I so needed that. As I sit here four days removed from the Tarawera 102k, my body is still in shambles but a heavy, invisible weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and for the first time in a couple months, I feel some wind in my sails again. In the middle of last September, I was riding a high like I've never experienced. I'd had a good, solid race at UTMB followed two weeks later by my wedding, which was truly the happiest day of my life. Harmony and I were high on life for several weeks and the challenges of everyday life seemed nonexistent in the wake of such an emotional day together. Of course, the universe has a way of balancing itself out, and for us, that meant confronting a good deal of adversity since the fall.
Just after Thanksgiving, I left for Cape Town, South Africa for the Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100k. While life and work had been stressful for Harmony and I around that time, I'd been feeling good about my training and made the last minute decision to jump into the race. No sooner had I left, Harmony rushed our dog Milly to the ER after she'd managed to eat a stash of raisins, which are often deadly in dogs. After two days of IV infusion, and with the help of our great veterinarians, Milly was released in good health just as my health disintegrated.
I'd arrived in Cape Town a week before the race and was pleasantly surprised with how I seemed to handle the trip, which had easily been the longest of my life. I managed the jet lag well and was quietly confident that I was ready to end the year on a high note. Unfortunately, sometime after breakfast the day before the race, I came down with a vicious stomach bug -- I'm assuming from something I ate. I spent all day in a prone position, only occasionally turning to vomit into the hotel trash can I'd positioned next to the bed. Though my skin was green and I felt utterly miserable, I still resolved to at least start the race and see how it went. After all, I'd flown too far to not try. Needless to say, I barely made it to the first aid station before pulling the plug and accepting a ride to the hospital where I promptly passed out for four hours. Fucking long way to go for a 10k and a DNF. I flew home two days later feeling moderately better physically, but pretty depressed by the unfortunate timing of my illness. The 30hr trip home allowed plenty of time to dwell on my misery.
At this point, I think it's important to note how gracious and understanding the race directors were of my situation. Nic Bornman and Stu McConnachie did a lot to get me to their race and show me a good time while I was there. I couldn't help but feel guilty for letting them down. I must mention how blown away I was by the vibrance of the South African trail scene, which is unsurprising given how rad the running is around Cape Town. It's as if you took Mt. Tam, made it twice as big, and then dropped it in the middle of San Francisco. As I mentioned to Nic, Stu and Jean-Charles from the World Tour, I believe UTCT will soon be a very important end of season race on the UTWT circuit, and one of the highlights for the entire series. It is truly a world-class event and I'm excited to eventually redeem myself there.
My initial instinct upon return was to dive straight back into training and turn my focus to the Hong Kong 100k in January. Fueled by anger and disappointment from my unfortunate situation, I felt compelled to chase the next opportunity, regardless of how I felt. Luckily my wife and mother-in-law recognized my thought process and talked me out of it while in Portland for Christmas, instead encouraging me to return to Tarawera a couple weeks later. I so needed those extra two weeks and I'm thankful I heeded their advice.
Unfortunately, our string of adversity and health issues only got worse. Shortly after Christmas, Harmony came down with this season's especially heinous flu virus which put her down for a couple weeks. When her flu symptoms gradually wore off, she started experiencing other mysterious and scary neurological symptoms that indicated something more troubling was happening. After several weeks of doctors visits, various lab tests, and a general deterioration of her health, we learned a month ago that she has Lyme disease, likely originating from a tick bite sometime in the fall. Needless to say, it's felt as if we just can't catch a break.
Though there is a certain amount of relief in receiving a diagnosis and being able to develop a plan for recovery, Harmony has been especially sick and the cocktail of antibiotics she's currently on only serve to make her feel worse. Though she's slowly and almost imperceptibly improving, for the last few weeks, she's mostly been bed ridden, unable to do the even most basic things under her own power. The week before Tarawera it was so bad, I thought about canceling my trip. Luckily she wouldn't allow it and we instead put her on a plane to Portland to be with her parents while I was away.
As you can guess, I had a lot on my mind during the race last weekend. I was highly motivated and even a bit desperate, which I think helped to enhance my effort and ultimately my performance. The weather was atrocious and the trail conditions were insanely challenging, which both played to my advantage. I don't think I would have stood much of a chance racing against Cody Reed and 2:17 marathoner, Vlad Shatrov, had the weather been the perfect conditions typical of Tarawera. In a way, you could say that, with the heavy rain, I'd finally caught a break. Just in the nick of time.
My race wasn't perfect by any means. I made mistakes and really suffered near the end, but I absolutely gave it everything I had, which is incredibly satisfying in retrospect. My time was over 40mins slower than my win in 2015, which is illustrative of how challenging the day was for us. I'm especially impressed by the hardy souls who took part in the inaugural 100 mile event, who got absolutely blasted by rain for 36 hours. My hat is off to race directors, Paul Charteris and Tim Day who managed to put on a world-class event in especially challenging conditions. It's been a pleasure to get to know those guys and develop a friendship with them over the last few years. They really put their hearts into their events, which is obvious to anyone who's had a chance to participate.
I have to also express huge thanks to Majell Backhausen who flawlessly crewed for me during the race. I met Maj at Tarawera 2015 and we've been good mates ever since. No sooner had he put me to bed after the race, he went back out into the deluge to pace Sally McCrae through the night to a 100 mile victory. A true gentleman and great friend.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge how lucky am. My adversity seems comically small compared to what others have to deal with and I think it's important recognize our own good fortune. I get to travel the world and do what I love for a living, which is more than I could ever ask for. After some recovery, I'll next turn my attention the Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji in April as well as another personal project this spring that I hope to share more about soon. My goal is to build on this positive momentum. In the meantime, thanks for reading. Kia Ora!
- TNF Better Than Naked Singlet and Shorts
- TNF Cardiac II Trail Shoes
- TNF Flight Trail Vest
- Limited release in Spring '18 in new TNF Run/Train stores
- Red Bull Trucker Cap
- Compressport Full Trail Compression Socks
- Epson 307 GPS watch