(Day of the Dead festivities on November 2 in Missoula)
When I first met Beat, after he ran across the finish line during the Swan Crest 100 on July 31, I had no idea he was nearly shattered from 34 hours of crawling over avalanche debris, climbing up and then tumbling down steep mountainsides, leaping over deadfall and bushwhacking through weeds for 100 miles of primitive Montana trails. No, he just had this huge smile on his face, and we immediately gravitated toward each other in the way that two people sometimes do. Through the haze of sleep deprivation, I admitted that my motives for serving as a race volunteer weren't completely pure - that indeed I was interested in easing into ultrarunning (*someday*) and I wanted to check out the scene in Montana.
He had just found out about my Tour Divide ride and replied, without hesitation, "Running 100 miles is easy. You could do it next week, no problem. You should come to the Headlands 100."
It didn't matter that it was a completely ridiculous lie. The way he said it, in his matter-of-fact Swiss-German way, filled me with new confidence and excitement about the possibilities of ultraendurance sports — something I hadn't felt in a long time. I went home and started scheming for the future, fueled by continuing over-encouragement from Beat, which eventually led me to saying "what the Hell" about pacing 50 miles of the Bear 100, which led to these regular weekend adventures we've been having ever since.
To our friends, we look like we're punishing each other. I took him on terrifying low-light night rides through the woods and made him carry my bike up a steep mountain; he dragged me through Yosemite in a 35-degree torrential rainstorm; I made him strap on snowshoes for the first time and then made him march up a couple thousand feet of deep crusty powder. It seems harsh, but we know that beneath the cold fingers and blistered feet, it's the most rewarding kind of fun. We daydream about future adventures that are even more ridiculous and punishing, and with calculated craziness, start scheming to make them a reality.
Such was our tract on an innocent night in late October, chatting online about possible options for Nov. 5-7:
Last sunset ride of the year: The Hidden Treasure trail in the warm 50-degree sunshine on Wednesday, my last after-work ride before the time change takes the last of the evening daylight with it.
That was how Beat and I signed up as a duo team for the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, a 25-hour mountain bike race this Saturday and Sunday in Hurricane, Utah. He's almost a complete novice on a mountain bike. I haven't actively trained for anything since early August. There's going to be 13 hours of darkness during the race. Hurricane is in the hot dry desert that neither of us are adapted too, and requires enough travel during a three-day "weekend" to make anyone's head spin. It's nuts. And yet ... I'm excited.
Wish us luck. We're going to need it.