The 2018 High Lonesome love note
Consider this my own version of a race report, except I didn’t run a race and it’s more personal than race related...
It's been 23 days since the High Lonesome 100 Endurance Run finished its second year...and what a year it was. I won't lie to you, this was a tough year. Amazing, yes...but it took it's toll.
I thought the first year would be the hardest - that getting something off the ground would take so much effort, but that it would get easier every year thereafter. To be fair, that will still *probably* turn out to be true...I just didn't factor in the effort of year 2.
Year 1 went surprisingly well. Don't get me wrong, on the back end there was so much that we absolutely needed to do a lot better on. But, overall, it went swimmingly. We went into year 2 with a fire, an amazing team, and very very high goals and expectations.
In our first year, we had a lot of slack. Runners knew that a first year event is a big risk to run, so they came in with low expectations, a lot of grace, and a good deal of self reliance. Everyone walked away pleasantly surprised at how well it went, especially given the inexperience of the RD and team.
Enter year 2...with big(ger) expectations and attention. Suddenly we had a standard...people had expectations, and we had a lot riding on our second year. All our permitting agencies were still paying very close attention to us, we had a Hardrock qualifying status shot, more runners, and more press. And to boot, a massive fire season added to the cocktail of stresses
But we also had a crew of amazing people coming back. We had our rock star course director Jonathan Clinthorne returning. David Fox returned to handle the volunteers. Whitney Barrett returned as our medical director, and recruited Janetta Iwanicki to be co-medical director. Kelly C. Parnigoni doubled up at took on two roles, and Kevin came back to once again be the do-it-all lynch pin at the finish line. Kelsey Banaszynski got roped into the busiest role and agreed to be the aid station director and general sounding board for all things I needed help with. Brandon came in to do comms, and our team was rounded off by an all star team of aid station captains. Oh yeah, and let's not forget about the 130 volunteers that came out this year.
Let me assure you, without this team the race would be a mess. Somehow, through good luck and good will, we've gathered a team of the most competent people I could ask for. So much of what it takes to put on a race never gets seen, but don't doubt me when I say that this race would not be a quarter of what it is without these people.
Circle back to where this started, as a simple mental distraction I used during long runs to distract me from the grind, and you'll realize the sheer amount of time, will, luck, and more time that it takes to get to now.
Now we are a Hardrock qualifier. Now we've received two evaluations by the USFS and been ranked "Outstanding" both times. Now we're looking at selling out in hours instead of months, weeks, or days.
It's a long way from where it all began. Looking back, I see the myriad of tiny details that could have derailed it all. I remember the moments when we hit hurdles that didn't seem surmountable. I remember the 80+ hour weeks, the sleepless nights. But most of all, out of all that, I remember the fear. The stark possibility that everything myself and others had put into this would be wasted...that no one would run...that we wouldn't get a permit...that something so magnificently terrible would happen and the thousands of hours and dollars I'd spent would be washed down the drain.
So when I fired the shot that signaled the end of the 2018 High Lonesome, I felt the weight finally ease a little. Everyone was safe, the aid stations hadn't run out of food or water, the course hadn't been vandalized, no one had died, the weather had held out, and so much more.
As I stood there, surrounded by the energy that you only find at the end of a 100 mile race, I felt mostly exhaustion. I remember being congratulated for another good year...and I remember just wanting to sleep.
It was an odd feeling, and not the one that I'd expected. The end of the first High Lonesome was one of the best moments of my life. I cried, filled with so much fulfillment and joy...but not this year. This year I felt exhausted, drained and depleted to a point that I could barely summon the will to smile.
The next morning I woke feeling a little more human, but the feelings of emptiness hadn't left. I'm ashamed to say, but I began to feel resentful. I felt entitled to the feelings of joy and fulfillment that I'd experienced last year. And, in their absence, I felt betrayed, and I didn't know how to handle it.
Taking the advice of some very wise people, I took a break. I put an out of office on my email, I logged out of social media, turned off my phone. A few days spent in the mountains with Kelsey and the process of feeling back to myself started.
As the 2018 High Lonesome began to recede in time from days to weeks, I began to dive into why I felt the way I had. This time of introspection coincided nicely with my big training block leading up to the Bear. I found myself running alone, slowly and sometimes subconsciously processing the past year.
I realized that the emotions I'd felt were not isolated to the High Lonesome. As I began to realize, the threads ran further back. They ran back to a foot injury in March, to another injury in May that cost me my second (and bill-paying) job. It ran back to being stressed about paying for bills and surgeries. It ran back to feeling that I felt as if I'd been getting kicked down so often over the past few years, and I couldn't catch a break. In the feeling of chaos and frustration, I'd latched onto High Lonesome as the way to turn the year around. The race became my proverbial life raft.
The problem with the narrative I'd created was that it was inaccurate and one sided. Yes, it has been a tough year. One of the hardest in my admittedly short 28 years of keeping track. But by buying into that narrative I'd made, it was nearly impossible to see the things that were going well.
I'd lost sight of the many and profound ways that so many people had rallied with me and helped me through the challenges. I stopped being grateful for being able to run, for feeling lucky to live in a state that actually feels like home...for dating someone who is an incredible partner.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like this year was all roses and champagne. Putting 1500 hours into something that at best breaks even, loosing a job and 90% of the use of my thumb isn't ideal by a long shot. But my myopicness made it harder to see the ways that those challenges created good things in my life. It's a form of self-selective blindness, and the price was devaluing some incredibly valuable moments.
Circle back again (last time I promise) to where this self-induced, introspective diatribe started…with the it being a tough High Lonesome year. It was, no denying it. But, what else needs to be said is that is partially my own fault, and that in my own failures I owe you all an apology and a thank you.
The apology is that I'm sorry that I lost the plot for a while. To put so much emphasis on my own emotions and needs is a poor way of valuing the incredible amount of effort that this community has poured into the adolescent soul-child of yours truly and I am sorry.
With that said, I also owe everyone - from the runners, to the volunteers, to the directors - a massive thank you. An overdue one at that. I also owe a thank you to everyone who helped and supported me over the past few years...be it a beer, a run, or a place to stay. You’re all amazing people.
Thank you to everyone, from the bottom of my heart. This race is not possible in any fragment of reality without each and every one of you being a part. Through the efforts of everyone, we've created a beautiful thing. It's not easy manifesting something in this world, but since when have ultrarunners cared about what was easy.
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to be a part of this race. It's been a honor, and it's been an integral part of my progress in life. In that alone, I owe you. In countless ways, you all inspire me, and I love you all for it. I've got a great feeling about year 3.
One last thing, in the off chance that you've made it this far...people ask me why I started a race. I get this question (not exaggerating) at least once a week if not more, and I've never known how to answer it. Full disclosure, I still can't. But, I've gotten a little closer.
This picture is why.
Without a doubt, the single greatest joy I get as an RD is watching people finish. I love watching people suffer, not because I'm sadistic, but because I love seeing people give everything they have and then dig deeper to find even more to give. It's a vanishingly rare thing to see someone empty themselves in the pursuit of something, and I got to see it happen 67 times. That alone makes this all worth it. There are no shortcuts to big goals, thank you all for showing me that.