Patience. Be Present. You Are Lucky.
I wrote these three things down on a card I would carry through the Bigfoot 200. These phrases or words weren’t meant to be a reminder, just an affirmation of how my life has evolved over the last few years.
Historically I have lacked patience. The last three years have taught me tremendous amounts of patience. Patience with others. More importantly, patience with myself. I am a work in progress. I am not perfect. Perfection is an illusion.
Be Present. I have spent many years of my life not being present. By that I mean, I have gone through the motions of life. I have done things because I am supposed to and had become very good at being physically present but not mentally present. Going through the motions without feeling.
The last phrase is simple and should be common sense. I am tremendously lucky. I have been afforded the ability and opportunity to do the things I love. I have people that support me in ways I’ve never thought possible. I get to try to raise a son to be a better version of myself. To recognize errors or fallacies and create a positive experience for him. I got to move through the Cascade mountains for 4 days and three nights. I spent that time with friends and a partner that is unwaveringly supportive. I am lucky.
Before providing more detail into the actual run itself, I have to preface this all by saying that this experience was truly special. Going into the race I was at peace with knowing that I may never get to run a 200 again. This could be a once in a lifetime thing. After it was all said and done, I am still at peace with that fact. If I never were to race again, I would be content. The Bigfoot 200 was easily the single, most enjoyable race I’ve ever participated in. I hope to experience that again some day. I am grateful for Breein, Debbie and Jeremy for supporting me.
Random Notes / Thoughts:
- I had a goal of finishing Bigfoot in 70 hours. There was no basis for this goal, just something that sounded plausible. With that said, I attempted to go out as slow as possible. Thinking about all the time, effort and money that went into this race, I thought the worst possible thing I could do is not finish. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time by dragging them out to Washington and doing something stupid that prevents me from finishing.
- Going slow didn’t really work out for me as far as the heat went. I thought by being conservative, I would avoid my typical issues with heat. That didn’t work out. By nightfall, my stomach was still wrecked. I managed throw up (dry heave really) a few times and consumed roughly a half of a candy bar for about 8 hours.
- The first night was by far the worst of the three. I picked up Jeremy at mile 46. I was a little ahead of when I thought I’d be there. The slow night more then made up for that. We had a good time despite my shitty stomach. Most of the night was foggy. It was enough to where the miles and miles of cliff edges would give you pause. We took it slow. Mainly because of my lack of energy due to my stomach.
- I bounced back after that rough first night. The first time I slept was at mile 91. I crashed in the back of the car for about 45 minutes and we made our way to the halfway point. At mile 102.5 I was at about the 35 hour or so mark. The rough first night eliminated any chance I had at a 70 – 72 hour finish.
- Looking back on the halfway mark, I wasn’t at all concerned about a finish time or not meeting some arbitrary number. The repetition of day-night-day-night was starting and I was drawn into the cadence as time slowly crept by. This was by far my favorite aspect of the 200. The sheer amount of time that went by. Time was irrelevant. I was in no real hurry.
- The second day went well as far as I can remember. Night two was by far my best night. This was fortunate because we had some serious climbing and we actually handled it well. Had we not been moving well, it would have been incredibly tough. I took a few 20 minute naps by the side of the trail.
- Jeremy switched out with Debbie around mile 140 (maybe?). I believe Jeremy ran roughly 100 miles with me. I don’t really remember a whole lot about the first section with Debbie. What I do know is that I didn’t plan a drop bag where I should have. The first part with Debbie required some river crossings and I wouldn’t have truly dry shoes for almost 36 miles. This doesn’t sound that bad, but my feet were hammered. The wet shoes weren’t fun.
- My feet were more beat up for this race then I had expected. Probably should have been prepared for that.
- The multiple sections of almost 20 miles between aid stations were rough at times. Not much I could have done, just an observation.
- Section one with Debbie soon turned fairly ugly for me. We had some relentless (to me) climbs that seemingly saw toothed on a ridge line forever. I swung my poles into a tree. This scared Debbie. I apologized. I apologized many times. The first part of this last night was not my proudest.
- At one point I told Debbie that I’m not going out for a fourth night. I told her I’d drop if it got dark on me again. Again, not exactly my proudest moment. I was legitimately panicked at the idea of another night. This was the only time I got ahead of myself and didn’t just let time flow.
- At the only aid station Debbie and I stopped at (about 19 miles from the previous one), I took a 30 minute nap. I was able to take off my shoes and wet socks and let my feet dry. This helped out a ton. As in all of my stops to sleep, this reset my brain and put my mind in a positive state.
- Heading out of this aid station, we hooked up with another runner, a man from Australia. He was running this race for his 50th birthday. The next few hours were sorely needed. Debbie and him talked. I mainly listened and was able to be distracted by their conversation. Morning came again (it always does) and I was back to feeling good again. Debbie saved the Aussie’s life while he was sitting on a log and falling asleep and tipping over backwards.
- Towards the end of my time with Debbie, I started to really be able to run well again. This was a lot of fun. That fun was semi short lived. I partially tore my left quad as I was coming down to the mile 177 aid station. I didn’t want to believe it happened, even though I knew that familiar feeling. I wasn’t being careful enough on the steep extended downhill. It wasn’t a game ender, but it would make the finish that much harder.
- At mile 177, my perfectly functioning SPOT tracker was changed out for another SPOT tracker. This new SPOT tracker didn’t sync up with me. From that point on, I guess everyone assumed I had dropped at mile 177. Not a clue as to why the aid station radio worker thought my original one wasn’t working.
- Mile 177 is where I picked up Breein. I was incredibly happy to be with her.
- As soon as we started climbing out of the aid station, I confirmed that I tore my quad. This wasn’t exactly news I wanted to process or deal with. We managed it the best we could. I am very fortunate that after a little bit of climbing and descending, the course flattens out.
- I bitched about downed trees.
- I regaled her of stories of the off camber trails I had been on the past few days and the cliffs we should have fallen off of during night one.
- I asked her to fill me in on what all had happened while I was out there.
- Once the trail flattened out a bit, she had me wrap my buff around my quad. This pressure made it tolerable to run/shuffle on flat surfaces. It was the best I could do.
- As soon as I got through some miles with Breein it was apparent that I would not be out for a fourth night.
- After the last aid station, we had 13 miles to the finish. Most of this was on road. I had it in my brain that I’d be able to run this well. Prior to mile 177, that would have been the case. We got through most of these miles without incident. I’m thankful Breein was with me. I did have a slight meltdown a half mile from the finish. I was convinced that I had gone 13 miles. I wanted no part of a half mile more. Breein got after me. I snapped out of it.
- I circled the track (hoping that I could opt out of that) and finished in 81 hours and some change. I talked to Leo at the finish. Breein picked out my belt buckle so I could show him the Yeti (Bigfoot).
- After a night or so my mind played tricks on me with distance. I convinced myself multiple times that the GPS was off, that I had traveled further than what I had.
- It was fun bouncing back and forth with multiple runners over the three days or so. It was relaxed and non-competitive.
- My feet and ankles swelled more than I have ever seen them. It took days to get them back to normal.
- 200 is not the new 100. It’s too different. It’s way better though!
- I may never adequately train for a 200. It takes so much time and energy. My training wasn’t where it should have been to truly set myself up for some sort of measureable “success.” What I did to prepare wasn’t much different than I would for a normal mountain 100. It probably showed, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I am incredibly fortunate to have had this experience. It’s not life changing event (as the website advertises) per se, but it does change your perception. Life affirming would be more appropriate. I have tried to explain the feeling of multiple days and nights to Breein. I don’t know how to fully describe it. The fluidity of time almost made the experience one long day/night. Everything blended together. Dates and times were irrelevant. All I had to do was move. Hike, run, walk. Move forward for days. It was an experience I will never forget and never take for granted. I hope I am fortunate enough to feel that again.