One night last year as I was wandering around Burning Man, I stumbled upon the Purple Platypus. I ended up hanging out with them for a few hours and then the next day decided to stop by again, both to say hello and to see if I could actually find them again.
I did and while I was sitting there having a beer with them, one of the fellows I met the night before came staggering in, and not because he'd had too much to drink but because he had just run the Burning Man Ultra-marathon. Everyone else in the group thought he was crazy. I was jealous I didn't know about it.
This year, I was determined to find out about it and sign-up. In fact, I signed up the race before I had even purchased a ticket to Burning Man.
So I really have no excuse for my lack of training and preparation, except that I got busy with everything else going on in my life. Although, in retrospect, I should have and could have made time for it.
I had never run an ultra-marathon, but what better place to do it than at Burning Man, a land full of first-time experiences.
Long before the race, the feeling of inclusion and camaraderie was amazing.
And as my going to Burning Man again became more and more a reality, this race began to define how my burn would be this second go 'round.
Slow and Steady Win the Race
Actually slow and steady finishes the race. The winners were hitting it hard and fast, although you couldn't tell by their demeanor, which was happy and go-lucky, while mine was more along the lines of endurance, as in enduring a substantial amount of misery and pain.
Back to how the 50K changed my burn.
The year before, my virgin burn, I did what many first-timers do. I tried to experience everything all at once, the first day or actually the first couple of days, which really kind of melded together due to lack of sleep.
Running a 50K in the middle of the week made me slow down.
A very good thing, indeed, for me.
It made for a more thoughtful and aware experience.
And after running 32 miles in the desert, I got some serious props and respect.
I had only been out in the desert for a couple of days, but from my arrival, I had been getting back to my tent on average at 4 or 4:30 am.
I needed to wake up around then to get to the start of the race on time.
I managed to do that, however, I didn't give myself any time to do the stuff I do before races.
Like go to the bathroom, or in this case, attempt to tape my legs with physio-tape, or get my Go-Pro set up properly.
In fact, I was so blatantly unprepared that I ended getting left behind at the start.
The race started while I was trying to get taped.
And then I realized I had lost my Go-Pro.
After several frantic minutes of searching some one found it.
My race started off alone and in the dark.
And I managed to get lost....
In the first mile of the race.
The First of Several Guardian Angels
They say the Playa provides and I believe that to a degree. I also believe in the tenet of Radical Self-Reliance.
However, I have also found that there is an amazing thing that happens when you let I become we and allow people to help you.
When I stumbled upon a runner going the right direction when I was going the opposite way; it was one of those times.
My biggest desert guardian angel was a girl who had planned on running the race and had gotten sick just prior to the burn. She was a runner and didn't want to end up hurting herself by pushing her limits unnecessarily. That said she ended up running more than half the race with me.
She paced me on my second and fourth lap. She pushed me to go faster than I would have and she lifted my spirits a goodly number of times.
On my third lap, when I was most alone out there on the Playa, I realized I didn't have enough water to make it to the check-point. I mean I could make it, but I would end up being even more dehydrated than I already was and I would end up cramping constantly and might not be able to finish.
It was then, far off in the deep Playa along the trash fence, that a girl on a bike came up to me and asked if I had enough water.
"No, I don't"
And she filled up my water bottle and then rode off.
The Playa does provide.
On that note, here is an amazing video taped by the guy who came in second place.
My attempts at videography had me not starting the race with everyone else, which got me lost and then when I did start filming, my clips were bumpy and often aimed up at the sun or down at the ground.
He, meanwhile, managed to get great footage and come in second place.
I did capture him and his pal in one of my clips.
Or best swag ever.
The funny little gingerbread cut out guy is the best medal I've ever earned.
Better than Spartan splash, tough mudder headbands, even better than the polished finisher medals of any number of marathons I've done.
I finished my first ultra-marathon at Burning Man and it was awesome.
I had planned on being out there for maybe 10 or 12 hours, I finished under 7, just barely; 6:58 to be exact.
One more big thanks to Cherry Bomb.