“What difference does it make how fit you are if you’ve lost your
mind?”
   This statement was a quote attributed to the wife of one of the
entrants in the Haliburton Forest 100-mile Endurance Run held
Labor Day weekend in Northern Ontario.  The setting was the
stark, primitive wilderness in a private, protected wild animal
preserve.
   I was there because I had found it too difficult to wait a whole
year for personal redemption.  I had attempted the Vermont 100
a month earlier, only to be frustrated by losing the trail in the dark
of night after passing the last medical checkpoint at 84 miles,
still on schedule for an American record in my age group and on
the way to becoming the first person from Cape Cod to officially
run 100 miles non-stop.
   The difference, this time around, was that I had a support crew. 
I had gone to Vermont without heeding the race director’s suggestion
that I have handlers or “pacers” for the last few miles.  I had sadly
learned that while running may be ultimate individual sport, ultra trail
running over huge distances is a team effort – both logistically and
emotionally.  My girl friend Diane Metayer and Harold Ratchford,
the best buddy over the past 30 years, provided me with the
wherewithal to be successful this time around.
   The “Holy Grail” of 100 running is to complete the distance in
24 hours; a special belt buckle is awarded to those who accomplish
the feat.  Thus, when I crossed the line at 5:34 a.m. the following
day, there was a special sense of joining an elite group of human
beings.  Only five of us were in this category, though 11 of the
22 starters completed the course in the allotted 30 hours.  My time
placed be two hours ahead of the next finisher in my age group,
whom I had passed for the last time at 74 miles.
   Diane and Harold alternated at pacing me over the last 20 miles. 
Their help was invaluable.  By that time I was doing more walking
than running, almost a necessity in the dark, given the difficulty of
seeing roots, rocks and trail signs with a flashlight.  In preparation,
I had taken a cue from Ted Corbitt’s book and had run a lot of
26-mile marathons beforehand; six of them since Boston, or about
one every other week.  What would I do different next time?  I
would drink more coffee, no matter how much antacid what would
require.  I would walk uphills even earlier than I did, perhaps at 40
miles on.  I would not attempt two 100’s this close together.
   In the end, as we rather gingerly and painfully limped over to
the awards brunch the next day, Harold – a non-runner, totally
innocent of the crazy weekend he had volunteered for – turned to
me and smiled, “Geez, Pete, if I had known how bad you wanted
one of those buckles, I would have gone out and bought ya one!”
   What, and miss all the glory?

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