Running with an ultra runner
August 4, 2011
Editor’s note: Carson City runner Steve Lang ran the final two legs of the American Discovery Trail with ultra runner Brian Stark who ran across Nevada last month. Here is a
consolidation of Lang’s account. To read the entire entries, go to http://www.ccrunners.com/steves-blather.html.
I had the opportunity to run along with Brian Stark as he forged a record for a cross-Nevada run along the American Discovery Trail. His run was pretty much by default going to be a record – as long as he finished – since nobody had done it before!
He started at the Utah border one dark but warm morning at 5 a.m. and started running. And running. And running. By the time I met up with him Sunday at Fort Churchill, he’d been on the trail for nine days.
We met up at the state park entrance sign and exchanged greetings. I met his (as I discovered) completely awesome, all-volunteer support staff, he replenished some of his along-the-trail water and nutrition and we were on our way.
The first miles went by quickly: Brian focusing on movement, me chattering like a schoolgirl.
Along the way, I noticed that Brian tended to start slowly and gradually work his way up to around a 5 mph average pace. When I asked if he was experiencing leg problems, he replied no, but he had blisters underneath calluses on the balls of his feet.
He was getting them drained at night, but getting going after stops was a slow process. I looked at it as if he were a car with a 4-speed manual transmission with a granny low gear. He would start slow, and gradually shift through his gears until he hit 4th and cruised along.
I hadn’t been running a lot lately, so I looked at the anticipated 15 miles with more than a little trepidation. We crossed the miles pretty easily, talking of food (of course), our kids, running philosophy and life in general.
He told me of his love of cooking, and described the meals he had made for his wife on her past birthdays. Meals that would take weeks to plan, days to prepare and hours to enjoy. Call it really slow food.
As we made our way past the Nevada Automotive Test Center facility, we saw a couple of vehicles speeding around on the course. Must have been doing 70 mph or better across the desert. Fun to watch.
I tagged along for a bit extra and went along for a couple until he started up Six-Mile Canyon. The streetlights and sidewalks along Fort Churchill Road in Dayton were the first ones he’d seen the entire trip.
I ended up with 17 miles of tag-along, and felt great! So great, I volunteered to do the same on his final leg the next day.
Bright and early on Monday morning, I left my house and ran to where I was planning to meet Brian for our next day’s adventure. This was going to be special for one real big reason: Brian was going to finish!
I hung out with my running buddy Abbey at the Lakeview Realty office, waiting for Brian to arrive.
First, always, came the two support vehicles: with Hewett Brown and Trevor Oxborrow behind the wheels. Jenny Scanland of Nevada State Parks had Ted Oxborrow with her. They were going to be leading the way up Hobart Road to Marlett Lake.
A few short minutes later, Brian appeared around the curve, escorted by three runners. Awesome!
Personnel from Carson City Parks and Recreation, led by none other than Roger Moellendorf, head of the department, had run with Brian from Washoe State Park with the intent of taking him to the Hobart Gate.
Abbey and I jumped into the group and we headed up to the gate.
Through the gate and the climb began. As this was my backyard, I gave Brian a bit of the travelogue for a while – until I noticed he wasn’t really listening, just focusing on getting the job done.
Fair enough. I limited my commentary to how far to the crest of the Sierra and where he was likely to see his destination for the first time.
We climbed and climbed and climbed. Finally when cresting Sunflower Hill between Hobart Reservoir and Marlett Lake, a glimpse of Tahoe was tantalizing!
Not only that, there was virtually no climbing left. Down to Marlette and around, then the Flume trail, and Tunnel Creek and we would be down.
To my surprise and delight, when we reached the south end of Marlette, Trevor was waiting as well on a bike. They had planned to bracket Brian (and by my presence, me as well) with bikes along the flume for safety. I said these guys were good!
Remember back in my previous post when I said Brian was like a car with a 4-speed? I lied. The guy has at least a fifth gear. When we got to the Flume, he took off.
It didn’t matter that he had run 485 miles, he knew he had only 11 to go, the trail was beautiful, the weather perfect and He. Was. Gone. This was a learning point for me.
He graciously allowed me to catch up again and we had some photo ops on the Flume. It was surprising to me that we had the trail to ourselves. We didn’t encounter a single other person along the Flume, and only one bike and one hiker during our descent of Tunnel Creek.
We hit Ponderosa, and a replenishment point. Somewhere along the way, I had decided I was going to go all the way to the border with Brian.
I popped a couple of ibuprofen and walked a bit. I recovered enough to drag my carcass across the border vertically at a respectable pace. That, I consider a victory!