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Clay Williams Ultra Runner

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Sulphur Springs 200 mile run

Posted by Clay Williams on May 29, 2017 at 6:35 AM

May 29, 2017. The day after the race. I’m not sure I have the words to describe everything that went on this weekend but I’ll try, in Bullet form. Had a cold, worse than I thought. Registered for a 200 mile race, only brought enough equipment and supplies for a 100 miler. Set up Wednesday evening, slept in the RV the night before the race. Up early as always, finished setting up. Rain. Raccoons ate some of my energy balls, and my breakfast bagel, frickin’ raccoons. I always have a bagel for my long run. Dang. Jennifer-Anne arrived, we reviewed the “Champion Inspired Race Plan”. Rain. Race started at noon. Rain. Ran first loop (20 km) with Debbie and Gar, good pace, felt strong. Ran second lap alone, lungs failed me, heart racing and gasping for air on every hill. Stupid cold virus! Legs are strong, minor back pain, can’t breathe. Ran lap 3 alone, fast as I could, still slow. Still raining. Ran lap 4. Still too slow, by now I know I won’t finish 200 miles by the cut-off. I cut the course, skipping the “lollipop” loop and head up the hill to quit. Eat, sleep, dry clothes, crew says keep going. I agree, if I can still do a lap in 4 hours or less I still have a chance. I confess to cutting the lollipop, go out and run the little loop before Lizzie joins me a for loop. I push hard, work, misery, pain, 4:40 loop. Not enough. Not nearly fast enough to get in 200 miles. I’m defeated. Destroyed. Done. I shower, I even forgot to bring my toiletries kit, change into my jeans, cotton instead of spandex, ready to help crew for any other runner who needs. It was after my defeat, after all my own expectations, my own plans had failed, that magic started to happen. Clay to Race Director Tim: “A 100 km DNF is the same as a 280 km DNF”. No, it’s not. And Rhonda’s speech. Practiced and prepared? Not sure. Effective and heart wrenching? Absolutely. I had been carrying, in my backpack, a flag. THE flag. With a couple hundred signatures of people who were counting on me to help carry just a little part of their burdens. I have been and continue to be a strong advocate for mental health, and have made a commitment to be an example for those who are struggling, even displaying the Defeat Depression / Canal Pursuit banner on my backpack. And after many many discussions with RMA about running as work or for a cause or out of duty, she suggested maybe I could just run for me, for fun, and find the beauty in all that’s around me, take pictures, talk with people. I was going to earn a DNF, but maybe I could still have some fun, run, the sport that I love, the activity that I love, with friends. She made me cry. She’s the biggest bully I know. Rain stopped. Got dressed to run, brought my camera. Ran lap 6 with Lizzy, talked with everyone I saw, took pictures, selfies, ran comfortable. Finished the lap in 3:45, only 5 minutes slower than my last “misery” lap. Lap 7 with Lizzy. Lap 8 with Jeff. Lap 9 with Keith. Lap 10 with April. Lap 11 with Adam, joined by a young lady named Erica for the last half. Sleep, good sleep finally, warm, mostly dry, solid sleep. Sunday morning up at 6am, dirty running clothes on, I had run out of clean clothes. Oatmeal, energy drink, coffee, pack ready, who are my pacers? April and Melanie Boultbee, and Charlotte Vasarhelyi. Wow wow wow! Charlotte, who has been my inspiration for years, representing our country internationally, doing multi day races, a tough young lady. And the twins April and Mel, fast and furious without cars. We ran my last lap together and it was totally magic. My 240 km lap (in spite of what the corrected incorrect timing chip results say). I still couldn’t breathe going up hills, but I hauled butt on the flats and downhills. I felt GREAT, HAPPY, BLISSFUL, it was an amazing loop. Part way through the lollipop I heard that Rhonda was running with Steven on his last loop and I cried again. How perfect is that, Steven’s huge success, huge conquest, and in his moment of victory he is with his soul mate, “love you to Pluto”, I was so happy to hear that. On the last loop I passed every runner that I saw ahead of me. The steam roller, slowly overtaking and moving them down. I saw Gar and David on the loillipop, still going, plenty of time to finish. So happy for them. Ran the entire downhill side of the lollipop, on a roll, on a mission. If I’m going to try to be an inspiration I have to do something that people will take note of and remember. Bottom of the Martin Road hill, I’m going to run this hill. I’ve never run this hill, NOBODY runs this hill on their last lap, and some people never run this hill at all. I ran the full length of the hill, and recorded my fastest loop since loop 1. Negative negative splits. Connors runners, ALL of them who were still at the site, walked down the hill to cheer me on. I cried. I rounded the corner to run the lane into the finish line. 240 km. No buckle. No medallion. But huge cheers, I cried more. 7 loops running FOR ME. 7 loops of bliss, not self destruction, not a single blister, legs feel amazing, looking forward to a very short recovery and my next race. Words are not enough to express how grateful I am to Jennifer-Anne for being just amazing, styling with the rolled down rubber boots, and appropriating appropriate supplies. Rhonda-Marie for knowing me so well and being able to reach me. Joan Van Hilton to coming all the way down to crew for me, I’m so sorry that I thought Jennifer would need some backup. And the pace runners, Lizzy “FREEDOM!!!”, Jeff, Keith, April, Adam, Mel, and Charlotte, it was awesome to get to know each of you a little better, some of you a lot better. This past weekend, with rain, then sun, sleeping on a blanket in the ants, screaming knee pain, Rhonda’s elbow to my butt (um back), and an amazing victory lap has brought me more joy than I’ve experienced in a long long time. I had packed a post-race bag with jeans and a belt without a buckle. I didn’t earn the buckle, but I lived a once in a lifetime weekend with amazing friends and saw some of those friends accomplish amazing things. Life is so good.

 

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