Oh man, funnest mommy weekend ever!
I've been trail 'running' (hike-jogging) for about a year now, after I discovered how much more fun and fulfilling and lovely it is for me than regular road running or hiking. It's so great! Nature, forest, interesting terrain, wildlife interactions, strenuous exercise to the point that my crazy brain shuts the fuck up for a bit. All the goodness! Which is exactly what I've needed along this difficult, transitional time in my life path.
So when I heard about the Ragnar Trail Race Relay, randomly via Facebook, I figured for sure it was a sign from the universe.
It's an 8-person relay team, running 3 different trail loops totaling 16 miles, continuously for up to 30 hours or so (or however quickly you can finish). Plus you're camping in the beautiful Methow Valley of northeast Washington while attending a 2000 member all-night outdoor party! Sign me up!!
From the get go the whole experience was one big lesson in 'let go and let the universe provide'.
Right after I found a team of random strangers and signed over my money, the team captain put out a call for runners. Half of our team had bailed.
I started reaching out to anyone I could think of who might be interested. Most people already had plans, or couldn't commit, or didn't think they had enough time to get ready. But the universe offered up two gals who were willing to join. Very different individuals with very different walks of life. One eager to join even though she had no idea what she was signing up for. The other needing details and plans and some persuasive convincing.
We all arrived on Thursday night to check in and set up camp, and quickly realized that it was going to be very hard in the dark to find our teammates who we'd never met. Knowing that we had an early start time the next morning, it would have been easy for my fear to take over and start stressing me out about how we were going to make it work. But trusting that the universe would sort it out for us, I decided to just settle in and enjoy the scene. And had such a super fun night!!
Seriously, my face hurt from smiling after only a few hours of mingling and exploring and talking to strangers. And after wandering around, randomly shouting out the name of our team ('Oh My Quad!' but you have to say it like the girl from Sir-Mix-a-Lots 'Big Butts' song), we literally ran into two of our girls who were also wandering around in the dark.
They then informed us that one of our other teammates was sick and would not be coming, so who wanted to run extra loops. Fuuuuuck.
But no worries! Just tuck in for as much sleep as possible and let things fall into place.
And sure enough! The universe helps those who help themselves, and the first thing we did was go stand in the free coffee line and start asking strangers if they wanted to join our team. A random woman walked up to me, touched me on the arm and said, 'you have the most beautiful blue eyes!' To which I replied, 'Thanks! Want to join our team?'
She didn't, but her super fast 21-year old son did! Thanks universe. Thanks Drew!
And so it began.
I was the first runner, which meant an 8:20am start time on the Green loop. 2.7 miles of dusty service roads with a single-track wall in the middle. By the end I was dirty and sweaty and grinning like an idiot.
I spent the rest of the day hanging out around camp and in the village. Seeing teammates off on their legs and cheering them at the finish. Drinking all the free coffee and hanging out in the sample hammocks making some new single-serving friends.
Around 5:30 that evening it was my turn again, this time on the Red loop. 7 miles and 1400ft of elevation, but by far my favorite loop of the course. Awesome views of the valleys below and the Okanagan forest all around, including some shocking remnants of last years' wildfires.
It was quiet and lonely, but exciting and beautiful.
Once at the summit, there were miles of glorious downhill single-track. And not a soul in sight! By now the runners were all so spread out that I only ever saw a handful of super-humans as they blazed past me. And it felt really good to get the long run out of the way before nightfall.
At this point I realized that, thanks to our ringer Drew and the two faster gals on the team, we were way ahead of schedule. This meant that my last run was probably going to be happening in the very early morning. Which to me meant that I was just going to stay up and continue enjoying my experience, rather than try and grab a couple hours of uncomfortable, frustrating sleep and then have to try and wake my body up again to start moving.
And bonus! There were movies. I got to sit by a campfire, talk to more fun humans, and watch Ferris Buehler while I continued to support teammates and be a useful person. Winning!
Around 1am I took off into the very dark, very spooky forest for my last leg. It was awesome.
I spent a lot of time thinking on those 7 miles about previous times in my life when I've been doing things at 2am. It started out with a very grateful, 'wow, this is so much better than every time I stumbled out of a bar, or into a stranger's car, or down a dark sidewalk wondering how I was going to find my way home'.
Every human I came across was literally cheering me on. Encouraging me, a complete stranger, to keep doing hard things. Making me laugh in spite of the hard things. Engaging me in conversation about how cool those hard things were, and look at us doing them together on this dark and scary path.
I finally started crying at about mile 5 as I was walk-jogging my way down, trying not to roll an ankle in the dark, struggling with an unshakeable side-ache. A weathered ultra-runner grandpa angel breezed past me and said, 'you're doing great friend! Have a fantastic time and take care of yourself!'
Are you fucking kidding me universe? Thank you for making it obvious.
I was delirious when I got to the finish line and handed off to my next teammate. She bolted off into the dark, and I stumbled my way back to the campfire to dry the sweat. Ghostbusters was playing on the 'big screen'. I giggled dreamily for awhile, and almost dozed off next to the cozy bonfire, before I realized I was supposed to go wake up the next runner. Once I'd done that, and changed into some clean clothes, I passed out for 5 hours of solid, dreamless, exhausted sleep.
I haven't slept that hard in probably ever.
I woke up the next morning feeling like a new woman. Feeling energized in a way I hadn’t in years. Feeling reconnected with a part of my True self that had been lost over years of a marriage that didn’t work and a recovery that hadn't been prioritized and a motherhood that sometimes leaned towards martyrdom.
The next morning was all about finish line fun in the village, now with more rain. Everyone was already covered in dust, which meant that we were all now covered in mud film. Rad. And watching the final runners blaze across the finish line with their teammates was hilarious and joyful and fun.
I'm so grateful for my life today. Even with, and especially with, all of the hard parts. Because getting through the hard parts makes the good parts that much better. If we numb out the bad, we don't get to really feel the amazing. Plus every time we move gracefully, or bravely, or even slowly and clumsily through the hard thing, we get to look back and know that we totally DID that! And we can surround ourselves with a tribe that gets it, and cheers us on, and recognizes and appreciates our hard work and struggle and progress.
And sometimes, if we're lucky and open to what the universe is throwing at us, we might even have fun in the process! I sure did this time around.