Rattlesnake 50km this past weekend marked my 99th ultra finish line. 99 ultras.
If you had told me I'd be at this place back in 1991 when I was training for Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50-Miler, I would have agreed. Same at Mile 33 when I had yet to walk my first step. Same at Mile 42. Most def not the same at the Mile 43 aid station when I was so shot to pieces that I walked the next SIX MILES, cussing myself and RD David Horton and Running Times mag where I'd seen the ad for the race and anything else I could think of to cuss.
After hours of walking, I had convinced myself that I was 1-and-done with this ridiculous ultra experiment, that I'd never set foot on another trail as long as I lived, that people who did this stuff and called it fun were complete morons ... and then here came Dennis Herr. On his mountain bike. Riding the last teeny little technical section of trail on the original MMTR course. Uphill. Without thinking, I broke into a jog. "Yo Dennis." "Hey Billllllll. Wow. Only a mile to go now. You look GREAT! Great JOB!" I did that final mile in 7:09. Have 11 more MMTR finish lines, too. And 10 Umstead 100s, 10 VHTRC Fat-Ass 50kms, 9 Rattlesnakes, etc. etc.
Next after MMTR was Wild Oak 50-Miler. I blistered the 16.5-mile road section, ran most of the next 10-mile trail section and then blew into so many pieces that it was lucky I had enough carcass left to be considered a finisher. I crossed the raging North River with Scott "Maineak" Grierson, the burley dude who almost hiked the Appalachian Trail faster than Horton ran it in 1991. Maineak saved my non-swimming a** twice crossing that river, then climbed Little Bald with me as we passed a dozen runners, then crushed me on the 7-mile mostly downhill to the finish.
The 100-miler finishes loom the largest on the list -- one Old Dominion, one O.D. Memorial, one Mohican, one Massanutten in addition to the 10 Umsteads. The recent 3 Days at the Fair 48-Hour (123.52 miles) and the Massanutten Ring are two more I'm particularly proud of knocking out.
I've done a couple 3-day journey runs, but I don't count those in my total. The Lexington-2-Elkton 3-Day and the Tour de Shenandoah -- the Skyline Drive trek -- were both complete blasts, but just seem a bit too much like training runs to count. Same with when Ring and I did the 77-mile Greenbrier River Trail. Big fun, but not an ultra for my list. I did count when Bur, Q and I did the Double Rivanna that year, so there you have it. Maybe my rule is "more than two" equals in ultra? :) Anyway, one thing is for SURE: if I ever do 4 loops at Wild Oak, i absolutely WILL no-matter-what count that monster. Hah!
Sorta interesting to see names of runs that no longer exist. Del Passatore 100K, the RRCA Eastern Region Track 50-Mile Championship, Fort Valley 50-Miler, August Lunacy 50km. Makes me feel a bit dinosaur-like.
What a fun trip I have had so far. Thousands of miles. So many, many amazing people. What a lucky, lucky dude am I.
Catherine's Big Butt is next Saturday. No. 100 looms. How totally cool is it that such a milestone should happen at a no-entry fee, no-schwag, party-out-for-hours-after-the-finish event such as Catherine's? Perfect.
I have 99 ultra finishes. And 46 marathon finishes. Me. Not a beast like so many of those guys I knew when I started. Just some skinny, blabby guy whose smile is a lot faster than his pace now.
One ultra finish from 100.