The time has come, it’s finally here. Friday morning, around noon-ish, Amanda, Von, and myself are loading up the Love Boat to head to the mountain. The Sylamore 25k/50k is Saturday morning in Mountain View, AR. It’s hard to believe that it has already been a year since I attempted this monster. The weather last year was ridiculous. It was all snow, except for the areas that were ice, and where there wasn’t ice, it was slush. Basically it was 30 miles of bullsh*t. I felt that way at the time, but in hindsight, it was probably a blessing. Instead of being a “run”, it was more like a deranged hike. I looked like a 10 year old kid with a case of diarrhea, trying to quickly walk his way to the restroom without letting anyone know he is about to sh*t his pants. I did this urgent, anxious walk for 31 miles. At that particular point in my running, a brisk walk and waddle was probably about the best I could do to finish a race of this distance, so the ice and the snow was probably a great equalizer and an excuse for taking over 10hours to finish a race of this distance. It was the most miserable, awful, and one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I can’t wait to do it again, only this year it appears as if the weather is going to be a bit more co-operative. I’m not sure if I should celebrate this or be weary of the reality that it will bring to how incredibly unprepared I am to be running it. Either way it will be a huge time. I”m looking forward to the drive over there, cause the conversation will most definitely fun and interesting. We are meeting Brian Swanson and his wife Carol to caravan over there together. I don’t know Carol or Brian as well as I’d like, so I am really excited about the opportunity to spend a weekend with them and get to know them better.

I put some air in the tires of The Love Boat this morning. Wow, it really makes a difference how well a vehicle drives when tires have air in them. Who knew? She is hugging the road and turning like she is on rails, basically a performance vehicle. The Boat has an intermittent surge that is throwing a transmission code that appears as if the torque converter is going out. The best advice that I could find was to drive it until the transmission falls out, which was my original plan. There is always a risk associated with taking the Boat on any road trip, but there are great risks with taking me on a road trip, so whatever. There are risks associated with going and running 31 miles up and down a mountain, but clearly the people around me are up for taking risks. The “safe” bet would be to take Amanda’s Altima, but we all agreed that it would be somewhat disrespectful to take anything but the Love Boat. Have Boat will travel will be the theme. 48 hours of fun, fellowship, fitness, food, friends, and f-bombs are in my future. You can’t ask for much better than that.

I like to “race”, or whatever you want to call it. I like participating. I like to travel the miles, take in the day, and enjoy being in my thoughts with an elevated rate of serotonin. I like running with Amanda and being part of the emotional roller coaster that comes with the fatigue and adrenaline that ebbs and flows with 31 miles of running. I like stepping outside of myself and evaluating my circumstance and see what it really is driving my emotions. I enjoy the pain cave, and I enjoy playing with the monster that lives there. We all have a monster that lives under our beds and plays in our head. I know what mine looks like, and I’m aware of his games. I can’t get rid of him, but I have accepted the fact that he cannot be evicted. When I’m on the trail I enjoy letting him out and letting him run wild. In the pain cave, all bets are off. You go in there for a reason and it seldom disappoints. There is much to be learned about myself, and the longer I stay, the more knowledge I attain. I can avoid the cave if I want. I can walk, or I can stop at any one of the aid stations. It’s not the end of the world if I do, but as soon as I walk away, my ticket on the pain train expires, the cave shuts down and goes away. The opportunity to experience an afternoon in the cave is a blessing and I want to take it all in. There is no telling at what point in the race the pain cave will open, and I don’t always see it when it does, but when it does there ain’t but one way out, and that exit is directly under the neon light with a door leading out that says “QUITTER”. Once inside the cave, the real fun begins. The monster named Conscience will be there with every bit of energy of a glue sniffing, pixie stick snorting pre teen that has not taken his meds. “You fat mutherfu*ker. You are unprepared, lazy and dumb. You will fail at this, like everything else that you start and don’t finish. Your feet are hurting because you’re injured. It’s a mistake to continue, but if you stop now, you just might be ok. That feeling is dehydration. It’s dangerous to continue. Give up while you can. It’s the only logical thing to do.” It’s amazing how real the monster sounds, and how easy it is to believe what he is telling you. It’s amazing how unfair he plays his game. There are no rules, all bets are off. There are no lights, and he can see in the dark. You are playing in his hole, and you don’t know your way around. With every bit of fatigue, the ailments seemingly become injuries, but that’s where it gets fun. This is the opportunity to square up against him, crow hop, and start throwing hay-makers. I can feel him sticking different parts of my body like a voodoo doll. Which pin pricks are going to become real? Which pin prick am I going to allow to fester into a harpoon? When do I give up, and when is the right time to lay down? That’s the beauty of it. This is when I get to fight the difficult, but winnable fight. It is not an adversary that I can square up to every day. Some people can, I can’t. I can’t and won’t train to the extent that some do, where they face this monster every time they run or lift. I can’t do that, but I can today. This is once a year. This is what its all about. This is why the pizza tastes good in the afternoon. Just gotta make it through this one, and never do it again. Gotta make it through this fight, and the reward is indescribable. I can go back to the den and lick my wounds. I can lick my wounds as loudly and pitifully as I would like to. I can lick my wounds with some of my closest friends who have also fought, and also won against a monster who looks very much different, but plays very much the same game. It’s an eight hour drug, the effects wear off, but the hangover is remarkably painful but also wonderful. Its hard to describe something that seems so silly and illogical, but fortunately I don’t have to. I simply have to sign up, pay my money, and all those silly, illogical, like-minded people will be there waiting for me at the starting line…nervous, excited and afraid to go play with their monster named Conscience.

Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,