It’s sometime around 11pm and I’m tired. My hopes and dreams of buckling the OD100 (no belt buckles for finishes over 24 hours) have just been shattered by the recently completed climb up and over Sherman’s Gap. I’m low on calories and desperately looking for the next aid station, Veach East*. My headlamp dimly lights a 6 foot circle of trail ahead of me, which does nothing to lift my drooping eyelids. I’m wondering if I can go even another mile when I eventually see a light through the trees off to my left. It’s stationary so my hopes start to rise that I’m almost to the aid station. As I get closer, I see that it’s a street light on a country road, however there’s a problem. I look around, but don’t see anyone else. Where’s the aid station?
And then out of the corner of my eye, I see a Gatorade cooler sitting beside the trail with half a box of bite-sized candy bars sitting on top of it. My thinking is a little fuzzy at this point so it takes me a couple seconds to realize that I’ve reached the next aid station. But this isn’t an aid station. This is the aid station?!?! I’m too tired and exhausted at this point to panic because I can’t summon the effort so on auto-pilot I just refill my water bottle. I’m desperate for calories, yet am presented with only 1 choice to fulfill my needs. Last fall at Cloudsplitter, I had tried bite-sized candy bars after my primary fueling option turned on me and was able to stomach only a couple. Now this is all I had to get me up and over another nasty mountain. I grabbed a random fistful of what was available, threw them in my pack, and hoped for the best.
At this point, I reached my absolute low for the race. I was confused how the race director could expect us to cross over 2 large mountains with only a partial aid station in between. I still had 18 miles or so to finish the race and had no idea how I was going to accomplish this. In the moment though I had no doubt that I would finish. In hindsight, this raw belief is rather amazing. I really didn’t know how I was going to get up and over another mountain and finish the race, but I knew with certainty that it would happen. And I think this is the true power of running ultras and hundreds in particular. It gives you a belief in yourself that you can do anything. I mean, when you’ve already done the impossible, then it’s no big deal to do it again.
And with that, I started walking up the road wondering how I would end up accomplishing the impossible.
* What I thought at the time was Veach East was really the unmanned 613T aid station. Just a couple miles up the road was the real Veach East, one of the greatest oasis I have ever encountered in any ultra. This opinion may be entirely due to it magically appearing out of nowhere and my comparison of it to 613T, however I will fight anyone who dares suggest this. Veach East is awesome and you should totally go check it out.