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July 23, 2014 - John Stack
Last year didn’t go so well. First, along with my friends Phil and Beth, we were excited about becoming Ultra 6ers. Mother Nature really clobbered our plans for that. Enough so I didn’t hike a 6er for months. Then, in some great shape, I tried the Wakely Dam 55K Ultra trail run. This didn’t go so well either, as I documented here a year ago.
In the fall, we heard from Colleen and Loring Porter that we could redeem ourselves on the 6er, with a winter 6er scheduled for Dec 21. Well… we were better prepared, but somehow Clyde Rabideau found again how to summon the worst weather of the year for the 6er challenge. The three of us started out well, but after the first three, Beth was forced to drop out. Phil and I pressed on, and after hot showers (which you usually don’t get in the middle of the race), we tackled Baker (and for the first time since I moved here 14 years ago, we got lost on the backside – sounds familiar by now. Luckily, I had a GPS and we made it up. Luckily, we had the hero of the day, Beth’s husband Chris Nobles who gave us a ride out to mountain #5, Ampersand, and waited for us at the bottom.
Ampersand was brutal. Icy. Wet.cold. On the way down, I noticed Phil was near his breaking point (which is a hard place to find). We made it down about midnight. Chris was there, and more than willing to support my solo attempt at St Regis. I was soaked and cold, and there were reports that St Regis was just a big freaking river. I decided not to freeze to death alone on Regis. 5 out of 6. Dang. During the week, Beth knocked out Baker and Ampersand and we all ascended St Regis together. Of course, on a perfect, sunny beautiful day with great speed hiking conditions on the trail. So, we had a little revenge.
I needed to conquer Wakely again. Of course, my first Achilles heel injury ever wanted to break me a month before the race. Luckily my PT Scott got me well enough to attempt it. I took plenty of ribbing from friends and competitors in being the first to ever DNF on Wakely, and RD wife Kim pointed out what a Northville Placid Trail marker looked like, and to follow them. The race, while painful, was luckily uneventful. My friend Sarah Keyes, in her first trail Ultra, absolutely smoked the course, coming in 6th overall on the most stacked Wakely race ever, and breaking the women’s record by over 20 minutes.
My buddy Phil was having troubles. He knew he wasn’t going to beat either of his previous times, but he would run, and finish, come hell or high water. On a side note, sometimes both of these do show up at Wakely…He was late. Much later than normal. RD Doug and Kim were worried. My wife was worried. I sounded like an uncaring lout, in that I wasn’t worried. I know Phil is about the toughest guy I know (63 years old, 5’9” and 127 pounds of him). I knew he was fine. If he was bit by a bear on the course, he would be more upset his Trail Glove Merrells were torn. He may be in great pain, and slow, but he’d be in, and not complain. Then, at about 11 ½ hours, we see him a half mile away. In true runner camaraderie fashion, I of course harangued him to run in harder. I may not have been able to see his face, but I bet it was his first smile in 10 hours.
But, I am reminded that to my peers, this is nothing. I swam the cable today with Wes Wilson, Rachel and (cancer survivor) Kathy – all running Ironman this weekend. I ran into Joe, Kathy’s husband who is also doing Ironman. And a guy who stayed at my house last month training for this week’s Ironman. Ho hum John. Only out on the trail for a little over 9 hours? That’s about the time most of the people will be just into the first loop of the marathon. Good luck to you all, plus Darci Lafave and the Porters this Sunday.
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