Running Down a Dream

Twenty eight hours and ten minutes.   Damn that little red notebook that innocently and quietly recorded my dreams and goals, even then it continued to haunt me.

I think that notebook is still in my bureau drawer.  It is the bureau that sits in my mother’s house in the room I used to call mine.  These days it seems like it has been taken over by boxes and ribbons and items to be re-gifted or maybe, someday, used.  Over the years, after I left home, I slowly made changes to the room.  I replaced the sports posters of Roger Clemens (as a Red Sox), Elaine Zayak, Spud Webb and others with photos and framed pictures and artwork more in line with who I was developing into, still keeping a small hold on my domain.  I cleaned up the room, put things away, gave things away, organized stuff, making it somewhat presentable as my mother would occasionally rent it out as an overflow room at the bed and breakfast.  For all the changes I made, I never emptied out what couldn’t be seen.  I never went through the closet or desk drawers or either of the bureaus.  So I think that old notebook should still be there.

If memory serves me correctly it is spiral bound at the top.  It has a red cover, and is only slightly larger than your average deck of bicycle playing cards.  I think it is stuffed under some thick wool pants with suspenders and an old copy of Baseball Digest  from May of 1986 with Roger Clemens on the cover.  I don’t think it is full, in fact I think most of the pages are empty.  Somewhere in the back, I wrote about a game of truth or dare, a game played on a dark school bus on the way home from some game somewhere.  Someone kissed me on the cheek.

Descending from Blue Notch below the Henry Mountains.

I have always been a goal setter, even back then.  It was in that little notebook that I started my first “Life List.”  Hiking the AT, climb Denali, Ski the Bugaboos, climb Mt Everest, hike all of NH’s 4000 footers, run an ultramarathon.  An ultramarathon?!  I don’t even remember how I knew what that was.  I must have read about it in an old issue of Backpacker Magazine or something.  None the less, run an ultramarathon is on that list, in that little red notebook, tucked away in a drawer, from my days of high school.  The steel trap I have as a mind tells me that back in those days (’90-’91) that I knew about ultramarathons as the Leadville 100.  I am not sure how, but I remember now, that back then, to me, an ultra was the Leadville 100.

Fourteen years later, my bedroom was a little different.  It consisted of a six foot piece of plywood that spanned the bed of a 2001 Toyota Tacoma.  I was climbing in the Tetons when one of my friends, Julia, mentioned the idea of running the Aboro Challenge.  My mind drifted back 14 years to a small notebook, hidden somewhere in a bureau draw 2,795 miles across the country.  “Yeah”  I though out loud to her “back when I was younger, I made a goal to run an ultramarathon.”

“I’ve heard the Aboro is like 70 miles or so; you could totally do it” she replied.

As we left the Snake River Brew Pub my mind ran with the idea.  The next day, we ran back into town from the Rodeo Wall and a day of sport climbing. I ran straight to Gart’s Sports and bought myself a pair of New Balance trail running shoes as I forgot to bring the bulk shoes I had bought right before departing for this trip. I was ready for almost any type of terrain as I even had Shoes for Running on Concrete as well as trekking. The new Grey 808s fit me perfectly and luckily they also lasted the whole trip.

The Aboro challenge is an unofficial race that runs when people want to do it.  Often late in September or early October when the days are cool, there is no snow in the mountains yet and a full moon.  The unofficial course drops down from the Boulder Mountain in southern UT, across the Waterpocket Fold and Capitol Reef National Park and climbs high into the Henry Mountains and ends atop Mt Ellen.   All were my stomping grounds.

Julia wanted to do it as well, though after some conversations with a running guru she decided it might be too much for her and convinced me to do a 50K instead.  “Afterall, anything over 26.2 miles is an ultra” she declared.

My mind went back to that little notebook.  “Wow, I might get out of this easy” I thought.  We scoured the internet and came up with the Telegraph Trail 50K in Durango in early October.  That was enough time to train.  I started running.  Running up hills and down hills, off trails and on trails.  I just kept running, chasing that goal.

Durango.  Early October 2004.  I finished, I did well.  I came in somewhere above 15th overall in the 50K.  I was excited I reached my goal.  I ran an ultra.  The pictures at the finish line showed Julia and I looking good and healthy.  We were smiling; for me 33 miles wasn’t all that bad.  I hung up my shoes, grabbed my rope and rack and headed for Indian Creek.

Leah finishing the Pemberton Trail 50K, February 2005

Months later I found myself in central AZ, hobbling to a bathtub to soak myself in epsom salts, unable to move my legs.   I had just ran the Pemberton Trail 50K.  11th overall.  My girlfriend convinced me to do it.  It was an off the couch run.  It was then that the nagging doubts began to haunt me; “Jared, you didn’t know an ultra was anything over 26.2 miles” kept filling my head.  When I finally voiced these doubts to my girlfriend Leah, I knew my fate was sealed.   Those nagging doubts pushed me to where I didn’t dare look.  Within several days I was registered for the Bighorn 100.

Five months to train.  We both registered.  We both trained.  The trainings were long, hard, and amazing.  It put us in beautiful spots at spectacular times.  Individually we would run each day and when we could, we would run together.  We explored parts of southern UT that maybe should not have been seen in the same day when traveling by foot.

Twenty eight hours and ten minutes.  That is the time it took me to run the Bighorn 100.   Damn, that little red notebook that innocently and quietly recorded my dreams and goals, even then it continued to haunt me.  I think I knew subconsciously that what I had in mind was a sub 24 hour 100 miler.

It is January 2011.  I haven’t ran an official race since I finished the Bighorn on June 16th 2005.  Occasionally I still run.   I have realized that distance trail running is more than just a means to an end.  It is a physical and metaphorical journey in itself.  More than anything it was the challenge and desire that drove me.  It was the wanting to know that I could do it, still do it.  It was the personal affirmation that came with knowing I was not over the hill.

Will I ever climb Mt Everest?  Probably not.  Will I ever hike the AT?  Maybe, who knows.  Will I ever climb Denali?  Probably.  Will I ever ski in the Bugaboos?  Nope.  Will I ever run a sub 24 hour 100 miler?  Maybe.  Will that settle me down, help me hang up my shoes and forget the running?  Probably not.

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A little bit less of a nomad now, Jared still likes to refer to himself in the third person.