2018 – My Year of “Fun”

My buddy Cisco routinely makes fun of my absolute unwillingness to have any confidence in my skiing ability (I like to say sometimes what I’m doing could be confused for skiing).  This confidence, or being overly self-critical, carries over into other activities where I usually find myself in the back of the pack. Most group runs are just lather/rinse/repeat cycles of me catching up to the group, apologizing for making everyone wait, and then making some comment about how the previous climb/downhill/flat was bullshit.  In my mind I’m usually straddling the line between being “Rudy” and sacrificial lamb (“sure he tried really hard, but his death will serve as a warning to others”).

Not all baby birds survive their first flight.  Not pictured: Face plant. Photo Credit – Cisco Oyague

2017 wasn’t a complete disappointment, but for some reason 2018 felt like it had to be a vindication year.  I made the same promise at the beginning of the year to stay healthy and injury free only to spend most of the year with nagging injuries.  I signed up for Sean O’Brien 100k, Dirty 30, got waitlisted for San Juan Solstice, Never Summer 100k, and Run Rabbit Run 100. That’s a lot of stupidity, made even worse with the news that my previous idiocy had earned me a place in the 2018 Boulder Bad Ass – Attack of the Idiots.  

Sean O’Brien 100k.  How hard can it be? Buffed out California trails, shorts and t-shirt weather in February, and combine it into a work trip?  The only concern I had was a rather aggressive 50-mile cutoff time (12hrs), but I had just gone sub-11hr TNF50 on 1 ankle. Cue race week, Santa Ana winds kicked up and the forecast was now showing upper-80s/lower-90s.  Waiting at the starting line someone asked about the creek crossing…wait, creek crossing? Everything started well enough but I got absolutely cooked on the climb from 30-35 and spent the rest of the race doing resets at each aid station.  

Set Oven to 90°. Cook for 4 hours. Leave for dead. Photo Credit – Eric Lee

While trading places with some people on trail a guy asked if he thought we could make the cutoff.  “No idea, but they’re gonna have to drag me off the course” was my response. I remember hitting the AS at mile 43 and was  presented with a choice. Go right, drop to the 50-miler, and it’s mostly downhill to the finish. Turn left and go up an awful looking climb, then down, then climb it all back again.  Just like the route Butters took back home…”lotta history on that road” (spoken with a true Mainer accent).  I turned left like an idiot, hit the 50-mile cutoff with 45 minutes to spare, and survived the trip back to the finish.  Just under 15 hours and considering the low finishing rate for the 100k (296 starters, 143 finished) I guess it was something to be proud of.  To celebrate I cried in the car for a while before driving back to the 3rd floor airbnb.

WSER qualifier out of the way so no pressure for the rest of the year.  Part of the ramp-up to Dirty 30 included a Hell Week escalation. We already did Hell Week in a Day last year but Jared, Josh, and myself were going to up the ante by linking everything on foot.  Point to point. Stupid.

ProTip: If you don’t talk trash before something dumb, you don’t have to finish it

It hurt, as I screwed up nutrition early and joked about being on a hunger strike until people stopped running marathons. While taking a food break at Gregory Canyon someone looked at us sprawled on the ground and said “have fun…doing whatever it is you’re doing.”  After 13 hours, 40 miles, and 13k of climbing we finished…and vowed to never do that again (plans for next year started the following week, thankfully I’m out of the country).

HWIAD veterans, pretending not to hear me dying

Dirty 30 was preceded with some hip pain (super-power for being over 35 is that you can injure yourself doing yard work) that I was pretty sure would force me to DNS.  While a normal person wouldn’t have gone for it (shooting pain down the leg if I tried to touch my toes), I decided that if I just focused on form it would basically be like 7 (or 8) straight hours of PT. The race highlight was a tie between having a functioning hip at the end and being assaulted with cold water by Julia at AS4.  Whatever, I’m back over .500 for D30, plus I figured I got some good suffering in for SJS.

Should have hit the red button

After starting in the 80s on the waitlist for SJS I got in three days before race.  Like a true optimist I had already made plans weeks earlier to go out with Pete and Emily.  Emily was already in through the lottery and Pete got in on the drive out. I only got ~4 hours of sleep the night before and pretty much felt awful from the start.  Pete remembered he actually has some physical ability and left Emily and me after the first climb. We continued along through the second climb, running into Brad, Lauren, and Trout during what can only be described as the worst moment in my life.  I just leaned over my poles and alternated between sleeping and crying. My nutrition went sideways after I consumed a gel in a manner that can only be described as “non-consensual”. Emily (after laughing) offered to swap flavors with me, but I figured I’d already made my bed and deserved what was coming.  We took turns doing cut-off math, culminating with me saying “if we can just keep dropping these 18-minute miles we’ll be fine.” After perfectly executing the parkour moves to get across the creek to the base of the last climb I managed to come back to life and finished just under 15 hours.

The only flat spot of the SJS course. Photo Credit – Pete Newton

Swapped hip issues for ankle problems, and before I knew it I was tapering for Never Summer.  Around this time I learned I’d gained a reputation for being “a grumpy runner”. Kinda shocked as I figured I was always able to laugh at the misery of every ultra?  Cut to the race, and the first 17 mile were amazing fun as I traded spaces with Lauren and Josh. The climb up East Diamond was character building, but I seemed to be smiling and holding it together.  

NS100k is absolutely amazing. Photo Credit – Emma Morley

Cue hail and a stomach ache.  I rolled into Ruby Jewel as the entire RMR crewing contingent was leaving.  I just stuck my tongue out pantomimed blowing my brains out. Ohhh…maybe that’s where that “mysterious” reputation came from.  

The weather only got worse, culminating in a lightning storm above treeline at the pass near Kelly Lake.  Something about getting pelted by marble-size hail and nonstop lightning/thunder made me realize that maybe my stomach wasn’t such a big issue…getting superpowers from a lightning strike was a legit possibility here.  I powered over the pass, walking past people hiding in the few shrubs along the trail while saying “I don’t think it’s that bad!”. The cooler temps and downhill allowed me to regroup and run most of the way into Clear Lake.  I walked into the AS with a list of 3-4 things I needed to do. Then it happened…T-Pain’s “I’m n Luv” started playing and short-circuited my brain. Rather than refilling bottles, repacking food, or anything productive I just danced and ate quesadillas.  As the song ended I realized Silke was there, probably wondering what the hell was wrong wit me. I said hi and started up the hill, realizing a few minutes later all the stuff I forgot to grab (damn you, T-Pain!). Ran into Julia and shared some laughs on the trail and before I knew it I was heading back downhill.  The second stop at Clear Lake was a bit more productive, as not only did I fill bottles, swap shoes, and grab nutrition but I also yelled at Erika who was talking about dropping. “My grandmother could run 20 miles downhill, and she’s dead” was all the motivation she needed to get moving (or maybe she was just running away, scared).  The remainder of the race was a bit of a blur, complete with way too many inappropriate comments at every aid station…to people I did and didn’t know. I finished in 19:31, the longest I’d gone without crew or pacers, and it was a blast. Finally, a fun race to build some confidence on.

I really, truly treated Run Rabbit Run 100 as prep for the Boulder Badass.  I went with a minimal crew of my wife, Kristina, and a single pacer for 25 miles, Pete.  I figured if I could survive that I would be able to deal with the two nights of running and maximal crew/pacer of the BBA.  Let’s just say I have some very strong feelings about RRR100…buy me a beer and you’ll hear the word “bullshit” a lot. I got to spend a bit of time with Josh (who crushed his first hundred) on the opening climb, root on Andy (who was done by brunch the next day) as he climbed up Fish Creek Falls, and discuss the differences in “grumpiness vs saltiness” with Rush.  

Back when we all had hopes and dreams

I eventually found myself mostly alone until sunset when a group of us just stopped in an Aspen grove for the greatest sunset I’ve ever seen.  After that, things fell apart. I had the worst blisters (both feet) of my life, and failed to fix the problem at Dry Lake. On the descent to Olympian Hall I had a confrontation with a fox, where I had the most beta-male response of screaming and doing my best Bobby Hill impression.  Next, I accidentally/jokingly hit on a teenage volunteer helping people cross the street (“come here often?”).  Finally made it to the AS only to be told that my crew wouldn’t be allowed inside. So we dragged chairs outside as I bitched and complained about everything, apologized for being late (I was technically ahead of schedule), and finally left with Pete.  Kristina’s first experience crewing an ultra was just me complaining about blisters, miles, and claiming I’d have to register on a list. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s “busy” for the next one.

Pete valiantly ushered me up Emerald then laughed as I cursed my way down the 30,000 switchbacks back to Olympian.  Thankfully they let Pete and myself into the AS this time and I was slow enough that the headlamp battery I had plugged in on the first visit was fully recharged!  Swapped socks, grabbed food, and set off for the slow walk back up to Dry Lake. I regaled Pete with tales of underage forbidden love and fighting forest beasts, with some complaining and silence mixed in.  At Dry Lake we tried again to deal with my blisters (duct tape fail) and then said our goodbyes (Pete had a wedding to get to and decided pacing through the night wasn’t a good idea).

Right after Pete left I ran into John, who had just about given up on catching me (his wife had been telling him “he’s 5 minutes ahead of you!” all night).  We shared some misery on a pretty cool section of trail before he realized he’s a badass and couldn’t be seen on the trail with me. Sun came up, headlamp off, and the smoke from the fire on Rabbit Ears Pass rolled in.  Trucks raced up the road to re-stock a ‘minor’ aid station because the 50-milers got re-routed that morning onto our course because their original course was sort of on fire. I sleep-walked through the smoke and dust, switching to a pure-Tailwind diet (Jon Davis approved) because my stomach just couldn’t deal with solids anymore (et tu, quesadilla!?).  The sleep-walking continued through Long Lake, where my sub-30hr goal disappeared when I realized I would have to run a 1:30 half marathon to finish in time (my PR is 1:45ish on flat). I ran into Jesse (who was crushing the 50-miler) at the final AS and talked with a guy who looked at me weird when I told him he looked like Keanu Reeves (he reacted in a very chill/subdued Keanu-way, so I’m still convinced it was him).  I started down the final hill determined to run for 5 minutes then walk for 1…as I had a beer bet riding on the descent time (shocker: I lost). Instead I walked for 10 minutes, thought about running for 30 seconds, then ran between shady spots on the trail. Somehow I was too fast through the finish and they didn’t call my name out, so my wife and John (with his family) didn’t know I was laying on the ground near the medical tent.  Kristina found me, pretended I didn’t look like death, and told me about how it wasn’t quite the vacation I described (kidding, she told me later at dinner).

“Just remember…you paid money for this”. Photo Credit – Kristina Oatis

49 days to recover for the BBA.  I had attempted to run the opening 35 miles last year only to fail miserably at mile 20ish.  Eric recently wrote about the history  of the BBA, so I’ll just hit the logistical highlights:  must work normal hours on Friday with a 10pm start time, no napping (some lawyering going on this year over “no napping” vs “no napping during work”), no pacers allowed the first 35 (new this year).  It’s also not exactly a race as it’s expected that all the idiots will stick together until the final 20-ish miles where the Skyline breaks up the group. Overall, it’s just an impressive homage to communal suffering.  

Can’t be a bad idea if you’re in a group!

This years starters:  Colleen, Dan, Eric, Paul, Guy, and Gwen.  I did my own iRunFar research to confirm that I had the lowest ultrasignup score.  Dan decided to handicap himself by traveling to Jakarta (multiple times) and Eric had recently finished Grindstone.  The group chat was full of standard sandbagging (I believe Paul was basically on life support, Gwen’s foot was being held in place by bubble gum, etc).  My taper plan included 2.5 days of sinus-scorching fence staining followed by getting sick (shockingly, a sinus infection) and then two days before the run waking up at 2am to sign up for High Lonesome 100.  I was told there should be enough medical professionals between runners and crew that I could go for a Sudafed PR.

Front range forecasts are usually wrong. This one wasn’t.

Not gonna lie, leaving my house at 8:30pm on Friday to run until Sunday morning was pretty rough.  I arrived and did my best not to cry, explaining that every time I tried to get excited about this run I wound up freaking out.  We waited inside as it started raining sideways and all the enablers gathered to see us off. In a blur the fart blaster went off and for some reason we left Eric’s house to start running.  Willingly.

We shuffled along through the peanut butter trail conditions to the first AS.  I believe we were given about 3 minutes of running reprieve before being kicked out.  We continued along, powered by regret and whatever we managed to grab (in my case gummy bears and pretzels), enjoying the strong easterly winds.  Given a baggy enough jacket you could have just sailed into the second AS, unfortunately mine was form fitting enough that I just went deaf from the flapping.  

The enablers did a valiant job to set everything up in heavy winds.  Warm food could be had if you could eat it fast enough (before it re-froze).  We didn’t need to be kicked out, as it was so windy that no one wanted to be there.  The enablers packed up and drove away while we turned into the headwind and a boring, grinding uphill.  I turned my headlamp off and tried to catch some sleep as we made our way up to the top of the Bizmark loop.  Through some odd weather phenomena (that Colleen refused to explain) the wind died down at the ‘top’.

The earlier tailwind plus the bit of rain combined to start causing some super-fun chafing issues, almost an exact repeat of my previous effort.  Luckily in the wee hours you can just Jiffy Lube yourself in the middle of the trail (your mileage may vary if you’re not in the back of the pack).  I caught back up to Gwen, who kept me safe as I got scared by every cow laying off trail. Before we knew it we were back at the freeway, ready for some real trails.  

After making a wrong turn to get into the Springbrook/Goshawk trail system we started to spread out, with Eric, Gwen, and myself sort of sticking together.  Gwen gave a rather convincing speech about probably not being able to finish (spoiler: she was the first finisher, with a new record time). Plodding along I got lost at the bridge crossing over the canal, where Eric and I hung out eating gummy bears while Gwen replaced her headlamp batteries.  Onward and upwards we made it to Eldo where the enablers were doing their best not to freeze.

It was in Eldo that the pattern of ‘racing to leave aid’ started (not complaining, it was a fun little side game).  At least in my mind, it was usually Paul that was first one out, leaving everyone else racing to wrap up and follow.  I think I was the last one out, but we all re-grouped on the start of the climb into Walker Ranch. I dropped off from the group on the descent, but passed someone (too dark to see) before the bottom.  A few minutes later I looked back to see a girl in a red jacket and asked “How’s it going Gwen!?”. Colleen responded with “It’s Colleen”. Ahhh…both girls were wearing red jackets. “Oh, how do you think Gwen is doing?”.  Colleen was not entertained.

Heading through Walker was super trippy.  My headlamp died so I was working off a small handheld.  We passed Guy, who I think took a quick nap on the side of the trail, Colleen passed me, and I was just stuck in my own little light bubble.  I had assumed that during the run my moment of reckoning would come, where I just got dropped and would cause 6 cases of hypothermia from people waiting for me.  While plodding along, thinking everyone was hours ahead of me, the sun came up…and somehow we were all within sight of each other. Gwen and I climbed up to the top of walker together (I didn’t ask how she thought Colleen was doing) and joined the chäir party with the enablers.  

Recovering from a night of raging. Photo Credit – Ryan Smith

Top of walker, 50k-ish in, pacers allowed, sun is up…things are looking good.  This is where I learned that you can kill a party atmosphere by pulling out a single latex glove and some vaseline to deal with some chafing .  To ease the tension I just told people I was masturbating (and was caught on camera, from two perspectives doing so). I think Paul started the charge out, with each runner pulling at least one pacer along.  Lauren, who was either unphased or didn’t see the latex incident, left with me as we tried to catch up to the group.

The larger group leapfrogged as all the runners were pretty excited to talk to new people.  As we started down towards the aqueduct…it happened. Paul Hooge, easily standing 8 feet tall, uprooted a massive tree and threw it Colleen.  A booming laughter filled the canyon. Or on a rather loose descent Paul grabbed a dead tree that then fell towards Colleen but missed. My memory’s a little shaky.  

Walking away from the 2018 tree incident. Photo Credit – Eric Lee

While I wasn’t looking forward to the pounding downhill on Magnolia Road, I really didn’t expect to have to do it in a snowstorm.  We ran through the snow, which turned to rain, then cleared up, and were verbally assaulted by Clare from her Prius before hitting the next aid.  

It was now a reasonable time of day so more people were joining/enabling.  After getting some food down, taping a couple toes, and a more discrete latex glove session, I think I left first heading up towards Betasso.  The group caught up as we worked our way up the road and back onto dirt. Unfortunately Guy started having hip/knee issues, forcing him into a gallop rather than run.  

2018 Family Photo

After making our way past the ‘family photo’ tree stump/branch I was feeling somewhat okay as I realized it was just me and Nick running, the rest of the group had fallen back.  While Nick tried to say I was moving pretty well I informed him that I really just had to go to the bathroom and was looking for some privacy. I climbed off trail and while hidden from view heard the main group pass with Eric commenting “Doug is really making his move now”.  I laughed, because the only movement I was making started with a ‘b’.

I caught up to the group and survived the rolling hills to get to the Swoop AS.  The implied rush to get in/out of aid continued, with each runner taking a new pacer as they made their way up Sanitas.  Unfortunately Silke drew the short straw and was stuck with me as I left. We talked about strippers, prostitution, and fashion as I did my best to trip her with my trekking poles.  All the idiots, minus Guy (who unfortunately had to drop as galloping on 2-legs didn’t fix a sore knee…3rd time’s the charm!!!), regrouped further up the trail for the standard Sanitas Summit picture.  

How many runners does it take to tag Sanitas? Photo Credit – Eric Lee (who I sure hope also tagged the summit)

We picked up more enablers turning onto the Goat Trail, swelling in size to easily 15 people while maintaining a ~1-2 minute gap between first and last.  Jake tried to elicit a response from me by playing “Good As Hell” but I just threatened to walk into traffic. The videos from this stretch are pretty funny, as all the idiots are just head down trudging…all the enablers were smiling/laughing/bouncing around/enjoying life.  I somehow led the “not as bad as I thought” climb up the Hogback, but after getting over the false summit and making the right turn to head back downhill I could feel a major emotional wave coming. I pulled off the trail to check the hydration levels, then rather than race to catch up to the group I just walked and cried.  Then stopped and cried. Then some running and laughing, then anger, then more tears as I leaned on my poles. Absolutely nothing was wrong. It was something and I was glad no one was around to see it.

After regaining some composure I caught up to group and rather than fight the mud I just sent it straight downhill and crossed under the highway to Foothills.  Damn, there was a legit party going on. Overwhelmed I made it to my drop bag and tried to not look at the skyline, knowing that we had to run away from before eventually going back to it that night.  First in, last out of aid, and as I tried to catch up to the group I almost got hit by Andy and Jess in their new Tesla. Damn safety features, I continued running towards the group.

What regrets and fear of the skyline look like. Photo Credit – Brendan Davis

There was easily a 2:1 ratio of enablers to idiots but I struggled to maintain any consistent pace on the flat section around the reservoir.  I put the headphones in and just zoned out, letting the group drop me then run to catch up (repeat as necessary). I got to Coot Lake in rough shape.  Nothing really looked that appetizing and I was just super overwhelmed by everyone taking time to help 6 people finish this lunacy. Jon tricked me into eating some pizza, Julia made sure I actually finished my food, and I was the last to leave.

Dan’s “Jakarta work schedule” started to pay off as he dropped everyone leaving Coot Lake (it was technically now morning for him).  I watched in amazement as Paul started walking 9 minute miles (Ginna was literally jogging next to him as he was walking). Brendan kept me company as I desperately held on to the back of the pack, trying to keep Paul and Colleen in sight.  Lots of boring trails/roads and I made it to Cottonwood just as headlamps were being turned on.

I was definitely the last person to leave Cottonwood, all available pacers had already left with other idiots.  I tried to bluff my way out of the AS by saying I could figure it out on my own. Ryan rightfully didn’t believe me so it was decided Nick would bike next to me as he was heading home.  “Oh sweet, it’ll be like the training scene from Mike Tyson’s punch-out!”. Crickets.

Nick and I left, I was 100% sure that *this* was the moment of reckoning.  No way was I catching up. Just like the first morning I turned a corner and could see flashing lights of the other idiots making their way to the creek path.  With Nick letting me know when I could walk (shocker: it wasn’t often) we made our way through the group. Adam, Andrew, Eric, and I discussed the pros/cons of trying to find drugs in the bushes.  Andrew and I made our way to the front of the group, getting slightly lost due to some construction and entered the Eben G AS with Gwen and Cat.

Eben G was rocking.  Tons of people were helping out and my overnight pacing crew of John and Jared were ready to roll.  Not wanting to miss some riveting conversation Andrew continued pacing (adding a casual skyline in shorts to his evening).  I got some food down, repacked, and left with 3 pacers behind Gwen and Paul, Eric just behind me. I wouldn’t see Gwen again, as she absolutely crushed the skyline and finished in record time. As we hit the dirt portion of the canyon path I said “You know, I don’t even feel like I’ve been awake since Friday morning.”  I slept-walked the rest of the way, slightly coming to on the upper section of Chapman Dr. After a brief conversation with Kasual Karl, who was pacing Paul, we started the downhill into Gregory Canyon.

Gregory Canyon is the last official aid before the skyline ( 20 miles and ~8k of climbing left).  It’s dark, and not too shocking…it’s a party. Paul, Eric, and myself essentially arrived together.  Enablers shoved food at us. For some reason Becky refused to let me handle a cheese croissant sandwich, instead hand-feeding it to me.  For some reason I ate out of her hand while maintaining intense eye contact. It was weird, and hilarious. Before leaving Gregory I gave some words of encouragement to Rick, who was dealing with some injuries at RDL, something along the lines of “better not stop.”  Then we were off into the night.

Down the road, turn around and back up towards Green.  In the middle of the amphitheater my stomach turned. I complained about how I didn’t want to eat as much as I did, stomping around like a little kid.  Andrew gave me a chewable pepto, a ginger chew, but stopped short of patting the top of my head while I sat there and sulked as Adam and Eric passed us.  Thankfully there were 3 pacers to keep themselves entertained, as I was not very fun to be around as we started back up. After the ladder we caught back up to Adam and Eric, and I yelled “hey you assholes!”.  My entourage took that as a sign I was back.

Just a night out with the boys

We summited Green and enjoyed the amazing nighttime views while sipping some of Jared’s espresso.  “Big gulps, huh? Alright, see ya later” and we started the descent. I took a left that wasn’t correct, then guessed we had passed the trail, then had the correct way properly pointed out.  Cruising through some easy downhill we were attacked. Mix one part sleep deprivation, one gentle curve, and a bunch of brown pine needles…and you think a Wolfman is running at you (think Michael J Fox rather than Benicio del Toro).  I stopped and screamed in the middle of the trail. John, Jared, and Andrew asked if I was okay. “It’s okay, just a Wolfman. Pretty sure it’s not real.” With that we continued on.

We got down to the Mesa trail and started up Fern Canyon.  Fern broke me. Hard. I don’t like the route when I’m fresh.  That far into a run…it’s cruel. It felt like hours to reach the shoulder, then we ran into Danny bombing downhill, “you’re almost there”.  He was wrong. We were another twelve hours away. I argued with anyone who would listen that we didn’t have to scramble to the top for the BBA, just hit the trail marker.  Unfortunately there are two signs, and when we got to the lower one I stopped, sat, and didn’t not fall asleep. The crew was yelling at me to go another 20 feet, “screw you guys, this is the sign.”  It wasn’t, I got up and trudged to the actual sign as Colleen and Jeff caught up.

Not at the top of Bear Peak. Photo Credit – Andrew Bainbridge

We turned the corner and ran through the unofficial SoBo saddle aid station on our way up the last peak.  As we made our way to the top Colleen and I argued over which rock was the peak. With Colleen easily standing 10 feet above the most-eastern-rock-on-the-ridge I was standing on I proclaimed “this is the official summit!”.  She went and tagged the little rock I was on, I tagged the rock she was standing on, and we started down. Colleen opted to bomb down Shadow Canyon while I stopped to eat some soup and complain about plot holes in the movie “The Mighty Ducks” (no one knew I was talking about a movie…just thought I was crazy talking about DUIs and pee wee hockey).  Asked to summarize the BBA in 3 words I responded with “Need better friends”.

“Shadow Canyon isn’t really technical – it’s just annoying” – Me, 2017.  “Oh yeah, this is pretty technical” – Me, 2017, about 2 hours after I made the first statement.  Coming down Shadow was just a controlled fall. “I’m just looking forward to some runnable trail on Mesa at the bottom” – Me, halfway down Shadow.  Idiot. We got to the bottom and it was a rocky hill nightmare (for me). Oh yeah…Mesa isn’t runnable (for me) on this end.

As we were turning onto Shanahan, Colleen and Jeff came up behind us…booking it.  According to Colleen, Jeff had said they should turn right at the bottom of Shadow (wrong).  After heading downhill for a mile they realized the mistake. In true adherence to the rules they back-tracked to where they left the course and crushed the remaining route.   As they disappeared into the darkness I yelled “I still love you, Jeff!”, but in my heart I knew that was the last time I’d see him alive. I was certain Colleen was just running Jeff ragged so she could kill him at the finish.

After too many ‘surprise’ uphills in the trail we hit the Cragmoor exit, all road to the finish.  It was ~4:30am on Sunday, been on the move since Friday at 10pm, dead quiet. Just cruising along I reflected on how lucky I was to have this run family.  Like I started with, there’s nothing special about me as a runner. Any plan I have to win a race includes massive attrition up front. I was really just overwhelmed by the support/crewing/any-everything from everyone I had shared the past day(s) with.  Really, truly a special experience.

I walked in and dodged Ryan’s questions about finishing, congratulated Gwen, Paul, and Colleen.  I laid half-asleep, half-shivering on the floor as Eric and Dan finished. I can’t decide if that run made us a mini-family, or if this is just a feeling you get from being involved in a hostage situation.  Couldn’t have asked for a better group to run with.

Two nights of raging.  Photo Credit – Ryan Smith

Ultra-running is an awful drug.  Everyone has their own answer to “why”.  I always feel like a better person after an ultra, as I’m not a patient person.  Each long outing forces me to slow down, accept “it’ll happen when I’ve done the work.”  My ‘why’ comes in those quiet times where you’ve endured just enough suffering to have a near zen-like, near-meditative, out-of-body experience.  Maybe it’s sitting in a chair at the end of a race holding a $200+ pint glass you were just given (assuming 95% of the entrance fee goes into the finishers prize), fighting tears as you ask “what the hell just happened”.  Maybe it’s dancing to T-Pain or walking the final steps at 4:30 for a run that doesn’t qualify for anything. Whatever it is, that moment is so damn short-lived. As soon as you realize you’re in it…it’s over. That’s why I keep coming back.  

For a write-up that’s already long-winded, I’ll keep this short.  First, thanks to my wife for being a running widow for most of the year, and no longer batting an eye at the dumb things I sign up for anymore.  Thanks to every RMR I’ve ever had the pleasure to share time with on the trail.  Thanks to anyone who shared time pacing that I didn’t already mention (Tyler, Mike, Brad, Cristina, and the list goes on…).  Thanks to the aid station crew of the BBA for the amazing work and being a constant helpful face in the middle of all the partying.  Thanks to the selection committee for thinking I could/should/deserved-to do this. I’m scared to see escalation in 2019.


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