I don’t consider myself to be a runner, and am still not sure what motivated me to enter this race. I had almost no interest in it until last year when I ended up pacing a 23 mile section of it and crewing for a friend. Watching the race unfold, seeing all the strategy that played into it, witnessing the absurd distance covered, meeting some of the runners and seeing the incredible terrain that it took place on were probably contributing factors. And then there was the vertical gain. A big day of back country skiing might be 6 - 8,000’ vertical, and here was a race that had 24,033’ all in one shot! The entries are sent out in January and fill up in less then two weeks.
In many ways, it reminded me of a big climbing route. You had certain “camps” that you had to make it to, there were crux’s, easy parts, weather considerations, route finding, teamwork, planning, staying fit and fed and ultimately making it to the goal, which in this case was a nice flat lawn in the center of Midway. Like working a sport route, I had run all the individual sections of the course in training, but it still remained to be seen if I could link them all together for the redpoint. As it turned out, I made it to within sight of the chains before suffering a major melt down, took a long hang at one of the aid stations, then hobbled into the finish. Not as pretty as I was hoping for, but it felt mighty good to cross the finish line.
It was also amazing to witness such a talented and demented group of people. The men’s 1st place finisher, Tim Spence, looked totally unfazed by his 21:13:xx hour sprint. The women’s 1st place finisher, Martha Swatt, was probably the most inspirational story of the race. Not only did she win, but she also set a new course record, became the second woman in the history of the event to break 24 hours, and on top of all of that, collected her “Grand Slam” trophy for completing four 100 mile races in one summer! At the awards ceremony she thanked her Mom.
For me, one of the more memorable moments came in the last mile of the race as a group of us were limping toward the finish line. It was early Sunday morning and two women came towards us on their morning jog, heading out the direction that we had just covered 99 miles on. I asked them if they knew what they were getting into and pleaded with them to quit while they were ahead, but they just laughed and kept going. They’re probably somewhere in Oregon by now.