My fitness, like my toenail count, was not quite 100% going into the Infinitus 100 miler, which didn’t worry me so much. I’ve gutted out enough ugly finishes to know that you don’t need all of your fitness or toenails to get the thing done.
I hadn’t raced since the World Championship Pack Burro Race, some ten months ago. I had so much fun there in my third failure to become a world champion of something —
anything, no matter how obscure or devoid of international competition — that I broke my stupid foot. This was my first ever running injury and boy, it was lousy. Reach out to your busted ultrarunning friends because it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost your happiness when you’re busted.
A lot of neat stuff happened since I broke my right foot (the stupid one). I got to support/heckle “Radon” Jon Davis on his 160 mile Collegiate Loop run. Cassie and I moved to Santa Barbara, California where there is no trail poop for Summit to smear all over her face. Cassie demolished the Nine Trails course record, which is our local race. Cassie won the Gorge Waterfalls 50K. Cassie crushed…you get the idea…she’s fast! Which brings me to the theme of this post: some things never change.
I’ve shown up to Infinitus each of the last three years now and know exactly what to expect. The race directors, Andy and Jack, live out their lives forever and for always stuck at Infinitus. Suppose I bumped into Jack or Andy at the grocery store. Well, that would be impossible because Andy and Jack do not exist outside of Infinitus. Besides, I’ve never seen either of them eat food.
As we do every year, my dad and I arrived at race headquarters inside the Blueberry Hill ski lodge in Goshen, Vermont. There patiently waiting to check us in for nearly a full year was 888K hopeful, Will Bradley, who had once again been wrangled into volunteering instead of racing. I went upstairs to the 888K-er triage unit and said, “Hi. Blah blah blah,” to the Wirfs-Brock’s and Jordan, who was again at mile 400-ish while her pacer, Vicki, was sleeping in a bodybag. I was glad to see that all was precisely as it should be at Infinitus.
My dad helped me set up the tent, which we would never use, in a mild hurricane. We woke up in the minivan for the 8:08 am start of the 100 miler and I took off with 64 other special idiots in especially crap weather — cold, rain, wind, mud. Most people went out too fast, myself included.
I quickly fell into my familiar loop-by-loop routine of changing my socks, eating something substantial, and being told by my dad to slow down. Early on, I came upon 888K-er and good guy extraordinaire, Gilbert Gray, at the Goshen Dam. We caught up with each other exactly from where we left off three years before at a 200 mile race, mostly discussing our mutual love of Snickers bars. A little bit later, there was 888K-er Jess Pendleton, who was running the race on her own terms this year instead of Andy’s and Jack’s. She had once again fallen in the river by the Swamp of Despair because nothing ever changes at Infinitus.
My short 100 mile race became a quest to find and catch up with my old 888K friends out on the lemniscate-shaped course that they had been circumambulating for eight days. Lemniscate, circumambulate, take that SAT/GRE Verbal! Descending Mt. Romance, I caught Jordan Wirfs-Brock and we chummed on how impossible it was to keep our feet dry. A litmus test of whether or not you and I could be good friends is if you would enjoy a multi-hour conversation on the topic of how we tie our shoes.
Then I came upon Lance Parker, which I had been looking forward to for awhile. I had never met the guy, but I felt close to Lance because he was in the same position that I was in two years ago: kinda smelly and “almost” done running 888 kilometers (551 miles) in under 10 days. He was very different from what I expected, which just means that he’s not exactly like me. He struck me as super tough, but in kind of a silly way. For instance, he slept outside every night this winter in Vermont (brr!) because he’s nuts. Hats off to Lance, who was the only 888K finisher this year!
I ran the first 50 miles (because I had to) and got ready for some night running in the Infinitus woods. Creepy things came out to play at night and the clown marked the end of my last climb up Mt. Romance. To my great disappointment, the string of eight pairs of tighty whities was nowhere to be found this year.
I felt fine throughout the race and finished the thing in 23 hours 4 minutes. Despite the generous 48 hour cutoff, the 40% finishing rate was unusually low for a 100 miler. Perhaps it was the weather? I suspect the explanation is that most folks did not come from an ultra running background. Infinitus tends to attract people with experience in obstacle course racing and something called, “rucking,” which sounds miserable to me. In any case, good on so many people for taking a risk and trying something new where the odds were stacked against them! As always, it’s a great community event and I enjoyed watching people both exceed their expectations and learn things the hard way.
My mom arrived shortly after I finished with some yummy rhubarb squares that I did not share and boneheadedly forgot to pack for my trip home. We hung out with some old friends and longtime Andy/Jack devotees before leaving early like we always do. Somehow, witnessing the post-race teardown would mean that Infinitus was over for good.
(All photos kindly provided by Majic Photos.)