When Alexis convinced me to come out of ultra-retirement and run the 40-mile Grand Traverse – a race that goes from Crested Butte to Aspen – with her last winter, this wasn’t how we imagined it.

This was to be her first ultra. My comeback from knee surgery. Two friends conquering the GT together!

I guess the universe had a different plan.

I woke up on race morning and got ready as normal. I had gone back and forth on whether to run, but I felt like I needed to. Carrie Jo and Puck and Bandit were here to walk me to the start.

All I had to do was make the time cutoffs. I admit I felt flat. Like I had nothing much to give to the race gods. Heavy legs. Heavy heart. Keep moving, keep eating. One mile at a time.

Around mile 8 a young guy passed me. Ultrarunners are a friendly group. “How you doing?” he asked. “Great!” I lied. He laughed and said “I guess it is a silly question this early in the race. I mean, if you aren’t doing great now you are in trouble”. BINGO I thought to myself.

I made the Star Pass cutoff, at 17.5 miles, with a decent cushion. Good. I made the Taylor Pass cutoff, at 23.5 miles, with a bit less of a cushion but still fine. I was secretly hoping for lightning, but the weather was unusually cooperative.

I had completely underestimated the final 17 miles. The two big climbs were over, but these 17 miles might have been worse. I should have remembered – I did the Grand Traverse ski nearly 15 years ago and it follows the same route – but I had clearly blocked it out. Steep ups. Steep un-runnable downs. One mile at a time.

In the last 5 miles the course drops over 3000 feet of elevation. It was a lot of slow downhill walking & sliding. I rarely say this at mile 35 of a race but I JUST WANTED TO RUN, damnit. There were tears. There were bad words. One mile at a time.

Alexis wasn’t there but she still got me through it. Every time I started feeling sorry for myself I thought about how she would give anything to change the past week and to be there with me.

You see, Alexis wasn’t there because on Thursday she got a phone call that shattered her world. Her parents’ small plane had crashed. There were no survivors. They were gone, just like that.

I cannot fathom what she is going through. All I know is my heart is broken for her.

It was an awful reminder that there are no guarantees in life.

One mile at a time.