This may be a long post or it may be short. I don't know since I am coming into with nearly no planning or preparation whatsoever. Let's just wing it and see how it turns out. Probably not well given the way that method seems to be working in races.
My 4th Tuscobia and 3rd attempt at the 160 mile distance. Since my DNF at Yeti at the end of September, I have been trying to get back into a training mode but never did find the motivation or desire. I had some good training days but a vast majority of the time I struggled to get out the door and even then I wouldn't do much. My weekly mileage barely got over 40 miles at the peak, mostly hovering around 20 or 30. From experience I know that I should be getting 70 to 80 a week to be fairly confident in finishing a 100 miler or longer. Right now I'm not even close.
The days leading to this year's race were spent repeatedly checking the weather forecast for snow. As of just two or three days prior, there were still portions of the trail with no snow. If the race began with no snow, this would completely change the method of getting myself and my required gear from start to finish. Luckily there did end up being enough snow to cover the course, however, the conditions were much less than ideal.
The start was the warmest since my first attempt. I wore a base layer and a heavier weight running jacket. I still had to manage the heat to avoid sweating and getting very cold. The trail was still firming up so the first miles were not too bad if you could avoid the puddles covered with a thin layer of ice.
I reached the town or Birchwood (16-17 miles) between 4 and 5 hours in. I was already feeling a little tired and sleepy but not very much more than previous years. After all the worrying about lack of training and fitness, I thought that I might be ok. I made a quick stop at the local gas station for a bite to eat and then headed off for the first checkpoint at mile 45.
The frustration began slight before the checkpoint. It was taking longer than I thought it should, but it always seems that way so I should not be surprised. Still I let it bother me that I wasn't meeting my unrealistic time goal.
Upon reaching the checkpoint, which is a large stone cabin, heated by a large fireplace at one end. Like always, the inside was crowded and uncomfortable, even if it was more comfortable than outside. I spent an hour eating, organizing gear and trying to dry my feet, which had started getting hot spots way too early. Much of this race is about managing the damage your feet take.
I left around the same time as previous attempts, so I was still in good shape. It was well into the night now and the struggle with sleep ramped up quickly. Over the next 10 hours I wanted nothing more than to lay down and sleep, even for a few minutes. Through a very long stretch of ungroomed trail, the balls of my feet became giant blisters. It became increasingly difficult to eat or drink as I felt I was forcing down anything I tried to take in. The food that had worked in the past was unappetizing now. As the miles went by, I was falling further into the hole.
The final 8 miles seemed to take an eternity, as I know from experience, it always does. Despite my attempts to remain positive, I had given in to negative thinking and decided that there was nothing to be gained from pushing through another 80 miles and getting the finish. Logically it is probably still the right decision with Arrowhead and ITI coming up shortly. Still, it bothers me that I gave up and didn't finish. It has bothered me more than I thought it would. In the past, I could get through these negative episodes but lately I am struggling to find any reasons to push through. The question of why we put ourselves through this type of discomfort for no real reason is constantly running through my head. The answer used to be that it will make me a better person, but lately it feels like it only makes me miserable just for the sake of being miserable.
So again, I failed my main goal for this race. However, the larger goal is Iditarod and I have learned a few things that should be very helpful there. Improved foot care and eliminating gear that is not critical (and therefore, sled weight) are the two major areas that can be improved. Arrowhead in a few weeks will be another chance to work on these and more.
Despite my disappointment and frustration, I still have my major goals in front of me. I can still continue to work my way through this and ,eventually, I believe the desire and results will return.