Dear Katie Keier,
I've seen way more than my share of ultrarunning magic – and your 200-plus miles on The Wild Oak Trail this long weekend was all that and more.
I was in the same arena in New Jersey when Phil McCarthy collected 257 miles in 48 hours, shattering the previous American record by more than 20 miles in abysmal weather conditions.
And I was doing Umstead 100-Miler the year that Mike Morton clocked a 13:11. Yeah, a 13:11. For the whole thing.
Another time in New Jersey, I was in the race when Sandy Powell and Liz Bauer went toe-to-toe for 48 hours, with Liz nailing an AR 203 miles and Sandy battling valiantly to 195 miles.
And I've been in the mix when Morton has done 164 miles at Hinson Lake 24-Hour, a virtual solo time trial performance.
And I was running that year that Glen Redpath blitzed 139 miles at Crooked Road 24-Hour, another mind-bendingly hard effort that outdistanced his closest competitors by more than a marathon.
Yep, I've seen some of the best of the best magicians ply their craft in this crazy running thing that we do. I saw another one working her magic this past weekend. You.
You did it. The inaugural run of 200-plus TWOT miles. And I knew you were going to, especially because I saw the way you were moving during that brief two-hour stretch we shared around Miles 112-116 Saturday morning.
I doubt you remember much of our exchange during that stretch, but I sure do. Through that ever-present Katie Keier smile of yours, you recounted to me how Loop 2 was a dark patch for you, but then some food and a nap revived you. I told you that I was glad you worked through it, and that's when you turned back to me, looked me right in the eye and said, "That was really, really hard. I'm glad that part is over," and then you proceeded to run the next 100 yards or so down the fairly technical downhill section of trail.
That look you gave me – that I-trained-my-ass-off-for-this-and-it's-supposed-to-be-hard-but-I-got-this look – told me all I needed to know about whether you'd see 200 miles on this trip.
When the torrential rains blew in the next day and our local news reported that the Stokesville area got 4-5 INCHES of rain in several hours, my first instinct was, "Oh no. Katie and her bunch have to be out there on the loop somewhere” – but then I remembered that glint in your eye, and I just smiled to myself. I knew you'd do it.
And do it you did.
Proud member of two different 1,000-mile finisher clubs and proud owner of double-digit finishes at two other ultra races, I have a special, special place in my heart for tenacity. That said, what you did at TWOT went way, way beyond tenacity.
So, thank you. Thank you for letting me come play for a couple hours. Thank you for being such a happy, vibrant ambassador of trail running. Thank you for letting so many different people share in this remarkable journey.
And thank you for providing me with an image of perseverance, grit and calmness under fire that I will draw from for many, many years.
So proud of you, Katie. You dared to dream. You dared to do the work. You dared to take the chance. And then you went out and kicked the livin' shit out of it.