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Ben Woodbeck Friday, 18 November 2011 11:08 TWEET COMMENTS 2

Pacing Diana - Page 7

In the July dawn, we looked up at an example of Hardrock's insanity. There was no trail, but rather a general direction that is flagged straight up. The first time we trained on this section, I thought I was reading the course description wrong, or my compass was off. A trail-less mountainside, a wall of loose rock. Up. Miles 86, 87, straight up. Soon, I looked back down at Maggie Gulch, and spotted Jared and his pacer filling water bottles.

Jared closed the distance. Diana was suffering, and I actually wanted Jared to pass us so she would give her body just a bit of surcease. Climbing that mountain straight up in the dawn, I remember thinking: "Oh, for a little surcease."

Yes. Surcease.

Always, after a climb, a descent. Again, we walked, even the downs. We crossed the Stony Pass jeep road, and climbed again. Diana fell down. For the first time, I asked if she was OK. She tripped, maybe, I thought. And then she fell again. Then, a dozen more times, again and again. She even fell on flat ground, where she landed on her hands and her legs moved to push her up with a mechanical groping, her feet looking for the Earth.

On downhills she fell backwards, almost every time, and her butt slid on the scree, her knees buckling to her chin. On uphills she pitched forward, and her arms raised to slowly to break the fall. On a traversing down slope she fell to the side and her hip landed on a basketball-sized pointed rock. I winced. I had to stop watching.

"I...am...fine," she said, in a choked voice ruined by hours of breathing through her mouth, a subterranean sound, it was Diana from undersea, emerging. I thought of a couple of spots where a fall would be, if not fatal, at the very least physically disastrous. I reminded her to watch her footing at those sections. I stayed close, ready to grab her if she started to fall. There were times, when I looked behind us, that Jared and his pacer were so close I could make out the expressions on their faces. I wanted them to pass us before the next aid station, Cunningham Gulch (mile 91), so that the pressure to win would be gone.

Her parents would greet us at Cunningham, and would wonder why she had slowed down, but would still be excited about a possible win. I knew our nieces in Minnesota and many friends were watching on the internet, and people were cackling in the blogosphere. There was a sense, even while we were on the course, that the ultra-world was abuzz with this effort. I just wanted a little surcease.

Photo by Fred Marmsater


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