Crack, Addiction and My Toenail Necklace

Rewind about six or eight weeks and I was having one the worst, and I mean one of the absolute worst training runs I’ve ever had. My fault entirely, but at the time I wasn’t going to admit that I’d eaten like mierda the night before and had hydrated poorly (read:hadn’t). What should have been a pretty routine 18-mile trail run turned into a pretty average twelve mile run, a horrific two mile plunge into a mental and physical abyss followed up by a four mile emotionally gut wrenching walk under a blazing hot sun.

I literally didn’t think I could drive home safely and called Donna to tell her I’d be a while since I was on the verge of wretching there at the trailhead, Hell, I was even too dizzy to even bend over and untie my shoes without toppling over…and did. When I did finally get home I could barely stand long enough to take a shower since my body was in total shutdown mode. I just knew that I was going to barf in the shower, which would have made me barf even more given the total grossness of that.

I barely made it to the couch with my two water bottles before I was fast asleep for several hours, something I never do during the day. But before I had my eyes shut, I’d made up my mind that my upcoming running and racing projects would be forfeited and that I was out of the long distance running game for a long, long while. I had been totally crushed.

Two days later, still convinced my long distance mountain running was on pause for the foreseeable future, I went out for a quick six miles to clear my head from a bizarre day at the office. About half way through I was slogging up a saucy section of rocky singletrack when all of a sudden the soreness from the prior weekend abated and I hit that stride where I felt like I was flying. Maybe it was a catharsis of the mental bludgeoning I’d taken over the weekend, but whatever happened was unexpected and I went with it head first and absolutely torched the remainder of my run.

When I got home it seemed that the events of the weekend were pushed back into the category of “just one of those days” and I was somewhat rejuvenated once again to take on the next event on my summer schedule, the Continental Divide Trail Race up in Steamboat.

Fast forward to Steamboat and I had an awesome day. Ran strong throughout and finished well ahead of my predicted time. As amped as I was about the result, I knew I still had the Blue Sky Mountain Marathon (27-miler) ahead of me a few weeks later and knew there was still work to do. At least I’d moved past “I’m not running long distances for the foreseeable future” and was now at “Once I get that marathon out of the way I’m going to take a break”.

Now, here I am about a week and half away from running a pretty stiff race through the mountains of Northern Colorado and things have changed once again.

Let me explain how being an ultrarunner skews rational thinking and how when someone makes the suggestion of “another project”, well, it’s like giving crack to an addict.

After having a great race at the Steamboat race but taking a thorough physical beating (especially my quads and poor toes), I was pretty sure that the upcoming marathon would be it for a while. Besides that, I’d soon be forced to rip another toenail off, and my feet, legs and body were screaming, no, pleading furiously for a little break. After all, the upcoming marathon will be the sixth long distance trail event I’ve done this year and admittedly I’m starting to feel the miles a little. And besides that, once that toenail comes off, probably during one of the downhill sections of the upcoming race, I’ll finally have enough toenails to complete the toenail necklace I’ve been working on since becoming an ultrarunner. That should be reason enough for a little celebratory break in an of itself. Oh yeah, sometimes if those toenails are really purple but not too janky, they make ideal Christmas gifts to other ultra runner friends in the form of earrings or maybe a nice broach. But I digress.

So, I continued my training knowing that I had only a couple more long training runs left then I could start my taper into the marathon. My awesome friend Caroline even came out from Chicago and ran along with me for a lot of a 22-mile training run, which made the miles pass quickly and gave me a lift of spirits since she was one of the very reasons I was tackling all these projects to begin with (read my previous blog for that story!). Anyhow, I got that long run out of the way and was feeling great. Well, that’s when ultrarunners, me included, are most vulnerable to the “addiction”.

My good friend Chris and I were talking ultrarunning one day a week or so ago and he informed me that he’d decided to go after a 100-mile race in mid October, just two weeks after my marathon. He’s still pretty fresh off a grueling 77-miler just a few weeks back and is in prime shape to take it up a notch. Before he had “100 mile race” written in the email, I was already salivating and wanting me some of that action. I did snap to my senses pretty quickly though knowing that I didn’t quite have the base for the full 100, HOWEVER, I could pace him for a lot of it and hopefully get at least 50 miles and possible push it out there closer to a 100k (62-ish miles).

Running crack. Big dose.

Dreadful trail run a few weeks back? Forgotten. Smashed legs and toes at the Continental Divide Trail run? Forgotten. Exhaustion 24/7 for the last several weeks? Forgotten. Much needed break after upcoming marathon? Forgotten. Finally finishing up my toenail necklace? Not forgotten but instead the thought of having more “jewels” all of a sudden seems extremely inviting.

Just thinking about the beautiful pain and misery of running for 12-16 hours through the cold Colorado night by headlamp with a good friend, one who truly understands the “whats” and “whys” of what we do was like hearing I’d won the lotto.

Then, just today, I was surfing around a Rocky Mountain ultrarunning events calendar and found yet another one that I could do just two weeks after pacing Chris at his 100-miler. Honestly, as I was reading the course description and seeing the profile map and enormous vertical gain over the 50k, my eyes rolled up in my head and I got all woozy with excitement all over again.

More crack.

This time though I put my credit card away and navigated away from the site before I did something that probably would have been pretty physically damaging. Three ultra events in a matter five weeks might be pushing the limit just a tad. However, I know others pull off big projects like that from time to time and I’m not really all that injured…no, NO, Barry, stop it. Just look away from the light. Look aawwwwaaaaaayyyy from the light.

My name is Barry and I am an ultrarunner.


2 responses to “Crack, Addiction and My Toenail Necklace

  1. Hey! Another great post as usual! I can totally relate!

    In case you didn’t already know, I moved my blog to:

    I’m still working on completing my race report from Lean Horse Hundred… 100 miles gives one a lot to think and write about.

    Run on!

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