Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LAVS 500K: Part I - An Adventure Of a Lifetime

"There is no fee, no disclaimer, just 500K of open road.
And the adventure of a lifetime. If you have what it takes to do it" -Laz
It really is a selfish thing to commit a week to a race, but if you get the right thing out of it, it could be the smartest thing you ever did. -Charlie Taylor

I've lost track of the number of times I’ve started to write this report.  I’m virtually desperate to put this experience down on “paper” yet…I'm resigned to the fact there's simply nothing I can write that will do justice to the magnitude of this experience or convey what it took to complete this race.  In fact, it's still hard for me to even believe I ran (and I use the term loosely) 314 miles (more like 330 miles if you count all the “bonus” miles).

In Linden on the morning of day 4, I was ready to QUIT. The rains that hit us on day 3 (Saturday), resulted in the worst blisters and most tender feet I've ever had. I couldn't put weight on my feet. I couldn't put a shoe on my left foot. Yet somehow, I ran 51 miles that day and I kept going...Day after day...after day...after day....I kept going. For six more days.

The daily mileage went something like this:

Day 1/ 57 miles to McKenzie
Day 2/ 58 miles to Parson (50 miles to Parson +8 bonus miles)
Day 3/ 21 miles culminating in a nervous breakdown in Linden
Day 4/ 51 mile push to Columbia after pep talk from Naresh
Day 5/ 49 miles ending with the wildest night of all in Wartrace
Day 6/ 29 miles and a decision to take on crew. And by crew I mean Charles.
Day 7/ 22 miles to Monteagle
Day 8/ 26 miles to Kimball
Day 9/ 14 miles to finish

I ran the last 70 miles or so without shoes- without shoes! THAT'S how wild this story is.

Those highs make you feel like you can ride them right to the rock. The lows like you will never feel better and the rock is a million miles away. - Fred Murolo

In the weeks since Vol State, I've had time to digest the experience for the most part. Vol State is like the most intensely joyful and inspiring running experience you've ever had combined with the funniest running thing that's ever happened to you while you're running the most painful, grueling and disgustingly disappointing race you've ever run. And it goes on for a WEEK.

It's been incredible to read the other runners' accounts and race reports. They are all so good, and are such a source of inspiration. They confirm that indeed I am part of an experience that very few people will ever share. They confirm that it really was as wild as I thought it was.

In his race report, the winner of this year's race, Dan Fox (all Hail! King of the Road!!) likens Vol State to a Mandan Tribe ceremony called the Okipa. He succinctly answers both "Why?" and "How?" when he talks about Vol State as a means to "being the Hero in a myth of your own making"

He perfectly describes the race when he says, "the loose organization of Vol Sate provides just the right proportion of freedom/safety to go hard. And a defined goal: get to the Rock as fast as possible - provides the context. The back roads of Tennessee make a fitting Underworld in which to do battle. Add in the searing weather elements and the stage is set for epic performances." Indeed.

A more epic road race cannot be found. Nor can I imagine that a more intense race experience exists.

The challenge of this race report is to tell both my story and the story of the race. I find it hard to come up with a cogent format in which to relay the race and my own personal tales of the road- they are so intertwined. 

So, what will follow in the next few posts is a sadly inept accounting of the race (which relies heavily on Laz and Carl's updates to the various ultrarunning lists), along with the highlights and lowlights of my own personal experience. It is a long, long, story- and by the time you are done reading it, it will seem as long as the race itself.

But it's a good story. They are good stories- and great experiences. Ones I will cherish for the rest of my life and always look back on with fondness, and a sense of longing.

For I now know that life will never seem quite as alive as it does at Vol State.

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