WHAT TIME IS IT!
I yelled up.
“Not yet babe,” my husband yelled down over his shoulder, arms cocked and hammered into a cascading wall of glass. I looked down at bi-pattern green rope snaking through my hands. 11:00am was an eternity from 9:45am. I took in slack and held my break hand firmly by my hip.
We are ice climbing on a below freezing Saturday. The morning is calm and gray, not unlike every winter day in Minnesota (unless the temperature is too cold to entertain clouds). I’m on belay, kicking my crampons impatiently into the snow, making divots.
I love ice climbing. I would not compare it to rock climbing, although you use similar muscle groups. The technique, the mentality, the moves are contrastingly opposite. It’s chess versus checkers. Ice climbing, like rock climbing, demands that you visually examine and wager your fingers against what features in front of you seem trustworthy. As a climber of any kind, you are incessantly evaluating your faith in things.
But, in ice climbing, if I feel a sharp sting of panic, I can swing or kick hard and pray it sticks. Rock could care less how hard you beat it. Rock is rock.
I’m currently emotionally swinging hard and seeing what sticks. You see, at 11:00am the Kettle Moraine 100 Endurance registration opens. And I want to set up my pieces and play.
I’ve never run 100 miles.
I think it’s worth a try.
I’m lucky enough to run with a couple people who love them: a badass blonde who wins them. She lifts weights in a beanie, no makeup, most mornings before sunrise and has a dirty mouth. I like her a lot. Another is a giant-hearted, beardy father who adopts children and perseveres supernaturally. He has a penchant for owls and good jokes. I don’t think he’d mind me telling you that he kicks it back and rides the back of the pack.
I’m absolutely the goof-ass in red shorts and Dr. Seuss socks.
We ran our 17 mile loop together talking (as usual) about all things in life and towing a mysterious yellow lab for several miles. If miles I share with Becky are anything, they are always authentic.
I’ve been lucky enough to fill Ben’s pack when his hands were too cold to put Tailwind in himself (his running gloves are yellow fleet farm leathers) and lucky enough to see him brave some of his peaks and valleys.
I’ve gotten to bring morale to their distance party. I’ve trained with them, watched them struggle in races, witnessed them succeed, and selfishly enjoyed their penguin walks after. They’re inspiring. They know how to gut it out. How to push through. How to balance their needs and listen to their bodies.
I’m in the middle.
I’m not a champion; that’s a fact and that’s alright by me. But I bust my butt hard, as often as possible, and I have a steadfast, steely determination. I can hang.
I’m scared to death.
This race is doubling my best run ever.
I have no idea what happens to your body at mile 78, or what state your emotions are in at 87 going up a hill. 56. That’s a terrible number. You still have 44 miles to travel on foot as fast as you can.
I have done the math. Divide it however you want; it’s very close to four back-to-back marathons on single-track trail through the woods. A road crossing is the most civilization you can expect. I’ve also spent time hunched over, retching emptily over stumps because I did not fuel properly or I ran out of salt. I’ve run holding my arms up because my armpits (of all places) started to chafe. I’ve ran through blisters and rivers and I can’t say I don’t want to do that again. But I will. Probably many times. It’s the price that comes with stoke.
Last night, the room of yogis lazily stretched out and unrolled their mats before class, chitchatting about our days and sipping water bottles. Our teacher came in, sporting a baseball cap and gangster tank balled in back. All alone, she started a dance party in the corner by the speaker. She literally could not wait for some sweaty yoga sculpt. She had stoke. She lit the room on fire. We grabbed our weights and let the sweat pour.
That’s one of the keys that I think is required to crush this distance. Stoke enough for knock down marathon after marathon, hour after hour, from sunset to sunrise. Stoke enough to stomp out every discomfort and excuse. Stoke enough to fight the demons, the hallucinations, to surf the highs and the lows.
Stoke enough to burn harder and brighter for the next five months until I’m toeing that invisible race starting line. I love the smolder I feel inside me.