When ultramarathoner and triathlete John Kelly of Rockville, Maryland (near Washington, D.C.) found himself in Vancouver on business this week, he made a point of catching up with his pal Gary Robbins, who took him for a bike ride. A bike ride of 100 miles, across the U.S. border and up Washington state’s Mount Baker.
They met some curiously knowledgeable border guards on their trip, as Robbins described in an Instagram post last night.
Sometimes, just sometimes, 4:00am alarms are worth getting up for. My first ever century ride, and with the perfect partner. Really fun to get to catch up with John Kelly outside of the Barkley, as he found himself in Vancouver for a work trip. He was able to free up a day, and though I can't run right now, I've been spending a decent amount of time in the saddle. John was able to borrow a bike, and he left the route choice up to me. I've always wanted to ride up Mt. Baker (Kulshan) and John said we might as well make it a 100 miles 😄 so I distanced it out to the Abbotsford airport. While crossing into the US, Border guard: "how do you know each other?" Us: "we met through ultra running." Him: "What's the furthest you've ever run?" Us: "135 miles." Him: "Did you order pizza to eat while you ran?" Me: "Ahh, you've read Dean's book, ultramarathon man." While crossing into Canada, Border guard: "you look familiar…are you that guy…that race…Barkley, that's it!" Me: "yes" as I point to John, "and he's the guy who ACTUALLY FINISHED the race that year! 😆" Fun times. A perfect day. 🚴🚵🌞☀️
Robbins and Kelly bonded as the final two Barkley Marathons participants left on the course last year. (They ran at least one loop of the 100-miler together, but the race rules prohibited them from teaming up for the final loop, which Kelly successfully finished, and Robbins did not.)
The Barkley has been captured in a number of documentaries, including Ethan Newberry’s “Where Dreams Go To Die” and Matthew Dorman’s “Endless,” which aired recently on TSN. Robbins was back at Barkley this year, but a night of torrential rain on the course conspired to end his race after completing three out of five loops of the notoriously difficult 100-mile course.
Incredible ride yesterday up Mt Baker with @garyrobbins. Tough climbs, great views, and awesome to spend time together on an adventure outside Frozen Head. I promised Gary I wouldn't post a picture making fun of him for needing a jacket (between a Canadian and a southerner, you'd think I'd have needed one first!), but for about 10 miles he promised me that the gas station with snacks was right around the corner. So we're even. 😉 One thing I can't make fun of him for, though, is needing to hang on to the back and draft – he absolutely did not need to and actually pulled me a number of times… just an incredible all around endurance athlete. Most of the time when I travel it's tough to get biking and swimming in, so huge thank you to Josh Chambers for the bike and Gary for planning the route! . . . #cycling #internationalride #goodcompany #adventure #exploration #runnersonbikes #mtbaker #mountains #century #training #swimbikerun #triathlon #endurancesports #fitness #teamemj
Kelly commented in his Facebook post how nice it was to spend time with Robbins “outside Frozen Head” (referring to Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park, site of the Barkley Marathons).
Crossing into the U.S. yesterday, Robbins and Kelly met a border guard who asked Robbins if he ordered pizza while running 135 miles. Robbins assumed he’d read Dean Karnazes’ book, Ultramarathon Man, though it’s more likely he’d seen Karnazes on Letterman, where he described ordering pizza on his cellphone in the middle of a very long run–guesstimating his location 30 minutes hence–and eating it while running.
On the way back, the border guard actually recognized Robbins from coverage of the Barkley. Apparently the chances of meeting a Canada/U.S. border official familiar with ultrarunning are higher in B.C./Washington than elsewhere.
Robbins is recovering from a stress fracture and not currently running, so he’s been doing a lot of cycling, for which Kelly was quick to give him credit.