When I got back home from Utah this past April, I was happy that I finished my first 100 miler. To this day I still think I could do better. I looked at the calendar and realised that with the recovery cycle, I didn’t have much time. I decided that a couple of things needed to change. First, I thought it was time to switch up the coaching staff.
I asked a fellow ultra runner, Mel (who kicked my ass at Zion), if she liked her coaches. If they had a spot I’d give them a shot. With a stroke of luck I had new coaches, Gary and Eric of Ridgeline Athletics. Just some guys from BC, right?
Next I started to prepare for the race. I knew that I’d need crew and pacers for sure. My dad said he’d be there to crew, same with my wife. It was a matter of finding some people I could sucker into flying across the country to run up and down mountains, and probably at night, so they get nothing in return; no spectacular views or anything. In the end, I was able to get Mel and Lucy to willfully agree to help me out with my adventure.
A week before the race, I get a Facebook message from Mel. She hits me with “I really don’t think I will be ready for pacing duties”. I shake. I lined this girl up thinking that she would bust my ass across the finish. Now it was looking like I’d have to figure out how I was going to do that to myself. I played it cool though, I finished our chat with “Let’s see how things go”.
Mel and I flew out about a week early on Gary’s advice. I certainly didn’t want to repeat the mistake of getting into a new time zone, then racing without adapting to the shift in time. When the two of us made it there, we hung out in Abbotsford, Vancouver, Chililwack, mostly walking around and discovering the beauty of the province. We also got a chance to meet Gary.
The Wednesday ahead of the race was an exciting day. My wife, Dad, and my second pacer Lucy were all showing up in Abbotsford. Mel and I picked them all up then headed to Manning Park resort making two important stops, lunch and then some grocery shopping.
We settled into the cabin at the resort and hung around the picnic table in front of the cabin. We all got to chatting. It was good to see that everyone would feel comfortable with each other while they were going to be spending a lot of time together waiting on me. While we were bonding, I noticed one of our neighbor’s was wearing a Canadian Death Race shirt circa 2013. I shouted over at him asking if he had done it solo or as a relay. He and his friend came over to our table and started chatting.
Brian who was wearing the shirt says “I am running the 50 mile, was supposed to do the 120 but I had an injury early on this year”
Ted is his friend and states, “I don’t care if I am DFL, Im gonna finish this one”. He was taking on the 120 miler.
“Dead Fucking Last!”
Thursday was the final day for prep. I focused my entire day on the small details; double check my gear, make sure I sign in, go to the UBC physiology testing, revise my plan, triple check my gear, go to the mandatory meeting, freak out, get nervous. I finalized my plan into queue cards. It was simple and followed the advice of Pam Reed, which was also echoed by Gary. Gary did give me a little more to work with of course. As my bed time approached the magnitude of what I was about to take on really started to sink in. I was frazzled to say the least.
I woke up Friday morning and I felt surprisingly calm. I may have apologized for my nerves the night before, if I didn’t, then here goes: “I’m sorry”. After having breakfast and getting my stuff together, my dad drove us to Ashnoloa River Road where the start of the race was. The day was beautiful. When we finally arrived at the start, I ate some more food and danced my nerves away. As the start time approached, I decided to join everyone at the start line. I signed in for the third time (they really want to make sure you are running the race) and walked down to the start with my dad trying to get me to pose over and over again. I’d turn around and allow him to take my picture, but all he’d get capture was my displeasure of having to pose for another picture. On the walk down to the start, I’d hear people yaking and joking about my pack. It was full, 3L of water, my emergency bivvy, my headlamp, my food, etc. Oh well, I guess I wasn’t cool enough? Whatever, I had a massive climb to start the race and I needed to get in the zone.
The race started and I was blown away by the number of people who literally shot up the mountain. There is no way that I would be able to run this whole thing with that kind of effort right from the start. Instead I moseyed my way up the first of four mountains. As I climbed, and climbed, and climbed, people kept passing me. I stuck to my plan, the first half could never feel like work. I kept my steps as slow and steady as possible. Even over exaggerating them so that my perceived effort was in fact very easy. This guy Tim, also from Ontario spots me and starts climbing with me.
“This is a pace I like” he says. So you’d think he would hang with me the whole climb right? Wrong. We aren’t even half way up and even he finds my pace to be too slow. Then, as if the universe is trying to tell me something, DFL Ted passed me, turns his head to me and says, “what are you doing back here?”
Fast forward to the summit. The trail is single track and looking out over the valleys makes the climb worth it. As we cross the top and start down, I am easily able to pass people since I spend no time calculating my next step. Like skier staring down a mogul field, I spot my line and trust my feet to effortlessly guide me down the slope. I held back enough so that my breathe wasn’t a conscious effort. I passed Tim while he was taking a pee break.
“Well you’re still light on your feet!” he says with what I took as a surprised tone. I thought to myself, I better be fuck sakes, I not even a quarter of the way through the ridiculous commitment of mine. The trail continued down where you crossed over steep slopes. Hit steep descents and ran along a stream, maybe two, or maybe it was the same one I saw it twice, whatever, too much to process.
I looked at my queue card, after hitting the first aid station I was already 15 minutes behind my target and it wasn’t looking good for my second target. Listening to Gary’s advice repeat in my head, I made sure that I didn’t put any extra effort to close the gap. When I entered the second aid station, my crew was waiting for me, I handed off my pack and my poles and hit up the aid station for some food. Bacon! Queso’s! Mars bars! I stuffed my face, and you’d think I’d be happy. I wasn’t, I was pissed off. I was 30 minutes behind my estimate of when I’d be there. I could help but think that I’d be DFL. Was I supposed to be ok with that?
Hastily, I made my way up the dirt road to begin the second climb. This time we’d summit Flat Top Mountain. The first 25 km felt good and I was happy to get going. All I could think of was that I’d probably not achieve 36 hours. So it was time to reframe what that meant to me. I had lots of time since this would be another slow climb. Even so, I was surprised when I’d pass some runner on the way up. That said, I was still being passed by more people than I was passing.
I caught up to a girl named Brandi who passed me earlier on the climb up Flat Top, she was putting her jacket on, it really hadn’t crossed my mind, but I guess it was cooling off . We started our small talk and covered the normal subjects. It was pretty ironic seeing as she just had pointed out that being from a cold climate I’m probably suited to run in the hail.
Did I forget to mention that? 10 minutes (or so) into my climb, I started to hear the rumble of thunder. Shortly after that I’d get a glimpse of lightning. I’d count, one, two, three… hoping for a long count. Apparently that means the storm is far away? Short count. As I passed Brandi the wind picked up and before you knew it there was hail, falling burned out trees, the whole lot. Once the hail turned to wet snow blobs, I decided that it was time to get into my cold and wet weather gear. All you folks that laughed at me for having a lot in my pack, you can stop laughing now. Shit just got real.
The climb wasn’t finished, and the wind was relentless. Sheets of rain made their way to the ground – sideways. I was carrying my poles while I walked through streams of water funneling down the single track trail. With plenty more mountain to climb the tree cover opened up. The unrelenting storm saturated you. The cold temperature made you shiver. There was nothing you could do but to press on. The one piece of equipment I wish I had at that point was a set of gloves. My hands were freezing cold. I shove them in my mouth just to warm them up. I kept thinking that I needed to ditch the poles because I wasn’t using them for anything other than freezing my hands. Once I found some adequate tree cover, I attached my poles to my pack, problem solved.
Crested the mountain was a huge relief. I started to run and my body was warming up aging. I was so focused that when I happened to look over to my left I remember the reason why I came out to do the Fat Dog in the first place. It is incredibly scenic. The clouds looked as if the were stretching out in some form of perspective. Ah yes, hallucinations. I shook my head and focused on the trail. Let’s go!
Running down Flat Top is awesome. The trails are runnable and the slope is gentle. With little effort I was able to cruise down the mountain and catch up to many of the people that passed me earlier on. I focused on trying to meter my output, finishing this leg would mean that I was 66 km in (two thirds to run). I started to think that maybe I needed to spend more time figuring out where that threshold is between going fast enough, but not too fast as to drain my legs before I need them. I ended up convincing myself that since the downhill really didn’t feel like much any effort that I was cool. Let er rip. I entered one of the aid stations before the river crossing. The volunteers are amazing, they would get my drop bag and prep my pack while scavenged for food.
Trying to keep minimize my time at the aid stations, I made off with some food and continued to eat while I finished the last bit of the mountain. I noticed that the darkness was setting in. I’d held off getting my headlamp (which made for an interesting final bought through the trees) until I crossed the Pasayten river. I made it across, put my headlamp on, and in just a few km before I’d see my crew.
I got into the aid station at Bonnevier (bon-i-vi-er). Wet and cold, I barked out some orders about taping my toes, get me this, do that. I was pretty focused on getting on my way but my crew wanted to slow me down to make sure I started to think a little more clearly. At first I was thinking I’d just head out in my thermal top and shorts. As my core temp cooled down (cause I was idle) I changed my mind. I eventually agreed to the idea that it was going to be cold, likely wet as well. Missing my winter running underwear I popped on my Calvins followed by my running tights. Ready! Well not so fast really. There was an equipment audit and I didn’t have my second lamp. I thought an extra set of batteries was enough, nope. Mel cruised to get my headlamp that was in the car. She ran so hard she gave herself an asthma attack.
With all of the mandatory gear, Lucy and I made our way up the mountain, slowly. We were passed by a number of runners. By now I had played leapfrog enough to feel comforatable in my pacing. We made our way up the switch backs and then boom boom started… ha ha, this wasn’t the boom boom of thunder. Not this was a much more personal problem. Poop! The worst! I’d go boom boom, clean up in all that and apply lube. Take a few steps, and now I was too hot, so I’d adjust, I’d be OK for a bit. Finally I could take it, I took my jacket off, then my top. I could regulate my temperature. Lucy to say the least, was concerned that I was top less in the cold night with rain coming down sideways cause of the “light” winds. Just for a bit till I cool down I reassured her. Then of course I did cool off, too much so. We’d go through the exercise till she’d finally offer me a piece of clothing.
Hey do you want to wear my rank top?
Yeah that sounds good!
While I was standing top less, she striped down to her bra and handed me her tank top. I fumbled with it while I tried to put it on. I don’t know what it is about girl tank tops, but they aren’t easy to slip on like guy clothes.
“Come on – you’ve got inside out”. She says laughing at my inability to insert my head into the garment.
“Isn’t this the tag?”
We started back up the mountain. Boom boom. I was frustrated, Lucy was cold.. I couldn’t get any momentum. To add to that, I had gone boom boomed so much that I drained my supplies, no more lube. I knew at that point, that I would feel the wrath of the boom boom, at some point.
We continued slowly, it was getting colder and the rain that was forecasted to ease off, didn’t. We were drenched even with our “waterproof” jackets. We were overjoyed when we made it to the end of the Heather leg. We figured that we would be able to warm up a little refocus and make it on our way. Instead we found some amazing volunteers that were braving the horrible weather just the same as the runners. The ais station was a makeshift tent of tarps strung together. It was crowded. Many runners huddled together in emergency blankets trying to get warm. If it hadn’t hit you yet, it was here that you started to realize that we were in some difficult conditions and you needed to be prepared for them.
Stopping is never a good idea. It is an especially bad idea when it is cold out. You need to move to generate heat, so its obvious to say that us having been stopped just to queue up for some water and food would make you cold. In fact it caused Lucy to catch a chill. As it set in and I think she started to doubt herself. We got the emergency blanket on her, though it wasn’t enough at that point. After a couple of minutes, she was able to sit down. Negative thoughts must’ve been bouncing around in her head. I crouched so that we were both looking straight into each other’s eyes. I tried to encourage her to reframe the situation.
“Look, this is all in your head, you can do this, you aren’t letting me down, you’re not slowing me down, think you are warm and you’ll be warm.” One of the volunteers passed her one of her bottles filled with warm water. It helped us out, in no time Lucy was back on her feet.
As we were leaving the aid station, I asked how far it was to the next aid station, and what kind of terrain we expect.
Think it went like this: “It is 14 km downhill from here.”
Bull shit. More like up, down. Up and up, then down. More up, down. We continued along the trail and we came to a place where it was impossible to see very far at all. I had 275 lumens but I think I needed more, like 500 or more even. It was unbelievable how the clouds (fog?) were so thick up top that the markings were impossible to find. Some guys caught up to us and with their portables suns. Making the night turn to day was enough for us to find the trail and we ran off.
As we ran along the weather weather conditions improved slightly, it was still cold but at least it was no longer raining. We continued along three brothers till we got to a ridge line. With shaky legs I took this very slowly and once over we started down the mountain.
“Is that a cliff?” Lucy asked peering over the side into the abyss. A few steps later I confirmed, “No that’s a lake.“
It was getting light out now and we just entered Nicomen Lake aid station. The volunteers here weren’t as helpful here as they had been everywhere else (and as helpful as the rest of the aid stations). We paused here for maybe 10 minutes to regain our focus, eat a bit, fill our bottles and head down to the flats. With the sun up, our spirits were up as well. The rain was held off and we seemed to be making good time heading down the mountain.
Over night, I didn’t see much. The rain, clouds, and general darkness didn’t really allow you to see much of anything other than the immediate trail in front of you. This was not the experience as we made our way to the Flats. At one point I was looking up the trail and I swear there a soldier circa WWI holding his head as if he was mourning something. As we’d approach the soldier, he’d disappear into the leafs and roots on the side of the trail. Later I’d see a garage, then a car, a house. Each one of the visions morphing into the leaves when I’d approach them. Interesting times ahead I thought to myself.
We made it to the aid station, sorta. There was an obstacle in my way. I had to cross a river by walking across a fallen tree trunk. It seemed easy enough, but it wasn’t. I was tired and this really challenged my balance. I fell/jumped off the log and landed in a bunch of branches, thankfully.
Not having learned my lesson, we stopped. I had my drop bag and I was slow to replenish my rations. I focused on the food. I wanted coffee, but never got some. I stood by the heater. Lucy had plead with me to keep moving. Eventually we did, very slowly.
Mentally I was getting weak. My body was tired and I was giving into it. We only had 8 km to cover before I’d switch pacers. The narrative in my head made every climb seem like a impossible task. Each time I start upwards I’d notice that my feet ached more and more. Foolishly I focused on the pain. With sloppy footing I started to kick a rocks with my right foot. Each time I yelp as if a hammer just smashed my little toe.
I was back on the narrative of how I’d blown away my goals. I’d be DFL. I reduced myself to a whimpering walk. Each turn I’d hope that we were at the Aid station, but no, it would be another climb. Growing ever tired of the theme, are we there, no this is another damn climb, the narrative was amplified in my head.
As we approached the Cascades aid station, small children and their parents would appear (these were real people). Suddenly I focused on the fact that the aid station was right around the corner. There was no way toddlers would be a km or more away from the car I figured.
I saw my crew. I started to take off the wet clothes and then I remembered that I was wearing Lucy’s top.
“I’ve got something to show you!” I said as I was striping down. I posed, I looked good.
I pleaded with Mel that I would get some time to lay down. After some bargaining, she only allowed me 15 minutes, and she timed it. I didn’t sleep but it was nice to be horizontal for a while. When my 15 minutes were up, I ate some food I didn’t want to eat, then I got me dressed for the day run. As I was eating, my crew mentions that there were only 20 or so runners that had come through and some 49 had already dropped. I couldn’t believe it. A smile came across my face.
“I’m not dropping.” I said with assured determination.
Mel pulls me out on the trail. We are running. She has no sympathy. We are running. Between Cascades and Sumallo aid stations, we head down the side of the highway. At an easy pace, her fresh legs are pulling me at a 6:00 min/km pace! I complain and whine as to try to influence her to slow down a little for poor Byron. She ignores me. I keep up with her. I complain more, I point out that I just ate and can’t keep that pace without cramping. She listens to me plight for probably 30 seconds and basically says suck it up whiney baby, lets run. I’m thinking maybe if I say that Gary told me I should slow down after eating solid food that this might make her ease off the gas. I was wrong.
We arrive at Sumallo aid station. 84 in! 84 out! The fastest I was through any aid station on the course. We hurdled through the trail. I did everything I could to keep up. Mel would vary her speed a little, but only long enough to keep pulling me through at running pace. Up the hills, I’d still walk these, but we were pretty good about running through most of skagit. It really felt like I was on repeat. There were 3 (?) bridges that we’d cross. Each time I’d look to see if I could see fish, each time I would fail to spot one. Each time I felt like I just did this. Was I in a time loop?
We made it to the out and back aid station. People were clapping and very supportive. I sat on the ground feet out. Ski Patrol comes over to ask me how I am doing and start getting to the reason why I refuse to sit on a chair. I explain that I am sitting on the ground feet out because I was told it was the best thing to do, then he agrees and explains the significance of stretching your feet out. I guess I checked out. My crew shows up a little late (I didn’t realize this till after the race) and starts helping Mel with I get out of the aid station.
To this point I hadn’t aggravated my little toe since Cascades aid station. I was getting a little sloppy and I stubbed my toe a couple of times, like I needed to remind myself how it felt like to have a hammer smash your toe. Mel pointed out that there are medics at the aid stations, they would take care of my toe.
“84 in! Need a medic. Just need someone to help me with this blister under my toenail.” I clarified as I saw Lindsay approach. I didn’t want her to think and then worry about me being hurt. Well, I was – sorta, but not really.
The volunteer came over to help out and immediately decides that my blister under my toenail is not a blister. He decided he was going to fashion some form of donut to put on my toe to keep it from rubbing and I purportedly to keep the pressure off the sore spot on my toe. Frustrated, Mel told him to wheep the blister. Though he still wouldn’t buy our story of the existence of a blister under my toenail. After a bit of back and forth, I thank the gentleman for his effort and excuse him. Mel took over and used her safety pin to drain the blister. The lady volunteer that was there was being a little more helpful. She bandaged my toe and provides some Tylenol in an effort to dull the pain for a while. I lubed up, kissed my wife and left.
We didn’t make it far. The bandage has to come off and the blister needs more attention. Mel produced the pin, I took my shoe off and she proceeded by ripping all the skin under my toenail, adios blister! As we finished up with my toe, a couple of 120 milers passed by us, one asked
“Are you ok?” I thought in the back of my head, well that was nice of him to ask, but I hardly belief he actually wants me to be ok! It is more along the lines of “man I hope your ok – but your pain is my advantage. See you at the finish line – lets have a beer after I beat you. The beer is on me.”
With my shoe back on and we started our climb up the final mountain range. I was a little confused because I lost track of where we are on the course. I stopped looking at my queue cards that provided me information because I felt discouraged by knowing how far off my estimates I was. We climbed and climbed. Switchback after switchback. I got a sense that Mel wanted to get to the summit before dark. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. Though I noticed that her ease in climbing the mountain, I offered for her to get up as high as she could before sun down. I insisted even though she didn’t really want to leave me, thinking I would slow down even more. She may have been right, but because I didn’t want her to be right I convinced her to press on as much as she could and then I continued to try to catch her. It got so dark that I sat down and put my lamp on. Getting up I started along and there she was. She was lonely?
We kept on and it was here that I started to notice my quads were tired. I pushed through as much as possible but was starting to get discouraged again. Surprisingly we turned a corner and we made it to Camp Mowich. All of a sudden it dawned on me, we had 1 aid station till the finish.
“Half marathon to finish? I can do a half marathon in my sleep!” I continued with delirious enthusiasm “and that is what I am going to do!” The folks around the campfire got a chuckle from that. I drank disgusting coffee ate a little and we were on our way.
This section proved to be very hard mentally. I was suffering. My legs were so very tired and my knees were starting to scream at me. Moving was hard and I really slowed down. Mel was no doubt frustrated by this. Going up, while it proved difficult because I was still trying to moderate my climbs was easier than anything. At this point I just wanted to finish. The longest 8 km stretch ever. We moved across steep slopes that had nothing more than a narrow single track carved into the side of the mountain. Mel was leaned into the mountain trying not to look at the steep drop on our right. I thought it was funny – not thinking about the misery of sliding helplessly down the mountain. I figured that since it wasn’t a waterslide, there’d be too much friction, you won’t go far!
We make it to Skyline, the final aid station. I am sore. Beat down. At this point the I am thinking I am probably DFL. We join some runners, but it appeared that they are in the 70 mile run. I wasn’t motivated to beat them out of the gate. We drank some coke, eat some chips and start the final push. It started with a steep climb up, followed by a lovely run. We made it out about 5 or so minutes (don’t really know could have been 30 minutes) from the aid station and I notice that there were no markings, and realized, we hadn’t seen a marking for quite some time. I stop Mel.
“I’m not moving forward until I know there are marking ahead.” I know I am not moving quickly and there is no way in hell I am taking a step I don’t have to take to get me to the end. Mel is likely a bit aggravated with me, but easily agreed to run ahead and scout for the marker. I watch her float like a ghost up the mountain side. I’m convinced that she didn’t once touch the ground when she went ahead. Serious, she was floating as if she was Casper the ghost or something. She came back only to report that there was no marker up ahead. The couple that she ran ahead with continued along anyway. I still wasn’t convinced. I needed to know for certain. I was miserable (to be around). I even caused a backlog of people on the ridge. I think there were 20 people that caught up to us and I got a lot of the them to second guess themselves. By this point I guess I was somewhat convinced that we were probably heading the right way.
I ended up allowing myself to believe that if this many people made it this far, then I could rest assured that we were on the right track. About what felt like a km ahead, some brave souls confirmed they saw a marker. That is where I switched into race mode. I realized that I wasn’t DFL. I realised that I don’t want to give up whatever position I was in. I realised that I need to run.
Mel looked back a little puzzled but ready to run. We were off and running. We hit a climb that I think it is the final ridge line on our way home. We climb fast now. I huffed and puffed my way up to each crest. Each time hoping that it was the final crest to reach the top. Each time I was wrong. I tried not to look back. I tried to keep my focus on moving as fast as I can and putting as much a gap between me and the backlog of runners I created. Up, up, up, Mel was moving with what appears to me as an relaxed effort. I gasped for air and started throwing out excuses for it. “You have a better VO2max” I say. Just as we make it to the crest of another climb I was overtaken by the couple that Mel was scouting with. I notice that we made it to the top.
The rest of this run was mine. We bounced down the rocky path. I am careful not to step on loose rocks knowing that my agility is compromised by having been out for some 40 hours on the trail. We were movers and shakers now. I felt no pain. I ran.
The fluidity of the run was exhilarating. I couldn’t get over it. I was 180 or so km in and I was running! I wasn’t thinking of anything really at this point but to keep the run going. Mel would turn back every now and again, probably to check if I was still with her. I think she couldn’t believe it either. It was a double take after another. “Yup he is really still on my heals… let’s keep it up.” Is what I imagined her thinking.
We started passing runners. We got words of encouragement, applause even. 70 milers shout out “solid finish” then they started to run with us. They dropped off after 100 m or so. With my ego booted a little, I felt like we picked up the pace just a little.
Dy heave. A little more of a dry heave…. more dry heave.
After the quick dry heave, I felt better. We carefully navigated our way down a final rocky descent and then picked up a nice trail. We passed a fellow runner that was vomiting and I think to myself “they’ll feel better soon”. We continued to run. I wondered to myself when the trail would start to look familiar, like in the videos I had watched, and no sooner that I start thinking that, we made it to the cover of the trees and the trail was smoother. I started to think we were really close now. I kept anticipating that I would see the finish each time the trail turns to the left. I didn’t. Mel turned her head back, I’m was still running. She was in disbelief (I’m sure of it) and rightfully so, I was such a whiney baby. She blurted out “You’re a rockstar” We continued to run…
We finally made it down to a dirt road and there were the glow sticks. I was ecstatic, I thought the finish was 200 m away I start sprinting…. only to realize 500 m later, that we were still a long way off. I was gassed. I couldn’t keep up to Mel, I walked, I ran, I walked, I ran. Finally I was able to hold a pace that brings me to the finish. We saw it, but the path took us the long way round. We crossed the final bridge, rounded the corner, I handed my poles to Mel and try to keep up with her.
We crossed the finish line, and I looked at the time clock, wait, what? 42 hours 13 minutes… How was that possible? I thought I’d be more than that for sure!
Lindsay and Lucy were there at the finish they like me were excited but quickly switch into crew mode. I slowly make my way to the ground and as for the chair to be brought closer to my body. As I lay on the ground with my feet up, a UBC student came to me and says something. It didn’t even sound like English. Then one of the race volunteers brought me my buckle. I gripped onto it tightly, never to let it go.
Special and sincere thanks to my wife. She has been supporting me through this crazy habit for the past 2 years now. Never batting an eye when I say I need to run. Then coming out the main event no matter how worried it makes her. To my dad for flying out from Halifax to drive my team around the course. To Lucy for helping through the first night. Her company was invaluable and I appreciated her honesty in setting me straight (left out of the story). Last, but not least, to Melanie for kicking my ass and showing me no mercy. Thank you so very much.