It’s Tuesday, and I’m just now sitting down to write about the beautiful and bizarre weekend that just wrapped up yesterday (yes, Monday counts as a weekend day if you take the day off from work. More on that later). It was chaotic and emotional and hard and fun. Here’s what happened:
The alarm woke me up at about 3:30am on Saturday morning. The lights in the hallway were already on and I could hear Matt shuffling, zipping and rustling about in preparation for his race (the San Diego 100- as in 100 miles. I know, it’s insane). We poured ourselves some caffeinated beverages packed into my car, heading east for the mountains. The time is 4am.
About an hour later, we arrived at Lake Cuyamaca, a location that’s become familiar over the past year as Matt’s passion for (addiction to?) ultramarathons has lured us up to these mountains several times. The sun was barely breaking as we huddled around the starting line, anxiety and fear competing with jittery excitement.
At 6am on the dot the race began, and with no sense of urgency the runners began filtering across the starting line, hooting and smiling, some lightly tapping the banner draped overhead before pursuing their date with the mountain. I skipped down a hill and watched the runners traverse a small patch of meadow, their colorful shirts creating a kaleidoscopic stream that spilled across the landscape. Energized by the mountain air, I headed back to my car (only to find that the battery was dead… but that’s another story) and eventually made it back to San Diego in time for a mid-morning nap.
After a day of teaching yoga, getting a new battery in my car, and pursuing the relentless struggle that is tiring out my dog, I hopped back into bed for another nap. I slept from 9-11:30pm, woke up, packed a bag and jumped back into the car just after midnight. I was planning on meeting Matt at the last few aid stations for moral support (and logistical support- I’d brought snacks, fresh socks, extra shoes, etc), and since he was running through the night without sleep, I knew I wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyways. So, I accepted the craziness that is my life, stopped by the grocery store to grab snacks (races are the one time I’ll buy Oreos with reckless abandon), and drove into the night, heading to the Chambers Camp aid station in Julian, Ca.
If you’ve ever crewed an ultramarathon, then you’re familiar with the saying “hurry up and wait”. You hustle around, panicked that you’ve missed your runner (have they miraculously picked up the pace at mile 70, now traveling at 7min/mi?) only to wait at an aid station for 2 hours, shivering in the cold (44 degrees is NOT acceptable to San Diegans) and drinking coffee that could generously be compared to hot water with brown crayons melted into it, eyeing every runner that comes into the station while wondering if your runner was eaten by a bear. I had waited for nearly 3 hours under the stars before I spotted what appeared to be a zombie hobbling down the straightaway towards the aid station. “Is that your runner? He looks tall.” I squinted. No, too short. Damn, the waiting continues. I looked back up at the walker straggling in, squinted, and realized that the zombie WAS in fact Matt, but extremely hunched and moving like a man 50 years his senior.
I jumped up and ran out towards him. He looked ghastly, feeble, but determined. “I’m in a really bad place” he explained, as if it weren’t already apparent. He was shivering, his eyes watering in the cold and his lips tinted blue. He was barely able to walk; he’d destroyed his knees being a little too aggressive on a long downhill section, and now he was relegated to walking. We ambled gingerly back into the aid station, gravitating to the heat lamps they had set up (shoutout to Chambers aid station- seriously the best little pirate-themed oasis in the mountains ever, despite the coffee). It was then that Matt asked me to come with him the rest of the way to the finish line. Of course I’ll go. I took a quick mental inventory- I had running shoes, socks, and a sports bra- when it comes to running, everything else is just details. I shed my layers, laced up my shoes, threw my keys and cell phone in my jacket pockets, and we were off.
Just over 12 miles to go, including the infamous “Stonewall”- a particularly brutal hill climb, placed sadistically at mile 90 of the course. Matt’s knees were shot, so we were going to walk to rest of the way like the damn Von Trapps. The time was 5:29 am.
TO BE CONTINUED (because I’m sleepy).