So many races. So many finishes. So many stories.
Walking the last 25 miles and talking the night away with Aaron Goldman on the way to my first finish at Umstead 100 in 1996.
Climbing the gravel road up to Woodstock Tower with Ben Clark at 2 a.m. in June 1998. Mile 92 or so. Ben falls asleep hiking, walks in a ditch, slaps himself awake, then makes fun of me a couple minutes later when I scream like a 6-year-old girl at what I thought was a monster in the bushes. (Gotta love those early-morning hallucations!). We motored on to a 22:51 finish at that Old Dominion 100.
Me and Amy Brown laughing our way through the final 25 miles of this year's Umstead, then Amy and my brotha Bill Potts -- who watched over me the whole way and paced me Miles 50-75 -- being there at the finish line when longtime friend and Umstead RD Blake Norwood gave me my 1,000-Mile Buckle.
Sharing Promise Land 50km with dear buddy Michelle Huston on her way to her first trail ultra finish line ... just five days after she finished the Boston Marathon.
Mike Broderick's really loud "Gentry, I'm not going to let you DO that!" comment that woke me up 30 seconds after I sat in a chair at Mile 80 of Mohican 100-Miler. We went on to finish in 25 hours. Without Mike, I'd probably still be in that chair. It was 2005.
Suzanne Weightman sharing all 90 miles with me at the Virginia 24-Hour Run for Cancer, including hiking throughout the night as my stomach went so far south that all I could do was sip water and moan. Trying to get me to try something at around 2 a.m., Sue hit me with the classic: "Here, try this cracker. I put garlic on it. Garlic goes with everything." I ate the cracker. And several more. Absolute magic.
Doug Young giving me lots of lip for puking at the 100km mark of that Umstead in blistering heat after we split a way-too-fast 9:25 first 50. I puked 36 more times (give or take three or four here and there), walked from 70 to 80 miles, slept 1 hour, walked to 85, slept 30 minutes, then somehow kept going on the way to a 27:30 finish.
That moment, somewhere at the bottom of Bird Knob around 8 p.m. on May 8, 2004, when Molly Gibb stared me dead in the eyes and said, "Stick out your hand. OK. Now. Promise me that you won't run off and leave me, and I promise that I won't run off and leave you. (We shake.) OK, now let's do this thing." Then we hiked the final 45 MILES of Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-Miler together. (Actually, we ran hand-in-hand the final 300 yards across the grass at the very end. "I stayed up all night with you on your birthday, so we should do a little something to celebrate." Yet another Molly classic.)
Time spent out there with legends and characters. Tom Green. Chris Scott. Doug Young. Mickey Jones. Dennis Hamrick. Jeff Newton. Pete York. Neil Hayslett. Frank Probst. Lee Cox. Ron Shaw. Shelly and Andy Wunsch. Tom Sprouse. John Dewalt.
Is there any way to truly thank the gazillions of people who have contributed to my first 100 finishes? Takes someone a lot smarter than me to figure that one out. Maybe by sharing my deep love for this craziness, I am making at least a small repayment. I hope so, anyway.
A running lifetime of epic moments.
100 ultra finishes. One. Zero. Zero.
And here's to a whole bunch more.