Last summer, 22-year-old Kilian Jornet announced his intention to break the fastest known time for a complete circumnavigation of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Over the next several weeks, he assembled crew members and a team of pacers, and successfully took down the record in late September.
By the end of the year, Salomon Running, Jornet’s primary sponsor, had produced a video series on the record-setting run, and I used those videos for a post in January. In the post, I mentioned that one of Jornet’s pacers was Bryon Powell, who in addition to being a tremendous blogger, also happens to be a badass ultrarunner – as in top-10 at Leadville badass.
Around that same time, I was considering entering the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-Miler which takes place this coming weekend – but with a very short entry window, and a lot of uncertainty as to what my day to day life would look like this summer (a situation that still exists, come to think of it), I decided against entering the race. However, I had several reasons for wanting to be in Tahoe and get a taste of the event, so I volunteered my services as a pacer to someone I knew would be an ideal companion for fifty miles of Tahoe trail running: my soul sister Gretchen, who practically nursed me back from the dead at Western States last year. I figured the least I could do was repay the favor, while also doing some reconnaissance on a course that’s very high on my 100-mile wish list.
After that January post featuring Kilian’s Tahoe record, Gretchen left this comment: I’ll be your Kilian Jornet if you’ll be my Bryon Powell.
To which I replied, I was thinking more along the lines of Boots and Dora.
And while that was admittedly a knee-jerk reaction from someone who lives with two grade-school-aged daughters, it actually makes a fair amount of sense. Dora’s a chick who goes on one adventure after another, and is more than capable of getting herself through any problems she encounters whenever she goes exploring. Boots is basically there for companionship and some occasional comic relief, and ends up learning from Dora’s expertise along the way.
I could even take the analogy a little further: just like the main characters on Dora the Explorer, I’ll be equipped with my very own Backpack, full of the supplies we need to make it to our destination. I should also carry a Map of some sort, to prevent us from getting lost along the way (because it’s happened to me lately – more than once, in fact).
When it comes to these ultras, Gretchen’s no joke; she’s steadily climbed the ladder in race standings over the past couple of years, and has been dutifully logging the kind of hours and mileage on the trails this spring and summer that I can only dream of. She’s made this her goal race for the year, and she’s as familiar with the Tahoe trails as anybody – in other words, she has the potential to have a very good showing next weekend.
So I’ve been taking my role as Boots quite seriously, mainly because I don’t want to screw things up for her. I’m trying to identify with the character, and even hunted down an unsuspecting Dora one day last month to pick her brain for some advice on how to get through the super-exciting adventure we have coming up next week.
And that’s the main reason that getting sidelined in the Sierras last week was such a bummer for me: I had already been something of a slacker in my own training over the past few weeks, and I had penciled in this vacation as an ideal time to turbo-charge my running for one last fitness boost before assuming my role as Gretchen’s pacer. Then I went and nearly wrenched one of my toes off, and ended up not doing anything for several days afterward. Needless to say, I'm not exactly arriving at the top of my game.
It’s one thing for me to be an idiot; I’ve come to live with it. What concerns me is the possibility of any of that idiocy rubbing off on Gretchen during her race. She’s ready to roll, and deserves a good pacer to make her adventure a success, instead of some goofy out-of-shape monkey with a broken toe who’s just along for the ride.
For the time being, I'm remaining optimistic that things will work out just fine - and by this time next week, we’ll know for sure how the story ends.