This last weekend Laura and I embarked on what promised to be a fun-filled weekend. After a brief stopover in Vegas, we hopped aboard another winged flight tube to hurdle the rest of the way across the continent, completely unprepared for the barrage of human teargas which awaited us.
Fortunately the flight yielded a minimal number of suffocation fatalities, and soon we were greeted by a very nice Asian woman, who’s hugs were accompanied by a jingle not unlike a cowbell. Or twelve. I am convinced she carries several on her person at all times.
We settled into Hotel Jenster Wednesday night, and I eventually became accustomed to the unsettlingly silent gentleman who kept a watchful eye on the place. Audibly he said nothing, although his demeanor clearly said, “Hey you, stay cool or I will Penguin slap you so hard you’ll drop that watermelon.”
We talked, laughed, and took down the first of numerous bowls of chili that weekend.
In the morning another soul joined our road trip party fresh from an invigorating redeye adventure, during which she undoubtedly exchanged phone numbers with a hefty number of airport employees.
Soon we packed the Prius like Rick Ross in skinny jeans and hit the highway for West Virginia!
Little did we know, time actually progresses at a different rate once you cross over the WV border, so what we had mapped as a 5 1/2 hour drive took more like 9 hours, causing us to marvel at Jenster’s driving prowess in blindfold-level fog on unmarked backwoods roads at night. When we arrived there was a warm welcoming group of friends waiting to help us set up camp. They are extremely good friends, and by that I mean they are both close friends and good people.
I had never seen anything like it. Everyone just camped out along both sides of the course itself! As each day passed, it became a more pleasant experience to gaze around from our camp site and see others who were putting their efforts into the same momentous task. Whether you were a runner, crew, or spectator, you were family by the end of those three days.
By the way, this is the most interesting restroom I’ve ever seen. And there were HOT SHOWERS!
We awoke Saturday morning to the same drizzle which had plagued us all night. The backcountry seemed to be derisively spitting on everyone’s hopes for a smooth race, ensuring that it would be a long, messy affair for all runners insane enough to say, “F@c% it, bring it on.”
The air was so humid with the constant drizzle that there was a steady dripping of condensation showering us every night in the tent. Sleep was difficult at times, and I worried about the runners with 31 miles behind and 63 to go. We arose at 5am and made our way up to the yurt to grab some breakfast. Robert greeted us as we sat and nonchalantly said, “Hey, Krupicka’s over there.”
He happened to be in WV for a screening of his documentary and was traveling with a friend who’s a regular at the Mountain Institute. He just came out to see what this unique event was about! We chatted for a little bit, including some light ribbing, and went our separate ways.
After the 50K started and the runners bolted off into the hills, I found myself standing by the start line. I turned and there was Tony and his buddy, not six feet away. I got to chat with them for a while about the surrounding mountains, awkward double seated port-o-johns, and injuries, since he’s had his own share of leg break related woes. They were both super relaxed and friendly, and it was a neat way to usher in the day. They were heading out in a while, so I wished them a good run and gathered my crew supplies. Missy (Brian’s sweet gal) and I drove out to the 11.3m aid station with supplies and the willingness to patch up any bruises and cuts our runner mob may have incurred.
As we waited and chatted, I couldn’t help but marvel at the unfettered and relentless beauty surrounding us. The forest was alive with violent bursts of gold and crimson, rebelling against the oppressively grey skies overhead. I was uplifted and inspired in the way only being small in the presence of something magnificent can cause.
Soon our people began racing through. Here is Keith, demonstrating how a regimen of copious steroid-riddled squatfests can prepare one’s legs to power through an ultra. Seriously, those quads are just silly.
Laura had evidently decided that hovering over the ground at a safe height was much easier than actually putting feet to ground. I am sure that whatever witchcraft she was employing would not work without an unabashedly beaming smile.
Megan also came through with Laura, but due to her recent disastrous fall and possible brain injury, I was much more concerned with making sure she was coherent enough to continue than with catching her likeness in a pic. She was.
While the other runners made haste in their efforts to resupply and attack the next climb, Brian was kind enough to take the time to show us his “big tasty bag of nuts.”
Haste is not necessarily a bad thing.
Linnea would not be spotted without a smile all day. It really was quite impressive.
Butch had accidentally severed his leg trying to cartwheel across one of the stream crossings. He was able to duct tape it back into place, but the incident dashed his dreams of becoming a champion kickboxer.
Bobby also came through smiling, despite the punishment the trail was dishing out.
Jenster and Vanessa arrived a short time later, lighting up the forest as they ran. I challenge any and all rational people to talk to either of these two and not end up happier.
Everyone came down the final stretch to smiles, cheers, and big hugs. The RDs had begun to get to know everyone so they would announce the runner’s names as they approached and joined us in cheering them in. The loop contingent turned in a respectable performance, handling the slick and rocky trails to get the job done. First timers Robert and Vanessa earned their stripes alongside more seasoned dirt jockeys and when the day was done, all were happy and pleasantly exhausted.
On top of everything else that had happened that day, this guy showed up in the middle of nowhere, freshly home from Kuwait! With foreign brews, no less! Having an exquisite beer with Mike while surrounded by gorgeous scenery and cheers was one of the highlights of my weekend.
His generosity did not stop there. Once all runners were showered and warm in the yurt, out came the cupcakes. He may have dosed them with opiates, as they seemed to melt away aches and elicit giddy smiles as we joked and basked in the warmth of the company of close friends.
This is the best group of people I could imagine spending a rainy weekend in the country with.
Run happy and healthy, friends!