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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bighorn 2016

I approach the Bighorn 100 having run only a couple times in the previous three weeks due to nursing a bad knee. Maybe that rest was good. I have an itch from poison ivy on both legs. And I'm intimidated by this race--I dropped at the turnaround last year. But I have a great base of winter miles, many of them hill intensive. However I'm a flatlander from Minnesota. No matter how many hills I run, I don't know elevation. Simple fact.

The first 8 miles of the course are constant climbing. It starts in the Tongue River Canyon surrounded by rock cliffs and the higher we climb the more the canyon opens up into wildflower-filled meadows. Throughout this climb I visit with Scott and Holly Huston and Shawn Severson, fellow Minnesotans. A long line of runners strings out in front of us and behind us.
I yelled "Woo!" and scared this lady in front of me.

My goal is to play it safe and conservative, to get to the end. I know from last year that this initial climb can take a lot out of me. Play it safe. Do no harm. Enjoy the views. Enjoy the company.

Following Shawn as we work this climb together.

Tongue River Canyon below
The higher we get the more the views open up. The wildflowers are like fireworks exploding in my eyes. Finally, things level off (it's relative) and there are even short downhill sections we can run.

With about a quarter mile to go before hitting the first major aid station, Dry Fork at mile 13, I yell "Woo!" Someone immediately answers from the forest on my left. It's me. I've found an echo. I do it again. What a fun conversation with myself!

It's extra nice to see Lisa here because I don't see her often in this race. The next time will be at the turnaround. Most of the aid stations are hard to get to. Volunteers either backpack or ride horses into them. Maria and Doug Barton are here--Maria's running the 50 mile the next day. They have my gorilla mask! I switch water bladders and shove a handful of food into my face. I pocket chunks of crystallized ginger and leave.

Dry Fork aid station with my honey. Photo credit Maria Barton.
After all that climbing, it's fun to see more runnable course. The next 12 miles are rolling. I try to be careful, smart, conservative. I eat a handful of bacon at an aid station. I see Jordan Hanlon, another Minnesotan, on the trail. He's moving well and wise ahead of me.

I dip my hat and buff into every stream I cross to help against the afternoon heat.

The peace of the mountains and the immediacy of the wildflowers settle into me.

Eric Nordgren's sitting in tall grass beside the trail. He rolls over to stand and follow me.

"I can't stop puking," he says.

"That happened to me last year," I say. "It really sucks. Do you need anything? Salt? Water? Ginger?"

"I've tried everything."

"Let's work this together. Let me know if you're going to puke some more. I've got a camera."

Before I finish my sentence he's hurling.

I find the sound of vomit hilarious. 

"Dude," I say. "I just told you to warn me." I click a couple pictures. "Does that feel better?" I ask. 

He responds by hurling more. He just keeps spewing. His tap is wide open. Like a total dick, I laugh. I can't help it. The sound of vomit always does this to me. He's in trouble though. I'm looking into a mirror of my race last year, and I worry it could happen to me now too. There isn't much I can do for him. Shawn can't be far behind and she's a doctor. I offer some words of sympathy and apologize for my laughter and move on, although I recommend to the radio operator at the next aid station that they send help.

Finally I hit the steep drop down into the Little Bighorn Canyon. It's a 3-4 mile drop and when I surrender to gravity the running and pounding get violent. The cattle prints in dried mud slow me in spots. I'm grateful the mud is dry.

The views along this section are dramatic as I enter the canyon.

Top of The Wall

Footbridge crossing of the Little Bighorn River

The Footbridge aid station is a machine. Spotters have radioed in my number and someone greets me with my dropbag in hand. I take a seat under a shade tarp. It's hot. The afternoon has beat me down, although the breeze has been kind today. I drink lots of water here and eat plenty of melon. I try soup. I realize both the people sitting under this tarp with me are named Jordan, though one is a dude from Minnesota (Hanlon) and the other is a lady from Sheridan who has already asked what I'll do when I fall apart from the altitude. I try to think through my needs and address them. I dig warm clothes from my drop bag and put them in my pack. I change into a dry shirt. I load up on salt pills. The next 18 miles will be a steady climb of more than 4000 feet. It's where my race fell apart last year.

Little Bighorn
A couple miles out of Footbridge aid station I remember my headlamp. I remember that I forgot it. It's still in my drop bag at Footbridge. There's nothing to do but turn around and head back. On the way back, runners seem to think I'm leading the race. They cheer me on. I can't help but laugh. I say no. I shake my head. I say I forgot something. Some are kind enough to offer their extras, but I can't do that. A part of running ultras is about accepting the kindness of strangers, but I can't do something that could put someone else's race in jeopardy. Running ultras is also about self-sufficiency, about correcting mistakes so they don't spin out of control. I get my light. I start the climb again. I've lost an hour on this detour. I've added almost four miles to my run. It deflates me, and I've lost that racing sense of urgency, but the scenery is lovely. I love running through these lodgepole pines with the sound of the Little Bighorn rushing below.

This long climb is big in my head, but the reward is that I'll get to see my honey at the top, and then run downhill for 18 miles. For the most part, the climb is relatively gradual, but the air gets the thinner the higher we go, and it will end at the highest point of the race.

Photo credit Lisa Langton

Just before dark a brief rain falls, only enough to make me pull out my shell, put it on, then take it off five minutes later. Enough to take some humidity from the air. After it moves on, we are left with a lovely lightning show. Once it clears, the solstice moon appears and stays with me the rest of the climb. It feels like someone is running behind me, shining a light over my shoulder. The moon glistens in the river and the streams feeding it. It shines off rocks walls. It's everywhere.

Photo by Lisa Langton

Mice scamper along the trail ahead of me. In the morning, on the way down, I'll notice many of them have been flattened by runners.

Somewhere nausea takes hold. I recognize this as the same area where I fell apart last year. I drink Tailwind and eat gels and try to move through it. Beck's song "Nausea" comes into my head and stays with me for hours. I sit on a rock for a few minutes and wonder if it's the same rock I sat on and heaved uncontrollably on last year. I get up and move on.

I hear a high pitched sound. Maybe it's a rabbit, or a coyote, or an elk. I hear it again. I have no idea what it is, but it seems to move with me, over to my left, on a ridge in the trees.

A few minutes later I pull off my pack and put my warm clothes on. I'm struggling. Runners are passing both ways. Shawn comes by and offers some encouragement and tells me to follow her. By the time I get fully dressed she is a distant moving light but something to chase. She's moving well, her light crossing the landscape quickly.

By the time I get to the next aid station Shawn's ready for a nap. We both sit by the fire briefly. I have to move on, I tell her. I have to get to the top.

The higher I climb the more mud I find.

My watch has fooled me. When I tell a runner I'm passing that I'm worried about cut-offs, he asks what time it is. When I tell him 4:10, he freaks out. From behind, he corrects me and says it's only 2:10. I apologize. Trail math is never a good thing, always unreliable, but my mind is off tonight.

A red light shines from a mountain above the turnaround aid station. It's like a compass point. The light is from the satellite station near Medicine Wheel. I had a strange and mystifying experience at Medicine Wheel a couple years ago. The energy there is ancient and strong. I let it pull me towards the Jaws aid station.

Runners coming downhill give encouragement. They say I'll love it when I turn around. Their lights guide my way.

At the Jaws aid station, runners sleep in sleeping bags on the ground, between cars, and out in the open. Bodies are spread out everywhere.

I find Lisa asleep in her car and tap on the window and wait for her inside the tent. I eat watermelon. Runners are laid out on cots underneath space blankets. Runners are hunched over in chairs. They come in and out. EMT's scuttle around. Lisa covers me in her Mecca Tattoo sweatshirt and a blanket.  She rubs my neck and shoulders.

Just a couple minutes more.
I've been here too long. I stand to leave and my legs lock up. Every muscle seizes. Even the muscles between my ribs. I fall back into my chair and ask Lisa for salt tablets. As soon as I eat them I know they're headed back up. This time I stand with more control and ask an EMT to point me toward a good place to throw up. She hands me a plastic bin with regurgitated ramen in it. One look at that and I'm headed out the tent and retching on my knees. Lisa's behind me, laughing and telling me the lighting sucks for pictures. I spew so much water and watermelon. It feels good. I think I'm laughing too. A couple feet away a body is sleeping on the ground. Or trying to.

I decide to sit a few more minutes. Let things settle. Jordan Schmidt's in there now and I sit beside him. Lisa hands me hot chocolate but my hands are shaking and it's hard to hold. The EMT's suggest I sit under the heat lamp but I'm having too much fun with Jordan. They're draining his blisters and cleaning his feet. He tells them he's ticklish. Shawn is in now and napping under a blanket.

I tell Lisa maybe I should drop. I'm doing bad math again and figuring out my time to Footbridge. It's way off in my head. If I drop, I tell her, we don't ever have to come back here. The idea of a hotel sounds lovely. Sleep. Rest.

But a couple minutes later I'm standing, rallying. Eighteen miles of downhill running is such a pure and fun thing. Why would I ever consider anything else?

Leaving Jaws
I greet the cowboys at the first aid station on the way down with a loud woo! Am I really already here? I ask.

I barely stop, just grab some fruit and keep moving. I pass people and throw out encouragement along the way.

At Jaws when I put my head in my lap, I had hit the button on my watch and it stopped. Now I've decided to just shut it off. There is liberation in running watchless, especially during a race. Let the miles flow out minus the constraints of time and cutoff worries. Let the legs do their thing. Let the body tumble forward.

The sun creeps up. This is why we do these things. We do it for the loneliness and beauty of the night running, for the bottomless lows and for the resurrection of the dawn. We do it for the people we meet along the way, the shared suffering with runners and the kindness of strangers. We do it for the pure pointlessness of it. All I can say is that it's a lovely morning, slightly warm, and the light sneaks over the mountaintops and plays in the flowers and grasses and streams. It might just be the most beautiful morning ever. As they all are. As this one is.

The slide down the mountain is a sacred blur and then I'm staring at the volunteer at Footbridge aid station at mile 66. She's offering me an Egg Mcmuffin. From McDonald's.

Maybe a quarter of one, I say.

I'll hold the rest of it if you want it, she says. She has angel wings. I take off my pack and ditch my light and my warm clothes in my drop bag. I refill on gels.

I'm intimidated by this next section. It's called The Wall for a reason. I lean into my poles. I lean into the discomfort of the climb. There is little shade here and the sun is doing its thing on me too. This climb takes place one simple and slow step at a time. Fifty milers come by. They're running up this. I stop and breathe and allow my heart rate to drop. I wonder if I should go back to Footbridge and pull out. That's ridiculous. The only way is forward. And up. Survive this climb, I tell myself. There is nothing else. There is only this climb. These steps.

The cold spring water at the aid station is wonderful. I sit and drink. Perhaps sitting is a mistake. The legs feel it when I stand.

I move on and there is still climbing to be done. It's not as steep. But things are happening inside me. This is why I'm here. To see where the legs will take me. To play with limits and boundaries. I'm tapping on walls now. Listening to what might be on the other side.

I'm slowing down. The heat is messing with me. It's tough to eat. I've ditched my Tailwind for straight water. I douse myself at every spring and creek to regulate the body temps.

An aid station has pop tarts crumbled in a bowl and I shove them in my mouth. The sugar hits my blood in a cool rush.

I'm having fun, but moving forward is difficult. Dust is kicked up with every footstep and it all seems to settle in my mouth. The kindness of strangers at aid stations moves me forward.

I run with a lady named Reilly. No, we're power walking. We both admit how happy we'll be to see our partners at Dry Fork. It's been forever since I've seen Lisa. Let's try to run the downs, Reilly says. I take a few steps, but it's not happening for me. She moves ahead, and gets smaller and smaller in the distance.

A lady's sitting in a creek. It looks like a great idea. I sit down slowly. My legs tighten. My ribs and hands cramp. I'm not able to keep up with all the salt leaving my body. The lady's gone and I'm alone in the stream. Another lady comes by and asks if I need help getting up. I do. We struggle together but then I'm up, moving forward, slowly, walking.

Search and rescue guys on ATVs are a regular sight now, rolling past with runners loaded on the back. Their dust settles in my mouth.

I want a ride.

It feels like I'm walking backwards.

Rocks sparkle and I pick them up and put them in my pockets. Later, I'll look at them and wonder what it was about them that made me want to keep them.

Dry Fork aid station comes into view, in the far distance, high above. By the time I see it, I know it will be my final stop. I'm content with that. I'm happy about that. I can't wait to be done. Although I've been having a blast. I'm just done. I don't know how else to say it. There is nothing in me that wants to move on to the finish, not in my legs, not in my head. I can't find whatever it is that will move me forward, and I'm okay with that. I'm in a beautiful place. I'm really really happy. But it will take me an hour to reach Dry Fork. I'm so grateful and happy to see Lisa when I arrive. She's pink from so much sun.

View from Dry Fork aid station. Photo by Lisa Langton

I try not to use my running as a measure of self-worth or ego-stroking. I try to run for the pleasure of running. I've gotten to do a lot of that in this run. Sometimes we can beat ourselves bloody with a DNF, but for me, it's a part of ultrarunning. The beauty of this stuff is that there are no guarantees, especially for a finish, not in hundreds. That's why we do these. Among other reasons. Sometimes a race drop is a great reminder to run for the pleasure of running and no other reason. Because it's what we are made to do. Because we don't need reasons. Because it's pointless anyway.

I celebrate ten years of continuous sobriety at this writing. I'm grateful I get to do these things. Some days I'm surprised I'm alive, much less able to run ultras. Yes, I'm alive. I'm breathing. I'm still here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Zumbro 2016: Something About a Bear and an Owl and the Number Six

The race director checks his emails while marking course a couple days before the race.

My toes sting with cold at the start. My head is congested and I'm nursing a sore throat. A couple miles into this, past the Telephone Booth Overlook and under the lovely evergreens, my feet begin to warm with blood flow and movement.

Let's just get this out of the way early. I'm wearing women's pants. Jogging Knickers by Oiselle. I wanted something between full tights and shorts, and this is the closest thing I could find at the store I work at. So what if they're made by a women's clothing line? They're manpris if I'm wearing them.

This course has four main climbs. They are all short and get steep. The first happens almost immediately, the climb to the campground overlook at Telephone Booth. It's the least cruel of them. The second is just before Aid Station 2 and it tops out at a pavilion in a field. If it needs a name I recommend we call it Stinky. Just because. The third is Picnic Rock. It's steep but it ends quickly. The last major climb happens when we leave Aid Station 3 and it takes us up to the ridgetop where we get a nice distant view of Aid Station 4 and the Zumbro River valley. That's only four climbs. Multiplied by six loops, they tend to grow a little each loop. But it's not the climbs that grind us at Zumbro, it's the descents. They're steep and technical and full of loose rocks that move under our feet and roll down the ravines with us. In the last couple loops our quads and hip flexors will sing with pain and cramps and curse us. But now it's early and the ground is unusually hard for Zumbro. There's no mud, no ice, no snow. At least  not in the early parts of the first loop.

We hear the unmistakable sound of sandhill cranes moving above us. I shade my eyes and scan the sky but don't see them. I heard them at this same spot last year.

I'm running with TJ Jeannette. We run together at home, although he's a faster runner when it counts. We rode to the race together. We ran the first 42 miles of Superior together last year. I enjoy his company. Assertive but not aggressive, we tell ourselves. Do no harm early, we tell ourselves. Still, spots in this first loop seem fast, faster than anything we've discussed. Even though I'm the one pushing the pace at times. Boys get excited. We will adjust and back off on the climbs. We have a rhythm. I run the downs faster while he climbs quicker. I spend longer at the aid stations (so chatty!). Somehow we end up running together most of the time. I tell him, we make a good team, and it's true.  

Climbing away from Aid Station 3 the snow bounces off us in styrofoam pellets. Atop the ridge the wind pelts our faces with those pellets. The other side of the valley has disappeared in a beautiful sideways blowing snow. I appreciate the cold. Snow's so much better than a chilly rain.

This is Barney's first ultra and he's handling it like the boss that he is. He's an accomplished trail dog and has put down heavy miles on the Superior Hiking Trail. He loves skiing frozen rivers in the winter. He's an old dog and arthritic and walks slowly and crooked, but today he's got a bounce in his step, although it's still a crooked bounce. He greets us in the chute at the campground. He's already made friends with everyone possible. 

I try to eat something real at each aid station. Mainly bananas. I drink Tailwind from my hydration pack and eat a gel every hour or so.

Climbing away from Aid Station 3 on loop 2 with TJ and Nate Ziemski, I'm working the hill too hard. My heart rate's too high. I'm dizzy and a little nauseous. It's too early to feel this way. I cut the string and back off. I don't expect to see those guys again. They're both fast and strong runners. I down a gel and work the Tailwind. It's funny how quickly calories change things. I float down Ant Hill and catch a glimpse of TJ's red jacket at the bottom. I'm moving better and catch him on the river road. He's in the same place I was in ten minutes ago.

The beavers have worked the trees between the river and the road.

"Eat something," I say. "Run with me." I keep moving as he slides out of my periphery. At first I feel guilty for not walking with him. But I'd get mad if he slowed for me. Also, knowing that he was just ahead when I was hurting helped me move a little better. Not in a competitive kind of way, but in a brotherhood feeling. He will catch me soon. I know it. And he does, shortly after Aid Station 4. He's climbed through his dark spot, and we laugh about it. At Superior, we suffered through miles 30-40, and it seems like something similar might be shaping up here. Although I know there is plenty of challenge ahead. We're only a third of the way into this thing. We've both been here before, finding the way to convince our bodies to accept that the long haul is upon us.

Or maybe we don't come into the campground together. Lisa's notes say we were a minute apart. Memory gets weird. Things get fuzzy. After years of self-destruction, that area of my brain doesn't work well, and long runs amplify my lack of memory. We talk about easing off the pace more and it seems like a great idea at the time.

TJ's cute kid Coby is home with strep throat and his awesome wife Kelley is home with Coby. So my awesome wife Lisa feeds us both and lifts our spirits. She offers us warm clothes and lots of jokes. She is incredible.

Photo credit John Storkamp

I simply want to beat darkness with this third loop. Nothing matters yet. I'm still settling in. TJ and I discuss Axl Rose singing for AC/DC. It's still light when I finish the loop. TJ is ahead now, just leaving the campground when I come in. I don't expect to see him again and I won't. I drink soup. I change into a dry top and add a shell. I am still comfortable in my Oiselle pants.

When I leave the campground I want to cover as many miles as I can before darkness falls. 

The temperature drops. Aid station bananas remind me of Dairy Queen Monkey Tails. My gels are Icees.

Not far beyond Aid Station 1, I turn the headlamp on. The big loose rocks are white and seem even whiter under the headlamp. They glow.

 In the dark I hear owls.

On the river road the lights of Aid Station 4 reflect in the water under the bridge like a lighthouse.

Marking course.

At the campground my friend, Toby, unscrews the lid of my milk and rubs my shoulders. These simple acts of kindness overwhelm me.

I start loop 4 about a half hour or forty minutes ahead of the fifty milers. The first runners come upon me between the first and second aid stations. Kurt owns the store I work at and Tim paced me last year at Superior. An hour into this, their lead is huge. They are going to beat the shit out of each other all night, I think. This will get ugly. When they are gone, I realize I should have had them relay a message ahead to TJ, something absurd, bizarre, funny and perhaps pornographic, something to get him laughing and raise his spirits in the night.

Other fifty-milers eventually come by. Some are friends. Lindsay's happy to see me and having fun on the double wide trail. Scott comes around me at the top of the descent from Picnic Rock and disappears into the darkness. Shelly recognizes my voice or maybe my tattoo and her voice behind me is like a warm light. It's great to see them all.

I step aside for groups of runners and worry I'll fall over beside the trail. Their encouragement gives me energy, but moving aside for them is work in the dark and the trenched trails. My legs tremble while they pass. I reach for branches or rocks to steady myself.

Their lights on distant ridges and valleys are beautiful lines.

I hear water moving somewhere.

I drink broth at the aid stations. I time my gel consumption by the upcoming climbs.

Somehow I'm on my fifth loop. I walk the entire section up Picnic Rock and through the Sand Coulee. Early in the race I told TJ that he would end up swearing every time he came through the sand. "I'm going to smile every time I see sand," he said. "Me too," I said. I am cold and I am dizzy and nauseous and it's the loveliest night ever and I'm having the time of my life and all this sand makes me smile and giggle to myself.

At some point I take my pack off and dig out another pair of gloves and despite wearing two pairs my fingers ache with cold. At Aid Station 3 I take a seat by the fire. My shins burn from its heat. My face feels paralyzed from it, as if it won't ever move again. It's psychedelic how rubbery my face feels. It's time to go.

I pick my way around each rock on Ant Hill. They glow and somehow I delicately make a line through them. I am resolved to getting through this loop and I'm not worried about how long it takes. I've long ago accepted that the body and spirit slow down at this time. It's simple biology. Everything in me wants sleep and warmth. The sun when it comes will bring resurrection.

I hear coyotes yipping.

I grab a cup of soup broth and a Coke and take a seat by the fire at Aid Station 4. I expect Erik Lindstrom will kick me out if I stay too long but he tells me he's been Ubering dropped runners to the campground.

I hear Lindsay coming through telling someone she's a road runner. "Not anymore," I shout. I'm glad she's having so much fun.

I can't wait to find my mittens at the campground. I move on.

Lisa and Barney are snuggled into the back of the Jeep and I sit in the passenger seat and turn the heat on. Maybe it's already on. Lisa digs out my mittens from piles of clothes back there while I put my hands over the blowers. She says she had set our packs outside for us and they froze (we've been switching packs each loop), so TJ had her put mine back in the car. It doesn't matter. I'm hardly able to drink anything anyway. I'll stick with the pack I've been wearing. I've been sucking down Coke at the aid stations, straight sugar injections instead of the Tailwind mixture in my pack. I sit in the car too long, but at some point I say, "This last loop won't run itself."

I wanted to tell her that every day I fall in love with her. I get this way, like a little boy drunk on love. But I've avoided bringing it up because she will give me endless shit about it and I give her enough reason to ride me already.

Those first steps out of the campground are tough. The legs are tight and the downhill muscles--the quads and hip flexors--are angry. I don't know how many steps I can run at a time. When I catch myself walking I ask myself why. If there's no reason (say it's a hill) I force myself to run. If one can call this running.

Joel and Kyle and Chris and Jake come up behind me on the climb to the campground overlook. I fall in line behind them. Joel is one of the nicest people I know, and the positivity of this group and their teamwork picks me up and carries me along. These guys are having fun together. With their company, I've got more energy. I glance to our right and see light on the horizon.

I come through the first aid station, announce my number, say thanks and keep moving. I'm too nauseous to deal with food. I'm eating gels and that's it. I do the same at each aid station.

This is my celebration loop. It's a painful dance of gratitude.

I hear turkeys calling through the trees.

I wonder which is faster, my walk or my run. But I'm moving well. My walk has purpose. And my run still exists.

At the last aid station I slam a Coke and briefly listen to Bill and Matt's jokes.

"You can break 25 hours if you hurry," Matt says. "If you run eight minute miles."

"Watch me sprint up this hill," I say. I slowly walk the hill. "I'm sprinting up the hill now." I hear Kathy yell, "Amazeballs!" from the aid station. She and Maria are having a blast.

These legs hurt so I climb into the moment. Each step is here. Each breath is now. It's the only way I know how to move with the pain. With this and gratitude and humility I move toward the finish. 

Just before the end. Photo credit David Shannon.

It's emotional crossing the campground for the last time. I want to cry. My throat is tight. Somehow I've lost my cap and my ears feel the wind here. Barney greets me. It's like how some people finish with their kids. I wrap my arms around Lisa and she holds me up. 

TJ has finished just under 24 hours and won his (our) age group. I finished one spot behind him in 8th place at 25:17. I feel like I scrapped for every second.

Running loops in the woods all day and night is meaningless. There's a beauty in the meaninglessness that we shouldn't let go of. It's not going to change the world, what just happened. But I've gotten to do this thing I love with people I enjoy and care about and for that I am blessed and grateful. So many people have helped to make it possible.

TJ and I sit in the Jeep with the heat blowing on us. He points out a tree across the field. He says it looks like a topiary bear.

"What does topiary mean again?" I ask.

"Someone climbed up there with a saw and cut the tree into the shape of a bear. Do you see the snout and the ears."

"Yep. I see it. I see those ears." It looks like one of those Grateful Dead dancing bears. Some Deadhead lumberjack did that.

When we tell Lisa about the bear, she is amused. She walks with purpose to our friends standing near the finish. They all look across the field at the trees. They look back at us. One by one they come to the Jeep and we roll down the window and point the tree bear out. TJ and I might be looking at different trees. But I like my bear.

We watch many friends finish under the watchful eyes of the tree bear. Kurt has won the 50. Lindsay wins too. And Shelley, as usual, is carrying her award as well. But it's Tom Weigt who seems to be the most successful. He comes by the Jeep and jokes with us before setting out on his final loop of the 50. He is having so much fun he seems to be glowing. He's always having fun. He has this thing figured out. 

Thanks to all the volunteers, directors, friends old and new, fellow runners, and especially Lisa for being a part of this.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Arise: Superior 100, 2015

Photo credit Arielle Anderson

Tuesday after the race I'm in Old Country Buffet debriefing with TJ Jeannette, Tim Hardy, and Jordan Weseley. TJ had an amazing race and finished the 100 with an incredible time. Jordan finished the 50 and seems to be walking fine. Tim paced me from Crosby Manitou to the end, over 40miles, the farthest he's continuously run. TJ's telling us about racing to make it to the Finland aid station before dark because he had no headlamp with him.

"Dude, why didn't you just take one of mine at Highway 6?" I ask. "I had extra." We ran all the way to County Highway 6 together.

He looks at me like I'm the dumbest person on the planet. Maybe I am. There's something I'm not getting here.

"We talked about this," he says. "On the trail and at the aid station before I left."

Briefly, I'm thrown back to the days of my drinking, when blackouts were common and people often reminded me of saying stupid things I didn't remember saying.

This isn't like that. There's no shame here. No fear of what I may have said or done. Few apologies to be made. The masks are off now. But it's a warning for the rest of this report. Memory is a fluid and tricky thing in a 100 miler. I'll get some things wrong in the details, maybe mix up some names and locations, but hopefully, we'll discover that other--perhaps more real--truth of what happened out there.

Lisa and I hit the North Shore on Wednesday before the race. We meet Jason and Amy Husveth for dinner at the Coho Cafe and have such a lovely visit. They're back again for breakfast Thursday morning and so are we. Jason and I discuss the possibilities of a thirty hour race and as usual, he gives great advice about execution. Jason's chasing his fifth finish.

Then Lisa and I hike the Temperance River area. We see the marking crew planting reflective ribbons. I yell to them across the river but they can't make out my words. I throw out a simple Woo! instead. Mushrooms are everywhere. Sharing this trail with my love is exactly what I want to be doing.

We head to Grand Marais. I load up on tacos at Hughie's. This is my prerace nutrition and karma plan. I eat one while sitting here and will leave with three more. One will serve as a sacrificial offering to our race director. One will be tonight's meal, and the other will wait in the hotel refrigerator while I run. They are good cold. So good.

In Hughie's I make a list of my goals for the race. These goals have been in my head for awhile, but I need to write them down, to see the ink bleed into paper, to invoke them as real creatures walking the earth.

I've been thinking about thirty hours for months. Is it possible for me this year? I can't know unless I try. But how to try? Do I run safe? A finish is no guarantee. And what does it mean to run smart here? No matter what happens, I'll slow down during the race, especially at night. I accept that as part of the plan. Can I run assertively early without being too aggressive, without blowing up? And doesn't blowing up happen anyway in these eventually? Isn't suffering, or at least pain or discomfort, part of why we show up? To see what happens in the face of it all? So should I just lean into the pain and embrace it sooner rather than later?

I've thought too much about time, about when it might be the smartest to get to the halfway mark at Finland. I hope to make it there somewhere between 13 and 13:30. But ultimately I decide that time is a silly thing, that thirty hours is a completely arbitrary goal, that I need to run by feel, to enjoy the experience, every bit of it, the views, the burning feet, the night running, to absorb it and breathe it and bathe in it. To live it.

Still, it'd be nice to do all that in less than thirty hours.

I usually give myself loads of social anxiety at big gatherings. That doesn't happen at the prerace briefing. I get there early and bounce from friendly face to friendly face. It's fun seeing so many friends and also meeting people I barely know. I don't feel I'm good at that kind of stuff, I say awkward and uncomfortable and inappropriate things. But this is just a good time party going on tonight.

John has asked me to say a few words about Harry Sloan and Tami Tanski-Sherman during the briefing. They were the original race directors, the people who started this when Superior was one of only a handful of 100s in the country. My job tonight is to introduce them as part of their induction into the Superior Hall of Fame. What an humbling honor. I don't want to screw it up. It's important to give Harry and Tami the respect they deserve. I keep my filter on, don't swear, and get through it, although I forget to share an experience Dusty Olson told me about Harry Sloan. When Dusty was young, in sixth or seventh grade, he was at Harry's house watching him prepare for an ultramarathon. Maybe it was the Edmund Fitzgerald, a 100k along Highway 61. Maybe it was something else; after all, Harry has a dozen finishes at Western States (the race that was his inspiration for Superior). Dusty says he knew about marathons, but had no idea people ran longer than that. This opened his world up to possibilities, and in this way Harry inspired a future generation of top ultra runners. John gives them their awards and I step off stage. The awards John made have the original buckle design on them. I remind John to tell the crowd that Harry's running the 100 this year, for the first time, at 67 years old. I feel so much relief now that it's over.

Inducting Tami and Harry into the Superior Hall of Fame

In the hotel lobby at Caribou Highlands a golden retriever with a friendly graying face tries to hump my leg.

Before bed I hang out with my parents. They're staying in the room next to us at Caribou Highlands.

Race start is that usual blend of excitement, greetings, and multiple bathroom visits. I bump into Al Bohlke and Mike Johnson, both also former runners at Osseo High School. Our coach from those days, Jim Deane, passed away the week before, and I show them my picture of Jimbo laminated to the flip side of my pace chart. Coach Deane is running this with me. I think he's going to have a blast out there and I want to make him proud.

with Al Bohlke and Coach Jim Deane

The start is different this year, the first four miles or so are pavement. I like it. People can spread out and move around each other. There's no accordion lines at each hill, log and creek like there are on the single-track we'll follow the rest of the race. It's faster too.

When we cross underneath Highway 61 and leave the pavement at the Split Rock River wayside, TJ comes up behind me. At home TJ and I run together on his easy days. We do lunch and talk about Superior when no other people in our lives want to hear about it anymore. We ride to races together. We mark trails together. He's one of my favorite people. "Where you been?" I say.

I fly down the hill into the Split Rock aid station with complete abandon to gravity, drink a cup of water and grab a banana to eat on the uphill. At the top, Donny Clark and John Horns are directing traffic and handing out high fives and smiles and encouragement. John totally messes with TJ's head and when TJ asks me about it later, I can't stop laughing.

TJ and I know each other's running. In fact, TJ has already filled in my pacer, Tim, about my running idiosyncrasies (bombs the downs, gets quiet when hurting but likes to hear talk then, etc.). This familiarity means we fall into easy roles. I go ahead on the downs and move aside on the climbs. We pace each other through these early miles. It seems we have fallen into a natural and mutually comfortable tempo.

We get to Beaver Bay ahead of our wives and move through quickly with the help of Dusty and volunteers (thanks Kate!). We are far ahead of schedule but we take what the course and the day gives us. We are fresh and happy at twenty miles. The weather is perfect. It will be perfect all weekend. I think of this next section to Silver Bay as short and grinding and technical, but Silver Bay appears much quicker than I expect it to. It's good to see Lisa and my dad here. Kelley and Uncle Tony and others greet TJ.

Of course we slow down in the next section to Tettegouche. It's a lot of climbing. We often say "wow" at the expansive views. We point out mushrooms and I try to name some for TJ. Fly agaric. Lobster claws. Dead man's fingers. Hen of the woods. Corals. I get mixed up and wonder if I'm right on some of those names. TJ gets quiet. He's feeling some hurt. He's extra polite.

"Thanks for leading here," TJ says.

"You watch your own bobber," he says.

The vision from my right eye is fuzzy and vague. My contact lens has sweat cakes that I try to blink away, but they will still be there throughout the race.

We are both cramping by Tettegouche.

I fall and roll to my right with it. TJ and Dan Harke stop to help me up. I have to ride the cramp out before standing.

The climbing after we cross Highway 1 is miserable. It's what we're here for. We decide this climb to the Fantasia Overlook needs a legendary name. Our low spots overlap. For both of us, this is the lowest point of the race and the place where we will cramp the most. Hundreds seem to work this way for me, where the hurt comes early and I somehow punch through it, although the hurt never really goes away. It's as if we must convince our bodies to settle in for the long haul, or perhaps we are just fooling ourselves aid station to aid station. TJ seems to be rallying some while I'm sinking into it. I wonder why I'm running with TJ. He's a much faster runner than I am. Much faster. Maybe I don't belong here. I get overly polite.

"Thanks for leading," I say. "Watch your own bobber," I say. "Don't worry about me."

I slam three gels in a row.

"Dude," I say. "This is so fun running with you. It's still fun."

We both say several times: "Holy smokes! Isn't this a blast? We're so lucky and blessed to be doing this!"

And it is. And we are.

Apparently we talk about headlamps.

By the time we hit County Road 6 I'm in desperate need of soup broth and watermelon. Coby, TJ's son, runs through the grass to meet him. Coby's whole body is smiling. Dusty has been waiting here to pace TJ and I'm excited to run some with him but we're too early to pick up a pacer. It's a weird feeling and Dusty thinks it's funny. We all do. I don't feel like I should be moving this fast. I don't feel I should be here this early. But I am. I start to ditch my soup broth when TJ's ready to leave, then I remember the cramping. I need this fuel. "You go ahead," I say. "I'll try to catch up. But don't wait. Mind your own bobber."

Apparently we talk about headlamps again. Maybe I tell him I'll catch up with extras. I'm not sure.

I won't run with TJ anymore this race. The string is cut. I'm grateful for our time out here together. I hope he'll have an amazing race, the race of his life. And he will. He will move through the night with one of the best pacers in the world of ultrarunning. He will leave the halfway point in 36th place and finish in 11th, just under 26 hours, a time he hasn't even considered in his goals. He will tear that shit to pieces.

I move well to Finland with a bit of a slow start but I'm flying on the long downhills. The cramps are still whispering. I see TJ and Dusty leaving when I'm coming in. I'm so happy they're moving well too. Dusty turns around and follows me shaking his headlamp at me like a strobe light and laughing. I've been running 11:42 when I get into Finland, far ahead of the 13 to 13:30 I was hoping for. But it doesn't feel stupid yet. So far I've taken what the trail and the day has given me and I hope to move well through the night without my wheels falling off completely.

Lisa takes care of me at Finland. My parents are there. I pound some broth and watermelon. The cramps have mostly disappeared. Lisa tells me Joe Boler is out of the race with a twisted ankle. Drag! I'm sad for Joe. I've got a hot spot on my big toe but I don't want to take the time to take care of it. It's almost dark. I can't believe I'm here this early. I put on a dry shirt, a new buff, arm sleeves and a hat. I'm ready for the night.

When I move across the field I stop at a gate and stretch my quads before entering the woods. My hands are cold. Should I go back for gloves? I keep moving forward instead.

I'm with Eric Nordgren when we see Shawn Severson in the spur. She looks a little lost, a little confused. We tell her she's there already, at the aid station. It's just across the field. It's dark and our headlamps are on.

Eric moves ahead. The alone time on the trail is nice. I fall forward into my ring of light from my headlamp.

I'm greeted at Sonju aid station by Tom Kurtovich, who's worked this race since its beginning. My toe is on fire so I grab a cup of soup broth and sit, hoping a minute or two off the feet will reset it. After three minutes I pop up and ask where Tom is. I want to say bye.

"Tom who?"

"Tom Kurtovich, the radio guy. Did he leave?"

"No one left," they say. "There's no Tom here."

Will it be one of those nights where the senses play trick or treat? 

My feet are feeling better and it's not far to Crosby where I'll meet my pacer.

I know I talked to Tom.

I see faint traces of the northern lights through treetops. Green pulses.

An owl seems to follow me with its calls. Maybe it's more than one. Maybe they're talking about me. Maybe they're talking about the northern lights. Maybe they're comforting each other in a night filled with strange humans moving through their world.

Shadows move at the edge of my vision.

And then the sky opens above me and I'm out of the trees and on gravel running toward the Crosby Manitou parking lot
and stars dapple the night.

John and Cheri Storkamp greet me on the road. I tell them I've walked much of the last section but I'm feeling good and having fun, whatever that means.

Most everybody walks some at night, they say. Keep having fun. I can't tell if it's John or Cheri that said it. I wonder if they sleep this weekend.

I knock on the window of the Jeep and tell Lisa and Tim to meet me ahead at the aid station. I need to sit again. I'm greeted at the aid station with a hug from Kathy Jambor. And a chair. I'm nauseous and only have water and ginger ale here. It's too bad because the buffet is open.

Kathy and Maria and other volunteers rocking Crosby Manitou.
I'm excited about having a pacer. I've never used one before. I know Tim as a super nice guy. I've run with him some but he's also super fast so I don't run with him often. He's considering running the Mankato Marathon and has the title to defend there, so we've agreed to limit the pacing to around 30 miles. Our plan is for him to get me through this section, take a break and then pick me up again at Temperance to bring me home. We leave the aid station with Lisa telling us, "Don't be Sallys out there boys."

Tim's right behind me. His light over my shoulder opens up my world. 

We drop down to the Manitou River and shine our lights on it as we cross the bridge. It's alive beneath us. It's roaring. It's rushing water is a brilliant white in our lights. It's beautiful.

This is Tim's first time on the SHT. He has trail experience. He ran the Leadville Marathon this year. He's won the Zumbro 17 miler a couple times. I'm a bit surprised a guy with Tim's speed would be willing to do this with me. Several times in the past weeks I've told him, You know we'll be crawling, right? I've had this fear he'll get frustrated at the slowness of it all. But it's fun to introduce someone to this trail, even at night. Especially at night. "It's a couple false peaks on this climb," I say as we make our way up the gorge. We stop briefly and turn off our headlamps. I reach my hand out to palm the stars, to grab a handful and wipe them across my forehead. They're that close. Then we're climbing again, Tim's light lighting up my world, widening it, his voice carrying me over these ancient volcanic rocks.

The second half of this section is runnable, but I have no idea how much of it we actually run. My goal is to move well through the night and we are moving well, keeping our stops brief, charging forward. My walk is a good one and my climbing is still strong.

When we see the lights of Sugarloaf aid station through the trees, I thank Tim for getting me through one of the tougher sections of the course and tell him he's earned his rest.

"I'll keep going," he says. "I'm sticking with you. Your pacer's no Sally."
He's been stern and has convinced me to change shoes. He probably just doesn't want to hear me whine about my toe anymore. I switch from Hoka Speedgoats to my Salomon Speedcrosses. Lisa wipes my feet clean and helps with the switch. She's amazing and her touch is soothing. 
I'm nauseous and can't eat. I'm having a hard time drinking the Tailwind in my bladder. I slam fresh water and Coke at the aid stations though. I tell Tim it's just my body's sleep cycle messing with me, that I'll move through it. I pee often through the night so I'm not too worried about it.

My memory from Sugarloaf (3:50 am) to sunrise is fuzzy at best and pops up in patches.

Tim's been watching Rocky movies for inspirational quotes, and he keeps yelling out as if he's Apollo Creed, "This ain't so bad, Rock." It's what Apollo says when Rocky's beating the shit out of him.
I often hear Tim whisper, Jesus Christ. He prays in this way often.

We turn the lights off and look at the sky. We see stars in the big lake.

His voice and light and humor and company carry me through Cramer Road aid station, through the night and into the daylight. We cross a ski or snowmobile trail and notice the colors on the horiz0n.

This ain't so bad, Rock! 
After leaving Cramer, I wish I had taken a cookie or two, but the stomach says no. Still, the idea of the cookies is a great one.

The Cross River whispers and roars at us with the trail's subtle climbs and dips along its banks. 

My big toe is on fire. The bone is burning. I try to lean into its flame.

With the light comes new energy, new laughter, a bit more speed, and Tim's aviator glasses. He can't decide if they would look better with a buff or a beanie. 

Tim's brother-in-law Aaron is running the 50, and his sister and her kids are here too. 

I'm spotting people at the edge of the trail. Just fleeting glimpses of people who aren't there.

I'm doing math in my head, thinking about the distance from Temperance to the finish, thinking about thirty hours.

At a road crossing, a volunteer tells us both Jake Hegge and Mike Borst finished under the course record. What freaks! He tells us Jake finished around 3:30 this morning.

Temperance aid station is rocking when we get there. The day is in full swing now. I'm so happy to see Lisa. The pancakes smell amazing and they're a great idea, but I'm still nauseous. Lisa says maybe I should just make myself retch. She's probably right but I don't want to spend the extra time., don't want to start something that might keep rolling. I drink water and Coke instead.

Photo credit Kelcey Knott

It's the most beautiful morning ever.

There's more people at the edges of the trail. Kids. Parents holding cameras. Then the kids return to their true forms, a stump maybe. The parents are fallen trees bunched together. They seemed nice enough while they were there. They were a good idea at the time.

We leave the Temperance aid station at 8:03 am. It's roughly 18 miles to the finish. Simple math says if we can cover that in 6 hours, we can hit that 30 hour goal. It could happen. Anything could happen. It's still about possibilities. My heart says to enjoy it all no matter what. Having not eaten anything most of the night, except broth and watermelon, I expect to crash soon. The crash is likely to happen. The body needs fuel. But it doesn't happen. I eat a gel when I can. I sip at the Tailwind. I'm still burping soup broth and watermelon and drinking lots of water at the aid stations.

We leave the Temperance River and start the longest climb of the race. 

"This isn't Carlton Peak, not yet," I tell Tim. 

"Jesus Christ," he says quietly.

His prayers seem to help.

I tell him about the sundance last month that Pat and I helped prep for. Pat asked one of the dancers to pray for my son, and to pray for me in this race. Thinking of what those dancers go through makes this simple and easy. And it is simple, really. We just put one foot in front of the other. We keep moving. Like the dancers, we might be on some kind of spiritual quest or journey of self discovery, perhaps performing some form of extended prayer, but we are also just running through the woods. That's it. We're dancing around one of my favorite playgrounds. Today we are simply playing, and hopefully the rest can come through that play if it's necessary.

At the base of the mountain, I put my hands on my knees for a brief moment, then say, "Let's go."

And we go. My heart races in my head. It's lovely. My hands pull me up the rocks.

This ain't so bad, Rock! 

And then the long gradual downhill takes us to the Sawbill aid station. A half marathon left.

Tim's won Zumbro 17 miler a couple times, but he didn't run it this year due to injury. This year Wynn Davis won it with a course record. So when Wynn comes flying by us in a solid marathon lead, I get scared I might lose my pacer, that Tim's competitive instinct might kick in and he'll follow Wynn without thinking. But he stays with me. Eventually more marathoners come by, but no one's going to catch Wynn. Sometimes I try to adopt their pace for five or ten steps, just to mess with Tim. I'm surprised I'm able to run at all but we are moving well. We have steady momentum and we are having fun. We are having a blast.

We hear a loud Woo! behind us and it's our friend Josh Henning running the marathon. He's doing great. His energy gives me energy. He looks strong.

At some point I say, "We must be into single digits now."

Thirty hours is still a possibility, but we have Moose and Mystery Mountains ahead.

We keep moving. One step at a time. We are lucky and blessed to be doing this. I do not have a big toe. It does not exist. 

Tim whistles. He sings the limbo song. How low can you go?

At Oberg, the last aid station, Lisa gives me a kiss. "See you at the end," she says. Did she really kiss me? I must stink. We hardly stop. We walk through the parking lot and up the hill while I drink water and Coke, then we're running again. We're running! We're still in the window of possibility for thirty hours. We're still having a blast. Tim hasn't gotten sick of me yet and ditched me or pushed me over a cliff yet. We're doing this. We're going to finish. I am filled with luck and gratitude.

At the base of Moose Mountain I put my hands on my knees, looking for some kind of reset button, and then start uphill. I want to keep moving to the top. People are stacked up along the climb. Rob Henderson comes by us like a boss. He owns it. At the top, I grab a log for balance, dizzy, my heartbeat filling my throat.

"Just give me a sec," I say.

"That was somber," Tim says. "Kinda like a funeral."

Tim's thinking about thirty hours and he knows when to poke me, when to be subtle, when to throw out gentle reminders. We keep moving along the ridge, along the massive views of the big lake. I'm spent from the climb, still trying to recover. I'm stumbling forward. Running the downs. Running what I can.

We create a steady momentum on Moose Mountain, grateful for switchbacks.

"When we see the group campsite, it will be in hand," I say. "It's all downhill from there."

This ain't so bad, Rock! he says.

But as always, the group campsite eludes us. Maybe it's around the next curve. Or the next. Just over this hill maybe.

"I know they put it somewhere," I say.

"There's a car over there," Tim says. "Is that the campsite? See? The hood's up."

There is no car. Tim hasn't slept all night. The light plays tricks with us. He's a great companion out here. The best. But somehow he's right. We're at the group campsite. We're running down the mountain.

"Do you hear that river?" I say. "It's the best sound ever."

We cross the Poplar River bridge.

I don't want this to end. It's been so damn fun.

We're on pavement.

"This is getting long," I say.

I tell Tim to stick with me through the finish but he disappears. And then I'm hugging John, and Lisa, and my mom and my dad.

Hugging my honey.
Is there anyone else I can hug? There has to be someone. I wish my dogs were here.

We finished under 30 hours. That's a big "we." It includes Lisa and my parents and Tim and TJ and all the other runners we started with at Gooseberry yesterday morning. It includes John and Cheri and their army of volunteers, the aid station cheerleaders and chefs and medics and the course markers and sweepers and the radio operators and the people I never even saw but who helped make this happen. It's the marathoners who came by and said, "Good job, Hundred." It's Shelly, who ran hill repeats with me every week. It's Tucker and Winston and Pearl and all the other awesome aid station dogs. It's a wide net. It's not just me out there. One would think that doing something like this puffs the ego out, but it has the opposite effect on me. It humbles me. It makes me feel like a small piece of something much bigger. It connects me to others.

I'm in a chair by the finish line. I get my shoes off. Maybe someone helps me with them. Lisa's gone after something, maybe a soda. My mom is asking what she can do to help me. I want to ask her for a serrated filet knife to cut my big toe off, but I would need something to grind down the bone too, anything to make it stop hurting. The hurt is deep in the bone, very concentrated. I don't think that's what she has in mind. Chalayne Palmgren is in front of me with her medical bag. My face must have told her something. She says it's a burn and she wraps my toes. She gives me a baggy of ice. She floats off with her angel wings.

Joon Bermudez sits beside me. He's happy to be finished. He has tears on his face. He says this was much harder than Wasatch.

I eat some chili. I sit on a blanket. I visit with friends. I fall asleep with Lisa's sweater over my head. I wake up and look at Josh Henning and say, "Lisa, did you get me some ice cream?"

Josh is not Lisa.

"Don't worry," he tells his kids. "He's okay."

I wake up and check the phone. The online tracking system is great this year. "Jason will be in soon," I tell Lisa. "We have to look for Jason."

TJ calls and I tell him, "Yay! way to tear that shit up man." He finished in 25:55 and is calling from their rental cabin where he just showered.

From a seat on the back side of the hotel Lisa and I watch Tim's brother-in-law, Aaron, finish.

"Do you mind if I vomit?" I ask Lisa. I turn away from her and retch.

Jason comes in with Amy pacing like the boss runners that they are. Lisa stands to watch him cross the line. "He's walking," she says. "He's walking before he hits the finish. What the heck?"

He later tells us he finished in 33:33:33. When he saw the opportunity to line those numbers up, he had to do it.

Boss runners
I watch other friends finish. I sit. I stand. I stretch. I cramp. I eat. I congratulate. I hug. I thank. I laugh.

Eventually I head upstairs to our room to shower. First, I just stand there, alone in our room. The window is open and faces the finish line area and I can hear each incoming runner announced and the crowd raise its collective voice in welcome.

I get the hiccups. I vomit. I shower. Pieces of trail spin around the drain, dirt and leaves and sticks and grit.

After the shower, I lay back on the bed. I don't know how long I'm there. It feels like my body is still hurling itself forward, like some piece of my brain that determines motion has worn through its gears and can't recognize that I've stopped moving. I hear friends' names announced and smiles wash through my body. Jason Mullenbach. JD Coolidge. The list grows.

Lisa brings pizza in. "The restaurant downstairs is pure chaos," she says.

The awards ceremony starts. I'd like to go down there, but I'm not moving yet.

"Shelly just finished," Lisa says. "Wait, they're announcing her name for an award!"

Shelly Groenke is our friend and is sharing our room. In two minutes she is upstairs showing us her trophy for the 50 mile, first female grand master. John Storkamp has told me, "Every time I see her I'm putting hardware in her hands."

We all have some pizza and visit. Mine comes back up a few minutes later. We're exhausted and turn the lights out. The window is open and we hear the cheers of friends coming in. I wish I were down there but I don't feel I can move. My body is floating on the bed. Just before ten o'clock, as the cutoff time approaches, the crowd gets louder and louder. We hear Harry Sloan's name announced. The first Superior director, the guy who started the race when there were only a handful of hundreds in the country, the guy with a dozen Western States buckles, the guy who inspired so many other runners, is crossing the line out there in exactly 38 hours, finishing his first Superior 100, a race that would not exist today without him. There is so much cheering, so much electricity, the window pane is vibrating. I swear my bed moves across the floor.