Born To Run Part 2

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CHAPTER 29

The past is never dead. It's not even past.-WILLIAM FAULKNER, Requiem for a Nun Requiem for a Nun

I WAS ALREADY awake and staring into the dark when Caballo came scratching at my door."Oso?" he whispered."C'mon in," I whispered back. I blinked on my watch: 4:30. 4:30.In half an hour, we were supposed to start out for our rendezvous with the Tarahumara. Months earlier, Caballo had told them to meet us in a little glen of shade trees on the trail up Batopilas mountain. The plan was to push up and over the peak, then down the back side and across the river to the village of Urique. I didn't know what Caballo would do if the Tarahumara didn't show up-or what I'd do if they did.Travelers on horseback give themselves three days for the thirty-five-mile journey from Batopilas to Urique; Caballo planned to do it in one. If I fell behind, would I be the one wandering lost in the canyons this time? And what if the Tarahumara didn't show-would Caballo lead us into no-man's-land to search for them? Did he even know where he was going?Those were the thoughts that kept me from sleeping. But Caballo, it turned out, had worries of his own. He came in and sat on the edge of my bed."Do you think the kids are up for it?" he asked.Remarkably, they seemed fine after their near-death day in the canyons. They'd put away a good meal of tortillas and frijoles that evening, and I hadn't heard any sounds of distress from the bathroom during the night."How long till giardia hits?" I asked. Giardia parasites, I knew, had to incubate for a while in the intestines before erupting into diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps."A week or two.""So if they don't come down with something else by this morning, they might be okay till after the race.""Hmm," Caballo muttered. "Yeah." He paused, obviously chewing over something else. "Look," he went on. "I'm going to have to pop Barefoot Ted between the eyes." The problem this time wasn't Ted's feet; it was his mouth. "If he gets in the face of the Raramuri, they're going to get real uncomfortable," Caballo said. "They're going to think he's another Fisher and split.""What are you going to do?""I'm going to tell him he's got to keep it shut tight. I don't like telling people what to do, but he's got to get the message."I got up and helped him roust the others. The night before, a friend of Caballo's had loaded our bags on a burro and set off for Urique, so all we had to carry was enough food and water to get us there. Bob Francis, the old backcountry guide, had volunteered to drive Luis's father the long way around the mountain in his 44 44 pickup, sparing him the hike. Everyone else turned out quickly, and by 5 a.m., we were picking our way over the boulders toward the river. The canyon moon glittered on the water and bats were still darting overhead as Caballo led us to a faint footpath skirting the water line. We fitted into single file and shuffled into an easy jog. pickup, sparing him the hike. Everyone else turned out quickly, and by 5 a.m., we were picking our way over the boulders toward the river. The canyon moon glittered on the water and bats were still darting overhead as Caballo led us to a faint footpath skirting the water line. We fitted into single file and shuffled into an easy jog."The Party Kids are amazing," Eric said, watching them glide along behind Caballo."They're more like the Comeback Kids," I agreed. "But Caballo's big worry is-" I pointed ahead to Barefoot Ted, whose outfit for the hike consisted of red shorts, his green FiveFinger toe shoes, and an anatomically correct skeleton amulet around his neck. Instead of a s.h.i.+rt, he wore a red raincoat with the hood knotted under his chin and the rest flapping loose over his shoulders like a cape. Jingling from his ankle was a string of bells, which he'd gotten because he'd read somewhere that Tarahumara elders wore them."Good mojo," Eric grinned. "We've got our own witch doctor."By sunup, we'd left the river and turned up into the mountains. Caballo was pus.h.i.+ng hard, even harder than he had the day before. We ate on the move, chomping down quick bites of tortilla and energy bars, sipping conservatively on our water in case it had to last all day. When it got light enough to see, I turned and looked back to get my bearings. The village had vanished like Brigadoon, swallowed whole by the forest. Even the trail behind us seemed to dissolve into the thick green foliage as soon as we pa.s.sed. It felt like we were sinking into a bottomless green sea."Not too much farther," I could hear Caballo saying. He was pointing to something I couldn't make out yet. "See that cl.u.s.ter of trees? That's where they'll be.""The Arnulfo," Luis said, wonder in his voice. "I'd rather meet him than Michael Jordan." Arnulfo," Luis said, wonder in his voice. "I'd rather meet him than Michael Jordan."I got closer and saw the trees. I didn't see any people."The flu's been going around," Caballo said, slowing down and tilting back his head to squint at the hills above us for signs of life. "There's a chance some of the runners will come later. If they're sick. Or if they have to take care of their families."Eric and I glanced at each other. Caballo had never mentioned anything about the flu before. I eased my hydration pack off my shoulders and got ready to sit down and rest. Better take a break now till we see what's next Better take a break now till we see what's next, I thought, dropping the pack at my feet. When I looked back up, we were surrounded by half a dozen men in white skirts and pirate blouses. Between blinks, they'd materialized from the forest.We all stood, silent and stunned, waiting for a cue from Caballo."Is he here?" Luis whispered.I scanned the ring of Tarahumara until I spotted that familiar whimsical smile on that handsome mahogany face. Wow; he really came. Just as unbelievably, his cousin Silvino was right beside him."That's him," I whispered back. Arnulfo heard and glanced over. His lips twitched in a slight smile when he recognized me.Caballo was overcome with emotion. I thought it was just relief, until he reached out with both hands toward a Tarahumara runner with a mournful, Geronimo-like face. "Manuel," Caballo said.Manuel Luna didn't return the smile, but he sandwiched both Caballo's hands with his own. I walked over. "I knew your son," I said. "He was very good to me, a real caballero." caballero.""He told me about you," Manuel said. "He wanted to be here."That emotional reunion between Caballo and Manuel broke the ice for everyone else. The rest of Caballo's crew circulated among the Tarahumara, trading the special Tarahumara handshake Caballo had taught them, that light rasping of finger pads that is simultaneously less grasping and more intimate than a big ol' powerpump.Caballo began introducing us. Not by name-in fact, I don't think I ever heard him use our names again. He'd been studying us over the past three days, and just as he'd seen an oso oso in me and Barefoot Ted had spotted a monkey in himself, Caballo felt he'd identified spirit animals for everyone else. in me and Barefoot Ted had spotted a monkey in himself, Caballo felt he'd identified spirit animals for everyone else."El Coyote," he said, laying a hand on Luis's back. Billy became El Lobo Joven-the young wolf. Eric, quiet and ever watchful, was El Gavilan, the hawk. When he got to Jenn, I saw a flicker of amused interest briefly light up Manuel Luna's eyes. "La Brujita Bonita," Caballo called her. To the Tarahumara, steeped in tales of their two magnificent years at Leadville and the epic battle between Juan Herrera and Ann "the Bruja" Trason, calling a young runner "The Pretty Little Witch" had exactly the punch of nicknaming an NBA rookie "Heir Jordan.""Hija?" Manuel asked. Was Jenn really Ann Trason's daughter? Manuel asked. Was Jenn really Ann Trason's daughter?"Por sangre, no. Por corazon, si," Caballo replied. Not the same blood, but the same heart. Caballo replied. Not the same blood, but the same heart.Finally, Caballo turned to Scott Jurek "El Venado," he said, which even got a reaction out of too-cool Arnulfo. Now, what was the crazy gringo playing at? Why would Caballo call the tall, lean, and supremely confident-looking guy "the Deer"? Was he giving the Tarahumara a foot tap under the table, a little hint how to play their cards on race day? Manuel remembered very well the way Caballo had urged the Tarahumara in Leadville to sit patiently on Ann Trason's heels and "run her down like a deer." But would Caballo favor the Tarahumara over his own compatriot? Or maybe it was a setup- maybe Caballo was trying to trick the Tarahumara into holding back while this American built an unbeatable lead....It was all mysterious and complicated and thoroughly entertaining to the Tarahumara, whose love of race strategy rivaled their taste for corn beer. Quietly, they began to banter among themselves, until Barefoot Ted barged in. Whether accidentally or prophylactically, Caballo had bypa.s.sed Ted in the introductions, so Ted presented himself."Yo soy El Mono!" he announced. "The Monkey!" Hang on, Barefoot Ted thought; do they even El Mono!" he announced. "The Monkey!" Hang on, Barefoot Ted thought; do they even have have monkeys in Mexico? Maybe the Tarahumara don't know what a monkeys in Mexico? Maybe the Tarahumara don't know what a mono mono is. Just in case, he began hooting and scratching like a chimp, his ankle bells jingling and the sleeves of his red raincoat flapping in his face, somehow thinking that impersonating a thing they'd never heard of would let them know what that thing was. is. Just in case, he began hooting and scratching like a chimp, his ankle bells jingling and the sleeves of his red raincoat flapping in his face, somehow thinking that impersonating a thing they'd never heard of would let them know what that thing was.The Tarahumara stared. None of them, incidentally, wore bells."Okay," Caballo said, eager to drop the curtain on this show. "Vamonos?" "Vamonos?"We reshouldered our packs. We'd been on the climb for nearly five straight hours, but we had to keep racing the sun if we were going to have a chance of fording the river before dark. Caballo took point, while the rest of us shuffled into single file among the Tarahumara. I tried to put myself last so I wouldn't slow down the parade, but Silvino wouldn't hear of it. He wouldn't move till I moved first."Por que?" I asked. Why? I asked. Why?Habit, Silvino said; as one of the top ball-racers in the canyons, he was used to keeping tabs on his teammates from the rear and letting them pull the pace until it was time for him to slingshot off for the final miles. I was tickled to think of myself as part of an All-Star Mixed Tarahumara-American Ultrarunning Team, until I translated what Silvino had said for Eric."Maybe," Eric said. "Or maybe the race already started." He nodded farther ahead. Arnulfo was walking right behind Scott, watching him intently.

CHAPTER 30

Poetry, music, forests, oceans, solitude-they were what developed enormous spiritual strength. I came to realize that spirit, as much or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before a race.-HERB ELLIOTT, Olympic champion and world-record holder in the mile who trained in bare feet, wrote poetry, and retired undefeated



OYE, OSO, a shopkeeper called, waving me inside.Two days after we'd arrived in Urique, we were known everywhere by the spirit-animal nicknames Caballo had given us. "Everywhere," of course, meant about five hundred yards in every direction; Urique is a tiny, Lost World village sitting alone at the bottom of the canyon like a pebble at the bottom of a well. By the time we'd finished breakfast on our first morning, we'd already been folded into the local social life. An army squad encamped on the outskirts would salute Jenn as they pa.s.sed through on patrol, calling, "Hola, Brujita!" "Hola, Brujita!" Kids greeted Barefoot Ted with shouts of Kids greeted Barefoot Ted with shouts of "Buenos dias "Buenos dias, Senor Mono." Good morning, Mr. Monkey."Hey, Bear," the shopkeeper continued. "Do you know that Arnulfo has never been beaten? Do you know he's won the one-hundred-kilometer race three times in a row?"No Kentucky Derby, presidential election, or celebrity murder trial has ever been handicapped as pa.s.sionately and personally as Caballo's race was by the people of Urique. As a mining village whose best days were over more than a century ago, Urique had two things left to be proud of: its brutally tough landscape and its Tarahumara neighbors. Now, for the first time, a pack of exotic foreign runners had traveled all this way to test themselves against both, and it had exploded into much more than a race: for the people of Urique, it was the one chance in their lifetime to show the outside world just what they were made of.And even Caballo was surprised to find that his race had surpa.s.sed his hopes and was growing into the Ultimate Fighting Compet.i.tion of underground ultras. Over the past two days, Tarahumara runners had continued trickling in by ones and twos from all directions. When we awoke the morning after our hike from Batopilas, we saw a band of local Tarahumara traipsing down from the hills above the village. Caballo hadn't even been sure the Urique Tarahumara still ran anymore; he'd been afraid that, as in the tragic case of the Tarahumara of Yerbabuena, government upgrades to the dirt road had converted the Urique Tarahumara from runners into hitchhikers. They certainly looked like a people in transition; the Urique Tarahumara still carried wooden palia palia sticks (their version of the ball race was more like high-speed field hockey), but instead of traditional white skirts and sandals, they wore running shorts and sneakers from the Catholic mission. sticks (their version of the ball race was more like high-speed field hockey), but instead of traditional white skirts and sandals, they wore running shorts and sneakers from the Catholic mission.That same afternoon, Caballo was overjoyed to see a fifty-one-year-old named Herbolisto come jogging in from Chinivo, accompanied by Nacho, a forty-one-year-old champion from one of Herbolisto's neighboring settlements. As Caballo had feared, Herbolisto had been laid up with the flu. But he was one of Caballo's oldest Tarahumara friends and hated the idea of missing the race, so as soon as he felt a little better, he grabbed a pinole pinole bag and set off on the sixty-mile trip on his own, stopping off on the way to invite Nacho along for the fun. bag and set off on the sixty-mile trip on his own, stopping off on the way to invite Nacho along for the fun.By the eve of Race Day, our numbers had tripled from eight to twenty-five. Up and down Urique's main street, debate over who was now the true top seed was running hot: Was it Caballo Blanco, the wily old veteran who'd poached the secrets of both American and Tarahumara runners? Or the Urique Tarahumara, experts on the local trails who had hometown pride and support on their side? Some money was riding on Billy Bonehead, the Young Wolf, whose surf-G.o.d physique drew admiring stares whenever he went for a swim in the Urique River. But the heaviest street action was divided between the two stars: Arnulfo, king of the Copper Canyons, and El Venado, his mysterious foreign challenger."Si, senor," I replied to the shopkeeper. "Arnulfo won a one-hundred-kilometer race in the canyons three times. But the Deer has won a one-hundred I replied to the shopkeeper. "Arnulfo won a one-hundred-kilometer race in the canyons three times. But the Deer has won a one-hundred-mile race in the mountains race in the mountains seven seven times." times.""But it's very hot down here," the shopkeeper retorted. "The Tarahumara, they eat heat.""True. But the Deer won a one-hundred-thirty-five-mile race across a desert called Death Valley in the middle of summer. No one has ever run it faster.""No one beats the Tarahumara," the shopkeeper insisted."So I've heard. So who are you betting on?"He shrugged. "The Deer."The Urique villagers had grown up in awe of the Tarahumara, but this tall gringo with the flashy orange shoes was unlike anyone they'd ever seen. It was eerie watching Scott run side by side with Arnulfo; even though Scott had never seen the Tarahumara before and Arnulfo had never seen the outside world, somehow these two men separated by two thousand years of culture had developed the same running style. They'd approached their art from opposite ends of history, and met precisely in the middle.I first saw it up on Batopilas mountain, after we'd finally gotten to the top and the trail flattened as it circled the peak. Arnulfo took advantage of the plateau to open it up. Scott locked in beside him. As the trail curled into the setting sun, the two of them vanished into the glare. For a few moments, I couldn't tell them apart-they were two fiery silhouettes moving with identical rhythm and grace."Got it!" Luis said, dropping back to show me the image in his digital camera. He'd sprinted ahead and wheeled around just in time to capture everything I'd come to understand about running over the past two years. It wasn't Arnulfo's and Scott's matching form so much as their matching smiles; they were both grinning with sheer muscular pleasure, like dolphins rocketing through the waves. "This one is going to make me cry when I get back home," Luis said. "It's like getting Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle in the same shot." If Arnulfo had an advantage, it wouldn't be style or spirit.But I had another reason to put my money on Scott. During the last, hardest miles of the hike to Urique, he kept hanging back with me and I'd wondered why. He'd come all this way to see the best runners in the world, so why was he wasting his time with one of the worst? Didn't he resent me for holding everyone up? Seven hours of descending that mountain eventually gave me my answer:What Coach Joe Vigil sensed about character, what Dr. Bramble conjectured with his anthropological models, Scott had been his entire life. The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other, he understood, but to be with with each other. Scott learned that before he had a choice, back when he was trailing Dusty and the boys through the Minnesota woods. He was no good and had no reason to believe he ever would be, but the joy he got from running was the joy of adding his power to the pack. Other runners try to disa.s.sociate from fatigue by blasting iPods or imagining the roar of the crowd in Olympic Stadium, but Scott had a simpler method: it's easy to get outside yourself when you're thinking about someone else. each other. Scott learned that before he had a choice, back when he was trailing Dusty and the boys through the Minnesota woods. He was no good and had no reason to believe he ever would be, but the joy he got from running was the joy of adding his power to the pack. Other runners try to disa.s.sociate from fatigue by blasting iPods or imagining the roar of the crowd in Olympic Stadium, but Scott had a simpler method: it's easy to get outside yourself when you're thinking about someone else.*That's why the Tarahumara bet like crazy before a ball race; it makes them equal partners in the effort, letting the runners know they're all in it together. Likewise, the Hopis consider running a form of prayer; they offer every step as a sacrifice to a loved one, and in return ask the Great Spirit to match their strength with some of his own. Knowing that, it's no mystery why Arnulfo had no interest in racing outside the canyons, and why Silvino never would again: if they weren't racing for their people, then what was the point? Scott, whose sick mother never left his thoughts, was still a teenager when he absorbed this connection between compa.s.sion and compet.i.tion.The Tarahumara drew strength from this tradition, I realized, but Scott drew strength from every every running tradition. He was an archivist and an innovator, an omnivorous student who gave as much serious thought to the running lore of the Navajo, the Kalahari Bushmen, and the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei as he did to aerobic levels, lactate thresholds, and the optimal recruitment of all three types of muscle-twitch fiber (not two, as most runners believe). running tradition. He was an archivist and an innovator, an omnivorous student who gave as much serious thought to the running lore of the Navajo, the Kalahari Bushmen, and the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei as he did to aerobic levels, lactate thresholds, and the optimal recruitment of all three types of muscle-twitch fiber (not two, as most runners believe).Arnulfo wasn't going up against a fast American. He was about to race the world's only twenty-first-century Tarahumara.While the shopkeeper and I were busy setting the over-under, I saw Arnulfo strolling past. I grabbed a couple of Popsicles to pay him back for the sweet limes he'd given me at his house, and together we went looking for a shady spot to relax. I saw Manuel Luna sitting under a tree, but he looked so alone and lost in thought, I didn't think we should disturb him. Barefoot Monkey, however, saw it differently."MANUEL!" Barefoot Ted shouted from across the street.Manuel's head jerked up."Amigo, am I glad to see you," Barefoot Ted said. He'd been looking around for some tire rubber so he could make his own pair of Tarahumara sandals, but figured he needed some expert advice. He grabbed mystified Manuel by the arm and led him into a tiny shop. As it turned out, Ted was right; all tire rubber is not the same. What Ted wanted, Manuel demonstrated with his hands, was a strip with a groove right down the middle, so the knot for the toe strap can be countersunk and not get torn off by the ground.Minutes later, Barefoot Ted and Manuel Luna were outside with their heads together, tracing Ted's feet and slicing away at the tire tread with my big-bladed Victorinox knife. They worked through the afternoon, tr.i.m.m.i.n.g and measuring, until, just before dinner, Ted was able to do a test run down the street in his new pair of Air Lunas. From then on, he and Manuel Luna were inseparable. They arrived for dinner together and hunted around the packed restaurant for a place to sit.Urique has only one restaurant, but when it's run by Mama t.i.ta, one is plenty. From daybreak till midnight for four straight days, this cheerful sixty-something woman kept the four burners on her old propane stove blazing full blast, bustling away in a kitchen hot as a boiler room as she turned out mountains of food for all Caballo's runners: stewed chicken and goat, batter-fried river fish, grilled beef, refried beans and guacamole, and minty, tangy salsas, all garnished with sweet limes and chili oil and fresh cilantro. For breakfast, she served eggs scrambled with goat cheese and sweet peppers, and on the side, heaping bowls of pinole pinole and flapjacks that tasted so much like pound cake, I volunteered to apprentice in her kitchen one morning to learn the secret recipe. and flapjacks that tasted so much like pound cake, I volunteered to apprentice in her kitchen one morning to learn the secret recipe.*As the American and Tarahumara runners squeezed around the two long tables in t.i.ta's back garden, Caballo banged on a beer bottle and stood up. I thought he was going to deliver our final race instructions, but he had something else on his mind."There's something wrong with you people," he began. "Raramuri don't like Mexicans. Mexicans don't like Americans. Americans don't like anybody. anybody. But you're all here. And you keep doing things you're not supposed to. I've seen Raramuri helping But you're all here. And you keep doing things you're not supposed to. I've seen Raramuri helping chabochis chabochis cross the river. I've watched Mexicans treat Raramuri like great champions. Look at these gringos, treating people with respect. Normal Mexicans and Americans and Raramuri don't act this way." cross the river. I've watched Mexicans treat Raramuri like great champions. Look at these gringos, treating people with respect. Normal Mexicans and Americans and Raramuri don't act this way."Over in the corner, Ted thought he could help Manuel by translating Caballo's clumsy Spanish into clumsier Spanglish. As Ted yammered, a faint smile kept flitting across Manuel's face. Finally, it just stayed there."What are you doing here?" Caballo went on. "You have corn to plant. You have families to take care of. You gringos, you know it can be dangerous down here. No one has to tell the Raramuri about the danger. One of my friends lost someone he loved, someone who could have been the next great Raramuri champion. He's suffering, but he's a true friend. So he's here."Everyone got quiet. Barefoot Ted laid a hand on Manuel's back. Of all the Tarahumara he could have asked for help with his huaraches, I realized, he hadn't picked Manuel Luna by accident."I thought this race would be a disaster, because I thought you'd be too sensible to come." Caballo scanned the garden, found Ted in the corner, and locked eyes with him. "You Americans are supposed to be greedy and selfish, but then I see you acting with a good heart. Acting out of love, doing good things for no reason. You know who does things for no good reason?""CABALLO!" the shout went up."Yah, right. Crazy people. Mas Locos. Mas Locos. But one thing about crazy people-they see things other people don't. The government is putting in roads, destroying a lot of our trails. Sometimes Mother Nature wins and wipes them out with floods and rock slides. But you never know. You never know if we'll get a chance like this again. Tomorrow will be one of the greatest races of all time, and you know who's going to see it? Only crazy people. Only you Mas Locos." But one thing about crazy people-they see things other people don't. The government is putting in roads, destroying a lot of our trails. Sometimes Mother Nature wins and wipes them out with floods and rock slides. But you never know. You never know if we'll get a chance like this again. Tomorrow will be one of the greatest races of all time, and you know who's going to see it? Only crazy people. Only you Mas Locos.""Mas Locos! " " Beers were shoved in the air, bottles were clinking. Caballo Blanco, lone wanderer of the High Sierras, had finally come out of the wild to find himself surrounded by friends. After years of disappointments, he was twelve hours from seeing his dream come true. Beers were shoved in the air, bottles were clinking. Caballo Blanco, lone wanderer of the High Sierras, had finally come out of the wild to find himself surrounded by friends. After years of disappointments, he was twelve hours from seeing his dream come true."Tomorrow, you'll see what crazy people see. The gun fires at daybreak, because we've got a lot of running to do.""CABALLO! VIVA CABALLO!"*Any doubts I had about this theory were laid to rest the following year, when I went to crew for Luis Escobar at Badwater. At three o'clock in the morning, I drove ahead to check on Scott and found him bearing down in the midst of a four-mile-high hill. He'd already run eighty miles in 125-degree heat and was on pace for a new course record, but when he saw me, the first words out of his mouth were, "How's Coyote?"*t.i.ta's secret (it's okay, she won't mind): she whips boiled rice, overripe bananas, a little cornmeal, and fresh goat milk into her batter. Perfection.

CHAPTER 31

Often I visualize a quicker, like almost a ghost runner, ahead of me with a quicker stride.-GABE JENNINGS, 2000 U.S. Olympic Trial 1,500- meter winner

BY 5 A.M., Mama t.i.ta had pancakes and papayas and hot pinole pinole on the table. For their prerace meal, Arnulfo and Silvino had requested on the table. For their prerace meal, Arnulfo and Silvino had requested pozole- pozole-a rich beef broth with tomatoes and fat corn kernels-and t.i.ta, chirpy as a bird despite only getting three hours of sleep, whipped it right up. Silvino had changed into a special race outfit, a gorgeous turquoise blouse and a white zapete zapete skirt embroidered with flowers along the hem. skirt embroidered with flowers along the hem."Guapo," Caballo said admiringly; looking good. Silvino ducked his head bashfully. Caballo paced the garden, sipping coffee and fretting. He'd heard that some farmers were planning a cattle drive on one of the trails, so he'd tossed awake all night, planning last-minute detours. When he got up and trudged down for breakfast, he discovered that Luis Escobar's dad had already ridden to the rescue with old Bob, Caballo's fellow wandering gringo from Batopilas. They'd come across the Caballo said admiringly; looking good. Silvino ducked his head bashfully. Caballo paced the garden, sipping coffee and fretting. He'd heard that some farmers were planning a cattle drive on one of the trails, so he'd tossed awake all night, planning last-minute detours. When he got up and trudged down for breakfast, he discovered that Luis Escobar's dad had already ridden to the rescue with old Bob, Caballo's fellow wandering gringo from Batopilas. They'd come across the vaqueros vaqueros the evening before while shooting photos in the backcountry and warned them off the course. Now without a stampede to sweat over, Caballo was searching for something else. He didn't have to look far. the evening before while shooting photos in the backcountry and warned them off the course. Now without a stampede to sweat over, Caballo was searching for something else. He didn't have to look far."Where are the Kids?" he asked.Shrugs."I better go get them," he said. "I don't want them killing themselves without breakfast again."When Caballo and I stepped outside, I was stunned to find the entire town there to greet us. While we'd been inside having breakfast, garlands of fresh flowers and paper streamers had been strung across the street, and a mariachi band in dress sombreros and torero suits had begun strumming a few warm-up tunes. Women and children were already dancing in the street, while the mayor was aiming a shotgun at the sky, practicing how he could fire it without shredding the streamers.I checked my watch, and suddenly found it hard to breathe: thirty minutes till the start. The thirty-five-mile hike to Urique had, as Caballo predicted, "chewed me up and c.r.a.pped me out," and in half an hour, I had to do it all over again and go fifteen miles farther. Caballo had laid out a diabolical course; we'd be climbing and descending sixty-five hundred feet in fifty miles, exactly the alt.i.tude gain of the first half of the Leadville Trail 100. Caballo was no fan of the Leadville race directors, but when it came to choosing terrain, he was just as pitiless.Caballo and I climbed the hill to the little hotel. Jenn and Billy were still in their room, arguing over whether Billy needed to carry the extra water bottle which, it turned out, he couldn't find anyway. I had a spare I was using to store espresso, so I hustled to my room, dumped the coffee, and tossed it to Billy."Now eat something! And hustle up!" Caballo scolded. "The mayor is gonna blast that thing at seven sharp."Caballo and I grabbed our gear-a hydration backpack loaded with gels and PowerBars for me, a water bottle and tiny bag of pinole of pinole for Caballo-and we headed back down the hill. Fifteen minutes to go. We rounded the corner toward t.i.ta's restaurant, and found the street party had grown into a mini-Mardi Gras. Luis and Ted were twirling old women and fending off Luis's dad, who kept cutting in. Scott and Bob Francis were clapping and singing along as best they could with the mariachis. The Urique Tarahumara had set up their own percussion brigade, beating time on the sidewalk with their for Caballo-and we headed back down the hill. Fifteen minutes to go. We rounded the corner toward t.i.ta's restaurant, and found the street party had grown into a mini-Mardi Gras. Luis and Ted were twirling old women and fending off Luis's dad, who kept cutting in. Scott and Bob Francis were clapping and singing along as best they could with the mariachis. The Urique Tarahumara had set up their own percussion brigade, beating time on the sidewalk with their palia palia sticks. sticks.Caballo was delighted. He pushed into the throng and began a Muhammad Ali shuffle, bobbing and weaving and punching his fists in the air. The crowd roared. Mama t.i.ta blew him kisses."andale! We're going to dance all day!" Caballo shouted through his cupped hands. "But only if n.o.body dies. Take care out there!" He turned to the mariachis and dragged a finger across his throat. Kill the music. Showtime. We're going to dance all day!" Caballo shouted through his cupped hands. "But only if n.o.body dies. Take care out there!" He turned to the mariachis and dragged a finger across his throat. Kill the music. Showtime.Caballo and the mayor began corraling dancers off the street and waving runners to the starting line. We crowded together, forming into a crazy human quilt of mismatched faces, bodies, and costumes. The Urique Tarahumara were in their shorts and running shoes, still carrying their palias. palias. Scott stripped off his s.h.i.+rt. Arnulfo and Silvino, dressed in the bright blouses they'd brought especially for the race, squeezed in beside Scott; the Deer hunters weren't letting the Deer out of their sight for a second. By unspoken agreement, we all picked an invisible line in the cracked asphalt and toed it. Scott stripped off his s.h.i.+rt. Arnulfo and Silvino, dressed in the bright blouses they'd brought especially for the race, squeezed in beside Scott; the Deer hunters weren't letting the Deer out of their sight for a second. By unspoken agreement, we all picked an invisible line in the cracked asphalt and toed it.My chest felt tight. Eric worked his way over beside me. "Look, I got some bad news," he said. "You're not going to win. No matter what you do, you're going to be out there all day. So you might as well just relax, take your time, and enjoy it. Keep this in mind-if it feels like work, you're working too hard.""Then I'll catch 'em napping," I croaked, "and make my move.""No moves!" Eric warned, not even wanting the thought to creep into my skull as a joke. "It could hit one hundred degrees out there. Your job is to make it home on your own two feet."Mama t.i.ta walked from runner to runner, her eyes puddling as she pressed our hands. "Te n cuidado, carino" she urged. Be careful, dearie. she urged. Be careful, dearie."Diez!... Nueve!..."The mayor was leading the crowd in the countdown."Ocho!... Siete!...""Where are the Kids?" Caballo yelled.I looked around. Jenn and Billy were nowhere in sight."Get him to hold off!" I shouted back.Caballo shook his head. He turned away and got into race-ready position. He'd waited years and risked his life for this moment. He wasn't postponing it for anyone."BRUJITA!" The soldiers were pointing behind us. The soldiers were pointing behind us.Jenn and Billy came sprinting down the hill as the crowd hit "Cuatro." Billy wore surf baggies and no s.h.i.+rt, while Jenn had on black compression shorts and a black jog bra, her hair knotted in two tight Pippi braids. Distracted by her military fan club, Jenn whipped the drop bag with her food and spare socks to the wrong side of the street, startling spectators, who hopped over it as it flew between their legs and disappeared. I raced over, snagged it, and got it to the aid table just as the mayor jerked the trigger.BOOM!Scott leaped and screamed, Jenn howled, Caballo hooted. The Tarahumara just ran. The Urique team shot off in a pack, disappearing down the dirt road into the predawn shadows. Caballo had warned us that the Tarahumara would go out hard, but whoa! This was just ferocious. Scott fell in behind them, with Arnulfo and Silvino tucked in on his heels. I jogged slowly, letting the pack flow past until I was in last place. It would be great to have some companions.h.i.+p, but at this point, I felt safer alone. The worst mistake I could make would be getting lulled into someone else's race.The first two miles were a flat ramble out of town and along the dirt road to the river. The Urique Tarahumara hit the water first, but instead of charging straight into the shallow fifty-yard crossing, they suddenly stopped and began rooting around the sh.o.r.e, flipping over rocks.What the h.e.l.l...? wondered Bob Francis, who'd gone ahead with Luis's dad to take photos from the far side of the river. He watched as the Urique Tarahumara pulled out plastic shopping bags they'd stashed under rocks the night before. Tucking their wondered Bob Francis, who'd gone ahead with Luis's dad to take photos from the far side of the river. He watched as the Urique Tarahumara pulled out plastic shopping bags they'd stashed under rocks the night before. Tucking their palias palias under their arms, they slipped their feet into the bags, pulled them tight by the handles, and began slos.h.i.+ng across the river, demonstrating what happens when new technology replaces something that has worked fine for ten thousand years: afraid of getting their precious Salvation Army running shoes wet, the Urique Tarahumara were hobbling along in homemade waders. under their arms, they slipped their feet into the bags, pulled them tight by the handles, and began slos.h.i.+ng across the river, demonstrating what happens when new technology replaces something that has worked fine for ten thousand years: afraid of getting their precious Salvation Army running shoes wet, the Urique Tarahumara were hobbling along in homemade waders."Jesus," Bob murmured. "I've never seen anything like it."The Urique Tarahumara were still stumbling over slippery rocks when Scott hit the riverbank. He splashed straight into the water, Arnulfo and Silvino hard behind. The Urique Tarahumara reached sh.o.r.e, kicked the bags off their feet, and stuffed them into their shorts to use again later. They began scrambling up the steep sand dune with Scott closing fast, sand spraying from his churning feet. By the time the Urique Tarahumara hit the dirt trail leading up the mountain, Scott and the two Quimares had made contact.Jenn, meanwhile, was already having a problem. She, Billy, and Luis had crossed the river side by side with a pack of Tarahumara, but as Jenn tore up the sand dune, her right hand was bugging her. Ultra-runners rely on "handhelds," water bottles with straps that wrap around your hand for easy carrying. Jenn had given Billy one of her two handhelds, then rigged a second for herself with athletic tape and a springwater bottle. As she fought her way up the dune, her homemade handheld felt sticky and awkward. It was a tiny ha.s.sle, but it was a ha.s.sle she'd have to deal with every minute of the next eight hours. So should she keep it? Or should she once again risk running into the canyons with only a dozen swallows in her hand?Jenn began gnawing through the tape. Her only hope of competing with the Tarahumara, she knew, was to go for broke. If she gambled and crashed, fine. But if she lost the race of a lifetime because she'd played it safe, she'd always regret it. Jenn tossed the bottle and immediately felt better. Bolder, even-and that led to her next risky decision. They were at the bottom of the first meat grinder, a steep three-mile hill with little shade. Once the sun came up, she had little hope of sticking with the heat-eating Tarahumara."Ah, f.u.c.k it," Jenn thought. "I'm just gonna go now while it's cool." Within five strides, she was pulling away from the pack. "Later, dudes," she called over her shoulder.The Tarahumara immediately gave chase. The two canny old vets, Sebastiano and Herbolisto, boxed Jenn in from the front while the three other Tarahumara surrounded her on the sides. Jenn looked for a gap, then burst loose and pulled away. Instantly, the Tarahumara swarmed and bottled her back up. The Tarahumara may be peace-loving people at home, but when it came to racing, it was bare knuckles all the way."I hate to say it, but Jenn is going to blow up," Luis told Billy as they watched Jenn dart ahead for the third time. They were only three miles into a 50- 50- mile race, and she was already going toe-to-toe with a five-man Tarahumara chase pack. "You don't run like that if you want to finish." mile race, and she was already going toe-to-toe with a five-man Tarahumara chase pack. "You don't run like that if you want to finish.""Somehow she always pulls it off," Billy said."Not on this course," Luis said. "Not against these guys."Thanks to the genius of Caballo's planning, we'd all get to witness the battle in real time. Caballo had laid out his course in a Y pattern, with the starting line dead in the middle. That way, the villagers would see the race several times as it doubled back and forth, and the racers would always know how far they were trailing the leaders. That Y-formation also provided another unexpected benefit: at that very moment, it was giving Caballo plenty of reason to be very suspicious of the Urique Tarahumara.Caballo was about a quarter mile back, so he had a perfect view of Scott and the Deer hunters as they closed the gap with the Urique Tarahumara on the hill across the river. When he saw them heading back toward him after the first turnaround, Caballo was astounded: in the s.p.a.ce of just four miles, the Urique crew had opened up a. four-minute lead. a. four-minute lead. They'd not only dropped the two best Tarahumara racers of their generation, but also the greatest climber in the history of Western ultrarunning. They'd not only dropped the two best Tarahumara racers of their generation, but also the greatest climber in the history of Western ultrarunning."No. Way. In. h.e.l.l!" growled Caballo, who was running in a pack of his own with Barefoot Ted, Eric, and Manuel Luna. When they got to the five-mile turnaround in the tiny Tarahumara settlement of Guadalupe Coronado, Caballo and Manuel started asking the Tarahumara spectators some questions. It didn't take them long to find out what was going on: the Urique Tarahumara were taking side trails and shaving the course. Rather than fury, Caballo felt a pang of pity. The Urique Tarahumara had lost their old way of running, he realized, and their confidence along with it. They weren't Running People anymore; they were just guys trying desperately to keep up with the living shadows of their former selves.Caballo forgave them as a friend, but not as a race director. He put out the word: the Urique Tarahumara were disqualified.I got a shock of my own when I hit the river. I'd been concentrating so much on watching my footing in the dark and reviewing my mental checklist (bend those knees ... bird steps ... leave no trace) (bend those knees ... bird steps ... leave no trace) that when I started to wade through the knee-deep water, it suddenly hit me: I'd just run two miles and it felt like nothing. Better than nothing-I felt light and loose, even more springy and energized than I had before the start. that when I started to wade through the knee-deep water, it suddenly hit me: I'd just run two miles and it felt like nothing. Better than nothing-I felt light and loose, even more springy and energized than I had before the start."Way to go, Oso!" Bob Francis was calling from the opposite bank. "Little bitty hill ahead. Nothing to worry about."I scrambled out of the water and up the sand dune, growing more hopeful with every step. Sure, I still had forty-eight more miles, but the way it was going, I might be able to steal the first dozen or so before I had to make any real effort. I started climbing the dirt trail just as the sun was slanting over the top of the canyon. Instantly, everything lit up: the glittering river, the s.h.i.+mmering green forest, the coral snake coiled at my feet....I yelped and leaped off the trail, sliding down the steep slope and grabbing at scrub brush to stop my fall. I could see the snake above me, silent and curled, ready to strike. If I climbed back up, I risked a fatal bite; if I climbed down toward the river, I could plunge off the side of the cliff. The only way out was to maneuver sideways, working my way from one scrub-brush handhold to the next.The first clump held, then the next. When I'd made it ten feet away, I cautiously hauled myself back onto the trail. The snake was still blocking the trail, and for good reason-it was dead. Someone had already snapped its back with a stick I wiped the dirt out of my eyes and checked the damage: rock rash down both s.h.i.+ns, thorns in my hands, heart pounding through my chest. I pulled the thorns with my teeth, then cleaned my gashes, more or less, with a squirt from my water bottle. Time to get going. I didn't want anyone to come across me bleeding and panicky over a rotting snake.The sun got stronger the higher I climbed, but after the early-morning chill, it was more exhilarating than exhausting. I kept thinking about Eric's advice-"If it feels like work, you're working too hard"-so I decided to get outside my head and stop obsessing about my stride. I began drinking in the view of canyon around me, watching the sun turn the top of the foothill across the river to gold. Pretty soon, I realized, I'd be nearly as high as that peak.Moments later, Scott burst around a bend in the trail. He flashed me a grin and a thumbs-up, then vanished. Arnulfo and Silvino were right behind him, their blouses rippling like sails as they flew past. I must be close to the five-mile turnaround, I realized. I climbed around the next curve, and there it was: Guadalupe Coronado. It was little more than a whitewashed schoolhouse, a few small homes, and a tiny shop selling warm sodas and dusty packs of cookies, but even from a mile away, I could already hear cheers and drumbeats.A pack of runners was just pulling out of Guadalupe and setting off in pursuit of Scott and the Quimares. Leading them, all by herself, was the Brujita.The second Jenn saw her chance, she pounced. On the hike over from Batopilas, she'd noticed that the Tarahumara run downhill the same way they run up, with a controlled, steady flow. Jenn, on the other hand, loves to pound the descents. "It's the only strength I've got," she says, "so I milk it for all I'm worth." So instead of exhausting herself by dueling with Herbolisto, she decided to let him set the pace for the climb. As soon as they reached the turnaround and started the long downhill, she broke out of the chase pack and began speeding off.This time, the Tarahumara let her go. She pulled so far ahead that by the time she hit the next uphill-a rocky single track climbing to the second branch of the Y at mile 15- 15-Herbolisto and the pack couldn't get close enough to swarm her. Jenn was feeling so confident that when she reached the turnaround, she stopped to take a breather and refill her bottle. Her luck with water so far had been fabulous; Caballo had asked Urique villagers to fan out through the canyons with jugs of purified water, and it seemed that every time Jenn took her last swallow, she came across another volunteer.She was still gurgling her full bottle when Herbolisto, Sebastiano, and the rest of the chase pack finally caught her. They spun around without stopping, and Jenn let them go. Once she was rewatered, she began pounding down the hill. Within two miles, she'd once again reeled them in and left them behind. She began mentally scanning the course ahead to calculate how long she could keep pulling away. Let's see ... upcoming was two miles of descent, then four flat miles back into the village, then-Wham! Jenn landed facedown on the rocks, bouncing and sliding on her chest before coming to a stunned stop. She lay there, blinded with pain. Her kneecap felt broken and an arm was smeared with blood. Before she could gather herself to try getting to her feet, Herbolisto and the chase pack came storming down the trail. One by one, they hurdled Jenn and disappeared, never looking back. Jenn landed facedown on the rocks, bouncing and sliding on her chest before coming to a stunned stop. She lay there, blinded with pain. Her kneecap felt broken and an arm was smeared with blood. Before she could gather herself to try getting to her feet, Herbolisto and the chase pack came storming down the trail. One by one, they hurdled Jenn and disappeared, never looking back.They're thinking, That's what you get for not knowing how to run on the rocks, Jenn thought. Well, they've got a point. Well, they've got a point. Gingerly, she pulled herself to her feet to a.s.sess the damage. Her s.h.i.+ns looked like pizza, but her kneecap was only bruised and the blood she thought was pouring from her hand turned out to be chocolaty goo from an exploded PowerGel packet she'd stashed in her handheld. Jenn walked a few cautious steps, then jogged, and felt better than she expected. She felt so good, in fact, that by the time she reached the bottom of the hill, she'd caught and pa.s.sed every one of the Tarahumara who'd jumped over her. Gingerly, she pulled herself to her feet to a.s.sess the damage. Her s.h.i.+ns looked like pizza, but her kneecap was only bruised and the blood she thought was pouring from her hand turned out to be chocolaty goo from an exploded PowerGel packet she'd stashed in her handheld. Jenn walked a few cautious steps, then jogged, and felt better than she expected. She felt so good, in fact, that by the time she reached the bottom of the hill, she'd caught and pa.s.sed every one of the Tarahumara who'd jumped over her."BRUJITA!" The crowd in Urique went crazy when Jenn came racing back through the village, b.l.o.o.d.y but smiling as she hit the twenty-mile mark. She paused at the aid station to dig a fresh goo out of her drop bag, while a deliriously happy Mama t.i.ta dabbed at Jenn's gory s.h.i.+ns with her ap.r.o.n and kept shouting " The crowd in Urique went crazy when Jenn came racing back through the village, b.l.o.o.d.y but smiling as she hit the twenty-mile mark. She paused at the aid station to dig a fresh goo out of her drop bag, while a deliriously happy Mama t.i.ta dabbed at Jenn's gory s.h.i.+ns with her ap.r.o.n and kept shouting "Cuarto! Estas en cuarto lugar!""I'm a what? A room?" Jenn was halfway out of town again before her rickety Spanish let her figure out what Mama t.i.ta was talking about: she was in fourth place. Only Scott, Arnulfo, and Silvino were still ahead of her, and she was nibbling steadily at their lead. Caballo had picked her spirit name perfectly: twelve years after Leadville, the Bruja was back with a vengeance.But only if she could handle the heat. The temperature was nearing 100 degrees just as Jenn was entering the furnace-the jagged up-and-down climb to the Los Alisos settlement. The trail hugged a sheer rock wall that plunged and soared and plunged again, gaining and losing some three thousand feet. Any of the hills in the Los Alisos stretch would rank among the hardest Jenn had ever seen, and there were at least half a dozen of them, strung one behind the other. The heat s.h.i.+mmering off the rocks felt as if it was blistering her skin, but she had to stick tight to the canyon wall to avoid slipping off the edge and into the gorge below.Jenn had just reached the top of one of the hills when she suddenly had to leap against the wall: Arnulfo and Silvino were blazing blazing toward her, running shoulder to shoulder. The Deer hunters had taken everyone by surprise; we'd expected the Tarahumara to haunt Scott's heels all day and then try to blast past him at the finish, but instead, the Deer hunters had pulled a fast one and jumped out first. toward her, running shoulder to shoulder. The Deer hunters had taken everyone by surprise; we'd expected the Tarahumara to haunt Scott's heels all day and then try to blast past him at the finish, but instead, the Deer hunters had pulled a fast one and jumped out first.Jenn pressed her back against the hot rock to let them pa.s.s. Before she had time to wonder where Scott was, she was leaping back against the wall again. "Scott is running up this G.o.dd.a.m.n thing with the most intensity I've ever seen in a human being," Jenn said later. "He's booking booking, going, 'Huh-Huh-Huh-Huh.' 'Huh-Huh-Huh-Huh.' I'm wondering if he's even going to acknowledge me, he's so in the zone. Then he looks up and starts screaming, 'Yaaaah, Brujita, I'm wondering if he's even going to acknowledge me, he's so in the zone. Then he looks up and starts screaming, 'Yaaaah, Brujita, whooooo whooooo!'"Scott stopped to brief Jenn on the trail ahead and let her know where to expect water drops. Then he quizzed her about Arnulfo and Silvino: How far ahead were they? How did they look? Jenn figured they were maybe three minutes out and pus.h.i.+ng hard."Good," Scott nodded. He swatted her on the back and shot off.Jenn watched him go, and noticed he was running on the very edge of the trail and sticking tight to the turns. That was an old Marshall Ulrich trick: it made it harder for the guy in the lead to glance back and see you sneak up from behind. Scott hadn't been surprised by Arnulfo's big move after all. The Deer was hunting the hunters."Just beat the course," I told myself. "No one else. Just the course."Before I tackled the climb to Los Alisos, I stopped to get myself under control. I ducked my head in the river and held it there, hoping the water would cool me off and the oxygen debt would snap me back to reality. I'd just hit the halfway point, and it had only taken me about four hours. Four hours, for a hard trail marathon in desert heat! I was so far ahead of schedule, I'd started getting compet.i.tive: How hard can it be to pick off Barefoot Ted? He's got to be hurting on those stones. And Porfilio looked like he was struggling.... How hard can it be to pick off Barefoot Ted? He's got to be hurting on those stones. And Porfilio looked like he was struggling....Luckily, the head-dunking worked. The reason I was feeling so much stronger today than I had on the long haul over from Batopilas, I realized, was because I was running like the Kalahari Bushmen. I wasn't trying to overtake the antelope; I was just keeping it in sight. What had killed me during the Batopilas hike was keeping pace with Caballo & Co. So far today, I'd only competed against the racecourse, not the racers.Before I got too ambitious, it was time to try another Bushman tactic and give myself a systems check. When I did, I noticed I was in rougher shape than I'd thought. I was thirsty, hungry, and down to just half a bottle of water. I hadn't taken a leak in over an hour, which wasn't a good sign considering all the water I'd been drinking. If I didn't rehydrate soon and get some calories down my neck, I'd be in serious trouble in the roller coaster of hills ahead. As I started slos.h.i.+ng the fifty yards across the river, I filled the bladder of my empty hydration pack with river water and dropped in a few iodine pills. I'd give that a half hour to purify, while I washed down a ProBar-a chewy raw-food blend of rolled oats, raisins, dates, and brown rice syrup-with the last of my clean water.Good thing I did. "Brace yourself," Eric called as we pa.s.sed each other on the far side of the river. "It's a lot rougher up there than you remember." The hills were so tough, Eric admitted, that he'd been on the verge of dropping out himself. A bad-news burst like that could come across as a punch in the gut, but Eric believes the worst thing you can give a runner midrace is false hope. What causes you to tense up is the unexpected; but as long as you know what you're in for, you can relax and chip away at the job.Eric hadn't exaggerated. For over an hour, I climbed up and down the foothills, convinced I was lost and on the way to disappearing into the wilderness. There was only one trail and I was on it-but where the h.e.l.l was the little grapefruit orchard at Los Alisos? It was only supposed to be four miles from the river, but I'd felt as if I'd covered ten and I still couldn't see it. Finally, when my thighs were burning and twitching so badly I thought I was going to collapse, I spotted a cl.u.s.ter of grapefruit trees on a hill ahead. I made it to the top, and dropped down next to a group of the Urique Tarahumara. They'd heard they were disqualified and decided to cool off in the shade before walking back to the village."No hay problema," one of them said. It's not a problem. "I was too tired to keep going anyway." He handed me an old tin cup. I scooped into the communal one of them said. It's not a problem. "I was too tired to keep going anyway." He handed me an old tin cup. I scooped into the communal pinole pinole pot, giardia be d.a.m.ned. It was cool and deliciously grainy, like a popcorn Slushee. I gulped down a cupful, then another, as I looked back at the trail I'd just covered. Far below, the river was faint as fading sidewalk chalk. I couldn't believe I'd run here from there. Or that I was about to do it again. pot, giardia be d.a.m.ned. It was cool and deliciously grainy, like a popcorn Slushee. I gulped down a cupful, then another, as I looked back at the trail I'd just covered. Far below, the river was faint as fading sidewalk chalk. I couldn't believe I'd run here from there. Or that I was about to do it again.----"It's unbelievable unbelievable!" Caballo gasped.He was slick with sweat and bug-eyed with excitement. As he struggled to catch his breath, he sluiced sweat off his dripping chest and flung it past me, the shower of droplets sparkling in the blazing Mexican sun. "We've got a world-cla.s.s event going on!" Caballo panted. "Out here in the middle of nowhere!"By the forty-two-mile mark, Silvino and Arnulfo were still ahead of Scott, while Jenn was creeping up behind all three. On her second pa.s.s through Urique, Jenn had dropped into a chair to drink a c.o.ke, but Mama t.i.ta grabbed her under the arms and hauled her to her feet."Puedes, carino, puedes!" t.i.ta cried. You can do it, sweetie! t.i.ta cried. You can do it, sweetie!"I'm not dropping out," Jenn tried to protest. "I just need a drink."But t.i.ta's hands were in Jenn's back, pus.h.i.+ng her back into the street. Just in time, too; Herbolisto and Sebastiano had taken advantage of the flat road into town to move back within a quarter mile of Jenn, while Billy Bonehead had broken free of Luis to move within a quarter mile of them. them."This is anybody's day!" Caballo said. He was trailing the leaders by about a half hour, and it was driving him batty. Not because he was losing; because he was in danger of missing the finish. The suspense was so unbearable, Caballo finally decided to drop out of his own race and cut back to Urique to see if he could get there in time for the final showdown.I watched him run off, desperate to follow. I was so tired, I couldn't find my way to the skinny cable bridge over the river and somehow ended up under it, forcing me to splash through the river for the fourth time. My soaked feet felt too heavy to lift as I shuffled through the sand on the far side. I'd been out here all day, and now I was at the bottom of that same endless Alpine climb I'd almost fallen off this morning when I'd gotten spooked by the dead snake. There was no way I'd get down before sunset, so this time, I'd be stumbling back in the dark.I dropped my head and started trudging. When I looked up again, Tarahumara kids were all around me. I closed my eyes, then opened them again. The kids were still there. I was so glad they weren't a hallucination, I was almost weepy. Where they'd come from and why they'd chosen to tag along with me, I had no idea. Together, we made our way higher and higher up the hill.After we'd gone about half a mile, they darted up a nearly invisible side trail and waved for me to follow."I can't," I told them regretfully.They shrugged, and ran off into the brush. "Gracias!" I rasped, missing them already. I kept pus.h.i.+ng up the hill, shambling along at a trot that couldn't have been faster than a walk. When I hit a short plateau, the kids were sitting there, waiting. So I rasped, missing them already. I kept pus.h.i.+ng up the hill, shambling along at a trot that couldn't have been faster than a walk. When I hit a short plateau, the kids were sitting there, waiting. So that's that's how the Urique Tarahumara were able to break open such big leads. The kids hopped up and ran alongside me until, once again, they vanished into the brush. A half mile later, they popped out again. This was turning into a nightmare: I kept running and running, but nothing changed. The hill stretched on forever, and everywhere I looked, Children of the Corn appeared. how the Urique Tarahumara were able to break open such big leads. The kids hopped up and ran alongside me until, once again, they vanished into the brush. A half mile later, they popped out again. This was turning into a nightmare: I kept running and running, but nothing changed. The hill stretched on forever, and everywhere I looked, Children of the Corn appeared.What would Caballo do? I wondered. He was always getting himself into hopeless predicaments out here in the canyons, and he always found a way to run his way out. I wondered. He was always getting himself into hopeless predicaments out here in the canyons, and he always found a way to run his way out. He'd start with easy He'd start with easy, I told myself. Because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then he'd work on light. He'd make it effortless, like he didn't care how high the hill is or how far he had got to go- Because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then he'd work on light. He'd make it effortless, like he didn't care how high the hill is or how far he had got to go-"OSO!" Heading toward me was Barefoot Ted, and he looked frantic."Some boys gave me some water and it felt so cold, I figured I'd use it to cool down," Barefoot Ted said. "So I'm squirting myself all over, spraying it around ..."I had trouble following Barefoot Ted's story, because his voice was fading in and out like a badly tuned radio. My blood sugars were so low, I realized, I was on the verge of bonking."... and then I'm going, 'c.r.a.p, oh c.r.a.p, I'm out of water-'"From what I could make out from Barefoot Ted's yammering, it was maybe a mile to the turnaround. I listened impatiently, desperate to push on to the aid station so I could chow down an energy bar and take a break before tackling the final five miles."... So I tell myself if I've got to pee, I'd better pee into one of these bottles in case I'm down to the last, you know, the last of the last. So I pee into this bottle and it's like, orange. orange. It's not looking good. And it's It's not looking good. And it's hot. hot. I think people were watching me pee in my bottle and thinking, 'Wow, these gringos are really tough.'" I think people were watching me pee in my bottle and thinking, 'Wow, these gringos are really tough.'""Wait," I said, starting to understand. "You're not drinking p.i.s.s?""It was the worst! worst! The worst-tasting urine I've ever tasted in my entire life. You could bottle this stuff and sell it to bring people back from the dead. I know you can drink urine, but not if it's been heated and shaken in your kidneys for forty miles. It was a failed experiment. I wouldn't drink that urine if it was the last liquid on planet Earth." The worst-tasting urine I've ever tasted in my entire life. You could bottle this stuff and sell it to bring people back from the dead. I know you can drink urine, but not if it's been heated and shaken in your kidneys for forty miles. It was a failed experiment. I wouldn't drink that urine if it was the last liquid on planet Earth.""Here," I said, offering the last of my water. I had no idea why he hadn't just gone back to the aid station and refilled if he was so worried, but I was too exhausted to ask any more questions. Barefoot Ted dumped his whiz, refilled his bottle, and padded off. Odd as he was, there was no denying his resourcefulness and determination; he was less than five miles from finis.h.i.+ng a 50- 50- mile race in his rubber toe slippers, and he'd been willing to drink bodily waste to get there. mile race in his rubber toe slippers, and he'd been willing to drink bodily waste to get there.Only after I arrived at the Guadalupe turnaround did it finally penetrate my woozy mind why Barefoot was dry in the first place: all the water was gone. All the people, too. Everyone in the village had trooped into Urique for the postrace party, closing up the little shop and leaving no one behind to point out the wells. I slumped down on a rock. My head was reeling, and my mouth was too cottony to let me chew food. Even if I managed to choke down a few bites, I was way too dehydrated to make the hour-long run to the finish. The only way to get back to Urique was on foot, but I was too wasted to walk."So much for compa.s.sion," I muttered to myself. "I give something away, and what do I get? Screwed."As I sat, defeated, my heavy breathing from the hard climb slowed enough for me to become aware of another sound-a weird, warbling whistle that seemed to be getting closer. I pulled myself up for a look, and there, heading up this lost hill, was old Bob Francis."Hey, amigo," Bob called, fis.h.i.+ng two cans of mango juice out of his shoulder bag and shaking them over his head. "Thought you could use a drink."I was stunned. Old Bob had hiked five miles of hard t

Born To Run Part 2

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Born To Run Part 2 summary

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