Following is an email interview of Pat (Patrik) Callis. Pat has participated in 19 Ridge Runs and has completed 18 – second only to Andy Pilskalns. Pat holds the men’s 60-69 age group record of 4:56 set in 2002.
Pat has generously taken the time to write up his answers to a few questions regarding his experiences with the Ridge Run. There is a lot of rich Ridge Run history that spills out from his answers. So enjoy this glimpse into Pat’s long term relationship with the Ridge Run.
Thanks to Jonathan Rulesh for the picture.
When was your first Ridge Run? Do you remember what motivated you to do it that first time? And what do you remember from that first experience?
I believe my first one was 1987 (it was the 3rd annual one). I was motivated by my long time acquaintance, friend, and colleague, Ed Anacker himself, although he did not actively prod me to do it. I did it out of respect for him, and to acknowledge that I thought that the BRR was grandly creative on his part. I planned to do it only once.
That morning was raining hard with strong wind, and all agreed that postponing until Sunday was the only sane course of action. That is all but Pat Caffrey, who, incidentally, had just published Climbers guide to Montana earlier that year. He had driven from NW Montana and had to get back early the next day. So Caffrey ran all by himself in driving rain and wind, taking just 8 hours (I recall hearing), which is some kind of record I would say.
The next morning was cold, and snow had fallen on the Ridge, but there was less wind and precipitation. The race was held, and conditions were not ideal, but bearable. For me personally, there was suffering due to insufficient training (nothing has changed there), but my “youth” carried me through in 6 hours. I remember the adrenaline during the plunge off Baldy and feeling strong at the finish.
At some point, did you establish a goal to be a multiple timer, or did the numbers just add up over the years?
I had no notion of running the BRR more than once to honor Ed. And there was nothing very rewarding about that first time that beckoned me back. That happened sometime during the winter, when a feeling from deep within—a kind of warm, smiling feeling—slowly took on the form of a conscious decision to go again. As I got the hang of it, there was much more enjoyment and generally I knew I would be going the next summer if possible. I would have done it every time except for conflicts with work or mountaineering that sometimes arose.
Are there any especially memorable Ridge Run years and associated stories that come to mind that you would like to tell?
There was a unique year for me, 2002, when I at the age of 64, accidently hit upon a heretical training “plan” (actually a non-plan) that led to setting the age group record. Briefly, here are the ingredients: 1) I was not focused on the Ridge Run at all. My sights were rigidly set on a run/climb with a couple of mad men, Paul Sturman and Tom Kalakay who along with myself had hatched a plan to make a one day trip from the Pine Cr. trailhead over Black Mt. and along an ill-defined crest that lead eventually would lead up the NE Ridge of Mt. Cowan and down past Elbow Lake to the Mill Cr. trailhead—all in a day (we hoped). The agreed-upon date was one week before the Ridge Run. 2) Maps indicated that this would likely entail ~25 miles and ~10,000 – 12000 ft of total vertical elevation gain. Given the isolation of this route, I became concerned whether I could even do that. So, 2 weeks prior to the Ridge Run, I forced myself to do Baldy twice in a continuous manner (~ 18 mi and 8000 vertical), with a result that suggested that my younger comrades would not have to spend the night out on my behalf. The Pine Cr.-Mill Cr. caper turned out to be a wonderful 18 hour adventure, but that is another story.
Naturally with that two-week “tapering” period, I had no expectations other than just hoping to finish the Ridge the following weekend, yet my time was the best I had managed since 6 years before or since–and I felt good at the end. Go figure.
Another especially memorable event was 1992 when Bob Frey was Director for the first time. As we gathered at 5 am at the M parking area, a violent cold front was racing across the Valley, complete with lightning, thunder, high winds and some rain. To hold the race in such conditions seemed reckless even by Ridge Run standards. I remember trying to talk Bob into postponing the event until the next day. But he had cleverly obtained a detailed aviation weather report, which indicated that there was a massive temperature inversion, and that the weather was warm and calm up on the ridge. I was skeptical. Who ever heard of temperature inversions in August during a storm? But it was true. I recall a wonderful run in calm cool (but not at all cold) weather with fabulous views of mist-cloaked ridges and valleys. As we descended off Baldy, to our amazement the air got colder and moister the lower we went—not a bad thing at all at that time of day. Thanks Bob for that great decision and a most delightful BRR.
Are you going to keep doing the Ridge Run? If so, what inspires you to still participate? Or do you foresee a time when enough is enough?
In the last several years my endurance and time (desire?) to train have decreased much faster than I can accurately anticipate. It seems no matter how slow I think I am going, my body has some unpleasant ways of telling me that it is not slow enough. Nevertheless, at present I still have optimism about continuing for the next few years.
Based on your years of experience, what words of wisdom will you share with those that may have a longevity goal of doing the Ridge Run for many years to come?
Just keep listening for that inner voice that beckons.
Further Reflections of Pat’s:
What many may not realize is that in the early BBR runs, there were no flags, red paint, or the like. If you did not find the right route in the fog on your own, you could get lost and lose enormous chunks of time (which tended to make people angry). Selfishly and secretly, I liked this because I considered that part of the game, and had good instincts about where to go. I fully understand why this is impractical in the present context, but thought that might be interesting to hear.
Finally, let me express my deep appreciation to the very many people who have devoted thousands of man-hours of support over the years, and to the terrific organizational skills and dedication of the planners and directors.
I can personally testify to Pat’s cleverness on route finding. During a Ridge Run in the early 1990’s, I had reached the summit of Sacajawea well ahead of Pat. The route across the face of Sacajawea and down to the foothill trail was not well defined back then – more like a free for all or free fall. I just followed the route taken by those that were ahead of me. Imagine to my surprise when after reaching and then running along the foothill trail for a short ways, Pat descends from above down onto the trail well in front of me!