Wrong way/right way . . . Boogie knows at the fork in the road . . .
For the first time since I started running the World Championship Pack-Burro Race in 1981 the course was changed this year due to lingering deep snow drifts in the upper reaches of the course. Instead taking the usual left, as Boogie was inclined, and crossing American Flats, climbing the talus field to the Mosquito Pass Summit at 13,187 feet, then descending the Mosquito Pass Road, we were routed straight up the road to a turn-around at the North London Mine, elevation 12,800 feet.
While this was a few hundred feet lower than the usual route and resulted in a shorter race by about 2 miles, it still was a very challenging 27-mile course with a steep climb and a lot of running water on the rocky road. I think the opposite direction also messed with the more experienced burros’ heads.
When we got to the turnaround where we had to skirt a snowfield in the mud, I realized I had blisters forming on my toes due to a bunching wet sock but we were able to keep the leaders in site. I took the sock off and ran the rest of the race with just one sock.
I was struck by the beauty of a simple clump of Columbines alongside the road and the way the sun glistened off London Mountain, the water laughing over the rocks. We were not far behind the lead group on the way down but Boogie kept slowing down. After a couple miles I realized she had a palm-sized rock wedged in her front right shoe, filling the entire sole of the foot. I stopped and went into caveman farrier mode, pounding this stone out with a rock. (People have suggested I carry a hoof pick but I really don’t think that would have worked. )
At this point the lead group was long gone and I was faced with running the last 8 miles alone and completely out of the race. I just wanted to finish with minimal stress on my body and burro. So it was one foot in front of the other until we reached the finish line in 6th place. It was my 37th finish. At 59 it’s occurred to me I might never win this race again, but winning can mean other things, like fully feeling the experience. Playing with the cards you’re dealt and doing your best with the situation. Sport as a metaphor for life. This Sunday I’ll be making a run at my 40th consecutive finish at Leadville Boom Days. It’s been a long journey and I am still learning.