There is always much that could be said but let me stay on point. While this is a large article it is focused on the most important matters at hand and is not meant to be a "Race Report" per se though it basically serves that purpose also.
This is a follow-up to the previous post, in which I shared that I would be running the Beast of Burden 100 mile race on February 8 2020. The primary internal condition I encountered was that of Existential Loss. Existential Loss refers to both important things that have been lost as well as the quality of being spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally lost. The sense of loss was a major theme of the race, regarding what I am, what my abilities are, the way the world is, and the way human life is. During the race I dreamed of innocence and closeness to nature, and I felt admiration for a general entity I have known as "Mother" or motherliness. I dreamed of all this in a degree of purity which is virtually non-existent in human life today.
Overall I felt sorrow over what has been lost and I consequently did not have the will to do my best. I knew that if it was not for loss I would not be playing such games as this race in the first place. Instead I would be living innocently in nature.
This being said, I must distinguish between my sorrow and my disappointment. My sorrow was fixated on lost dreams of the original perfection of life. Disappointment arose from recognizing how much better I could have been doing but I did not feel able to simply embrace openness in every moment and run with a unified will. Part of me would like to realize my athletic abilities but, at this point, it is hard to see how I will do that since it will have to be aligned with my self-realization and will have to develop a path to being in full integrity. I was not able to find enough of an imperative to overcome pain and limitation and run: instead I was fixated on sorrow and touches of dreams.
That is an overview of the present situation in general terms. To help this all make sense I will tell several detailed stories from the race. Conveniently enough, the first story took place over the course of the first half of the race and the second story took place over the second half. By half I mean half of the total distance I ran: so, the halfway mark was 37.5 miles. It is also convenient that my first half of the race was almost entirely in daylight and my second half was mostly in darkness, save for the last three hours. The first half took a total of 9 hours 50 minutes, from 10AM to 7:50PM. Then I spent 50 minutes at the aid station adding warm clothes and doing several other tasks. From there the second half of the race took a total of 13 hours 20 minutes, from 8:40PM to 10:00AM.
Half One of the Race: What Could I Be?
The winner of the race in both 2019 and 2020 was an elite runner named Pete Kostelnick. Because this race both consists of four laps and each lap goes "out and back" all of the runners get to see each other face-to-face multiple times. This is a feature of the race which I am actually rather fond of. As implied above, I have long felt that I almost always run well below the abilities of my potential. When I saw Pete I thought about this and I paid attention to him: I considered it an opportunity that a prominent ultrarunner was here running alongside us. One time that we passed by each other was roughly mile 20 for me and mile 30 for him. I took note of what I felt when he went by. When I tried to translate his energy into words, the thought always came out the same: "That is a powerful man." I could feel that Pete was unconflicted and relatively uninhibited in his pursuit of the 100 mile finish line. Doubt and fear were basically lacking in him. I should note that I sensed power but not in the sense of a wrecking ball nor a punch to the gut. I would say that Pete Kostelnick is powerful moreso in the way that a light being is powerful. He is basically the opposite of a "drag to be around," though it is not due to any sort of charisma nor bubbliness. At least during the race, Pete was very quiet both years. Last year I did not know who he is but I still noticed him. The thought I had regarding him last year was, "That man is like a wisp in the wind." It was like he could nearly vanish out of existence; yet, he does exist. He is not devoured in common darkness and chaos. So his power is not belligerence but basically an energy and disposition which is in integrity with who he really is. At least during the race he is more in line with how a human being is meant to be. During the pre-race meeting I stood near him and could sense the orderly calm.
When I sensed this genial, orderly energy I sensed that I potentially had it in me. But, I felt that at the same time I would also have to be something else. I imagined his energy as a light blue color and this other one as green. I have assigned these particular energies these colors for some time now. Light blue symbolizes a kind of lightness. The green involves conflict: it utilizes negative elements like fear in order to fight against darkness. Note this subject of colors gets mentioned again later.
Close to the same time that I thought about the colors, the thought came to me that all my knee needed to heal was to "be held differently in consciousness." I think this meant that all I have to do is stop thinking there is some point in self-realization I have to reach in order for my knee to heal. That sounds truthful but I also don't know that I am really able to do that. It is hard to let go of some things. It has been common for me over the years to associate injuries and poor health conditions with an imperative to become or do something which I aspire to. In other words, the physical healing will occur when there is spiritual integrity. I find this idea too valuable to let go of. Injury and disease remind me of my ideals, even though the ideals can be attained without such pressure.
The last time I saw Pete in daylight was in the early 30s of miles for me and in the early to mid-40s of miles for him. I asked myself, Could I exist at that level? What would it take? The response that came to mind was, "If you want to 'join the club,' you have to get your thoughts in line with what you want to be." That meant I could not think anything that was self-degrading, cynical, anxious, nor doubtful. I considered that to an extent elite runners have to take their level of performance for granted, because anything which seems too amazing to a person will be out of reach for him. This led to the question, Can you walk and talk at the same time? In other words, I wondered whether it is possible to both talk about a thing and also be capable of doing it. It seems that in talking about a thing you distance yourself from it to an extent. I had the sense that I either had to be a fine athlete or be doomed to talk about other people being fine athletes while I drag myself slowly along the trail. Yet, for my destiny it seems that I must be able to walk and talk at the same time somehow. Alas, a great doer typically is not also not a great talker (if a talker can even be called "great"), and vice versa.
Still, I was moved. I thought, "There is no question anymore about what it is I want. I have to become what I am destined to be." I thought about how this was precisely what I needed to do in order to heal my body from its ailments, too. My mind went back to the age of 15, where at this time of year I would have been in the championship season of Indoor Track. I thought about the strength and intensity I showed at that age, which was my best year at distances under 5K. A thought came to me: "There is nothing you need to remove from yourself-- only to add." With this I allowed myself to think that as I raced on the indoor track eight years ago I was setting myself up for a destiny which involved running and which was continuing now. I don't always allow myself to think such things because they sound too self-glorifying on one hand and "crazy" on the other. But, this time I did allow myself to think that way and it empowered me to run faster. Overall, the movement of my thought now was towards a complete self and a complete worldview.
For this stretch of the race I alternated between running rather well and taking short walks. The full moon was at its largest around 5:15 PM, and from there stayed in the sky for most of the night. As I headed west towards Middleport the moon was easily in view: I looked at it and regarded it as a symbol of transformation (due to werewolves). Around mile 33 or 34 there was a thawed patch of the Erie Canal, no more than 50 feet wide. At least 30 geese were gathered in the water here, all fairly close to one another though there was space between them. The combination of the water and the heads of the geese created a dark picture which reminded me of the void. When I am in full consciousness of the void it empowers me by giving voice to all fears: this is typically an immersive process. Between the full moon and the looming void, I felt a bit of pressure and even foreboding possibility. What would happen? Would I start running at the level of my true ability during this race? Or would I fail?
At some point in the race- I think it was here, but I am not certain- I felt the possibility of running unscrupulously, with nothing negative nor unnecessary to weigh me down in consciousness. I referred to this as being in the "open of consciousness." I felt that it was my highest potential and also that I could not do it. I felt disappointed and thought about this periodically for the rest of the race.
However, I was not significantly slowed down until 7PM, when I felt substantially colder. The cold mainly affected my eyes and this made me feel slightly disoriented. When this happened I was no more than 3-5 miles from the next aid station so I knew that I would make it. When I arrived there at 7:50PM it took me a while to adjust my outfit: I simultaneously ate at least half a pound of dates. Sometime between 8:20 and 8:30PM Pete ran into the building, grabbed some food (I think a slice of pizza), and then ran out. He did not call out his bib number (as I usually do): I didn't notice him until he was on his way out. Pete lapped me at this point: he was now 25 miles ahead of me and had completed 62.5 miles in about 10.5 hours. That was the last time I saw him in any kind of light and that was the end of the first half of my race.
Half Two: Distant Dreams
I became emotional starting, perhaps, around mile 40. The race consists of four 25-mile laps, so this means I was a few miles into the second half of lap two. I completed this lap at midnight, which means it took me 14 hours to run 50 miles. This is a slow time for me but it is still fast enough to potentially finish the race on time (i.e. 100 miles within 30 hours): when I arrived one of the race's last finishers was still there. I felt tired and overwhelmed as I started to prepare for the third lap. When spoken to I was somewhat despondent. My mother was there: this is the only ultramarathon which I do not travel to alone. I asked her if we could go in the car to talk and she agreed to do so.
I decided that I must tell my mother about the things that had been on my heart and mind, not only during the race but for months and arguably years on end. I knew the probability of her failing to understand was very high but I just had to try or there was no way I was going to go back out into the snow and what the car reported as 9F temperatures. I know logically it probably sounds ridiculous to stop in the middle of the race and try talking about the most important things in life- which could take hours- but as far as I was concerned my options were to either do that and then possibly finish at least a third lap or end my race right there at the halfway mark.
I started the conversation with common ground. I reminded her when I said at the age of 16 that I had never wanted any of this life as it is. When I told her this I had misremembered that I actually had stated this to my father when he asked me why I did not want to live anymore; alas, I am sure she received the message somehow. I did not go into the detail about how, by my 17th birthday, I had decided to drop the issue of our way of life and instead focus on spiritual development. It was precisely this focus which led me to start kimwrate.com at the age of 18. I did not tell her how I pursued that for several years until finally, close to the age of 21, I realized how rootless, impotent, and off-point my self-expression largely was (though not entirely incorrect), resigned myself to a quieter life, and then at 22 began both to forge the ideology I profess to you now as well as a return to my affinity for nature. The combination of both this ideology and this love of nature has yielded the concept I know as the Original Perfection of Life. I did not give my mother this linear progression of my life because it just did not occur well enough to me to do so in the moment. Instead I told her that I decided as a teenager that I had never wanted any of this and I still felt the same way now. I told her how I had desired to live in nature and I pointed to the roads and the restaurant around us to show what it was that I did not want and which also seemed inescapable. I told her that I desired to be innocent but I felt unable to do so because it is at odds with the way the world is, so instead I have to constantly fight with everyone and everything. I held my hand out to the starting line of the race several times and said, "This is all I have." I explained that these races seem to be as close as I can get to my ideal and that is not only why I do them but also why, as I emphasized, "This is all I have." I confessed that I felt rather alone. I was specific and told her that she is very helpful to me on a practical level and I am aware that I have family (whereas many people do not). Even so, mentally and spiritually, I am quite alone. I reminded her that I tried to tell her this the day after I destroyed my knees but she did not seem to understand then and it seemed she would not understand now either. I informed her that both knees had been hurting throughout the race (though only one at a time, interestingly) and I believed they had not yet healed because I wanted to heal emotionally in order for my knees to heal (just like I told you in the previous post) and that is why we were there now, talking in the car. At that point she asked me what I would have done if she was not there. I decided to not beat around the bush and I said, "You are here, so that's just hypothetical. It's beside the point." Such an answer is not as thorough as I normally try to be but it nevertheless is probably the highest truth of the situation.
Finally I got to what I knew would be most difficult to talk about. I told my mother that I dreamed of a beautiful place in unharmed nature where it was possible to live innocently. She said, "Maybe we can go there someday," but I protested along the lines of, "No, it is not a place that you can just drive to in the car. That kind of cleverness is actually the opposite of what it takes to get there. First you must know the place in your soul." I told her that when I dreamed of this place I almost always sensed an entity I have known as "Mother," which I generally have thought of as Mother Earth but it could also be one's actual mother (including my own).
Now that I am actually, finally writing all this linearly it seems like I probably have missed much of importance to the situation but it is hard to convey (and maybe I am slightly too embarrassed to). In fact, I am pretty sure I spent about an hour in the car, and it did take a lot of work and mild unpleasantness for us to get on the same page. Still, for the level of magnitude this conversation has for me an hour is not bad at all.
Anyway, now to the end. I returned again and again to the desire to be innocent and how it was in conflict with the apparent need to fight for innocence (and as an isolated person) since that was all gone from life now. I told her that I did not want to fight with her but it seemed unavoidable. I basically circled around this point again and again until I finally told her that I don't want to yell at her anymore and I burst into tears. She held me and said, "You are very emotional." I responded, "I know." She asked me how I was possibly going to go back out for a 25-mile lap in this state. I told her this was exactly what I was looking for, that I needed to open my heart in order to complete another lap. She understood this and when my tears subsided she told me that she wanted to get to sleep. That was good because I had done what I needed to do and was now ready to begin lap three. I told her goodbye, she drove away, and then I walked alone into the nearby bathroom with a renewed resolve. After I returned a few items to the tent that served as race headquarters I asked another runner what time it was and he said, 1:32 AM. I said alright and as I walked out of the tent I think two people wished me good luck.
Shortly after starting lap three I decided that I should try to spend most of the next 4-5 hours running because the temperature was not going to rise before 6AM. When I ran neither of my knees hurt anymore: I concluded that sharing what was most important to my heart and must very well have healed me after all. Unfortunately it still took me 3.5 hours to complete the first half of the lap, which was longer than expected: I arrived at the halfway mark at 5:05 AM. The aid station at this point is 100% indoors, in some kind of Masonic lodge (I don't think "lodge" is the right word but I know the symbol of Freemasonry is on the outside. It's comparable to some kind of American Legion or VFW-- an open place with chairs, tables and a kitchen in the back). With almost no deliberation I gathered three chairs into a triangle, sat down in one, put one leg each on the two other chairs, and slept for 15 minutes. When I left I decided it was highly unlikely that I would return to this aid station (i.e. on the final lap) so I took the pack with me which I had sent there.
An Aside for the Communication Gap
At this point I internally debated whether I should tell the aid station volunteers that I would not return on lap four. I could tell that such a statement would be tainted with some form of negativity (on both my part and theirs) and would also be unnecessary: in the moment that I made the statement it would "lower my vibration," degrade my being, and feel unpleasant to say. However, I went ahead and told them anyway. First the woman spoke and expressed a bit of pity or sorrow (I will have to think to discern which). She told me I could leave my pack there and come back for it later: I replied that it was light and not a problem. Then the man, whom I had never seen before (most of the volunteers at this race are present every year) said, "Oh, you know, I actually am going to leave soon: I could give you a ride back." I turned around and started silently walking out before he even finished his sentence. I was intent on finishing the lap. Once I got outside my annoyance by his statement set in. I had only intended to inform them that I would not be returning so they would not have any questions as to my whereabouts later. I considered that they would possibly advise me on whether I could return but it seemed rather unlikely that I would return (maybe this ulterior motive was my downfall here, since I might not have spoken without it). So, I felt that this man was trying to play the hero, justify the value of his existence, and make himself look good. I was not at all deluded by the mere appearance of kindness. My intention was to be straightforward in the fact that I would not be back and it seemed that I was basically being pushed out of the race for it. Why is it not acceptable to be straightforward? Why does some kind of emotional meaning and need have to be assigned to everything that is said, as if "I don't have enough time to make it back" has to mean "I want to quit, please help me"? Why must people not only assign an emotional meaning to everything that is said but then try to exploit those supposed emotions to bolster their own status and appearance? This is a problem I run into frequently, and I became indignant this time. When I got outside I yelled, "I thought I was just being responsible by telling you and then you try to kick me out [of the race]...!" I think I cut myself off before finishing the sentence by closing the door, and only God knows whether they heard me: the door is maybe 25 meters from where they were sitting. I started walking up the street to the bridge over the canal and I believe no one heard the expletives shouted into the darkness.
Now, the purpose of this description is not to "blow up" this two-minute event but to retell it in detail for thoughtful consideration. There is much of relevance present here. Part of the reason I am telling this story is that it connects back to what I told my mother, which is that I desire to be innocent and also feel I must fight against violations of innocence. I also wrote about this in Purity and Disunity. This inclination to fight gets provoked by certain situations- such as posturing and airs of presumptuousness- and it is just a matter of whether and how I choose to express it. At that point in time I did not exercise the self-control to stop it, just as I did not stop myself from starting an unnecessary conversation in the first place. There are two highly pertinent questions at this point. One question is whether I should give up anger and the inclination to fight. It seems it would be the logical decision but I am reluctant. It is true that most of the time I actually hold in my anger and do not express it. When I do express it seems to leave a permanent scar on my relationship to the other person. In general people do not handle confrontation well. One reason I am reluctant to give up confrontation is that I do not want people to have any delusions about what I am. The other question is how I can convey myself without unintended emotion. Unfortunately, in the moment and towards "normal people" it largely seems like negativity is the only thing that can possibly be expressed. It is much like how earlier in the race, at the end of lap one, I told my mom a few practical details that were on my mind and doing so only built up negative feelings. I decided to be straightforward and tell her, "I am not frustrated, I just don't know how to convey anything else." While I felt these details needed attention, I was not fundamentally frustrated. The "background feeling" present was enjoyment at being at the race, so it annoyed me that I sounded frustrated.
I think what I have provided here are two examples of what I have called "The Communication Gap," which seems to be unbridgeable. "The Communication Gap" refers to sufficiently different parties being doomed to misunderstand and misinterpret each other and communicate to each other in a distorted manner. In the examples, as far as I am concerned, I am the party whose communication is distorted, not only by the very act of trying to communicate with a party sufficiently different from myself but also in the minds of the other party. Because of the Communication Gap I am forced to wonder whether the solution is to keep my thoughts to myself unless I truly need help figuring out something. That is one reason why I have left kimwrate.com in silence for so long.
The End- continued
Now, to return to forward movement. I was basically okay for the third quarter of the lap, but I found it hard to run properly. My lower back hurt: I should note that my pack was almost empty and I barely noticed its presence so the pack had nothing to do with my back hurting. It seemed that my body was not flexible enough to deliver all the normal movements of running. So, instead I both walked and I engaged in a rather inhibited running form with short steps which only slightly lifted off the ground (I also mistook a distant tree for some kind of house or shelter at one point and I had left the aid station angry but that's not important right now).
After I left the midway aid station which is passed twice on every lap things went downhill. Initially they didn't, though. I walked out of the aid station eating dates and I did so with one of my gloves off, as I had done throughout the race. This time my right hand got extra cold, however-- enough to alarm me somewhat. The thought came to me, "I am going to have to start running to survive." Logically this didn't seem to be the case at all as my hands always warmed up within a few minutes of putting my gloves back on. However, this thought had a truthful quality to it, like it was the one I needed to follow. I wanted to follow this thought anyway as I knew it would confirm my belief that I could run 100% healthily if I had only decided to do so. Sure enough, as soon as I resolved to run "to survive" I started running like it was early in the race and I had nothing wrong with my body. I think I did this for only about 10 minutes but it still confirmed to me that running is almost 100% mental. I actually got into the exact same situation last year, by the way: feeling too hurt to run, then upon becoming cold I was able to run normally since I felt I had to run in order to survive. The problem, as I said at the start of this post, is that I just cannot unify my will enough to run "all-out" the whole time because, as I also said, if the original perfection of life had not been lost then I would not be playing these games in the first place.
Once the need to run "to survive" wore off I slowed down considerably. Sorrow sank in. I had mild visions and senses of a beauty which no longer exists and I was tearful. Earlier I mentioned how I associated the colors blue and green with certain energies and states of being. With these visions the color that typically comes to me is a light purple, like lavender. The difference between blue and purple is hard to discern intellectually, since they both could be described as, "Heaven on Earth." I think in general blue applies to things which exist now whereas purple refers to some kind of original perfection which I can only touch on at best.
At 8:30 AM I texted my mother and told her I had 4.5 miles to go. Since I finished the lap at 10 AM this means it took me 90 minutes to complete 4.5 miles, which is a pace of 3.0 miles per hour. I did not stop at all during this time so 3.0mph was my actual moving pace. Unfortunately I cannot remember exactly when I started the second half of lap three. I am inclined to say 6AM but I can't imagine I was really at the aid station for 55 minutes. I know it was no earlier than 5:30AM and no later than 6AM: this means it took me 4-4.5 hours to complete the second half of lap three. My total time for lap three was 9 hours 59 minutes because the hour spent with my mom was included in the time for that lap. Still, even once I actually started the lap at 1:32AM it took me 8.5 hours which exceeds the average lap time needed to complete this race (i.e. 7.5 hours). Overall I completed 75 miles right at the 24-hour mark. I decided there was no way I could both prepare for and complete lap four within six hours without some kind of moving of mountains within my soul, which did not seem forthcoming at that point. Also I think every runner is "supposed" to reach both aid stations on the course before they close (Middleport at noon, Gasport at 2PM), and that means I would have had to run the first half of the lap (12.5 miles) in less than 2 hours when the last half-lap just took me 4 hours to complete. There was no way I could do that except either on fresh legs or on some kind of near-miracle which I have had before but, again, did not seem to be forthcoming. So, while it could be argued that I timed out of this race, I believe the official narrative is that I dropped out (i.e. voluntarily quit as opposed to being stopped by the race staff).
Overall I am just too conflicted and sorrowful about things at this point to run my best.
I am wondering now what is the way to hold existential loss. I have repeated that it seems all I can do is talk about things and try to convey a complete picture of life. Otherwise I am relatively at a loss. Over the years there has periodically been a temptation to consider that maybe I am wrong about everything and therefore if I completely overhaul my life inside and out everything will get better. This premise becomes less tempting over time as I clarify my worldview and ideas. I am not prone to exploitation because what I desire is purity of heart and I believe that others are "more lost" than I am and cannot provide much in the way of what I am looking for. Too much seeking makes one susceptible to schemes; but, at the same time I know there is something missing from the human experience of life today, and it involves connection to nature and original perfection.
The best I can do for now is try to deliver the truth in completeness. This includes admissions of things including defeat. I sense that there is kind of a heart-centered vulnerability in the admission of defeat. This is distinct from a false type of vulnerability which utilizes denial, rationalization, anxiousness, weakness, jadedness, and nihilism in response to apparent defeat. The difference between these two types of vulnerability could basically be framed as Defeat vs. Defeatism. Notice that I have not had any interest in denying how I feel nor in rationalizing the ways of modern life even though I feel rather unable to do much about them. I am not letting my senses be distorted by apparent defeat. I admit defeat but I am not defeatist.
You have to be careful about the ways in which you express vulnerability as well as the context in which you do so. When I was younger people took advantage of my vulnerability. I expressed certain dissatisfactions with my diet too fearfully and I literally had obese people imply to me that I had problems with portion control and that everything I was doing dietarily was all wrong. I weighed about 104 lbs. during that time. If you give the impression that you are hurting for answers people will try to influence your thinking and thereby take power over you psychologically. That is what I said that, "Too much seeking makes one susceptible to schemes..."
The pure heart cannot hope too hard for help and answers from others. Its priority is to simply be true and ideally not ask for much more. When I was honest about my feelings during the race my knee pain went away. I write here now, as completely as I can, because the truth heals.
A race is a spiritual journey and depending on the course that journey takes I don't necessarily get to finish. The reason the 100 mile race specifically is of such importance is because the intersection of the distance and the time limit assigned to it is just enough to demand that I go to a deeper place in order to finish. While this can and does happen in shorter races, it is required of me in 100 mile races just to finish. Plus the race is long enough where I can experience all important ideas and feelings thoroughly and for long enough, such that there is no denial of any of them.
Writing about the experience of the race dispels the delusion that the race is just about finishing, ideally in a fast time. Vapid, mediocre statements like, "Oh yeah Kim you'll get stronger and do better next time" and "Some days you have it and some days you don't" don't apply because the point is the spiritual development: the mere act of completing the race is not the point though the action in itself does still matter. It might be worth pointing out that out of approximately 380 races in 11 years and 5 months I have failed to finish (i.e. DNF) six of them: five were 100 miles and one was 100K. At three of those six races I had the knee injuries that I incurred in July 2019 and I reached a point in the first two of those races where I was physically unable to run any longer (in the third my ability to run was inhibited but not snuffed out). At two of the other races (both the Winter Beast of Burden, 2015 and 2020) I had noteworthy pains, at least, which made running harder. The only race I did not finish where I had no injuries was the Mighty Mosquito in 2018.
I packed a lot into this article. Perhaps talking about things through the more prominent events of my life such as this race is an effective and complete way of communicating the messages at hand. I know there is a lot packed into this article. I felt the need to write thoroughly to communicate completely where I am at in life now, which ultimately is connected to the concept of existential loss. If in the future I write articles which delve down into any of the particular topics mentioned here perhaps I will quote from this article to make the connection which shows that I have spoken of and experienced these matters before.
I'm going to be honest that logically these posts seem possibly deficient to me. It is tough to convey ideas. At the same time I just really cannot be stopped at this point or the point will be missed. It is not even necessarily that I am under time pressure: I just need to keep moving forward.
Other Race Details
While what has been said sufficiently addresses the point, I would also like to share a few surface-level details from the race.
1. The plan was to start this race slow, with plenty of walking, and then speed up in the second half; but, it did not quite happen to that way.
2. I typically have one or two songs stuck in my head when I race. The song for this race was, "Lay It on the Line." Certain songs are draining or degrading but this one helped me to move forward.
3. Words on the cold. This was the most cold I have ever been in. I felt noticeably colder an hour after sunset (7 PM) and my eyes were affected the most, to the point where I felt slightly disoriented when I arrived at the halfway aid station. I arrived wearing four layers on top and I left wearing five plus a set of arm-sleeves. As for my head, I arrived wearing a headband, ski mask, hat, 2 hoods, and a buff* covering my neck and mouth. I left wearing two headbands, a ski mask, 2 hats, 2 hoods, the same buff plus another one on the neck only, and another buff on my head meant to cover my eyes. I looked in the mirror before leaving and I had adjusted things so that my eyes were almost not visible. For the first several hours after leaving the aid station I left myself just enough room to see the ground. As the night went on and my eyes were no longer cold I felt more confident and I even turned off my headlamp and used only the light of the full moon to find the way (the trail runs alongside a canal, has no turns, and is completely out in the open, by the way). In contrast, during the afternoon I had rolled up all my sleeves and taken all the clothes off my head except for a headband. The most interesting thing was the way I experienced the cold internally. I feel inclined to call it "deep cold" and it seemed that I entered a somewhat different state of being from usual-- one that is more primal. Even though I withstood the cold quite well and had no apparent problems I had some sense of being close to death. The level of cold reminded me of the feeling one has in the presence of a deceased person. I think this sense was compounded by the long night and possibly also the fact that my aunt passed away a month prior to this race last year and I think the experience of that has made its way into the race to an extent. It seems like nighttime always feels colder no matter what, even if the temperature doesn't drop that much. Likewise, being outside in the cold for an entire day is a different animal from being in the cold for five hours. I want to point out that I actually got colder last year even though the low temperature was 9 degrees higher, because I was not as prepared last year. I think I did a good job of preparing for and dealing with the cold weather and I am pleased. I never needed to cover my eyes before, until this race.
4. I took nothing at all from the aid stations and used 100% of my own food and water (and even toilet paper). I have never done this in any 100 mile race before, complete or not. Last year I took potatoes and water, and in all warm-weather 100s I take watermelon from the aid stations (though after several experiences of the watermelon getting tainted by other foods present that might stop).
5. I ran this race on ~1 month of a 100% raw vegan diet and I maintained this during the race as well. I have done this at one other 100 miler before, Infinitus in May 2019 (which I actually completed). Most of the food used in this race was purchased directly from farmers and all of the water was bottled by myself. I drank spring water and apple cider, and I ate dates, dried pears, a winter squash called "long island cheese," spinach, pea shoots, two or three bananas, and several grapes. The grapes and bananas were from a supermarket. For the most part the only time I eat bananas is during long races like this one. Lately grapes are the only food I have been eating which is not bought directly from the farmer: even then I eat grapes only when my mom buys them. I don't go to supermarkets anymore except on her behalf. I was present for the pressing of the apple cider and it is unpasteurized. The squash was soft enough to scoop into a bowl and eat raw. I tried as much as possible to take food on the trail with me rather than stopping at the aid stations to eat (which is my usual preference). I fit a small tupperware container with a fork into the pocket of my jacket and I used this to eat squash while walking. Some ice had formed on the squash from the cold air. I had my mother keep the cider at our hotel and then deliver it at the start of each lap so it would not be frozen: if I was alone I might have used the heater provided at race headquarters to thaw the cider. I find dates to be pleasant when they are cold so I enjoyed that (they did not freeze). These medjool dates were not dried by the farmer so they were moist and sticky: I used the snow on the trail to clean my hands after eating. This did not keep my hands from warming up once I put my gloves back on. At the start of lap two I ate a bag of spinach and found this revitalizing. So far the only times I have eaten vegetables during races are when I am on a 100% raw diet. Vegetables are an important source of micronutrients on this diet and they provide a healthy complement to fruit. When I am not 100% raw I eat potatoes instead and leave the vegetables at home.
6. Last year was the tenth running of this race and I "achieved" the slowest winning time ever in 25:33:58. That changed this year with the time of the only female finisher. Out of 42 entrants only three were women and two of us stopped after lap three. I saw the other woman begin her 4th lap so I would have to guess that it either took her too long to reach one of the aid stations or she arrived at one of them and decided to stop. Splits are taken at the other aid stations (i.e. aside from the start/end of the lap) but only the race staff gets to see them.
7. A note on the snow. About six inches of snow accumulated in just the two days prior to the race. Someone definitely went over the trail with a machine, presumably a snow-blower on the first mile (a paved trail) and a snowmobile on the Erie Canal Trail (crushed gravel). The trail was well packed-down and during the deep cold overnight the snow was about as hard as any road. I actually started the race in my mom's boots because I expected to be running in powdery snow. Once it became clear this was not the case and the boots were cutting the backs of my heels anyway I called my mother and asked her to bring my running shoes to the halfway aid station. If she wasn't there I probably would have had to walk most of the first lap and maybe put something in the boots or on my heels to avoid the heels getting hurt too badly. When I finished the race there was a noteworthy level of chafing on the back of my right heel though I am sure I could have finished the last 25 miles of the race with it. When I wrote in the post prior to the race that "I will have to put my boots on" something seemed off to me about the statement but I did not take the time to feel into it. Maybe I wish I had? Either way, if I ever do have to run in powdery snow I might be interested in in a shoe that is basically a cross between a running shoe and a boot. My mother's boots fare well in the snow but they do not fit quite right and they chafe more when I run as opposed to walk in them. Walking and running 12.5 miles in a pair of mass-produced winter boots from a department store which were suggested for use only the day before the race is "not bad" though not what is desired. I also want to note that last year there was no snow on the ground due to a heat wave prior to the race.
8. The race directors normally do not publish DNFs on the results but they did this time. As such my Ultrasignup profile shows a DNF for this race but not for the two other times I did not finish (Winter 2015 and Summer 2019). Out of 42 entrants, 35 started and 18 finished. That means that 51% of people who started this race and 43% of entrants finished. Last year there were 25 finishers out of 44 people who started, which means a finisher rate of 57%. I *think* four people did not start (DNS) last year but cannot prove it since this information was not published.
9. It is worth pointing out that last year I completed 93 miles in 24 hours, which is 18 more miles than this year. This is a difference in pace by 1.5 mph. Likewise, last year I completed 50 miles in 9 hours 55 minutes: this year I completed 37.5 miles in 9 hours 50 minutes.
10. There is a handful of people who ran the Winter Beast 100 in both 2019 and 2020. I compared the results and all of these people ran faster last year. At the same time, the top of the field was faster this year. Last year I placed fifth out of 22 in a time of 25:33:58. This year the same time would have put me in eighth place out of 18.
11. At both the start line and the Gasport aid station there is a gasoline powered heater every year. The heaters are basically flamethrowers covered with a ventilated lid (like the lid of a salt-and-pepper shaker, though the holes are scaled up in size). In 2019 the front of the seat of a chair melted. In 2020 the back of a runner's coat melted and the feathers fell out. Both of these events happened at the starting line tent.
12. This was my third time running the Winter Beast. In 2015, at the age of 18, the naive, misguided girl was crushed by the Beast: I dropped out at mile 62.5. In 2019, at the age of 22 I returned as a hardened woman with an intent heart, arguably to slay the Beast though I like to say that I passed my heart on to it. Now, in 2020 I am friends with the Beast and by the light of the full moon it provided it has helped to illuminate my consciousness.
10:00AM: Race start
11:42AM: Arrive at Gasport, complete first 7 miles in 1 hour 42 minutes
1:00PM: Arrive at Middleport, complete 12.5 miles in 3 hours
1:23PM: Depart from Middleport. Took time due to changing from boots into shoes.
3:48PM: 23 miles completed
4:20PM: Arrive at my Mom's car, just before the start/finish line. My official time for lap 1 (25 miles) is 6 hours 27 minutes 17 seconds.
4:45PM: Depart for lap 2
6:20-6:30PM: I believe I arrived at Gasport (mile 32) around this time: given the other times, I should have.
7:50PM: Arrive at Middleport and complete my first half of the race (37.5 miles) in 9 hours 50 minutes
8:35-40PM: Depart from Middleport
10:10PM: 43 miles completed
11:30PM: 48 miles completed
12:06AM: Arrive at the start/finish line. 50 miles in 14 hours 6 minutes 54 seconds.
1:32AM: Depart for lap 3
5:05AM: Arrive at Middleport. 100K in 19 hours 5 minutes. It became apparent at this point that I would not complete the race.
5:30-6:00AM: Depart from Middleport
8:30AM: 71.5 miles completed
10:06AM: Finish 75 miles in 24 hours 6 minutes 2 seconds.
Note: the official times for 25, 50, and 75 miles are a bit slower than the actual time since to get a lap time you have to run into the tent of Race HQ to get the lap recorded. My total time for 75 miles might be as much as 1 minute too slow.
I am aware that not all readers are from America so maybe I should provide conversions to kilometers. The only time I use the metric system is when a race is defined in kilometers (like a 5K) or when it is easier for me to gauge a distance by imagining a 400m or 200m track-- then I might state the distance in meters. So, 100 miles is 161 kilometers. 62.5 miles is 100K. I completed 75 miles which is 120.7K. Half of this is 37.5 miles or 60.35K. A marathon, 26.2 miles, is 42K. One lap of the race, 25 miles, is 40.23K. A half-lap (from the start/finish line in Lockport to Middleport) is 12.5 miles which is 20.11K. The distance from the start line to the first aid station in Gasport is 7 miles or 11.26K. The distance from Gasport to Middleport is 5.5 miles or 8.85K. When I had 4.5 miles to go at the end that was 7.24K. In American athletics it is standard to refer to a kilometer as a "K," though in math problems the unit gets abbreviated to "km."
Likewise, a "buff" is basically a thin tube-like piece of material that can be worn on the head, around the neck, or rolled up into a headband.
P.S. People have asked me over the years what it is I think about when I run. Now you know.