One of the many blessings of trail running is the people you meet. The choice to use one of the beds in the bunkhouses was a good one. Not only did it simplify the experience, but also I was able to meet and make three new friends. We were all pretty well ready for lights out at the same time and slept good enough. After a good breakfast with great coffee, we prepared to run all day in a steady cold rain. The RD’s assured everyone that no one would get lost, but… I am gifted.
After descending cardiac hill, I turned right and ran until connecting to a trail that crossed a nice bridge. I did not see the trail markers leading up the ridge, but I did see red trail markers down the trail below the ridge, and just kept following them. I kept seeing red trail markers, so I thought I was good to go. They marked a trail that included climbing over a fence, but I did not remember the fence crossing from a year ago, and began to wonder. As I ascended a mountain, two young runners with bib numbers were coming the opposite direction, and politely informed me, that they thought I was running the wrong direction. Great! I had added a mile and half one way, and as I turned, there were others who had done the same. There was a new runner among us, and it was a good learning experience for her that this is just part of the possibilities. After running back to the bridge, we scanned the woods and found the trail markers leading up the ridge. (We never did run the section that was marked with the red trail markers. I am guessing it was marking the half marathon and the young runners were doing a training run. I think they were angels, as I would have just kept on running and running the wrong direction on the wrong course.) We made friendships as the five of us, made our way up the mountain, around the mountain, and into the first aid station. None of us complained, just explained, “all five of us got lost”. The three RD’s operate the first aid station and the rain was coming down very steady.
The woods are nice, the weather is cool, the rain keeps us from overheating, and we all get into a steady rhythm. The rain is making the trail very muddy in places and I almost lose a shoe in one bog, and everything is slippery. A camouflaged volunteer is directing us across a slippery bridge and let us know the aid station is a few miles away. The good news it seemed like only a half a mile and provided a little mental boost. I was pretty much all alone from here on out as the other members of the lost quintuplet had moved ahead or fell back. Aid Station 3 and 4 doubles as the same station as it is a loop. It was accessible only by bicycles and was well stocked, including, moonshine. I appreciated the sentiment, but went for the hot vegetable broth and quesadillas, warmed by the fire. The loop, for me, was fine except for being so slippery. Being all alone, I had to take extra caution, as a fellow could get lost and fall off a ridge into the underbrush and never be found again. A random runner with a bib was coming down the mountain I was climbing, and I thought, “noooooo”. He did not divulge any information, but assured me I was running in the right direction. I made it back into aid station 4 and was able to resist the moonshine, and left with a pocket full of banana’s, quesadilla’s and a cup full of hot vegetable broth. A long ascent and then a very long walk across leaf-covered rocks awaited me. I had remembered from last year, not to stress about walking for so long, as I could never get into a rhythm with so many rocks. The nasty ascent was the best views of the day as the ridge across from the trail could be seen between the fog and clouds. The ascent would eventually become flat, and I just took my time a long time across the rocks. Fortunately, I had many scripture songs I had been listening to, and the Word carried me when I was weak. The main one was:
Jude 1: 20But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
21Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
So, off and on, mostly on, all day, this verse as well as “praying in the Holy Ghost”, was my main mental activity. For me, the mental elements are best handled with scripture and prayer. In extreme limits, this keeps my mind from sabotaging my efforts. A sweet sight was entering the final aid station, and was able to get some more hot soup, and lots of fruit. I asked what was ahead of me, and one fellow said, “well, there is the bear.”
Cardiac Hill awaited, and lots of mud, and though very, very slow, I finally saw the one mile to go marker and not a bear. I reflected on the recent diagnoses of cutaneous lymphoma that was followed by rituxan chemotherapy and radiation. Nine days earlier, I had finished the radiation treatments, and I was thankful to be able to give this a shot. The day before I awoke with a cold and, realized that my voice was mostly gone as I ended. I had to teach a bible class (1 and 2 Corinthians Potomac School of Ministry) the following day, so I was wondering how that was going to work out. I also began planning my exit as I wanted to get over the mountains before dark. I wondered how Rick Gray had done, and renamed his wife, Saint Tammy, as she slept in their van and was planning to run the half marathon. I was mostly walking any ascent and slow jogging any flats, and was very thankful for a smiling Dan Lehman taking a picture as the clock showed 9:27 and change. One of the lost quintuplets (I think her name was Carolyn) was finished, showered, and offering encouraging words as I finished. “We are the ones who were able to have the bonus miles, at no extra cost”.