The skunk barely glanced at me before returning to dig in the ground for whatever it is skunks dig for. But the two pairs of raccoon eyes 20 feet up in the hickory tree glowed with intense interest. First on one side of the tree as they watched me approach and then on the other side of the tree as I ventured away.
It’s really early in the morning…or late at night by some people’s standards. I’m here for a reason. I’m here for the journey.
I made the turn taking me further and further downhill and I could feel the air temperature drop sharply. The crispness rattled my mind back to where it had been before the skunk.
I returned to mentally rehearsing the plan for my next big race. Again. It’s not the first time I’ve thought through the plan. I guess I do it to calm my nerves. It seems to work.
Let’s go over it one more time. Take the early Wednesday morning flight from Lexington to Charlotte. A short layover before flying to Miami. Longer layover in Miami before departing for Ma…
Oh, good morning, Mrs. Possum! You should probably not be on this road. It’s not a good place for your species.
I’ve now reached the bottom of the hill and I find myself rapidly picking up the pace as I cross the old, one lane bridge with steel grates revealing the frigid waters of the Kentucky River. I run even faster. Although the chances are slim, I don’t want to get stuck clinging to the side of that narrow bridge trying to avoid getting knocked into the river by some unsuspecting driver. I finish sprinting across, making it safely back to solid ground.
I begin the long steep climb up the hill on the other side of the river. The strain on my legs and lungs remind me that I’m training specifically for an incredibly hard race. One that involves a lot of steep climbing. Where was I with the planning….?
Catch the evening flight from Miami to Managua. That Managua. The one in Nicaragua. Check into the Best Western near the airport. Meet Shane on Thursday morning and take a 2- hour cab ride to catch a ferry. Ride the ferry across Lake Nicaragua to Isle de Ometepe (Ometepe Island). Find our way to the hotel. On Friday, check-in for the Ultra-Trail Fuego Y Agua 50K. That’s the end of the plan. The end of the journey. The beginning of the adventure.
Fuego Y Agua 50K = 2 trips up, down, and around the grueling, technical, slippery, rainforest trails of Volcan Maderas (Maderas Volcano). Nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain, which is almost 2 miles straight up if you’re counting. It’s hard to train adequately for running up a steep volcano through a tropical rainforest….especially in Kentucky in the middle of winter. This will be a gut-check of a race for me.
I’ve completed some pretty difficult mountain races in my past. The first Spartan Ultra Beast. The Barkley 50K. The Barkley 50K again. This could very well be the hardest of them all. I might DNF. Ultra Signup projects that based on my past ultra statistics I should be one of the few who make it………..but with only 13 minutes to spare. I will be tested.
I absolutely love this quote from their rules webpage: “This race is for big kids, don’t come if you make a practice of whining at races.”
My goals are simple:
- Finish the course under the strict cutoff times.
- Avoid being attacked by a Fer de Lance viper.
At the end of the day on February 22nd, the adventure and the journey will be over. By journey, I mean the weeks and months of preparation. The journey is the important part.
The daily discipline required to put in the training.
The waking at ridiculously early hours to run before work.
The focus on becoming stronger, faster, and more resilient.
Preparing for the challenge versus enjoying the comfort.
Mentally dialing in for the training and the pain ahead.
It’s the journey that I thrive on.
The journey is what energizes me.
The journey is what makes me better.
Note: I expect to see the devil on February 22, 2020. We’ll see if he’s ready for me.