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An Unexpected Twist
October 16, 2008 - Erik Brown
This is the 3rd installment of my account of the 2008 Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Ultramarathon. In case you missed them, here are the links for part one and part two.
Sorry folks. This is going to be an addendum to my previous post rather than the account of my training for the Mountainback that I had promised. I will get to that next time, but for now, there is a little more to the story of the events leading up to my decision to train for a 50 mile run.
I would say that I am a very decisive person. I don’t always make the best decisions, but I normally make decisions quickly. That definitely was not the case when it came to entering the Mountainback. The truth is I was fairly conflicted about entering the race. I “wanted” to do it, but deep down I feared the distance. I couldn’t imagine running nearly the equivalent of two marathons back to back. That fear stayed with me until about three weeks before my race.
As I related in my last post, it was in the spring and summer of 2007 that I ran those Tussey Teaser races, had my 49th birthday, and got that sneaky e-mail nudge from Senor Shuta (a little Spanish lingo there). Those events got me thinking about doing the ultra, but at that point it was too late to put forth a well-prepared effort in the 2007 race which was held on September 22nd.
At this point I need to add this sidebar, the relevance of which you will soon see. Deanna and I attended a soccer tournament that the HASD girls’ team played in on September 22, 2007 – the day of the 2007 Tussey Mountainback. I specifically remember how brutally hot and humid it was that day because we went for a short, easy 3 mile run between soccer games, and by the time we finished, I was exhausted.
Getting back on track now… Since the 2007 race was not feasible, I put the ultra idea on the back burner until sometime right around Christmas when a significant conversation occurred.
Deanna and I were out for a walk in the neighborhood and along came Joe (Shuta). He was out for a run. He stopped to chat and walk with us for a bit and the conversation naturally turned to running, at least that was a natural topic for three running fanatics such as we. Anyway, at some point I said something like “Hey, I’m thinking about doing the Mountainback this year. I’ll be turning 50. It seems like the right time to do it.” This announcement caught Deanna by surprise, probably because I hadn’t mentioned it to her yet. Let’s just say that after 22 years of marriage, and the marathon experiences we’ve shared in recent years, I knew I had to wait for the right moment to spring that news on her. With Joe there, I thought it seemed as good a time as any. Deanna candidly expressed that she wasn’t in total agreement with my plan and made some comment about not wanting to drag my butt (except she didn’t say “butt”) home after I had a heart attack or some such thing. Then the conversation took an unexpected twist. Joe informed us that he had run the 2007 Mountainback.
Sorry, another quick sidebar. Joe has run six ultramarathons. He’s done the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Ultra four times now and the JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon twice. But, it was news to me that he had done the 2007 Mountainback because I hadn’t talked with him for quite awhile.
Of course, we asked him how he did and he caught me off guard again with his response. He explained that the intense heat and humidity that day had really taken a toll on him, to the point where he had some serious concerns about his overall well-being after the race.
Well, that didn’t help. Joe, if you’re reading this, I never did “thank” you for that bit of information. From that moment until the moment I crossed the finish line nine and a half months later, Deanna has been fairly convinced that my health and safety were in jeopardy. Not to be deterred, I thought to myself that if the weather forecast on race day called for temperatures to be above 80 degrees, I could simply withdraw. On the other hand, Joe’s story did add a little to my anxiety about trying to run 50 miles.