About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Endurance Event Like No Other

I was recently a pacer/ handler for a very special person in my life as she completed an endurance feat. What is a pacer or handler, you ask? In ultramarathon races, runners are allowed to have a running buddy or coach run with them later in the race as they travel through the mountains often at night to complete their 50-100 mile race. The pacer helps the participant find the route and keeps them safe and motivated to finish no matter what.

I had the honor this time of coaching my friend, and as soon as we started the journey I knew we were in for an amazing race. This event was not a typical 50K, 50 mile, or 100 mile trail run, because she did not know how long the distance was when she started. When my companion reached the first medical check point, she was told to keep going and she would be finished in 12-24 hours!

 “I don’t think I can keep going that long”, she commented, so I did my job as supporter and ensured her that she could. She bucked up and kept up the pace, but things started to get harder. This race has many ups and downs like the Leadville 100 (Colorado) mile trail run which has the highest elevation of any ultra in the U.S. However, my partner had to climb higher than the infamous Hope Pass at 12,500 ft elevation.

Luckily her mom, dad, and sister were also there to help, and met her at every crossroad to cheer her on. They provided comfort and strength when she most needed it.

After informing me that she was experiencing a lot of pain she asked, “Why are we doing this?” I had to remind her that the prize for finishing the event was much better than the Leadville finisher’s belt buckle. It’s even better than the award from the most prestigious 100 mile trail race, Western States. Seriously? What could be better than a Western States buckle?

Night arrived and her pain grew worse; she began to sweat and again started to doubt her ability to finish the race. 12 hours had already passed and she wasn’t near the finish line yet. Medical personnel assured her that she could overcome the obstacles and finish the passage. I could only think of the runners who endure and complete the Badwater Ultramarathon which is run in Death Valley, CA in July with 120 degree temperatures. My partner's event is even more difficult than Badwater, but finishing has far greater value.

She kept moving forward and soon I knew we were getting close to the end of our journey as we entered one of the last medical check points. She had the last part of the course to finish which was the most difficult. I can only compare it to the Hillary Step on Mt Everest where climbers must ascend a precipitous rock ledge at 28,800 ft elevation just before continuing on to the summit. The air is thin and supplemental oxygen is needed to make it to the top.

As she continued forging ahead she was able to overcome her pain. The notion that the end was near gave her a huge amount of strength. The distance was long, the altitude was high, and the trail was steep, so at the last medical checkpoint, the staff gave her some oxygen to breathe so she could finish her achievement. Even greater than summiting the tallest mountain on the planet, she had arrived at the end of the road.

At the moment she crossed the finish line, the most amazing miracle happened. My wife and I were awarded with the most priceless gift anyone could ever receive. The tiny precious bundle made the difficult traverse worth all the pain and labor. My best friend, wife and mother of my daughter is indeed an amazing endurance athlete and made it through the race with great courage and strength.

Madeleine Jane (6lbs 7oz)

Cara and baby recovering from the journey
Sierra watching over the precious bundle

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written Greg! Reiterating a classic metaphor for life, but also emphasizing the physical, mental and emotional anguish a woman has to go through in relation to something we men can relate to.
    Great stuff and very well done to both of you! All the best, Richard