Five years ago, Daniel Hamilton and I were hanging from the edge of a cliff. We were in the middle of the Special Operations Adventure Race and were pretty psyched because we were close to the front of the pack. Unfortunately, the rappel was up next and I'm not particularly fond of heights. I will rappel if I have to and as long as I don't look down or think about where I am, I'm okay. At the top of the cliff, the rope guy told me that there were a few bushes sticking out of the cliff wall, so I would have to navigate around them, which obviously involved both looking down and thinking about where I was. Fortunately, there were two ropes set up and Daniel was able to rappel beside me and help me navigate, while distracting me. Everyone looked at us funny as he addressed me as "Mrs. Davis," but I had both taught and coached him and habits are hard to break. The teacher/student team ended up doing well, at one point hanging out with the professional teams in the lead, searching the woods for a checkpoint that the directors forgot to put out.
Tony and I had "adopted" Daniel during his high school years. Okay, he already had a very nice family who took good care of him, but Daniel was not only a very talented runner, he also liked all the activities we liked as well. So we started training for adventure races with him, subjecting him to some serious torture, like making him struggle to paddle his white-water kayak in a straight line in the middle of a windy lake, carry his bike on his shoulders up mountain trails and having him sprint through thick knee-deep mud to punch our card. We did a couple of races together and then he was off to college.
We've heard from him from time to time and it was a nice surprise when he came and ran the last section of NMAR with me last year. Monday, he called Tony to tell him about a race he just did. Tony had lots of details for me (that's sarcasm). Daniel did some stage race somewhere, 20-some miles a day. Did really well, finished third. The third day was the hardest. He's running on some team. He hasn't been able to eat much since. He's going to email us more information.
Yesterday, while perusing blogs and awaiting the email, I looked at the Chattanooga Stage race results from this weekend and there he was. Third place overall with a total time of 7:46:28. For some reason, I was assuming it was a road race somewhere, not a gnarly trail race, but the trail race fits him much better.
When I talked to Daniel last night, he was still excited about his race. In typical modest-Daniel fashion, though, he wasn't sure if his times were good since he had never run such a race before. In fact, he had never run a race longer than a half-marathon, so running 18, 20, and 22 miles consecutively was a big step up. When he signed up for Chattanooga, he wasn't sure he'd even be able to finish the stages, but he did, with times much better than good.
Daniel just graduated from college and is going to PJ training for the Air Force next month. He said he didn't know if he was going to keep running (he had been running cross country and track for years), but his experience this weekend has turned him into a trail running addict, already searching for more runs. He's got the physical ability and the right mindset to do well at ultras and trail races. So, congratulations, Daniel! We're such proud parents. We're looking forward to watching you win some 100s down the road.
Photo by Jeff Bartlett