LooseCrew-JeffO: Bye, 2008

LooseCrew-JeffO

Ramblings of an adventurous guy living in Denver and playing in the mountains.
For my trail adventures, visit my Trail Bum blog

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Bye, 2008

Overall, 2008 has been the best year of my life.
I still haven't completed my mission: the Leadville Trail 100
Giving me hope, I had a grueling schedule that was not all that grueling to accomplish. This totally surprised me. I had anticipated several DNFs and poor speed from too much mileage. The opposite happened. The extra mileage seemed to make me faster. Or maybe I would have been even faster if I had only eaten right and run half as many races?
Nah. The races gave me tons of experience. I think experience (aid station transition, equipment, what my body needs at mile 30, 50, 80) is just as important as physical conditioning. I lacked this experience badly.

Milestones...
A 3:30 marathon at Steamboat Springs that qualified me for the Boston Marathon.
Winning my first-ever race award, 3rd-place in my division at the Estes Park Marathon.
Finishing my first 100-miler, at Boulder, plus breaking 24-hours at the same time.

Now, leaving this behind in 2008, the skinny on what really happened at the Leadville 100 that led to my 2nd DNF...
I was going to make one long report, but I couldn't bear to type about it. In fact, I haven't been running withthe Denver Trail Runners because they kept asking me about it, and it's awkward to tell friends, "I don't want to talk about it."
Before Leadville, I said I don't want to talk about it - I just want to do this.
After yet another DNF, ditto, I don't want to talk about it. So please take this "skinny" and let's leave it in the past as shit-that-happens.

Picking up from the short post after the DNF, on Sugarloaf, in the dark, in intermittent freezing rain, with me weezing from pulmonary edema, I gave my pack to my pacer. LT100 rules allow you to use pacers as "mules" in rememberance of the miners in the 1800's.
I wasn't moving fast, but I was moving steady. I knew that once I got over this last mountain, I was home-free. We were on the very steepest section of Sugarloaf. I was chugging in slow-mo'.
I was wearing two caps, a NorthFace ballcap, plus my Mountain Hardwear GoreTex elmer-fudd. The MtnHardwear came off without me knowing.
Here's where it went to shit - and it's unbelievable how precise eveything had to be for this mishap to occur...
Another runner or pacer picked up the cap and caught up to us.
The runner asked, "Is this your Mountain Hardwear cap?"
I'm deaf in my right ear, and hard of hearing. The fact that I've fired many thousands of rounds through quite a few weapons in my life, and spent years as a machinist have degraded the hearing in my one remaining ear. I only heard "...Mountain Hardwear..." I had already said, "What?" about 50 million times already that day and was tired of it. The last few times, when I didn't understand people, I simply ignored them. If they want to be heard, they need to make themselves heard. I'm not deaf, and not THAT hard of hearing.
So I ignored the comment about my cap.
I was on my pacer's right-hand side, but he didn't know that. He thought I was behind and below him.
He turned LEFT, never seeing me continue up the hill.
He answered the guy, "No, this isn't mine, but I think it's my runner's. Wait, where is my runner?"
He was absolutely CERTAIN there was NO WAY I was ahead or above him.
And there I was, only six feet away, and getting further away by the second.
My pacer looked left, right, downhill - holy crap!!! Where was Jeff?!?!
Now a dozen feet away.
So my pacer ran downhill - with my pack, with all my sport-drink, food, and other essentials. He searched laterally and below, but never for one second thought to look UPHILL.
I was wearing two reflective ankle-bands. No one else on the course was lit like me. But I neglected to specifically say, like I'd meant to, "Look at my ankles. See those reflective bands? If you ever lose me, I'm the one with the reflective ankles."

My pacer went into panic-mode. With my pulmonary edema, was I passed-out? Had I crawled into the woods and died?
He called the sherif and requested a Search&Rescue.

Meanwhile, I got half a mile up the hill. I needed my sport-drink and wondered WTF, where's my pacer? So I called back down the hill at the top of my lungs, with no trees between him and me down that long hill, but no response. So when the hill ended and there was a slight downhill before the course continued uphill, I stopped and waited.
And waited.
And laid down because why spend time-on-my-feet when not moving?
And runners passed giving reports of my pacer frantically looking for me.
The time ticked on...

Then Tim Fromm, Anita Fromm's husband, came by and offered the unbelieveable - he left his runner and went back down the hill to get my pacer. But my pacer had gone even FURTHER down the hill!!!
Tim came back about ten minutes later unsuccessful. Even though unsuccessful, I will forever be in his debt for trying. He is my hero. Thank you Tim!

I did NOT WANT TO GO BACKWARDS down the STEEPEST section of Sugarloaf to retreive my pacer. Not in my condition, with pulmonary edema, and have to CLIMB IT AGAIN!
But I did. I had to go the wrong way.

I found him, we had "words", he called the sherif to call off the SAR. I was so grateful to hear him say, without us even discussing it, that, no, we were not returning to Fish Hatchery less than two miles away, but instead continuing up and over Sugarloaf to a certain DNF at Mayqueen. I wanted every last step of the allowed distance, and my pacer was of one mind with me.

He felt MORTIFIABLY HORRIBLE! After those initial "words", I had nothing to say. Why would I? Water under the bridge.
I had already come to grips on the walk backwards that my race was TRASHED, but heading back up I was worried that I would also lose my best friend. I realized losing a best-friend was a far worse loss than a stupid race.
So I said, "I don't care what we have to do to deal with this, but that's what we're going to do - deal with it. Races aren't as important as people. The whole reason I supposedly do races is so I can meet people and be positive. If I let this ruin things with people, then my priorities are all wrong and I've failed my primary task."
Races should be excuses to meet people, grow, and be positive in your own life and in the lives of others.


It's not WHAT happens that counts - it's how you deal with it.
I can't claim I dealt with it very well. What my friend and pacer didn't hear, was my tirade on Sugarloaf BEFORE accepting my race was lost and going down backwards. I won't claim to be particularly noble, and in recognizing my lacking, I chose to limit my exposure to people asking me what happened. I didn't want to look back on unfortunate shit-that-happened. There's no good in that.

It didn't change the fact that 2008 was the very best year of my life. I suppose if I had taken a different path, 2008 would not have been my best year.
When I've posted exceptional finish-times, at my advancing age, I've often thought, "Wow, I'll never out-do that!" And then I do.

I look at 2008 and think the same thing. I don't feel like it's possible to do better in life or as a person as I did in 2008. I can only hope that 2009 proves that wrong.




Happy New Year, everyone.

5 Comments:

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Audrey said...

i'm glad you had such a great year you feel so positive about. Congrats on your age group award. Always super fun to pick those up-I think moreso for those of us who aren't always collecting those doodads left and right! It makes it sweeter!!

Best of luck in 09!!

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger Talon said...

Wow! No wonder you didn't want to talk about it! Here's to an even better 2009.

 
At 7:58 PM, Blogger Jamie Donaldson said...

Wow, what story Jeff! You got it right--it is not what happens, but how you deal with it. You learned a lesson from that and are now ready to move on. LT100 2009! Go Jeff and Happy New Year!

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger olga said...

I realized losing a best-friend was a far worse loss than a stupid race.
So I said, "I don't care what we have to do to deal with this, but that's what we're going to do - deal with it. Races aren't as important as people. The whole reason I supposedly do races is so I can meet people and be positive. If I let this ruin things with people, then my priorities are all wrong and I've failed my primary task."
Races should be excuses to meet people, grow, and be positive in your own life and in the lives of others.
Priceless...

 
At 2:17 PM, Anonymous John Wright said...

Jeff, that was so good. I had no idea. Congrats on a great Leadville 2008 then, it looks like you would of finished. Best of luck to you in all you set out to do in 2009.

 

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