Tag Archives: experience

Truth, or Trail Lore?

As a trail and ultra runner I’ve had my share of unusual experiences, and heard a bunch more, because we love to share our stories. And I suspect that we fall prey to Fisherman Syndrome – the temptation to stretch the story a little each time. The hills keep getting a little higher, the creeks deeper, and the bears bigger.

You think you’re good at discerning truth from fiction? Have a go at the questions below. Which of these things really happened to me, and which did I make up or “exaggerate” a tad? Have fun!

  1. Complete the sentence I actually overheard: “Never stand between a runner and …”
    1. His carbs
    2. The finish line
    3. Coffee
    4. An oncoming vehicle
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  2. Which of the following did I experience at the Burning Man 50K? (Hint: there may be more than one correct answer.)
    1. Sunrise over the playa
    2. Losing a toenail
    3. Being offered whiskey by spectators
    4. Running with a naked woman
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  3. I was looking for my drop bag at an aid station at the Kettle Moraine 100. What was the actual advice a volunteer gave me?
    1. “We have them sorted by bib number.”
    2. “Sorry, some of them haven’t arrived yet.”
    3. “Are you sure you’re at the right event?”
    4. “Take any one you like, they all got the same shit in ‘em.”
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  4. How many of the following happened to me at the 2014 Green Swamp 50K in Florida?
    1. Face planted four times on a pancake-flat course
    2. Stepped on a snake
    3. Was saved from getting lost by someone who did get lost
    4. Flew home that afternoon to run a 5K the next day
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  5. Which of the events related to Run Woodstock freaked me out the most?
    1. My first “natural run”
    2. Being chased by baby raccoons on a training run
    3. Headlamp failing in the woods in the middle of the night
    4. Seeing the following sign at midnight on a high chainlink fence just off the trail:

Ready? Answers below.

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Are you sure you’re ready?

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Okay, here we go.

 

Answer to #1: “Never stand between a runner and his carbs.”

It was after a race, and there were slices of cake on the food table. Someone was blocking me from the piece I wanted, and I sort of lunged around him to get it. I apologized, which triggered the remark from a spectator. Note that I think the other three choices are also sound advice.

This will do for starters.

Answer to #2: All of them.

During the first loop I felt a sharp pain in my left food. At the water stop I took off my shoe and sock. The problem was my big toe. As I peeled off the tape, the toenail came off with it. No big deal. And there was no more pain! And sunrise over the playa was absolutely amazing. Well worth getting up at 5 a.m.

I did run with a naked woman for a while (and she finished ahead of me – oh, the shame). Spectators offered many interesting things to us, including whiskey and mystery liquids. You can read all about it in this previous post.

Answer to #3: Choice (d) – “Take any one you like…”

There were lots of drop bags at this station. My mind keeps stretching the number and the area, but here’s an actual photo of some of them. Fortunately I did find my actual bag without too much trouble. I don’t remember if they were sorted by bib number. It would make sense, come to think of it.

Answer to #4: Choices (c) and (d)

Out in the middle of nowhere, I was happily running along when a woman approached from the opposite direction. “No,” she said, “wrong way. I just found out.” Sure enough, a few hundred yards back was a turn we’d missed. Good thing, or I might still be out there.

And 2014 was the year I’d set a goal to run every race put on by RF Events. Green Swamp was a Saturday in Florida, and Shamrocks & Shenanigans was the following day back in Ann Arbor. So I flew home the same day, and ran Shamrocks the next day. The staff still talks about it.

The other two answers are close. I didn’t step on a snake, but I almost did. And I actually face planted six times on a pancake-flat course. Pesky alligators.

Answer to #5: Choice (b) – yep, the baby raccoons!

I wasn’t afraid so much of them, but of Mama, who must’ve been somewhere nearby. So I booked the hell out of there.

Headlamp failing is certainly cause for concern, but I wasn’t worried. First, an aid station was just up the trail with my drop bag, in which was a spare headlamp. Second, I always carry two light sources at night, so I had a small flashlight as backup. Be smart out there!

As for the zombie warning sign? I wasn’t freaked out at all. I put it there! I set it up around midnight and removed it before sunrise. Only the 100-mile and 100K runners got to “hallucinate” that sign!

And my first “natural run”? It was somewhat uncomfortable at first, but after a few minutes it’s just people with no clothes on. And running, which is always good. You can read about it in this previous post here. And if you infer that by “my first” means I’ve done others since? You infer correctly, dear reader. Try it sometime!

Do you have any funny, strange, or freaky running experiences you’d like to share? Post away!

More Than Living

Last Friday I was working the registration table for the Trail Marathon Weekend, and a runner came up to get his bib whose last name matched a friend of mine I’ll call Alan. I hadn’t seen him in several years, but I’d been receiving annual Christmas greetings which included his latest adventures.

This runner was not Alan – too tall and too much hair – but perhaps he was family. I handed him his race bib and asked if he happened to be related to Alan. “Yes,” he said. “Cousin.”

“Great!” I said, pleased that I’d hit pay dirt. “Next time you see him, please tell him I said hello.”

Alan’s cousin was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “He’s actually passed.”

Well, that changed the mood pretty quickly.

Alan’s cousin said it had happened recently, a brief, sudden illness. I believed him, of course, but it still didn’t seem real to me. Later on I did a Google search and found Alan’s online obituary. He’d been only a few years older than I, active, running his company and raising a teenage son, and now he was gone.

During the Trail Marathon events I thought about how Alan had actively experienced life and encouraged others to do so. He’d taught team development all over the world and founded a company dedicated to safe, healthy weight loss and sleep improvement. He’d helped me grow personally and professionally; it was an unavoidable consequence of knowing him. And he was fascinated with “off the wall” stuff. For example, he’d attended Tom Brown Jr.’s tracker school, which, he told me, really raised his awareness about what was going on around him, and, conversely, taught him how to avoid being noticed if he wanted.

How do you choose to experience life?

Do you, like me, sometimes get so caught up in daily routines and activities that you lose the awareness that you are alive – living – and forget to be grateful for that gift?

Some people race cars, or jump out of planes, or live in caves, to regain touch with that sense of “alive-ness”. Running is one activity that does it for me. Last weekend I raced a total of 44 miles over 7 1/2 hours through the Pinckney-Potawatomi Trails. It was uncomfortable a good deal of the time, and painful at some, and yet I was there of my own volition, pushing through the discomfort and challenging my limits, and very much aware of my presence in the world at that moment. That’s one thing that Alan, among others, has helped me to do. Rest in peace, my friend.

And the races? Yes, I lived to tell the tale – a tale of ups and downs, dirt, rocks, and roots, a windy lake, and some remarkable fellow runners. All of which will be posted when the last of the photos come in. Stay tuned.