Midlife Madness

Glenn has a habit of forgetting to tell me about important things. I think he has imaginary conversations with me in his head and then expects me to be aware of them through osmosis. Oddly, this doesn’t tend to work.

Case in point…several months ago Glenn said that he needed money to give Robert (a friend of his) for the entry fee for a race. “What race” I asked. “Oh, didn’t I tell you?” he said, “Robert invited us to join his relay team and I said yes.”

At that time I had visions of a high school track meet relay race – you know, running laps and passing a baton, etc. I assumed it was some sort of modified 5k-charity race or something – no big deal. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It turns out Glenn had signed us up to run in the Cascade Lakes Relay race

I suddenly found myself on a team called “Midlife Madness” – 12 people expecting to run over 216 miles through the Oregon high desert and mountains.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 10.57.03 PM

The map of the relay race – 216 miles, 12 runners, 36 relay legs over 30+ hours.

I am not competitive by nature. I have never excelled at sports and the idea of other team members relying on me to do something athletic was truly mortifying.

In fact, I have carefully avoided team sports my whole life. In Jr. High I played a short stint on the basketball team. I spent most of my time just running up and down the court trying to catch up to everyone else (and catch my breath) without a clue about how to play the game. The only reason I was ever put in to play was because the coach was required by the school district to rotate through the bench of players.

In college I played roller hockey and rugby. I wasn’t very good at these sports either, but I liked them because the positions I played generally required very little speed or athletic finesse. Instead, I could use my weight and strength to my advantage as I physically slammed into and tackled people (which I enjoyed immensely!).

More than the running itself, the “team” aspect of this relay race had me the most anxious.

I was certain that my team members would be frustrated with how slow I run (or shuffle with forward momentum, a.k.a “shoggle”) – after all, they’d all be waiting on me to finish my leg of the relay so the next runner could get underway. The pressure! I had never met these people before and while Glenn assured me they we laid back and not seriously competitive, I wasn’t sure I could believe him.

DSC00157

My team members – (left to right) Shannon, Glenn (hubby), Nate, Steve and Brad.

In the end I found that being part of a team is, itself, what made the whole experience so much fun!

My team members didn’t care how fast I ran. They only wanted me to have fun and to give it my all – and they were there all along the way to give support and encouragement. One of my favorite sights was seeing my team’s white truck parked off the side of the road on the horizon.

As I approached I could hear them yelling and cheering. They would come out to meet me with water, a joke or anything else I needed as I ran past. And then, as they were running their legs, I was able to return the favor by cheering them on or giving them water. This cycle repeated itself over and over again over the entire race.

DSC00163

Glenn and I standing beside our team’s white truck – such a beacon of hope in the distance!

DSC00178

Glenn and Nate coming out to refill my water bottles in the middle of my run.

I’ve never experienced anything like it. The event organizers do not support the racers on the course (beyond some volunteers and a few medical staff) so it is really up to your team to work together to get through to the end.

Covering over 216 miles in 30+ hours, we had to contend with lightning, blazing sun, blistering temperatures, dust and wildfire smoke, killer mosquitos, high altitudes, little sleep, limited food (trail mix and protein bars only go so far) and only one shower!

DSC00195

Glenn making his way up the hills in one of his relay legs.

DSC00292

The scenery was beautiful to run through – despite the challenging heat and high elevations.

I’ve often heard of team camaraderie, but until now I had never truly experienced it in a meaningful way.

I’ll never forget Nate’s face (one of my team members) as I neared the finish line of my last relay leg. He had the hugest smile on his face as he cheered me on – jumping up and down in the air with his arms waving excitedly over his head. He was so sincere in his excitement about what I was accomplishing. It warmed my heart.

DSC00313

Nate taking off on his final relay leg (a 4 mile steep hill!) after cheering me on to my finish – you can see me in the background trying to catch my breath!

In the end, both Glenn and I are really proud of how we did. We ran faster than we have ever run before, even in the blazing temperatures and high elevations. I even got a “road kill” (passed another runner) at the finish line of one of my relay legs – it was thrilling to discover I had the physical ability to do something like that!

But more importantly we had a ton of fun – laughing at each other and ourselves along the way. I am truly grateful to my team members for their support and encouragement.

I’m so glad Glenn signed us up to do this event (even if he forgot to tell me about it). I can’t wait to do it again next year!

DSC00213

Glenn marking down his “road kills” (passed runners).

DSC00246

Glenn’s nighttime running outfit (the blinking butt lights were his addition to the ensemble). The race goes day and night, so several legs are in pitch darkness.

DSC00276

Getting ready to start my second of three relay legs in the early morning sun.

DSC00279

Handing off the wrist-strap as Shannon finishes her relay leg, and I start mine.

DSC00383

Finishers!

team

The whole Midlife Madness team at the finish line!

17 comments on “Midlife Madness

  1. Pingback: Dubrovnik International Half-Marathon | A Life More Extraordinary

  2. Congrats on the finish!!! Every year when I finished Hood to Coast I would swear Id never do it again and then every year I would do it again. It gets in your blood!!

  3. MICHELE! I can totally relate to the fear and avoidance of teams, not that we cant function well in them, but the fear of disappointing the mrmbers of the team. I get it. So, very cool to have taken this on and thrived! And running even! So not a fan of that stuff 🙂 I am sooooo amazed and proud of you ! And I really feel you are a great writer! I love reading your entries! Keep em coming!

  4. Michelle, so nice to have met you at CLR and been on your team. I saw that road kill move you pulled at the end of your second leg – very impressive! I tried to emulate it on my final leg but the road kill gods were not smiling on me 🙂 There’s always next year – hope we can be team mates again!

  5. I was in van 1 of the Midlife Madness CLR team 2014. After reading this story, I am more proud of this years relay than any I’ve completed in the past. I hope we all run again next year.

  6. Wow! I am so delighted for you, and so proud of you too! As for the team thing . . . I have recently (thanks to Tricia Sears) become a rabid Thorns fan (Portland’s Major League Soccer Women’s team), and I love watching how they play as a team, rather than a group of individuals. Even being part of the audience . . . as I said Sunday to Tricia, there’s something really fun (and really funny) about moaning “OOOOOOH” in unison with 19,000 other fans when your team barely misses a goal. xoxo

Share your thoughts!