If you didn't click the link to read about it, I'll give you the cliff notes version. It's an Ultra Trail race. 100 miles along the Wasatch front mountain range. Not for wussy's. It's truly an Ultra runner's deal, and brings out some amazing athlete's to participate.
This year, I jumped on the opportunity to volunteer at an aid station. Sent a couple of emails, and got the assignment to be at the Lamb's canyon aid station. Lamb's is about 52 miles or so into the race. I was excited to help, be part of the great vibe, and I was certainly more than curious to see exactly what a runner looks like after 50 miles. I know at 26.2 and it usually ain't pretty, but what is like at 50 TRAIL miles.
Friday morning, I headed up to the aid station and began helping to sort drop bags. The night before runners load bags with gear they will want or need to be at certain aid stations.
After the drop bags were sorted by bib number so they could be easily grabbed, the men finished putting up the canopies and we started cutting fruit, getting snacks ready, and making sure there was a nice stream line to the station as the runners were coming through.
At about 2:15pm, the leaders started heading in. At the beginning of the race, each runner is weighed and then at Lamb's they are weighed again. This helps to indicate how much dehydration is happening and will determine if a runner needs to stay at the aid station and hydrate for a while.
This is the leader and the eventual winner Nick Clarke
He was about 20 minutes ahead of the next person so we were able to really get our system down. Runner comes in, gives name and bib at the table, steps on the scales, get a visual assessment from the medical personnel, I place ice cold rag on neck, they move through the chute and get water, food, or anything else the runner requires.
Each runner also has a "crew" that meets them at each aid station with other things they might need. Runners also have "pacers". A runner that runs the same pace to keep them going, talk for distraction, encourage when tired, etc. One runner could have several different pacers throughout the course for different stretches of the trail. One day, I'll be good enough to be a pacer for someone.
Right before I had to leave, a former co-worker came through! Andy!! YAY!! He was right there with the leaders in the top ten and I was amazed at how good he looked. Had a second to chat with him and his wife before I had to leave.
The whole rest of the afternoon and evening, I watched on-line the progress of all my favorite runners and people I knew who were tackling this beast of a race.
Saturday morning, I really wanted to go to the finish line and see some finishers come through. I wanted to see what it looked like after 100 miles. 100 TRAIL miles. So I dragged my friend Mindi at oh dark thirty and headed up to Solider Hollow. The plan was to start at the finish line and follow the trail back for 6 miles, then turn around and come back 6. My training plan called for 12 miles with the last 6 at marathon pace. This should be perfect.
This is where my lesson comes in. And I'm gonna get spiritual here so if it ain't your thing, feel free to move on.
When we first got to the aid station, it was still dark, and the first place woman had just come through. I was lucky enough to catch as she was headed towards the shower and congratulate her. We talked to a couple of guys hanging out about the course backwards and if it was well marked. They indicated it wasn't but gave some general directions. I remembered as we were driving that I had seen a trail head sign and was fairly confident I knew how to get to it.
We turned on our headlamps and headed off, almost right off the bat, we made a wrong turn and quickly had to correct ourselves back onto the right course. We hit a nice pace and began working our way towards where I believed the trail sign to be. Now mind you, I had looked at a map the day before at the aid station and a gentleman there gave me some instructions, but I let them flow in one ear, hang long enough to get the gist and then flow back out. I was fairly confident in myself.
We kept going, looking at our garmins for mileage and realized that we were going too far. We turned back, and looked to see if we had missed the trail head sign. Nope. Mindi suggested stopping and pulling up the google map on her phone. Okay, but in my mind, I was still pretty sure I knew where to go. We looked at the map, got a general idea and headed out again. We were going the right way, when I really believed we had gone too far. Turn around again, and lo and behold, find the trail head sign I had seen when we first drove up.
Luckily there was a man there so we asked him if this was where the runners were coming through. He indicated that it was back where we had come from, gave some specific instructions and off we went. As we ran, I again kept thinking we missed something and had gone too far. Mindi tried to tell me that we needed to find a particular landmark, but I was just sure we were wrong. Turned around again, crossed paths with some runners who indicated that if we were attempting to follow the course backwards, we were wrong. Turned around AGAIN. Finally found the right road, and was able to see some runners go by. Ended up with very little trail miles, but at this point, I couldn't do more and still stick to my training plan and make it back to the valley in time for work.
At this point, I have recognized the lesson and analogy in the experience. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, we believe we have many tools to help us through this experience of life. We believe in the bible, and additional scripture in the Book of Mormon. We also believe that just as in biblical times, we have prophets on the earth today who speaks for God. Tools. GPS's. Garmin's. Map's. All right at our fingertips ready to be studied and followed to ensure our safety back to our Father in Heaven.
My mistake that Saturday morning was thinking that I was smarter than the tools I had been given. As much as Mindi was getting the correct information on Google maps, I was just as confident that I REALLY knew how to get where we wanted to be.
Pride in thinking I know more than the proven tools. Doesn't it seem to happen to us sometimes? Think of daily prayers. Even asking God to bless our life in a specific way and then getting frustrated when it doesn't happen or seems to not be answered. Our attempts to "counsel the Lord" doesn't mean we should be telling the Lord what we want to happen because we know "what's best" Instead, perhaps the approach should be, asking the Lord for what HE wants to have happen, and for us to gain understanding, patience and acceptance of his will.
We aren't smarter than the scriptures or the chosen leaders and prophets of God. We just aren't. No matter how confident we may feel about something. In the end God knows what is best and he communicates that information through the Holy Ghost using the tools such as the scriptures, the prophets and our own personal revelation.
I was humbled the entire rest of the day. I felt bad for trying to think I knew better than the tools we had at hand. I felt worse for leading Mindi astray with me. (Ahh.. another thought on our example and how it affects those around us), and in the end, learned that I need to rely in God and His tools, rather than my own understanding. Period.
Look at my shadow. Much bigger than the real me. Totally an example of pride thinking I was much smarter than the google.
We did get a chance to spend some time at the finish line and see some runners come in. We were both in awe of them, and their sheer physical strength. These athletes are amazing and examples of how much our bodies are truly capable of.
The morning ended up being lovely. Got the mileage I needed. Saw some runners, experienced the finish line and was reminded of an important life lesson.
Gonna chalk that training run up as a win.