Monday, September 06, 2010

Angeles Crest 100-miler: the finish

The finish line was in a small park in Altadena. If you were to drive by, you might think someone was having a family reunion barbecue; it had a very laid-back (hippie) vibe and was actually pretty nice.

116 people started the race and only 65 finished, so the finish line was not a hotbed of activity. I arrived around 10am, and once every 15-20 minutes another poor sap... errrr, finisher.... would come staggering in. As soon as anyone saw a finisher enter the park everyone would stand and applaud to bring him/her home. It was probably only 200 yards from the entrance of the park to the finish line, but it was uphill and these people had just run 100 miles. In other words, it was a very long and slow finish chute for everyone.

Rich was the first of our guys to make it home around 12:45, and the first thing I realized was that the Disney & Friends Support Crew was by far the largest group at the finish line. We must have had at least 20 people in our group. That's right, WE rock.

Rich was all smiles coming into the park. On the other side of the finish line however, I think the emotion of the weekend got to him a bit. It was nice to see. For those who don't know Rich, this sums him up perfectly to me: one of his former students was there and congratulated him on his race, not two minutes after the finish. Without missing a beat, Rich congratulated the student for the work he was doing on the track team this year. If EVER there was a moment that belonged to Rich, this was it. But nope, he has to go and make it about someone else. That's Rich.

There was a computer station at the finish line and we were tracking Jesus and Gil. The computer predicted that they would finish around 2:15- AFTER the 2:00 cut-off time for the race. (For a hippie race, they had some impressive technology.) But what WE knew, and what the computer didn't, is that Gerald and Heather were pacing them for the last 26 miles. If anyone could bring them home in time, Gerald and Heather could.

Sure enough, around 1:50 we saw Jesus. It seems that he and Gil ran about 98 miles together, but then Jesus pulled ahead for the final few miles. He ran across the finish line and kept saying "Heather... she saved me... never would have made it without her..." We knew he was in good hands. But truth be told, I'm not sure he did the entire course: the way he was walking around afterwards you would have thought he just did a 10k. He made it look easy.

(I like this picture. It's a bad image, but it shows everyone rallying beside Gil.)

Then it was Gil's turn. Gil, Gil, Gil... always the showman. We first saw Gil coming down the street about 1:58. This was going to be close, and everyone knew it. The entire park was screaming at him to make it by 2:00. He tore up the grass (as much as someone who just ran 100 miles can tear up anything) and literally collapsed on the ground after crossing the finish line. He kept asking "did I make it? Did I make it?" Actually, EVERYBODY was asking it: "Did he make it?! Where's the race official?!" IN fact, several hours earlier the race gurus had already picked Gil as being the POSSIBLE final finisher and were tracking him closely to see if he would make it or not. Well the official timer checked him in at 1:59:43pm. What was the rush? After 33 hours of running, he had 17 seconds to spare.

And while Jesus had nothing but god things to say about Heather, Gil did nothing but curse Gerald's name: "He lied to me! He kept telling me it was only another quarter-mile... and he knew it wasn't!" Sneaky Gerald...lying to Gil to make him run faster and beat the cut-off time. Like I said, we knew they were in good hands.

We hung out in the park for another hour or so, giggling at the racers as we watched them try to sit or stand up again. Although considering what they had been through, they actually looked pretty good. Mostly.

So overall, just an amazing weekend and it still blows my mind what they've accomplished. I'm even amazed just to know people like this. After watching the race, have I been bitten by the ultra-marathon bug? Nope, not even in the slightest. These guys are my friends and I think they're awesome, but they're freaking insane.


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