She strayed from her script for a brief moment to reveal a tone of genuine curiosity, bordering confusion. Up to this point, all of the questions during the psych evaluation were read in a straightforward, business-like manner, almost as if to avoid becoming involved in actual conversation with what I was telling her. It seems like with this question, she had foregone any predetermined structure to the dialogue we were having in an attempt to really figure out how someone like myself wanted to be involved with this reality show I was a finalist for. At this point, what did it matter? She knew she couldn't let me continue in the finalist process.
My head dropped, chin touching my chest. My usual eloquence betraying me, as all I could do was just -- let go. I cried, and for the moment that's all I was aware of; pure feeling, sadness, love, hopelessness and hope.
A couple of seconds later, I started to allow myself to process what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. I told her, in a voice made shaky by the tears I had just shed: "The same reason I do everything else I do: to give hope, to help other people. I know what it's like to feel hopeless and how great of a feeling it is to have hope restored, even if momentarily. To show people that it doesn't matter what you've been through, or your background, you can do amazing things, you can take horrible things and have them help you achieve truly impossible things. To give that to someone else -- there's nothing better you can give someone".
I was amazed. My heart was good, truly good. I had never been more truly aware of how honest, and purely benevolent my deepest intentions were. I had been honest during the entire evaluation, but the honesty behind the response I gave to her final question is something that overwhelmed me. It was something that I had felt only 4 days prior.
I explained the reason for the tears was because her question invoked the same feelings as I had had upon my last big undertaking, when I crossed the finish line of my first 100 mile trail race in San Diego. Because it was so fresh in my mind, those feelings had the same exact overwhelming effect on me. It was a finish bigger than a finish for myself; it was a finish for the entire San Diego Native American Community.
This is the story of my first 100 mile finish and first 100 mile trail race. This is a story of wanting to help others, appreciating the help that I receive, and of living a good life.
I have attempted only one other 100 miler and it was an urban 100 miler. A poorly organized one which led me to my first DNF. I had set out to finish that 100 miler in the name of bringing awareness to suicide in Native communities, particularly among Native youth. A failure to meet the amount of advertised aid stations, the first one being at mile 27, caused me to lose 8 lbs by mile 50 and become severely dehydrated. A failure to mention that a crew is mandatory, not just "highly advisable", led me to a prepare for a race that was very different than the one I thought I was getting into. Having to "give up" that day taught me more than I could ever imagine about the struggle of suicide, and compassion that only comes from understanding what it's like to feel like "there's nothing else you can do" and a desire to "just make the pain stop". It was perhaps fitting that I didn't finish this race. I still contest to this day, that DNF's will teach you more about yourself than finishes will.
San Diego 100 was to be different. I trained. I trained long, I trained hard. I did a couple of 100 mile weeks and my peak week got up to 140 miles a week. I did weekly group runs with the Trail Crashers out in Julian to learn the course and do everything in my power to make sure I was prepared, from the moment I got off of the waitlist and onto the "registered participants" list. It was March 20th when I knew I was going to do this race, that gave me 2 months of solid training time to get this 100 done. Come race day, I had done one 24-hour race in which I covered 74 miles, and the Lost Boys 50 miler as training races to help make sure I felt confident that I could complete this race. After having done Lost Boys (9,000 ft of climbing) in 10.5 hours and feeling like I could've gone longer, I gained the confidence I needed to make sure I could get through the San Diego 100 one month later. 7 days after Lost Boys I felt so good that I started my 140 mile week which included 4 back-to-back 25 mile days. Never pushing it more than is wise, I listened to my body and continued training and 10 days out I was feeling great about the race.
Weather-wise, I was hoping the "May Gray" would stick around for one week longer as I do better in colder weather and we had not been training in anything over 60F. So, hopefully, I checked the 10-day weather forecast for some ballpark figure of what to expect. WTF 85 degrees? I'm screwed. Anything above 65 and I die during a race. Put me in 30 degree weather and all I need is shorts and a tank. But 85 degrees and all that I could think was that if the weather didn't change for the better, there was no way I was getting this done. It's just things you know about yourself, you know? I'm lactose intolerant so no quesadillas during the race. I don't process Gu's well because I get GI issues. If it's 85 degrees I will likely suffer dramatically and not be able to finish the race. Things that experience has taught me to be facts about myself and how I perform.
Well, when the week of the race came up the predictions were getting higher and higher, from 85 to 90, from 90 to 97, and finally on race morning, Race Director Scott Mills announced
"I'm sure you know the big story today is the high of 108 degrees".
|"Shit just got real!"|
"Well, I guess that means I'm walking", I told my one-person crew Whitney, my best friend since UCSD.
I had made a pace chart that was purposely ambitious (though admittedly I forgot to add 30 minutes to the Noble Canyon climb, apparently thinking I was going to be doing 12-13 minute pace up that damn thing) yet at the same time conservative, and so I knew that if I at least stuck to it for the beginning of the race, I might be in good shape for the rest of the day. Any faster than my pace chart and I would be endangering my chances of finishing the race. Even in the cool of the morning, starting out too fast is foolish.
Miles 0-12.5: So I started out slow, letting people impatiently pass me on the single track leading up to the first little climb of the day. I watched as they ran quickly past me thinking, "Okay, if you wish, but I'm only going to return the favor later when you burn out". I simply settled on confusing them by saying "I'll seeya later" as they passed. I'm sure they realized what I was getting at, but were confident somehow that I wouldn't pass them. Well, I would.
|Started off at 130th place out of 259 competitors|
I walked the majority of the first 2 climbs, up Middle peak and up Stonewall. Even pulling into the first station I started walking as I was 5 minutes ahead of my expected ETA. I used my calm walking as a chance to hydrate, as I recalled advice given "Hydrate early, hydrate well, and take electrolytes early too". Didn't matter that I wasn't sweating too much, I needed to heed this advice. I also took every chance I could to pour cold water on myself in the early morning aid stations.
Dave Snyder, a fellow trail crasher doing his own first 100 mile race, was right behind me as I left Paso Picacho (mile 7.5) and he was looking strong. It was good to see someone else taking it easy and doing the smart thing. A little ahead I saw ultrarunning legend/veteran Dan Brendan and caught up with him to powerhike up Stonewall and make some conversation. He's a really awesome person who has has so much experience running ultras that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share at least a mile with him. I first had met him at my 24 hour Beyond Limits Ultra race in Mountain Center, where he had ended up coming in as first male for their 100 mile race. We talked a little but for the most part I was happy just being his shadow and taking in the moment. I told him how the reason I finishing this race was important to me was because I wanted to revive the tradition of long-distance running in Southern California Native Communities. He told me about this guy he knew and ran with, I forget the name he said, maybe Dennis Poolheco, famous ultra runner who was Native who had passed away recently in a car accident. Peace and blessings to his family. As people passed, I commented how a lot of people seem to be starting off fast today and passing me up. "They always do," he said, "But you won't believe how many 100 milers I've completed in less than 24 hours by simply walking".
|"Oh crap, a camera. Quick! Look like you're having fun!"|
|Mile 43.8. Sadly, I decided to sit out on the following Monday's group run.|
"When you're head gets twisted and your mind grows numb, when you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb. When you're lagging behind and losing your pace, in a slow motion crawl, or life's busy race, no matter what you're doing if you start giving up, if the wine don't come to the top of your cup. If the wind's got you sideways, with one hand holding on, and the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone... and your sidewalk starts curling and the street gets too long, and you start walking backwards so you know that it's wrong, and lonesome comes up as down goes the day, and tomorrow's morning seems so far away, and you feel the reins from your pony is slipping. And your rope is a slidin' cause your hands are a'drippin'. And your sun-decked deserts and evergreen valleys turn to broken down slums and trash can alleys... and you say to yourself just what am I doin? On this road I'm walking, on this trail I'm turning, on this curve I'm hanging, on this pathway I'm strolling, in the space I'm taking and this air I'm inhaling. Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard? Why am I walking? Where am I running? What am I saying, what am I knowing?... Who am I helping? What am I breaking? What am I giving? What am I taking? But you try with your whole soul best never to think these thoughts..."
|Who loves orange soda? Phil loves orange soda.|
|Me and Eli looking fresh at 4am|