Day 31, Monday, October 19th
Columbine to the Wyoming Border
My mom- Cathy Desautels
My dad- Jeff LaBaw
My brother- Luke LaBaw
With the cold morning air brushing against my cheeks as I stepped out of the cabin, I took a big deep breath in, filling my lungs to capacity. As I exhaled tears started filling my eyes. Today was it. This was the last day. I wasn’t sure what the tears were from…happiness, pride, sadness, fear, exhaustion…maybe a little bit of everything. Taking a moment to acknowledge and accept the feelings, I stood on the porch staring at the grove of frosted aspen trees. I was lost in the moment, when all of a sudden Columbine Cabins started coming to life with the Move Mountains crew.
Tory and Vaughn starting packing up the truck. Marcus was gathering his camera gear. My dad had his truck warming up. Andrea, Shelly, Becky and Kylie came walking down the dirt path. My mom and Karla drove in with smiles on their faces. Dario had come in this morning as well. Art and LaVonne pulled up in their pick-up. Erin and her boyfriend, Kyle, were ready to go in their truck. Then all of a sudden a familiar face comes strutting up. Matt Hamblin was back (remember Marcus’ friend from the first 3 days that ran with me). He was there for the start and now was back for the finish. And finally, the local woman who had greeted me yesterday on the front porch was there with her crew of kids. In total, we had 26 people to start the last day of the run.
It was so amazing, so wonderful, so exciting…. So overwhelming. In fact, so overwhelming that I had to go back in the cabin for a second. Marcus was still in their collecting his gear and the moment I saw him, I just fell into his arms and laid my head on his chest. I can’t explain it, but all I wanted was to crawl back into bed and lay there so that this run never ended. I was so proud that we were about to accomplish what we had set out to do. I was so ready for my toes to have a break. But, I was so sad that in a few short hours when I hit the Wyoming border, this “event” I had worked so hard toward the last several months…planning, prepping, executing and now finishing… would be over. Just like that, in one step across an imaginary line, it would be over. Marcus just held me and let me cry. I know he felt a lot of the same feelings, but he held so strong (just as he always does when I need him). He didn’t have the camera in my face and for one of the only times this entire run, he got to be my boyfriend rather than the videographer. It was so important for both of us.
I collected myself and knew that today was going to have to start. We all piled in the vehicles and paraded to where we had finished the day before at Road 494. During the drive, the girls were chatting and I’m sure I participated in the conversation, but honestly don’t remember much of it. My mind was somewhere else. Part of me just wanted to be alone, so I think I was mentally putting myself there. I heard the rumble of the tires crossing the cattle guard and knew it was time. Big Blue came to a stop. I strapped on my hydration pack, took another deep breath and jumped out to take those first steps. Hugging everyone and saying our “I love you’s”… the final day was underway.
With 17 miles ahead of us, there was quite the crew to start running…Matt, the girls, the mom with her kids, Erin and myself. It was so fun to catch up with Matt and see how his last month had been. Since I saw him last, all I had been doing was running… he had been working and traveling and living his normal life. I was then slapped in the face with a bit of reality. While this has been all consuming for me, life goes on as normal for others. As my life is being drastically changed on a daily basis, people continue with their daily grind. It made my heart sink for a moment…I knew somehow, someway, when I get back to my “real life”, there is no way I can continue like I was.
Matt was full of funny stories, as always, that made the first couple of miles go by quickly. I learned my lesson since I saw Matt last though, I have to keep my pace. So this time, when he started to drop off a bit, I just kept going. The mom and her kids had also dropped off at this point. Their plan was to start with us and make it 2 miles to where her husband picked them up (which they conquered). Erin had jumped in with Kyle. The girls continued to trade between running, riding and driving again today. Their transitions seemed a bit faster…turns out they did some strategizing at the cabins last night. Throughout the mileage, we were again awed by the beauty of the landscape encompassing us. The sky was grey again but the air was warming quickly. We saw some breaks in the clouds that allowed for sunrays to fall down on the brown grasses, aromatic sage brush, and barren aspens. It was the perfect representation of the mix of emotions I was feeling… bright and sunny in some spots, empty and cold in others. As we continued down the dirt road we rounded a corner and stopped dead in our tracks as we were slapped in the face with a 30-acre lush green lawn in front of a colossal lodge supported with massive timbers and faced with beautiful stone. Smaller cabins lined the shore of the Little Snake River, but were obviously an addition to the ranch. This was it… this was where I had originally planned to finish but they had no openings and were WAY above my price range. That meant, in this surreal surrounding we were now just paralleling the Wyoming border until the road curved up to cross the line.
We continued down the road, passing expansive fields filled with cattle. Trucks with the Three Forks Ranch logo kept passing us. How big is this place? Turns out its HUGE! There fields upon fields upon fields. In this remote area of Colorado/Wyoming a group of bouncy-ponytailed girls, dressed in bright Reebok gear and running with a train of trucks behind them just didn’t fit in quite right. Cowboys already several hours into their work for the day would slowly turn their heads in confusion as we passed. But, like gentlemen, would lift the brim of their hats to give us respect.
Erin popped back in a time or two to join us running. Marcus occasionally would pull up on his bike. Matt was still running a couple miles behind us. He set out to run the whole thing today and he was going to do it. It was a team effort to finish Move Mountains. However, the last 2 miles, Becky did something I didn’t expect but so appreciated. She pulled Andrea and everyone else off the road with me and said, “Finish what you started girl!, You got this.” The respect I had for Miss Becky just grew to capacity. I know how much everyone wanted to be a part of this last day, and I was so completely honored to have them all there. However, for 31 days, this has been an internal battle. Without the support of each and every person that somehow was a part of this run, it wouldn’t have been what it was and I couldn’t have made it through. But Becky, did what I couldn’t. She asked for people to let me finish this running alone, with a sea of support right behind me. The moment that Andrea jumped in the truck with Becky, the tears started flowing. I couldn’t breathe. I kept moving forward, one step at a time but it seemed that every ache, pain, and trial was trying to hold me back. At the same time, every smile, encouraging word and accomplishment was pushing me forward. As in life, the positive overpower the negative if you let them. I kept moving forward. Marcus was there on his bike with a camera in my face. He was capturing the struggle to breathe, to keep composed, to take it all in. The struggle to decide whether to be happy or sad that I was almost done with the most impactful, most purposeful, most inspirational thing I had ever done in my life. He asked me what I was thinking about… I was thinking about Katie, Zayden, Sam, Brooklyn, Jim, Grace, Sophia, Gabby, John, Grace, Lydia, Anna, Ava Grace and so many more. The real heroes that pulled me through on days that I didn’t have the strength to do it myself. I was thinking about my mom and dad and brother and the strength they have had my whole life to show me what it means to be strong and to not let adversity knock you down. I was thinking about him, Marcus, and the courage he has helped me to find. I was thinking about Tory and Vaughn and how they selflessly gave up a month of their life to be a part of something so special to me. Then… I was thinking about me. I thought about the 8-year old girl that was “different”. I thought about the embarrassment of peeing my pants in front of my friends. I thought about the scary times I was leaned over the toilet in retching attacks. I thought about the girl inside of me that is still scared to completely let go and tell the world about my epilepsy. For the first time the entire run, I decided to run for her. It felt so good. She was being freed from the pain and the fear.
I looked back at Marcus and said, “I need my mom and dad.” He said they were coming and not moments later, I heard the roar of my dad’s diesel engine coming up. The red of his truck came into my peripheral. I heard him ask, “Is it okay if we ride next to you?” I looked up to my right and broke down. For the first time in 22 years my parents were in the same vehicle. That moment, made everything worth it. An expectation I didn’t have and didn’t know was even possible. I didn’t know this desire to have my parents together was still buried deep inside of me. I looked down at my watch, which read 17.3 miles… at least nothing changed on this last day… we were still off on mileage. It didn’t matter today though, I never wanted this moment to end.
Then, it happened. I saw the Colorado flag about 50 yards ahead and just past that, a tattered Wyoming flag suspended up on an arched tent pole that Karla and Vaughn were holding. The finish line. I stopped a few feet before the line, looked back and asked for my mom and dad to join me. With my dad on my left and my mom on my right we walked hand in hand under the archway, onto the Battle Creek bridge into Wyoming. I lost it. My mom and dad and I embraced and they just held me like they had so many times as a little girl.
My watch read 18.3miles for the day. It was over. I had just run 500 miles across the Colorado Rockies in 31 days. My body was tired, my mind was lost, my emotions were running wild and all I wanted to do was run back to New Mexico. I hugged everyone and thanked them for being there. I cried in Marcus arm as he held me so tight as my boyfriend and not as a videographer. I felt his sadness, I felt his pride, I felt his love. I hugged Tory and felt her tears on my cheek and mine on hers. Throughout this month she and I have become more than friends, we are sisters. I hugged Vaughn, just like I did every morning for the last 31 mornings and we both said our “I love you” one more time. I was surrounded by so many people that love me, support me and believe in me more than I do myself. And I had never felt so alone.
This was not what I had expected. I guess I didn’t know what to except, but this wasn’t it. I took a moment to walk away from the crowd, look up the hill at the ranch house that leant us the Wyoming flag. In my mind, all the hustle and bustle behind me when silent. I watched a hawk soar in the blue sky, I heard the babble of the rushing, I felt the dirt under my torn up shoes. I took a moment to take 3 deep breaths… Breathe in the good and breathe out the bad. Breathe in the good and breathe out the bad. Breathe in the good and breathe out the bad. I turned around to find everyone still there chatting and laughing and enjoying this monumental event. We did it!
I hobbled back to the bridge as my toes were regaining feeling. Time for one last icing of the feet in the creek. I took off my shoes, then my socks and laughed at what I saw. The toe that first started giving me grief on day 3, had just shed it’s nail. There was blood all over my toes and a dangling toenail that had hung on for hundreds of thousands of steps. I tore it off, tossed it in the creek and then soaked my feet with the girls. I couldn’t think of a more perfect ending for my feet.
We all packed our gear up in preparation for the drive back to the Steamboat. The ride back couldn’t have been better in my mind. In the same order that we crossed the finish line, my dad on my left and my mom on my right, we rode in the front bench seat of my dad’s pick-up reminiscing on what we had just accomplished and everything that went with it. About 1.5 miles from the finish line, we passed Matt who was still running. Art and LaVonne followed behind him. I wanted so badly to get out and finish that last bit with him, but my feet were toast and I was freezing. Shelly got out and crossed the line with Matt. Of the 500 miles, Matt completed 68.3 of them. Are you kidding me!?!? Such an honor and so dang proud of you Matt Hamblin!
We all met up at The Roadhouse again for a bite to eat. I devoured a burger and fries. We filled the bar with love and laughter before heading back into Steamboat for a quick shower and rushed to CrossFit Steamboat, where again they put on a big shindig. Although fashionably late, people greeted me with big smiles, hugs and high-fives. I got to share my story some more, hear other’s stories and be surrounded yet again by amazing people. I was surprised and beyond honored when I was approached by Geoff Pope, a former New York Giant and also co-founder of Athletes vs Epilepsy (of which I am too an athlete advocate). I knew there was a possibility he was coming, but hadn’t heard any more for several weeks. Geoff told me about his grandmother who had epilepsy and his passion for raising awareness. He then presented me with a plaque for my accomplishment from the Epilepsy Foundation. Of course tears streaming down my face again. He asked if we could get a picture together. Are you kidding me?? A pro football player was asking to get his picture with me? I naturally replied, well of course, as long as I can wear your Super Bowl ring. Oh man, that thing is heavy! Bling, bling!
The night wrapped up with Sarah Coleman giving another brief speech and presenting me with a generous gift full of Steamboat love. I then gave a lengthy speech and thanked everyone that helped make Move Mountains what it was. Then the talented Shelly Rollison, got on the mic and performed the song she had created just the night before. It was beyond beautiful and the perfect ending to a crazy, wild ride. My heart was full! “We can move mountains, together, today!”
- No matter how old you are, having your parents by your side makes everything better.
- There is no way to explain the mix of emotions to the bittersweet ending of the biggest thing you have ever done in your life.