I’m not quite sure know how to properly begin this post, so I guess I’ll just start by putting my thoughts to paper.
First off, you may be wondering what the hell my “Mini Dark Place” is and why I choose to share such a thing, so, hence, I will explain.
There is a North Face athlete (ultra/mountain runner) from Flagstaff, AZ, named Rob Krar. His motto is, “I run far. 100 miles at a time. I go to a Dark Place and I control the pain.”
Through my running (especially focusing on ultra distances), I’ve continuously wondered what Rob’s Dark Place is all about. After thousands of training miles I’ve finally come to a conclusion. This “Dark Place” that Rob Krar speaks of is a state of physical and mental cohesion, where the athlete sinks into a “hole” of continuous struggle. The athlete WANTS to be there. It’s where freedom is found.
Tonight, April 1, 2016, I finally visited my own mini Dark Place. After work in Sawyer, I set out for an easy 11 miles. Upon the conclusion (around 7:30pm), I downed a sandwich and a beer from Greenbush Brewing. As I was driving home to New Carlisle, I noticed the threatening rain clouds approaching from the west, just as the light was disappearing.
Before I arrived home, I pulled over at Spicer Lake and parked alongside the road. I got out, turned on my Petzl headlamp, and started my Garmin as the daylight was seconds away from vanishing. I had no real idea of how long I wanted to be out there. After all, I had just run 11 miles a few hours ago.
After about 10 minutes, it started down-pouring as the wind picked up. It became chilly and I could even see my breath in the glow of my headlamp as the rain pelted my exposed face. Soon, I began floating effortlessly, pitter-pattering through the muddy ravines and soaked trails. No music. I was alone (besides the occasional critter). I started unintentionally sinking into “the Hole”, the Dark Place that Rob Krar speaks of. I tried not to accept the fact that I was there.
This particular effort was soon-to-be the kindling to my blog post. I started formulating my intro. However, I knew I wouldn’t remember my exact thoughts later on, which caused me to chuckle.
The feeling of being sunk in “the Hole”, the Dark Place, started to wash away but not before eclipsing another ten miles. It’s funny, I usually pay close attention to staying hydrated and fueled properly but the body can do amazing things when in a primal setting, stripped down to its essentials. It’s in these moments that I realize that few things in this world are more badass, yet simple, than running through the trees at night.
Upon arriving home and sitting down and writing half of this, I came to the conclusion that, during training, I cannot purposely replicate this state-of-being. I cannot go out for a run and say, “I am going to completely and utterly focus solely on this run, each step, my exact foot placements, every breath, until I enter the state-of-flow and have this blissful experience served on a platter by angels.” Whenever I have tried that approach, I have failed miserably. The Dark Place can only be entered by chance.
I can only imagine that Rob Krar enters his Dark Place during his 100-mile races because, well, that’s far. And a LONG time to be suffering. I caught a glimpse of my Dark Place tonight during a 10-miler (21 for the day), but I hope I am lucky enough to encounter it during my debut ultra at the Ice Age Trail 50-miler, six weeks from now.