It has taken me much longer to sit down and write this as I would have liked. Truth of the matter is, I’ve been spending the last week swallowing hard, reflecting, and trying to figure out what the hell happened myself. The gist of it is that I ran 68 miles last weekend at the Big Horn 100 Mile Endurance Run. For the first time in my 100 mile running “career”, I made it through the entire night without stopping for a nap. I was doing great, having reached the 50 mile turn-around at 12:40am (13:40 Run Time). But then something happened out there.. and I’m still uncertain as to what that is.

The 16 mile downhill from the 50 Mile turn-around to Mile 68 took me about 7 hours to complete. Most of it wasn’t pretty. My feet were hamburger thanks to 2 and 3′ snow drifts still present up high and the melting snow ceasing a quagmire of soupy mud. I could feel the “skin fold” starting to flare up and a whole lot more. A sizable blister formed on the ball of my right foot beneath my big toe. I was urinating uncontrollably it seemed. Like clockwork, every 20 minutes for 4 hours, I was stopping to pee. At one point, when I stopped to do “the other” I peed on myself.


At mile 69 I checked in with medical staff. My weight was still the same as it was at the start. My urine was free of blood and was a white kind of cloudy. No alarms were going off.. other than in my own head. After looking at my feet, drying my shoes and socks.. It wasn’t easy to make the decision to drop from the race. I was doing the math in my head.. based on how long it took me to do the last 16 miles downhill.. what would it take me to finish? A dangerous though seeing as one has nothing to do with the other.. I know this.

Everything I know about Ultra-running was telling me to get off my ass and keep fighting for the finish line. I had a good plan. A good crew. A good pacer. I was still in relatively good shape aside from traveling slowly. I know I can come back from the dead and put in some decent miles. But I didn’t care. All I knew… was that I had trained harder for Big Horn then I had any race in the last 2 years and I was tired. I’m exhausted. Physically, mentally and spiritually. At one point, I told someone that this race was my so long tour to 100 mile running… sitting in the chair at mile 68 confirmed it.

And so I quit. I refused to continue. My feet were blistered and sore. My urine clear but not stopping. My mind… shot. The only reason I did not finish the Big Horn 100 is because I chose not to and that’s it. I could have gone a lot further on those feet. I could have peed myself till the day was dark again. I could have done it all and not cared one bit for the chance at another buckle.. but something in my brain did care.

My detailed report is sure to come within the next week. The gist of the adventure at this point is… that I failed. I’m writing this nearly 7 days since I quit.. and I can tell you with all certainty.. that I failed. Sure sure.. there is no failure in trying.. I still ran 68 miles… blah blah. But I failed. I was out to prove that I can still do these things. That I can manage the hard ones… and I failed. And so… on the eve of my life changing forever… I tuck my tail between my legs and head back to the drawing board… looking for a new plan.. and a solid set of expectations in place that allows me to stay in this sport. Sustainably and responsibly.

Sherpa John

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7 thoughts

  1. Wow – I empathize. I did the same thing with a couple races in 2010 and still haven't fully recovered. It is as if quitting once makes it easier to quit again. When you discover the secret of getting back on your feet and moving forward, please let us know. If I do I'll be sure and share too.

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  2. SJ…long time reader of your blog and you don't know me from a hole in the ground but don't be so hard on yourself man…I always look forward to your race/run reports and you don't seem like the type that gives a shit about buckles or the type that wouldn't find a silver lining in adversity so chalk it up as a training run and get it back at Wasatch!

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  3. ***deep sigh*** This is hard to read…hard to swallow. You and Emily seem to be in the same boat where you are at a crossroads of sorts. I understand that you have to go through what you have to go through, but I don't think a DNF because you simply quit or “failed” as you stated, has to be an altering event unless you deem it so. Can it not just be a learning experience for the future? Anyway, I was really sorry that you DNF'ed and I'm also sorry I didn't get to see you Sunday morning. Rest your soul and I'll be watching for more to come about this…

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  4. You fought with something greater than yourself, and it defeated you. I'd rather fight something holy and grand and get smashed to bits than pick a fight with something weak.

    I can never go long without quoting Emerson :

    “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

    Run on Sherpa John, Run On!

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  5. Wow, brutally honest stuff. I haven't even run a hundred yet and I am wondering if I will run a second one. It is a HUGE commitment to train, from your family, etc… It really dominates your life. Thanks for being honest and good luck finding that sweet spot in running and life that makes you happy.

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