If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If a #CSAUP happens with one person, does it happen at all?
How do we really know this Midriff guy isn’t full of crap and just faking the whole thing???
Looking good a few weeks before the event with 20 PAX expressing interest and identifying 4/17 as a probable date. Keep the memes coming and guerilla advertising rolling, but doubts begin to sink in. More resounding endorsements for the event just pile onto the reality that no one will be joining YHC in this unruly expedition:
- Joker – “South Mountain… as in Rea Road? Midriff… nothing says CSAUP like a solo adventure. Imagine the stories you can tell at the next beer mile.”
- Flipper – “Somebody, ANYBODY, ppppuuuuuhlease go run the mountains with Midriff. I’m almost tempted to skip Ville to Ville so he won’t do it alone, but then Hoover would eat me.”
- Unplugged – “Something about Midriff running the Appalachian Trail all in one day all by himself. He may need some buddies, a Kind bar, and/or medical attention or a helicopter or maybe somebody take him out for a beer instead.”
- Hoover – “Forrest “Midriff” Gump is running on a mountain alone”
This event in 2020 was genuinely one of the highlights of the year. I wanted to share that similar experience with others this time around. After plugging this thing for months not a single soul joined in. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. I was beating myself up. I began comparing myself to other PAX and wondering what went wrong. I nearly took a few PAX up on the recommendation to simply cancel this year and pick it up again next year. My mind and spirit was in a dark place. Literally on the drive out Saturday morning I nearly turned around and threw in the towel, accepting logical defeat.
But I kept driving. While strapping on my pack and tying up my shoe laces, I realized my motivation to do this thing would have to come solely from inside. YHC would have to dig deep and confront the loudest voices of doubt and questioning largely on his own. You vs. you in the truest sense. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Midriff vs. Midriff
- Depart from High Shoals Parking lot at 0745. Nothing wakes you up in the morning like ascending 2,600 feet in the first hour. Unbridled optimism as I’m trotting on the ridgeline and taking in the gorgeous views. Back in the parking lot in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Didn’t see a single person on the trail. Loop 1 complete. 12 miles done. I just might be able to do this thing.
- Stretch, load up on carbs, fuel and water before starting Loop 2. 20 minutes in and the calves start to tense up. Am I even going to be able to finish the next 8 miles?? Continue climbing for another hour and a half. This elevation is killing me. I’m back in cell service and my phone dings with text messages. This chain from the M puts my “suffering” in perspective – “I’m in labor longer than you run… And I’ve done that three times… This is just prelabor… Don’t take the epidural…” Finish loop 2 around 12:30. At this point I’m sprawled out behind the trunk of my car, banana peels and water bottles scattered on the ground. Strangers give me odd looks and avoid eye contact. Timer’s up, it’s time to hit the trail for the dreaded Lap 3.
- If lap 2 was when my legs started to falter, lap 3 was when my legs, mind and spirit began to quit. 4 miles in and I’m cramping in muscles I didn’t even know existed in my legs. Keep pounding fuel and fluids. Each mile is becoming a race within itself. What began as a run is now something between stumbling and walking. My mind is dizzy as each passing minute reminds me that my pace is slowing. Is this where my body quits on me? What happens if I pass out? Who will find me in this barren place? Will I ever finish? 1.6 miles out and I finally see a post for the parking lot. There is light at the end of this tunnel. But no adrenaline to get there. Continue my hobble down the mountain. Finally, that glorious white Sonata is in sight. Lap 3 is finished. 31.6 miles. 8 hours, 17 minutes and 49 seconds. 5,595 calories. I’m done. I collapse in the parking lot until gathering the strength to cool off and dip my feet in the creek.
- Garmin details if you want proof: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/6624442120 But does it count if it’s not on Strava?
Reflections from the Mountain
- Trail runs are double-edged swords. Much more natural beauty, scenes and sounds to take in and pass the time. But with it, comes the elevation up and the elevation down. That up and down destroyed me. Three days later and I’m still having a hard time walking down stairs.
- The Beer Mile prepared me this run. In the sense of forcing myself to drink liquids and fuel to keep the energy up. Major props to Olaf for setting me up with the right nutrients and gummies to keep pushing. Thankfully no adverse health effects ( explosive diarrhea) to report from the Hammer Electrolytes Extreme to report for you Gummy.
- This is the farthest I’ve ever run in my life. I really didn’t train for this other than going to lots of workouts, CSAUP’s and general F3 nonsensical events. Looking back, events like last year’s South Mountain Run, Makeshift Marathon, Waxhaw World Tour and March Madness challenge all helped push me to the point of being able to do this. One of the greatest pieces of advice given to me when I was new to F3 was to just finish. Don’t get stuck with unrealistic goals. Or expect easy success. Trust the process of hard work and sacrifice. Enjoy the journey. Don’t stop moving. In the end running a 50k is a lot like a pull-up – the best way to get good at it is to just do it.
- I do not recommend doing this alone. I appreciate the men who challenged me to do this, and those that challenged me not to do this. In the end I chose to do this after considering my limits, prepping lots of fuel/equipment (having it ready and waiting at the parking lot at the end of each lap) and having a cell phone on me in the event of emergency. And most of all, God’s good and common grace.
- For sure it sucked at times to not have experienced this with others. But I’m okay with that. Running this race alone gave more opportunities to test myself mentally and confront the doubting voices and fears head-on. And in those hardest moments I had to rely on the encouragement of others. From my wife, from friends, from family. Fredo, I’ll never forget you challenging me when I led the cinder block workout last month to stop telling myself “I can’t ____”. That stuck with me. While I may have ran alone Saturday, I knew I had a small army of people supporting me.
I’m already stoked for South Mountain in 2022. To the mountains we will go. To lose our minds and find our souls.