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  • Writer's pictureSteve Szakal

Serpent and the Rainbow

Worlds End 100k is a hard fucking race. Well the first half is super hard. The second half is a little easier but has its moments of misery. I trained really hard for this one. Last year I ran this race on one leg. I was injured going into the race and I was too stubborn to drop. This year I wanted to really tackle this fucker. I put myself through 3 weeks of hell trying to get into the best possible shape I could get into. I felt pretty fit and confident going into the race. The course is pretty technical especially the first half. But what made this year really tough was the mud. Mud fucking everywhere...I mean everywhere. Much of this race is a fast pack hike type of a deal. There isn't much running. But there are sections that are runnable and thats where you can make up most of your time. Except the easy sections were god damn mud bogs. There was no way around it. Mentally it fucks with you. It makes that first 33 miles a god damn death march. I arrived at the 33 mile aid station in about 8 hours. Same time as last year. This completely deflated me. I was in way better shape than last year and I was running about the same time. But I was also about 40th about this point and now I was about 15th place. The conditions were really fucking with everyone.

Even though I felt like hell, I started moving pretty good. I was worried about my gut. I started to feel nauseous, and was having trouble getting gels down. I was using the same game plan as my 100 mile race. Two gels per hour. I think I was moving faster in that race. My stomach was getting filled with too much sugar. I should of kept it to 1 gel and real food from the aid stations. Every time I ate something I gagged a little. Not good. This would be trouble.

I was at about mile 48, only a few miles from the next aid station, and I was cruising along pretty good when I heard a terrifying noise. I looked down to my right and saw a big, god damn rattlesnake snap up at my leg. I almost shit my pant and most likely screamed like a little girl. I stood there still as that angry little fucker rattled his ass off. I couldn't go around him because of the downed trees. I grabbed a branch and threw it......nothing...the little shit just laughed at me. Then a rock....then another rock...then a big piece of bark. Obviously they don't scare easily. And of course no other runner in sight to help my ass. Finally I grabbed a big ass rock and heaved it and I plunked right on top of it. I stunned it and it began to slither to the other side of the trail. I bolted and probably ran my fastest split.

13 miles left. I tried to eat something at the next aid station but I really felt like shit. I drank some soda and ginger chew hoping that would help but the damage was done. My family said I was moving pretty good. I felt like this race was taking forever. I stopped looking at my watch because I didn't want to get any more depressed. Halfway to the last aid station before the finish I tried to take in a gel. I knew I had to get some energy in my body. I ripped the top off, took half of it in, and my body went into a full body gag. I took in the rest of the gel, and quickly downed some water hoping it would get it in my gut faster. Well, it did......then all hell broke loose. I gave one good gag, then another....then all that shit came up. I haven't vomited like that in years. It was a 3am outside the bar, drank too many shots vomit. Full body action. It was all water coming up. That shit takes everything out of you. I was beat.

I knew I would have to knock out the rest of the race without food. Water was even tough to get down. But you know what really helped me? My god damn meditation practice. After the violent puking incident, I just settled my mind, took some deep breaths and carried on. I separated my legs from my stomach and just kept moving. I just looked forward and kept my attention at the tree 200 yards away, or the giant rock. I really didn't know how fast I was moving, but I swear at this point last year it was dark out. But the sun was still shining.

Off in the distance I could hear people and I knew the end was near. There is a long crazy descent to the finish which could seem like forever, last year I practically crawled down it. This time I was hitting the switchbacks with ease. This shit was about to be over. I got to the final stretch, and headed to the finish. I saw the clock and thought it was wrong. I ran though the finish line. 14:52....two hours faster than last year and 17th place. I was 50th last year. Not fucking bad. And If it wasn't for my nutrition errors and that damn snake I would of did better. But thats the way it goes. You learn from your mistakes and take those lessons into the next race. I learned a lot that day. The 3 weeks of hell I put myself though paid off. My next two races will be my hardest challenges yet. So lets keep fine tuning the training. Keep my meditation and yoga practice strong, and get ready for Utah in July.

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