It is not a beginning time nor an ending time. It is the times in between. It is the time of the mid-day devil. Fears are not below consciousness. One wonders what one has gotten themselves into. The real deal happens in about 5 weeks. I signed up for a 50 mile race.

Yesterday I jog/walked 20 miles. At the end, I was able to question myself. Are you sure you want to keep going for another 30 miles? Yesterday, I might have said no. At the same time, It was not possible for me to make myself contact with the race and transfer to a shorter one. Some part of me wants to do this thing, 50 miles.

A 31 mile race is hard, but I know I can do it. A 50 mile race is hard and I don’t know if I can do it, except I do know. I know that I can walk it out when my feet get tired. Patience is the thing that is lacking. Why do ultramarathons at all? I want to have the mental experience that occurs in the final miles, and the amazing feeling that occurs at the end, a snapshot of triumph.

I’d rather train for and run 50 miles than have cancer. And we do have a choice.

I’m reading a book called “12 Hour Walk,” by Colin O’Brady. He is an adventurer, climbing Everest, dragging a sled across Antarctica, rowing through the Drake passage off South America. I’m not anywhere near his league. He defines the American Dream as, “…tied in with purchasing an agreeable house in suburbia, working all day, and being content with about fourteen day excursions.” I wouldn’t say that I was content with that life. It seemed more to me like a quiet hell. And that’s why I got out the instant I thought I could afford it. Realistically, one does need money. I focused on financial self-sufficiency in my life, not adventure.

Actually, really big adventurers never even entered my mind. I was focused on getting a good job. Now that I am older, what can I realistically do? A 50 mile race fits that idea.


Race Report – Ultrapalooza 50K

Dateline September 3, 2022: I did it!

So exciting because of all the stress leading up to this event. What idiot signs up for a 31 mile race on Labor Day weekend? We all know it is hot on Labor Day weekend. So I spent the summer running in the heat. I covered 290 miles in July and 370 miles in August. In both months, I averaged 5 weight sessions per week, of 25 minutes each. Going into this race, I was in great shape with no injuries.

Ten days out from the race, the last day to drop down in distance, the race day weather looked incredible: temps between 61F and 81F, clouds, and maybe some rain. But each morning thereafter, the temps got hotter and hotter. The humidity would be high. Finally, two days before the race, temps were predicted in the 90s, I freaked. It takes me 7.5 hours to complete 31 miles, and I was afraid I’d have to walk for two or three hours to finish the race if it got too hot. I freaked and turned inward to my higher power. I said, “Inner Being, I can’t do this.”

And then I sat quietly and waited for my Inner being to answer. Soon, a lady I knew from a 12 Step program popped into my mind. She is deceased and I haven’t seen her for decades. I don’t think about her often. I remember her as a wise woman who dispensed wisdom in 12-step meetings. It was quite a surprise to have her visit my meditation. She dispensed wisdom to me. She said, “I can’t, He can, I think I’ll let Him.”

I took this to mean, “Let go, Let God.” I did. I released my fear and came to believe that my Inner Being could do what I cannot. And so, the night before the race, I prepped my drinks and drop bags. I taped my toes and laid out my clothes. I went to bed early and woke up at 1:30 in the morning. The alarm wasn’t until 3:30, so I read a book. I was eager to go to the race. After I got up, I drank some coffee and ate a little. Then jumped in the car and drove an hour to the race.

All went well. I arrived in plenty of time and the race started at 6:30. It wasn’t really that cool for the morning low. I decided to jog as long as I could, to get in as many miles as I could, before the heat caught up to me, and I’d have to add in walk breaks. It turns out that I jogged up to about mile 18. I felt really good about these miles. At that point, however, it was getting hot so I added walk breaks to manage my heat stress.

I drank about one liter of Super Fuel (by Skratch) every 6 miles. Because of this, I got plenty of calories and felt really good the whole race. I also drank two packets of Pedialyte and took four Endurolyte salt tablets. I ate one gel and three Skratch bars. I had to stop at the porta-potties at every aid station every 6 miles, which means I was properly hydrated. But I took a lot of time in each aid station too. I am incredibly happy with my moving time of 7 hours and 5 minutes. I loved the ribbon and belt buckle we got as finisher awards.

The next day, I was tired but nothing injured. I want to complete a 50 mile race in two months. I now believe that I am capable of completing 50 miles, however slowly. For this 50k, I don’t think I entered the pain cave like I did last April when I did a 50k on the same course. I did many more training miles leading up to this race.

The next day. I found myself also asking myself why I do these ultramarathons. I don’t think it is about accomplishment, because that feeling is so fleeting. I don’t think it is about ego, because no ego can maintain the momentum needed to train for and finish such a race. I think it has to do with my spiritual nature. These experiences have a spiritual component that I appreciate. My life is a spiritual experience. My life doesn’t have a purpose. My life is just existing and aligning with The Greater Consciousness.

Don’t look like I’m 63 in either of these photos.


The Pain Cave – The Day After

I ran an ultramarathon yesterday, but only 31 miles.

The day began auspiciously as I woke up one minute before the alarm at 3:45. Sometimes, I don’t sleep or can’t make myself get out of bed. But this time, I bounded out of bed eagerly. The weather is another reason I sometimes can’t make myself go to a race. But the weather for this race was near perfect: sunny but coolish. It was windy but the temps were warm enough that the wind could be tolerated. It was cold enough that I could wear my lightweight cargo pants. A big advantage since I could put the nutrition in the pants pockets and keep my phone in the front of the hydration vest. The race was only an hour’s drive, south of Kansas City.

Before the start
National Anthem

The course was a rails-to-trails trail, pretty much totally flat. You can see from the trees that spring is only starting to spring in Kansas.

Ultramarathons and marathons are two different animals to me. I might train for and race a marathon. I did that last October, finishing 26 miles in about 5:22. An ultramarathon? I just try to survive. Sometimes I don’t survive, quitting instead. But this race was an out and back course. That means that the outbound 15.5 miles were easy. Then the way back must be completed, survived, because that is where the car is. My overall time was 7:32, but that includes five stops at aid stations and three bathroom stops. Moving time was 7:18. I was traveling faster than it appears overall. Pretty happy with that.

I got interested in ultramarathons after leaving the monastery in 2003 because people were writing about the transcendence aspect of ultramarathons. Going into the pain cave and exploring the mental state. I don’t think I have ever accomplished a transcendent mental state during an ultramarathon. Sometimes I cry when I see the finish line, however. I have been amazed at myself. I wonder how I did that. As a 63-year-old, I continue to wonder how I do endurance races.

I didn’t necessarily train for this race. I trained to make it to the turnaround very easily. I knew that the way back would be a struggle. Since I have been working at a grocery store, on my feet for 20 hours a week, I thought that I didn’t have to train that much for an ultramarathon. That assumption proved to be wrong as it leaves your feet in the wrong condition, not ready for the pounding. I jogged the first 12 miles and jog/walked the last 19 in a 3×2 pattern. I kept the pattern going to the end, but the jogging part got slower and slower. Slower because my legs were tired and my feet were a bit in pain.

Around 23 miles, I wished that the race had only been a marathon. My feet began to hurt. My stomach didn’t like the Heed drink that I got at the aid stations. It was becoming warmer. I was wishing I had trained more. I told myself, “just keep going.” “Even though it hurts,” was implied but I tried not to think about that part.

Real ultramarathoners keep going even if it hurts. Just because their Youtube video shows them having a great time and running fast, I know from other sources that their feet hurt too. They keep running despite the pain. I sort of fail at the pain part. 31 miles only brings one to the entrance of the pain cave. In a longer race, I might have cut out the jogging and only walked. During this race, I knew where the end was so I kept going. In 2017, I did a 50-mile out-and-back race. I was able to persevere with that because I had to get back. In a timed/lapped race where there is only a timed end, I often quit. I run out of jogging and start walking. Then I begin to wonder why I am continuing to walk. What am I accomplishing by walking around a course, destroying my feet? Soon after that, I quit. To me, pain means physical distress that could turn into physical debilitation. For real ultrarunners, pain doesn’t mean a real problem. And, I always want to be able to train again within a short period of recovery. Real ultramarathoners accept that they won’t be running again for a few weeks.

At the end of the race yesterday, I think I decided that I don’t need the pain cave anymore in this life. Marathons are long enough for me. I may try 50k again. We’ll see. I realize that 50 miles would be too much for me. I’m glad I did this race because I would never be able to make myself do a training run of more than 22 or 23 miles. Now I know what it feels like to do 31 miles. I know what I am capable of. That said, I have no idea how I will accomplish my next endurance feat. Feet literally. Based on how my feet feel today, how will I do 3 marathons in 3 days next month? Three marathons in three days, in three states, is a different type of mental challenge. It includes a lot more driving. It includes better nutrition for three days. It includes getting out of bed three days in a row. I’ve done this before, but I don’t know how I will do it now. Many people older than me do multi-day marathons. I’ve seen them first hand. I want to do it too.

Just after finishing

I taped my toes for this race. Neither toe has blisters today. I taped my knees. Both knees are fine. My hip doesn’t hurt at all. I will go for a walk today to loosen up my feet. I don’t think they are injured, just a little strained. It is a mystery why working at a grocery store can injure a hip while running 31 miles does not. Starting this week, I have cut my hours at the grocery store and shifted departments to reduce the amount of kneeling and squatting I was doing. Hopefully, I won’t re-injure the hip. I just read my own race report from the 4 marathons in 4 days that I did in 2016 (linked above). Wow! I had some lofty thoughts and wonderful meditations on why people would do something like that. Next month, I have the opportunity to rejoin the family of marathoners.

If Not Today, When?

I jog/walked 22 miles today and I spent 5 hours doing it. It takes about 4 to 4.5 hours to get into sore feet territory, but it only takes about 15 miles to get into mental training territory. My brain likes to stop running around 15 miles. It is very easy to run 15 miles and doesn’t take that long. But going longer means my brain starts to come up with excuses for why I should stop running. Ignoring the excuses and continuing to log miles is my mental training. Today, when my brain wanted to quit, I asked it, “If not today, when?”

Sure there is an amazing westerly gale blowing. And yes, I didn’t like the wind in my ears so I kept my cap on. It was very warm but still not that warm so long sleeves stayed on. My knees were very happy and pain free. No blisters. There was nothing wrong with me. So I ask my brain, if not now, when else would we get a 22 miles training run in? Why not now?

In a month, 4 weeks, I’m going in a 24-hour race. I hope to complete 50 miles within the 24 hour period. I need to do some long miles and mental training to be successful. My brain needs to remember that I don’t hurt that bad. Keep going because nothing is broken, just sore. This is what 22 miles feels like. No need to panic.

Running ultra-marathons is difficult for me mostly because of my brain. At some point, I usually do start to believe it and quit. My brain has told me an incredible number of lies in my lifetime. In fact, my brain is usually lying by telling me what I can’t do, for various false reasons. It is a wonder that I am as successful as I am. I guess I persevere and endure just enough to accomplish a few things.

4.75 laps of the park

Snowdrop Ultra 55

I won\’t lie to you. I\’ve wanted one of these buckles since 2014. I entered the race that year, but did not finish the 100 miles. I only got 45 miles; and my knee wouldn\’t work after that. So I dropped.

Here is the 2018 version with the shirt; which I now own.

So the race lurked in my mind quietly for several years. In April this year, I did a 50k in a great time and I felt great after; I wondered if I could do 50 miles or even try a timed 100 again.

I started to watch for Snowdrop entry to open. Opening was midnight on June 28. That night, I was laying awake in bed at 1:30 am thinking how I would enter in the morning. I decided to enter right then and maybe I could go to sleep. It was already 65% full. It filled by 8 am.

But, I\’m IN!!

I signed up for a rails-to-trails 50 mile race October 28. It went really really well. I was surprised. I did a 50k on December 16. It went really well. I decided I\’m ready for Snowdrop.

On December 24 I went to the Snowdrop course and ran for about an hour. While I was there, two of the race directors showed up. They explained everything to me and gave me a tour. On Monday December 25, I thought it would be ok if I just didn\’t go. I even drafted an e-mail to the RD saying to give my ticket to someone on the wait list; but I never sent it. I decided to go running first. For one hour, I was sure I would skip the race. Then I was thinking about how I was making an emotional decision, projecting how unhappy cold mud and porta-potties are. Then after 2 hours, I got this tiny little thought: what is so bad about just going one day and seeing how things are? Uh…. what a concept, don\’t quit without even giving yourself a chance. You can\’t get to day 2 if you don\’t go to day 1. You can\’t get to day 3 if you don\’t go to day 2.

By Wednesday, I realized: you can\’t finish if you never start. I decided I would get my butt to the starting line.period. Then, the day before the race, I decided I would get 61 laps done (42 miles) but no other commitment.

This race is a mental race. The course is flat and short. It is not a beautiful dramatic thing like Hardrock; but there will still be blood and tears as each racer meets their own limitations. The whole problem of finishing is mental. Hence, it is unknown territory. I am a notorious quitter. But I am better now than have ever been.

You can\’t have a journey if you never start.
You can\’t have grit if you let your fear keep you home.

I went to packet pick up with a box containing about 10 lbs of old race medals. Snowdrop Foundation puts new ribbons on these and hands them out to kids with cancer; \”Bling for Bravery.\”

Day 1: I\’m at the race site very early. I was awake most of the night worried about getting a parking spot in the A lot. Driving to the race, I heard a story on the radio about a girl who fell off a cliff while riding her bicycle and almost died; and how she got a love of life itself during the experience. She learned not to just go from thing to thing, but to live each moment as a precious time. Perfect. I need to enjoy this race, not just hope to get it over as soon as possible. Journey they said.

The weather might rain but it is pretty warm. I claim a good spot along the course for my wagon and chair. Eventually, the race starts. I planned to run 3 minutes and walk 2 minutes until I got to 61 laps (42 miles). I did well with this until about 34 miles when I decided to walk the last 15 laps. The course was half concrete and this was taking a toll on my lower back and knees. So I shut down the running. I was on course moving forward about 11 hours and a little. Lots of pit stops to grab food, shift garmins, porta-potty, etc. It did rain for about 30 minutes so I got to use my new umbrella. I was very tired after the 30 min drive home.

Snowdrop Foundation helps kids with cancer. All around the course they have pictures of little kids with cancer. Some say, \”In honor of  ____\” Some say, \”In memory of _____\” (Oh, these are the ones who didn\’t make it). Some say, \”Survivor ____\” In any case, looking at these pictures made my choke up repeatedly all during the race.

I resolved to show up for day 2, but no expectations on performance. I ate a big bowl of vegetarian cuisine for dinner. I didn\’t sleep real great.

Day 2: I got to the course and started running at 5:17 am. I was surprised that my legs felt good. So I again did 3 minutes jog and 2 min walk. I slowed down my running speed to lessen the impact. I did real well, with too many pit stops. The weather was pretty warm, but a heavy mist. I was getting wet and had to use a rain shell.

They had some new signs on the course. Here is my favorite:

They also had a sign that said, \”They didn\’t say it would be easy but they did say it would be worth it.\” These two signs helped me alot mentally.

I must have been a cranky pants a good part of day 2. Some people started finishing. I got to see the things they do for each and every person who gets to 100 miles. All I thought was I don\’t want all that fuss. Just give me my buckle and let me go. Cranky Pants!!!  Better I finish on day 3 when I won\’t be so cranky.

I got the second batch of 61 laps done. Another 11 hours on course. The shoes I used for day 2 weren\’t exactly right. These shoes had caused some problems with one of my toe nails. After I got home, I figured out what to do about that (and used a different pair of shoes for day 3).

I was now up to 84 miles. I knew that come hell or high water, I would finish those last 16 miles, even if I had to crawl.

Day 3: Again, I didn\’t sleep very much. After 84 miles, my body felt a little beat up. Nothing was broken, but I kept feeling little twinges of pain here or there. My hips weren\’t happy, so I couldn\’t lie comfortably. But I had the alarm set for 3 am; and when it went off, I was up and at \’em.

I started forward motion at 4:45. It was very cold. Many people were still on course. Many of these people were walking very slowly and maybe limping.

I, on the other hand, was amazed at the recuperative power of laying in bed for a few hours. I was well enough to again do the 3 minutes jog and 2 minutes walk. I was doing really good. It was very cold and windy, but this didn\’t seem to bother me.

I had to be patient. It was still going to take a few hours to finish 16 miles. Don\’t screw up now. But I was excited to see my lap count get closer and closer. And I was feeling better and better. I couldn\’t believe I was actually going to finish this thing. It had taken alot to get to this point.

At 143 laps, I could hear them mention my name. The RD asked me how many laps as I went by. I said 2 more. She said, \”Next lap is your bell lap?\” I said, \”Yes.\” She wrote something on her clip board. I kept going but started to cry real tears. Even as I type this now, I\’m crying. I was going to finish that race. I finished the final 16 miles (23 laps) in about 3:45.

I am not a quitter!

They actually have a big bell that you ring for your last lap (in honor of a cancer patient completing treatment). As I came through the race crew was again saying my name. I rang the bell. Then, I ran most of the last lap. The crew was watching for me as I came around. They hold a finishers tape for everyone. They announce on the loud speaker. The RD even said it was my first 100 miler (true), and that I almost quit earlier in the week.

Here I am getting my buckle.

This was an experience of a lifetime. Worth it!

A word about me and timed ultras. Why did I go home? Well, for many races, when something goes wrong, my brain is too worn out to fix any problems. All I do is quit, usually with 50 miles. But, when I get home, I realize what I could have done. So this time, I just planned to go home, even though it was a 35 minute drive. Indeed, after day 2, I had some repairs to do on toes and at home, I had the resources.

Also, I know what part of my problem with 100 mile races is. After about 35 – 40 miles, I am not interested in more running. If it is a 50 mile race, I\’ll tough it out. But I fail to see the point of walking slowly in pain for 65 miles. I admire people who do it, but I can\’t seem to do it myself.

Saturday of Agitation

First off, here is a great picture of me finishing the USA Fit marathon:

What about agitation? Well, I had a really great and fast 1h42 min run this morning; but had to stop to get to a 10 am commitment. After that appointment, I didn\’t make it back out for more miles as I realized that I just HAD to get some chores done. So I got the groceries, washed the car, got a haircut. Then, I needed a meal of real food. Agitation instead of miles.

Agitation because the need for those chores was bothering me. But work is bothering me. The idea came up that I should supervise people. Many people would celebrate being put in charge. Me? Terror! No! I am a subject matter expert. I am a nice person and well liked or I wouldn\’t be considered for management. Managing people is like a hot stove of emotional pain. I\’d go home every night pissed off at the people. But I also don\’t want negative repercussions since I don\’t want to take on the people.

At this point, I needed what I read in \”As Bill Sees It\” today: \”In the radiance of this prayer we see that defeat, rightly accepted, need be no disaster. We now know that we do not have to run away, nor ought we again try to overcome adversity by still another bulldozing power drive…\” My defeat is admitted my fear of managing people. Yes, I thought about quitting my job; and am relieved it doesn\’t have to be a disaster. I can turn it over and trust Spirit.

While I was running I was thinking about how I will train for a 50 mile race in May. When would I fit in some uber long runs?

Here is a 50 mile training plan. Whew, I don\’t really need to do a 50k training run. In fact, my current racing schedule is more aggressive because of the marathons I\’m entered in. About 5 weeks before my 50 mile run, I have Easter long weekend. I\’ll do some big training. I\’m not racing the weekend of the 28 mile run. Hope the weather is good.

12 Step Endurance Practice

Yesterday I went in an ultra marathon. I know my limitations. I try to prevent the big toe blisters which chronically occur. I tape my knee so the ACL does not get tweaked. I know that if the blisters get too bad, I\’ll quit.

But it is the mental game which is not only the point of a timed endurance event, but the most difficult part. I don\’t mind quitting when my big toes are destroyed. I do need to keep going if my only problem is fatigue. Leg fatigue always happens, but it is not the end of the game.

So, I wanted to avoid premature quitting. I needed a way to keep my mind healthy.

I tried something totally new. I made myself a little book. I wrote down sayings from a 12 Step book, one page for each step. I would study and ponder one step for 4 laps (approximately an hour). This way, my goal is to ponder the steps and not pay too much attention too how I feel. Remember, these steps are taken in the context of an ultra marathon, and my life\’s day to day struggles; not an alcoholic obsession.

Somehow, the endurance run became my spiritual adviser. It spoke to me of character defects I didn\’t really see. So the result is a new understanding of myself and an end to some of the habitual hatefulness.

6:15, I arrive at the park. It is dark still. I unload my chair, little table, cooler, bag of food, bag of extra gear. I pick up my number and chip.

6:45, we have a little meeting where the race director explains every thing. This race has about 50 people. I see a woman who I met at another race. I talk to her. At the Habanero run in August, I had suffered from severe dehydration and had to sit by the side of the trail for a long time until I could stand without getting dizzy. She had stopped her race to watch me. That was very nice. I asked her if she finished. Yes she did; but it took 11 hours to finish that 50k. Oh my. I don\’t think I could have done that regardless of dehydration.

7 am, off we go onto a one mile out and back course. It is a nice park and it turns out that I like seeing all the racers, so I don\’t mind out and back. But clearly, this type of race offers no challenge but the inner challenge.

I step up to the plate with Step 1: \”who cares to admit complete defeat?\”  Wow, how do I start a race with that? But really, such a thought smacks my ego right at the start. I get rid of any expectations of what \”I\” think \”I\” will do. Right from the start, I accept that my ego will be defeated. No grandiosity. No glory. No bragging rights.

\”…unless he has accepted his devastating weakness and all its consequences…\” The toes are my devastating weakness. The eventual pain of toes and legs which will force me to quit are my devastating weakness. I am powerless. It is only a matter of when. My ego hates quitting.

\”… no amount of human will power…\” Well, this caused me to think about the normal approach to ultra marathons which is successful for most people. They decide that they will finish the race no matter what. And they do, come injury or whatever, they finish. I\’ve never done this. And now, my Step 1 has told me that no amount of human will power will do it. Other people can do it, but it doesn\’t work for me. In other words, I can\’t. I agree.

4 laps done in just under an hour. On to Step 2: \”Having reduced us to a state of absolute helplessness, you now declare that none but a higher power ….\” Really? Only a higher power will get me through this race. New thinking for me in the context of a ultra marathon.

\” …all you need is a truly open mind…\”  I looked at my mind. How closed is it? I could see some places where it was closed.

\”…I had only to cease fighting…\” I fight alot in many areas of my life, but regarding this race here and now, what am I fighting? Shoes, food, heat, race management, other people, the rough patches of pavement, porta-potties… This concept turned out useful a bit later when it was very hot and I decided to walk instead of fighting the heat. At the end of step 2, two hours into the race, I thought I might like to eat one of my sandwiches and some fruit, only to realize that those things had been forgotten at home. I\’d have to eat course food. Rats! I\’m not in control.

\”…road blocks of indifference, fancied self-sufficiency, prejudice and defiance…\” All  of these ideas have application in life and in a race. But my theme for the day seemed to be realizing that self reliance would not work for me.

\”…provided we place humility first…we received the gift of faith…\” Now I had to think about my pride and gain humility. My pride causes me to go too fast in the early part of a race because I want to be done at a certain time. Or I look at the other lady who is my age and I want to beat her. Or the fat person. Or the guy talking too much. Or…  God, my head is full of crap.

\”…we had substituted negative for positive thinking…this trait had been an ego feeding proposition…\” Now this really hit me. I suddenly saw my whole pattern of thinking, for the past 11 years since leaving the monastery, as negative and how that fed my ego. Amazing. I\’ve never seen this before. The race is my spiritual adviser.

\”…at no time had we asked what God\’s will was for us.\” Here, I had to realize my race goals and plans were mine, not God\’s. And then throw up the silent prayer of wonderment, \”What are Your goals for me?\” Remember I forgot my food? Well, now, the Race Director and his plans for the aid station became the higher power and God\’s will for me.

Completing 8 laps, I moved on to Step 3: \”…cut away the self will that has blocked the entry of God\” My self will…. hummmm. I had an inner niggle related to self will blocking God, or Higher Self if you please. That enlightenment which many others get always comes at a moment of defeating self will.

\” … instinct and logic always seek to bolster egotism, and so frustrate spiritual development\” Oh yes, another sudden revelation of how \”I\”, logic and instinct, was bolstering egotism. And it is egotism which is causing all my unhappiness and hatefulness in life.

\”…dependence on a higher power is really a way of gaining true independence of spirit.\” I really would like independence of spirit.

\”…some problems refuse to be solved by all the sheer personal determination and courage he can muster\” Well, here I am, My own courage is not going to finish this race.

\”It is when we try to conform our will with God\’s that we begin to use it rightly\” True, but do I do this? Not really.

Now, about 3 hours into the race. A guy from work shows up. I am truly surprised. He had called me one day last week and in the course of the conversation, I had mentioned I was going in this race. I only vaguely mentioned where it was. And I was joking about him coming. But he did come! And he was there for quite awhile. He walked some with me and he went off to practice his Frisbee.

I went on to Step 4, now with this guy from work as part of the mix: \”…total inability to form a true partnership with another human being…we have no once sought to be a worker among workers…of true brotherhood we had small comprehension…\” Here is this guy from work who has driven 40 miles to this race. I would never have done that. But he did. Why has he done it? I really don\’t know. I do know that being \”just one of the engineers\” is very hard for me. He takes my picture.

\”…discover a chink in the walls my ego has built…\”  I imagine myself as behind an ego wall and I can\’t really see any chinks. But as I mentally decide to inspect the wall closely, maybe a small chink can be found. The main thing is that I realize it is a wall. All the metaphysical teaching of A Course in Miracles and Paul Brunton and Eckhart Tolle and Plotinus speak of the separation caused by the ego. Step 5 of the 12 Steps is meant to take down the wall and put you on The Broad Highway.

\”…pride, leading to self-justification, always spurred by conscious or unconscious fears…\” Now, I suddenly realize how much of my thinking is self justification. I am continually silently telling stories to various people about why I have failed them. Now I see it is self-justification. Now I see it was pride and that behind pride is fear. If I can only become conscious of the fear.

\”…all the faulty foundation of my life will have to be torn out and built anew on bedrock…\” The race is doing this, step by step, mile by mile.

\”…why do I lack the ability to accept conditions I cannot change?\” I need to let go of my plans and go along with the conditions of this race. I wish I could accept conditions at work.

Now it is 4 hours into the race and I\’m at Step 5: \”humility…a clear recognition of who and what we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.\” Back to humility as a concept for an ultra marathoner.

\”we began to suspect how much trouble self delusion had been causing us.\” Self delusion is another metaphysical proposition: that the world we see is an ego world and not the Real World. I accept self delusion and feel a slight inner nudge; but can\’t attache any conscious realization.

\”…that mysterious barrier we could neither surmount nor understand…\” Yes, I again inspect the ego wall. I see that it is there. I see I have no plans to change it.

\”…the steps all deflate our egos…\”  I knew this. I also know for it now. I am beginning to suffer as the miles pile up. It is getting warmer.

\”…things which really bother and burn us…\”  Again I look inside. I haven\’t lately really tried to define the categories of situations which really bother and burn me. Certain things are my hot buttons. But I haven\’t tried to define the ego aspects and say consciously that this ego button bothers and burns me. And, now in the race, the idea is too slippery.

Now it is five hours and 20 miles into the race. My toes hurt and I am upset because they shouldn\’t. Something is very wrong. I run marathons without toe tape and don\’t have so much problems. Now, I have taped the toes and am in serious difficulty after only 20 miles. The tape is taking up space in the toe box. The tape job is not good. And, it is hot.

Step 6: \”…who doesn\’t like to feel superior…\”  I can again identify a habitual trait within me. I can feel superior to certain other people on the course; or worse, the fat people having bar-b-q and not exercising at all. But then I also know those people I scorn will also stay out there longer than me and go farther because they are willing to slow down and shuffle forward regardless. Or the bar-b-q people are being kind to one another and enjoying family.  I\’ll decide that the pain is enough and quit.

\”Self righteous anger can be enjoyable…\”  I again identify a habitual trait within me. I think about this more in terms of my work relationships. Its bad.

\”we take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority.\” My thoughts go to conversations I typically have with others, especially related to those slow drivers.

\”abandon our limited objectives and move towards God\’s will for us…\” Now, I arrive at the race itself. I have limited objectives. Is it possible that God has a further limit? This part comes true when I get to 26 miles. I can pick up a medal for 26 miles. The next medal is 50 miles. If I go past 26 miles but not to 50, then I have nothing to show for it.

I had planned to walk and jog for 30 miles, then switch shoes and walk only. But my toes are bad. It is hot. ok, I need to change myself and accept where I am at. The steps are making this possible. At 24 miles, I change the shoes and decide to walk. I say to myself, \”I am used to going for 10 miles walks in these shoes. I will forget the previous 24 miles and now start a new 10 mile walk.\”

And on to Step 7: \”the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of AAs 12 Steps\” No kidding. This was the 7th hour of the race. If, I made it through 4 laps, I\’d be at 28 miles, an ultra marathon. My legs were in pain but not the injury kind of pain. My toes were bad. It was hot. I\’m out long past a normal training run. I\’m approaching a marathon, when normally the race would be over. Yes, the race is kicking my butt; and my ego is insisting that this should not be. But it is. Accept it. I am under performing according to my ego.

\”without humility, they cannot live to much useful purpose or in adversity summon the faith that can meet any emergency\” Well, I see that self will cannot help me in THIS emergency; or any other I realize. Never has.

\”character building and spiritual values had to come first\” The race is causing me to build character; mainly as I face the weakness of my pride and ego. Mainly as I face my personal physical shortcomings. Short  fat toes get blisters no matter what. Shoes just don\’t fit them.

\”we never thought of making honesty, tolerance and true love of man and God the daily basis of living\” Yes, but how do you do that? I don\’t have the ability to not be egotistical. I mainly live by instincts: selfishly protect my self. But yet, there are many instances where I help someone else even though my ego has just told me not to. How do I become the person which is always helpful and not have to fight with self all the time?

\”For just so long as we were convinced that we could live exclusively by our own strength and intelligence, for just that long was a working faith in a higher power impossible\” I am beginning to realize my ability to focus on spirituality is failing. I\’m hot and tired and in pain and higher thinking isn\’t happening.

\”the process of gaining a new perspective was unbelievable painful\” This only told me that I am in pain at that moment. If I was gaining a new perspective, it was certainly through the pain.

During the 7th step, 26 miles came and went. I passed the point of getting another medal since I didn\’t think I\’d make it to 50 miles. Now, for the first time ever, I am doing miles for no gain. that is new. There won\’t be a material reward for what I am doing. I don\’t know the answer to why I do ultra marathons. The answer is somewhere out there in the miles and in the time.

I just passed my 50th lifetime marathon. One of the guys decides he will walk this lap with me. He says that the course is long. That his garmin just went past 27 miles even though we just past 26 miles. This is when I remember this is my 50th. I tell him and lift my hands in the air. We talk for this lap and it goes pretty fast. Then he quits.

7th Step Prayer: \”My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do your bidding\”

Step 8, 8th hour: \”…. develop the best possible relations with every human being we know…\” I don\’t try to do this. Now, at this moment of the race, I can\’t even figure this out. I\’m ok with these people here. I\’m not really able to want to fix my work life right at the moment. I am hot. My toes hurt.

\”… Very deep, sometimes quite forgotten, damaging emotional conflicts persist below the level of consciousness…\”  Slippery again. I know I came from a bad family. I know the emotional problems are there. I can\’t do more right at the moment.

\”…what happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore…\” I do this. My only hope is that when I return to work next week, I will become conscious of when this is happening. Right now in the race, I can\’t realize that I feel sorry for myself. Everyone else here hurts too. I know I am going to quit but they will keep going, no matter how slow, someone will be doing it. If I was unconscious of self-pity, I might quit and hate myself but not know why. Today, I will quit eventually, but not out of unconscious self-pity.

9th hour, 32 miles complete, Step 9: \”…we should try to be absolutely sure that we are not delaying because we are afraid. For the readiness to take the full consequences of our past acts, and to take responsibility for the well-being of others at the same time, is the very spirit of step nine.\” This isn\’t helping me at all. I can\’t focus on it.

I changed my shoes after 32 miles. Now I am wearing shoes that have the toe box cut out. I decide to see how bad my toes hurt. I consider that if I quit, I won\’t finish the 12 Steps. My toes hurt even without anything touching them.

But here\’s what happened. Near the end of lap 33, I pull into the shade. Suddenly I think, \”If there is a traffic jam on I45, you might as well stay here at the race.\” Suddenly, my race is to be decided by Houston traffic. I can\’t help myself. The iphone comes out and Houston Transtar app is opened. No traffic. 100 feet later, I am asking for the 26 mile medal and handing in my chip. Game over.

Last night, I could barely hobble around the house. I stayed in bed about 10 hours. This morning I feel quite good. Definitely, 33 miles is not as bad as 50 miles. I\’m glad.

The major difference between this race and other similar events? While I did go a few more miles before quitting, and I didn\’t quit in hatefulness. I think that at other times, I have quit in seething hatefulness and self-justification. This time I quit with a peaceful mind and good attitude. So I quit at the proper time, but my ego was not involved. this is called serenity and I am grateful for it. Thank you 12 Steps.

Another part of the 12 Step program is the Serenity Prayer. This prayer did not occur to me yesterday but it does now as I reflect on the race. I got serenity yesterday. Serenity was the outcome.

\”God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.\”

Onward to life\’s next lesson.