A couple weeks ago I went to a seminar about resilient people; the speaker discussed what makes a person resilient and the levels of that trait within us all. As she pointed out the attributes of those who can bounce back after dealing with difficult situations, my mind instantly went to those in my life who I would put into the resilient “bucket.” My father starting his own business, friends who made the touch decision to move to new cities or to start a new job, and then there is my husband…These loved ones all struggled in the last year to move closer to an ultimate goal, one with several unforeseen hurdles to cross in order to get there. But they bounced back, they pushed onward, and they stayed hardy.
Zach is by nature a “hardy” person. And I guess you’d have to be in order to train and run a 100 miles. No softy is going to survive the physical, emotional, and psychological damage that occurs over a course of 20+ hours of running through the mountains. Adaptability is his strong suit, one that I admire him greatly for. So when he decided this year to attempt his third 100 miler, I knew he’d do whatever it took to cross that finish line. Getting into the Leadville 100 Trail Run in itself is no easy feat. The months of training, hours and weekends of pure mileage were just the foundation. After not getting into the lottery, Zach flew down to Austin, TX to attempt to “win” his way into Leadville by racing the Austin Rattler 75k. Only a few spots were guaranteed and Zach ended up walking away with a third place finish and his ticket into Leadville!As race day came closer and Zach without a second pacer, he reached out to our buddy Rob. Without any hesitation, Rob flew all the way from Chicago – with little sleep and no acclamation to the mountains – just to pace Zach and assist me in crewing. Pure resilience. Robbie is probably one of the most loyal friends we have and one that understands the reasons why we put ourselves through these taxing races. As we chatted non-stop from Denver to Leadville, I felt like I was in college again; there were no cares, no adult things to worry about, just a lady and her friend picking apart old stories and catching up on each others lives. That night as we walked through the race strategy and aid stations, the peaceful feeling I had slowly waned. Sleep didn’t happen that night and with a 4 am race start, we all appeared a little hazing that morning. Rushing out the door with our burritos and stale hotel danishes, Zach was oddly calm and quiet. We drove in silence to the start of the race – where we were greeted by over 600 other participates. You couldn’t help but be overwhelmed and in awe as guys and gals of all ages toed up to the starting line. Ken Chlouber’s words kept running through my head as the gun went off and the runners causally passed by, “You’re better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.” With coffee in tow, Rob and I headed to fulfill our crew duties and wait for Zach as he passed through several aid stations. Around mile 50, Rob geared up to pace Zach for a grueling climb over Hope’s Pass. With several river crossings, long climbs,and a steep decent, I knew once I picked Zachary up at mile 75, he was going to be wasted. Anxiety can’t help but creep in when I’m waiting for hours at these aid stations. As soon as he ran into mile 75, all anxiety left as I took the reins and we worked our way towards the next drawn out climb. We didn’t talk much those 25 miles. I pushed gels and chews on him, he told me how much he was hurting, and we tediously made it through the miles. I remember selfishly thinking to myself about how much my feet hurt and how I wish we could just run faster to get the race over with, only to kick myself for thinking my pain would be anything near the feelings Zach was enduring at the time. These races tend to push you to your brink. You second guess your capabilities, you tell yourself you want to quit, or you start hating the whole experience. But then you find yourself a few miles from the finish. It’s distant at first, but a soft cheer can be heard. With lights in the distance growing stronger, we hit the downtown roads only to hear a familiar voice. A mile to go, Rob had patiently waited for us in the cold to help pace the last leg. I gulped down the thick rise of emotions as Zach grabbed our hands as we ran through the finish line. With a finish time of 22 hours and 36 minutes, Zach ended up 28th runner overall, and third in his age group. It’s difficult to comprehend such a feat, but know this – it takes guts, grit, and determination to finish a 100 miles. Frankly, it has me scared shitless as I’ll be tackling this race next year, but I know I have an amazing training partner who will drag me across the finish line if need be. He’ll teach me the tricks, tell me to suck it up, and show me what it means to truly be resilient.