July 4 We “sleep in” for 3 hours to celebrate the 4th (I’m guessing) and get started at about 6:30 AM. The crew has had a chance to rest, and I’ve doubled the sleep I’ve had in the past few days to 6 hours. Importantly, I can still move, my stomach feels good, my feet feel a lot better and we’re only 13 miles from the Whitney Portal, then end of the first part of the run.
As I run down the road, my thoughts go back to the kids and the parallels between their barriers and my own. What I’ve had to overcome is so small and most importantly the consequences of my failure are so minuscule compared to them, that I almost feel ridiculous even making the comparison, but it doesn’t stop me:
- Before coming to SouthSide, many don’t know their strengths and development needs.
- Once at SouthSide, they are assessed, and put on a customized program to help them succeed.
- The great staff, their “support crew”, then works with them to make sure they not only make it, but succeed
- Along the way, some will surge ahead and some will fall behind, but there’s always someone there to keep inspiring them, educating them, and encouraging them
- The new school is really going to create a great environment
I break out of my reverie in enough time to realize I need to make a left turn on the Whitney Portal Road. It’s a little after 7AM and time for what’s been called the toughest climb in an ultramarathon- 11 miles and over 4600 feet of gain. Some sections have a 10 degree incline. Average time is over 5 ½ hours to make this “final” climb. We’ve got a little bit of work to do.
After about a mile, I’m joined again by Marcia Rasmussen! Both she and Suzanne Kenyon pace me the first 8 miles to the switchbacks. I’m actually using trekking poles at this stage to make sure I keep my momentum going. Turkey wraps are still the food of the day and I eat one every hour, drinking my 22 ounces of water to wash it down. I’m asked if I want to stop to rest, but the only thing I can think of is: “If I’m not moving, I’m not getting any closer to the finish!” Keep moving.
Now the switchbacks. The last 3 miles, but definitely not the most fun. David Stores and Scott Weber become my pacers as we slooowly climb the last few miles. I come up over the last rise, see the toilet paper finish line stretched out (note: I’ve never broken the tape at a race, but I don’t believe toilet paper is generally what is used), cross it at almost exactly 12 noon and collapse into a waiting chair. Marcia presents me with a Badwater Solo belt buckle that she’s taken upon herself to make, and I enjoy a few minutes of strange stares from German hikers and the celebrations of my team. We’ve come a long way and finished the 135 miles in 56 hours 49 minutes. We had planned on 60-63 hours and can’t go up the mountain until tomorrow, so we have some down time before the next climb. Time for a cheeseburger. Tomorrow we go up the mountain proper….