Holli and I used to talk about running a fair amount. Even though she wasn't a runner, she was my crew at all of my major races. In long races it isn't unusual to lose the ability to understand clearly what you need or what is going on. You can forget to eat, forget to drink, forget to change gear, the list goes on. It is nice to have someone who knows what you need even when you do not.
We inevitably lean on past experience to understand current experience. I've found that the difference between ultramarathons (in particular 100s) and shorter races is the number of ups and downs that you experience. In shorter races, there is often a clean arc that goes from feeling great to feeling tired to feeling the elation of finishing. With ultras you must endure several cycles of ups and downs before crossing a finish line that, at least for me, rarely brings a sense of elation. Only later does a sense of satisfaction set in.
The myth of grief is that there is some sort of clean arc to the process. The finish line lies when one has gone through all the stages, taken enough time, finished grieving or moved on. The language of grief coming to an end is so much a part of our lexicon that you don't notice it unless you are given reason to pay attention. Of course, it isn't true. There is neither a clean arch nor a finish line.
On Wednesday, I heard my 4 year old son explaining to one of his little friends that his mom died. Moments like that are heartbreaking and I know that there will be more. There is no finish line, just more ups and downs in a jungle gym of emotions that is neither fair nor predictable. At times memories are a comfort and at times they are an open wound. There are moments of pride and satisfaction as well as defeat.
The night after I finished my first 100, I dreamed that I was still running. It had it's ups and downs, but I was glad to still be running. And I felt strangely disappointed when I woke up in bed.