Baboo wanted to know what this was like, from my perspective, so here it is.
Well, the first half was like a big giant party, the weather was awesome - because I wasn't running 50 miles in it. I took pictures, and bought crappy food to eat - which actually had a purpose, because I've discovered that if I pull an all nighter I have to fill up with simple carbs or I bonk and start having asthma problems. it works for me. There were children running around, and the runners were still enthusiastic.
The path was beautiful. The first, and last 15 miles were difficult (more on that later) but the 70 miles in between were on a gorgeous railroad bed turned trail. It was smooth, root-free, and covered with a finely ground pea gravel. pink pea gravel. The scenery was gorgeous. What wasn't to love about this run?
Throughout the day, Baboo ate and drank as he should. He drank bottles of Accelerade, Nuun, and water, drank Slimfast meals-in-a-can. He ate powerbars, and at least one salted nut roll. His stomach got a little funky around mile 50, but then he walked for a while and talked to some of the other ultrarunners about strategies for taking in liquids, and felt better. He was peeing throughout the day as he should be. He never, at any time, had any danger of dehydration, hyponutremia, or low carbs.
Then, the sun got lower in the afternoon sky, and it was past the turnaround. Some runners started throwing up. Leg cramps began. Some runners sat down at aid stations, heads hanging, and then asked to be taken out of the race.
Then, the less stalwart of the crewers and spectators, of which there had been few to begin with, went home to sleep and eat, leaving their runners alone in the dark. As the runners started to lose energy, so did the cheerleaders. The party was over.
It cooled down. A lot.
There was this strange, dichotomous drama:
On the one hand, these people had paid to do this, so they were doing to themselves, right? On the other hand, anyone who has ever struggled to complete a endurance event may, or may not, know why they are doing it. There are forces far beyond the cost of an entry fee that drive them. There is some spoken or unspoken thing driving them forward, and they may or may not be able to verbalize it. it is what it is. So there it is: the runners push forward, struggling, knowing that they can quit at any time, but struggling just the same.
We were late getting to the mile 80 aid station, and just in time to see Baboo walking away from the aid station already, having waited for us by the fire, and then given up.
Seeing him in the glare of the headlights was a startling sight: He was walking, stiff legged and almost trans-like, staring straight ahead into the darkness. He didn't even turn to look as we pulled into the driveway at the aid station. We called out for him to stop, and he was shivering hard. Scott told me later that at some other ultras, they would have pulled him off the course for that alone.
I touched my husband's arm, and his neck. He was cold and wet. We reached into the car to pull out pants, a shirt, and Scott pulled out a knit cap for him to put on his head. He put on a longsleeve shirt, as well, and finally felt better, then he left, heading out into the blackness, him and a headlamp making a very, very small spot of light in a large black void.
Okay. Well, this was no longer a big party. It was a giant worry fest. It stopped being fun, and I started wondering if this was all worth it.
This wasn't fun any more. It was horrifying.
And, it was about 1 am. He'd been running for 19 hours.
The next place that I saw him was at mile 84. He was better but his feet hurt. All this time, he kept forgetting to ask someone to look at his feet: this is a serious lesson I learned, that I must, must, insist on checking everything, regardless of what he says or doesn't say. By this time, Baboo had about 8 blisters on his good foot. The other foot was worse. About 2-3 miles later, Scott and his runner, Don, caught up to us, and Scott helped me take care of some of Baboo's foot issues. At least one of the blisters was so deep it could not be drained.
The last part of the course was a hilly, rolling road with 1-1.5 inch jagged gravel. I drove 3 miles ahead and waited for baboo. On the way to my 3 mile mark, I passed 2 runners. I stopped, turned off the engine, and then waited, getting the second of my 30-minute naps. Each time a runner went past, I woke up. Suddently I realized that about 6 runners had gone by, and no Baboo. I waited for a little while longer, unsure of what to do, and then there he was, dragging his poles behind him, telling me that they were horrible, and to take them. So, I did.
At this point, watching him walk, I wondered if he would even finish. I wondered if, for the first time since I've known him, my baboo would say, "I can't do this. It's too hard." and then climb into the car.
He was jogging a bit on the downhills, and walking the uphills, and it was painful to watch. It was about 3 am, and I was watching my husband struggle. By mile 89, his walk was a stumping, halting walk. Imagine your feet are blocks of wood that do not flex. That's how he walked.
I cried a little, and recorded how I felt.
Eventually, the sun came up. I followed behind Baboo, and he shared his worry with me about making the cutoff. I knew, from previous discussions, that my job was to make sure that he kept going. I knew that, medically, he was okay: He had enough carbs, electrolytes, and hydration to be safe, but his feet hurt so much. I knew how much he wanted this. I also knew that I didn't ever want to see this again: this suffering. It was very hard. During text messages, I assured his parents that I would not allow this again. Nope.
Now I'm wondering what he's planning. At one time, Baboo gasped to me that this wasn't his event, that he should stick to triathlon maybe, or maybe he was saying that triathlon hadnt' prepared him for this, I couldn't really tell. The gist of it was that I had the distinct impression that he wouldn't want to do this again, and I was satisfied: He'll finish this, it will be a single impressive achievement, and that's the end of that. He doesn't want to worry the people who care about him. The. End.
But what if...What if he wants to do this again?
I'm not sure that I can stand that suffering. On the other hand, if he insists on doing this again, I want to be there, not someone who doesn't have the same investment in his lack of suffering that I do. Is that caring? Or enabling?
On one hand, running 100 miles is just insanity. On the other hand, how can I stand in the way if he decides he wants to do this again?
I mean, what would you do?
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