Big hills, lots of rocks, hot as hell except Dante actually said hell was cold. Maybe that was poetic licence.
I'm 31, which is as old as I've ever been and as young as I'll ever be, and I've been in and around this weird jogging subculture for nearly a decade. To many, that won't seem very long at all. To some, it will be an impossible eternity. I realize that's saying nothing, but it's important to establish, even while I write self-indulgently, that there's nothing really unique or special about my perspective. But it's mine, and it's what I have.
I was part of what I must, somewhat irritatingly but honestly, call the Born to Run generation. Whether we read the book or not--I did eventually, but it was actually Racing the Antelope that functioned as my gateway--there was a wave that crested. People took off their shoes or wore flimsy ones and checked Riding the Wind every week and dreamed of 200 mile weeks and to hell with everything that wasn't volume, the knife with which you'd carve a version of yourself who only cared about forward and vertical bipedal propulsion.
That wave broke, some years ago. That, also, is an agreed upon truism.
Ultras used to be populated by the weirdos and then came the hipster weirdos and then the crossfit/OCR crowd and the marathon instagrammers and the really really fast people and now we are where we are, and if this sounds like I'm complaining I should be clear that I have no more right to a space than anyone else and everyone has been very nice to me and I hope I have been nice to them and it's all good, really.
When I told my girlfriend I wanted to do Psycho Psummer, I said it was because I needed to go home. I hope that conveys the amount of affection here accurately.
I told her, at the end of our last tempo-adjacent 15-miler, that I'd been waiting 8 years to be in the kind of shape I presently felt. Of course I was wrong about that. I had been training--not waiting--for that amount of time. I've gotten a little better several times, and that adds up. This has been a good year. Not much racing, and I haven't won anything, but: I ran my fastest Pi Day half marathon; I finally got (one second below) 17 minutes in a 5K; I trained a lot and harder than ever; and then, this race.
I was told by a very fast person once that he thought maybe, given years of hard work and some affinity for the sport, I could be a regional class ultrarunner. It was an unprompted compliment that was really just an appraisal. I remember it because I haven't really come close. I've had some success at shorter distances, and won one 50-miler, but in general I've been pretty bad at ultras.
I think Psycho Psummer is a regional class race. There was an Olympic trials marathoner there, as well as Omaha and Kansas City's best trail ultra guys.
The Omaha guy smoked me, and everyone. He finished in 4:04.
The Kansas City guy blew up once. I tried to drop him but that haymaker put me off balance, and his counterpunch put me on the mat. He beat me by ten minutes.
The trials guy walked it in, twenty minutes after me. I beat him only insofar as a vulture beats a gazelle. And it probably helped that I have a lot more practice running 9-minute miles.
I got a lot wrong, if I'm being honest. It was 100 degrees and the humidity supposedly made it feel like 115. Yet, I had no mechanism to carry ice and I outright skipped some aid stations. I ought to have run faster, but I don't think it would have altered my place any. But I think I can get in better shape next time, and the time after that, on and on and on, and then execute better. And who knows?
The thing about good races is they make you think you can have better races.
So I'd like to try. Maybe some strong local--dare I say regional?--50K fields or try for 2:45 or maybe a 100, finally, because people are tired of me wondering out loud.
I don't know; but it's good to be around and to think, as the wave goes out to sea, that I've been washed up on a pretty nice shore. And I still have my flimsy, flat shoes.