As I climbed a short, steep section just before the mile 19 AS Saturday on the Laurel Highlands Trail, I waved the white flag above my head. I’d had enough. Well, actually my legs had enough. The feet, ankles, and calves felt shredded. Perhaps it was the rock-ridden, quad crushing, jeep road descents of the Bel Monte 50 miler in Virginia in March. Or the calf and hamstring punishing The Georgia Death Race- ’17 in April. Or maybe it was the combination of the two last month, the MMT 100 Miler- ’17.
These types of blogs are not fun to write. When I sign up for a race, I expect to finish it, even on tired legs. And I’ve gone into multiple ultra races on tired legs and finished, see Tussey MOUnTaiNBACK 50 Miler- ’15 as one example. For me, what is disappointing the most about not finishing this race was the conditions. The trail was in good shape, the AS’s/volunteers were supportive, and the weather was ideal for this time of year. What more could you ask for in a trail event?
The initial 8 to 10 miles of this event are the toughest. This is well documented. A climb and decent, followed by another climb and decent, followed by a continuous mountain climb that eventually gets you on top of the highlands. I must say that when you have a 70 mile race equaling roughly 12,000 ft. of gain with the first 25 miles being half of that, the race is unique. See Laurel Highlands 50K- ’15 for my first experience and detailed feelings of it.
Once climbing that short, steep section at mile 19 and waving the white flag, I heard loud cheering from the AS a few tenths of a mile away. This livened the spirits a little and had me realizing that I may be able to push through this. I got to the AS, talked to a few people I knew, gathered some food and drink, and continued on. For the next 3-4 miles, I was in better spirits. The trail became eye candy to me. I’ll explain. Back when I played basketball and was pretty good at it, sometimes the hoop felt massive. It seemed so easy for me to make shots. It’s called “being in the zone”. The hoop was eye candy. It just felt easy to me. Well the LHT felt easy to me for a short time.
Unfortunately, that good feeling switched back to a feeling of having heavy weights strapped to my ankles. It was not nutrition. I was fueling very well. It was simply exhaustion of the past few months. I managed to get through another AS at mile 26 before calling it a day at mile 32.
Am I disappointed? Of course I am. Writing a post like this makes me sick. Still not knowing the beauty of the LHT beyond mile 32 is enough to drive me crazy. Missing out on the experience one goes through during a 70 ultra race will irk me. Especially when you have friends and fellow LH 70 mile finishers who have said nothing but good things about it.
But I won’t second guess cutting out where I did. I have a strong fight in me and want to have that fight in the races I’ve signed up for moving forward this year. And I know that I’ll head back to the LH 70 miler and complete it another year.
Keep on keeping on!