NOTE: This is the continuation of parts I and II, published earlier in this week. Thanks for reading! ~Kyle
We would often wait until Gall was not working to do our longest and hardest runs. We’d often drive out to Manitou Springs and head up narrow, crushed gravel trails towards Pikes Peak. Every step we took brought us to a higher elevation so even easy-paced runs were not truly easy. Especially Scar: a jagged gash in Mount Manitou so steep no one really ran it, except us. Of course, it’s also officially off-limits to people. About one mile and a quarter—straight up. A 68% grade at its steepest. It followed the path of a kind of cable car railway that used to take folks up the mountainside, until 1990. It even took the Amigos an abnormally long amount of time to cover that mile plus. And Gall was a madman.
Scott Gall. Maybe 5’7-5’8”, muscular, military haircut, a budding “sleeve” tattoo encircling one deltoid, inspired by the drummer of his favorite band Rage Against the Machine. I’ve watched this guy microwave and then eat an entire steak one minute before we headed out the door at night for a fifteen plus mile run. This guy would fly up mountain trails faster than I could run on flat ground. It was crazy.
Butch, of course, would still be even farther ahead but Gall would close the gap best he could. After ascending for a few thousand feet, there would be no break as we would sometimes then turn and immediately begin descending a treacherously steep double diamond ski slope, minus the snow, covered with tons of rocks. My first thought: “How can he possibly expect me to run down this thing?!” My second thought: “I’m going to flip over headfirst and somersault my way down the mountain, ending with a broken neck.” My strategy: squat down and gingerly make my way down the slope. Gall literally ran this standing completely upright and at high speed.
It will probably come as no surprise that he soon also made the United States Mountain Running Team four times. He was the top American finisher at the Mountain Running World Championships in ’97 & again in ’99, when he placed fifth in the world. The next summer, Gall ran in the Olympic Trials Marathon on a very hot day in Pittsburgh. Much later, in 2009, Gall won the North American Snowshoe Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
One sublime day on the mountain, we ran up farther than I did at any other time. I got caught out by myself in a no-man’s land and no one was around. Finding myself within a totally different ecosystem, I was like an alien. I looked around at trees that only grew here, on the side of Pikes Peak. Various insects, small mammals, and birds—some of them only lived here, in this small place. Wildflowers sprouted on the hill side, well that’s what it felt like. It was actually the side of a mountain but from my miniature perspective, I was only seeing one square of the quilt. I could not see the larger picture of the entire mountain but I could see the pristine, clear stream flowing by me with water so clean, so cold, I could lap it up directly from my hand.
Eventually, I reconnected with Gall, Augsperger, & whoever else was with us that day, and we began a sprightly descent. This was a time when I somehow survived while not wearing glasses during runs. I have no idea how this was possible. I now wear my eyeglasses non-stop during hours when I am awake. I didn’t see a rock jutting up from the middle of the trail and tripped over it. The next thing you know, I was spinning uncontrollably over the side of the trail, which sloped down toward a forested ravine. Thankfully, I stopped before plunging into said ravine but not before I’d gashed open a sizable wound on the bottom-side of my left forearm. “I think I need stitches,” I told the guys. They just laughed. Someone (most likely Augsperger) said something about me crying too much and we drove home.
I did my best in the shower to clean the open wound but it was pretty well sliced open. I was fairly confident at least a few stitches were in order but was peer pressured into just slapping on a gauze bandage. With great thanks, I managed to avoid an infection and the wound closed on its own. I still have a nice scar there today to remember the run by.
And there’s this burning
Like there’s always been
I’ve never been so alone
And I’ve never been so alive
 Vail Daily, by Randy Wyrick 1/05/05. Accessed on 11/08/15.