|43 Hours Later|
I had the good fortune of being involved in a very organized race. The race director, Dave Krupski, is a very experienced ultramarathoner and brought that experience to the race. Aid station extraordinaire, Susan Anger, organized all of us volunteers and kept the train rolling down the track from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach. I had the good fortune of having my brother-in-law, Kris Kramer, agree to join me and help. He was a godsend and I would have jumped ship had he not been along.
Sleep deprivation was a constant battle. I made the unwise decision to sleep in my car the night before the race (we arrived to Altantic Beach very late and a hotel room just didn't seem to make sense for three hours of sleep, at best) and there was very little sleep to an unseasonable hot night...a theme for later in the race. So, Friday night I slept perhaps an hour, my brother-in-law maybe an hour longer. Then the race began and there weren't many moments to rest. We got to hop in a bed in Dayton for two hours Sunday morning, and both of us grabbed some short naps along the way. But all in all, we slept perhaps five hours over a 48 hour period. Sleep deprivation is an interesting thing. Everything became hysterical from the mundane observation that a bathroom was clean to the absurd like the litany of drunks wandering around and fighting in Daytona at midnight.
And it wasn't just Kris and me who suffered and scarified. There were dozens of other volunteers who put in equal or more effort than we did to keep runners going, to keep people safe and to make the event great.
Suffice it to say that I learned how much effort sacrifice volunteers put in at races. I learned that I will more resolutely go out of my way to thank each volunteer, to shake their hands and to make sure they know they're appreciated and their sacrifice is recognized.
I'm signed up for my first shot at a 100 mile ultramarathon at Skydive Ultra in January. Frankly, I'm pretty convinced I won't finish. I'm afraid of what it takes to finish having watched so many runners suffer and continue for hours and hours at Daytona. I'm afraid of the pain. I'm a baby. I've never had to suffer severely during any previous race. Heck, I've barely dealt with pain in those races! I cannot imagine enduring hours upon hours of misery. I'm afraid. We'll see how it goes in January, but I'm afraid
Spirit, Resilience, Strength, Determination
This was the biggie. I was blown away by the spirit of the racers, the spirit of volunteers and the spirit of crews. This was simply humans being human without the bullshit; wanting to help one another to reach a silly and yet important goal. Whether it was a foot rub for a runner who was suffering from sore feet, or a bottle of water being shared from one runner's crew to another, or just a hug when a runner felt low; the humanity and connection among all of us was so clearly on display. And, yes, there were moments when that spirit was broken when a runner couldn't continue and had to bow out. But in those moments, others came to pick them up and make sure they were ok and get them out of the sun to a safe place. It was so encouraging in a world where we're bombarded with all the terrible humans do.
The resilience and strength and determination of runners to continue in the face of dramatic pain, of harsh conditions (near record highs, no relief from the sun, horrible humidity), of blistered toes and upset stomachs, of hallucinations, of sheer exhaustion was absolutely incredible. As I said above, I don't have these things. I'm certain I'll fail at my 100 mile attempt. I've been able to rely on modest genetic gifts and not had to suffer in this way. And I am absolutely in awe of those who can suffer in so, and who choose that suffering in order to be reward with the gifts on the other side. I want to know what makes these people function, how they make the decision to continue when every instinct and every indicator says stop. How do they continue when the mere act of standing brings tears to their eyes...and there were many tears shed at Daytona 100. I don't understand it, and it's fascinating to me.
In fact, I'd love to speak with these people and write here about what drives them. I'm a supremely quiet person and not one to reach out to someone to speak, but I may just try doing so just to scratch this curiosity about these people. I'd love to learn about and share their motivation, share what they think about at that moment they want to quit, learn what drives them to give it a shot in the first place.