Catch $22

By John Dodds

During the recent Taffy Kiss Ass 50K, Tommy Trask asked me if I composed my stories during or after a race. I told him I try to write it beforehand. That way I don't get confused with trying to remember what actually happened. Before this 50K, Jaret actually accused me of lying in my stories. I told him that the run hadn't even started and he was already whining. But I didn't sit down at my computer to say Jaret was a whiner. No, that goes without saying. Nor did I sit down here to write about the 50K because I've already down that. I'm here to tell you about Catherine's Fat Ass last summer.

I know some of you are thinking that I can't possibly remember what happened that long ago. And you're probably right. I might have to resort from time to time to literary license, which, incidentally, is a whole lot different from lying. Resorting to literary license is legitimate, whereas lying is generally frowned upon. Gary will confirm that what I write is accurate, although it is from a different perspective from, say, the person I may have been running with at the time.

The course. The CFA course goes something like this: long uphill climb on trail, levels out on trail to road; run on road; keep running on road, still keep running on road, make left turn and keep running on road, make right and still keep running on road; make right onto trail, etc. I think you can tell that I don't particularly care for this road section. It's about 40 miles long, which is pretty amazing because this is only a 50K run. OK, it's not 40 miles, but it seems like a long, long time. It would go a lot faster if Gary could remember to pick up his water bottle at the aid stations, and I didn't have to wait for him to go back and get it. Does anybody else notice that Gary sometimes gets distracted at the aid stations?

Late. Some people get to a race real early. Some get there just before the race. Some will come running from their cars to the start just as the gun goes off. And then there's people like Mike Bur who show up 20 minutes late. And Michele. And there are others. They have the usual excuses - traffic jam, clock didn't go off, didn't put my stuff out the night before, had to get a cup of coffee, etc. There is a pattern that I have detected through my keen powers of observation: they are all from Maryland. Frankly, I don't care if they show up late. What I find annoying is that they catch up to me in the first hour of the run no matter how long of a lead I have.

The road. As luck would have it (again), I linked up with Gary somewhere on the way up Bird Knob. We stopped at the aid station on the road so I could get something to eat and so Gary could visit with all the volunteers. And then we continued down the road. And down the road and down the road, etc. We continued past Pitt Spring and continued over the bridge near Catherine's Furnace. And continued down the road which by this time is actually a long, slow, tedious climb. So, we're not really going down the road but up the road. And up the road. And up the road. This is one of those roads that rises just enough that it is difficult to run (even at a slow pace) but not enough to legitimately walk. Part way along this road, Gary and I heard footsteps behind us. Guess who? Mike Bur.

When Mike caught up to us, Gary and I assumed he would just run on by. After all, he was obviously running faster than we were. But he didn't run by. He fell in with us, saying he had passed a number of people, but that now he had caught up to "respectable" runners. Gary and I looked at each other and then realized he was talking about us. He said that having caught up to respectable runners, he would run with us. We told him to go ahead. He said no. We insisted. He said no. We implored him. He said no. He told us repeatedly (this means again and again) that he would stick with us for the rest of the run.

Doll's eyes. We finally made it to the turn onto the yellow trail, and Mike led the way. This trail is a very pretty part of the course. This is where we saw the doll's eyes. Here's a description:

White baneberry. The distinguishing feature of this bizarre-looking and terribly poisonous plant is its tall dark red stalks bearing bright white berries, each with one black dot. It prefers dark woods, and rarely is found in clusters of more than two plants. Its effect is really strikingly like eyeballs on a stick, which gave its common name, Doll's Eyes. [It's hard to see the black dots in the photograph.]

Gary is the one who pointed these out to us. I mention this only to show that I do remember some of the things that Gary says.

The vault. We three pretty much stayed together on the yellow trail. When we turned onto the orange trail, Mike started to drift ahead a bit. Then we came to a large tree trunk lying across the trail. Unfortunately, it was not lying on the ground. Without missing a step, Mike put two hands on it and vaulted over it. And kept on running. Gary and I came to an abrupt halt. It was at an awkward height for us. We would have to actually climb over the thing. And it was too low to just bend down and walk underneath it. The solution: we got down on all fours and crawled under it. When we got up, we could still see Mike - barely. We were still within shouting distance. And shortly after that, he was gone.

"I'll respect you in the morning." Soon after Mike's departure, Gary and I wondered what Mike meant when he said "I'm staying with you guys until the end." We decided it was a lie. And Gary said it was very much like another well-known lie: "I'll respect you in the morning." When we saw Mike at the finish, he had absolutely no remorse. When we reminded him that we were, in his opinion, "respectable" runners and that he said he was going to stay with us until the end, he got indignant and blurted out, "You guys were just walkin'." We saw that it would be useless to inform him that walking up hills is perfectly legitimate, especially on Massanutten.

The belt. At the finish, I showed Mike and Nick the leather belt I got for my MMT100 buckles. They both wanted one like it, so I told them I'd pick one up for them the next time I was in PA. Which I did. I brought the belts to The Ring in September. Nick was there and was going to run with Mike. I gave Nick his belt, and he wrote me a check (each belt cost a whopping $22). Mike never did show up, so I gave his belt to Nick. I didn't see Mike again until one of the Greenway runs. He mentioned the belt, which he said fit perfectly and was really nice. He was going to pay me, but he didn't have enough quarters at the time. After that, I think Mike thought I moved to the mountains in Bolivia because he never did call me (number is in the white pages) to ask for my address so he could mail me a check. Recently, he said he would pay me in quarterly installments, but I said I didn't want to get a quarter every month.

MMT100 Training Runs. Some of you may be aware that Mike is going to set up some MMT100 training runs. Please don't let what I've written here influence you in any way in making your decision on whether to go on his training runs. I'm sure he won't leave you - unless it's for a very good reason. Like if you happen to be walking up the climbs.

My plea. If you catch Mike, tell him he owes me $22. He can even give the money to Gary (I'll take my chances). On second thought, don't have him give the money to Gary because I'm sure Gary will just use it to pay off his football gambling debts. Are there any respectable people in this running club? Oh, well....