August 19, 2017
I attempted my first 100 mile ultramarathon at Leadville last weekend and missed the cut by 5 minutes at the 50 mile mark. The sub-optimal outcome was both unfortunate and embarrassing given I a) prepped for 2 years for this race, b) spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours away from family, and c) convinced my friends and family to spend their time and money to help crew / pace me for the race.
And I didn’t even make it halfway.
To provide context, I have always taken pride in my ability to outwork / gut others to achieve success. But as I reflect back on the race, with factors being altitude, nutrition, quads, mentals, I’m confident I missed the cut at 50 miles because I was unable to dig deep enough. Said another way, I didn’t have the guts last Saturday. I’m confident in this fact because if Maddie’s life was on the line, I would have found a way down that mountain under the halfway cut off no matter how blown my quads felt or how little oxygen I could breathe through my lungs.
In a different setting than the one last weekend, I would have been wounded by this failure and likely spend the following months ruminating on what happened and making excuses for why it was out of my control. But I’m truly at peace with the outcome and look back at the race as one of the top life memories in recent years.
The reason for the change in perspective toward this defeat vs. others is the immediate and constant flow of support from my family, pacers, crew, friends, and colleagues post-race. If I finished the race, I’m sure I would have received celebratory high fives, hugs, texts and social posts. But I’m also fairly certain they wouldn’t have given me the same fulfillment as they did last week. They wouldn’t have packed the same punch if they were celebratory.
All said, I learned through this experience that the result from a DNF doesn’t feel that much different than a big PR. (Note: I understand that if this same situation happened multiple times, the effect would be meaningless).
I’ll take it a step farther. Even with the DNF after 4,000 miles and two years of training, last weekend was one of the most fulfilling weekends in recent memory because it allowed me to connect on a meaningful level with buddies that I haven’t had quality time with in decades. Without this race bringing everybody together, it could have been years to decades longer before I connected with this group like that again.
In that sense, the race was most importantly a catalyst to unite my family / friends and provide me with a valuable perspective.
In addition to the camaraderie, the race gave me a newfound respect for the preparation required to conquer daunting challenges that Leadville (and races like it) pose. And I’m refreshed and ready to prepare for my next attempt. As long as I have my crew.
“We few, we chosen few, we band of brothers, for he who sheds blood with me shall be my brother” Shakespeare, Henry V (one of our favorite poems while in 1st Recon Battalion, USMC)