“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”
― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
It’s around mile 56 when I realize who is wearing the pants in this relationship. I’m running a strong race – podium contention. Her race is stronger. Ah yes, her race. Now, this aint my first rodeo running an entire race with the lead female runner. (See: A Marathon Tale) Call me a ladies man, what can I say? Fact is, I’ve worked hard for years and I’m finally running with the top-tier of athletes – female athletes.
Camille Herron (2015 IAU 100K and 50K champ) and I play leapfrog all day throughout the race at the UROC 100K. At one point around mile 22 she misses a turn that wasn’t well marked and I catch up to her as she runs toward me in a puzzled backtrack. We pick a trail that we assume must be the way to go and run up a very steep two-mile climb, hoping with each step that we are heading in the right direction as we go on over 20 minutes without seeing a course marker. There is no quicker way to change the attitude of running against someone, to running with someone, than to be in the top five of a race and not know if you’re on course. And, if you are not, then each step you commit to the direction you’ve chosen is one more step into fucking up your race.
We get lucky and gasp our relief upon seeing an aid station. We are on course. The leapfrogging continues. I pull ahead a bit on the uphill, she breezes back by on the flats – looking effortless and ambitious. This lasts until around mile 48 when I’m cramping up a bit and start loosing ground. She soars ahead.
And then, unexpectedly, as I run into the 52 aid I see her sitting on the tailgate of her crews’ truck. What happened? Goddamn, she looks like a train-wreck. A serious train wreck – we are talking complete derailment. I’m not sure how someone can look this rough and continue on with the race. Wish I knew what was going on with her, she’ll win $5,000 if she can just finish out these last ten miles! I fuel up and she attempts to follow me out of the station. It looks as though she’s commencing on an early morning, disheveled walk of shame after a fierce night of hard libations. Doesn’t sound too good either – I hear the groan of a dying horse behind me as I pull away, feeling sorry for her epic blow up, yet optimistic that even if this horse in agony can hobble to the finish, the woman’s podium is still waiting for her with the large lead she has accrued. Well shit, what did I know.
I pull into mile 56 aid to hear a bunch of cheering. It’s not for me. Camille is coming in behind me with a huge smile on her face as she heads to her crew. I don’t stop for long and take off. Within minutes she is running right next to me.
“Woah, I thought you were cooked! What happened?” I ask excitedly.
“I slammed two beers!” She exclaims.
“Are you serious?” I shout back, in disbelief.
“Yeeahhh. I don’t know what happened. My stomach was shot and I thought I was done, so I drank a beer. It settled my stomach down, so I had another!”
There is no more dying horse in her voice, for now I am running next to Julia Childs. An excited and buzzed and somewhat delirious Julia Childs is in the kitchen, and I’m gettin’ served.
“That’s fuckin’ crazy! Well looks like your feeling good now!”
“I feel so comfortably nuuummbbbb” she wails out, leaving the Pink Floyd song echoing in my ears as I watch her slingshot past me, farther and farther away until she’s out of sight.
Well, that just happened.
My legs are starting to cramp harder and more often now as I’m crossing No Hands Bridge just before the mile 59 aid station. I was on this bridge three months ago at the end of Western States. It feels so good to be back. I have to stop and stretch my calves which are seizing up, so I use the railing on the bridge to press against and push. I glance over to the aid station 30 yards away and behold? Camille is standing there, head tilted back, guzzling the last sips of another cold one! Unbelievable, I think to myself. She slams the bottle down and bolts away. There goes my hero, I watch her as she goes. I make it over to the aid station to see the bottle she just downed – Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Man she isn’t messing around. This is no Bud Light beer-flavored water. This is the real deal. I get drunk off three of these beers after a steak dinner and a loaf of bread. She is half my size, eight hours into an ultra, in sunshine and 90-degree heat. This is classic.
I finish off the race looking like a young Forest Gump with leg braces on as I waddle to the finish, leg muscles seizing and cramping til the end. I finish 4th overall, and 3rd male. Camille put 10 minutes on me in the last three miles and won her 5 large. Afterwards I pour a beer for myself and walk over to talk with Camille and her husband. We chat about what I thought was the story of the day, although I have a feeling she might not remember it.
Video Courtesy of UROC
Video Courtesy of UROC