Things didn't go to plan on H2H...
I was so sure that I had everything dialed this time. With the training and organization I put into it, I thought I was a shoe in for finishing. I knew it was going to be hard with some serious suffering but I thought I would battle through and claw my way to the summit of Humphreys. I was sure...
But...life doesn't always work out the way you want it to. In fact, in my experience, life very rarely works out the way you want it to. Especially when you are really pushing your limits. (gritting my teeth while saying this) I know that not finishing the H2H will probably teach me a lot more about myself than if I would have finished. Who knows...what I do know is that it is F-ing hard to run that far and I have to learn to break through a major mental boundary if I am going to complete something of this length.
I thought that I had the mental toughness to force myself to finish no matter what my body felt like. Other people have done it. It is possible to feel completely finished and then just keep going. I have read and heard countless stories about this exact occurrence. The stories are all the same. The runner, at about mile 60-70, completely worked physically and mentally "hitting the wall" and then they catch some sort of "second wind" and just starts moving faster again. They find some hidden reserve way down deep inside and just keep going to the finish.
Where was my "second wind?" I though and expected it would happen. When I hit the wall at 60 miles, I thought I would dig way down deep and find a way to motivate myself to the top of the mountain. I only had 25 miles left to go. I had already done that distance at least twice over to that point.
I couldn't motivate though...I couldn't find that thing that would break me through the wall I had slammed into. When I stopped and gave up I did so because I literally didn't care if I made it anymore. I was to exhausted mentally and physically to want to care. I kept looking up at the mountain and thinking that it was the last place I wanted to go. I just wanted to sit down and stay there.
The whole thing started well...
On Saturday, Susan and I camped out near the south rim of the Grand Canyon and it was a beautiful night. Sunday morning, about 5 am, we drove to the S. Kaibab trailhead and Susan dropped me off.
I felt great and was excited to do the event. My body had lots of energy and mentally I felt strong and motivated.
The hike down the S. Kaibab was fine and I moved slowly to try to conserve energy. I was a little tired from the hike down but that is to be expected from a 7 mile trail that drops 5,000 ft.
I had the whole day to hang out in the canyon bottom and rest before coming back out at 7 pm (when it would cool off enough to go back up the S. Kaibab again). I did just that. Rest. But, because of the stress of waiting or whatever other reason it could have been, I didn't rest very well. I mostly had thoughts about the run and for whatever reason felt like I was getting a nasty head cold. I was blowing my nose all day and every time I did so my head and ears would hurt. WTF. By late afternoon I even questioned if I should be doing the run because of how crappy I was feeling down in the canyon.
Finally, 7 pm neared and feeling crappy and stressed or not I was going to go for it. I had put to much training and effort into this to bail now. Besides, I felt that if I got going I would probably start feeling a lot better, leaving all the stress and icky sick feelings at the bottom of the canyon to be washed down the Colorado River.
At 7 pm, I ran across the bridge and began the run. The S. Kaibab to the rim was more of a fast hike so I could save energy for all the running to come later, besides running up the S. Kaibab doesn't save much time as it is super steep.
I got to the rim in good time and met up with Susan. She was cheering me on from the rim and I could hear her from pretty far down in the canyon. Great support!
On the way over to the first aid station at the S. Kaibab Trail parking lot I confessed to Susan that I wasn't feeling that good, that I was feeling a bit sick but that I wasn't going to let that stop me from going for it. I was pretty convinced at this point that I was feeling sick because of all the stress of sitting down in the hot canyon all day and thinking about the run. I felt that it was all literally "in my head."
After the next few aid stations I didn't have that sick feeling anymore but I couldn't really get moving like I wanted. I expected, because of all of my longer trail runs leading up to this, to be able to run 4-5 miles an hour for the first 20 miles or so and then drop down to 4 miles and hour for much of the rest of it (until I hit the mountain where I would be going 2-3 miles and hour). This is as slow or slower than I did my R2R2R runs in May and they had way more elevation changes than this. This run is pretty much flat except for the beginning and the end.
I was running barely 4 miles an hour. Running most of the miles and walking some. I really didn't feel I had the energy to run faster if I wanted. I felt sore right from the beginning and I never feel that way on my longer runs. This was a bit alarming.
I continued to down play these feelings and focus on the task at hand of just moving forward at whatever pace I could. I continued to believe that I would start feeling better and find some kind of groove as I ran through the night.
Just before morning, I ran into Isaac and Caleb and they switched off riding their bikes with me until about mile 50. I was still running at this point but it wasn't fast and I had to stop running and walk for 5-10 minutes every 30 minutes. I was still traveling at 4 miles an hour but barely.
At mile 50, I left Isacc and Caleb (thanks for the help and motivation guys) and
was to travel 10 more miles to Susan, Frank and Gina for my next aid station. This next section miles 50-60 proved to be my downfall.
I knew I was slowing down but figured if I could just keep stumbling along and then shuffling and jogging when I had the energy I would make it to Humphreys. I did well with this for the first couple miles, in fact I jogged the first two miles or so before I had to start walking this section. It all started to go downhill soon after.
Frank rode down to see where I was at and he found me at about 7 miles from the aid station walking along at what probably looked like a casual pace (it was about as fast as I could painfully move along at that moment). I was glad to see him and he gave me a few snacks to help with my energy levels. For the next few miles things were o.k. We had good conversation which took my mind off of the pain at times and helped motivate me to move along at sometimes slow walking and sometimes fast shuffling. Then, with about 5 or 6 miles left, I started to go down hill fast. I was fine to keep drinking water and electrolyte drinks but I lost all appetite and every time Frank offered me some food I would decline. I just couldn't bring myself to want to put any more food in my mouth. It made me feel sick to even think about it. I knew deep down that I should be eating but just couldn't bring myself to do it.
Things continued this way, conversation, drinking water, saying no to food and stumbling along until I started moving really, really slow the last few miles. At this point my attitude changed big time. I went from talking to Frank about how this was all hard but I would keep struggling on to having this overwhelming feeling of not caring anymore. It hit me fast and then didn't take long to control me 100%. All of a sudden, I really didn't care about finishing the run. All I wanted to do was sit down and rest. I felt like I had done enough and didn't want to take another step.
Frank was awesome and kept telling me that I should keep going and that I should take as long as I needed to recover at the aid station we were close to. Part of me deep down inside believed that he was right and that if I sat down for an hour or two, ate a bunch of food and got a bunch of liquids in me I would get some energy and be able to continue. Then the overwhelming feeling of not caring would wave over me again and crush any hope I could muster.
By the time I got to the aid station I was an emotional wreck. I was overwhelmed with disappointment. I felt I was letting myself down by not caring anymore. Why couldn't I find a reason to go on? Why was I an emotional wreck? Why did my legs hurt so F-ing bad? Why couldn't I convince myself to eat food for the last few hours? Why did I put so much of my energy and time into training for this the last 6 months just to bail here and not care?
My emotional low culminated in walking up to Susan just before the aid station and slumping on to her and bawling. I remember saying something like "My legs hurt so bad...I don't think I can keep going..." That was about all I could get out.
Susan told me to walk up to the station and they would get me some food and water and then we would see from there.
I got to the aid station and collapsed into a chair, ate a few bites of food, drank some Gatorade tried to keep some conversation and then started falling to sleep in my chair. I remember Susan helping me onto a crash pad (a pad made for bouldering) to sleep and then the next thing I knew it was an hour later. I had crashed hard.
At that point it was probably obvious that I wasn't interested in continuing so nobody asked if I wanted to to go on. Although, as things were being packed to go home, I made a joke about continuing as I tried to stand up and Frank said he would help if I wanted to continue. I guess I could have tried to walk and continue at that point but. I really didn't have the heart for it anymore that day. I was broken. Thanks for trying Frank.
Final thoughts: As I have more time to absorb this experience, I'm sure I will learn a lot about who I am and just how far I am willing to go in the face of what seems like impossible odds. Just how will I adjust my thoughts and actions when I am faced with this kind of moment in the future? Will I be able to push through and see what's on the other side? Or will I always wonder what is out there...
Can I go further or is this my limit? We will have to see.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me for the run. Susan (I love you), Gina, Frank, Isaac and Caleb for being my support crew and my parents, family and friends for giving me their support up to and after the run. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish I would have finished for myself and for all of you with your awesome support. It meant a lot to me to get to the top of Humphreys and it was really hard to not complete that goal after all of the effort. Thank you.