“I really have to use
to think of good reasons
to keep on keeping on.
I’ve got to make the best of
a bad situation
ever since that day that
I found that you* were gone
Darkness all around me
blocking out the sun
friends call to me
but I just don’t feel like talking to anyone
Emptiness has found me
and it just won’t let me go
thought I had no limits
but now I just don’t know…”
*In this case “you” being my endocrine system’s ability to maintain homeostasis
“This really is the sport of kings, isn’t it?”
--Kevin Krupp, my pacer, as he counterbalanced me at 3:45am while I heaved
You can understand what running means to me by understanding what Mohican means to me. Mohican came to me as a savior during the darkest period of my life and showed me that wonderfulness can be found in the direst circumstances and that God is watching always. Mohican is where I learned that, as harsh as it sounds, God’s plan for us is not necessarily any of our business. Mohican was where I realized that this life is for service and learning and that joy is where you find it. Its where I learned that a breeze can be the perfect reminder that we are missing a constant bombardment of love because we are seeking rather than being.
If none of that makes any sense to you catch me on a very long run some time and, for the price of a few Gu Packs and a long slow swig from your camelback, I’ll tell you about tragedy and miracles. But for now take my word for it. I was on a top-twenty ranked cross country team in college. I was a good marathoner in the mid-80’s. I’ve run cross country, track, roads and trails. I’ve run in minus-26 degree actual temperature (minus-56 degree windchill) and 106 degree heat. None of that ever held a candle to Mohican.
Mohican has been the centerpiece of my running existence since the day in 1997 when my wife told me that if I was going to drop out I should drop out on a trail in the woods at Mohican in June rather than out of life in February. That year I strapped a 15 ounce miners lamp to my head, packed as many snickers as I could into a waist pack, made my own salt pills by emptying vitamin B-12 capsules and refilling them with table salt. I came out of that blazing day and starry night knowing that my challenges hadn’t changed but my mind had forever. We became instant lifelong lovers, Mohican and I. I run other races but only to prepare for Mohican.
I think that might all be over now though and I think that’s OK. I really do.
I went on to finish Mohican seven times in a row. Since then I have managed to finish once in my last five tries. I think my body has changed. This year I did everything right. I started last August by dieting until, by Christmas, I had lost 30 pounds. Then I started the best buildup of my adult life. Steady mileage, more long runs than ever, consistent sleep, no illness, no injury, great mental attitude, and a smart taper. My pacer, Kevin, has been a lifelong friend since College, he was in our wedding party, and is a terrific runner himself. Yep, having old Kev along surely took care of the Karma piece. So here’s how 2009 went:
I got a room near I-71 because, even though I love nature, 30 hours of loving is all I am into these days without a prescription. I stopped off at my room on my way to the race and taped my feet. Good old elasticon. If you have blisters and don’t use this stuff get ahold of me.
Pulling up to the bag-drop and dinner the night before the race is always wonderful. Mohican-world has erupted from its cocoon and all the players are flitting around, so happy to be there that we could all just pop, and yet all too nervous and giddy to have real conversation. Buzzes and grunts, hugs and gentle plaintiff requests for merciful news. Has anyone seen the trails? They are dry right? Do you think my new socks will work? The church ladies aren’t handling dinner this year...that’s not going to affect us right? I see Colleen Theusch. The only woman that has my wife’s full permission to kiss me. She has no idea how much she means to me although I have told her a hundred times. I stand back and see that everyone else has the same relationship with her. Its wonderful. If Mohican could ever turn human for a moment it would choose to be Colleen. I also see Luc who looks like a man who is about to do something wonderful and, if you read on, you will see that he does. I see Rob Powell, the fittest man that will not run. Back surgery has taken yet another Mohican from him but this man has a love for this event that might even surpass my own. No spinal injury can keep him from this and I make sure to shake his hand to get some of his energy. Nick is there. Nick the brewer, Nick the philosopher, Nick the man who consistently seems surprised that he is a runner. I don’t see Michelle Bichsel, my new friend who has been winning every race she touches this year. I see another friend, Terry Lemke, who warns me not to get stuck in the mud as I drive past. She might have meant my car or my race. I didn’t ask. Terry decided to run the 100 miler a couple of weeks ago. She virtually lives on the course and she is making the right move. I see my pacers from last year, Scott and Casey. They told me I was nuts at the finish line last year and then went ahead and signed right up for this year’s 50 miler. They are talking to West Coast ultra-star Mark Tanaka who flew in to challenge the sharp hills, mud, and roots of the toughest 100 miler in the midwest. I see Leo Lightner and Ron Ross and Roy Heger. I see Art Moore and I see the young ultra punks. The new generation thrills me. They are wild and carefree. A hand-held bottle and cotton T-shirt is fine thanks. Just some tap water and an ipod and an open trail. Move aside sir, we’re here and your sport will thrive forever because of us. One of them wanders the floor with a hand-lettered shirt that reads “I’ll show you a 2.5 Gallon Bag”.
Its too much joy. I go to the hotel to lie wide awake all night too happy to sleep.
I’ll get around to talking about the race in my next post. I promise.