No Place I Would Rather Die
By BILLY D LESE
Well if you know my motto, the Pikes Peak marathon is most like heaven than any other race so far. The day started off perfect. I had enough rest, wonderful temperature and I was heading to the race with my friend Anita. I was well prepared physically, emotionally, mentally, and equipped to handle it all. Heck I even read Jeff Reeds account and heard from Kerry hers and Jarets account of the race. Little really did I still know what I was about to experience.
Off to the races. I started off relatively slow watching a few pass. I thought I would eventually see them again anyway. They must be starting off too fast. Wrong! I never really caught up to anyone again except at the very end. The first six miles were just another race. Nothing real exciting and nothing out of the ordinary.
After six miles, I started to notice some differences physically. I actually started to dwell on these changes. I kept thinking that I had to be close to the tree line. But I wasnt really. So between six and ten miles I started to slump and feel the weight of the world. I felt pressure pushing me closer to earth like someone was pushing down on my shoulders. I started a headache. I got all stuffy feeling though my nose was runny. Then I started with the core running questions. Am I hydrated enough, or am I too hydrated? Do I need food, do I need drugs? When I passed ten miles and the tree line, I was more dizzy/dazed and confused. What is going on with me? Then the BIG question hit.
Am I Going To Make It?
If you can believe it, things took a turn for the worse. Wind and cold settled in. I started dry heaving and hugging boulders. I kept looking up with no end in site, just lines of runners going up and down. And other runners kept telling me that the worse is yet to come. The 12 and 13th mile is the test for this race. At this point I figured if God were to take me (come as you are) I would then go as a runner. I was drained both physically and mentally. Here I wanted to drop out for about the third time in this race. The elevation was around 13/14 thousand feet. Then I met two angels on this section. The first one stopped and she said take this and eat it Fig Newtons. The next guy stopped and said take these - two caffeine pills. It worked enough for me to make it to the turn around. That, being passed by Anita and meeting my man Durward from Centerville, VA, sure helped push me.
I Wanted To Finish
I wanted my medal, I wanted to win by overcoming my illnesses and dry heaving, my insecurities of whether I was capable, the unknown of making the ten hour time cutoff and the strength of battling through various injuries and pains. I thought, I probably wont make it but not because I didnt try. I imagined if I can only make it to the tree line where I know oxygen is. Persevere and go for it. Me and Durward headed down the mountain. Slowly at first until I hit the tree line. I then took off. I envisioned Catoctin 50k the week before and running with Mike Br. out in front of me. I tagged onto that pace. I eventually caught most people who passed me up at the turn around. I had Jeff Reeds description of the down hill planted in my mind. I did not stop at any more aid stations. As I continued, I remember the parts of the trail where a few hours ago I was laying there. Everyone I passed kept cheering me on. I watched the mile markers 11.9, 10.9, 9.9, 8.9, 7.9, 6.9, 5.9, 4.9, 3.9, 2.9!
Enter the road and the bottom of the mountain. I knew I was done. I still couldnt breath. Not because of the altitude this time but trying to hold back the tears. I looked at my watch, I knew I made the cut off time. I kept telling myself to not get emotional and to hold it back so I could run and breath. Just finish I kept telling myself then you can be a wimp and cry!
I dont recall the last time I hit a finish line with tears coming from my eyes and blood from my nose. I do know this, Pike Peak was a testament of my will. This surpasses anything I have done. I used every demon I possessed from every experience of all my races just to survive to get to this finish. It was again to this day, hands down, greatest accomplishment of my individual life! Hence the tears. And one of the most special moments was having a friend there at the end cheering me on all the while after nine and a half hours. I cant tell you enough, thanks a bunch Anita! How I do wish my kids were there though. :-(
I read Jeff Reeds wonderful account of his experience. Wow do I only now really appreciate, word for word, what he was talking about. Only now can I really appreciate the attempt by all runners, and not just those who won or finished, but started a race. Thanks Anita W., Durward, Bob B., David H. (DCRRC), Jeff H., Amy W-C., Julie G., Sheila K., and all my friends and family. Congrats to Mike B. running the Leadville 100!
My motto if it looks like heaven its going to put you through hell.
Well thats about it. At least for a couple of weeks when the adventures really begin. But for now I can kick back and feel like a Runner from Hell, A real member of Team Lunatic, and a mutt from the TrailDawgs who can lift his leg representing VHTRC with PRIDE!