at 51km, I had enough Carbo-Pro to get me there but wasn’t looking forward to surviving off of those. I was moving at around an 8min/mile average, feeling that I need to move quicker if I was going to catch Rudi and Thomas, “man they’re fast!” I thought to myself as I descended down a broken bridge, across a creek and scrambled over fallen pine trees to the other side.
At about 45km I started ascending and noticed two headlamps in the far distance below me… “Rudi, Thomas!” I yelled out, no response. It must have been them though I thought. Maybe they had waited for me back at that aid station and like a jerk I had just ditched them? I felt like out of respect I should have waited for them, but I kept running my own race.
I dipped into Adllgass the 51km (~32 miles) aid station where Rudi’s wife was waiting for us to come in. She welcomed me in gave me some nice salty hot soup, I loaded up on banana’s, pretzels, some good solid foods and had Carbo-pro stuffed in the back of my pack for when the solids ran out. Rudi’s wife asked “want some beer?” My friends and I had joked about this back in the USA before me coming out “ya Nick all they are going to have at their aid stations in beer and bratwurst!” And at least half of that statement was true! I decided against my better judgment and took a big gulp of the non-alcoholic frothy brew…It was delicious and surprisingly refreshing. I thanked Rudi’s wife and was off far before I could see Rudi or Thomas in the distance.
I threw in my iPod at this time and triggered my first runner’s high. I usually get these highs from a good techno beat but I was listening instead to an audio recording of a bunch of motivational quotes none of which had any direct association with running. The voice of Rocky echoed in my ears, “Ima tell you something you already know, life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, life will beat to your knees and leave you there if you let it, life is the hardest thing that will ever hit you…but life ain’t about how hard you get hit, it’s about how hard you can GET HIT and KEEP MOVING FORWARD how much you can TAKE and KEEP MOVING FORWARD”
Back when I had just started to get into ultra’s I’d foolishly squander these psychological high’s and blast away at a 5:30min/mile for one mile, I knew know from experience, to hold it, savor it and ride the high for as long as possible. I yelled out into the forest as I started a very difficult 900m (~2,700ft) climb, “I’m gonna show you how great I am!” Keeping my thoughts positive I started catching quite a few of the other runners who had started earlier than me. The nice fire road we were on soon turned to steep switchbacks similar to mile 75 at the AC 100. Those switchbacks then worsened into something like Hog’s back at the HURT 100 and then that morphed into a bastardized version of Rat Jaw from Barkley. I found myself using my hands to crawl up over boulders and stabilize myself so as to not fall to my death off of the sheer cliffs six inches to my left. Positive thoughts, I kept everything positive and rode that runner’s high all the way to the top.
When I went through the cow gate there was a quaint Bavarian cottage all lit up under the partial moon and stars nestled in this small valley. I stumbled over, they took down my number as I soaked myself in water from the nearby trough. “Potato soup? Tea?” “yes and yes!” I sat for about five minutes just enjoying the warm potato soup..Staring upward at the gleaming stars in the obsidian sky, sipping on a delicious blueberry vanilla tea…I was just touring the Bavarian Alps and getting free food this wasn’t a run.… “Ah!” It was far too comfortable at this aid station and I was beginning to spend an eternity there…The remedy to feeling good? I splashed some freezing cold water in my face and got my ass out of there! “If you think you’re going to quit, get the hell away from the aid station!” I repeated to myself as I began flying back into the dark woods.
I had asked about the next section and they told me it was at 68km, after some downhill and a bit more climbing. I started the downhill..useless! It was absolutely useless downhill…I mean it was downhill but it was so ridiculously technical that there was literally nothing you could do in it. Jagged, angular rocks haphazardly covered the trail and where there wasn’t rock there were tree roots or sticks waiting to jam or twist your ankles. I moved half running/ half stumbling down the trail, catching a few more of the early start runners, it was an unpleasant trail but seeing the others was nice to at least know that the suffering was being shared.
The trail started to clear up once I began to dip out of the woods and in the distant downhill I could hear what sounded like an aid station, “Cow bells! Cool someone must have seen my light and is cheering me on!” I thought. I blasted the remaining downhill that was littered in oddly shaped cow footprints turned off my iPod and got ready to ask for ‘vassa stilz’ at the aid station. Except…There wasn’t an aid station..Just darkness, was I lost? No..the course markings were there, I was on the right track. I heard the multitude of cow bells again and went just over the next rise which revealed a massive field of dairy cows swinging their heads back and forth ringing their…cow bells…Being a California native…Up to this point in my life I didn’t know cowbells were actually used on cows...
I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t an aid station
as the mileage seemed correct for 68km but I kept my head up and did what my
friend Von would have done “alright cows, I am dedicating you as my cheer squad
for the rest of the race! You guys just keep cheering me on! Thanks for being
out here!” I said as I ran by and began another steep ascent.
|Part of my cheering squad|
When the aid station finally came I could see two headlamps in the near distance behind me, I had passed quite a few of the runners from the early start of the race, so I wasn’t sure if it was them or perhaps an angry Thomas & Rudi coming to get revenge on me for having not waited for them back at 36km…Either way I didn’t want to be caught and took off again quickly.
On my way to the final climb of the 54 mile loop, somewhere around mile ~47 and about 4:00am in the morning I passed through a small house and into a farmer’s field where the course markings I think meant for me to go on the side of the fence…not under it…Foolishly, I grabbed the fence eagerly looking for the flag and received a quick, strong ‘zap!’ Phew! I was awake now…Nothing like an electric fence to jolt some energy back in you…After wandering around and avoiding the electric fence I found the course marker and was off again.
I was ascending the back of Rauschburg (~49 miles) I threw my iPod on and began focusing solely on the trail. It was getting technical but not bad..And then my left foot slipped off the trail to the left I fell to the ground and glanced with my headlamp off to my left…And revealed what must have been at least a 1000ft drop…I then looked to my right and noticed a steel cable was drilled into the rock next to me. Clinging to the steel cable, I slowly jotted over the next few miles, deeper into the forest where I could finally see twilight began to break.
Another ‘useless’ technical downhill brought me onto a graded fire road and I began taking off. I hit the Stadion (87km, ~53.4? miles) at about 5:30am, thirty minutes before the start of the 100k and about what I figured at least 30mins ahead of Rudi and Thomas?
I asked at the main aid station, “where’s Rudi and Thomas?” “Rudi’s dropped out and Thomas is still going strong but we’re not sure where he’s at yet” “Rudi’s dropped?” I felt bad for the guy, extremely nice guy and I was hoping him and Thomas would come destroy me around mile 80, after all you’re only as good as your best competition. Thomas was still out there though, still pushing, so I had to as well and I got going.
I stopped again about 3km away from the Stadion in Stockreit where I had been staying prior to the race, I went up into my hotel room, brushed my teeth (felt great!), changed my shirt, changed my shoes, grabbed some Carbo-Pro Amino’s and powder for the go and then went and sat downstairs and joined Christiane (the owner of the house) for a quick breakfast and coffee…Again pretending in my mind that I was just ‘touring’ Bavaria and eating for free.
The new shoes and poles gave me a strong fresh feeling and I began tearing it up the mountain. Dirk had told me that this next section was by far the hardest and worst section of the race, so be prepared! It began with a crippling 30% grade up a dry ski slope, mostly exposed but it was only about 6:30am so things weren’t too hot yet. I just pushed on, until I came across another early starter who saw me in the distance and started to speed up. “why was he competing with me?” I thought…I pushed a little bit harder, struck my poles into the ground and powered up to the top of the ski hill and to my surprise the guy was nowhere in sight. I began running downhill off towards the notorious and difficult Horndlwand…Hoping that I would catch this random early starter.
I was slowed down by another sizable climb before reaching the base of Horndlwand; I remember I kept staring at the mountains around me. They were all extremely steep and tall with straight cliffs at the top. I kept wandering which one the cruel race director was going to send us poor souls up… Finally I caught a glance of the early starter! He was only a few hundred meters in front of me now, weaving uphill through the forest I began to catch him, when suddenly my stomach starting grumbling…”nutrition FIRST pace SECOND” I said out loud to myself as I slowed down to a crawl, “just keep your nutrition strong and a strong pace will come naturally” I powered down some weird German ‘ultra-bar’ and a half a loaf of bread and started walking harder uphill again.
Things were now getting really steep though…It was as if Laz (the race director from Barkley) had been working in conjunction with Gi (the race director of the Chiemgauer) and the two had decided this was the worst possible trail to send the runners up. Assorted large boulders, gargantuan tree roots, slowed my run to a sluggish and capricious climb…Where I could make out the fresh foot prints of the guy ahead of me… “mmm Salomon’s…” his footprint revealed.
As I ducked out of the woods, a distant view of the real Alps came into focus and my heart sank for a moment as I stared at their massive size and thought that only in short five weeks I’ll be attempting to run 205 miles over those things…I heard a shallow breathing from around the corner and ascended quickly with my poles, “Nick! My main man!” Dirk said as he was sitting resting on a rock, I looked at his shoes Salomon’s…Turns out I had been chasing him for the last few miles… “How’s it going man? How you doing?” I said, he said“not so well, my stomach has been having issues and this climb…It’s a tough one ya?”, I responded, “…ya tough one might be an understatement, hey let’s do the rest of this climb together man” As I stared up and saw what looked like small ants on steep switchbacks some 1,000+ft above us.
“The secret Dirk with climbs like these, is to not look up, as beautiful as it may be…just stare at the ground, each step really isn’t that steep, it’s really not that steep if you just focus on the ground” I turned back and he was already several switchbacks behind me by the time I had completed my short aside… “Dirk! Kick ass man! And I hope you have a great race! Keep going man!”, he looked up and said back, “You too Nick! Kill it!” And so I did. All the way up, despite one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen during an ultra, I kept looking at the ground until a photographer told me to smile. I held my poles up and let out a big smile, like I was having a picnic or something, it’s not my quote but I love it when David Goggins once said “never show weakness” and I don’t! At least in my race photos…
I turned around for a moment light headed and legs shaking, stared out into the distant view with the Bavarian alps immediately adjacent to me and the real alps looming in the distance, the ‘horns’ of Horndlwand great granite spires to my left and right acted like a giant gate granting me access to the ‘great beyond’.
There was a small water station at the top and as I was filling my water I foolishly asked, “what’s the next section like?” “O just a few kilometers of downhill”…The first kilometer ran through blueberry bush after blueberry bush. I thought for a moment I was going to get a decent downhill run in. And then I saw the fire road some 2,000ft below me and what looked like less than a mile away a small ant running on the white road…
I threw on my iPod again and started to jam, stepping here and there. I carried the poles in my hand because it was too technical (or I was too unskilled) to use them in a downhill like this. Scree slope after steep scree slope, I slid, climbed and skirted my way down until I finally hit the fire-road, looking back up it resembled a rockier version of the Rat Jaw climb from the prison at Barkley…I was glad that I descended it at least… I passed another one of those weird water trough things and dunked my head into it and held my wrists under the cool water for about two minutes, cooling my blood in the now 90 degree weather.
|weird water trough|
I could see in the distance another runner flying by up ahead and ran off for another fun game of cat and mouse. I caught the runner at the next aid station sat down for a moment and was surprisingly hungry…Everything just looked delicious, I ate about three small salami sandwiches, a bottle of non-alcoholic beer and a few gummy bears while loading up my pack and foolishly dropping my poles off with the aid station crew.
As I began moving back out onto the fire road, I could feel my stomach cramping…Too many salami sandwiches…O well the next part was a climb and I wasn’t going to be doing a sub 6min/miles anytime soon. I don’t know how close I was to the record at this point or how long the rest of the race would take me, but I kept pushing hard, I thought back to Doug at Badwater…Was I running as fast as he was? He had worse conditions and I’ll be damned if he was moving faster…I started trucking up the mountain maintaining a 13min/mile just like I had drill instructed him to do up Mt. Whitney so that he could nail a sub-30hr Badwater.. “Come on Nick, it’s just thirteen minute miles…you got this…” The climb continued to steepen…Thirteen became fifteen. The climb turned into singletrack with rocks littered everywhere…Fifteen became a painful twenty… “Ah! Curse you Dirk! You told me that everything from Horndlwand onward was going to be a peanut sized hill! These are some big ass peanuts…” I finally topped out only to be greeted by yet another extremely technical downhill…I was now running low on water when I passed by another trough. There were a few cows hanging around it, cheering me on with their bells as I weaseled in between them to the trough which was covered in cow slime and some kind of algae…It was cold though. So I dunked my head into it…Maybe the cow slime would keep me cool for longer? I kept running.
For a few brief moments I lost the course maybe wasting four to five minutes, staring at a grass field and dirt road wandering which way the course went… “hundret meilen?” I asked a farmer atop a hill in the middle of nowhere, “you know we speak English…It’s that way ya” Feeling like a foolish American...I kept running.
I was jamming to my iPod beginning a slow descent when all of sudden a blue flash whizzed past me, “Thomas!” No…It was the guy from the 100k race that had started half an hour before me…He was running everything, and I was going to be dammed if I let him make a fool of me… I decided to follow with him for a bit, way over a sustainable pace but it helped motivate me to move again. I got into the next aid station about twenty seconds behind him, filled up on water and he was gone…I tried quickly rushing through the forest to catch him and my iPod got caught up between a bush and my headphones ripping the device off and flinging it into a patch of stinging nettles… “Ah! My mom’s going to kill me…She just bought that thing for me like three days ago…” The race didn’t matter anymore…I needed to find that iPod…I got down on my hands and knees and spent the next seven minutes digging around and flattening stinging nettles with my bare hands in an attempt to find the damned thing… To no avail I finally got up and decided that I would come back to this spot in the days following the race and spend hours searching for the damn thing (I came back and found it a day later).
A long downhill brought me to the 118km (~70 miles) aid station where I stopped momentarily, filled my water, ate a bunch of watermelon and drank another non-alcoholic beer…Again I was just touring Bavaria eating free food right? Gah..I was having too much fun and left the aid station running, “good luck!” They all yelled as I ran off into the woods.
This part of the race…A peanut according to Dirk, was a 100% exposed extremely bushy black diamond ski slope that ascended 800-900ft in a little under a half a mile. Pretty much a German Testicle Spectacle for those familiar with the climb. At about what I thought was half way up, I sat down in the hot sun…The temperature was grilling me to death in the exposed mid 90’s and I needed to keep cool. I watched a fat black and yellow salamander crawl out from the bushes across the muddy trail and disappear back into bushes…Beautiful little guy…I got back up and walked about ten feet higher only to discover that was the top of the climb…“really Nick?” I laughed at myself for having taken a break on the shortest climb of the race…
The downhill was finally runnable! I bombed it! I ran right into the next aid station at 121km. I quickly asked “where’s Thomas?” “anyone know where Thomas Wagner is?” Blank faces stared back at me…“Thomas? O a few aid stations ago he was about an hour behind you, but he’s looking strong! Stronger than you!!” As the man examined my overheated reddish looking face… “he’s catching up to you!” Little did I know that they were actually just fooling with me at this point in the race…Thomas had unfortunately had some cramping issues and decided to call it at the 100km mark, in reality he was nowhere near me. But in that moment I thought, “really? Gaining?” I thought back to the HURT 100 and how Jason Loutitt had an hour and half on me at mile 80 and how I closed that to four minutes by the 100 mile mark and I wandered if Thomas was planning on doing the same thing.
The sun was strong, and the final climb to the top of Hockfelln was extremely exposed, but I knew I had to get going if I was going to keep Thomas off of me, I knew I had to run every step possible to keep him from catching me. So I blasted off.
Sweating hard and working well above a sustainable pace, I remembered what Dirk had said about this climb “it’s long but it’s not steep”…Compared with what? A rock climbing wall? I began to doubt Dirk’s advice. Parts of the climb were moderately steep and where it was a shallow grade, I tried to run despite the rocky, crappy terrain. I knew Thomas would be running this, so I had to the same to keep him off me. I kept nervously glancing behind, praying that I wouldn’t see anything.
When I reached what I thought was the top, I was disheartened to realize it was only about halfway as my eyes focused upwards and revealed another crippling 1,500ft ascent to the top of the mountain. I began to think ‘this climb is a pain…I hate…” But I remembered from earlier in the race a quote by Andrew Thompson (Barkley IX) “if a thoughts not positive…then it’s negative and god dammit Nick you’ve got no room for negativity in this race!” And my sub-conscious was right…I had no room for negativity, I yelled out loud to the woods and the hot dry climb “Pain may last a minute, it may last an hour or even a day but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place…greatness….” I whispered under my breathe and began stepping up the pace, pushing harder, hands on my knee’s I focused on the ground and started hammering out the climb. I could hear the laughter of the aid station guys at the top now and was passing scattered German tourists who had ridden a tram to the top.
Out of breathe and verging on collapse, I plopped down onto a chair at the aid station and they handed me a cold non-alcoholic beer as I sat and looked at the 360 degree view from the top of this beautiful mountain…Gorgeous…Even if that climb sucked, I was fortunate to be up there. I nervously stared down from the aid station at the switchbacks that I had conquered with the cold beer in my hand and say what looked like Thomas with poles powering up the climb! “How…how long does it take someone to get from there to here?” I nervously asked the aid station guys, “about forty minutes at least” “ah that’s not enough he’s gaining on me!” I slammed down my beer and foolishly asked as I left what the next section was like “downhill…” O god…
Maybe it’s a nightmare for some or a dream for others, I’m not sure what this next section resembled for me except for the fact if that was Thomas, regardless of the fact the trail was only three feet wide with nothing but seven to ten foot boulders and chest high tree roots with 2,000ft drops on each side…I had to move quickly across it or else Thomas was going to catch me.
I moved as fast as I was able to without falling off the cliff. Kicking a few rocks with my foot and watching them tumble down, I couldn’t spare the seconds to imagine what it would be like if I misstepped, that just wasn’t an option…Winning and greatness were my only options now.
The horrendously (or tremendously?) technical downhill ended with a graded fire road and I began to tear it up, knowing that Thomas was likely going to catch me on that last uphill and maybe make up time on me on that technical downhill, I know had to pull it together on this flat rolling fire road to put some safe distance between us. 7:30min/mile, 7:40min/ mile…At mile 94 & 95. Was this going to be fast enough though?
When I hit the final aid station, I asked for the time, “4:56pm”…O no…My heart sank and lifted at the same time…I was only now 8km (~5 miles) out from the finish line and I knew the cut-off for the course record was 5:38pm…I was in the danger zone, that uncomfortable zone that we all fear, hate and love. That zone where the saying “whether you think you CAN or CANNOT you are right!” really starts to come to life…Doug could, Doug did at Badwater…So why couldn’t I? I had 44mins…to cover 5 miles? Easily done if this was a training run and I hadn’t just covered 25,000ft of climbing in the last 95 miles in 90+degree weather…Those were just excuses though and lame ones at that…I started running hard.
I just had to maintain 8min/miles for the next 5 miles…I was breathing hard, too hard and my legs were wobbling. 7:50min/ mile on the first mile…Good I’ll probably need that ten seconds…This was closer than the time cut-off for Barkley…I hated and loved it at the same time…I kept going until I could see in distance a series of rolling hills with the course markings scattered across them…Visions of breaking the course record began to slowly fade as I attacked the first climb and fell to walk…gasping desperately for air as sub-8 min/miles became a distant dream. “Too little too late Nick…Too little too late..” Still I didn’t want to be out there in the sun much longer and I wanted the race done, I ran where and when I could, mainly the downhills and assorted flats. I adopted a “run to a tree walk to a tree” method, which had me averaging about 9min/miles.
When I finally passed the sign that said “nuch 3km!” I remembered that 1km was only a two and half laps around a track and started jogging… “Nuch 2km!” Why did a kilometer seem so frikkin’ long??? “Nuch 1km” I could see the track and finishing line come into focus in the distance….My iPod and that motivational song were long gone but I thought to myself as I turned onto the track running hard on the last two hundred meters, my small American flag waving in the wind as I held it above my head and smiled,
“I’m gonna show you how great I am!!!”
22hrs and 45 mins (7mins off the record)
|Myself and Gi Awarding me first place|