The Light That Hides In The Darkness.
If you have ever run an ultra, especially those of us who have journeyed into the 100 mile distance, you probably know where this is going. Everyone always talks about having to go to ‘that dark place’ sometimes in a race but few divulge much more. One of my favorite bands, Anberlin, has an album titled “Dark is the way, Light is a place.” It accurately describes the process we go through when we have to pretty much dissociate to make it past a difficult time. We mentally prepare for it by coming up with mantras, relying on specific memories, or having a friend along to pull us back out and keep us moving forward and stay grounded. It has been my experience that the deeper I have had to sink into the darkness to push through, the brighter a light is found. I think most of us have stories and images conjure up that would probably have not crossed out minds otherwise.
My parents recently made the decision to come up from Louisiana to support me at Fat Dog 120 miler this August. I am so excited to be able to share this aspect of my life with them. They were the ones that instilled in me a sense of adventure and appreciation for being rooted in nature. Louisiana is a wild place. Your personal space is constantly invaded by nature be it Spanish moss tickling your face, bugs and snakes seeking solace from the suffocating heat, close encounters with a variety of curious beasts, or the unbridled power of a storm. You learn quickly that scary or uncomfortable situations can be thrown at you in a moments notice leaving you with two choices: fear or acceptance.
Throughout most of my longer races, my mind has utilized many different memories to keep my body going. I will share two of them.
I like all ultras, but I feel that the 100 mile distance is the true ultra. It is an unfathomable distance to run for most everyone not in our community and generally requires running through the night. The cumulative factors of not being able to stop moving coupled with the sometimes disorientation that comes along with the night portion give these events a mysterious and attractive persona. One of my favorite times during a 100-miler is seeing the first rays of sunshine after running through the night, quickly followed by getting to remove my headlamp. Those last few hours of having to continue through the dark always make me think of my dad. He loves to go fishing. Many a weekend morning we would wake up before the sun had risen to be putting the boat in the water as the sun was rising. There was a calmness. The smell of my dad’s coffee. The cool, crisp air at the first light of morning. The gentle stirring of all the bayou creatures waking. Admittedly I did not always want to go or to be there, especially on the hot days. However, I always hold fond memories.
If you have never been to the deep south in the summer, you do not understand the term “oppressive heat.” The availability to escape into air-conditioned areas for exercise is fairly low, forcing people to do walks around the mall. Not a fan of the crowds, my mom would always go walking at the local university’s coliseum. It was not massive so longer walks would go by in a dizzying fashion. As a kid though, those were times to chat and hold my mom’s hand as we walked around and around and around. Many-a-time in my 100’s, something has forced me to a walking pace. The circumstances making me walk can be anything from dehydration, hot hot heat, or hitting a caloric low. Whatever the reason, my mind always jets back to Louisiana, holding my mom’s hand as we circle the air-conditioned hallway of that coliseum.
Now that training and crew plans are solidifying for Fat Dog, I cannot express how much it will mean to have my parents with me. Fat Dog will undoubtedly push me beyond my limits. I am already dreaming of watching that sunrise with my dad at an aid station, drinking some coffee and breathing in the early morning mountain air. And of holding my mom’s hand as she walks me out of an aid station to the next section of the race.