Last weekend I spent approximately 82 hours in a 15 passenger van with my Ragnar team, Hot Mess. We drove to Madison on Thursday, where we started a 200 mile race on Friday, ending in Chicago on Saturday evening. It was crazy. It was a hot mess. It was…absolutely fantastic. So much so, that after taking our time leaving Chicago on Sunday afternoon to drive back down 55 south, we still weren’t ready to part ways. Half of us went to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House to grab dinner. We milked the weekend for every moment. I sat at Uncle Bill’s nursing a lukewarm cup of coffee, with a half-eaten pancake in front of me for over half an hour, telling our waitress that I was “still working on it” just to keep my teammates there a little bit longer.
The basic concept of a relay is Run, Eat, Try to sleep, Laugh your ass off, Repeat. This was my second relay of the year but a completely different team running a completely different course means a completely different experience. One is not necessarily better than the other, just different. As a side note, my two teams have been the Smokin’ Aces and the Hot Mess. So, when I’m not with the rest of the Aces or the rest of the Mess, what am I left with? I’m just Smokin’ Hot. Haha.
Anyway, I was saying, a different experience. We ran country roads, neighborhoods, trails, city streets, you name it. This team was comprised of almost entirely St. Louis folk, with the exception of Tom, who we picked up in Madison on Friday morning. It was a nice balance of some friends that I know relatively well and others that I just met on this trip. We had quite a mix of personalities, which certainly keeps things interesting. I believe that people come into our lives for a reason and that we can learn something from every person who does so. I definitely learned some things this past weekend, and I’m not just referring to the education I received on the definition of “glory hole” or how to jimmy-rig a Garmin strap with a safety pin or that there is a right way and a very wrong way to climb up on top of a van.
You’ll find that on a team, there is always someone handing you a beverage at the end of your leg…or I should say, almost always. We’re still apologizing to Wes for not being out there to cheer him in at 5am. There’s always someone to give you a hug when you need it or to “fluff” you as you get ready to run. Someone might even read you a bedtime story. Or offer to spoon you. And the laughs just keep on comin’. Especially when you run into Napoleon Dynamite on a bike.
I have come to the conclusion, that no matter how different we are, people are all inherently the same on the inside. We all share the same basic need that comes down to being accepted. To know that each of us is enough…just as we are. Even with our own hot mess going on. Even with our own individual quirks. And believe me, any time you put 11 people in a van together, you’re going to discover each other’s quirks. (Hopefully I didn’t drive anyone too crazy with my tendency to recite movie lines incessantly) But you’re also going to discover a lot of good things about each other too.
You learn that people are willing to step up and take one for the team, even when they’re tired or hurting. Like Gerry running part of Mark’s leg with him in the heat of the day, after he had just finished his own leg. Like people who are willing to stay awake and drive or navigate in the wee hours of darkness. Like people who are willing to run an extra leg, or maybe two.
Friday afternoon, as we drove along the route, we noticed a distressed runner struggling in the heat. We quickly pulled over to help her. Despite the fact that she was stumbling along the road, she refused to give up. The heart wants what it wants and she insisted on finishing. Also despite the fact that Dan was supposed to run the next leg, he was the first one out of the van to help her. Wes drove up to the next exchange to find her team. Kris gave her water and Gatorade, while John tried to get a cell signal to call the Ragnar folks. A few of us basically carried her along the route to where the ambulance was waiting for her because she absolutely refused to stop. I’m glad to report we saw Angela later the next day. She had been released from the hospital to rejoin her team, but wasn’t allowed to run anymore of the race. Apparently, she had not been informed that she wasn’t supposed to exercise in the sun while she was on her new meds. It was about 80 degrees and sunny when we found her on that country road where there was no shade. A runner is a runner, and even though we compete against one another, we ultimately know when to put the competition on hold to help one another.
Re-entering reality over the past couple days has been tough. I’ve been in a funk since I got home late Sunday night, as I know several of my teammates have also been. We’ve all got a bad case of the post-race blues. I love racing. But sadly, racing doesn’t love me back. It breaks up with me every time. It waits until I am riding the high and then it says, “Lindsey, it’s over between us.” And then I find myself feeling empty and alone. The thing that has been my focus is now gone. It was better than I expected, but now it’s behind me and I can’t go back. For me, this was a unique experience. I got to run the final leg into Chicago, the city that I love and will possibly always consider home. I say it all the time, you can take the girl out of Chicago, but you can’t take Chicago out of the girl. I’ve been back to Chicago several times since moving to St. Louis, but this was the first time that I didn’t see a single person from my life when I lived there. As I ran that final leg into Montrose Harbor, I listened to Fun sing through my yurbuds, “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground”. Which is exactly what I was doing. It’s time to let go of my life in Chicago. It’s time to let go and focus on the next chapter. It’s time to just let go…
And you know what they say…if you love something, let it go. I can’t go back to my life in Chicago because that’s just the way it is, but I know running will come back to me, it always does. And I will be woo-ed to race again. See you soon, Racine.
A final note to my Hot Mess teammates:
Thank you to Shalini for having this idea. And for being persistent enough to follow through, no matter what! Thank you to Wes for immediately inviting me to be a part of this Hot Mess.
Thank you to Dan, Gerry, John, John Vega, Kris, Mark, Shane and Tom for coming on board and being a part of this experience. I can’t imagine a single second of the Ragnar Chicago weekend without any of you.
Thank you to all of you for accepting this hot mess, otherwise known as Rambling Runner Girl. I could not be more proud to be a Hot Mess! Lots of hugs to all of you, and remember…if the van’s not rocking, we’re probably spooning.
PS-I’ve noticed that my big toe on my right foot has been numb since Sunday. Does anyone know if this is a side effect of roofies?