It is not every day you get an opportunity to spend a morning with someone you look up to as a person and as an athlete, let alone three. This past Saturday I got that opportunity at the Ray Miller 50 Mile race in SoCal. Instead of focusing on my race report, which I will write up later, I want to focus on the brief memories I had running with some of my biggest Idols and what it meant to me.
The race started and I found myself behind Dylan Bowman, Tim Olson, and Hal Koerner as we pulled away to form the front pack. I knew it would not last the whole race, but that is where my experience begins.
First, lets start with Hal. Now Hal is like the Brad Pitt of Ultra Running. Actually, Brad Pitt is so 2005. Hal is actually like the Justin Timberlake of Ultra Running. All of the girls want him… and all of the guys want to be him. Last year when I started running Ultra’s, I forced my wife and mother in law to watch “Unbreakable” a handful of times. Hal immediately caught their attention and when I finished Western States last year, all they could talk about was how they said hi to Hal in Forrest Hill. Now aside from his obvious dreaminess (right Clare?), he is an extremely talented runner on The North Face Team and started the infamous Rogue Valley Runner store in Ashland Oregon. For the first 30 minutes of racing, it was dark out and Hal had forgotten to bring a headlamp (what a rookie mistake). I tried to keep the trail lit for the both of us, but noticed it was just not working out trying to navigate over the rocks during a relatively technical ascent. I took the headlamp off of my head and held it to the side at a low angle to help improve the visibility of the rocks. It seemed to work better and we got into a groove and exchanged some conversation here and there for the first 10 miles. We were running pretty comfortably and I was just thinking to myself, what an awesome experience to be running on these awesome trails with someone I really look up to.
In front of Hal was Tim Olson. Tim had an amazing 2012 season starting off with a Win at Bandera, a strong 2nd place finished at Lake Sonoma, and was highlighted by his win at Western States 100 where he broke a very stout course record by almost 20 minutes (14hrs46mins). What I knew about Tim as a person was what I mostly read, which includes his incredible journey recovering from addiction and finding himself through his running and his love for his wife and son. I first met Tim briefly at Waldo 100K this past summer where he took first place over an incredible performance by Jacob Rydman. When Jake finished in 2nd, he laid down on the other side of the finish line having given everything he had. Tim came over and laid down next to him in the gravel/dirt for 10-15 minutes, as he congratulated him on his race and spot earned at Western States. I said this before, but it was one of the most incredible portrayals of respect I have ever seen and in actuality one of the greatest things I have ever seen in competition. This past weekend as dawn was breaking we were running through a field with the sky displaying a fiery red sunrise and signs that it was going to be a great day. I remember looking up at Tim in front of us with what looked like an effortless stride. I’m not sure his feet were actually hitting the ground. After the climb up Hell Hill (mile 10 after 3,000 ft of climbing) Tim and Dylan had started pulling away. By the time we climbed up the Backbone and I hit mile 32, I saw them on the out and back section and they were about 20 minutes ahead of me. I saw Tim come around the corner and I recall a grin on his face, which read “I’m having the fucking time of my life.” At that point he was in his element and the race with Dylan was starting to ramp up. It is so great to experience people in their element doing what they love. Tim is a truly inspiring runner and has joined The North Face running team for 2013 alongside his Ashland buddy Hal. He is also a fellow Injinji Teamamate ( http://www.injinji.com/team ), so obviously we both share similar tastes for awesome products. Tim’s passion really inspires me to continue to push myself in my own passion for running trails.
Tim’s Blog – http://timothyallenolson.wordpress.com/
Tim’s Story (written by Tim) – http://www.irunfar.com/2012/04/my-path-to-contentment-from-addict-to-awakened-ultrarunner.html
Last but definitely not least was Dylan Bowman. Dylan is a 26 year old taking the Ultra Scene by storm and the above shot is a perfect example of his humbleness. Dylan lives in Colorado and runs for Pearl Izumi’s Ultra Team. In 2012 he had great races across the board all year long. How can this guy always be so on! Again as dawn was breaking and I was looking up ahead, I noticed Dylan running effortlessly as he led the pack. I felt comfortable, so these guys must have felt like they were jogging. At any rate there was moment where Tim stepped beside Dylan, which Dylan responded with an appropriate ass slap. The beautiful thing about this is that these guys running up front have such an incredible respect for each other, that even during competition they can keep things light. It is no doubt one of the greatest traits of the Ultra Community, where Ego usually gets tossed to the side and it is just everyone giving everything they’ve got for the day. Dylan is already ultra fast, but my prediction is that he will continue to improve upon his already amazing accomplishments and emerge as the top U.S. runner this year.
Dylan’s Blog – http://dylanbowman.com/
I feel fortunate to have had this experience of running with some incredible runners who also happen to be incredible people.