Over the span of 100 miles traversed on foot a lot can happen, many speak of hallucinations, transcendence, pain, suffering, and enlightenment. But what I'd like to speak to you about today in discussing my 2018 Arkansas Traveller is an experience I had with what I would consider a close friend, whose name just so happens to be @ultrarunningmemes.
It all started 4 months ago, specifically at mile 99.8 of the Mohican Trail 100. See for the month leading up to Mohican I had been listening on heavy rotation to Judy Kuhn's 1995 recording of Colors of the Wind, featured in the animated film Pocahontas. The song won the Oscar that year for best original song. In short, the song is, as one would say, woke as fuck. And it pains my brain to even contemplate the absolute shit show we find ourselves in these days when that song won best fucking original song in 1995. As in TuPac was still alive 1995. But I digress. Anyway, my lovely wife, knowing that this song is, in fact, my jam starts blasting it as I approach the finish line. What a moment. I collapse after crossing the line and lay there prostrate. That is where this story begins.
As is the case with most 100 mile finishes the next 30 to 45 minutes are a total blur, I'm so fucking hot and the temperature is very warm as well, at some point I distinctly remember a man walking up to me wearing a bright orange ski mask. Everyone tells me I was hallucinating, but believe you ducking me he was there, with a half burnt cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He walked up said he liked my song and congrats on the finish. I remember saying thank you then he handed me a coupon for what looked to be pizza rolls and a business card. The card simply read Daddy Memes and on the back @ultrarunningmemes. A few days pass and I decide it's time to learn more about the masked man. It turns out Mr.Meme's runs a fairly successful meme company, crafting memes of variable dankness out of a small seasonal Yurt outside of Durango, California. No one has ever slid into those DMs faster than I on Daddy Memes. This dude has been everywhere, done everything. We Facetimed once and at his yurt were Anton Kuprika and Timothy Olsen doing an ayurvedic gel making class. Another time he texted me a picture with he and Kilian doing a seltzer mile in the Maldives with Nicholas Cage (Cage was pacing). Like I said, this dude is EVERYWHERE. Anyway about five weeks before Traveller, I get a message from Daddy Meme's that simple says "show me the colors of the wind, and I will be at Camp Ouachita." So diligently for five weeks, I encouraged him to come to Traveller to run the hidden pine trails of the forest and to taste the sun sweet berries of the earth.
Fast forward to October 5th, I'm so late to show up I miss the prerace briefing and barely get to take pictures with all the beautiful people. I'm there about 20 minutes but Mr.Meme's is not to be found. I check my DM's and sure enough there's a message, said he had to bug out at about 1 to get a long run in before the morning. He asked if I wanted to hit up this Bikram Yoga class at 8 with these randos he met. I'm thinking who the hell is this guy? I tell him I need to hit the hay and I'll see him in the morning.
It's nice a morning when I wake up the next day, my mother in law got this dope ass air bnb just down the road. I eat some granola, take a glorious poop, and head out the door with Tattooed Matt, who's pacing me later that night and my wife Shannon, who's just kind of awesome in general. Get to the start, grab my bib, drop my bags, hug Kurt for probably 30 seconds longer than standard, and talk strategy with fellow Last Horse Runners Matt and Kristin. Oh yeah, Mark was there too but I'm pretty sure at this point he was locked in the shiter. Seriously, that happened. We toe the line and no Daddy Meme's, maybe the Bikram got to him I'm thinking. 5...4...3....2...1, A shot gun blasts into the sky and who the fuck is standing next to Matt, Kristin, and I? @ultrarunningmeme's in the flesh. Now let me just paint this picture for you. Ultrarunningmeme's never shows his face, I assume it's a dude based off height, figure, and voice but honestly that not even a good measure. Today at Traveller he's wearing a black ski mask, again with a half burnt cigarette out his mouth. His gear, fucking epic, includes shit you've never even heard of. It's like a test rig for the next 5 years of ultrarunning tech. His arm sleeves are hydration bladders, he wears Solomon SP-Lab almost everything, half the stuff still had the tags on it. Yeah I said SP, that stuff cannot even be purchased, I looked it up. The shoes he's wearing look to be some kind of Hoka Altra hybrid with a wide toe box, zero drop offset, amazing venting, nice fit in the middle and a smart heel counter. He says they're called the Holtra Lone Goats and they don't come out until 2020 after the Hoka Altra merger gets past congress. These babies also have 600 lumen LED lights coming out the front of them, so there is no need for a headlamp. The brightness of his shoes make it look like there is no one running in them. Boom. The gun goes off and there are a million emotions. Meme's, Kristin, Matt and myself match Meme's pace, a foolish blistering 8:30 mile. Dude is still puffin that cig. Kristin smartly peels off but Matt and I are caught up in Daddy Meme's gravitas.
The race itself settles down after the first 5 miles, we head out onto the Ouachita Trail after the first aid and somehow we are completely alone on the trail. No one is around. Naturally we start to ask some questions.
Last Horse Runners (LHR): Hey Meme's, we noticed you didn't grab anything at the aid station, what's your nutrition plan for the day?
Ultrarunningmemes (URM): Nutrition is really just a state of mind. I commune often with the symbiotic bacteria in my gut and it tells me what I need to sustain performance.
LHR: So like a gel an hour, or are you doing Tailwind?
URM: When I invented tailwind it was illegal in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
LHR: Cool, hey man where do you come up with all of those meme's you seem to be really on the pulse.
URM: Did you know that Picasso originally included one to two lines of text in size 12 Arial Font with each of his paintings?
LHR: I did not know that, is that true?
URM: Are we really talking about what's true now, it before fucking noon.
We didn't talk for the next hour or so, I could tell something was off, Ultrarunningmemes had always been really nice to us Last Horse Runners and I was somewhat confused by the tone. I figured maybe it was his run the night before, or the yoga sesh, or it being 88 degrees at 10 AM. We roll into Lake Winona around lunch time, Matt is having some back pain, Tattooed Matt gives him a rubdown that honestly is inappropriate for this page's readership. I glance across the way as I pound some rice milk and a Tofurky sandwich to see Kurt running the wrong way out of the aid station, that's so Kurt. Because I am a great friend I decide to bail on Matt entirely and head back out on the course. As I'm leaving the aid station I see Memes on his laptop next to the tent, he's changed all of his clothes and now looks to be wearing Crocs and very formfitting compression shorts (you can see his johnson). When I roll up I ask if he's coming back out, he pops outta the chair and simply says, "I needed the 'dines."
We run together just chit chatting for a bit and wind up catching up with Kurt before the aid station at Bahama Mama. As we start talking it's pretty clear the day is not going great for any of us, for whatever reason we are about an hour behind our pace from the previous year and the thought of that is both humbling and problematic. It's going to be a squeaker all the way through. That's when things got weird.
Kurt: Why the fuck are we so slow?
URM: People work harder when conditions are worse.
Me: But conditions are better than last year.
URM: To be able to always have a super sense of who I was and my own real identity and be petty and seem informed and always thinking in thoughts would be great.
Kurt: Good point, but I'm not sure if that really applies here. Are you quoting someone, or is that just kind of something you say?
URM: It's not easy to articulate my tastes.
Me: How far are we from the next aid station?
URM: This was one of the places people told me to go.
Kurt: It's 2.1 to Bahama Mama, I think this ducker is quoting Jeff Goldblum.
Me: What? Really how do you know that?
Kurt: I have extensive knowledge of both Jeff Goldblum and quotes in general
URM: It's mysterious what attracts you to a person.
We pushed on and managed to get to Powerline about 2 hours ahead of the cutoffs. Meme's was in a bad way, I could tell he was struggling. Honestly, 50 miles of 90 degree Arkansas heat and humidity in a ski mask is going to have its effects on anyone. As we are climbing the hill into the aid station Meme's leans into the power hike, looking the strongest he has in a few hours. We get to the scenic over look and take a moment to take in the beautiful colors of the coming sunset, the stillness of the air, the quiet of the forest that only someone familiar with solitude knows. Then Meme's yaks all over the place, lays out a belch and simply says, "just trying to reset the stomach." We climb the final quarter mile into the aid and plop down on chairs. Everyone seems is good spirits, Kurt goes to change his socks and I start mixing some tailwind and grab a tee shirt and my headlamp for the night. That's when I hear it.
URM: So there's no fuckin grilled cheese?
Aid Station: Not yet but we have PBJ and some chips.
Now let me be clear here. This aid station is fully stocked. The volunteers at this race are phenomenal and the the stations themselves have saved me from certain death. Meme's attitude at this point can best be described as salty.
Aid Station: Would you like some ramen noodles?
URM: Are they vegan?
Aid Station: No, but we have vegan broth
URM: Why would I want vegan shit?
Aid Station: ....
URM: Ok, let me have 14 pizza rolls and I'll be outta here.
Aid Station: We don't have pizza rolls.
Meme's just turned around walked over to his drop bag and pulled out his laptop again. I stroll over, ready to get back on the trail. He looked up at me and I knew in his eye's he had accepted death's sweet release. I tell him, "some days you're just off." He looks me dead in the eyes and says, "And some days you're just meant to meme."
When I got back to Powerline 5 hours later, he was still there on his laptop, cranking out memes. He had the whole aid station laughing at this point and somehow, someway, three Costco bags of pizza rolls where sitting in trays under the tent. Daddy Meme's was in his element, it might not have been anyone's day out on the course that they planned but there he was meming for all of us. Digging deep into the recesses of the ultrarunners' psychological mix of self loathing and personal exploration. I heard he wound up hosting a runfie photo clinic the rest of Sunday up there at Powerline and that Rob Krar came to pick him up to go hit up a charity golf tournament. Sure it might not have been Ultrarunningmeme's best race day, but he was out there, quoting Jeff Goldblum from memory, he ran 50 some odd miles and made the world a funner place, all the while gatekeeping so we don't have to. I for one am happy to be considered his follower and will continue to be, until you know, he suggests that he is in favor of Trump era policy making, if and when that happens then fuck that guy.