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100 miles.

I sit in the dark. For me it is the darkest time of the year. It's dark outside. The days are short and what little daylight peaks over the horizon is shrouded in mist and cloud, under one of those atmospheric rivers. Add to that my depression. Some days the best I can manage is a day of Netflix. Most days a cocktail of Wellbutrin and Lexapro prop up my emotional gas tank enough to survive a day of work in the big city. I now add to that 3-5 capsules of Gabapentin to shroud my bone numbing fear.  It's working, but it's not enough. The boat ride home, usually quite the looker, is now pitch black this close to the Winter Solstice. I need a hundred. I need to run. I need a hundred so that I have more reasons to run. I sign up for a hundred mile race so that I will force myself to train. I get a coach. I look up coach Roache. He's full. He recommends coach Maxx who is currently using the Team RunRun Platform. So I train. I run farther and faster and fitter than I ever have before. They say you race to train. I sign up for a race so I'll be more likely to train. It's this time on the trail that lifts me out of the muck of my depression. For moments during the week I'm free. I feel safe. And sometimes I feel happy.

It's Winter 2019 and I have a running coach. I'm thinking about signing up for an "easy" 100 mile race this time. I've been thinking of the Stagecoach 100 race. It's got 7000 feet or so of gain and even more loss. I'm not signing up for 20,000 feet again. I ran Leadville. I made it 40 miles. I ran Bigfoot. I made it 78 miles. What I didn't have then was accountability or training. I had guts, and guts hadn't got it done. So I'm trying something new. My wife is more on board this time because she sees my commitment. I researched and found a coach. She knows I need to run and enjoys supporting me. But it's this commitment evidenced by securing the help of a coach that gives her hope that I'll finish it this time. It gives me hope too. Running helps me be happy and it also helps me learn new things. How to endure yes, but then not just how to endure but how to thrive.

I enjoy running. And I'm slow as shit. But I'm getting faster and I must admit that faster is more fun. If happiness is the goal then training is going to help that happiness last longer. Maybe someday I'll be as happy as normal folk somewhere near the middle of the happiness bell curve of humanity. It's not bad to be not normal, it's just not as fun. We all need some fun in life. I'm just aiming for a little bit more.

I pick Arizona for a race because it's a desert. I grew up in a desert of sorts on the Eastern Plains of Montana. I grew up hiking to fish. Only knew of one crazy trail runner who was my English teacher in High School. He was some liberal who ran roads and trails. In Montana you must have been some crumbly earth worshiping hippy liberal to hike for the views or the fresh air or for just yourself. Hiking is for fishing or for hunting, full stop. No-one hikes without a weapon. If it's not a gun, it had better be a fishing pole you idiot. Fuckers over there with neither must be some tourist hikers. Or liberal English teachers.  Or god damned Californians here to buy up our land and steal our open country.  Never saw them outsiders more than 3 miles in on the trail. Except for that Gordon Gildroy. We all liked him in highschool for making us read slutty dirty "classic" literature. Couldn't help but be a bit suspicious though. Who just runs in the mountains for fun? Now I am Gordon Gildroy. I run trails without a gun or a fishing pole. And I did it in Montana recently too. Met a good many plodding hikers who couldn't figure out what the fuck I was doing running on a trial. In shorts. In tennies. Crazy fucker that I am.

But I digress. In Montana where I grew up it rained at best 10 inches a year. I grew up some of the time at 3500 feet of elevation. And the rest at 5000 feet of elevation. I remember what it's like to have hot days and cool nights. I remember what it's like to sweat, and to have that sweat evaporate. So eventually I choose Arizona. I choose a race that averages maybe 6000 feet. My sweat will evaporate. Thank the gods.

Sometime Mid Spring or Late Winter I can't remember which, my best friend Chis mentions Fatdog. I have a free pass so I conceptualize FatDog as a training run. I'll allow myself more leeway to quit or to fail to finish. More leeway than Stagecoach. I'm all-in for that one. I practice on FatDog what it's like to be in a hyped up environment where they'll be other people, not just me. I won't be in a comfortable and familiar place. I've been having anxiety attacks this last year that feel like influenza or worse with a dash of weird out-of-body vertigo. It's a terrible feeling. I want to curl up in a ball and be comforted by my momma. But I don't have a mom, and touch from anybody in this state is pointless since I'm not in my body anyway. I feel its pain, but I've gone away. I float sometimes beside it. I hear it talk. Eventually I make it back inside and I'm me again.

I digress again. Digression is going to be part of this race. So I reframe that also. I do what I can to stay in my body. I do what I can to stay in me "beside my fear" instead of fleeing from it or bottling it away. At FatDog this happens again. But now, now I'm up high. I feel safe. I can get away. It is a wonderland of egress. I have supplies. I can go anywhere I want and be okay. I choose to follow the flags this time and eat at aid stations. I enjoy conversations with Canadians and Americans and Internationals. Everyone is afraid of America. They watch our news. What will we do next? It affects everyone. We are that fucking powerful. Our tweets shake the world order.

I digress again. I'm in Arizona now. It's a good amount of time before the race. I have time to explore, to know my outs. I do this frequently when we get an Airbnb or a hotel or stay with a friend. I drive around. I take a run. I get to know the place. I memorize the maps. It's an artifact of my past but it still helps to do it. I'm past giving two fucks if anyone cares that I'm weird. I piss a lot to relieve social anxiety. I run a lot to feel safe. I drive around the neighborhood to feel safe.

I get to know Flagstaff. It's not my first time there so I'm even more at ease. I have some new drugs that help. My wife knows my condition. We talk about it. We strategize. I support her in her issues and her in mine. My toddler inputs the joy with daily doses of insanity. Some of my toddler parts haven't grown up yet either. They've been frozen by trauma. My body remembers things. My mind makes some pictures for these memories. But I'll never have the video tape of what happened, of all the times it happened. But my body knows, I know, and I'm forever marked by it.

So I run. Even my shakeout run is more about helping mitigate the social anxiety I feel around even my wife and kid. I'm not afraid of them persay. There is a lot of noise though, and noise in combination with my disorder are a bad combo. So I run. And then I get to enjoy my time with my wife and child even more than I would have if I hadn't. Meds don't fix anything. They help a little. Sometimes. But not much. Running helps a lot. But not completely. There are no total fixes, just a series of mitigations. Running gets me about half way there.

I'm moving to Arizona. I know this now. My Aunt and Uncle Grovenstein drive us around nearby Prescott as if they know it too. They drive us around so many places. They drive us to their favorite lake. It's dark out. Pitch black. Can't see a fucking thing except dust floating in the headlights. With joy Uncle Glenn and Aunt Darcy paint a picture of their favorite lake. It doesn't work. I can't see a fucking thing. But I saw it later. It was very pretty. :)

In contrast, Seattle is a nightmare of political intrigue, noise, growth, and is a poster child of a society bursting at the seams of sustainability. I've lived 13 places in 15 years or so, chasing affordable rent and now an affordable mortgage. My commute is gorgeous but insane. Fuck you Seattle. Peace out. I'm gone.

That's what I've been doing for almost 20 years now in Washington State. I "peace-out" to survive. I've backcountry skiied. I've run marathons. I've enjoyed her trails, her mountains, her coffee. There was some fun yes, lots of it. But little sustained happiness. Fuck that. I'm done. I wear 350 dollar noise cancelling headphones to walk 6 blocks from my ferry through the cacophony of construction and Amazon bros to my building. I sneak through a skyscraper's tunnel between two buildings. I ride two elevators to the 51st floor. It's kinda nice there.

Billions of dollars of private capital swim through the ethos here. Heaven forbid we tax ourselves a little bit. "Progressive Seattle" taxes itself less than just about any other government its size.  Unless you are poor.  We tax the crap out of you.  So we have glass statues of Bezos balls and can't even fund enough shelter beds for the city's homeless.   Do you work minimum wage?  Enjoy your 4 hour commute.  Fuck this place. My foot is halfway out the door. I'm in Bremerton now. It's quiet here but darker. I can't do it. I'm moving to Arizona.

This hundred is going to be tough. Not much green, less shade than the maps predicted. I'm going to miss the green of Washington State when I move here. Today I've got the sun to contend with. Too much of it actually. It's the hardest part of the race. My friend Chris, my wife Kristi and my kid Kylan, they bring my "ice bandana's" to cool my way through the heat of the day. This is the fun part of the day.

Before the ice bandana's there's the start of this race. No briefing really just some brief "thank yous" and off you go. Ian Torrence has worked his butt off for this race and it shows. It's tight, the aid stations are bomb, the course is well marked. Almost zero verbal prep but that's okay. You know me, I know my maps. I'm fine.

It's 28 degrees out at the start and I'm in heaven. It's sunny. I'm freezing so I'm not even sweating yet. 3 minutes up the hill I'll be sweating so 28 degrees is fine. A few dozen of us are running through aspens these first miles. This first marathon. There are open grasslands in between with views of Mt Humphrey's with what look like a good many avalanche paths I plan on skiing some Spring, you know, when it's not avalanching. I've planned to enjoy this first marathon. I slept well last night, the weather is good, the course is pretty, and the trail is pretty easy compared to the rock filled gutters I run on in Kitsap County back home.

It isn't 28 degrees for long. 2 hours into the race I can tell I was right to get paranoid about the heat. I know me. I've actually suffered heat exhaustion in 40 degree weather before (climbing down from the top of Rainier). It's got to be in the 60s already, a 30 degree jump from the start in only a couple hours. It's after the first marathon of the day that I've spent the bulk of my planning on. If I can feel any amount of fresh after 40 or 50 miles I will have given myself my best shot at a finish. And not just a finish, but one that isn't just a death slog of horrors. I'm having fun. The first marathon is fun. There are the aspens, the butter trail, the cool temps, the mountain, the fun mountain runners.

Now the second marathon. One lady I've already gotten to know has had the shits from the start. I learned from another lady, and old one, at Fat Dog to carry Imodium and Tums. I hadn't planned on getting the shits this early, but I've got the supplies at the next aid station. I joyfully help this lady out with some stop-the-shits pills. I hope they work for her. I never find out.

The second marathon of the day is still fun. I'm hot but these ice bandannas my crew are giving me at every aid station keep me feeling good. I don't freak out about the heat. I'm passing several people that are affected by the sun and exposure and I'm glad I'm prepared. I'm also easily drinking 2.5 liters of water and fluid every 10 or so miles. I'm sweating but my shirt barely ever get's wet. My ice bandana is melting cold water on to my neck. It barely makes it 3 inches down my back before it's dry. This place is amazing. It's freaky how dry it is. On Bremerton trails every inch of me would soaked and chafing. Not here. I sweat, sweat cools.  It just works the way it's supposed to.

Into my third marathon, Chris is running with me and it's a couple hours into darkness. It got dark quick. Somewhere in the 40 to 50 mile section the sun set. Went from light to dark quickly. And cold. It's a weird night. Getting on toward midnight it's cold as shit and I slow down. But later as we near the rim and get into the Coconino forests again it suddenly get's warm. Absurdly warm. It was probably near freezing out in the open. Here near the rim smoke from a nearby smallish wildfire obscures the stars, insulates the forest, keeps the rocks from giving up their heat. This combo of smoke and weird heat make the night the hardest part of the race. I can still stay I'm having fun, sorta, when I'm not shitting in the woods. In this part I poop 4 or 5 times. My blood is all in my legs and my gut, and the pooping part makes me feel lightheaded. I don't have any extra blood for the pooping part.

During the night I briefly fall below a pace that will get me to the finish line in time for a buckle. My maths probably suck at this point in the race but it's just as well. I get myself and my pacer running again. According to my delirious maths this does the trick as we pull into the aid station with the warm cabin and alcohol as the sun is coming up. Chris and I get there much faster than anticipated. This is good. Sun is good. The smoke is gone, the sun is back, my appetite is recovering from a less than ideal night. I've done well I reflect. I still kept up the drinking and the eating all night. Spring Energy is bomb.

Chris and I have one more last marathon. It's a day marathon. It's a hot marathon. I still feel like running. I'm having fun! I'm less able to handle the heat, but a few breaks in the shade do just the trick because FUCK here my sweat evaporates. And evaporation works. Holy shit, these desert runners would all die in our Washington races. In Washington State sweating is an evolutionary afterthought. It's pointless and near useless.  It just makes us very wet. We begin to wonder what it's for. I kid you now my new friends in Arizona, come do our Dirty Turtle 50k in Bremerton WA. It'll be a cool 50 degrees outside. Maybe a hot 70. You'll die. Sweating doesn't work here. I lube every crevice here on a long run because I'm wet all the time. Everywhere.

This last marathon of Stagecoach gets really really hot as we wind our way around a wagon trail path that makes me wonder what kind of sightseeing actually went on here back in the day. Much of this path makes no stagecoach sense. It's longer when it should be shorter. It makes a long round curve around a pefectly crossable and flat middle. What. Were. They. Thinking. Probably too much horseshit in the driver's teeth....smiling his shit eating grin while he drives a carriage full of rich white assholes to the edge of the cliff, the Grand Canyon. Maybe he'll push one of the courtizans fanning herself in a rediculous head to toe dress right on over the edge. Naw, it's hot out, he'll take the long way around and let his party bake in the carriage, he'll get them nice and toasty and then they'll get drunk more easily at the end of the ride. Then he'll sell them on his next hustle more easily.

But I digress. I'm on my fourth or fifth pair of shoes now, drinking even more water so I don't die.  So I pick up the pace. We're going to finish a couple hours ahead of the cut off, but I'm out of water. I need that last aid station to come sooner. So I run.

It's been a fun run. I'm actually not that overly eager for it be over if not for the heat. It's in the 80s here, not the 60s and 70s closer to the Flag. I've got enough gas in the tank to enjoy my family at the aid before, talk a bit and then head off to where I am now. Now I'm at the finish. Kylan is eager to accept my piggy back ride to the finish. Then he has a meltdown. It's over. It's been a race. The Stagecoach 100. I've got a sweet and very heavy belt buckle for finishing. I'm happy about knocking off a goal that's taken nearly a decade to accomplish. Not nearly as happy about the accomplishment though as I am on the trail. Bucketlists be damned. I'd rather be running.

I am grateful. And happy. This 100 will give me several hours of happy today. My depression and anxiety will be back soon. But not for a little bit.

I am grateful. And happy. Now. For a little bit.

My life is good. My brain is not. On to the next one...




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