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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.

Start
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.

Wildflowers
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.

Onions
 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.