Yetserday I made the plunge... I registered for the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run held on July 31st-August 1st in NE Ohio. I have a history with this race. It was my first attempt at a 100 miler. It was also my first and only DNF.
In 2008, I thought I was ready to make the jump from 50 milers to a 100. I read everything I could find. I obsessively planned every possible detail. I knew I was ready. I even think I may have been a bit cocky. Then the hills, trails, and roads of Northeast Ohio chewed me up and spit me out.
If failure is the best teacher, I learned a lot of lessons in the twenty hours I spent slogging through the suburban Cleveland Metro Parks. The single most important lesson I learned- respect the distance.
Burning River was the single most humbling experience of my life. It was the first time I was confronted with the fact that I could not simply will myself to do something. There was a point where I would give up. I found my breaking point, and it was somewhere in the darkness around Boston Store. I was physically exhausted. Every part of my body screamed in agony. I blogged about it prior to my second 100 mile attempt. The only thing that kept me moving was the realization that I was the last person on the course, and I had no idea if I were even on the course. My thoughts went from "I can do this!" to "What will I have to do to get out of this race?" I seriously considered diving on some rocks to guarantee the aid station volunteers would pull me from the course.
I made a lot of mistakes that day. Luckily, I was able to learn and evolve. I finished my next 100 mile race about a year later.
Now I get to return. I will get an opportunity at redemption. Other runners have told me you never forget the DNF point. It's akin to the classically-conditioned response of driving past the scene of a car accident you were involved in. Every time you pass that exact point, you are filled with dread. That fact alone scares me.
I am giddy with the anticipation of revisiting this race. I am also filled with apprehension. The last time we met, I went home on the losing end. This is the race that stripped me of the innocence of ignorance that leads us to believe we can accomplish anything. This is the race that beat me into submission. With better training and preparation mixed with a humble respect for this course, I'll begin preparing to reclaim a little bit of what I lost out there in the darkness.
I have a score to settle, old friend.