Based on a good friend's blog post today and my ability to think about the events from last weekend, I'd like to provide some more insight into the whole thing. I may have to do this a few times over the next few weeks or months to finely clear my mind of it.
I went into this race fit and ready. The fact that I only got into the race a couple days before the start is not optimal but it's something I anticipated. Had I been selected from the lottery initially, I'm certain my focus and training would've prepared me more specifically to this race. As it is, my training mostly focuses on constant running. Of course, I've been doing 60-70 miles a month of fast walking along with my running (usually walking 3 miles 5 days a week in the mornings). The majority (all but Hardrock) are runnable, SD100, Ice Age, CP50, Grand Mesa 100, Leadville 100, Bear100, Chimera100… all runnable, for the most part, and my training lends itself well to those and I'll prove that I have some speed at one or more of them.
Hardrock is an anomaly. It's not like any other 100 in the US. Huge chunks of time can be added onto your run in an instant. One mistake, whether you go off course or fall in a river crossing and all of a sudden you've lost an hour or more. Get caught in a stiff thunderstorm and it could force you to hunker down for a couple hours. Develop breathing problems and all of a sudden you are 30-40% slower than you would be with oxygen in your lungs (took me THREE hours to complete the last segment from Putnam to the finish… I should've done it in 1 hour 15 mins). There are more opportunities for obstacles that suck huge gaps of time in Hardrock than any other race around (save Barkley, which isn't even a race imo).
Here's a quote from an email I received yesterday from Dale, the race director, in response to an email I wrote to him,"Nicely done Tim!! You persevered through one of the toughest Hardrocks we have ever had!! In 20 years of directing this event, I have never seen the combination of weather, conditions and other factors come together to make a tougher run-you're finish is truly a testament to your tenacity!!."
Losing time and being out there longer only increases the chances for problems encountered. Had I stayed on my 31+ hour pace (i.e. not gotten lost before Handies peak), I would've likely avoided the major problems later. I would've missed the storm on Engineer Pass. I would've alleviated much of the suffocation symptoms (that got progressively worse after 30 hours). I would've missed the hideous storm and 3 hours wasted on Putnam Pass. At points I felt like Hardrock was throwing everything she had at me trying to break me. And she nearly did. I've never been pushed to that limit, awake for two straight days, unable to breathe, daunting scale of distances and climbs to cover, extreme weather changes, all of it. I'd like to say I conquered all of it but in reality I simply was humbled and somehow survived. I can't even pinpoint how I was able to keep pushing. I think it came down to some primal, raw, innate need. There was no other choice. Kissing that rock was all I had in my life at that point and nothing else mattered because it symbolized survival. I'm fairly hard on myself and have never admitted it publicly but have a low self-esteem. I suppose my fear of bolstering that image of myself by quitting was stronger than whatever Hardrock was doing to try to break me. I'm happy I truly did it for myself and didn't care about others' perceptions. I'm ashamed that I was basically guilted into this drive to finish because of my fear of lowering my self-perception. It's a character flaw that has lead to many careless and dangerous situations throughout my life, whether through fear of fulfilling my low self-esteem or callous disregard for my own well being.
Here's part of an email from Chris, the one who basically saved me on Putnam.
"I hope you made it back to civilization alight and are recovering well. I just wanted to tell you again how impressed I was with how you stuck in with the race, and more importantly, how you handled yourself when things went south out in Putnam. I was glad to be able to be around and able to lend a hand to you and JT, but the person that saved you was you. If you weren't as tough and as well-trained as you are, you never would have pulled off a 2 hour wander in those conditions. At that point when we had to turn around and head back, hoping to find a flag to get us back on track, I've never had a more sickening feeling in my gut. Most people, even having made it as far as you had, lose it right there and I pretty much figured I'd killed you with that wrong turn. That you had the guts to turn it around and keep moving at that point is what made for a successful close to the evening.
All that crap aside, great work getting after the run and sticking in to the finish. I'll let you draw your own lessons about what Hardrock is and what it isn't, but in my opinion, the guys like yourself, Mike Mason, Christian Johnson, and some of the other legit racers who saw their goals and expectations crumble but still pushed on for the finish help define what the run is all about. It's not Western States, and never will be."
Solid guy with a lucid view, whom I look forward to seeing again some day.
Hardrock has stretched my perceptions. Runners I coach (I coach runners but I'm not a coach. Does that make sense?) hear it from me all the time. Perceptions of what is difficult, possible, easy can be stretched like a rubber band. Pull the rubber band taught and the next time you pull it to that distance it's easier (or seems easier). My perceptions of running 100 miles is much different than it was last year. And I can't imagine a more difficult time than those 44 hours a couple days ago. But that's my perception right now.
I'm not one to open up my personal stuff but I'd rather folks have a clearer understanding of who I am than to project their own personalities when judging me. That's why it's puzzling to me when occasionally someone (who doesn't know me well) says I have a big ego. That may be the furthest thing from the truth. So, my finishing Hardrock was more for my own internal survival mentally than anything.