Now let me step back 5 1/2 years to when I moved to Oregon. Rod and Jeff had both been running ultras for a few years, while I had been for just one year. But I solidly whooped both of 'em, all the time, on pretty much any terrain. I ran with them on my easier runs. I enjoyed their friendship, so had no problem slowing for them. Within 2 years, I had even paced both Rod and Jeff to solid finishes in 100s. Things were good.
Then a few years ago, something happened. These guys started getting faster. And faster. And faster. So now I wasn't waiting for my buddies on training runs. We all would push each other. I pushed them on the ups. Jeff pushed the downs. Rod liked going fast on flats. Things were good.
Then a year later, they both got really fast. Running with them wasn't quite so fun anymore - in fact, it kinda hurt. But I had my Ace in the hole - they still couldn't touch me going up. I was always king of the hill. Always. This was good.
Last year, Rod was running fast all the time. Every run was fast - ups, downs, technical, smooth, road, trail - it didn't matter. If Rod was running it, it was fast. I could still usually at least keep pace with him on the ups. Also last year, Jeff started training with Steve Larsen. Steve is really super fast, and consequently, Jeff's leg speed greatly improved. He was smoking fast (the rat even beat me by 35 seconds at the Dirty 1/2, a distance where I used to always easily whoop him) and, as he told me, in the best shape of his life.
In the midst of these past few fast years, not surprisingly, they've both raced really well, too. Three 100-miler victories and course records, Rumble victory and c.r., 19 hour WS, 33 hour HR, marathon p.r.s (both finally sub-3), 1st male / 2nd overall Waldo, 8:43 4th place Miwok...the list goes on. These guys are both well-known on the national ultra curcuit. And they're my friends.
Anyway, back to last Friday at Smith. It was going to be a good, tough run, 16 miles with 4,200' vertical. The weather was sunny and in the 50s. I was there with Sascha and my two buds for a sweet run. Fun times ahead!
Until we got to the first hill, Burma. Not surprisingly, Rod blasted up ahead...and Jeff followed! Crap, what's that about? I was left licking my wounds as I crawled to the top. Oh well, it always takes me a long time to warm up. In about 25 minutes we'll be at Grey Butte and I'll show 'em. Soon we were at the base of the 2+ mile climb with about 1,500' vertical. And soon enough, those jerks were gone again. We hit snow and I thought I might be able to reel them in a bit. Nope, they kept right on walking away from me. I was so far behind them when they reached the top that they even came down a few minutes to wait for me so they wouldn't get cold on top. On the way down, I was able to stay with them for a little while on the snow, but once the snow stopped and we were running on rocks...uh, bye-bye guys. Wait for me at the bottom.
The next few miles were mellow downhill and the three of us were actually running together, with Sascha right there. Then we got to the base of the backside of Burma, started going up, and, although I felt okay, it sure looked like I was going backwards. The last 2 hills, Monkey Face and the Parking Lot, are both short so I didn't get quite as whooped. The boys...they're tough. And fast.
One of my very favorite ultrarunning things since moving to Oregon has been seeing Jeff and Rod evolve as ultrarunners. When I met them, they were solid mid-packers and loving every minute of it. Now, they're fast. And they're still my friends.
And I still have a faster marathon p.r. than both of them.