A week ago I stood on the top of Hope Pass with Robert as darkness enveloped us. I had gotten to the top of the pass for the second time that day due in no small part to Robert, his limitless energy and endless positive spirit could take anyone up that pass. A true testament to Rob's passion and energy is that somehow as we were power hiking up the backside of Hope, keep in mind I had over 50 miles on my legs and felt terrible, he had me convinced to start climbing again! I can't remember exactly how it happened or what he said, but he made it sound like something I couldn't resist. Just below the pass I stood there while Robert put my headlamp on me and then guided me the rest of the way up. When we reached the top we paused both of us taking it in. He was in awe of the sight as much as I was. We stood there watching the line of headlamps making their way up the mountain as Rob took several pictures, loving every moment. One of the greatest things about Rob pacing me was he reminded me it wasn't about if I finished or not, it was about the experience. He reminded me to watch the sunset, to enjoy the views, and to celebrate how well I had done, not dwell on the fact that I was timing out. We talked and walked and ran and laughed for hours that night. One of the best nights of my life. It's not often in life you meet a person as genuine, positive and all around as really great as Rob. The kind of person who touches your heart and makes you a better person just for having known them.
Being a pacer is tough. You run the same miles, carry the gear, and find the trail all while staying positive, keeping your runner moving and healthy and for what? You don't get a medal or a buckle, your name isn't listed as a finisher, you don't even get a t-shirt, but yet every runner owes their buckle and their life to their pacer. They are truly the unsung heroes of ultras. Rob was everything you wanted and needed in a pacer. He put up with my whining, he kept me eating and drinking and most importantly he never let me quit. Before the race I told others Robert would keep me going kicking and screaming if he had to.
Rob practicing leading me out of Twin Lakes
Dan and I spent the week after the race convincing Robert he needed to make a go at running the Leadville 100 next year. He would be done climbing the 14ers so he could focus on running. With Rob's climbing ability and endless positive attitude he was made to be a successful ultra runner. I was already looking forward to toeing the line on 6th Street with Dan and Rob next August. Every day was filled with constant email chatter about the race a year away.
And then you're reminded why you need to run hard on each and every run. Why you never wait to tell someone thank you or I love you. Why you should live every moment as if this is all there is. Dan and I were out hiking with the boys when we got a call that while Robert was out hiking Hagerman Peak this weekend he was killed in a rockslide.
I know next year when I turn around at Winfield and begin the long climb back up Hope Pass Rob will be there with me, telling me how much easier this side is, pointing out the sunset, reminding me to drink fluids and keep running, and making me smile. And when I reach the pass I will once again pause, shed a tear or two, and then I'll smile knowing Rob once again was the unsung hero who pushed me to the top. Every time I see a line of headlamps in an ultra and every time I stand on top of a mountain I'll stop and think of Robert and his endless positive spirit. So raise a can of Dale's Pale Ale and a nutilla to Rob, truly one of the best people I have ever had the opportunity to call a friend!