|I, the Apprentice. |
Wasatch 100, 1998 Finish Line, somewhere outside of Heber City UT
Hey, there's only 9 hrs difference between Brandon and me. And he was profoundly grateful. He'd paced me at Leadville in '97--25 miles of hilarious discourse on poisonous mushrooms, Copper Cyn, lizards, and then some ultra what-all. I was running so he wouldn't stall out from the granny-gear workout.
For all of you lucky guys and gals doing Wasatch this weekend. This is when it was easier. Sort of. Or maybe brain-death masquerading as nostalgia, which ain't what it used to be.
Looking For Kitty: Free-Range Organic Wasatch Bandwidth
We were all Looking For Kitty. This Kitty, and we the fortunate few. Over the course of time, space and electrolytic conversion; private ambitions were molded like sticky Powerbars into public objects. Sometimes art is not pretty.
I joined the Limbo Line with 250+ other supplicants. By race end, there were 14 Crimson Cheetahs, sub-24 Hour Gods all. And then there were the rest.
With my 28:14 finish, all I got were whiffs of Kitty farts. That trail was cold. But I cannot complain. Six years ago, my race ended in a 33:21 finish. I went home a happy, battered and fried Badger.
We'll start with some Basic Facts. One was that my projected times for miles 51-100 were accurate the way PENTHOUSE "Letters to the Editor" are; ie wildly optimistic. My awesome crew, Ms Leslie Sowle; and '97 Crimson Cheetah Bruce Hoff helped enormously. People like this who give up a weekend to watch and wait on your fortune and well-being are few and far between. Cherish them. Otherwise, the dings and dents on my particulars were placed there by myself alone. Gawd®™ was occupied elsewhere.
Of course we landed in SLC [ad infinitum], and went through all the particular pre-race motions etc. Saw a whole bunch of Happy Faces. When it was over I realized that next time I'll be flat on my back in a motel room channel-surfing and eating take-out. Doesn't roil my chi as much, and saves the spunk for the Main Event.
Mile 9: HEY, IT'S COLD ON TOP!Surprise. At 9 miles, My nipples were pretty gosh-darn perky. Was it gonna rain? Yes, later. Did the sun come out? Yes. Were there people having way too much fun and going out too fast? Of course, The Wasatch is Epic Ridgerunning with forays into canyons to stall complacency. The entire course is littered with complacent expectations.
Vistas were saturated with detail. From a 40-mile viewpoint, the thunderheads bearing down on Swallow Ridge were *real* impressive. Made me real glad I wasn't going to be standing in a lawn-tent when the rain came in horizontally on 50mph wind-gusts. Having just passed through that several hours earlier, I was grateful for small favors.
Then you could be on a ridge overlooking Park City and wondering if it was true that "California Girls" are really made in Utah and reassembled in Hollywood.
Mile 65: LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL?Picture an alpine lake, a dramatic backdrop of astonishing peaks and tree-covered slopes. Picture a campfire burning warm and bright in the black night. See that comfy folding chair by the fire. Now picture yourself curling up and going to sleep on the coals....Kids, don't try this at home. The cheap fun quit about 15 miles ago. Things are looking serious.
Mile 73: ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?What a question to ask at 74 miles. Those nano-necrotic sleep episodes going up Catherine Pass are hummers. Especially after sojourning briefly in Molly's, where the full panoply and pathos of Ultrarunning As We Know It®™ was on full display. Sensaround Nausea. Animated Corpses. Living Wills in Action. An organ donor convention. These are the good old days, and nostalgia ain't what it used to be. Your pacer reminds you why you're there. You remember...nothing. And out you go.
Mile 87: IT'S WORSE IN THE DARKBy the time I got here, the Hunters of Cheetah were well within striking distance of the finish, a long ways further on. It is sobering, if your brain had the BTU to process it.
When you were a child, demons lived under the bed. Well, you're an Adult now, and demons are everywhere. In this warped fractal of your perception, they slither out of reach of your flashlight beam. Your ears are telling you things you'd just as soon not hear. Stimuli is amped, clamped...whatever. Now the trail is narrower than when you ran it by day. Huh? Are we level or climbing? If I can't put my hand on it, then we're level. My form sucks in the dark, and this comic suffering takes longer. The shuffle is fixed. At least I'm not airborne, spitting out teeth like white-beans.
Mile 93: SAY WHAT?The fun is not quite yet complete. Climb the wall for 1/2 mile, then a 5-1/2-mile drop down the dirt road, then a 2-mile blacktop spin.
Let's see if you remember anything from track workouts. You wished you were a marathoner, or at least played one in a runnning catalog. Shit-howdy! Those legs do expand, and the pace is quickened. You are a glowing red dot on the grid, and using telemetry you find your way to the finish line. Now I am a Legend In My Own Mind, which is not the one I started with. It's As Through A Glass, Dorkly, and the reception is bad.
Mile 100: THE POST-RACE APOCALYPSEThe Awards ceremony at Wasatch is a simultaneous hoot and cunning exercise in group psychology. Against all the rules, they call the winners first. Then reading off down the list until the 29:55 finishers. Most of you know what's next...HALF-TIME, which means the Induction into the Order of the Crimson Cheetah.
Without belaboring you, Gentle Reader with Arcane and Esoteric Details of Ritual, a brief instant will suffice. Our 14 Cheetahs* are in line before the crowd. The Crowns of Achievement are on their heads. The Inductor has read the Ritual Text announcing and extolling the latest crop of Inductees, symbollically smiting them with a Sacred Staff as he recites Liturgy.
He pauses. He then bades them to...KNEEL! And they do. The crowd laughs, and it is the laughter of peers, not hero-worshippers. In that moment all burdens vanish. The experience is fixed into the mind, and is not forgotten.
bone regards, Mr Trail Safety
*June 2013: This august selection of seventeen were headed by the first man (Karl Meltzer) and the only woman (Ann Trason). The visible lack of fawning an gooberage brought the broadest of smiles to Ann's face, which made this event enjoyable, instead of an obligation.