It was December 3rd, 2017 as Nick Bassett sat in front of his computer eagerly anticipating the announcement of the Western States Endurance Run (WSER) runners. This 100 Mile race uses a lottery selection process due to the high number of entrants every year. Out of approximately 15,000 tickets, Nick's was the first drawn.
To you and I, that's pretty awesome. But what it meant to a man who just had his 73rd birthday, could hardly be articulated in words.
For many years, the historic Western States Trail served as a direct route for the '49ers to travel between the gold camps of California and the silver mines of Nevada. With exception of a scant three miles of pavement, the race follows these trails in their natural state starting in Squaw Valley and ending in Auburn, California.
The Western States Endurance Run (WSER) climbs approximately 18,090 feet of elevation and descends another 22,970 from start to finish. On this particular summer day of 2018, temperatures would flirt with 100 degrees as racers battled their way through the rugged terrain.
WSER also follows a strict list of performance rules that each runner must abide by, including:
Ready to run the WSER for the 14th time, these rules weren't new to Nick. Yet, what was new was how his body, now nine years older than the last time he ran the race, would handle 100 miles of grueling terrain, heat, and continuous movement.
The Value of Preparation
"Wars are won in the generals tent." - S. Covey
When it comes to running 100 miles all in one go, there are two, sometimes three, ways to prepare effectively:
At 73 years old, one has to be slightly more strategic with training than say, someone 50 years younger. Nick runs or walks a bunch of volume on his own, and our training at the gym is completely geared to enhance his ability to move for longer, faster. We work to strengthen his entire body and improve his mobility and stability.
Passion is in the process
"Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process."
The obvious question you would ask any ultra runner is, "why?". It's not for the recognition, not for Nick anyway. Being the oldest finisher in WSER history earned him an overwhelming amount of publicity, but it was the first time in his racing career that so many admirers flocked his way to get a comment, shake his hand, or snap a picture.
What makes endurance runners unique is their insatiable desire to push limits--for a long time. A 20 mile training run isn't something they dread, especially not when with friends. It's a social outing, a way to connect with others, themselves, and nature.
I would imagine we can all find some way to relate. The amateur musician who practices for hours on end to play in front of the local pub crowd. The parent who reads every book they can get their hands on to raise a happy and healthy child. The researcher who works late into the night bent over a microscope looking for the next discovery. For me, I can only relate it to playing basketball or CrossFit, and using that passion as a way to escape from the daily stresses of life and grow the physical and mental.
The point is, we can all relate to passion, and no one has to understand our passion except ourselves. This is why the great ones separate themselves from the rest, they are willing to do things others are not. They are willing to grind, hustle, suffer, endure, and grow. Not through short cuts. Not by laying around waiting for something great to happen, but by going out and working damn hard for it.