In the days before, my thoughts sometimes turn inwards...
I'm sure it may seem a bit odd that I'd be sitting here a couple days before the start of the Hardrock 100 writing about something that may sound the exact opposite of pre-race excitement. It isn't that I'm not looking forward to the run. It's just that there's been a growing ambivalence in my feelings towards more traditional ultramarathon races over the past few years. Perhaps it can be traced back to my thoughts after my first finish of the ITI 350 more than 3 years ago. So much has transpired since that time and there are other areas of my life that need a bit of focus.
With that said, I really cannot say that my enjoyment of traveling long distances on foot, spending time in wild places and undertaking challenging adventures is any less than it's ever been. I am signed up in ITI for next year, but I do put that event in a category by itself. Also, my motivation for that race is something I will probably spend the next 6 months examining. I suppose what I'm saying is that this seems somewhat of a turning point and Hardrock feels, in some ways, more a bookend than a progression.
However, Hardrock itself is unique in it's own right. It stands alone not only in ruggedness, beauty and challenges, but—more than any other 100 miler in the US—it feels like a journey rather than a race. Just spending time out in these mountains feels pretty special and being able to complete such a journey is a privilege as much as it is an accomplishment. Last year's run was a bit of a downer both for the mental state in which I entered and the illness that overtook me during the last 25 miles. It was an emotional journey that should have culminated in feelings of either elation or somber contemplation, but instead I just felt sick.
Yet, I did finish as I seem to do more often than I probably have any reasonable right to and somehow I managed to be selected to give it another go. So, I'm going to make the best of this journey that I can. I even managed to do something resembling training. I'm in my second week in Colorado acclimating. After a week staying with my friend Beat at 7,200ft and taking a few trips up higher, I've been in Silverton since Sunday getting a bit more altitude before the start. Last, but certainly not least, Harry is with me. After around 100 ultras and at least 30 of those 100 miles or longer, I am going to have a pacer for the first time. I obviously don't need a pacer, but I do want my friend to experience these trails and, frankly, I want to share the experience.
So, despite all the seemingly contradictory emotions smouldering about inside me, I am actually pretty excited to get out there.