Or the Diary of a Madman.
I am exactly 13 days from standing at the start line of my 3rd 100 mile race.
I went for a run today. The trail was covered with snow. It was a blue bird sky and 20 degrees out. The idea was to go out and listen to music and run with joy. I started slowly, being aware to look around and notice all the beauty I was being surrounded by. I could feel my body fighting the plan and as if I was just a passenger. My legs started going. I felt so good. So free. So effortless.
Maybe it’s just nervous energy.
Maybe I’m burning off aggression so I can approach the starting line peaceful and calm.
Maybe I’m in that sweet spot that we all hope we get into.
I had no control over myself today. Every time I took the foot of the gas an imaginary force put it back on. My mind and body are still in training mode.
I am just beginning that deep immersive dive into that place I need to be before I stand at the starting line.
I’ve started peeling away from this world. Responsibilities and societal obligations are slowly beginning to recede. They become background noise and they start to fade and become less visible. I can feel retraction. I feel like I’m starting to step away.
I felt so connected to the trail today.
I could feel, really feel it.
The transformation is beginning.
Today was a gym day.
Weight training and body weight moves with 3 x 1/2 mile 15% incline runs.
I am really loving the 15% incline runs because they really get you in a bad place physically and mentally. I was imagining myself on the hills at Zumbro today.
Just grinding away at them.
I wasn’t close to the pain cave I will be… in 12 days, but I could feel my mind getting ready for it. Wanting it, but also aware that when I’m just putting one foot in front of another up one of those hills, a voice I don’t like will ask me,
“What the hell are you doing this for?”
I spoke to that voice today when I was grinding away,
I won’t listen to you.
It’s such a battle because over a 24 hour period in the woods, that voice does the most talking when you are at your lowest, so you have to train it to not show up.
I feel like you can help create it or learn to destroy it.
So I have no workout to hide in.
It’s snowing. It looks like the middle of December outside. The Zumbro course is already icy, snowy, muddy and we are getting even more snow.
So my mind is thinking about the course itself. I had a certain time I wanted to achieve. I had a goal for this race. I have no idea if this is a reality anymore until I get out there and see and feel the brutality of the course.
I love this race. The course and the weather is what makes it Zumbro.
My last 2 races of 100 miles have seen the course dry and fast.
Which seem like two words the 2018 version will not have in its description.
Part of me is disappointed, because I have been on a mission since November.
But the other part of me, the part that wants to be pushed and forced into areas of growth and enlightenment, is actually starting to really want this course to be a shit show. The Spartan in me wants the obstacles, the discomfort, the experience and who cares about the time?
Finishing it is the only goal because finishing it requires me to find yet another corner of my universe.
Mother Nature is a fierce warrior. I feel a real battle in my future.
The weather has become a participant in this years race. The course will not be ideal, as if ideal exists in the Zumbro universe.
Let go and accept have been my emotional mantra this entire day.
As weather reports and pictures of Zumbro surface along with my own mental images of the course covered with snow, mud, and icy water I am getting more and more excited about embracing this obstacle as one that will only make me better.
Will Mother Nature play her part in preventing me from seeing the finish line?
No. I am the only reason I won’t see that finish line.
Mud, snow, ice, wet and cold feet are not obstacles, but gifts.
They will allow me the privilege of finding out what I am willing to withstand and face within myself.
Accept the conditions. Embrace the change.
Today is a day of being overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude.
So many have given so much to me. Kindness in words. Kindness in support. Kindness in donating money. Kindness in donating time.
This year there has been more than I can truly understand or wrap my head around. I’ve had so much support during training. All the amazing people who ran laps with me. The social support from people near and far has just been humbling beyond my true understanding.
The gift I am receiving from a fellow spartan, who has insanely offered to pace me on lap 5 in the middle of the night.
And of course the people who are there every year at the start, the aid stations and the finish line, who yell at me and help me and just continually gift me with their love.
I’m an emotional machine. I thrive on emotion.
The wave is building and I have to thank so many amazing humans for causing this tsunami of emotion that will be lining up on Friday morning.
Today was peaceful.
I was empty mind about the race.
I am feeling the immersion even more and things around me are fading. Nothing seems that important. Especially the truly unimportant stuff. I had a spirited workout, so I forced aggression out and felt very calm and a bit introverted today.
I’m starting to crumble into myself and freeing my mind for the task at hand.
My main duty today was eating. Eating as much as I can.
Which sounds easy but it actually is a weird task. I was pretty successful.
Went for a nice easy run in the woods.
I was having a customary trail chat with my brother Jim. His Achilles is angry. I hate seeing him in pain. I hate seeing him frustrated so close to his quest to reach the 50 mile mark.
It’s never easy to witness the physical and mental pain colliding on a friend out in the woods. I hope he arrives at the starting line with his leg ready to do battle.
It only makes me more grateful I have the privilege of feeling good at this moment. That could change, but at this moment of writing this, I am being graced with well-being.
The trail was rugged and beautiful today. I was running off the soreness of a tough week and it felt good. I took in the bright sun and the view and the trees and felt very at peace.
I know what is on the horizon.
The running is over until Friday.
I took my last spin out on the trails. I started out with the plan of just casually running 7 miles, but about a mile in that plan went sideways.
I ripped off a spirited 4 miles. Or was I just blowing off steam?
I am starting to mentally dig in. The 100 mile distance is enough to chew on but the weather and trail conditions are raising the stakes on my mental preparation.
I see-saw between acceptance and joy of the circumstances and athletic aggression towards my natural opponents which is silly, because they are just what they are.
Mud, water, snow, ice, rain, cold.
They are doing what they do with no emotion towards me or why I am going to be out in the woods making 6 loops.
They don’t care. So why should I?
So it felt good to just run the machine a bit hard and feel nothing, just the smooth hum of moving though the trail. I pulled up with 2 miles left and set into a slow peaceful stride and reflected on all my time out there. On that trail.
In so many different conditions.
Bitter cold of day and night.
Snow covered trails both frozen and soft white sand.
Beautiful bright sunny days and cloudy ones.
Rising moons and suns to start or finish with.
All the amazing humans I ran with on that trail. Beautiful, kind, supportive people who listened to my story with compassion and love and shared theirs back.
I have no idea what is going to happen on race day. But the journey is the destination and the gifts I received on that trail with so many people has been beyond humbling.
Today I slept in. Which means I didn’t wake up at 4:30. I dedicated myself to eating today. Which I did a lot of.
But my mind wandered to weather and conditions. I painted the worse case scenarios today. Embracing stoicism fully, I imagined the worse possible weather. The worse possible trail conditions and the worse possible mental and physical beat down.
That isn’t a easy exercise to run the mind through but like any exercise it is not supposed to be easy. So I spent most of the day expecting and preparing in the mental landscape for the worse.
I do not control the weather. I do not control the trail conditions. I only control my ability to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving until I cross the finish line.
I did find my battle cry and mission for this race. I never know when it will come, but it arrived yesterday.
I am bringing my stoic learning to this race.
Amor Fati. Love of fate.
The ability to see everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering as good or at least necessary, and the total acceptance of events and situations that occur in one’s life.
I will be writing AMOR on my left hand and Fati on my right hand.
I went to the gym. Lots of burpees and pull ups. Just wanted to feel the body move. It felt good. It was good to get lost in the physical movement.
Today is that day when my mind asked the big questions.
Did I train enough?
Is the hay in the barn?
This is such a tough event to know. Especially with the conditions this year, how do you know if you trained enough to move through mud, ice, snow and water for 100 miles?
Did I run enough?
Did I do enough squats and deadlifts to power me through those hills and a course that has mother natures’ obstacles all over it.
I’m mentally leaning into my spartan training and all I did to get to Killington, plus all the long trail runs I did this year.
Is it enough?
I don’t know. I guess that is why you line up right?
To find out.
I’m trying to not think about any of this but the mind has a mind of its own and it likes to bring up things I have no control over. I can’t go back and train harder. What I did is done.
Do we ever know if the hay is in the barn?
Or do we just believe it is. It’s called faith I guess.
I do know this. Whatever these next few days of doubt or belief offer … when I line up, I don’t think about any of it. Once I start moving, the mind shuts off and I slip into the meditation.
The goal is the finish line.
I didn’t think much about the race. Small flashes. Short conversations.
I felt a bit detached, in a good way. Everything and anything I think is going to happen won’t. So creating any scenarios or a game plan beyond line up and run with joy, seems a bit like insanity. Unlike signing up for a 100 mile race … that is perfectly sane.
I will adjust to whatever is in front of me and adapt as I need to. The goal is to cross that start line and go 6 laps in those woods. How I do it other than putting one foot in front of the other is a mystery to me.
I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Be that foot in water, or ice, or snow, or mud. I don’t have control over that I only control my ability to move forward, to eat enough, and to stay hydrated and the do it with joy and purpose.
I want to be there. This isn’t a challenge I want to run from.
I am exactly 24 and a half hours away from lining up for another 100 mile journey. This one feels so different.
The first 100 miler was a journey into the unknown. I actually didn’t know what to think or feel. I just couldn’t wrap my head around moving for 100 miles so it was such an abstract concept. I showed up and let the path take me.
Last year, because of illness, the idea of making the starting line occupied my every waking moment. Could I get healthy enough to line up. Then, from lap one, my health concerns were replaced by the reality… my feet blistered and that became my mission, to finish that race despite my feet becoming something that looked more at home in a butcher shop window than at the end of my legs.
Here I am, healthy. I feel better trained after 2 years of getting ready for this race, but instead of it feeling more approachable, it feels even more daunting.
Covering that distance on this course in dry and fast conditions is a test of ones grit and commitment and mental toughness. But Mother Nature has decided to attend this party. She is bringing obstacles, ones made of mud, water, ice and snow and layering it upon the hills and rocks and path that is Zumbro.
I am deep down excited, with caution and reserve for this challenge. Boldness and ego serve no one on a 100 mile adventure, in my opinion. I am humbled by this opportunity to stand before myself in what may be very harsh conditions for a very long time, and see how far I am willing to go.
How far can I push this human shell.
How far can I take my mind through and past that voice in the head that says just quit Scott, “This is bullshit”.
Why are you doing this? I know why I am doing this.
So I can hear that voice and find out where that point is or, if it doesn’t exist, when it will.
I am under no illusion. This could possibly be the toughest race I have ever lined up for. I’ve been looking for this race. I am always looking for this race. Its my path I suppose. But that is easy to say. But the universe may have granted me this wish.
I feel it a privilege to have this opportunity.
My only goal is to make the most of it and reach that finish line.
I lined up.
I will not be writing about the race at this time.
Others have, and have done beautiful justice to their time out in the woods on April 13th and April 14th. You should seek them out and read them.
I have not come to terms, nor do I have a true understanding of what happened out there. It still feels surreal, other than the real pain of healing both physically and mentally.
All I know is this. That race was a gift.
The kind of gift I can’t explain nor can I truly comprehend the vastness of its beauty.
It was a privilege and an honor to cross that line with 19 other humans.
Only 20 of us know, and I barely know.
The only way out is through – Robert Frost