"You gotta know when to hold'em, know when to fold'em, know when to walk away, know when to run...." That pretty much sums up my experience with the Two Hearted Trail Ultra....I'm a couple of days removed from the race and I'm still trying to process what I went through. This race wasn't like anything I have done before..not because of the distance, but because what was going on inside my head. I had the mindset of getting out and enjoying myself in this race....maybe getting some pictures, enjoying being in nature, but none of that actually happened.
It has been a very long time since I have been to Michigan's Upper Peninsula or as we Michiganders refer to it as "the U.P.". It's a different world up there to say the least. It's landscape is gorgeous, but that is pretty much the only thing that is up there...so if you love mother nature and hate having a cell phone signal, than this is the place for you. If you do decide to visit, buy everything that you are going to need before you cross the bridge, because there are no real modern conveniences there such as...stores...sure there are a few gas stations that serve as the super market and maybe the occasional pharmacy, but that's pretty much it. Oh and I can't forget that there is a bear farm which is, in essence, a petting zoo with only bears. I didn't have time to stop, but it is now on my bucket list for places to visit.
Now that my PSA for UP tourism is over, I will talk about the race...so this race was not my best and I'm not really sure why not. Physically, I felt prepared and psychologically, I was really looking forward to it. I thought I would be able to get some great pictures and videos for the website and I would have fun being out in nature, but that changed the night before the race. I mentioned earlier that the U.P. is the Bermuda Triangle for cell phone signals and I think that's where it all went south for me. When I picked up my race packet, I had a signal, but that location was about an hour from where the race was. I texted my wife that I had just picked up my packet and I was going to find my campground and the race start, etc...things that I would normally do before a race...find the starting line so I wouldn't get lost in the morning before the race.
My WAZE app was working just fine and got me to the campsite and helped me find the starting line, then I thought I would see "the falls" and then head into town. What I didn't realize was I didn't have a phone signal that entire time. So as I drove into Paradise, I noticed a cell tower and shortly after, my phone started blowing up. I had several voicemails and texts from my wife. I immediately thought the worst...something happened to one of the kids and I was five hours away. Thankfully, the kids were fine, it was me that had my wife worried. I hadn't given her any of the race info and everything I sent after, I just picked up my race packet, didn't go through. She couldn't get a hold of me for several hours and didn't have any of the pertinent details about where I was or how to reach me...which is something that I always do...."GOTWA"...my military readers will know what that means, for those of you who don't know, that's an acronym for a five point contingency plan....think of it as what we would do before cell phones.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt vulnerable. My family means everything to me and I felt pretty helpless to do anything if something were to happen. I'm not sure why it struck me like that in that moment, but it did. It didn't help that the race was taking place on what I can only describe as the Forest Moon of Endor. It might as well have been in a galaxy far, far away as well.
That night, I hardly slept and it was not a great even for me. I had a water bottle break and the aid stations were pretty far apart. The race itself started at about 37 degrees, continuing my streak of sub 40 degree starts, but the temperature climbed to the upper 80's with a lot of humidity. Normally, the water wouldn't have been such a big deal to me, but the humidity took its toll.
There was one point during the run that I found some unusual looking animal waste. I had come across it over a couple miles and I was convinced that it was either a bear or moose or worse....the famed North American Woodland Ape. I didn't physically hit a wall, but I wasn't enjoying myself. I wasn't in the right frame of mind...there are a lot of variables or excuses that I can make, but I won't. I withdrew right under 20 miles.
I'm still not really sure why...the race didn't feel right, my mind wasn't in the right place...it was like an out of body experience. It was a bittersweet experience for me, but I won't let this setback stop me. So often in life, we hit a set back, a wall, a plateau, or a bump in the road and it derails us. This hiccup won't stop me, it's just going to force me to find a creative solution so this doesn't happen again.
For Ultra #7, I will be doing a timed run, so it will be over the course of a day to see how many miles I can run. A new and different challenge....I've also ensured that it will be in a place where I do have a cell phone signal.