551 Miles in Fewer Words

I planned to return to the Infinitus 888K (551 miles) trail race after finishing it the first time around three years ago. I had no unfinished business, no urge to go faster. Instead, I just liked that feeling of locking into perpetual motion mode for awhile. And that’s what I got this time around, too.

Second verse same as the first! Finish a loop, return to the RV, tell my dad to make me a sandwich. Well, except for this one time when he wasn’t there and I literally had to make my own sandwich goddammit. I’ll be an honest Abe, I grappled with giving him either 5 stars or 1 star on Yelp. Ultimately, I chose to give him ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ because it’s Father’s Day and I love the guy.

Infinitus deja vu was a blast. Last time, I bonded with a rock (RIP, Gary). This time, I bonded with a deteriorating Larry the log. Compared to a piece of pitch, Larry the log was wildly dynamic, transforming from an unbroken pristine state into a pile of churned butter.

Lots of things didn’t happen. I didn’t die and nobody’s uterus fell out — take that former Boston Marathon RDs! I didn’t experience enlightenment, I wasn’t pushed to the brink, and I didn’t come away thinking that running 500-ish miles is terribly high on the crazy scale, which is probably dangerous.

The main differences I found boil down to the people. Last time, I ran 88.8% of the race alone, but not this time! No, this time I had Cassie, who ran 100 miles with me over two days. And even though she could have easily outrun me, she didn’t. That’s love. Toward the end, I got to witness Ben’s pedestrian swagger while sharing a 20-mile loop with him and Jordan when a fun thunderstorm hit. While I had great company for many loops, I felt mostly disconnected from my 888K-er cohort and found myself missing the OGs.

By day two, I’d guess five of the 17 starters for the 888 still had a hope of finishing. Only Hélène and I had a fighting chance after four days. From my perspective, most of the 888K-ers disappeared very quickly — they were either on completely opposite schedules from me and/or going out for loops infrequently. This largely killed the we’re-all-in-this-together feeling I felt so strongly in 2015.

Back then, when the course was over 20 miles uphill both ways in the snow, I’d hear through the grapevine how the 888K-ers were doing. Like Joel Gat mistaking toothpaste for zinc oxide when tending to his diaper rash. Stories like this not only made me realize some people had it worse than I, but they also made me feel invested in the 888K community. It wasn’t until after the race this year that I could slam five beers and connect with other runners, which is the downside of trying to stay laser-focused on getting the job done.

But the finish line felt the same. After arriving at the Blueberry Hill Ski Lodge for the 41st time in 9 days, I rekindled that blasé, satisfying, hard-to-convey feeling that maybe I did something cool.

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