Not a typical race report: Ragnar WV 2016

If you want to read about Ragnar Trail WV, check out my 2014  report.  It was pretty much the same but less rain (only once and only one delay!), better food with coffee through the night, and better service on the port-a-johns (since the mud didn’t keep the trucks out).  If you want to read my ramblings about my relationship with my dad and a bit of a trip down memory lane, keep reading…

Here’s the thing: when you are running a relay race that spans 36 hours, you’re going to have a lot of down time to think.  When the race is in the woods, you’re going to have a lot of alone time to think.  Basically, it’s a great time to work some shit out.

I’ve mentioned here before that my dad was diagnosed with cancer right before Christmas.  This has been a blow that I haven’t really known how to process.  Over the years, we haven’t been terribly close, for a number of reasons.  I spent a lot of time last weekend thinking about that and remembering.

On the yellow loop, my first leg, I was thinking about my parents and old hurts.  I was thinking about how hard it must have been for them to have kids so young – both my parents were fresh out of high school when they had my oldest brother and they soon had 3 kids in eight years.  I was thinking about how hard it is for me to raise my son at the ripe old age of 41.  I can’t imagine the challenges they must have faced raising triple the amount (and triple the attitude – because we’re all about the same, in that regard).  Somewhere in the first few miles of my run, I acknowledged that they were doing the best that they knew how to do, just like I am doing, just like almost ever other parent does, and sometimes that falls short.

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Yellow and Red start

I’m not a religious person, somewhat related to my clash with my parents.  I haven’t been to a church, other than for a wedding or funeral, since I left home.  Running in the pine grove on the yellow loop, though, was as close to a religious experience as a person could get.  I think my dad would greatly enjoy a Sunday spent out here.  I think in this place, we could find some common ground.

Pine grove in the dappled afternoon sun

Growing up in the middle-of-nowhere Michigan, we spent a lot of time outside and found our own amusement.  Seeing the various mushrooms and lichen on the trail reminded me of the time we had a giant puffball mushroom growing in our back lot behind our house.  My dad picked it and fried it up in butter even though it was as big as my head!  I did see one little puffball on the trail – I left it alone but it made me smile.

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There were so many neat mushrooms and vegetation!

My overnight run was on the green loop.  It was supposedly the “easy” leg but, in Ragnar, there’s no such thing as easy!  It’s quite the ankle turner and a lot of people fell in the first 1/2 mile (which happened to be right behind our tents so we could here the “ooofs” and expletives as people went down).  One of the creepy interesting things about night running is when you shine your light to the side or behind you and see glowing eyes looking back. My dad used to be quite an avid hunter (deer and pheasants, mostly) so I’m sure he would have not been spooked by the eyes.  I, on the other hand, just ran faster!  It was hard leaving the fire pit – where they had s’mores and were showing Top Gun – but it was worth it!

Playing with fire. It was perfection.

I am the oldest of 3 girls but for eight years, I was the youngest child and the only girl.  I was often lumped in with the boys (until I was old enough that this would no longer fly) and was expected to work, too.  My brothers will maintain that I was spoiled but I remember many a summer day  spent clearing brush, hauling wood, etc.  This meant I was pretty strong for my age and I think that strength stayed with me, even during my sloth years.  I was very grateful for my peasant lineage and the strong work ethic that was drilled into me as I scrambled over boulders and rocks.

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In the Mother of Crack section of the Red Loop

In the middle of the red loop, the longest and most difficult leg, I was faced with a mile long hill that was very steep in some spots.  I was tired from being up all night. I was hungry.  I was so incredibly hot.  I really wanted to sit down and not even finish.  And then I thought of my dad.  I knew that at that moment, he would give anything to go tromping in the woods or  go fishing on his new boat but side effects from the chemical cocktail he has had to endure for the past several months have (temporarily) stolen that from him.  I may be hot and tired but I was still strong.  The least I could do was finish this run for those who don’t have that privilege.

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Strong finish

Where does that leave us?  I don’t know.  I do know that everyone is bruised and a bit broken, but closer – both my Ragnar family and my biological family.  I do know that stubbornness is a very strong family trait and we Silvermans relish a challenge.  I do know that whatever the next few months bring, we can endure.  I do know that we are stronger than we know and we can do hard shit.

My dad and son earlier this year