I lay flopping and writhing in agony mostly face down on the Hidden Hobbit trail after rolling my right ankle. My left side was covered in squashed bananas. I yelled out, screaming bloody murder, but it was like one hand clapping. I was as loud as a wind blown tree snappin' in the forest but no one was listening. It felt good to be down. The bananas in my pocket were baby food at this point. I was a cursed slimy mess. The throbbing pain in my ankle kept me in the present though and I realized that I had to get up Now and, if it wasn't broken, I had to get moving or it'd swell up fast. Some times it swells and some times it don't. A mishap... I'm the only one who gets to decide if I end up with a DNF, not a mishap. A mishap does not get to decide my race. I grabbed a stick and leaned into it to get up. The ankle was already getting puffy but it seemed to work as well as anything else on my broken body so I trudged on almost at a trot turning left onto East Side trail at the old terminus. All day the trail had been marked incredibly well and this intersection was no different. It was clearly marked with a big fat red X on the downhill side. If you were to head East here and down you'd run into a newer trail called the East Ridge trail that was built later tying the old road to the ridge where the new trail came up and then down back into town. I said goodbye to the Hobbit Trail and started working my way west, with what I had left to work with, up the gentle incline and on up some more around the old rocky working road on the Eastside of Squak mountain just outside of Issaquah, Washington state. The Sun had the whole mountain shining in the green spring, I was listening to the singing songs of the Wrens, Robins and the fiesty Varied Thrush. The Piliated Woodpeckers were pecking at 180 steps... I mean 180 pecks, per minute. I couldn't keep up.
I'd been moving for over 8 hours and had only covered a hard won 25 miles. I'd bagged the summit a hand full of times so far and was still busy stacking up some vicious vertical data. I'd climbed up over 7000' already and come down just as many. I was still hitting the Gel flask and sipping at my perpetual baby bottle of Perpetuem. The miles of climbing had taken their toll on my legs in so many strange and wonderful ways that it was like I was being entertained. This leg had that going on for a while, then that leg had this going on...they traded aches. They traded pains. My legs were like some kind of separate beings with lives of their own. Creepy. But up until then I could trust them, but after a weird and more serious cramping flare up thingy in my left hip flexor I started having for-real shit brewing in my left leg and pretty soon the damn wobbly thing was on fire and my left leg was toast. From the knee to the hip it was burnt toast. Bad I.T. band. Bad I.T. band. My knee didn't start going out until after the last climb on Central peak trail when I tried to come down 'Old Grizz' and it just buckled. Limp celery stalk wobbly buckled. Noodle knee. Down for the second time. Felt good to be welcomed by 'Old Grizz' on my 3rd time thru' and I wanted to stay down.. She'd all but ignored me on my first two passes. Felt good to be horizontal. That's where my first Ultra mountain trail 'race' really began. When I got up. To finish. That's when it began.
Actually, it all began in Boulder, Colorado many many miles and years before under a different sky. Under Boulder skies I would run up thru' those Flat Irons all day, drinking from a stream that tricked down between the big hill and the little one in late summer. I was a summer loving kid. I won my six grade blue ribbon sack races cause of running up that little hill. I went to Table Mesa elementary just under the Devil's Thumb and there wasn't another house between ours and those beautiful Flat Irons. What a back yard...
...There's times in a long, long haul where you start to relate, in a brand new way, to your own Past. Like it's not really you living thru' the Now and it certainly couldn't of been the you you are now living in the Past so who are you gonna be in the Future? What's it's to ya? There are times in a long, long run where you are a witness to how the Past and the Future flow into one unbelievable Now... and as the Past folds into the Future I am forever trying to catch a quick snap shot of Now. Wow. It has to happen NOW! I had to finish.
The thought snaps me back to the task. Up right and still on trail. Still moving. You know it's been a long day when you are actually looking forward to the next grinding grunt up a witch hunt because it's fourth down and you can't punt. It's getting impossible to go down. Up summit trail... steep and mean as a snake but an like old friend by Now. Old friends... oh! That's right! There's someone I know at the next aid station... my wife? I can't remember, did I see her the last loop? Will I ever see her again? Then I win the summit trail for the last time. I'm to the aid and someone who looks vaguely like my wife is there helping me. 'I'm staring one more gnarly climb or two in the face and then let's put this baby to bed!' I say! (it's actually a hopeless descent to the finish 5 miles away). I ask the chick who looks like my wife to pace me down the backside and back up Bullitt Fireplace trail again before we plummet down May Valley loop to reality. 'Let's get the hell off this rocky mountain like a run away Honey Badger... baby!!!' I had me a nervous knee. It couldn't be trusted and neither could my right ankle but my watch could so I knew I was not only screwed but black, blue, tattooed and ankle twisted too. Had me a buck and ten cents to the cut off time. Off my rocker. At this point I'm thinking that this chick IS my wife because she patiently coaxed me down off the back of the unforgiving mountain all the way down to 1300'. We had barely started the climb back up when there was some sort of hairy forest fellow on the trail up ahead. To my salty eyes it looked like a two-legged trail fairy skittering down the trail like it was barely touching the ground. Damn, it looks so human. No it wasn't a human... it was Trey Bailey.
With a camera. The hell you say. I've got to say that guy is more than human. The laws of gravity don't apply to this mountain trail Elf. A camera? Really? He's dancing all around me like a jackal, mad with youthful exuberance... Oh NO! Is this really happening? I've got no time left on the clock and miles to go to beat the cut off. And NOW we're filming? Good grief Charlie Brown! I knew two things; 1) my leg couldn't be trusted, so I'd have to peg-leg it... and I was already screaming out with every step. 2) I knew that the sick reality was... I could damn near still make the cut off if I could just execute my pirate-on-the-gangplank shuffle and not collapse. Hell, my friend and mentor George 'the Honey Badger' Orozco his own bad-ass self once made a cut off on this very same mountain sliding and scootin' along on his honey badger ass when he had to after severe cramping set in on this very descent. Hopeless. I had just over an hour and the minutes were ebbing away like my strength. I crested the last final and brutal climb of my 9 hour day and let out a scream 'I hate Bananas!' or some damn thing and headed thru' the twisted roots of 'the ringwraithe forest'... the truly haunted part of Squak mountain. Don't run it at night they say. Tommy knockers. Yeah well they've helped me thru' many a lonely evening thru' here. Where are they now? With camera rolling we started down with that chick who had looked like my wife earlier, still in tow. Things were out of hand now I was waddling like a wounded duck. I was holding my breath to squelch my shrieks and was sure not to cuss in front of the fucking camera. With each step I'd get a new jolt of pain followed by a nice shot of whatever it is your body gives you when you need it. Kicks the holy hell out of prescription drugs. OUCH! The leg buckled and I was given a good dose of endorphins...fade to a weird black place full of sleepy memories...
In Boulder, we used to block off our whole horseshoe shaped street, rally the kids in our neighborhood and hold Grand Prix/Le Mans bike races on our Schwinn sting rays. Some of these races included running contests. We do loops around the bike lap and then go flying out thru' the field to the wooded grove up to the base of a ragged draw. I wanted a piece of that rugged trail. There was always a kid who could run like the wind and there were always kids who couldn't. Or wouldn't. I would, could and did. I ran to where I could run some more. Barefooted all summer so that in the fall when it was time to return to school my new shoes would always hurt my feet. My feet never hurt even in the cactus caked foothills where I spent the magic of my youth...my feet hurt. The thought snaps me back...
I'd forgotten to turn the tea kettle off or something because there was a whistling in my head. Where am I? What's going on? I'm still moving! I turned to look behind me and my wife was there! Busy rolling her ankles like she's so good at doing. What is she doing here? Have I been crying out in pain in front of my wife? Couldn't help but notice that she looked a lot like that chick that had started the descent with me. Somehow that trail apparition Trey Bailey had shown up and was shouting at me like I was doing something wrong and I was thinking... no... the only thing I've ever done wrong was sign up for this crazy ass Squak mountain 50K! Ok, so this is my bucket of pain I'm swimming in, but if you guys wanna splash around in it then... welcome to hell! Hey! Maybe we should film it! Trey has something in his hands pointing it at me and he's still shouting at me. Hey! He is filming! Onward, falling, catching myself with a wobbly wiggle and wishing for it to end. Salt water taffy time stretching and pulling me past the last trail sign... it reads 'a million miles'. It didn't matter. I couldn't move another step... what's a million give or take? Right? Fuckin' bring it. This trail dwelling kid of mountain goat that looked a lot like Trey Bailey was shouting at me again... something about how my 'watch wasn't gonna make my legs go any faster' and 'we don't got time for slow; we gots to go!' ...and all that, I don't know, I wasn't paying attention. The old tea pot was steaming now! Half a mile to go and I was still upright. I yelled one last giant cuss word when I looked at my clock and it said I was over the cut off by 30 seconds... wait, did my watch just speak to me? Did I read it right? Better hammer down just in case. Hammer down... that's funny. Why is that long legged friend of the Devil, who looks like Trey Bailey shouting at me? Will somebody please turn off the tea kettle? Focus. Tears. What's that... I'm running, hobbling, but there's the sacred sound of people yelling. Cheering! Who are they? Is it a rodeo? Is that the trail head at last? After ten hours? I'm I really there? Am I crying? Wow, this is Now. Remember Jamey this IS now. It's gonna happen Now.
It didn't matter that I'd missed the cut off by like 3 minutes, and had earned nothing but a big fat 'DNF' (did not finish), for my first 50K, it just mattered that I'd stuck to my promise... to my self. It mattered that I didn't let myself down. I gave it my ever-fucking-thing. I crossed to the cheers of the last wonderful stragglers hanging out at the finish (they all looked like people I knew too...I will forever smile when I think of them). A guy who looked a lot like the race director, Roger Michel, came up and shook my hand and congratulated me on my finish. What? Finish? Cruel joke. I DNF'd dude. NO you didn't you crazy fool we started 5 minutes late this morning. You didn't DNF but you did DFL... ('dead fucking last' or 'done finished last', if the cussing hurts your damn ears). You have just finished the hardest 50K in Washington state. Your time is 9:55:54, you made it by 4 minutes, 6 seconds. That crazy Kokapeli-Trey Bailey did it!!! He brought me in like a cow to market!! My wife was there, it was her somehow, she always brings me home. Hey... aren't you that chick?.. Oh never mind. Come on honey, let's go turn that tea-kettle off. Thank you Trey.
THANK YOU GEORGE, GLENN T, DONALD, JONATHAN, LIHN, DAN, JENN and 'I RUN PRETTY FAR', DEBI, VAN PHAN, ARTHUR, LARS, JEFF, JEFF and STEVEN, DARIN, MAYLON, CASSIE, KRISTIN, DANIEL, BEN, TOPHER, RON, KENNY O, MICHAEL, JAMES, ERIC, HERB, ERIC and THE BALANCED ATHLETE, ROGER and EVERGREEN TRAIL RUNS...AND TO BEST GROUP OF CRAZIES IN THE WORLD... THE SEATTLE MOUNTAIN RUNNING GROUP. If I forgot to mention anyone please feel free to kick me in the shin when you see me next time. Thank you Heather.
Where do I sign up for next year?
Here's Trey fantastical surreal footage and brilliant post production.
HERE'S THE YOU TUBE LINK!
Soundtrack was designed and conceived by Trey Bailey http://www.uphillrunning.com/2012/04/march-25-april-7.html#.T4yIXngzLzJ
All music provided courtesy of Survive records and Ravinwolf. All rights reserved. All music selections were off the CD 'Buttons and Freedom, Ravinwolf II' available at www.ravinwolf.com