Palo Duro Trail Run

So I wrote this story out for senior chapel but I did not get the time I needed to tell the story in all it’s glory so I told them I wasn’t going to talk. But seeing how this is my blog and everything, I’m gonna share it with you now. 

A while back when all my brothers and sisters were gathered in the same place, there’s 12 of us, my three older brothers Daniel, Kirk and Evan got to telling stories about all the trouble they used to get in. I was asked if I had any stories until I was informed that a good five year rule applies to anything you can get in trouble for, so I didn’t have any stories. However, It is approaching the five year mark on when the true beginning of this entire adventure got started. So buckle up, it is gonna be a long one. 

Throughout elementary school we had a weekly running day. One mile every thursday and then you got to play the rest of class. There were some fast girls and I did not want a girl to beat me, so I ran. Eventually it got to where me and two others guys were finishing consistently at the top 3 every time. 

I moved to trinity in 6th grade and that was the same deal just slightly more competitive. Seventh grade is when I really got going. Not another sole was in cross country from my grade. Just me. I would run every practice up at the front with Donny Quick and Coach Kieth. I ran on the 8th grade team for cross country and track since there was no one else. 

It was also in seventh grade that I remember seeing Forest Gump for the first time. They made it look so simple when he was running across america and he did it so easily and my first thought was, I can do that. What most people do not realize about Forest is he had been training his whole  life. He ran everywhere since he was 7 or 8 years old. It makes me sick when people say he couldn’t just do that but yes, he probably could. 

It was probably no more than 5 minutes after that movie that I was on a map figuring out where I could run to. I got it, I’m going to Lake Erie. My only reasoning behind this was that it had to be a body of water a good distance away because I would want to jump in when I got there. I went to state my freshman year and was hoping to run under 18 minutes and 30 seconds, but I did absolutely terrible and ran it in 23 minutes. I was devastated and decided to stop running. 

Thats when me and some buddy’s got a little curious. We turned into pot heads. It was summer now and we had a mobile car wash. We would wake up pretty early actually and be out at the first houses around 8 A.M. only after burning one down of course. It went on like this everyday and weekend just about until late into my sophomore year. It had almost been a year of just smoking all the time and I wanted to stop. But I still wanted to be cool you know? Thats when I came up with the best plan ever. I’m just going to become a runner again and then I can say I can’t smoke because I’m running. Tardy you are a genius. 

I thought back to my plan to run to Lake Erie and looked at the map again. Now Coach Huestes definitely thought I learned nothing in his freshman geography class, mainly because I failed, but I did know that Lake Erie was going to be cold when I got there. I needed a warm place. A place in Texas. The Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Run 2012. 

This was 2011 now and I needed to figure out if I was even going to be capable of running 600 miles in under two weeks. How do you do that? 50 mile Ultra marathon. 

I found a bunch of articles about Ultras and this whole big movement and all that BS. I was just looking for where to sign up. I found the Palo Duro trail run was about 4 months away and I figured that was enough time for me to procrastinate and train for the race. So I signed up, about ten minutes after thinking about it. 

The training was very easy actually believe it or not. I ran my first marathon in training only a month and a half after starting from scratch. Then I just kept doing it every weekend building up to 30 miles. 

Now in this time of training I also trained and competed at the National Championships of Extreme Trampoline and Power Tumbling. I had a bet with my dad that if I got top 3 in any event I would get an iPhone. I got second in Tumbling behind a kid from the Bronx named Oreo who had only tumbled on the street for 6 months and he got a perfect score. I have never been so proud to lose to someone before. you deserved it Oreo. All I needed was a 2nd anyway. 

Between that and the race a girl I had tumbled with somehow got me to sign up to be a cheerleader. What. I can’t imagine what my parents thought of all this stuff. So now I was training for a 50 mile Ultra, learning how to do competitive cheer, and doing gymnastics. Oh, and Cross Country. 

It was a sunday when it happened. The saturday before was the race at Mae Simmons park, some people say its one of the hardest CC courses in Texas. I ran my best time ever in 18:36s. Then I went home and ran 10 more miles in 70 minutes. Two PR times in one day. I woke up at five sunday morning and slowly started out along my ten mile route. I had to run it 3 times. 

You wouldn’t believe me but it was surprisingly not hard. Sure it was harder than not doing it but definitely was not agony. I was worse off the day before after three miles than when I finished the 30 miles, 5 hours and 20 minutes later. As if the weekend had not been eventful enough, I went to cheer practice only a few hours after running. We were told to warm up our tumbling and on the first flip flop a searing pain shot up my leg. I knew immediately something was very wrong. 

My achilles was partially torn and I had a race to run that I had told everyone and their dog about because I was so excited. It was only 4 weeks away. 

I was determined to start that race “even if they carry me from the car and plop me down on the starting line” I would always say. I was going to at least have tried and failed than to not have tried at all. Nothing in this world makes me more angry, furious, than when I hear someone take the credit of being a failure for something they have not even tried. Do not credit yourself as a failure if you have not tried. 

I was on crutches for the first week and was doing my stretches from Mr. Wimberly at least ten times a day, not missing a beat. It hurt to walk up until a the beginning of the last week before the race. I jogged two laps around a track with the CC team on the wednesday before the race but that is all I could do. The pain was too much to bare. 

I probably stretched 50 times a day in those days before the race.  

My dad and I drove to amarillo friday night and ate at Olive Garden. I got spaghetti cause I saw it in a movie before this fat guy ran a marathon. We stayed in a hotel on the edge of town. As I lay in bed I was praying to God just to let me finish. I did not care what it took to do it, or if I died with that last step across the finish line but I was going to finish. Thats when I got this weird voice like feeling telling me to spit on my hand and rub it on my leg. 

You have got to be kidding me, I am not doing that. 

A few minutes later I was spitting on my hand and rubbing it onto my ankle and achilles and oddly, but probably just a mind trick, the slight sting in my achilles went away and I fell asleep. I do not remember anything from waking up but I did grab a few bananas out of the dining area on the way to the car. While driving to the canyon I spit on my leg again and rubbed it in. Then somehow I came up with or was given the idea that I only had 3. I could only spit on my leg 3 times to stop the pain. Okay. 

I signed in and did my stretches. As you can see from all my pictures on facebook, I looked like some kid coming to do a fun run 5K. Everyone else had on a fancy gear and arm sleeves and stuff. I was wearing a cotton sweatshirt that weighed 5 pounds compared to everyones gear. I was fine with it. I did not care about what any one else was doing, I was going to finish. 

 

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The countdown started and that nervous feeling starting building up from where it rested the last few weeks until the gun went off. We started down the dark morning trail, headlights bouncing around, darting along the edge of the trail. It was a long single file line with the occasional dumb ass sprinting to the front along the edge of the trail. I don’t know how long it was or how many miles before the first aid station and the separation of 50K runners and 50 mile runners but it was refreshing to see people cheering you on. My achilles did not hurt.

 

50 mile race

 

By the end of the first lap, 12 miles, everyone was pretty spaced out and I was running alone. As I crossed the finish line for the first time I got pretty upset at my parents, telling me I don’t have to finish, its okay if you want to stop, things like that and I just wanted to scream, No. No, its not okay. I have to finish. About halfway through the second lap my leg started hurting again, bad. 

I took it until the end of the lap, 25 miles, but I couldn’t take much more. I had given just about all I had. I kept walking as my family refilled my water and opened snickers bars and bananas and then I went on immediately not saying a word to anyone, ignoring questions and encouragements. I wanted to get down the road so I could rub some more spit on my damn achilles. As soon as I was out of site i took off my shoe and rubbed my achilles really good. The pain did not completely subside but it was bearable. 

A few more miles left on the 3rd lap and I was breaking down, mentally and physically at about the same rate. Things were getting blurry with water filling my eyes as I approached the most treacherous hill on the course. It was all red rock, slippery and steep. It had to be 100 degrees outside. I started walking up it. I did not makeit 10 steps before I fell to my knees and couldn’t see anything. I had told myself earlier if it came to this I would keep moving as long as I was conscience so I started up the hill on my hands and knees. 

My legs would cramp with every pull upward and my knees were scraping on the rock. I did not have the strength to lift them all the way off the ground. Tears started running down my face but it was not like I was crying. My body did not want to give any effort to anything but finishing. I laid on the ground and closed my eyes. Every part of my body was in tremendous pain and I just wanted to go to sleep. 

“Hey wake up. Come on we are going to help you up, ready?” Two men wearing red shirts and riding mountain bikes were standing over me. The EMS crew. I had seen them at one of the aid stations helping a man with severe cramps. “There is an aid station just at the top of this hill with our truck. We are going to get you out of here.” The only thing going through my mind since the start of the race was, “I’m not quitting.” And that is exactly what I told them as they held me me up by my arms. They let me drop to my hands and knees again. “Im sorry buddy.” He was barely able to get out, “We aren’t allowed to touch you if you are still racing.” 

They stood there and watched me crawl to a rock where I stood up and looked back to wave from the top, trying to keep my positivity up, he was crying as he waved back. “Good luck Buddy.”

I got to the flat part of the race and eventually made it back to the finish line for the third time. There were people BBQing and eating burgers as I struggled on by. My family was waiting with some race officials. They looked very concerned and asked that I not go on. They thought something was going to happen and so did my parents. I guess I looked pretty rough. “I’m not quitting.” 

I changed my shirt and socks for the fourth time and refueled on snacks and fluid. Actually just Snickers bars, energy gel, and Coca Cola. I was on my way for the last lap. I had 3 hours before the cut off time of 12 hours. I just wanted it all to be over and I felt alright after seeing faces and getting refueled and clean clothes. So I started out at a very fast pace, around 8 minutes a mile or less. I don’t know how long I maintained this pace, maybe a two miles, maybe one, but it was a huge mistake. I slowed down and went as far as I could and then started walking. I felt exhausted. I don’t mean how you felt after volleyball practice. I mean when you have completely used 100 percent of your energy, there is absolutely nothing left. I sat down on a rock, completely alone in between two huge walls going up a hundred feet or so just before the big red hill that took me under last lap. During the last hour as I had been walking and jogging, or scooting, whatever you call it, I had been singing bible songs like I’ve Got the Joy or This Little Light of Mine but they had to have been the most profane songs you had ever heard. I was screaming out anything I could think of. I was furious. 

As I sat on the rock looking up at the mountain before me, I softly started singing the same songs in the lightest voice I could to save energy, then I started up the hill. First on my feet but I quickly went to my hands and knees and gave it all I could possibly give and I collapsed at the top of the hill. 

 

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I don’t know if I had passed out again but all I could see was white and figured it was God so I prayed, shouted/cussed rather that if I am supposed to finish this race then you had better do something about it because i have given everything I have and there is nothing left. Then I saw a man coming towards me looking like an angel surrounded by the white light but slowly turned in to a fat mexican with a beer gut. He reached out his hand and helped me up. “Follow me. Just look at my back and don’t let it get away from your eyes.” 

So I did. I followed him down the path with my eyes buried in the loose shirt hanging on his lower back. He had a water bottle in either hand both filled with coke. I heard women hipping and hollering and thought I was going to heaven. I don’t recall any pain that I felt on this trail, I just followed. We got closer and closer to the yelling and I saw a sign that read “AID STATION” but that was marked out and underneath read “Dos Loco Senoritas Aid Station.” Clever. 

We came around the ben and two older ladies were there and got really excited to see the two of us. They called the mexican their boyfriend. We learned we were the last ones on the course and we had little more than an hour to complete 3 miles. They filled me up with Coke and I took a whole container of M & M’s. We went on our way again and got into the flat lands where it was green and shady and you could hear the water running alongside the trail. I swear I was on my way to heaven. We got to the last aid station two miles from the finish line. The mexican went on without me and I gave all my gear to Bobo, my little brother. I took my time and walked and looked at all the animals running around and I could smell the fresh water passing over the ground in the wetter areas. Everything was perfect. 

I came out of the trees and it was a 300 meter run to the finish line. I went as fast as I could which was about a jog. Just my family and the couple that does the race were there. Everything else was deserted. I ran in between a line of Texas and American flags and at 11:54 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line for the fourth and final time.  

 

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I went back to the canyon with a good friend from amarillo a little over a year ago. Somehow we ended up on top of the big red hill and I could just see everything that happened so perfectly. I saw the way I looked and what kind of condition I was in and how badly I had been beaten down and it made me so sick I couldn’t stand. I felt dizzy and nauseated. We had to leave. I could not handle it. I miss that feeling more than anything in the world, the moment right before you quit, but you keep going, you dig a little deeper and you go on until you win. 

 

                         50 mile race

 

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