Tuesday, June 19, 2012

4 days and counting....

4 days and counting….
Winning the lotto….

I’d finally completed the toughest hurdle. I ran a very tough mountain 100 mile race and in my mind. I had what it took to complete Western States, and all it was needed was 7 months of getting my tail kicked! Granted the 2 courses are not the same, but I was reasonably sure that the cumulative effort level it would take to complete both would be somewhat close. I’d later learn, this is not really the case, the two courses are completely different and while the total effort might be close the muscles you use are vastly different.

I now had a couple months to rest before I had to sign up for the Lottery for Western States. In a perfect world 3 weeks after the Tahoe race I’d been back at it running, but life is rarely, if ever perfect. I came down with a string of odd illnesses and minor injuries that basically kept me from running until October. I never get sick, but I was sick for 3 straight months it seemed. I highly underestimated the effect running 100 miles would have on my bodies various systems. I think it largely stemmed from my rapid increase from couch potato to 100 mile runner in 2.5 years. Specifically the fact that I had spent more than 1 year of those 2.5 injured. My body just shut down from all the stress I caused it in the Tahoe race.

I’d lost some fitness, gained a bit of weight back but once I started running again things were just right with my world. I entered the States lotto with no expectations other than to be in it. I knew the numbers, about a 10% chance to get in.

The morning of the Lotto I had volunteered to take a couple of friends down who were vying for a spot in the race as well. I have always had this nightmare about not waking up to my alarm, it pretty much never actually happens but just before I go to bed I almost always think “you better hear that thing”. Well, the morning of the lotto, I was to be at the gas station to pick everyone up early in the morning and guess what…..I missed my alarm. Not a good sign for the day!

I got a wake up call instead from a friend at the gas station. I hoped out of bed and got out the door as fast as I could. We ended up making it in plenty of time, but that was not the start to the day I wanted. Once at the lottery you could feel the vibe in the air. They call each persons name that makes it and if they are in attendance they get some extra prize swag.

It’s tough being there. You really want your name called but do not expect it. You are so happy for the people who are called, but each one takes one more chance away from you yourself getting into the big dance. There was so much emotion on the face of so many people, I never intended on this part of the experience being so moving but it was. Seeing people who had waited 3-5 years just to get their chance was such a treat. It also helped calm my expectations. Like everything in this sport, it just takes time; time for your body to adapt, time for you to build a base of weekly miles, time to recover and time, maybe years, to get into the race.

By the time they started calling the last couple of names, I realized this in fact would not be the year I got in. I rationalized it by saying I had a lot to learn and it was a good thing. However deep down there was a lot of disappointment, I’m still an uber impatient individual and I hate it when I am forced into corners that I did not choose of my own free will.

Fortunately for the people I brought down to the lotto, there was one other chance to get in. In order to have a strong international contingent, the race holds another lottery for anyone not hailing from the U.S. Both my friends were dejected they did not make it into the first mass lottery so they went for a run. None of us knew when the foreign lottery would take place but since they hailed from Mexico and Lithuania they still had a shot. It turns out while they were running that lottery was taking place behind closed doors somewhere.

They called me to go pick them up after their run and as I pulled into what is mile 98.3 on the course one of their phones rang. It was the owner of Reno Running and Fitness calling to tell them they had both made it in! Instantly my mood went from bummed out to this eruption of happiness. I ran over to my pacer from Tahoe and picked him up and sprinted up a hill while carrying him. We had talked for so many hours that night running in Tahoe about wanting to be in this race and if I could not be in it, the next best thing was for him to be. The fact my other friend made it in was just icing on the cake.

Once things calmed down I told them both to take their crap out of my car and run their ass’s home, they would need to start training now! The car ride home was a mix of emotions, I could tell they were shocked and I think they were a bit guarded as to how they were acting since I did not make it in. Honestly I was so happy for them nothing could have brought me down. I knew I’d be on one of their crews and maybe even be able to pace them and we would ultimately share the experience together.

This would be a great ending to a story, but as has been the case since I started running there would be many more up’s and down’s to the journey. Remember that Aid Station I’ve worked my butt off the last two years at? The one run by the local club the Silver State Striders? Well they get 1 spot to give to someone for the race. That aid station captain who asked me to come back in 2010, the one whom I’ve known since I ski raced with his son, informed me that I met the criteria for their private lotto. I now had a 1 in 6 shot of getting in! This was why I worked so hard that day at Foresthill, I just knew at some point someone would see how bad I wanted this and it would pay off. I’d cut my chances from 1 in 10 to 1 in 6, things were looking up.

The next week before a run they dropped 6 tiny pieces of paper into a hat. The first and only one that came out had my name on it. Holy Shit! What? I could not believe it. I was in. I immediately ran back to my car to call my girlfriend. I was welling up and leaking at the face, while I told her we had plans for late June. After 16 years, I was into the race. I finally had a chance to close some old wounds and regrets I’d been hanging on to for years. I was going to get the chance to see if I could be like those mega athletes I saw on that TV special, whilst sitting in bed unable to walk.

It was just about a week away from Christmas, and I’d won the second lottery to get into States, one day later I found out I won 2 other lotteries. I won one to get into the largest 50k race in the country, the Way2Cool 50k in early 2012 and I also won the lottery for 2 Burning Man tickets….all in one week!

2011 was turning out to be a banner year and I was so excited for 2012. I finally had a handle on things and nothing was going to stop me! That mostly held true for 14 days into the new year, when an all too familiar foe came back to haunt me.