Single-Serving Dad - Page 4
The end of the Bridger Ridge run is crazy downhill. In the last three miles, you descend about three thousand feet. By the time you get to the "M" (Montana towns tend to put big white letters on their hills), the destination of a popular hiking trail, you have about a mile and a half to the bottom—a thousand feet down, with switchbacks that don't switch often enough to make the going gentle. We could see the tent at the finish line and hear the cheering of the small, but enthusiastic crowd With less than a mile to go, Bob was starting to weaken. His knees bent too much with each stride, and I was afraid he was going to collapse. I grabbed him by the arm. He looked at me, shook his head, and issued a quiet, "No." We waited about four seconds, and he was off again with a whoop. But a few strides later he wobbled and then sat down. I sat next to him. "Just rest a few minutes," he said. "Yep," I said.
Less than a few minutes later he stood up, and in military commander voice got going. "I can take more pain than anyone," he shouted. "I am strong," he said. I said, "You are strong."
"I wondered about someone who could push himself so hard, wondered too, if the obvious closeness that he and Tom shared had always been there, or if it was a result of a mellowing on Bob's part, an acceptance of his own limits leading to a greater tolerance of weakness in others.
As we worked down the switchbacks, about a quarter mile from the finish, I said, "You're the only one who doesn't know this, Bob, but you're not sweeping." He stopped and looked at me, head tilted, smiling as always. "Tom registered you. You have a number."
He let this sink in and said, "I've been snookered." And then he laughed. Hard.He would say this about 18 more times in the next couple of hours, always with a giant grin.
After 10 Bridger Ridge Run finishes, you are guaranteed entry into this quick-filling race. Bob figured he'd had his go, and didn't want to take a number from someone else. The last time he'd run the race was three years before, in 2006. It took him 7 hours 57 minutes. He was not last.
As we crossed the line I stopped my watch. 7:09. The crowd erupted as Bob's name was announced. A guy came up to Bob wanting to shake his hand. "I'm the one who said, when I passed you, `I feel like I'm passing Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.' You're a legend."The race director, Dave Summerfield, finished the race a bit later (limping, a little bloody, but still looking good for a 61-year-old who'd just run a hard 20 miles), and came up to Bob and said "I have something for you from Tom." He took a plastic bag out of his fanny pack and unwrapped a race number. 82. Bob's age.
Bob didn't linger after the race. He had to drive three hours home to Missoula, and then, he said, he was going contra dancing that night up in Arlee, on the Flathead Indian Reservation. He'd asked me if I'd ever been contra dancing. He said it was a good workout.