The other night I received a phone call that no one; parent, friend, sibling, coworker, coach or anyone wants to receive. It was Coach Oumama with the news of your horrible accident, I was devastated just like everyone else. I could picture your father as she told me, "Pat does not want you to be sorry for Colin but to remain positive and strong, that's what will get him through". At first I was consumed with details of the accident and your condition but slowly drift to my memories of you as a fifth grader.
To me you will always be that little fifth grader, the special one, the one with all the heart and talent. The one with a constant smile, a shyness, but drive in your eyes that turned your small physical presence in to one larger than life. It was so special to be a part of this time in your life, to have some impact and guidance, it gave me purpose and maturity. It was even more special to watch you race this year as a high school senior, to see that you had carried on with even more dedication and passion for the sport. While you have grown a few feet taller, legs hairy, and even a some teenage attitude you are still that little 5th grader to me.
Thousands have come together in prayer for you to recover. I read your parents updates daily, following the ups and downs of your condition, wishing I could be there. I can't imagine how tough it is on them but at the same time they are taking advantage of being able to hold on to their baby boy, something no teenager lets their parents do! You have brought people together as we wait for your eyes to again open, we will wait forever if we have to.
I have to say I'm not much of the praying type, but then again maybe I am- this is the story of my last run in the Sierra Nevada mountains, these places always give me energy and vivid thoughts and this time I send them your way, is that prayer?
I stare at the moon, tonight is a rare "super moon"- full and closer to Earth than normal, tonight I run through the night in your honor. My coach drops me off on a mountain pass between Reno and Lake Tahoe, its almost midnight but the air is still warm and the moon and stars capture all our attention. I gear up and ensure my safety, this mountain ultra trail running is bizarre to purists of the sport.
"See you in Reno tomorrow, sometime..." I set off along the Tahoe Rim Trail, a section of the 165 mile loop I know well enough to run at night, the moon is so bright I don't even use my headlamp. The trail is clear and sandy but not to difficult to run, the tan color of the path shines bright around my moonshadow and the angle of the bright light casts shadows off the few rocks I need to avoid. I climb higher and higher over the next five miles through forests and past waterfalls, carving windy single track and on to dirt roads that bring me to a ridge line now over 10,000ft high. I can see the city lights of Reno (primarily casinos), the entire rim trail surrounding the lake, and small cars along the highway now far below. My first summit, Relay Peak, is the highest along the rim trail at 10,338' but I want to get closer to the stars, my energy is still strong, legs fresh, and its too cold to stop.
I'm now bombing down technical trail, my headlamp still off, surely I'm not moving as fast as I think I am but the night adds a speed factor. My goal is to follow the ridge line to a second summit but I'm soon cut off from the path and am left descending a steep bowl of loose rocks. The moonlight continues to disguise itself, I have to turn and check that there truly is no car with its high beams behind me or another person with a light. I safely find my way to a trail junction, sometimes using the clearly visible North Star and the Big Dipper to keep going the right way. I am now familiar with my location, a saddle between Mt. Houghton and Mt. Rose where nine years ago I had guided a few boys your age on a trail run, during the day of course. Looking back at the steep cliffs of Mt. Houghton I decide it was a good summit to skip and begin a one mile long climb of 2000 feet to the summit of Mt. Rose.
The trail is a series of rocky switch backs slowly leaving the trees and becomes exposed on the backside of the mountain of bare rock. The higher I climb the more I wish you were with me to experience the moment, the more I think of how much you would enjoy this place, and the more upset and angry I become that you can't be here right now. By the summit I am cursing and questioning everything that has happened out loud, at what and to who I yell, I don't know. "Why?!"
On the summit I find a horseshoe shape wall of rocks that has built up over four feet high and provides a great wind block out of the cold air. After a moment of regrouping myself I take in the world below. Reno is off in the distance, colorful casino lights and houses still bright, the highway winds from the city up the mountain pass between Mt. Rose ski area and the true Mt. Rose summit where I stand. The ski runs and lifts are clearly visible and my eyes follow the highway over the pass to Incline Village and Lake Tahoe. The entire rim is jagged along the horizon with large snow capped California mountains and the lights from other cities like Squaw Valley, start of the Western States 100 mile ultra marathon. The moon drowns out the stars but they're still more impressive than what we get in Houston. Constellations, planets, and moving satellites fill the sky.
I stick my bright orange jacket on one of my hiking poles in the rocks and it whips and cracks like a flag as the sweat dries off in the wind. It's now two o'clock in the morning and I decide to sleep here, at 10,800 feet. After crawling into my sack of a bed I pull out my multi-tool and begin to carve your name into a flat stone. "Colin".
I wake around 5:30 to a burning red sunrise and the super moon just setting. After packing up in the cold I place your stone on top of the wall as if you were here on the summit with me. My fingers brush over the rough surface of the rock and your carved name. Before I run off, I speak to you to come back, open your eyes, and stay strong.
I will see you soon.
To all of the Thompson's, I send my love during this tough time.