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STORIES FROM THE TRAIL: Rick Ballesteros

As I've had some time to gather my thoughts about the Giddy Up Challenge and my experience, I am continually amazed by the timing of it all! As I look back and draw out a time line of how I got to this point, I can't help but smile at the craziness of it all. On April 1st I received a text message from my brother Eduardo asking if I would possibly be interested in "a running event over Memorial Day weekend in Idaho". (He knew that, at the time, I was training to run my first marathon.) I asked him for some more details about the event and after learning more about Rebecca and The Be Good Foundation, I immediately knew I wanted in! The next day I was registered for the Giddy Up Challenge. Over the next few weeks I continued to train and on May 1st I completed the "Revel Wasatch Limited Edition Marathon", then my longest official recorded run. A few days after the marathon I was approached by a friend who knew I was "a runner" (I still don't consider myself one😂) and asked if I would be interested in running with one of her friends for a long distance, endurance run he was doing down at the Grand Canyon. Again, I asked for some details about the run and after learning more about it (It was a run to raise awareness for mental health) I agreed to join. So, two weeks after running my first ever marathon, I found myself at the top of the Grand Canyon getting ready to run down the North Rim, across the Colorado River, up the South Rim, and then back again; a distance of 41.2 miles. I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I knew I wanted to try. 14 hours later I was back at the top of the Grand Canyon (on the North Rim) and I had completed my new longest run. Two weeks after completing my run through the Grand Canyon I was at the bottom of Bald Mountain preparing to start my attempt of The Queen's Full Everest, 9 gruling laps up to the top.



As I ascended Bald Mountain for the 7th time I hit a wall. Physically I was tired, my legs were cramping, my feet were blistered and I waswas hurting. I had been running for 19 hours, covering a distance of almost 50 miles and climbing just over 22K feet of elevation. Mentally I was exhausted, discouraged, and I was questioning why I was up on that mountain running in the middle of the night, all alone. That's when I broke. Physically, it took all I had to simply walk down the mountain (running was completely out of the question at this point). Mentally, I was fighting an internal battle of not wanting to quit but also wanting to be honest with myself and honoring my body if it truly was at it's limit. So many thoughts raced through my mind... Was I truly going to quit? Would everyone be disappointed? Would I be disappointed? I thought about my brother who had been at the bottom of the mountain supporting me with food, water, leg massages, and that damn drum he would pound on as soon as he could seen me coming down the mountain. How could I let all that effort just go to waste? I thought about Memorial Day and why I was even up on that mountain running in the first place. I thought about Kyle. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I had gone as far as I could go and that I had given it my best effort. I came to terms with that decision and felt that it was the right thing to do. So, feeling somewhat defeated, I made my way down the mountain. When I reached the bottom I took off my shoes, ate a quick snack and started walking back to the parking lot to get into my car and go find a bed! When I got to the parking lot I was surprised to see Rebecca's team. I was told that Rebecca was on her way and that I should at least wait to see her before leaving. I agreed and laid down on the pavement to wait. A few minutes later Rebecca arrived and we talked about what was going through my head. I explained that I gave it my best effort but that I truly didn't think I could do TWO MORE climbs! She gave me a hug, told me she was proud of me, and that if that was the decision I needed to make that she would support it. However, she also told me that she was going to climb up twice and that if I wanted to finish what I had started that I was welcomed to join.

I'm not exactly sure how or why it happened, but mentally there was a shift. Somehow I felt inspired and determined to finish. I laced up my shoes, refilled my water, and we made our way back to the base of Bald Mountain.


As we reached the last climb of my final ascent the reality of it all started to sink in. I was so close! 20 more minutes and it would all be over. A surge of energy rushed through my body and my legs felt stronger than ever. I climbed that peak faster than any of my previous attempts and somehow had the strength and energy to RUN to the finish. I reached the summit and collapsed. I had done it. I had summited Bald Mountain 9 times, climbing 29,756 feet of elevation.

A few moments later, Rebecca, my brother, and the rest of the crew joined me and I slowly began to realize what had just happened. What had seemed completely impossible just a few short hours ago had now been accomplished. That's when the tears came. I felt the full weight of the experienced and the tears just flowed. All the literal ups and downs of climbing a mountain, as well as the emotional highs and lows. I pictured myself on top of that mountain earlier that morning, cold, alone, in the dark, just knowing my legs couldn't possibly go any further. I remembered the feelings of doubt and disappointment. Feeling like a failure and a quitter. But I also thought of all the beauty I had witnessed as I ran through some of the most beautiful trails, forests, and peaks. I thought about all the support: the food, the drinks, the inspirational notes, the change of socks, the hugs, and cheers. All the wonderful people I met and bonded with throughout this experience. The question I've been asked the most over the last few months is "why?" Why am I doing these intense, some have called them insane, running events? Why do I willingly subject myself to these extremely difficult, and often painful, physical challenges? For me, the answer is simple. I run BECAUSE it is hard. Life is hard. Everyone, wether you see it or not, has their own challenges and difficulties that they are dealing with and trying to navigate. But what I have learned through running is that we are all capable of so much more than we tend to tell ourselves; wether that's in n life or in running. When I run I am able to find a strength within me that I sometimes forget is there.


As I sat on top of that mountain thinking about what I had just experienced, I thought about just how unbelievable it all was. How just a few short months ago I would have never dreamed I'd be on top of a mountain, having just completed the hardest race of my life. Again, I thought of Kyle. He was with me on that mountain. Kyle Allen Christiansen was in a fatal car accident on March 4th, 2021. When I think of Kyle the first thing that comes to mind is STRONG. I picture his larger than life stature and that commanding presence of his. I think of his relentless effort in all things. This challenge, this Everesting, this race, is dedicated to Kyle. I hope you know just how much you are loved. The reach and impact of your life is evident in the lives of the many people who have experienced the privilege of knowing you. Rest easy brother. _______________________________________

At the end of the run, Rebecca gave him her dad's military bracelet when he finished and they were sitting together at his finish on top. He is now wearing her dad's bracelet and says it was the most meaningful gift he’s ever gotten.





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