My good friend, Jefferson, accompanied me to Titusville last weekend for my first 100-miler.  

The first time we'd ventured out to this part of western Pennsylvania together, we had attended out our first beard competition, had an absolute blast and made a ton of lasting friends in the process.  All of which was quite a surprise, as we had arrived in Oil City unsure of what to expect.

This weekend actually felt similar in that regard.  The difference this time was that we already had friends waiting for us.

The longest race I'd run previously was a 54 miler.  I'd started but failed to finish a 70 mile race earlier in the year, so there were plenty of internal question marks.

Jefferson had paced for me and another friend at the Labor Pains 12-hour event but that course was held on a 5-mile loop that provided nearly constant access to food, drinks and friendly faces.  Oil Creek would be less accommodating.

Because this post isn't specifically about the race, I'll jump ahead and say that Jefferson had a few growing pains during the "crewing" portion of the race, but I deliver that news with a grin on my face.  He did just fine, but crew chief extraordinaire Jo Agnew, in doing her best to give Jefferson a crash course on crewing, actually managed to cast a spotlight mostly on what he wasn't doing "right" (whatever that means).

Hell, he'd never crewed before and I'd never been crewed for before.  How smoothly were things gonna go?

Once he could lace up his own shoes and get out on the trail as my pacer, Jefferson shined.

He didn't get to do nearly as much running as he expected to as pain in my feet converted me to more of a power hiker than a runner over the last 30 or so miles, but I set a pretty mean hiking pace (yes, I did say so myself) and he stuck with me, in the process surpassing his previous longest distance by a good half marathon, logging nearly 38 miles.

He was everything I needed him to be which was mostly just a calm, comforting presence, a by-my-side friend who didn't say a single thing to lower my spirits or shake my confidence.  I felt pain, for sure, but never  enough to pull me completely into a solitary place of suffering and I believe having Jefferson there with me was a huge factor for staying out of that place.

Jefferson never delivered my favorite stolen-from-Deadwood "the world ends when you're dead" reminder, but he didn't need to and it wouldn't have made sense if he did.  He didn't quote any Neitzsche either even though it must have been tempting, considering the fact that Friedrich had penned quite a bit of content that might seem relevant in the dark of the night AND had sported a moustache eerily similar to the one that currently resides on Jefferson's upper lip.

No, there weren't any specific quotes offered up in the middle of the night, but, after the fact, Jefferson did hand me an interesting passage from Neitzsche that I'm now going to share with anyone still reading along:

"There is as much wisdom in pain as there is in pleasure:  both belong among the factors that contribute the most to the preservation of the species.  If pain did not, it would have perished long ago; that is hurts is no argument against it but its essence.  In pain I hear the captain's command:  "Take in the sails!"  The bold seafarer "man" must have mastered the art of doing a thousand things with his sails; otherwise he would be done for in no time, and the ocean would swallow him.  We must learn to live with diminished energies, too:  As soon as pain gives its safety signal the time has come to diminish them; some great danger or other, a storm is approaching, and we are well advised to "inflate" ourselves as little as possible.

True, there are people who hear precisely the opposite command when great pain approaches: Their expression is never prouder, more warlike, and happier than it is when a storm comes up; indeed, pain itself gives them their greatest moments.  This is the heroic type, the great pain bringers of humanity, those few or rare human beings who need the very same apology that pain itself needs--and truly, one should not deny it to them.  They contribute immensely to the preservation and enhancement of the species, even if it were only by opposing comfortableness and by not concealing how this sort of happiness nauseates them."

Now I'm not going to go so far as to side with the bit about comfortableness making me nauseous but I do like the idea of facing the storm head on, weathering it and then taking the time to restore those diminished energies after the storm has passed.

And so, having done my part to preserve and enhance the species (who knew?), I'm savoring this recovery week, pondering endurance and...

...wondering who would be a better ultra-runner, Neitzsche or Al Swearengen?

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