Sprinting with Doodle Bug
Doodle Bug is a nickname my dad gave to my younger brother, Dustin, when we were kids. I don’t know exactly how it came about, but it stuck. The monicker is a tad misleading, though. To hear the name conjures up an image of a meek little bug with an innocuous, neutral, and otherwise impotent disposition. Nothing could be further from the truth; my brother is a bear!
Yes, he can be a teddy bear, granted, but he can also be the kind of bear that will tear off faces and devour human flesh if he feels his family is being threatened. I love that about my brother: his passion. He loves with all he has, and is willing to sacrifice himself for the ones he loves. He has the scars, both physical and emotional, to prove it. Dustin, Doodle Bug, Doodles, is not only the best brother the universe could have ever provided me, but he’s also my best friend and one helluva business partner.
Sunday morning, Dustin and I were running as fast as we could, uphill, toward a finish line of a race that would have seemed a complete improbability just a few years ago.
In those days, Dustin and I both had problems just walking a few miles, much less sprinting up a hill to finish a 100-mile race.
I’ll never forget a specific duck hunting trip where he and I were required to walk almost 2 miles in our chest waders to get to a pond deep in the woods. At that point in our lives we weighed close to 800ish pounds combined. We had to take several breaks. We were sweating profusely, and were very angry that this ridiculousness was being asked of us by our hunting buddies in the first place. The anger was a projection; what I really felt was helpless, heavy, less than, tired, useless, etc…
Yet, here we were, together, a combined 300 pounds lighter, running full speed ahead toward the finish line of a 100-mile race. Who woulda fuckin’ thunk it?
My All-Star Crew
Doodles was integral to my finish at Bear Bait earlier this year because he’s a rock; a technician; a real pragmatic, logistics-oriented guy. So I knew having him involved would be crucial in my first 100-mile experience.
But he was not alone. I had an All-Star crew in addition to Doodle Bug. Beside the usual familiar faces of Wally and Jean, my buddy JT was there as a pacer and all-around tech guy. He also updated my social media profiles throughout the race.
Also, of course, my mom was there (my dad was back in Thibodaux making sure my grandpa Bam Bam was taken care of). She is becoming quite the hand, I must admit. (She needs to work on her Injinji toe-sock replacement speed, but still. lol.) My little sister, Kassi, was in the mix this time along with her husband Derick and my little nephew Grayson. Dustin’s wonderful lady Mishca was there, too. I could see her taking it all in with wide eyes as she has her first ultras on the horizon at Bobcat Bait and Children of the Cane respectively.
But having my lovely bride there was almost like cheating. That woman sets my insides on fire every time our eyes meet. And to have her there this time, with not only her unmatched leadership skills and get-shit-did-ness, but her obvious love for me and concern for my goal was more effective than P.E.D.s. No offense to anyone in the race, but I definitely had the best crew. I’m not kidding. It wasn’t even a contest. Our tent had so much capacity for support that it became a spot of aid for many others, and that makes me smile big-big.
As I made my way to the start line, I would be lying if I were to say I was not scared. I was scared shitless! But as I stood there waiting for the signal to run, I just went inside myself to find comfort in what I knew I had done to prepare for this moment, and the things that tried but could not, did not, derail me.
I knew I had run myself into the ground in July by overdoing it. I had made myself sick, driven my body to a place where swelling and vomiting were the manifestations of my efforts. I knew where that moment had taken me mentally, and how I had sat in my office in the middle of the night crying because I had invited the world to watch me do this thing, and now I was feeling like I had ruined my chances by running too fast, and too far; a dance I often dance.
Then, of course, the last-minute mindfuck of Hurricane Hermine. I was fighting the urge to go into a worried state about this tropical development, invest 99, just a week or so before the race. But for whatever reason Hermine, aka invest 99, did a 180 and left my race alone.
“It was meant to be,” I told myself. I felt like the universe had conspired to put me here, at the start line, on this day, with these people. It was time to respect that, honor that, and wring my soul, every last drop, onto the sandy soil that made up the Wildcat 100 course. I took a deep breath, and I was fucking ready!
The First 50
As I ran the first few loops the lesson I’d learned back in July was still very clear in my mind; chill out, no racing, just keep running, we got all goddamn day. I relaxed and fell into a groove with a couple buddies who were also competing, Rob Smith and Joshua Holladay. We just ran around and talked food, plants… shocker. lol! As they each stopped at their respective support crews, we began to separate. But Rob caught back up to me one more time, and thank goodness he did.
Rob clued me in on a trick that he’s used in past races where the heat was an issue. He told me to fill a long tube sock with ice and keep it around my neck. That seemed like a great idea, I was in! But that wasn’t enough for Rob. He actually had his wife hand me one of his tube socks (clean, of course. lol!) to use for this in the next loop. And man, it saved my ass, I must say. After learning this little gem, I had my crew prepare a backup sock-with-ice so I wouldn’t have to wait on them to fill one on every visit. This little trick helped me push through the 104-degree heat index, and keep a steady pace.
With my rhythm of ice-sock, water, Tailwind, GU’s, Bearded Bros bars, and fresh Injinjis and Altras every 20 or so miles, I was clipping through the miles with relative ease. I was really having fun. There was tons of encouragement from my friends on the course, as well as the bystanders at the start/finish area. Things were great, and I was all smiles with the carrot-on-the-stick of picking up Wally, my first pacer, in mile 50.
As I came in for my 20th loop Wally was there waiting on me, bouncing around in his shoes, ready to get the show on the road. If you know Wally, you know what I mean. He is, as Bam Bam would say, “sitting on ready and rocking on go” all the damn time. I love that dude! I have referred to him and Nikki, his wife, as human Prozac before, lol. There is no way to get in a funk around Wally…unless it is mile 55 and you’re starting to hit your first low point in your first 100 mile race, while weathering a torrential rain storm…
As Wally and I took off we linked up with the current leader, I was a lap down on him so I guess he felt safe just hanging with Wally and myself for a while. Yet as we got into that first loop, I felt the pace picking up a tad, and it was throwing me off.
At that point I was charging my watch with an external battery, which had the display disabled, so I had no idea what our current pace was. But the watch did display mile splits, so I knew that in the first mile with Wally and the leader I had sped up almost 1minute/mile. That, combined with our exuberant conversation with the leader (a barely-18-year-old young man trying to break the 100-mile world record for his age group), was kinda throwing me off a bit, and I began to falter.
Wally could tell. After a few miles with this young phenom, Wally gently encouraged him to move on ahead. As Wally and I ran around the loop a few more times, we began to talk. He brilliantly brought up the subject of food, and we began talking about plant-based nutrition. I was completely lost in talking about helping people get traction with their weight-loss and health goals through plants and running. We were talking about all the possibilities.
What Wally was really doing, of course, by reminding me of all the people who’ve been helped by me, was making me better in that moment. He said to me around that time that he could feel my passion about this in the pace. He was like, “Do you realize how much more relaxed, and how much better the pace has gotten since we’ve been talking plants n running?” Wally suggested I tap that passion for the rest of this race, and within the next mile handed me off to JT.
JT and I have had a lifetime of running experiences together in a matter of just a few years, so we had some fun reminiscing to do. We talked about how far we’ve both come from that first 5k where we found ourselves, two strangers, racing each other through downtown Thibodaux for the 2013 Thibodauxville 5K, where he out-kicked and beat me, but unwittingly carried me to a new PR. That bald-headed fucker has become like a brother to me, and to have him there running with me in my first 100 miler was so cool, and I am so glad that his wife and son shared him with me for the weekend. He’s a solid gold soul, and one of my favorite humans, even if he did attend Central Lafourche High School.
JT and I ran around the loop a few times, and we wondered where my boy Jean was. We hadn’t seen him yet, and we knew he was next in the rotation. That didn’t shock me, my boy Jean is always late. lol. I knew he was with his family at the beach, so I figured he may be running late. As JT and I got back around to the start/finish I could someone standing there in what, from a distance, looked like an ol coonass offshore all-in-one work uniform. To myself I was like “Wally has dressed up as an oil rig rough neck or something. crazy fucker…” But, as I got closer, I could see it was not an oil field uni, it was Jean in a goddamn Chewbacca costume! I laughed and shook my head. Only my crew. I fuckin love it! Jean met me and JT back around by my support tent where he helped change my shoes. In a Chewbacca costume! I’m still laughing! Then we took off!
As Jean and I started off, I said it was pretty fucking hot to be wearing basically a full-body fur suit. To which he replied that he figured I’d been out here suffering all day, and the least he could do is come out and run in this hot fucking suit to suffer a little with me. It made my voice crack, but I held back my tears because Jean is the tough guy in our clique. I didn’t want to go all Tammy Faye Baker on his ass, so I just said thanks.
Jean’s encouragement was amazing and perfect. Having just finished the Leadville 100 two weeks ago, I’m sure he still had the taste of 100 miles fresh in his mouth, so maybe he could empathize with where I was at the moment better than anyone that night. He made me feel so good about how I was doing, and he really put me at ease and got me motivated to get my mind right for the upcoming final push at the same damn time. It was a really good few loops. But, it was time to swap out pacers because he needed to get the hell out of the damn Chewbacca suit.
So, as Jean shook a fresh pacer from the rack, my wife, rather unexpectedly, found herself on a half loop back to the start/finish with me to pick up my next pacer. It was a short run together, and not her forte, being it was at night, in the woods, with a head lamp (upside down, btw. so cute!), on wet trails. I know it wasn’t her favorite, but I sure enjoyed her being with me for more than the fleeting moments we’d gotten at the aid station, where she was quite the efficient General I was hearing…not a surprise there. She is the most capable human I know. I got me a good one. But soon our little run was over, and we were back around to where Wally was waiting to run again.
Falling Apart and Getting Put Back Together
Wally and I made a loop, then I decided I needed a break on our second loop. My groins were cramping, my back was tight, my whole body was tired. Seventeen more miles was feeling daunting.
I was falling apart. I sat in a chair and Wally massaged my calves, and I could see the worry on his face. He was concerned. Not concerned for my safety or anything, but I think he was concerned that I was starting to come apart a bit. And I think he was trying to figure out how to tell me to get my ass up without telling me to get my ass up, but he really didn’t have to say anything. I could see it in his eyes and on his face.
So I got my ass up, with considerable help from him. I could barely stand without a cramp forming somewhere in my musculature. When I got to my feet, I just wrapped my arms around Wally and stood there getting my bearings. Then we began to move ever so gently, deliberately, slowly back into the woods and night.
As soon as we got away from the tent, I started to cry. I sobbed. I told Wally I was so sorry. He had come here to pace me, help me get a solid first-hundred-mile finish, and here I was looking like a damn zombie, walking without bending my knees. I followed behind Wally with a hand on each shoulder, with my head hung low, eyes closed, trying to get my life together.
Then Wally chimed in.
“Big J, you fucking killing this hundred miler bro. I’m not bullshitting! You are doing great; you’re not sitting, you’re walking, you’re moving. That’s all that matters right now; one foot in front the other. We’ll walk this whole fucking lap if we have to bro, just as long as you’re moving forward. Your legs will come back. I promise, J!”
He just let me cry and walk, and run when I could. And when I did run, then stop for a walk, he’d say, “You fucking killed that run, J! Nice one!” It really kept me going. He knew exactly what to say, when to say it, and most importantly why to say it. Wally was my hero of the night on that couple loops. I love that man!
Doodles Reignites My Engine
When we got back to my family, to my surprise, my brother was up and dressed in his running gear. He looked at me in the eye and said, “Me n you ‘bout to go for a fucking run, ya heard?” I immediately lost my shit and started to cry.
My brother has been by my side through thick and thin.
He’s been there when I wasn’t there for him.
He’s been there and never wavered in his brotherly love when I let “cool kids” that I was trying to befriend fuck with him and call him “fatass” when we were in high school.
He’s been there and still wanted me as his big brother when I shared my pair of boxing gloves with a friend when we were kids, as Dustin, two years younger, stood there and took us both on and got a bloody nose.
He’s been there as my business partner when I’ve been out doing cool things like traveling around to places like Plantstock while he picked up the slack, and dealt with pouring rain and aging pumps, drainage and levees.
He came over and buried my dog for me when I was too destroyed…
My brother is my better half in many ways. He’s the entire O-line, and I get to be the quarterback.
As he saw my face devolve into cry mode he stopped me dry.
“Joshua! We ain’t got time for that shit. You hear me?! Save the emotions for when you’re done. Right now, we run.”
We ran. He ran my ass off in that loop. That really broke my legs free, and I was really starting to feel better, but we knew I needed a little gentler loop on the next round because we could see the writing on the wall that I was about to go hard as a motherfucker in the last 10 miles, so my little sister took a lap with me next.
The Final 10 Miles
I feel so fucking old! I remember when she used to call out from the bathroom, “somebody come wipe my buuuuttt!” when she was little (she’s gonna kick my ass! lol), and now she’s a wife and mom. Here we were, Kassi Sue and her big brother running through the woods in the middle of the night, wrapping up mile 90 or so. So surreal. Flashes of my Mammaw looking down at all of us went through my mind. Wonder what she thinks of all this…I hope she’s proud.
As we rounded out the loop for the end of her shift of pacing, I could see that Mishca, my brother’s lady, was there waiting for me. She was bouncingingly ready to run!
Saying that Mishca is a ball of energy is kinda like saying that a nuclear bomb will leave a bruise. The girl is definitely related to the Energizer bunny. I don’t know how, but she’s a fucking first cousin or something. I mean, she is from Pierre Part so they might call him T-Lapin or something, but it is the Energizer bunny fa sho. Anyway, Mishca and I took off down the trail as she was singing and rapping and skipping and fucking hopping! The girl was just a vibration. I fed off her energy and I was now ready to go!
Mishca passed me back off to Jean. He had removed the Chewbacca suit by now. It was time to go to fucking work, baby!
No surprise when Jean came right out the gate with some great words of encouragement. He reminded me how in our training we look forward to our easy days where we are only required to run less than ten miles. The more he talked, the more I wanted to impress him. And when I tried to thank him for his words he just deflected, and said, “Bro, I wouldn’t come pace many folks two weeks after running Leadville, but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” My heart swelled, and I was ready to eat raw human flesh!
Jean passed me back off to JT, and when we started off JT did what JT does; he began filling me in on details. He told me that 24 hours was probably in the bag. He said I was so far ahead of 24 hours that I may wind up sub-23! That was crazy to me. I really had no idea. I was trying not to spend brain calories on calculating my finish time. I probably would have fucked it up anyway.
As JT and I came through that start/finish for the last time, I asked him to calculate for me how fast I had to run in these last two miles to get in under 23 hours. He thought for a second, then blurted out that I just needed an 18 minute average in the last two miles to get in under 23 hours. Well, that shocked me. I had no idea I was so far ahead of my goal. Next thing I knew we were back to Doodle Bug, where he was to take me in to the finish.
A Team Sprint to Finish
This time there were no tears. This time there was Kevin Gates blaring on a bluetooth speaker, and a younger brother ready to try to run his older brother’s ass off in the last mile of his first 100-mile race. Honestly, I thought Dustin was going to kill me with the pace he started with. But as he got me rolling, and I could hear “I was tryna get it how I live…I want den dead presidents…I wanna pull up, head spent…get it! get fly! I got 6 jobs, I DON’T GET TIRED!!” we hit a little downhill section, and I started to let my legs go, I was just gonna RUN till my body made me stop.
It wasn’t long before Doodles gave an audible “Uh oh! I can’t keep up! keep going!”
Then I heard him holler back to my dawgs who weren’t far behind, giving chase with the speaker, “One of y’all better come catch his ass, he’s running too fast for me!” Although I was pulling away from him, I knew it was making Dusty proud. I could feel it. It drove me even faster.
I was nearly a half-mile into the last mile before my buddies caught up to me. I ain’t gonna lie, I was trying to outrun their asses too! My hair was on fire!
There was an out-n-back section in that last mile, so they made sure Dustin stayed put and would be waiting for me at the turn for the last tenth of a mile.
We made the final trail loop at the end of the power line right of way, and I began to charge down this last little downhill section for the fortieth fucking time, at a 7:00-7:30 pace.
As we made the approach to the final hill, that I’d been very conservative on in the previous 39 trips, Jean hollered at me to “smash dat fucker!” I gave it all I had. I smashed it.
At the top I could see my brother running from me. He knew I was coming in HOT! He was running his ass off! I was so goddamn proud! I know how hard he was working. When I got next to him he said for me to go on without him. He didn’t want me to lose any time because of him.
Fuck that! It was time for him to keep up! We only had a sprint to the finish left to get done, and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t coming with me!
We both spilled out every drop of what we had left in that last 100 yards. When I got to the finish line I felt like a goddamn warrior. It was one of the most intense feelings I have ever had in my life. I finished my first 100 mile race in 22:45:19, third place overall. And I got to share it with people who mean the world to me.
As I propped myself against the fence near the finish, the race director asked me if I wanted my buckle… “You fuck’n right!”
I shared a very intense moment of emotional release with Wally because he saw my worst that night, and helped me through. I can’t think him enough for being the voice of calm and reason as I came apart at the seams.
But the thing that will stick with me forever is my wife grabbing me by the chin, and pulling my face close to hers for a quick kiss in the midst of all the mayhem…I made her proud, and that made my day.
Peace. Run. Plants.