By Davide Grazielli
It’s mile 35 of the inaugural Ultra Trails Lake Tahoe (UTLT). The altitude is taking its toll, my legs are starting to hurt, my stomach is queasy and I’ve got many more miles to go in the darkness.
But I’m in NorCal, few thousand miles away from home, running on a smooth dusty trail surrounded by giant trees. Once in a while, the green opens up and the sight of the lake fills my eyes. The brief exchanges with Saturday’s hikers offered some distraction and soon I heard cheers as the aid station got closer.
Immediately, the Silver State Striders crew took care of me by offering smiles and encouragement—boy, do they know how to operate an aid station! I took time to regroup as John Trent handed me my bottles. I couldn’t help but go back to Western States 2012—my first race abroad and a bag full of doubts, fears and anxiety. At the pre-race meeting, I heard John (who was going for his thousand mile buckle) talk and he had the incredible effect of easing my fears and setting me up for one of the most incredible adventures of my life.
Somehow his magic worked again and on my way to the top of Mt. Baldy, I stopped dwelling on my pace, strategy, how I should have handled the out-and-back, downhill or nightfall. I understood that the only thing that mattered was being there, fully present, going toward the unknown. The same curiosity for adventure that fueled my race back in 2012 came back even after years of running and racing. I was just grateful to have found it again and the appearance of the Mt. Baldy summit, with his absurd view over the lake, filled my heart with pure gratitude.
The following 15 hours included an unusual mix of happiness, desperation, sickness, friendship, a phone dissertation about gnocchi, quesadillas in the back pocket of my sweaty shorts, being shoved out of the aid stations by my running buddy, running strong after 23 hours of hurt, a million stars and the most intimate, surreal, awesome finish line ever.
It could only happen in a hundo, but you have to be ready to embrace it. And UTLT is the right place to do it.