By: Nick Bautista
I returned to Pittsfield, VT. for my second attempt at my “white whale,” the Peak Races 500 mile. Last year, I made it to 460 miles with the help of the previous year’s winner and first finisher in the race’s history, Willy Syndram. However, it wasn’t my time, yet.
It is difficult to put into words what I experienced during this run. It was a journey that changed me forever, more so than last year’s attempt. I experienced so many intense emotions; excitement, happiness, anger, frustration, sadness. Words do not seem to do the experience any justice.
The course changes every year. Offering new challenges, sometimes referred to as the “Andy Monkey-wrench,” affectionately named after the RD, whom we love, and he in return, loves to torture us. Ten loops run 50 times of muddy, technical terrain. Ten days to finish. 50-60 miles everyday. Elevation change equivalent to running up and down Mt. Everest four and a half times. Five of us started. Two of us survived: myself and my new friend, Kale Poland, both finishing early in nine days.
I ran through down pours. A possible tornado? Trails turned into rivers. Climbing through mud. Trekking through bushwhacking sections, twisting my ankles, smashing my toes into hidden tree stumps, freshly cut by Andy. Thanks.
I power hiked up steep, near vertical climbs that seemed to have no end. Heart rate sky rocketing and trying to control my breathing.
I ran down equally steep descents. Never ending drops that crushed my quads, strained my hips and created severe tendonitis in my right leg.
I ran rolling technical terrain. Never finding a comfortable rhythm, just twisting my ankles, hammering my feet until toenails literally popped off from my toes. Cutting up my shoes to relieve the pressure.
I ran through dense woods called “The Labyrinth,” when even in the daylight, it was near pitch black.
I ran through the night. Trying to avoid being stuck by the several porcupines who decided to wander out onto the trails. Trying to avoid black bears and coyotes.
I ran through doubt. When I didn’t want to run anymore. When I was tired. When I was nauseated. When my body hurt so much that tears fell. I ran after falling. I ran when my body said, “enough.”
At 9:15 pm on Saturday May 31, 500 miles later and done a full day early (9 days, 5 hours, 15 minutes) I cried like I had never done before. Blinded by spectators’ camera flashes and headlamps as I crossed the finish line, my wife found me and latched onto me. The tears flowing. I knew I could stop running now. The RD handed me my buckle and hugged me. Kale found me and we hugged as well. My spectacular crew that kept me moving, Jeff Seymour and Steve Antczak flanked me like body guards as I gathered myself. I was overwhelmed and the happiest I had ever been.