33 Seconds… that’s all. That’s what I missed the Black Canyon Ascent course record by. Heartbreaking, huh? You see, the record would have been another in the long line of race records set on this course by my Team Colorado team-mates: Simon “Gute” Gutierrez held it, Glenn “Pulling a GR” Randall currently has it, even Rickey “Heavenly” Gates attempted it!
My training partner, Gute, said we were ready. We were hitting out CR times in training, he was taking his Ferritin, I was consuming my beer, and we were both eating our spinach -as well as running our miles, of course! Never mind that we were both another year older; we were ready to breathe fire, to challenge our predecessors, push them down the list and rewrite the record books. Those are the important things in life. Right?
On our way to the race, big clouds rolled in as we approached Monarch Pass in the south-central Colorado Rockies. We planned on stopping for a beer at Elevation Brewing Co. in Poncha Springs, one of the best breweries Colorado has to offer, though we also knew we should get over the pass before it got hit by a thunderclap from Mother Nature.
Almost to the top of the pass and hail began to fall to earth, making the road appear as if a bunch of marbles had been spilled over it. We made it. After a successful climb and descent of the pass, we then heard it had been shut down. Our friends could not make it through.
The reason: With westbound traffic closed and eastbound traffic in a one-lane construction area, a semi auto trailer went barreling through the construction site, striking a dump truck, one car, then another, before careening over an embankment. The semi driver was left in a critical condition, airlifted to the hospital. The dump truck driver* died on impact. That could have been us had it been 33 seconds earlier… that’s all.
Instead, I went on to run. To win. To defend my title at the 40th Black Canyon Ascent and miss the course record by 33 seconds. I also went on to have a beer with good friends, new and old, take in awe-inspiring views of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on a cool-down as the snow fell, cheer finishers on, talk beer on visits to all of Montrose’s great breweries, eat a pizza at Colorado Boy, accept an award, kiss Nora, again.
Sometimes perspective is put on to things… and 33 seconds – that 33 seconds that was so important at the time – is nominal compared to another 33 seconds that might have been more important, more critical, more everlasting. I’ll leave you to decide which is which.
In the meantime, sometimes there is a next time, sometimes not. So train for that race next year, have a beer with your friends and share stories because 33 seconds isn’t very long in the grand scheme of things. You never know which 33 seconds you will get.
* The man who died was identified as David Morris, 61, of Salida, CO, an employee with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
This one is for you, David!