I left for the Ozark Trail 100 thinking about the leaves in my yard.
I did a fair amount of raking the weekend before, but with several mature trees in my yard holding onto their growth I knew it wouldn't be the last time I put on a pair of work gloves. Still, leaving for the run I felt a bit of a twinge of guilt (maybe too heavy a word) over going to the race when there was work to be done around the house.
As it turned out, I didn't know from leaves. But we'll save that for a minute.
I rode down to the race with Dave and Jess Wakefield and Ryne Melcher. David and Ryne would be running, while Jess and I would provide the encouragement while attempting to remain sober. Ryne is a member of Team Montrail, currently residing in British Columbia. If I remember my geography, British Columbia is just the other side of Holton, so wanting to be helpful right from the start I explained what a cheeseburger was as we pulled into Sonic for some fuel. Ryne is a good sport, even if he does live in New Zealand. With proper fuel on board, we headed towards Steelville, Missouri for the pre-race briefing. Rumor had it that the briefing would last about an hour, so I brought a case of beer to try to make it through. After the briefing, we headed to the hotel and some last-minute pizza before turning in.
With ultra-running legend Willie Lambert in tow, we found the start line about 515 the next morning. Over one hundred runners were toeing the line for the inagural OT100. At 6am sharp they were off, with Jeff Browning, Ben Creehan, David, and Ryne leading the charge. Time for the crew to start drinking. Or half the crew, as Jess made some silly excuses about the sun not being up yet, that she had to drive, etc. Whatever, man. Just under three hours later we met Dave and Ryne at the "Deliverance" themed aid station, staffed by Colleen and Debbie among others. Of course, Dave needed something that we had left in the car, and while he left without whatever it was I made a firm resolve to back off the beer. This was going to be work!
At mile 43 I was surprised at how good Dave and Ryne looked. Jess and I were in rythym by then, and although we never had any plans I think that crewing just comes naturally after you've been around it. Whereas when you run you make a plan, crewing happens based on the runners needs and mood, so to plan anything is mostly wishful thinking. But we were a pretty decent team for having know each other for twelve hours. I attempted to jam a lube stick up Rynes' shorts, but he was so insistent that I be gentle I handed the job over to him. Fine, see if I put my hand in your pants again! After seeing the boys off Jess and I found a general store with a lunch counter and tucked into about 10,000 calories worth of food, our first meal of the day.
Anywho, mile 68 found me wanting to run. Just in case I was needed I had brought my gear and wanted to get it on before dark. The guys arrived feeling ok, and took some time to refuel here. They were both running a smart, conservative race and I think this was when I believed they would finish well. Sure, they had over 33 miles to go (the official distance was 101.5 miles) but the two of them seemed dialed in and unbreakable. My new plan was this: if they get to Berryman without needing company, I'm gonna demolish some beers.
I decided to do some pre-work and had about five while talking with the Berryman folks. Tony Clark, Kyle and Stacy Amos, and Deb Johnson...I was among ultra-royalty! The time passed too quickly, and I was trying to get some ultra advice from this group without being too nosy when Dave and Ryne popped out of the woods. They were looking REALLY good, even at the 80 mile mark, when Dave says "We need another pair of eyes."
Awesome, I am tightening my laces before he gets the sentence complete. Dave goes on: "Now I know you've been drinking...". I cut him off - a couple of beers isn't gonna cause me to piss a kidney! Let the lying begin. Pacers lie, and I was starting before we took the first step. I inhaled a cup of noodles and off we go. The leaves were unbelievable. They had to be three inches deep, and as the night wore on and I got tired I couldn't make out the trail. I lost it a couple of times, but luckily the experience in the group got us back on course quickly. The rocks uner the leaves were impossible to see, and I went butt-over-tea-kettle, feet in the air at least twice. Suddenly, I didn't feel as bad about the yard work I left behind. The remaining 20 miles saw Dave and Ryne on auto-pilot, and I learned a good bit about the final stages of a 100 as night turned into morning.
Congratulations to both of them for showing up prepared and nailing it. Also, it is another long story to detail how Jess was critical to the mission, and without her this doesn't get written. But a great time, and a perfect way for me to end the "season"...having fun, taking a jog in the woods with friends, and arriving home to realize that there is always another day to work in the yard.
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