Last week, I wrote in this space that I thought there were three things required to finish a 100 Mile Race. "Hard work, patience, and faith".
This week, I'm here to tell you that I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Please don't misunderstand. Those three things ARE all very important, and I wouldn't want to toe the line of any ultra (let alone my first 100 miler) without them. But, if another critical item is not there with you as well, then those first three things are far less meaningful.
...and, that magical fourth ingredient is "support".
I was very fortunate that my support for The Ghost Train 100 came from a variety of reliable sources.
The first, and foremost, source of support came from my Family. My wife who, although she doesn't always understand WHY I choose to do the things I do, always stands behind my decision to do them. With everything she has! My kids who cheer for me hard, whether I come in first, or last. ...as long as I bring them a medal. My sisters (both blood and step) who always make a point of asking how my training is going. And last, but not least, my mom who is always "so proud" even if she does think (and say) I've "got a screw loose"!
My second big support group was my Friends. Both runners and non-runners alike, came out to the trails in tremendous numbers on race day and waited around for hours at the chance to see me for as little a minute - while I quickly wolfed down some food or hurriedly filled a water bottle at an aid station. Waving, screaming and photographing as I went past. Taking time out of their busy lives (and schedules) just so they could be part of something that was important to ME. Simply amazing!
Next was my Running Club. Letting me know that they cared about me, and the work that we've done together over the years, by contributing to my Progeria Fundraising efforts. And, cheering and laughing along to a rousing rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" at our annual end-of track dinner. Just three days before the race! That night we raised almost $1000 for 100 Miles for Sam. I'm not sure I've ever been prouder to be a member of the Striders. And, with 12 years of service under my belt, that's saying quite a lot!
My fourth layer of support came from the Race Volunteers. Willingly putting themselves in the faces of tired (and sometimes cranky) runners. Offering us all sorts of treats, elixirs and salves to help keep us moving towards our ultimate goals. Encouraging us when we wanted it and kicking us in the backsides when we needed it! The ultra-running community is chock full of caring, selfless and incredible individuals. And, I feel so fortunate to be counted among them!
Finally, my Pacing Crew. It's hard to put into words what these guys meant to me before, during and after my race. Standing around for hours (after keeping tabs for many hours more) just for the chance at jogging slowly, in the woods, in the dark, in the middle of night (and nowhere) with me. At the very least, these seven wonderful people provided some much needed diversion during some very lonely miles. And, at the very most, they completely saved my race!
Because, while hard work, patience and faith may be enough to prepare you for the start of your race, you'll never get to the finish (or enjoy it quite as much) if you don't have the support to go with it!
And, this week, my Ghost Train support team helped me to a finishing time of 22 hours, 13 minutes and 3 seconds - at my first ever 100 mile race! A time which, remarkably enough, earned me a rusty railroad spike, a shiny belt buckle and 7th place overall!
...official race report to follow shortly, as I'm still trying to soak it all in!