Self-Transcendence 6-Day 2010 Race Report – Pete Stringer

Date: Sun, 2 May 2010 09:54:51 -0400
From: Pete Stringer
Subject: SC Self Transcendence 6-day race report, quite long

Sitting here on Sunday with my legs too elephantine to go for much of a run yet I am hoping to keep this report shorter than six days to read it. But besides being a very long long race there is just so much to say that I guess one could just use the whole bottle of printer’s ink and feel there was yet more to say.

It is my favorite race. Nothing changes that. It is the most interesting the most emotional, the most fulfilling the most challenging the MOST FUN and the last despite being the most painful (just ask John Geesler, Alex Swenson, David Holt etc.)

I look forward to this race with childlike glee despite the unfortunate time frame of always immediately following the Boston Marathon and despite the punishing hardness of its surface which I despise. To add to this, the weather this year was in a word horrific. Rain rain rain cold cold cold windy windy windy, which to a man almost 70 taking his chilly naps in a tent somehow lacks the appeal it did 60 years ago in the Boy Scouts camping trips. Heck, I was a cold-blooded brave even then.

Yet, that is part of the deal: the race rewards grit.

One interviewer sticking a mike in front of me asked the obvious question, “Why do you do this?”

Well, most simply, because I find out about myself. A little more each time too. And when I observe the standouts, the Geeslers and Cunninghams and Balatskys and Rios I behold men and women of such resolve and character that I am moved to try a little harder.

I arrived Thursday night to set up and secure a place in the dugout, placing a tape for J.Geesler at the same table, figuring maybe a little of John’s aura might bring me some luck. Like me, he always runs Boston and starting this race with someone else with trashed quads would make me feel a bit less odd. My marathon this year was much worse than usual mainly due to a high level of allergens in the air as well as frequent trips to the portapotties along the way. Very time consuming when most of them have waiting lines of three or four other impatient souls. Thus the time of 4:56 was my all-time worst and forces me to pick out another marathon to run the BQ time I need for next year (which will be my 30th Boston — I always said I’d keep running it as long as I can qualify)

Back to the 6-day. The start Friday noon was the one good weather day we had. It was actually sunny and though cool the introductions made me feel very happy to be in such good company. It is like the bunch of men at the first tee when I used to caddy so often as a kid. Folks are exhibiting a robustness a natural optimism that the day might just turn out to be a good one. The one they have been looking for.

Starter and race r.d. Sahishnu an avid Red Sox fan and personal friend sends us off on the appointed hour and off we trot. I bring up the rear with one of the true ultra legends Mr. Marvin Skagerberg who I have long admired for his feats of yesteryear. I am buoyed by the thought that this year there is one fellow even older than me! Marv is 72. And along my travel I was to have the pleasure of two other septegenarians in the ten day race Mr. Don Winkley and Miss Bigalita Eggar. These two could be poster childs for the movie “How Ultrarunning Makes You Hollywood Handsome ” And later on I got to share some good laughs with both of them especially Don who definitely does not take himself too seriously. A natural story-teller he delighted me with a few Barkley and Laz stories that had me howling.

Jeez would I love to have his race itinerary : Comrades the Paris Marathon VolState etc.

My first day total was 54 or about 30 miles less than I wanted or what I achieved in my other two attempts. I just felt really sore and couldn’t force myself to go any faster. I stayed pretty bundled up and noticed my dear wife Jane had put on extra clothes sitting there in the dugout.
She drove down in the morning for crewing me the first two days. This makes a difference although you can easily do this race with no crew. It is just that if you want a peanut butter and banana sandwich you just can save yourself the couple of minutes it takes to make it yourself. An experienced crew person can save a lot of time over the long haul. You just holler out what you need and collect it next time around. Dipali Cunningham has this down to a perfected science with the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team constantly at her beck and call. It takes practice.

What I love about this race is you can use it as a proving ground as to the eternal equation “what works” employing different walk/run ratios how to best fuel yourself how much & when stopping and rest is cost-effective hydration shoe gear everyone begins applying scalpel to shoes after the first or second day — your feet ain’t the same ones you started with!). All around you one sees different approaches constant adjustments different levels of effort day by day smoothness of travel from striding to slugtarding. What feels right at present may not be working just an hour later and you go to the next Plan B. (And then Plan CDE …)

Jane had to leave Sunday for the drive back to the Cape and truth be told waterlogged Pete felt like going with her. This was the day I could only churn out what would prove to be my lowest day’s total 34 and I felt like Charybdis the old Greek rolling that infernal rock up the hill. Grunting. Snail-like. I kept thinking of Laz’s “not yet” post about his comeback achieving a 22 minute mile and say to myself {you wimp Stringer you just covered that last in 17 minutes and you think you might quit? You sad ass wuss show what you are made of here the backbone needs straightening a bit.}

And I did. I began making as a mini-goal of getting four miles covered each hour despite having to stop for whatever was needed. I would spot a fellow up yonder and say just run up to him and then you can walk a bit — and then run a bit beyond. Miles do come. Time passes.

Then late on Monday afternoon while running across the parking lot section near the expressway this big black stretch limo pulls up off to my side and my peripheral vision picks up this gorgeous business-lady type flying across to greet me.

Holy s**t! It’s my daughter Kerry! Being driven to the airport from an office in Manhattan by a company car she asks the driver to make this 20 minute detour to shout a cheer to her dad. And then proceeds to run a lap in her pin-striped business suit first shedding her heels a la the style the barefoot boys would highly approve.

Now that’s true love. Thus energized I spit out my return to respect with a 54 mile effort and begin moving up a bit on the leader-board.

The last two days turned out to be 43 and 44 miles for a final total of 275 miles or 44 less than last year. 16th of 22 males. It seemed as if we spent the whole race waiting for the rain to stop. And then when we did the wind blew so hard that a mile away in the new Citifields Stadium the pop flies were causing wild havoc for the infielders in the Mets-Braves game. (One of the announcers blandly asked “Has a ballgame ever been cancelled by wind?”)

But ultrarunning is all about perservering and I guess under the conditions I’m satisfied. My ultra friend Mr. Carl Asker the “second-best runner from Sweden” came by the last day to immortalize the finish with his camera. Good friend and guardian angel Barbara from Albany lent a hand very helpfully including packing up and getting me to the airport.

I’ll remember so many vignettes from this event. The long late-night talks with the great Dipali one of the rare true innocents I have met amongst athletes I choose to call great. Mark Dorian and his clarion call publicizing his favorite race from his unlikely Southwestern desert setting every year. The sheer dogged resolution of the bent-but-not-broken Luis Rios. David Holt struggling a rueful smile knowing what might have been with his fine start after he was severely injured. The ever-wondrous skill of the
amazing Bipin and his many magical water pumps who managed to somehow keep the course open. The sweet sound of the acapella singers at the awards my personal siren call to return to this holy land another year.

You too if you have heart and soul and wish to make the pilgrimage with me. You may find out about yourself.

Pete Stringer


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1 Comment

  1. First of all it is always nice to see Pete out there and I second everything he said about the race. It is a place and event to truly find yourself.

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