After we were forced to cancel Many On The Genny, Sheila and I had a long talk about whether or not after all the time off from running and all the surgeries if together we could safely jam in training for a tough 40 miler in 8 weeks.
This is the short version. Yes, it was possible with good friends, solid prep, and a bit of mental fortitude. We finished and remembered why we love the sport so much – It’s the community.
For the longer version, keep reading
We decided yes, we could pull it off. We asked a small group of friends if they would crew and keep us on track with training. We asked Ron from Goat Factory Media if he would help us document the entire process from zero to 40 with all the surgeries and trials and drama in between.
We knew to do this would mean a lot of walking. A ton of mental strength and people in our corner to help push us through.
We recruited a group of people we trust and love to be around. People who had helped with the creation of Many On The Genny, people who run the race, people who volunteer at the race, and people who are close to us and would know who we were in the highest moments and the lowest moments of an ultra.
Then we spent 8 weeks getting ready. We ran, hiked, cross trained, changed up the diet. We did not miss or skip a single workout. Hikes on hot days, runs in the snow (yes within the past 8 weeks it snowed, a bunch). Core workout when I was tired and cranky to make sure that the sites I had a total of 7 surgeries on would be good to go (as good as they can be) I lost 43 lbs in the process. I started to feel like a runner again. I heard from friends about how nice it was to see me out there again. It was motivating. We also kept the project pretty much a secret, which the shut down helped us do.
The covid-19 shut down gave us a chance to work on this. To commit to it. We had our daily routine, and it became important to us to follow through. We had asked people to crew and pace us, we certainly could not let them down by not finishing.
The week of I cut my leg horribly in a trail work accident. (My own stupid fault).
11 stitches later, during the week that my workouts called for swimming and water running to get everything set for the run day I was suddenly in “heal mode” before even stepping a foot on the trail.
It was an oddly calm week leading up and we were up at 2am yesterday to head to letchworth. About as early as we would have been up and at it on race day anyway so it felt right to me!
Our friends Dave and Anita picked up Picasso, shuttled us from the finish to the start and joined us for the day driving the dog around around and letting him play with fellow 4 legged friends.
We started with just the two of us. On a starting line that would normally have 150 people and another 150 cheering. Just us and the small group on a perfect sunrise we would head out on the trail together to start the journey.
I was not sure I would be able to finish, it’s a big ask for someone who was 281 lbs a few months ago day, with repaired tendons and joints and a fresh hedge trimmer wound on his quad…. but I wanted it pretty bad and there is no one I would rather go after it with than Sheila.
We ran the first segment alone just the two of us, settling in to a nice rhythm and enjoying the sunrise over the gorge – The beautiful sunrise that would begin to roast us very soon – We ended up over 90 degrees with an oppressive level of humidity.
We were able to get a calm, but still very deep creek crossing on this section ensuring on this hot sticky day that we would have wet feet for a while.
We picked up Dave and Katie at aid 1. We dropped in to the gorge on trail 17 where my accident had happened less than a week prior. With Ron on the camera, we bushwhacked a section of trail that we were unable to clear. The grass polun was popping all over, the nettles were grabbing at and stinging our ankles. The heat 500 feet down in the gorge was heavy and the sun had nothing to block it. We made the long 500 foot climb back out of the gorge and finally hit the road for a bit. More hills came on the road and then finally climbed up to the St Helena area through there to Tea Tables at Aid Station #2.
At aid #2 we picked up Jack-Henry and Lincoln. Children of our friends Amy and James. They are two of the brightest most creative and energetic kids we know. I joked with Amy that it would be a time for Sheila and I to “mentor” them, but in reality I would want that energy on a section of trail that has a good amount of climbing. It was great to feel the energy of the youth, to hear about what they are up to and what they want the future to look like. We also came across a 4 foot long snake – So that was fun.
We made the descent into Lower Falls – ran past a group of people about to go rafting in the river. I would have loved to just go down and relaxed in the river for a while. At Aid 3 we dropped off Lincoln and picked up Scott and James. Jack- Henry would continue with us for another section.
Amy was a boss all day on photos and shuttling and Picasso duty. She was encouraging and cheering and ready to handle any needs – a great trail mom!
We hit the marathon point while on the FLT and we were cruising right along. I was actually pretty surprised at how well things were going. Good fluids, good food intake, knees and achilles giving me no real issues. At mile 28, my lower body cramped…. My hamstrings, my hips, the bottom of my feet, and in a strange way even the muscle of the front of my shins! It was a horrible cramping that literally locked me up.
It was pushing 90 degrees and humid and even though I was POUNDING water I was stuck. Unable to climb a hill. Wondering if this would be it. Mile 28 took 37 minutes. 37 long agonizing minutes. JH, James, Scott and Sheila pulled me through. It was just the right encouragement – One more step, next tree, top of the hill is there. When I said I could not do it they said I could. 8 weeks wasn’t enough, I had lost weight but not enough. All the normal excuses. They made sure I did it. They never pushed, but also never gave up. It was just the right touch!
We hit the Lean To aid station. It felt like such a long stretch to get there
Jeffrey and Elnora and the McBeth kids made a wonderful appearance they were joined by Tom and Laura who had ice, fresh water, encouragement and more. A lingering joint was still burning in the firepit from campers the night before…. wondered if it would help my cramping for a minute before snapping out of it and moving on.
We picked up Isaac McBeth – aka the eldest and we pushed on the LONGEST hardest stretch. Isaac kept us entertained with his take on youth, the direction of the world, and why board games would be a wonderful career but likely not sustainable, all the while pushing me through a tough spot.
In this stretch of “WTF are we doing” We also hit the 50k mark, and subsequently every step we took would be the longest I had ever gone on foot before in one stretch.
8 miles and we find the water drop. It’s all of our people not just jugs in the woods. They are there they have cold water and snacks. What a wonderful feeling. They have energy and tell us they will meet us at the Final Countdown aid station which is coming up soon.
We came up and heard the song in the woods.
The song is blasting on repeat, just like they do on race day for our runners. I laughed. We came around the turn and our crew was there, but the surprise of the day came from Rochester Running Company with Greg and Cayley. RRC is a sponsor for Many On The Genny and they always man the final countdown aid station making sure everyone has what they need to finish the race. They have the RRC tent at the aid station. I literally cried.
It’s something so simple, but Jonathon and Greg from RRC do a lot of things that will never benefit the store. Or in other words, they just do the right thing. They go to races and bring cheer crowds. They volunteer at aid stations. They run races from other organizations and encourage others to do so. It is the purest form of People over Profit and I am thankful to have them in our community.
All this time Jen, aka the banana, had been driving spot to spot with our snacks and water, making sure we had everything we needed and carrying around coolers and other event day items in her car for us. Never once worrying about how long the day was. These are the things you really need from a crew. People you can trust to just make things happen!
We dropped off James and Isaac at the final count down and then Scott carried on with us. Scott was there for every step years ago when we mapped out the course and sat around campfires at the leanto imagining what a big ultra in our favorite park would look like. It only made sense to have him on the last push and I was so glad to have him pushing me up the final hills and laughing and telling stories with Sheila.
Ron met us at Hogsback Overlook. 1 mile to go. Scott took off so we could have the last mile just me and Shme, We had been hiking/shuffling for some time. I tried to run a bit in this section – but mostly just hiked it.
In the miles leading up, and right at the finish, it finally rained. After hitting us with humidity all day, it came down just as we finished!
We got close to the finish and could hear cheering so we ran.
After a long day of not being allowed to run with us, Picasso finally joined us for the finish! He loves running with us but is too old to adventure like this anymore.
We finally cross the finish line. It felt amazing. We were done, just a tad more than 13 hours after we started. The wheels came off, but Sheila and the team kept putting them back on.
Joe was there. He had made dinner and snacks and drinks for the people who crewed or paced with us. Cracking jokes and feeding people. It felt like the normal Many On The Genny finish. Cheers, laughter, food, drinks. He also made us the traditional Many On The Genny finisher medals which mean so much to me. I am not a swag guy, but this one means a lot because of the thought, the process, and the personal touch!
Athletic Brewing Company had sent along a bunch of new stuff for our crew to celebrate with at the finish line and we even had some on the course or at aid stations.
I honestly did not think 8 weeks ago I would finish. But with all of that support and knowing these amazing people (and 5 youth) would choose to spend a day in the woods or prepping food or dog sitting or getting bit by bugs and in general waiting and waiting and waiting as we slowed down was all I needed to push on.
Lastly though, to do this with Sheila was so important to me. Every step of the way together. Sweating. Laughing. Swearing. Crying. Really though, the sweating, so much sweating…. But forward. Always forward, together. A team.
Some people fought and got divorced after the stay at home orders. We trained for and ran 43 miles together. We talked about everything from our pasts to our futures. We had good days and bad days, but they all led forward, together. The run was no different.
So many times you hear people compare life and running and it is so cliche, but at the end of the day it is accurate. When you make a point to do something, you plan it out, you surround yourself with good people, you can in most cases overcome the low points. You can find a way out of the valleys and on to the peaks. You can say to yourself “I can’t” because the echo will always say “Yes, you can.”
It was such A memorable day. We can’t wait to see the film that gets put together and share that with everyone. Ron cares so much and really enjoys the work he does – Let’s hope he makes us look good 🙂
It may be a lost year of races, but the community is still as strong as ever, this was a reminder of why we do what we do.
So for anyone who hears that whisper in your head that you can’t run 40 miles. That the hills on the course are too big and the water crossings too wet. The distance too hard. The aid stations too few. When that whisper says no – – You have a community that will scream back YES for you.
How do I know? Because I experienced it. Think you can’t? Hit me up, we will make sure you do!
We are looking forward to 2021 when we can #SeeYaAtTheDam again!