by Joe Prusaitis
Grand Targhee, Wyoming
Aug 30, 2008
The logistics of the Grand Teton 100 is such that we run sections A, B, and C for 25 miles and then repeat the same loop 4 times for 100 miles. A is simply Fred’s Mountain. Up to the top and return the same way back to the Base for 5.6 miles. B is Mill Creek for a 14.4 mile loop that again starts and ends back at the Base. And finally C into Rick’s Basin for the final 5 miles out and back again to the Base. For the convenience of drop bags and support, it is hard to beat. Not only is my room in the Grand Targhee resort within 50 feet of Base, but so is a very good restaurant, a convenience store, swimming pool, showers, and so on.
As are most starts for 100 mile races, it is very simple and anticlimactic. We simply start walking up the road. And I do mean up the road. The service road starts under the ski lift at Base and ends at the other end of the lift on the summit of Fred’s Mountain. Our route is not as direct or as smooth as the ski lift, but it might be as steep. I find myself next to Bud Phillips, geared into a power walk, matching stride for stride, as we walk out of the early morning darkness into the mornings first light. It’s all rock solid hard-pack with a dusting of loose rock on top. It’s just enough to mess with my footing. At first glance it looks strait and smooth, but it isn’t either. The road drifts to the right of the lift and shifts from steep to rolling, with a little waggle every now and then. The road is anything but constant or consistent, so holding a steady rhythm is near impossible.
The road makes a sharp left bend at an upward angle around the top section of the mountain. Just as the leaders pass me heading back down, I see the ski lift and the back side of a large sign. I look back to read – ‘SLOW’. It most certainly is, but it’s facing the wrong way. The road bends sharp right and 50 yards later ends at the top of the ski lift at Fred’s Mountain aid station. I stop for a slice of melon, then turn and start back down. I lose all my uphill friends rather quickly. Not that I am running fast so much as I have simply allowed gravity to pull me down the mountain. It’s easier to maintain balance and keep from sliding on the loose rock, if I just go with the flow, so I do. The 50 mile race starts an hour after us, so I pass them trudging up as I sprint down. Larry, Gaurav, Joyce, Henry, Marcia, and Jeff are my compatriots from Texas that send me energy as I speed by. At Base, I swap out my sopping wet bandana for a ball cap and grab a bag of shot bloks & hammer gel.
The route to Mill Creek begins with a jeep road and uphill, but not nearly as steep as Fred’s. The service road winds and twists as it switches further up the valley. Our first bit of trail comes suddenly, dropping off the right side of the road for a shortcut past just a corner piece of road, and then pops back onto the same road after the bend at Lightning Ridge. The wind is cutting hard across, lifting the dirt from the road and flinging it into my eyes. Too late, I duck my head to protect my face. Through watery eyes, I can see that this is a beautiful setting, the land falling away in front and behind. I’m always impressed with the old growth trees, tall & thick, with deep soft mulch all around them, but mostly its the aura of rich silence and the coolness in areas that rarely feel the sun’s heat. The lively aspens also brighten my mood, with their bright white bark and leaves that always seem to be dancing in the slightest of breezes. Our single track has become a road again, but now it’s a wide sweeping descent to the next aid station. The roads here are very hard packed, with imbedded rocks poking out, and more loose rock on the surface. Cruising down, I hook onto the backside of three others who all seem to know each other. It’s only been 2 miles since we left the Base, so none of us stop at the unmanned water station. The jeep road drops another 100 yards down to a structure that looks like a large tent on a concrete foundation. Soon after, we are on single-track again, and still moving downhill.
We pass through an open gate into a beautiful wilderness. A gentle downhill that gets me running again. From all the trees and foliage, I cant see what the trail is going to do, so the turns and hurdles are all of a sudden. I’m passing and being passed a few times before I finally end up on front of the trio. Only Anthony comes with me as we pass the trail split and pick up speed. The trail is mostly smooth, well worn by mountain bikers, and very dusty. A coat of pulverized dirt sits on top, so that every step raises a small cloud. If you’re not in front, you’re breathing a lot of dirt. The trail continues for 3 miles after the split before dumping us on a dirt road that appears to be a major thoroughfare. Car after car speeds by, raising a brown haze that fills the air. I pull my shirt up over my head and try to look through the material while I walk down the road. The dirt road becomes paved just as we come into the Ski Hill Road aid station.
These guys are set up pretty nice in a big RV with a large tent right next to it. Our drop bags are laid out in the open next to the tent. I dig into my bag just for a hammer gel and sharkies. Besides that, I haven’t done much of anything else besides a few slices of melon and orange. I think I had been eating and drinking way too much, so I’ve intentionally cut back.
My stay is short and I match strides with Anthony as make the turn and begin our forced march up the paved road. 3.3 miles of pavement switchbacks upwards and we restrain ourselves from running any of it. We dial in a crisp clean power walk with a quick turnover and no letup. We can see a few others below us as we climb the second level, with one other twosome of long legged guys who remain just ahead of us all the way up and around the bend. The third level is less steep and moving more directly up into the mountains. The aid station sits aside the road on the right side. A few people wait on the four of us, while I sit in the shade and relax for a moment.
And then as quickly we are out, heading back into the forest on another jeep road. But this one is not so hard and much easier on my feet. The long legged guys stride ahead and so does Anthony. I cannot match them on this set of soft hills, and slowly fall behind. The forest is thick and quiet here. The undergrowth is dense and the trees tall. Its very peaceful and serene. But its warm and I’m sweating a bit more than I should for only the 1st loop. I back off and let it go, choosing to take it easy for now. This section has a fair bit of uphill, and I make the best of every stride, but it sure isn’t fast. You might say I’m taking a leisurely stroll, and still, it is the most that I care to spend of my precious energy. This part of the forest seems so far from civilization, and yet I know that it is not. Coming back to the split, I wonder how I missed it coming in. It is marked very well with numerous arrows and wrong ways. Left and up, I walk through the gate, pass the permanent tent, and then slide uphill to the water only aid station.
This next uphill is one hoss of a climb, a big half-moon arching curve that climbs a couple hundred feet. The final 50 feet are strait up to Lightning Ridge. I assume I’m heading back across the single track short cut, so its a surprise to see the arrow sending me right and up the jeep road. Damn, and I incorrectly guess that I’m done with the climb also. The next section isn’t so bad, but I’m not expecting it. Still, I get to the top of the road in a short period of time. Its a beautiful hike, with panoramic views on the left. A left at the top turns me down hill and back towards Base. I start to run again but nothing aggressive. I take the gentle ride back home, feeling pretty used up. I want to knock out the last section to finish one complete loop, so I take just a short break before heading back out.
Rick’s Basin is a gentle stroll compared to all the other stuff I’ve seen since this morning. It again, starts with dirt service road, but shifts quickly to trail and stays on trail until just before I return again. The trail is not flat or strait but neither is it very hilly. Its an easy ride that wanders about a field and some trees that surround the basin. The switchbacks are almost comical in an area that could just as easily have gone strait up a gentle slope. These are most likely done like this for the mountain bikers for distance and entertainment. Its a wonderfully easy romp, except that its gotten warm and I’m starting to overheat. The aid station is about 3.5 miles into the loop which means its not that far from the Base, so I simply pass it by and head for home.
I decide to take a shower at loops end, but Lisa suggest I simply jump in the swimming pool instead. Sounds like a great idea, but when I take my socks off, I discover a ton of dirt caked on my feet, so I head for the shower first and then the pool. I end up changing my entire wardrobe including shoes. My feet are throbbing from the hard roads, so I switch to a shoe with more cushion. The shower and pool are refreshing and feel so good. Joyce & Henry are at the station when I get back from the pool. I get a hug & a kiss from my pretty wife before starting up Fred’s for the beginning of loop two.
Round two on Fred’s Mountain reminds me of the Law of Diminishing Returns: beyond some point, each additional unit of input yields less and less output. So, it costs more to get less. Slipping on the loose rock, I struggle to find some rhythm without success. The best I can do, is not stop, and happy as hell with that. It’s slow, very slow, but each landmark slips behind me in slow motion. I pass a guy sitting on the side of the road in the shade of one tree, and then another. I’ve been there where they are and will be there again. My first thought is to offer up a bit of encouragement, but realize more likely they wish to be left alone. I simply nod and get the same answer. What else need be said? The summit slowly comes to me, and I check my watch as I come in. A lot slower than last time but not nearly as bad as I expect. I sit down and let Auggie massage my legs with ice while I eat some melon and another Hammer gel. Going down is always easy. I tend to allow gravity have its way with me. I scan the road to read the terrain and simply fall off the mountain. My mantra all the way down is “Drop Dead Fred”. Reaching base feels so good just knowing that Fred is behind me yet again. I take a much longer break this time: to rest, to eat, and to cool down.
The initial climb and the road into Mill Creek aren’t so bad, but the road dust is killing me. My throat is sore and my voice raspy from inhaling so much of the funk. Every step raises a puff of dirt. My ascent is slow at best and every time somebody passes me, to avoid their dust, I stop to let them get some distance before starting again. Lightning Ridge and the long descent afterwards are blurred by the heat. I cant seem to focus on anything but my own discomfort. I seem to have a long laundry list of physical problems that keeps growing the further I go. I try to redirect my thoughts to something more beneficial: the surrounding beauty of these mountains, but the distraction quickly fades back to my discomforts that are demanding attention. A slight breeze sneaks through at odd intervals, each one pushing me to the positive. I’ve been on a lovely single-track with gorgeous views in every direction, but I hadn’t even noticed until just now. My perspective is realigned to the beauty around me, pulling me out of the mental cesspool I’m swimming in. The trail is worn smooth and clear of debris, so avoiding rocks and other hazards is easy enough. There is a place along here where the trail bends slightly more downhill and my body naturally starts to roll a bit. I do cross just one spot of rocks more technical than anyplace else out here, but it is short, no more than a landmark. The switchbacks are another landmark that let me know I’m almost to the road. Teton Creek is also noisy enough for me to hear long before I see it. I come out of the trees to a well traveled but dirt Teton Canyon Road. I head directly to the creek where I dunk my head and wet my hat. There are a few things that are always just perfect because of the timing. This roadside head dunk is one of those times. It brings a smile and a moment of perfect silence to revel in the moment. Its just a moment but you want it to last forever. Too soon, I am once again walking slowly down the road to the aid station on the corner of Ski Hill Road.
I have some food in my drop bag, but it’s been cooking in the hot sun all day and there is no way I can eat anything out of there right now. Even the shot bloks and sharkies are melted into blobs of gunk. I had planned to change into a clean shirt, but instead leave on what I have, including my wonderfully cold wet hat. They have ice here, and not the regular ice, but crushed ice. I have a warm jug of gatorade in my bag, and with the crushed ice, I make a very delicious fruit punch slushy. Nirvana! Oh my, but it cools my parched throat and raises a smile.
Now for the road. It wasn’t so bad the last time and I’m hoping it will pass as easily this time. I push my cadence with the intention of holding it for awhile. The paved road has no bumps or trees to dodge, so its easy to thoughtlessly lean into my pace and simply focus on just that. The road rises 700 ft over 3.3 miles, using a few long sweeping switchbacks. I take the first turn and then check the road under me as I rise. I have an odd curiosity to see if anyone is close behind. I don’t care really. Maybe I’m looking for some sort of motivation. There is one woman and she’s moving pretty well. A kid on a skateboard speeds down the hill past me, using his hands to slow himself down. He has metal studs on his gloves that throw sparks as he breaks. A guy on the side of the road offers up a water spray, so I stand there for minutes while he hoses me down. And then he asks if I’d like an ice cold Gatorade. I thank him for both, and turn to leave, when the woman catches me, and damn if she isn’t running. She slows to walk with me but wants none of the roadside guy or his spray bottle. Says she ran Cascade 100 last week and is feeling it pretty bad right about now. She just wants to be done, so she picks up and starts running again.
I come into the Cold Spring station just as she leaves. Its hot and I’m dealing with a power shortage. I need some shade and cold drinks and I have them both right here. I spend way too much time, sitting, drinking, and eating. I know I need to get out and eventually tip myself in that direction. The jeep road out is a typical rutted and uneven jeep road including the rocks and twists around trees. Eventually, it becomes a trail, and I can’t be certain when it actually made the switch from road to trail. Deep in the forest now, it’s quiet and cool. The sun comes through now and again, but it feels good not to have it constantly beating upon me. I think I like this section the best and also I think I like this section the least. Its more uphill but gentle for awhile, with the steeper up-hills coming soon. It feels good and it feels bad. I’ll bet this section would be a lot more fun going the other direction. I wonder what this course would be like if we reversed directions each loop? Might be fun to see where my buddies are as well. I’ve lost track of all of them. Once again, I’m looking for any form of stimulation to get my motor going. I can’t seem to spin it up. My feet hurt: actually, I hurt from the knees down. More jello in my legs than I care to have right now. There’s no give in these rocky roads and my feet are crying from the unforgiving hardness of them. Back at the split, the trail tilts up even more. The gate, then the tent building, and then the Cat Ski Platform water tent. I don’t need any water, but if there was a chair to sit in, I’d sit in it. The water coolers own the only 2 chairs here. And that is all there is here: A popup tent over 2 coolers sitting in 2 chairs. Funny that I can begrudge the water coolers a chair when any old rock or log will do. I must be getting punchy. I need to get back on top of my calories. I don’t even stop, but my mind is moving a lot faster than I am. You know that feeling when something happening quickly slows way down in your mind, where your reactions increase to hyper-speed. Well, this is sort of like that right now, except nothing is happening quickly. My mind covers a few novels worth of data while I barely take 3 paces past the tent. My thoughts and memories seem to be on high speed strobe. Maybe my mind is compensating for my body being completely in the shitter. The climb up Lightning Ridge should realign a few more things for me, mentally or physically. In granny gear, with head down, I take one step, balance myself, then another, and repeat. Such a simple process, walking, and so easy to do… most of the time. It is anything but that right now. My legs are shot, my mojo is gone, but the desire still burns a tiny flame somewhere deep inside. The climb is not that long, yet seems forever and longer til I reach the ridge. No solace on top, I make the right turn, knowing how close I am to Base. Another short climb, an easy but awkward stroll, to the turn and then down. Blessed and wonderful downhill, around the turns, more than I remember, and finally Base. I walk in slow and easy, tell Jay I’m taking a break, and with Joyce, walk over to my room for some rest.
I cannot believe how bad my legs feel. I strip down to take a lukewarm shower, partly to cool down, partly for the refreshing feel, and partly to clean off the dust and crud. I climb in and hose down. It feels so wonderfully good. When I climb out, I immediately go hypothermic. By the time I wrap up in some blankets, my entire body is shaking uncontrollably. I roll up in a ball and listen to Joyce tell me I’m done. I certainly can’t argue with her. I hurt all over & know I have the shakes. She wants me to agree with her, but so far, I’m waiting to see if it abates. I can’t quit but I also can’t move. It might be out of my hands, but I want to wait a bit to see what happens. Joyce leaves to tell Lisa & Jay that I may be done. Rolled up in a small ball, in bed, under cover, I shake a bit and sleep a bit, until an hour goes by. Tentatively, I expose a foot, then a leg, and then my head, to gauge the reaction. I might have my core temp back under control. So, I slowly dress my self back into running gear, but gear for a winter expedition. And then, piece by piece I switch back to something less arctic. I need to stay warm, but I’ll overheat if I go out there like this. Its night time now, but it certainly isn’t freezing. And I’ll generate some heat as long as I’m moving. Joyce brings me the pizza and I try to eat while she pops the numerous blisters on my right foot. With a swift kick in the pants, she sends me out with a promise that I’ll stop if I have any problems at all. Hell, its all about dealing with the problems, so we’ll see how I look after doing the easy 5 mile loop into Rick’s Basin. I still need that just to bag 50 miles. And then Fred’s Mountain will likely finish me off. if not, I should be good to go.
So, out I go, back to check in and head out. I have a very bright green light that lights my way. The road to Rick’s is easy, but then I note that all the glowsticks are burned down to a dull glow. Doesn’t help that my green light merges with the dull yellow lights. The glowsticks are virtually worthless, but the course is so well marked as to void out any need for the sticks anyway. I have no problems finding my way, and thats a strong statement from a guy who is nearly blind and runs without the glasses he needs to see anything. I don’t have any problem at all. Matter of fact, my walking pace is so strong after the rest, that I make the entire loop much faster than either I or Joyce expects. Another interesting note is that my feet no longer hurt. The hour long break has healed my woes. Simply amazing. I feel great! So, I sit for some broth and then start up Fred’s Mountain for the third time.
Is a climb easier when you can’t see how tough it is? Over the years, I have had this discussion many times with a wide variety of people, usually while climbing a mountain in the dark. I am alone now. Everybody must have already gone ahead, because I see nobody as I climb and have the same discussion again with myself. From my perspective right now which is certainly distorted by a dozen variables, it seems rather easy. Is it the power of the mind, the rest, the dark, or all of the above? My strong good feelings buoy me even higher so that I go faster as I get higher. Why? A second wind? We used to tease each other about a “Seventh Wind” late in these long races. I start laughing as the memory strobes through my thoughts. Still, there is nobody to hear it but me. Do I have the mountain to myself? Are they all ahead? Am I dead last? Why did they let me go on, if I’m past the cutoff? Hell, I don’t even know what the cutoff is. I can see the chair lift as I pass under it, just as a herd of runners goes by in the other direction. So, at least I am not alone. A few minutes later, I arrive in the aid station. I stop to sit for a cup of soup. Auggie and crew dish it up and tell me that I’m hard on the heels of the entire pack of third loopers. I had no idea. For some reason, I feel very comfortable sitting and drinking while I visit with the crew for 15 minutes. And then I give chase, falling off the mountain and chasing the lights ahead of me. Still, there is nobody behind me as I descend all the way to Base.
By now, Joyce knows that I have no intention on stopping, and she’s thinking she would enjoy pacing me through the night. This has a side benefit too. This allows her to finish the 50 mile distance, while I complete 75 miles. She was running the 50 mile race earlier in the day but stopped after 31 miles. That was 8 hours ago. When I come in, she’s dressed and ready to go. So, after a short stop for some soup, I leave for Mill Creek along with my wife. My energy is back up, but it’s late, and its dark, so mostly we walk. From Lightning Ridge, we can see the lights of Driggs Idaho. We roll over the top and slip down into a dark valley. We have a great time talking about her day and my day and the circumstances of each. The wind is blowing much stronger now. A young aspen branch is whipped around right at my face and scares the hell out of me. With all the leaves whipping about, I thought something was attacking my face. With the increase in adrenalin, it now seems so easy to run again. We’re down to the dirt road much sooner than I expect. Even in the dark, there are cars speeding by, raising hell with my eyes and throat. I still have some gatorade at the aid station, so I make another slushy to go with the soup.
The paved road is quiet at first, and then a car speeds by. Joyce and I both have green lights, so I’m sure we’re entertaining to those who drive by. We make the first turn and then the second, where Joyce points out an owl smashed dead on the road. We pass a couple on the strait-away just before finding the next station. There is only one person here now and no light, so he’s using his head lamp to find what we need. He has a thermos of some sort with lukewarm potato soup in it. We take a cup and then head on out. About 15 minutes in, we start hearing some loud snapping sounds in the brush. Not knowing exactly what it is, but knowing it isn’t small, we hurry up a bit. The sound fades behind us, but keeps us hurrying anyway towards a sharp turn. Something large moves left to right just in front of me. My light is down so its just a large shadow until I bring the beam up. Its a big cow moose and she doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by our presence. Joyce and I both have our green LED lights on her now, but she doesn’t stop or turn. She watches us as we watch her move into thicker brush such that both parties are moving in opposite directions rather quickly. What a wonderful experience to spot a moose in the wild. Joyce is thrilled with the experience and not much later, it starts to rain. A little at first as we pass the split, then the gate, & the concrete tent. By the time we reach the aid station, its starting to come down harder. The cold rain drops hitting my back feel good and hurries us both up towards Lightning Ridge. By the time we summit, its really coming down good, and the wind is now bringing it sideways as well. Just past the ridge, we pull up next to a wind break of trees to put on our jackets. We barely get them on before it opens up and pours. We’re thoroughly enjoying it all as we head for Base. Finally, I get buzzed up and start running, round the turns, and down into Base. The small crowd under the tents, hiding from the rain, cheers us in.
I’m cold now, from the rain, so I put on my rain pants. Joyce goes back to our room to get her rain pants also, so I wait until she returns before starting back out again. Rick’s Basin is our next task. We quickly realize the rain pants are a mistake. So, we stop and peel ’em back off. Then we stash ’em at the split with intention on collecting them on the return. The rain spits and spurts off and on, so that we deal with our jackets going off and on. Takes us about an hour to roll around and back. We hear the roar of the marathon start while we are still a few miles out. They start with Fred so, I’ll see them later. We pick up the pants and waltz the final section to get Joyce in for her finish. She is done, but I have one more complete loop to get.
The sun comes up on me as I drop my jacket and attempt to leave lighter. But Joyce insists I take it with. She even ties it around my waist. It has been raining and it looks like we will get more, but I am damned tired of carrying any extra weight just in case something might happen. I know better, but I am now in my second strait day and any minor irritant will be discarded. So, with rain clouds all around, and a new day, I start back up Fred’s for the final time. I really seem to have it going again. My motor is going but this climb is a bitch, so I chill my pace to an easy but constant push. The marathon runners stream down past me as I slowly climb. Each and every one cheers me on as they pass. One even stops to hug me and won’t let go, killing my momentum. I’m too dazed and punchy to object, but it irritates me that he would do that. Slowly I climb Fred until the last marathon runners roll by. Another 100 miler catches me and we summit together, to find another 100 miler sitting at the station. I ask for something hot and they tell me they’ll heat it up. I decline, saying I don’t wish to wait, so I turn and head out alone, just as two more 100 milers come in. I start running and keep running until I hit the bottom without passing a single person. A fellow near the bottom asks if I’ve seen his runner and I have. She was sitting in the chair on top, looking to be in no hurry at all. When I told her I was running down, she said “I hate you”. I see Lisa and ask her about my reference point. She tells me there are 4 people behind me… all of them on Fred right now. So that’s it or we’re it. That was the back of the bus all on top of Fred’s at the same time. Ok, so now I know where I stand.
I didn’t need the jacket on the last section and have no intention on carrying it further. I messed with it all the way up and again coming down, so I drop it off. Henry hooks on and goes with as I leave for Mill Creek. Looks like he’s going to repeat Joyce’s idea of finishing his 50 miler. he had stopped at 40 miles the day before, and has decided to pace me around to finish his race too. He tells me that Marcia hitched a ride to mile 40 to finish her 50 miler as well. Very nice, to bag the whole thing regardless. Joyce has inspired the lot of them to get what they came for. He tells me that Joyce says I’ll be easy, good for a walk and no more. And that is the way it seems to be. We walk up and out with 19 miles to go. Lightning Ridge behind us, we start down the big descent easily. Henry goes ahead to get some water from the water station, so that when I pass by, he is already good to go. A few runners pass us coming back, while we go out. I can’t tell if they’re in the marathon, or the 100 mile race, but I think they’re all in the marathon. I try to get my motor going, but my run can’t even raise Henry to a jog. Over and over again, I feel like I got it going, but then I look at Henry and see that I don’t. After passing the trail split, I realize that Henry is finally running to keep up with me and it fills me with delight, knowing that I must be finally going faster. My perception is so skewed and my thinking so whacked, that I am not certain of anything. One thing is certain though: I am damn well running again. My turnover has picked up and we spin right down to the road. Again, I stop to dunk my head in the creek and soak my hat. I cover up to hide my face from the dust, while Henry cusses each car that drives by. They’re tearing down the station when we walk in. They tell me that I am 2nd from last. And the last person is coming into the station right behind me. Its the same woman who was sitting in the chair up on Fred. They allow me to sit in the shade of the tent that is half collapsed while I have a drink.
We walk out, for the final time, I try to spin my cadence back up again to power up this final section of asphalt. Joyce & Gaurav drive by and then stop, surprised that we’re making such good time. They had assumed we would be a lot slower and misjudged when we’d be at the aid station. So they turn around and cheer us on as we climb the road. The first turn and then the second goes quickly. The third and then the final strait-away. A grasshopper clatters his wings, looking for a mate, while he follows Henry in his bright yellow shirt. He flies to the road side then comes back and follows some more. I think he likes you Henry. You’re the biggest grasshopper he’s ever seen and he wants to mate. We laugh and keep walking and the lonely grasshopper keeps flying right next to us, clattering away. Joyce & Gaurav wait at the aid station for us, and we get extra special treatment when we arrive. Our stay is short though as we have places to go. Last thing Henry does before he leaves is hand Joyce his jacket.
We walk down the jeep road into the forest together, melting just a bit from the heat, and Henry dripping from his ice filled bandana. Henry seems to have plenty of spring in his step but I feel like I’m working my butt off just to stay near him. Deep in the densest part of these woods, about the same place Joyce and I heard them on the last loop, We start hearing the same crashing sounds. Henry has already heard about our moose encounter, and I tell him it was in this same area. Glancing left and right, we hurry just a bit more, hoping to avoid any problems with the moose or whatever it is we hear. Henry has also been watching the clouds and tells me we are about to get some cloud cover. A short time later, we do get some shade, which also drops the temperature. I pick up pace immediately and Henry empties his ice bandana. It starts to rain ever so slightly, and Henry tells me to thank him for the rain because had he kept his jacket it most certainly would not have rained. I left my Jacket with Joyce back at Base a long time ago and I’m still damn glad I didn’t have to carry it al morning thru this heat. Bring on the rain, I say. Storm on me, Please! I want to feel it. We pass the split, the gate, and then the concrete tent before it starts raining harder. Its coming down pretty hard as we approach the water aid station. I ask Henry if it makes sense to stop and wait under the tent for cover, but we decide to go on. Its much better being wet and moving than wet and standing still. As we start up towards Lightning Ridge, the rain increases. The cold rain starts to soak into our shirts and then our skin, and pushes us both up the tough climb rather quickly. Motivated by the rain, powered by the cold, we charge up and make the turn, heading for Base. Henry starts running again and I try, but can’t quite spin up until the sky really opens up and starts pouring buckets of cold water. Henry says he’s done and plans to let me have the final five alone. We’re running very well now, round the turns and down the mountain, heading home. A loud roar from the Base tent warms my heart as we roll in. Joyce shoves a shirt into my hands and tells me to put it on, then my jacket. Somebody tries to to unroll the rain hood, but I want to feel the rain. Its the rain that has brought me back to life for this strong finish. I want to get out and go while it still rains, to use it for as long as I can.
Henry is also handed a rain-jacket and without any delay, we’re both running back out toward Rick’s Basin. “I thought you were stopping?” “I was, but they didn’t know that.” “Now, I wonder if I can keep up with you.” We run for a short ways, but then walk a short uphill, then run some more. The rain feels great and also, I am almost done. The power of both help keep my motor revved up. We run round the bend and then power walk up another short hill. And so we continue running and walking, til the rain stops. I peel off my jacket, and then it starts raining again. I put it back and it stops again. I talk it back off and then carry it in my hand, enjoying the rain and keeping my feet moving until the final climb. We walk one last time, before we shake hands and then run over the final hump and turn into the finish.