By Gordon Wright
Leave a wet tee-shirt or a soaked pair of shoes out in the high-country Colorado sunshine, and you can almost watch the damp get scorched into vapor. The air is so thin, the solar radiation so intense, that anything left outside in mid-day for, say, seven hours turns into a desiccated, crumpled, arid shell.
Unless, maybe, you’re Tamara Cartwright and you’re running a dream. Today, Tamara teamed with Dean Karnazes for Stage Five of the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run, and rather than collapse into a hyperthermic puddle at the finish, she sprinted in, slapping high-fives the whole way and, improbably, thanked everyone around her in a bubbling display of glee.
Sure, it took Karnazes and Cartwright seven-plus hours to cover the 24 miles, but few have done it with as much equanimity. Karnazes, don’t forget, won the Badwater Ultramarathon, a scorching 135-mile sufferfest, so 24 miles on a mid-90s day doesn’t really rock his boat. And Cartwright? She just likes being out here.
Last year, she supported her husband, Michael, as he and a teammate competed as the Porch Dogs in the 2009 TransRockies Run. So taken was she that she hired a coach and took up trail running herself.
“I just knew I had to do it,” she said after tonight’s awards show. She signed up for and completed each day of the Run3, which put her in the same field as Michael and his Porch Dog teammate, who are back for another heapin’ helpin’ of sufferin’. But Tamara also had the stellar luck to enter into the Run a Day With Dean experiment in social running and human patience. She got a slot, and thus punched her dance card for one more day here in the high Rockies.
This was a route that would have normally taken Karnazes four hours or less. When asked how it felt to nearly double the effort, shepherding a lovely, game, but far slower partner, he said, “Oh man, it was amazing. Tamara is awesome and we just had a great time really just talking, and hanging out with the other teams. It was a great day.”
This, folks, is not sandbagging — it’s the Karno experience. Every day, Dean lines up at the starting line for a rough run, each day with a different partner. Most, like Tamara, are fans of his. But everyone he comes across aren’t treated like “fans” (even as they make him pose for dozens of photos each day; even as hotel bell captains and shuttle drivers give him the hey-yo-Ultraman!) – to Dean, they’re simply boon companions and fellow runners.
“You have to write this,” commanded Tamara during our interview, “Dean is gracious, kind and supportive. What’s most impressive is all throughout the day, he chatted with folks and knew every one of their names. It proves that he genuinely cares, and he listens. It was just the most extraordinary thing. He helped me today in so many ways, and honestly, without him, it would have taken me nine hours. I’m just very proud. And very happy. ”
We couldn’t have written it better, Tamara.