Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Trip 2016: Everything is Ultra (Part 4, Watching the Hardrock Winners)

Continued from Part 3.

It had been a very long day.  I'd been taking photos and tweeting everything I could about what was going on during the race.  I was overwhelmed by the kind words and appreciation people from all over the world expressed to me about my on-the-ground updates (thanks if any of you are reading this).  I began to feel a responsibility to document the race as best I could, and I sort of wished I could do this for a living.  It was fun!  

Nevertheless, it was hard to post very many updates from Ouray.  I only got cell signal maybe 25% of the time, and the going was very slow.  After Rob took off from Ouray to pace Ryan, I had very little idea of how they were doing.  I couldn't get the runner tracking to update on my phone, nor could I get the GPS from the spot tracker Rob had taken with him.  

I tried my best to get some rest after the sun went down, and I cuddled up next to William in the bed of the RV and slept for about an hour.  Finally I got the runner tracking to load on my phone, and I saw that Ryan had checked into the Grouse aid station at 11:19pm.  Great news.  They had made it there.  Or at least Ryan had made it there.  Presumably Rob was with him.  I thought maybe in an hour or so, Katie would be bringing Rob back to Ouray. 

What didn't occur to me was that it had taken them more than 6 hours to get to Grouse (this was longer than we'd been expecting), and Ryan had not yet checked out of the aid station.  He was still there.  He was feeling terrible.  He spent a long time at Grouse with Katie, Rob, and his other pacer, getting care.  It wasn't until 2:30am that Katie brought Rob back to Ouray.

Rob felt surprisingly good considering all he had been through in the last 9 hours.  He drove us back across that terrifying mountain pass to Silverton and told me bits and pieces about his pacing adventure.  He said Ryan had not been able to eat or drink much between Ouray and Grouse and gotten very behind on hydration and calories.  Everyone was right--this section of the course had been extremely difficult.  It had taken Ryan a while to recover at Grouse and feel well enough to continue with his other pacer, John.  Rob also told me that Nick had ended up dropping at Grouse, due to severe stomach pain.  I was sad to hear that news.  I really hoped that Ryan would be able to finish.

When we got back to Silverton, Rob said he was done.  Done, done, done.  It was 3:30 in the morning, and he and Will piled back to sleep in the RV bed.  As long as Rob was staying in the van with Will, that freed me up to go to the finish line and see who was going to win this race.

The most recent updates from iRunFar indicated that Kilian and Jason Schlarb were still running together.  Supposedly they'd shared a sandwich at one point, and even a pacer (Emelie pacing them both).  I wondered what on earth was going to happen.  Would one of them pull away from the other towards the end, and which would it be?  How could you even do that...leave someone in your dust after you'd run with them and shared so much over nearly 100 miles?  I couldn't help but wonder if they would finish this thing together, hand in hand even.  From what I knew about Jason Schlarb and Kilian Jornet, it seemed like the kind of thing they might do.

I must have been the first person standing there at the finish line, but little by little the crowd grew.  At last, a race official (Dale himself, I guess) told us that it would be soon.

And then they were there.  All I could see was a rush of two figures together, one of them wearing red.  They were moving fast into the finishing chute, and I didn't even realize until they were already past me that it was both of them-- Schlarb and Jornet, and they really were hand in hand.

They bent to kiss the rock together (this is how you finish Hardrock, you kiss the rock), ensuring a tie.

 Then they turned to each other and embraced.

Media and spectators swarmed them.  Soon I couldn't see a thing.  Someone brought them little white folding chairs and they sat down to answer questions.  They said they had talked it out and planned to finish together this way.  After running the entire race side by side, it just would have seemed ridiculous to have a fight at the end.  Both of them seemed to acknowledge that Kilian could have gone faster (in fact he has, in previous years), if he had wanted, but what was the point?  To be alone and suffer? Or to be with a companion who has become your lifelong friend?  The decision was clear to them.  Each said it was an honor to have run such a race and finished with the other.

I started crying. With so much hatred and violence in the world, this, this is the thing I want to remember about how people can be: this sight of these two grown men holding hands and running towards the rock together.  Neither was seeking to hurt or undermine the other.  They had worked so hard for this and just wanted to share the experience of winning this race.

Under the cold starlight, I wandered back to the van, in awe of what I had just seen, and fell asleep.

Several hours later, Rob and Will and I were all up again, and we went to the finish line to see the first place woman, Anna Frost.  She had led the race all day, and now as she finished, she floated towards the rock.  She had this look of total bliss on her face.  She weaved among the crowd, giving everybody high fives.  You could tell she was just so happy.  You never would have guessed she had just run 100 hard miles in the San Juan mountains.

A while later, Emma Roca, the second place woman ran towards the finish line.  All day when I'd seen her at aid stations, she had been surrounded by these kids.  I assume these are her kids, but I guess I don't know.  Either way, it was very sweet.

Emma Roca got an accordion serenade from Ricky Gates as she headed towards the finish line.  (Incidentally, didn't Gates pace Anna Frost for a while? See...this is the way ultra runners are.  You do your best. You race against yourself and the mountains. But you support everyone else out there and want them to do their best too).
Ricky Gates playing his accordion.  Kilian and Emelie are wearing yellow coats.
There was a long time between finishers, and the crowds would thin out during these lulls.  At one point, I was still standing there and Kilian and Emelie walked right by me.  They were both drinking coffee from blue mugs.  I had to say something, but the only thing I could think of was, "Congratulations!"  Kilian smiled and nodded in his humble way and said, "Thanks."  They kept walking, and I thought, I just congratulated Kilian Jornet on winning Hardrock. How is this my life.

Thanks for reading

Stay tuned for Part 5.


Anonymous said...

This made me cry!,, so touching!,, if only everyone in the world could be this kind, it would be a sweet place for sure!! what a beautiful finish to a very difficult race!!! loved all the pictures!! thanks for sharing your journey with us all!!! Hugs and luv , mama

Anonymous said...

Wonderful report ~ both here and twitter .. Your trip and running adventures look amazing... So envious :-)

Safe travels

Sierra Rasten