There are only 12 of us in the box at the 7am start. It's groundhog day, and every hour on the hour for as long as we can stand it, we’ll be starting again. Everybody in the box is in 1st place, and we all remain in 1st place for as long as we continue. Doesn’t matter who comes in 1st or last, as long as we're back in the box at the top of each hour.
All of us have our oasis’s laid out within a few feet of the box, under the huge live oaks, on the grass, our chairs and ice chests near at hand. My ice chest has a wide variety of substances from which to cool me for a very long time. I brought a spare ice chest with nothing more than ice in it as well. I don't have a load of food, but figure I'll use the tailwind I brought, a few bars, and see what the race provides. I brought a load of clothes, thinking I’d sweat thru a fair amount: 10 shorts, 10 socks, 4 shoes, buffs for ice, bandanas for sweat, hats for shade, long sleeves, short sleeves, and more. It's much more than I’ll need, but I'd rather have it than not.
Mike & Tom park their gear under the same popup as I, each of us sharing a third. At 3 til 7am, John blows his whistle 3 times. At 2 til he blows it twice. At 1 til he blows it once. 7am sharp, he rattles an old cow bell, and we began. It’s only 2.083 miles of country road. 2.083mi out to the bridge, and 2.083mi back to the box, markers every quarter mile approximately. The dirt road was just scraped yesterday, so it's tolerable. At 1.3mi, it becomes a paved road at the only turn on the course, besides the one right at the start.
The temp today will rise from 80 to 100 while the humidity descends from 100 to 40. A touch of wind will ease the pain, while we will occasionally lean into the shade for a few seconds each lap on the shoulder of the road. The course is painfully boring, with the exception of the one lone ranch dog that barks at us til his barks slowly became dim and rough. I feel sorry for the dog, because we keep coming and he must feel it his duty to chase us off, the poor dog. I suspect he still has nightmares about us.
The dim dozen I called us. Too dumb to stay in the shade of the statuesque oaks. We spread out quickly, with Anthony, Ty, and Mike leading the charge, followed by the triathletes, then the Houston-ite, Monte, Tom, and last by me and Stephen, who chose me to use as his limiter. He decided, that I was the oldest, and most likely his best bet to keep him from going out too fast: imagine that. I have run for so many years now, and know what I can and cannot do. I know already this event is not the thing I will do well in. If nothing else, I can comfortably stay slow and steady til the heat eats me. It will eat me. I wanted to come and support John for this race idea of his also. I think its a great concept, even though I know it does not suit me.
Stephen does most of the talking, which is odd. Usually I talk too much, but Stephen takes lead in this regard and keeps on, telling me what he’s done and how he would like this race to go for him. I agree with him for the most part, going out slowly, and getting back to our gear just 10mins prior to each lap. Its enough time to reset and reload for another round. I also tell him I’ll let hime know when I think he should cut me out, and continue without me.
This first 4 loops are all much the same, with little variation on the positions. Anthony finishes first each time in little more than 30mins, while Tom, Stephen and I are always the last 3. The others mix about, except the triathletes which remain in a pack. The end of loop 4, I'm starting to feel the effects of the heat. I can feel the sun's rays burning into my chest, back, and arms. The clouds roll by and protect us a bit, but when the cloud clears and opens a direct path, I can feel the intensity immediately. My chest is on fire, so my heat rash is in full bloom. Suspect I’ve roasted the southern regions as well. I should know better.
I finish loop 4 knowing I'm about done. I'm ready to quit, need to get some Desiten on my body, but figure I'll do one more just for the hell of it: typical ultra-runner mentality. Pretty stupid, really. All of it: doing this race to begin with, and going on when I already know I'm done. I tell Stephen to cut the chain and go. I tell Tom as well. I walk a lot more on loop 5, knowing I’m done and couldn't care less if I get back in time. Nothings changes much except the fire on my body. Still groundhog day. I let it go, walk a bit, run a little, everyone passes beyond me and gone. I’m alone now, coming back down the road and around the final turn, I realize I've actually made it in time. No shit?! John, Gina, and Shannon are all there to help me get it together so I can go back out again, but it's not happening. I sit down for a beer first, watch them go out, then head into the house to get some Desiten on my body. The rash is pretty bad. One of the worst I've had. Now, its time for me to sit in the shade and cool down.
I go thru 3 beers, 3 cokes, 3 izzes, and then I settle into my hammock and really begin to relax. While I was out there, it seemed like each loop took forever, but sitting here waiting, it doesn’t take much time at all for the gang to come in again. But, it looks like I've broke the ice. With me finally stopping, nobody else has to worry about being the first to stop. 4 people stop on loop6: Mike, the Houston guy, one of the tri-team, and Monte. Tom barely gets back in time and turns to go back out again without break.
A few drinks later, and they're back again. Once again Tom barely gets in the box before he turns to go again. John goes out on the course to bring in the Houston guy who was late coming in, but comes back with Tom instead. They’re now down to 6 runners, and start out with Anthony and Stephen going out last, slow and easy. When they come back, it's the first time Anthony does not lead the return. Its Ty, then a bit later, Anthony. The hour flips and the group of 5 heads back out before Stephen returns. Just as the next heat starts, John heads out on the ATV to find Stephen, but Anthony is the last to head out and he's rather tentative. For good reason too, as he doesn’t leave the yard before turning back and coming in to stop about the same time John brings Stephen back in. So the group is down to 4. Ty and the tri-gang. I think it’s the next loop when the next tri-guy drops, but I’m not so sure, as we head into the house to eat, and then I pack up and leave, with 3 people still going.
My Desiten has worn off, and I need another coat, because I’m walking like a cowboy and feel totally trashed. I learn later that its just Ty and the tri-girl for a few more, before Ty stops. So its done after 17 laps for 17 hours or 70 miles. But by then, I’ve made the 2.5hr drive home and gone to bed. So the last man standing is a woman. I think it’s awesome, but I suppose that having run with all of them, I’d have been just as happy seeing any one of them win.
The format is an interesting one, the course is boring, the camaraderie or phenomenal, but the heat and humidity was more than I could handle. I don’t think I'll do this again, but I am glad to have done it once. I don't have to run fast, but do have time limits. Its just me against myself. I attempted to walk 4mi in an hour and it can be done, but it's a pretty rapid walk: just a pinch under 15mins per mile. It seems so easy. It feels so easy. It aint easy! Especially if it means doing it endlessly over and over again.