|Kilian beat me with one arm tied behind his pack, and barefoot!|
photo by Salomon
And sure enough, just seconds later, after I pass a guy on his phone, I immediately hear the unmistakable “ding” of Facebook announcing that I’ve been tagged in a photo. Welcome to modern ultra running; I bet Gordy Ainsleigh never had to deal with this shit when he first ran Western States back in 1974.
|Paparazzi... at every river, on every mountain, behind every tree|
photo by Patchanida Pongsubkarun
|Which Instagram filter to use, Lo-Fi or X-Pro-II?|
Photo by IRunFar.com
Up in the distance ahead I could see a yellow shirt – which I presumed probably belonged to another runner (garments of clothing rarely run down mountains on their own). But I couldn’t tell whether it was the yellow shirt of Karl Meltzer or Nathalie Mauclair – which is not to say that Karl runs like a girl, or that Nathalie is built like man. [Oh Christ, I’m digging myself into a hole here.].
|An afternoon thunderstorm rolls in like clockwork|
photo by IRunFar.com
|Photo of a guy who looks a bit like me (but isn't actually me), Mike Foote|
photo by Phillip Reiter
- Last year’s co-champion Jason Schlarb had dropped out at the first aid station only 10 miles into the race!
- Last-year’s other co-champion, Kilian Jornet, had fallen and dislocated his shoulder! But he’d apparently fashioned a makeshift sling out of some duct tape and his hydration vest, and he was now back in the lead.
- Women’s leader Caroline Cheverot had gone out ridiculously hard, ahead of most of the men, and was pace to shatter the women’s course record – barring any catastrophe.
- Joe Grant’s mother had been caught (on camera) screaming at Joe that he better not lose to a girl… or something about not being able to come home for Thanksgiving.
|Pacer, Marc Laveson, fills me on the news and gossip of the day.|
photo by Jeff Clowers (Crew Chief and Senior Vice President of Water-Bottle Refilling)
Lifted by Marc’s tales of other people’s woes suffering, I suddenly felt reinvigorated! A few hundred yards ahead in the distance I could make out the distinctive blue skort of Anna Frost. I put my head down and “ratcheted” up the pace.
Thus began, what was essentially the world’s greatest slow-motion chase! Every few miles Marc would excitedly exclaim, “I think we made up another inch, maybe two!” Each time I would respond with an enthusiastic (though quite sarcastic) thumbs up. But I trudged on.
|Bear Creek is probably not the best place to be checking your Facebook messages|
photo by Big Johnny Burton
“Didn't you say they have perogies at the top?” Marc asked, completely ignoring my dire forecast.
“Yes, and tequila too,” I replied begrudgingly.
|This shit sucked!|
photo by Mark Tanaka
But, while the town residents may have all been asleep, my buddy Jeff was thankfully still awake and standing by with… more Mountain Dew! At this point I didn’t care whether it was warm, cold, or three-days old. I was so grateful that I decided to restore him to the full rank of “Vice-Admiral of Water-Bottle Refilling”.
As we left the aid station at Chapman (mile 82.1), Marc asked a volunteer how many people were ahead of us. When she looked at her clipboard and said we were in 13th place, I was absolutely crushed. Just like that, I quietly gave up. That's not to say that I plopped down on the trail and tore off my bib number. No, I kept moving. My legs were still willing to fight. But my mind had already put on some comfortable pajamas and poured a giant glass of wine. But, I trudged on.
|Summiting Grant-Swamp Pass scree field|
photo by Ben Wyrick Imagery
Eventually I got up and started trotting down the mountain. Though, much to Marc’s dismay, I kept screwing around and stopping every few minutes. First to take care of some urgent business in the bushes. Then to extricate a “giant rock” from my shoe, which turned out to be a quite small pebble (or possibly even just a large grain of sand). And finally to change shirts. “Hey Marc, which shirt makes me look faster,” I asked, “the white Salomon tee, or the blue Patagonia tank?”
Embracing the suck