Monday, July 26, 2010
I stopped dead in my tracks. My heart starting pounding faster in my chest and I felt the blood rush out of me and my face go pale. I didn't move. I didn't breathe. About 30 feet in front of me and just beyond the brightest area of my headlamp, a red glowing pair of front ways eyes stared back at me from the bushes off the side of the dirt road.
I'd read that there were jaguars here in the Copper Canyons. This mountain range being one of the last veins of refuge for this beautiful big cat in Mexico. Although the reputation for being a man eater is almost certainly exaggerated, I wasn't taking that chance and as soon as it became dark, I had picked up a sizable enough rock to use as a weapon if necessary. And if it wasn't a jaguar, it could just as easily have been a mountain lion.
I threw the rock at the bushes. The eyes didn't move. They just sat, motionless, staring me down. I picked up a handful of smaller rocks and threw those, yelling at the same, "Ha! Get outa here! Git!" For another moment the eyes remained still. Then, slowly, silently they turned away and disappeared down into the valley below.
I leaned forward with my hands on my knees and took a deep breaths to try and calm down and stop the shaking from the adrenaline (in retrospect I probably should have used it for the run). For all I knew it was just a stupid donkey, but that fact that the eyes were forward is what unnerved me. Sure it could have been a dog, but every dog I'd ran past so far would bark and chase after me nipping at my heels.
"Ah, geez. What the hell am I doing out here..."
I reached down to pick up another rock, stood up and started a slow run again. It was dark now and I'd been going for nearly 13 hours. Thankfully I was on my final leg of the race coming back down from the check point at Guadalupe Coronado with less than 4 miles to go. Most of the other runners had finished by now. There was only myself and 3 other runners behind me that I knew of at the time: Maria "La Mariposa" Walton, Kestor "El Toro Inglaterra" Wilkinson, and Brooke Kantor. I was exhausted, my feet hurt, and I was running on fumes. Even the gel packs barely had any effect at this point. I'd get a decent boost for about 5 minutes then bonk again, so I gave up on them, which was fine because they were beginning to make me nauseous anyway. But then, LIGHTS!
A pair of lights actually, distant and moving up towards me on the dirt road below. As they got closer I could make out the shape of a van with a luggage rack on top. I know that van! I began running towards it as fast as my dull headlamp would allow without me tripping over a rock. Then I heard a familiar voice come from the driver side window.
"Hey buddy! you doin alright?" It was Doug Rhodes with Micah True riding shotgun. They had driven out to check on the stragglers.
"Yeah. I'm tired." I responded as walked up next to the van. Micah's main reason for being out became apparent pretty quickly.
"Have you seen Maria?" he asked.
"Yep, I passed her coming up this way a little while ago. If she hasn't made the check point yet, she will soon. But I wouldn't be surprised if she isn't far behind me now."
"You need any gels or cliff bars?" he said holding up a plastic bag full of the stuff.
"Nah, I'm fine. Those things aren't doing me any good now anyway." I replied.
"Do you want a ride back?"
"No!" I said emphatically,"I gotta finish this race on my own two feet." There was no way in hell I was stopping now. Not when I was so close. Honestly, I was lucky I was even here. I'd only gotten the money for the trip a couple weeks before hand. I could have used it to pay off a huge chunk of a credit card. But... this trip was potentially once in a lifetime. I'd chosen the race over responsibility and I had to make it worthwhile. I wanted something more than just a "good experience". Besides, I'd been telling everyone for the past 8 months that I was ready to take this on. That I could finish. I had to back it up.
"Ok. See ya back in town. Its not much farther." Doug rolled up the window and the van started moving up hill, around a bend and the lights disappeared. I turned around and began my slow run again back towards town. I was almost home...