October 14, 2009

Four words

Editor's Note: My dear friend Michelle asked me how it was pacing Bill Potts at the Grindstone 100-Miler. Here's what I wrote ...


Pacing Potts at Gstone ranks in my Top 3 all-time trail experiences. Right up there with when me, Quatro and Mike Bur did that Double Rivanna. And when me and YOU did that Promise Land in the thunder and lightning and downpours and mud in 7:55 a mere five days after you did that Boston Marathon. Those are def my Top 3.

Potts was simply amazing at Gstone, M. I got him at the Wild Oak parking lot at 66 miles at 10:15 a.m. I'm thinking RUH-ROH, my boy is waaaaay too fast because Wild Oak parking lot at 10:15 a.m. is 24-hour pace. Oh dear. This is gonna get butt-ugly. I'm thinking, oh boy, my job status just ramped skyward from Pacifier Holder to Honest-To-God Pacer.

So off we go. We climb Lookout Mountain and Potts is struggling. We get to the Mile 72 aid station and he rallies a little. Cute, happy girls there. They bring out the best in Potts. About a mile farther along, he is in a bad way. Sleep-deprived. A little overheated. I'm just about to call a 10-minute TV timeout and suggest a catnap when Potts says, "OK. You see that meadow up there? When we get to that meadow, I'm out for 10 minutes under that tree. Set your countdown timer." I do. He plops down, pulls him Nathan pack off for a pillow. Out. 7 mins. later, just as I'm standing to do a bit of yoga, I hear, "Damn. That was GREAT! OK. Let's move out!" And off we go. Climb another mile or so, then rocket down this incredible Dowell's Draft Trail that's probably the most beautiful single-track I've been on. Not technical at all and just a gradual downhill. It's so sweet that Potts had to rein us in with my countdown timer (run 6, walk 2) out of fear that he would run so much that he would blow a gasket. So we blitzed that stretch into the 80-Mile aid station at 1:20 p.m. That means we just did a huge all-up-or-down 14-mile stretch from Mile 66 to Mile 80 in 3:05 INCLUDING THE 10-MINUTE NAP. Holy cow!

Maybe 10-minute stop at Mile 80, then off we go. Next up is the dreaded Chimney Top climb that took us 1:00 on Day 3 of our ridiculous 3-day summer training camp, so we knew what lay in store. This time it was more like 1:20 or so, with me on the point and in full-on storytelling mode. I had THE biggest smile on my face the whole way up that monster. Once to the top, we took a 2-min. timeout to get the heart rates down and cool off a bit. It was low-70s, so not killer hot, but you know Potts and the heat, so we were being extra careful. From there, it was across the ridge and then about 2 miles of cascading downhills into the Mile 88 aid station. Man, was this a day for the ages!

Mile 88 aid station is a freakin' smorgasbord, thanks to folks Potts and his buddy Robert Gillanders have as crew/fans. A cup of mashed potatoes with butter and pepper. YUMM! Only 5 mins. here, then it's off for one more windy, twisty, technical climb, then a push across the last real ridge top and, poof, hellooooo the Road Straight Down 4000-foot-high Elliott's Knob. Then same single-track to the final aid stop at Mile 95. This time? Mac and cheese. HOMEMADE mac n cheese. I told them I was gonna gain 8.6 pounds while running 34. Sweet!

From 95, it's a relatively flat push home. Me, Potts, Bobby G. and his pacer Bill Young, who doubles as Potts' cousin. Onward we roll, getting ever more giddy by the step. Potts is still amazing. G's feet are, in his words, "just a pair of meat hooks now," but onward he presses.

The final 45 mins. we need flashlights. At the 1-Mile-To-Go sign, I look over Potts' right shoulder and see THE most picturesque full moon. The scene
-- Potts with his head held high still running strong, the moon casting its countenance over us -- actually made me cry. How completely awesome is THAT?!

Potts: Dude, you OK?

Me: Oh yeah. I dunno if I've ever been better.

So we waited at the dam that you just had to drop down below, then clamber over, until G and B. Young get there. We do the final half-mile along with a cast of maybe 10 other supporters. Ultimately, we let Potts and G do the finish line hand-in-hand.

Potts worked his *** off this summmer. Even with that, I had no clue that he would run 25:24!!! 12th overall. Male Master's winner.

So how was pacing Potts at Grindstone? Four words.

It. Was. A. Dream.