Having dreams is what makes life tolerable. - Pete from the movie Rudy
If having dreams makes life tolerable, how can I capture what it feels like to live my dreams without sounding like I'm exaggerating, or being over-the-top, or just plain obnoxious? I'm not sure I can, though here I am in the midst of one.
I first dreamed of running this race five or six years ago. I was a new runner, falling in love with the sport, and I read, watched, and talked running whenever I could. Somehow, maybe through Dean Karnazes' book, I heard about the Western States 100, and before long, I owned several DVDs on the race and browsed every page of the race website. It became my dream event, something on the bucket list, the race I was going to do, someday...I just never imagined that someday would be tomorrow. Dreams aren't supposed to come true, right?
I am experiencing a lot of emotions as we draw nearer and nearer to the firing of the starter's gun.
First and foremost, I feel gratitude. Yes, even more than nervousness, I'm grateful for everything in my life. I'm surrounded by my family and friends here in California, and there are so many more of you keeping tabs on me back home. That's an incredibly powerful motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm married to a saint. Beth has supported me from Day One two hundred and three days ago, when I felt fear and guilt from the moment my name was drawn about the sacrifices it would require from my growing family. She felt joy, and she quickly imparted that feeling on me. The last seven months have been a crazy time in our lives-I'd highly recommend anyone contemplating their first foray into 100 mile races to wait until a time when they're not expecting their first child-but through it all, Beth has been a rock, that constant source of support and love that I needed to maintain some level of balance in my life. She's an amazing wife, the best friend I could ever ask for, and a loving and caring mother to Nora. There is no way I would be toeing the starting line tomorrow if I didn't have her to lean on. I'm glad she'll be able to run that final mile or so with me to the finish line...she always does see things through to the end. Thank you, honey. I love you.
I've got an amazing family. After their flight out here was canceled due to mechanical difficulties, my parents re-booked, taking three flights over no less than 15 hours to reach us. Their luggage still hasn't arrived. They'll be leading one of the crew cars, and I'm so thankful for their unconditional love and support. For all of my self-doubt, it's always a little flattering to remember that there are two people in this world who have, for nearly thirty-two years, believed that I really can do anything if I put my mind to it. We're going to test that tomorrow, Mom and Dad, but I'm looking forward to seeing you both when I enter Michigan Bluff after a long 55 miles by myself back in the canyons.
My mother-in-law is the quiet force that has kept us going this week. She's there for Beth and me, and in every possible way, Nora, when we need her the most. I don't know how many times I've walked into the living room to see Nora fast asleep in her arms, and I'm comforted knowing that Nora has the care of her Nana while the rest of the crew out here caters to me. Her role is behind the scenes somewhat, but its importance cannot be stressed enough. Thank you, Sigrid, for being here.
And I can't say enough about my friends, those here in person and those scattered across this country and even globe.
My friends here are going to play an important role in getting me to Auburn. I'm fortunate to have Jay's expertise and ability alongside me for the final 38 miles, pushing me forward and attending to my needs, too. He's the fastest man I know personally, but he's also one of the nicest. Pam is going to be a huge help with the crew. She's already come through with camping chairs and coolers, so this Midwestern gang is outfitted as good as the locals. I enjoyed hiking up the first big climb with her yesterday, and I'm glad she took time away from work to spend a few days up here. And I've known Jeff since 1998, and as the second-longest tenured roommate of my adult years behind Beth, he probably knows me better than just about anyone. While two time zones separate us these days, our time together quickly reminds me how we came to be the best of friends. I'm counting on him to keep things light-hearted in the middle of the night to distract from the pain and suffering when I'm in the aid stations.
My friends afar are here with me in spirit, and they will be all along the Western States Trail. Literally dozens of them have changed their Facebook profiles to celebrate being part of "Team Silky" this weekend, and I've received texts, emails, and wall posts wishing me luck than I've been able to respond to this week. Many of them are my virtual training partners, and have been for up to four years now, motivating me to run when I don't feel like it, encouraging me to reach for that goal that seems beyond my grasp, and reminding me that this is, in fact, something I'm capable of doing. There's a group of guys back in St. Louis--Brandon, Tommy, Travis, John, and Greg in particular--who embraced this ultramarathon novice and imparted a lot of wisdom on me along the way. I said it last month, and I'll state it again: No man is a failure who has friends...and clearly, there's no way I can fail, regardless of what happens on the trail tomorrow. I'm a lucky guy to have each of you in my life!
I can't post about all of you without mentioning the driving force behind my Western States run. All of these people, and a few strangers that I've never met, contributed to something so meaningful to me at a level I never thought possible. Since December 4, 2010, when I found out I got into Western States, we have together raised over $12,800 for the Wounded Warrior Project! That is just unreal. When I first gave thought to setting my fundraising goal--for a race with no fundraising requirement, mind you!--at $100 for each of the 100 miles, I hesitated.. $10,000 is a lot of money. I even typed in "$5,000" on the WWP fundraising signup page. But I quickly realized that I wanted to set a goal as big as this event itself...something that, like the race, was going to take hard work and dedication to achieve. I am so impressed by the generosity and kindness of all of you, since we've raised over 25% more than that! This money raised will go to a good cause, aiding our wounded veterans in their greatest time of need, and I promise you that I will find inner strength from your generosity just as I know I find it every day from the bravery, courage, and toughness of our wounded warriors, and all of our men and women in uniform. It is an honor to run for them, just as it's a privilege to live in this great country. So yes, my first emotion today is one of gratitude.
I'm not going to lie...my second emotion is one of nervousness and even a little fear. I'm nervous about what's going to happen out there. I'm scared of failure. I'm petrified of the darkness I inevitably will experience at some point. Of course, I'm comforted knowing you're all out there rooting me on. I'll give it my best, I promise, and I will do everything in my power to see this through.
Finally, I feel the excitement of race day, the call to do something epic in a world where the opportunity to do so is so rare. I've trained hard for tomorrow, over 1800 miles since that Saturday morning less than seven months ago when I found out my ticket to the Big Dance, a dream come true, had been punched. There were runs in the snow, runs in the heat, runs in the rain. I ran runs at 4 AM before work, and at 10 PM after a long day of billable hours. I even ran a few miles just hours after Nora's birth. There were many runs I didn't want to end, they felt so good, and a few that I was hoping would never start. Running has in many way come to define who I am as a person, and I don't mean that in a negative way. It adds structure to my life, sanity to my craziness, and stress-relief from the 9 to 5 (if only it was just a 9 to 5!). It will be an amazing experience to line up with 400 of my peers, folks who have trained just as hard, for just as long or even longer, to test our resolve over 100.2 miles. I don't know what's going to happen out there, other than that I'm going to put all of myself out there and see what happens. The journey here was worth it all by itself. No matter what, this has been a dream come true.
If having dreams is what makes life tolerable, you all can rest easy tonight knowing that my life is far beyond tolerable. My life is blessed.
I'll see you on the other side.