October 12, 2013
My goal was to finish before dark this year, and I am pleased to report this was accomplished. Twenty-six minutes were knocked off last year’s time, and this with walking the last six miles due to a nagging tight spot in my hip. But goals are just way points that get checked off an arbitrary list…usually they lie somewhere in the near future, then are briefly in the present moment, and finally consigned to the past. To stay in the present moment is richer and more fulfilling. It is to become open to the unexpected without preconceptions.
There are blissful moments of solitude in an ultra, wonderful encounters with wildlife and nature, and genuinely respectful encounters with new friends. It is that experience of shared endurance that perhaps inspired C.S. Lewis to write – “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too?’” And these small revelations are what continue to draw me in.
You see, I am, by trade, an accountant and not naturally a people person. I am sometimes mystified by them, even though I am one of the tribe. But share a bit a trail with someone, and I become a better person. It was my great pleasure that day to share some of the Firetrails at various times with two people, and my world has expanded a bit for the better because of it.
Sanborn Hodgkins and I shared parts of the first half of the run to the turnaround at Tilden Park. We talked of people who inspire us. She mentioned a friend who had completed Arch to Arc, which I had not heard of before that moment. It is perhaps the most demanding triathlon, beginning at the Marble Arch in London where one begins an 87-mile run to Dover; waits for the tides to be just right; then swims the English Channel; and, after toweling off in Calais, hopping on a bike and peddling to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Sanborn will be running her first 100-miler at Rio Del Lago in November. Best of luck!
On the return to Lake Chabot, Jim Austreng and I traded places at various times, until we both decided to walk the last six miles to the finish. Jim, who has an impressive running resume of thirty ultras, including three Western States finishes, was good company as well. The hours passed quickly in stimulating conversation as he regaled me with stories of time spent in Afghanistan working with the Army Corp of Engineers.
So, like the trail runs I have come to enjoy, when you can be breathlessly surprised by the view just around the corner, or when you are out on a run in the mountains with a friend, never seeing another soul for four hours, this sport has surprised me.
I am again in debt to the wonderful staff of Fleet Feet in Sacramento. The list keeps expanding, but special thanks this time to Bob Halpenny (with whom I shared those four hours) for introducing me to one of the Western States’ canyons and setting me a new challenge: Michigan Bluff to Devil’s Thumb and back again.
I could of course not do this without the loving support of my wife, who I occasionally regale with wildlife reports whenever I have been on a long run.
“I will run like a madman to the west all night until I begin to fall asleep; then I will walk back, being careful to correct for the tilt of the earth, the force of Coriolis, reading my breviary by the precise arrowlight of stars, assured of my destination…You will always know this: others have made it.” Barry Lopez – Desert Notes