Sunday, July 7, 2013

Friends: Afton Trail Run 50K

What a weekend! This one ranks up there was one of the best, and like many of my stories, this one starts a few weeks ago.

June 25th. My birthday. As many of you know, I have been transitioning out of a long, but very over relationship and dealing with the struggles of not being around my son on a daily basis. It has been a difficult time for me, but with the help of some friends, I have really made some strides towards becoming happy again and continuing the next chapter of my life. However, on June 25th, the old me, the drinker me, made a return visit, and ultimately, I said something stupid. Now I'll be the first to admit I say stupid things all the time, but this time, a friend was hurt. It was unintentional and ultimately far, far from the truth, but I said things and feelings got hurt.
The next week was a rough one. I carried around feelings of guilt and remorse, and while I tried to make things right, it wasn't my decision as to forgive me or not. And things were leaning towards not. I took this pretty hard, and moped around for much of the week trying to figure out how to make things right. Long story short, I was in a dark place. And one day in particular, Sunday the 30th, was darker than the rest. I was feeling especially down that day and was just about to give up hope. I hadn't made my friend feel any better and was about to throw in the towel. I needed a distraction, and I needed one bad. And then I got the text. The following are actual excerpts from the text conversation:

Shawn: I think Afton is still open. I'll get your registration for your birthday present (NO PACER DUTIES!!!) if you want to do it!

Me: Yeah why not.

Shawn: 25 or 50?

Me: Surprise me.

Shawn: Okay. You're in.

Me: So how far am I running?

Shawn: 50

Me: *giant exhale* alright, let's do this!

Like I said, I was looking for a distraction, and here it was. If Shawn had asked me 5 minutes sooner or five minutes later, I probably would have said no. But at that exact moment, I had a serious fuck it attitude. So here I was, one week away from a 50K I was physically ready for, but mentally a wreck and in no way prepared. The rest of the week was a battle between this being a good idea and this being a bad idea. Mid-week I was psyched, but by race eve, I was completely psyched out. Then, just like before, fate reared its head, and my phone rang.
At around 10:30 the night before my race, my friend, the one I had hurt, gave me a call. We talked a lot about everything, and nothing. For nearly an hour we just talked. It eventually did turn to the race and my doubts and fears about it. How I wasn't prepared, how the heat was making me nervous, yada yada yada. But somehow, even after our differences and misunderstandings, she knew exactly what I needed to hear, and by the time my phone cut our conversation short, not only had I forgot about the race, I wasn't nervous about it anymore either.
So the next morning, things went the same as all my races do. Nothing unusual happened. No great feelings of dread or excitement. Just a bottled up energy that I set aside as I prepped for the day. The race itself was exactly the same, and for those of you hoping to hear some crazy stories from the race itself, you can stop reading. The race went great. I felt great and the body held up. I ran smart, I hydrated smart, and the rest followed. That's it. That's all your getting. Everything from this point out is about the events that followed the race.
Afton was the first race that I have flown completely solo. Yes, I had many friends there, but no one that came with me. No one that I was staying with or that drove with me. I was completely on my own time and could do whatever I wanted. The race ended and I went and sat. By myself. I just sat and took in the event. I was still on a high from a new PR (4:22:39) and a 6th place finish and was just soaking it all in. I had bumped in to a few friends and was waiting for others to finish.  My sister even showed up to watch me finish, although since I had predicted a five hour race, she ultimately missed it by about 20 minutes! Sorry Shannon.

I was recovering nicely and moving around about the time my friend Shannon (from this point in the story all references to Shannon will be of my friend and not my sister), was just finishing running an amazing race as well. I ran over to the finish and congratulated her on her race. While she cleaned up,  I walked backwards down the course a ways and cheered on my friends and fellow runners as they brought home the last half mile. I told Shannon that I was gonna start walking and hopefully run in to our mutual friend Greg and help bring him home. It was then that she told me of his struggles, and that his day was not going as well.

The next hour and a half, Shannon and I hung out at the finish and waited for Greg. We watched as other friends finished, I was introduced to many new, great people, and we continued to wait. Being that we live in different towns, Shannon and I don't get to actually hang out too often, and although the circumstances of waiting for a friend who was well overdue were not the best, it gave us some time to really get in some quality bonding. Eventually, we did find Greg and cheered him in the last half mile, then headed back to the finish to continue to support our friend. We found a nice shady spot, took a seat and spent the next hour or so talking about our mornings, the ups and downs, and all the epicness that happened on the trails. More friends joined us, and I met more cool, new people. We talked about my crazy performance, about Gregs heroics in the aid of a fallen runner (who managed to finish the race thanks to his help) and all the stories of first timers and repeat offenders. It was truly the best way I could have spent my afternoon.

When it was finally time to move on, Greg, Shannon and I agreed that it was time for beer, and we headed to meet up with a few of Shannon's friends who were already out. We met up with them, enjoyed more great stories from the day, made more connections and more new friends. We even managed to make it to the Surly tap room (for those not in the know, Surly is a local brewery that makes amazing beer, and has a tap room with only Surly beer. It's nothing short of amazing) and continued just having an amazing time hanging out together. We talked about what runners talk about. We talked hydration, nutrition (our mutual love of potatoes and salt) and upcoming races. We talked about family and friends. We talked.
But like all great things, they must eventually come to an end. All of us had some sort of a drive a head of us, and we eventually parted ways.

I am always going to remember the 2013 Afton Trail Run. But it's not gonna be the PR or the 6th place finish I reminisce about as the years go by. I will tell the story of this race, with a smile on my face from ear to ear, because I will be talking about my friends. It will be about the new friends I made and the two friendships that were solidified even more. It will be about the support of an upset friend who still cared enough to be there for me when I needed it.  It will be about the love of the sport in which we all curse and praise.
Runners are the greatest people on earth, and I am thankful I am a part of it.