Kyle’s Note: This is an excerpt of a draft from a chapter of my forthcoming memoir previously seen only by the hardy few who may have come across it on this site in February.
I will publish subsequent excerpts from the chapter over the following few days. Please share any thoughts with me and enjoy this largely untold story…
Gall-Wright-Busch: The Three Amigos. In 1995, they led ‘Bash in a sweep of the top five spots within a tough regional meet in Michigan. They did it while wearing tiny red shorts in a blizzard, charging through shin-deep ice water in places. They went on to place 3rd in the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship. The previous year they’d placed 4th in the nation. All three earned All-America status, meaning they each placed within the Top 35 runners at the national championship race. These guys were tough.
Sometime after graduation the Three Amigos moved out to Wyoming to train in the mountains at high altitude. They soon put out an open invitation for all current Wabash College cross runners to train with them out west during the summer months. I first took them up on this offer in the summer of ’98. For the first time, I touched down in Denver, Colorado’s new airport and was whisked away to Laramie, Wyoming. I vaguely remember my chauffeur being Roy Early, a very odd Wabash grad who’d also gone west along with teammate Jason Brant & his girlfriend. I’d be staying in a spare bedroom in that couple’s apartment.
My first day in Wyoming, I remember the independent vibe of a quiet, relaxed downtown. The abnormally wide neighborhood streets were lined with well-maintained homes. A group of us went into a shallow creek near downtown and any plan I had of maintaining a low-profile in cowboy country went out the window the second I got into that water. Swarms of the most aggressive mosquitoes ever encountered all landed directly onto my back and began sucking the lifeblood from me. As we attempted swatting away the aggressors, runners all around me began to shriek as they looked at my back: Masses of red welts covered me. “That’s the grossest thing I’ve ever seen,” someone said (possibly Early). Someone busted out a camera to record the moment for posterity. I had arrived—and embarrassed myself, yet again.
The memories are still clear and so many summoned at will, even more than seventeen years later: those cold, early morning drives in the back of someone’s truck (I really cannot remember whose—but was it Wright’s?) past the bucolic campus of the nearby University of Wyoming and outside town to train on the Happy Jack trail; walking over to Gall’s apartment, upstairs in a big white house, to visit with him and his exceedingly affectionate and accomplished running dog, Butch; all-you-can-eat taco nights at a nearby bar. I did not fully realize it at the time, but my training partners and I were living within a golden age of our running lives.
I never saw Wright much. I remember us having to whisper at around 8 p.m. in broad daylight while visiting the apartment where he was living. His dedication to running was such that he went to bed at a time on a perfect summer evening when other 20-somethings were just thinking of where to have cocktails. He needed to sleep early in order to be up around 0400 to train. He then had to rush off to a factory to be at work by something like 0630 or so.
I remember running with him at least once during my month in Wyoming. His long blonde hair flowed as naturally during the run as his stride. He seemed quiet to me, at least on that day. And he was known to be so strong, so tough, that I was nervous about attempting to engage with him. He exuded a competitive fierceness.
Jeremy Wright. He won the 1998 Pikes Peak Ascent in 2:26:48, beating guys who’d spent their whole lives at altitude as he grew up on the plains of Indiana. According to the Pikes Peak Marathon website, this is a race that has an elevation gain (start to summit) of 7,815 feet. The start is at 6,300 feet and the summit is 14,115 feet. Average grade of the Ascent is 11%. In 1999, Wright went back and won the Ascent in 2:18:32, beating the second place finisher from Boulder by nearly five minutes [Wright also finished 3rd at the Ascent in ’97 and 2nd in 2000]. He also won the Vail Hill Climb and many snowshoe races, which is a pretty big deal out west during the long winter months.
Everything he and Gall did was extreme—riding motorcycles fast through passes, carrying mountain bikes over their heads as they swam across a river—frigid water up to their necks, running straight up and down mountain trails so steep I thought for sure I’d break my neck when they brought me down one with them. It was no surprise to me that just a year or so after this, Wright made the United States Mountain Running Team. As written about in Running Times (5/01/05), he competed in the Mountain Running World Championships from 1997–1999 and 2002, racing in the CzechRepublic, Reunion, Malaysia, and Italy.
Part II on Thursday!