Part 2: Will his mental strength carry him through?
100 Mile races are about mental strength. We ended Part 1 with Tom’s friend has pulling ahead and the sun setting. Tom has a long night of running ahead of him and his aching feet. Here is his experience during the middle of the race:
A thunderstorm threatened but only sprinkled as I passed Leaky Mountain, a mountain with full waterfalls coming out of its rock face. I’ve never seen anything like it. The bridges on this part of the course were constructed one-day before the race. They used fallen trees and some rope to ensure we were high enough to stay above current runoff levels.
I came into Spring Marsh at mile 40, a beautiful plateau above the Bighorn. I asked the first person I saw if they had a seen a handsome guy wearing the same shirt. “Not as handsome as you,” came the reply. This is typical of interactions with Aid Station volunteers. They are kind, generous, unfailingly cheerful, and willing to do anything you need to keep you going. I encourage everyone to sign up to run, crew, pace, or volunteer at a 100M race to get a taste of that experience.
I made it into Jaws around 10 pm. My father-in-law greeted me with a smile, a photo, and my drop bag, for me to grab my headlamp, arms, sleeves, and a light hat. I listened as many people around me were dropping from the race. The heat had been too much. After hearing that for the third time, I knew I needed to get moving. I decided not to treat (and certainly not look at) my feet at this checkpoint, being more afraid of hot weather than foot pain. Both heels had large blisters that made heel-striking painful, and I had developed a bruise on the top of my left foot under the laces. Every step began to hurt. But another day heat was pending on the opposite side of what would be a short night.
I started out again and began to pass people, which is always a confidence boost. I focused on sunrise or, more specifically, making it to the top of the 3,000-foot climb at mile 70 by daylight so that I had minimal climbing left as the morning heat settled.
Will that focus keep Tom motivated, on task, and awake through the night? Check out Part 3 next week to find out if he finishes the race.