So, y’all know that Rogue and I haven’t been … how do you say it … Training?
I mean we don’t ever really train in the traditional sense.
But if we know we’ve committed to a race, we’ll ramp up our mileage a bit. All of a sudden. Kind of hurky jerky. And call it Training.
But I don’t have another race on my schedule until the Twisted Trail 10k on June 29th. So training for that should start sometime around June 25th?
So Conquer the Cove 25k wasn’t really on my radar. I didn’t have the money to pay for it back when it could have been on my radar. So I just opted for volunteering.
And the volunteer position that Gilbert picked for me was “sweeping the lower 10 of the marathon course.”
I think I mentioned in Hi-Dee-Hoe’n With The Crew that I wasn’t real clear on what, exactly, uppers and lowers are. But Gilbert was pretty confident that I could follow a well-marked course. And he let me claim Rogue as a partner.
Then on Friday, he asked if I could manage the last 8, as well. (He didn’t mention whether they were upper or lower. He probably assumed I knew since I’ve run the course for several years. I don’t.)
I said sure. And proceeded to ask Rogue if she’d be down to run that additional mileage with me. Obviously she said sure, as well.
There was talk of Fall Risk joining us, but she’s a tiny bit smarter than us where committing to things your body is actually trained for are concerned. But we’re working on that.
Apparently Gilbert wasn’t fully convinced that my directional challenges aren’t just for what he termed “comedic affect.” Because getting lost out in the woods with no food or cell service is hilarious.
So Skratch clarified it for him.
“No. She and navigation haven’t even formed a love/hate relationship. It’s more like two people who have never met. But she has a strong desire to do things well, so I’m sure she’ll do a great job sweeping.”
My gosh these people know me.
Planning isn’t really my strength. And I did a LOT of planning on Saturday. Rogue even put me in charge of securing our accommodations for Iron Mountain Trail Run in August. (What’s the worst that could happen?)
So planning how we were going to manage to get a car to the parking lot where we’d start and also get one to the finish line so we could get back was a struggle. Because we were pretty sure we didn’t want to get up at 3am to get to the race before the 6:30 am start.
After a LOT of back and forth, we agreed to meet at Orange Market and take Rogue’s car over to Bennet Springs where we’d hike the 1/2 mile up to the 8 mile aid station. (Where I desperately wanted to tell someone to walk their white ass back across 8 mile. But I didn’t. Because social skills.)
We felt pretty confident that we’d have at least one friend willing to drive us back to our car after the race.
I got to Orange Market a few minutes before Rogue. So I went inside to pee.
Where a dude in a seaweed green sweater vest asked me if I’m from Chicago.
No. But I’m from Indiana.
Oh. Well your shirt says Chicago.
Yeah. I ran the marathon there last year. Super flat. But I used to live in Indiana.
Are you running today?
Yeah. I’m sweeping.
A race. Conquer the Cove. I’m not running the whole thing. Just sweeping part of it.
How far is it?
There’s a 25k and a full marathon. But I’m only doing 18 miles of it. Sweeping it. To make sure no one gets left behind.
And you started in Indiana?
You started sweeping in Indiana?
You said you’re from Indiana.
Oh. No. I used to be. I live here now. Well, not here. But about an hour from here. (I proceeded to tell him where. In case the dude in the seaweed green sweater reading a newspaper and chatting up chicks in the Orange Market wanted to know where he could find his next victim in the middle of the night.)
Do you run with a group?
Yeah. Well, not just one. A few of them. I run with whoever will have me, really.
How many are in your group?
Like, 600? I think? (Rogue assured me, as I relayed this story on the drive over to Bennett Springs, that there are over 1,000 in C&C now. I suggested we go back and clarify for serial killer sweater vest dude, but she feels I’ve done enough explaining for one day.)
Are they all running today?
Oh, no. Some of them will. I think the race was capped at maybe 200 runners? Or maybe 300? I don’t know. There’s no race day registration. Because there won’t be enough parking. (Because serial killer seaweed green sweater vest dude might have wanted to run with us?)
At this point dude stopped talking to me and went back to his paper.
So Rogue is gonna get me little business cards to hand out to strangers that look like they might want to talk to me. They’ll say “only ask yes or no questions.”
Like I couldn’t figure out a way to screw that up.
Anyway. We get over to the parking lot. And find the gate that we were supposed to park inside of. And then stood for several minutes trying to figure out which way was the way up to the aid station.
And then Rogue remembered that there are little trail signs that point in the direction of the assigned trails.
Nope. We’re good. We got this.
“I forgot my hankie map.”
“Shit. So did I.”
We’ve so got this.
Found the aid station where we were immediately identified as the sweepers. I assume because of the look of total lack of preparation we had.
Watched some of our people run through. You can often identify our people by their greeting methods. Endong, upon seeing me, immediately dropped for a burpee. I would have burpeed back, but I was videoing. Which is the only thing that takes precedent over burpees.
At some point, cutoff time dude taped off the marathon route signaling that the last runner to make the cutoff was through.
The runner we were supposed to follow.
But my ever observant eye caught it a few minutes later and hurried Rogue along.
Got to the first course marking. And decided that it was easier to just retie the pink flagging to ourselves than try to shove it all in a bag.
This is how that looks.
Rogue was wearing even more than that at that point.
And yet, there was still a moment (or several) where she forgot what we were assigned to do on the course.
She was wearing miles of flowy pink tape all over herself and still managed to forget that we were out there to pick up the flowy pink tape.
But we got every damn bit of that tape. And a few race signs, too. That we were apparently not supposed to pick up…
I carried that sign all the way up Brushy…
At one point on the “lower 10” we got a little concerned that we’d been pulling up course markings that we shouldn’t have. There was some panic as we frantically tried to walk through the course in our laser-focused minds.
Dude. We can’t be the reason that THE premier Mountain Junkies race is ruined.
Yeah. We can’t be the ones to disappoint Gilbert like that.
We can’t carry that kind of guilt.
It was fine. Everything was fine. It was a loop. We were sweeping a loop. Totally ok. I told y’all. We’ve got this.
A few times, Rogue got a little judgy about the tape placement.
“If you need tape to tell you that that’s not a trail, then you shouldn’t even be out here.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be anywhere alone anyway.”
And it was about halfway up Brushy that we remembered that there was a reason we hadn’t signed up for the 25k.
And it was shortly after that when Rogue said, why in the hell didn’t we split this up? One of us sweep the lower 10 and drive the other’s car back to the start while they swept the last 8?
We were pretty sure that everyone was packing up at that point. The last runner had gone through the mile 18 aid station a good 20 minutes ahead of us. No one was going to be waiting for us. No one to drive us back to our car. No one to … feed us.
But at the top of Brushy. A vision. Our steadfast volunteers. Mountain Junky Trail Angels. There they were. Skratch. Goatfinder. Postal Chick. Sweet G. All of them. With a table full of food.
Which Rogue and I immediately dove into. It was amazing. The impact some potato chips and a few handfuls of pickles can have on your energy levels in the middle of a marathon-ish.
We were recharged and ready to take on the Gauntlet.
Which we did with some gusto until our legs reminded us how unprepared they were and how few fucks they gave about what we’d just eaten and how Horsepen was only a mile or so away.
It was a struggle.
But the last aid station. That really lonely one at the top of Horsepen before you head into the last half mile. Those people were still there, too. Giving us ice cold water and thanking us for sweeping.
I’m not sure how they could have thought we were doing anything other than playing out there given our appearance. But we appreciated their appreciation.
This last half mile, though. We forced our hip flexors and knees to make something akin to a running motion to get us closer to the end more quickly.
It was a struggle to bend down at that point. So when we came up on the last bits of tape I said, “If you need tape to tell you not to go this way when the finish is RIGHT THERE, then you shouldn’t be out here!”
We crossed a non-existent finish line rather triumphantly.
Except for our Mountain Junkies and their hardcore volunteers.
Goatfinder had made them save food for us. And Skratch had promised to get us back to our car.
These are good people. Some of our favorites.
So I’m not claiming volunteer of the year this time. Because I caught a glimpse of the actual volunteers of the year. At the sheer amount of work and supplies and time and ENERGY that the Mountain Junkies and their loyal band of volunteers put into these races.
They are are humans of the decade as far as I can tell.
And they let us play with them.
Even when we are totally unprepared to do so.
So after a month or so of relative inactivity where running is concerned, we ended the day with 18 1/2 miles and 2,300 feet of elevation.
And now I’ll spend the next 24 hours recouping the 2,300 calories I burned today.
Because I need those.
And not a single person was left out on the course.
You’re all welcome.