If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again. – William Edward Hickson
I needed inspirations to continue my training for my 2nd attempt at the Vermont 100 so when my friend Amanda said she’s running the inaugural C&O Canal 100 miler I gladly offered to be her support crew. She didn’t need a pacer and asked if I could just meet her at the halfway point and bring along her favorite ultra food, fries & chicken tender.
We both attempted our first 100 miler distance last year and she completed the Old Dominion 100 through sheer perseverance and determination. I was not as prepared and called it quit at mile 62 of the Vermont 100.
I got to the start/half way/finish @ Camp Manidoken by 5:00PM and saw many familiar faces either volunteering or crewing for someone. I went through the usual chit chat and introduced myself to everyone there. As soon as I caught sight of the first few runners checking in at the half way point I grabbed my camera and tried to capture their expressions at that point of the race as they hiked up the treacherous mile long hill to make it back to the camp. Some were grimacing but some instantly put on a smile as soon as they saw my camera. Like me, they realized that it doesn’t matter how you feel during the race, in the end you’ll only remember how good you look in the pictures 🙂
Mental toughness is such a big part of ultra distances that it can either make or break your race. I saw runners that walked up the hill with their heads held high and determined to see their adventure to the very end. I also saw runners that stooped their head in defeat and decided to fight on at another race in a distant future. I can sympathize with these runners as I was in the same mindset last year. My hope this year is to learn enough to minimize the # of mistakes that will lead me that point.
I finally saw Amanda making her way to the half way point and as expected she was smiling as she hiked up that brutal hill. I quickly helped grabbed her drop bag, gave her the fries and chicken tender. Once she refuel she was ready to go and headed out again.
I saw her again at mile 62, 71, 91 and the finish. Each time I noticed the effect the increased mileage had on her but she was constantly on the move and had a fierce look of determination to see this thing through. I need to have that look when things get rough and all I want to do is quit and put an end to the misery. When I saw her at the finish she was running up that last hill wearing a big grin on her face and hamming it up for the camera. I was very impressed with how tough she is and learned a lot from my passive experience of her 2nd 100 mile adventure. Her expression and that of every other finishers I saw as they were given the finishing medal by the race director was that of utter joy. There’s no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you conquered your fears and persevered against that little voice in your head that want to quit. I want that feeling.
Photos that I took from the race are available on Flickr @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/nguyenhai/sets/72157633363308625/