|Just after my name was drawn. Whoop!|
It's been almost a week since I watched the Western States Lottery on the internet and saw my name pulled from the metal hopper - 45th out of 270 drawn. I'm still not sure it's 100% sunk in that I'm actually going to get to run - evidenced by the fact that I've checked the official 2014 entrants list multiple times just to verify and have regularly checked email waiting for some type of welcome/confirmation email (did receive the receipt that the registration fee had been processed though - that day!)
I read about the WS100 from Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man. I knew it was something I had to one day attempt - and gained my first entry in 2009 when I had barely run a qualifier - Palo Duro 50 mile in 10:44 with the specific goal of entering the lottery. I thought I was pretty cool. Apparently I also thought I was lucky because I was pretty sure I'd get in that year. I didn't. Talk about being bummed out. I remember wondering what I would do with my running - what races would I run to pass the time until the next lottery? What other races were there besides THAT one? I felt like I was in a holding pattern.
I fumbled around with mostly local races but took a stab at a couple of 50K's in the mountains out west because c'mon - I had run a 50 mile race before so a 50K was a training run. Kindergarten. I ran the Jemez 50 mile in NM but dropped down to the 50K midway through the race and later that summer ran the Speedgoat 50K in Utah and received the dead last award for the last finisher. These two races taught me very quickly to respect both the terrain and the distance. Western States was three times as long. Confidence and ego put in-check.
The 2nd WS100 lottery came and went - I didn't get picked again - and I found other races to focus my attention on. I was sort of over it. I started running more races in the mountains. I started working harder in gym - focusing on really building up my legs which I never thought I really needed to do since I ran so much. Remember, I could run 50 miles. Oooh. I started having a lot more fun by enjoying awesome scenery and meeting new people that shared the same passion. I stopped focusing on always having to force myself to do better from race to race to race - and let my running take a natural upward progression rather than a forced one. I stopped going off of a pre-determined training regiment, and started going off of feel. I started understanding that running was so much larger and more rewarding than one race, and that my calendar year didn't have to be from the 2nd Sat in Dec to the 2nd Sat in Dec.
The last few years I've had some amazing experiences. Zion 100, Bryce 100, Leadville 100, Pony Express 100, Zion Traverse, Grand Canyon R2R2R to name a few. My times have gradually gotten faster. I've learned to run smarter races. I've learned to tweak and fine tune my strategy and listen to my body during races to improve my chances of finishing. I understand how to work through lows and push forward. I know how to pare down my drop bags so they're necessities and not security blankets. And most importantly I realize that I'm not the runner now that I was 4 years ago that thought he could run 100 miles; I'm smarter, stronger, and better prepared to tackle the challenge now.
Sometimes fate has a funny way of giving us what we want, when we need it, and when we're ready for it. I wonder what path my running would have taken if I had gotten into WS100 four years ago. Would I have finished? Would I have had a good time? Would I have learned all of the things about myself and my running that I've discovered? Would I still be having fun? Although there's no way of knowing - I do know that my experience in June is far more likely to go well than it would have several years back. Four years ago I simply wasn't ready. I wasn't ready physically. I wasn't ready mentally. My running wasn't ready for that step. But now. Now is a different story and I plan on seizing it. Confidence.
"Here I go it's my shot. Feet fail me not. This maybe the only opportunity that I've got!" Eminem