“We went off course and stumbled through the darkness for hours, with me pausing periodically to scream into the wind and sit down. Even after we made it over that pass and up the next, after I literally crawled over Grant-Swamp pass, I lay on the ground and looked up at the stars. Then I got up and fell down a cliff. That’s where I basically started crying.” – Dakota Jones
Dakota Jones is one of the best Ultrarunners in the world, and one of the youngest too. In his latest blog post, Dakota Jones talks a lot about struggling. And overcoming.
When reading about the exploits of world class ultrarunners, I assume that most things that apply to mere mortals like me do not apply to them. I mean, when I’ve been out there for hours and hours and my legs feel like lead and I just want to stop, I have a hard time imagining that feeling ever really occurs to the Dakota Jones’ of this world. After all, even when they are pretty tired at the end of a 100 mile race, they are still clocking mile times faster than I can run one mile as hard as I can run. So reading Dakota’s comments bring me some hope. Strange I know, but seriously, if you feel you can’t go on and you keep going, you will eventually get there. The only difference between us is that I have to worry about cut off times!
The first time I attempted a 50K, I was overweight and undertrained. Still new to running, I brought a lot of enthusiasm, but it was no match for the +100 degree temps on those Arkansas hills. I DNF’d because I missed the cut off. I wasn’t even close. I was doing the zombie death march at the end. Pretty bad stuff! But you learn. I learned that day that I should have tried a 25K! I also learned not to OD on the salt pills (puffy hands). I learned that with chip timing, I really should just hang back and let others get on in front of me. I learned that there is no substitute for building a good base with a lot of long runs. I learned not to go out too fast. Yeah, I know. Everyone says that but still falls victim to it on every race! But I was particularly bad at it on that day. I was near the front and part of a fast moving Conga line. The first aid station was a bit over 6 miles from the start I think and I remember my eyes stinging badly from all of the sweat pouring into them. I was huffing and puffing. Not a good thing in an Ultra!
So heading into my next 50K on April 7th (Lake McMurtry), I will be going with a bit more wisdom and experience. On the plus side I have been running a bit more and I have lost some weight and the temps should not be in the triple digits. On the negative side, I could have run more and I feel like I’m still slow as can be. I’m afraid that I will go out at an even and controlled pace for 25K and then slide into the shuffling territory. I will shuffle my way to the end. I will finish, but it remains to be seen how long it actually takes me. If it all works out, I’m hopeful for the future. I have a pretty agressive training schedule coming out of the race, so the extra mileage ought to really help. Too late to start now, but after the race I want to start doing some speedwork once a week. I hope that helps as well. But even if I fail, I will not give up. Why? Well, I just like running.
So what does this have to do with Dakota Jones? Simple. You never quit. You get stronger by challenging yourself. There is a saying among Ultrarunners that things will always get better. It’s a mantra you need to repeat to yourself when you find yourself in that dark place in a race. I’ve heard I don’t know how many people say that they thought they were done and wanted to quite. They stopped for a minute, drank some flat Coke or something and then took off again and before you know it they are booking down the trail again. That will be what I will be thinking of on race day. It will get better. Hang in there. Keep moving.
In this way you survive. You may even thrive. Dakota’s blog post is called “Fraying the Wire”. He ends it with this:
“We become stronger by fraying the wire, placing ourselves in situations in which we are not comfortable. Struggling and scared, we find ourselves capable of more than we knew.”