I think I’m going to take an Uber to the finish line.
I just smiled when my friend Carleigh avoided my eye contact while she declared the ridiculous statement.
We were at the 13K aid station for last weekend’s Canadian River Valley Revenge in Edmonton. It had taken our six-person motley crew about four hours to get here. We had roughly two hours to make the finishing cut off for runners.
Time was ticking.
Let me bring you up to speed by backing up a few months.
In January, I ran the CRVR on the winter course.
My friends were so impressed with my stellar (not really) performance that they signed up for the summer run. I promised to send training plans and to be there throughout their … ahem … training.
I was on the fence about running the entire race other people. (I know what you’re thinking. I am a terrible friend.) Believe me, running a long distance alone can be a little emotional. Throw in five other people into the mix and anything can happen.
Come race day, however, I decided the experience of running a race with my friends was more important than a personal best time. (Plus let’s be honest … I needed the time on feet.)
To be clear, this was not a relay. We were all signed up individually to run 25K in Edmonton’s river valley.
Our squad: Carleigh; her husband, Jon, and his brother Eric, and Treena and her husband, Greg.
Our optimistic plan was to stay together though thick and thin to the finish line. I call it “optimistic” because something always happens on the trail, which puts a wrench in even the best laid plans.
I just didn’t think it would happen somewhere past the first aid station at 3K.
We had to insert a key into a lock mechanism at various parts of the course. This timing method ensured the person stays on course, runs the entire course and does not cheat. If you lost the key, you had to pay $200 for a replacement.
You know where I’m going, right?
When Carleigh stopped to fuel up at the aid station, she dropped the key.
A few kilometres later did she realized the mishap. Meanwhile Jon, Eric and I were squealing like school kids and enjoying the single track ahead.
We stopped just before the clearing to the first timing box to wait for the others. A few minutes later Treena emerged letting us know Carleigh and Greg turned around to find her timing key.
A little backtracking did not hurt anyone. We met Carleigh and Greg with the key, who were in good spirits. Up we ran to the first key box, where we were met with a trampoline. Tell me how many trail races do you know, that offer a little trampoline action as an aside?
Trudging on our group began to slowly fall apart at the seams. Whether it was coping with the heat, running out of water or not being mentally or physically prepared, everyone seemed to be battling something.
For one brief moment, I debated running off and leaving these guys to fend for themselves.
So here we are at the aid station trying to figure out what to do. As a group, we decided three of us would try to make the six-hour cutoff while the other three would finish the course regardless of time. Eric and I both had long drives ahead of us so we would run ahead.
Jon took off down the asphalt at an unexpected fast pace. I picked up my pace while Eric trailed behind us. I didn’t catch Jon by the time he turned into the trail. I expected to find him waiting for us at a clearing. A few kilometres later, still no sight of Jon. I kept thinking, did I mishear? Were we racing to the finish? What’s taking Eric so long?
All those thoughts quickly disappeared when I realized Jon was going to make us work to catch him. I didn’t want him to beat me (yup, we were now racing) to the finish line. I was super surprised at how fast he was burning up the trail. Jon is just starting to get into running. I started to beat myself up. Geez … I’ve been training for months. What the heck is this?
My surprise and competitiveness fuelled my legs to the finish line. Not seeing Jon at the finish line, I ran back to the trail to wait for Eric, whom I assumed was not too far behind.
I call Jon to ask him to head back to the trail so we can run in with Eric.
Imagine my surprise, when Jon answers his phone laughing.
It turns out Jon misread the trail when he made the first turn after the aid station.
Eric followed the wrong trail too. Some how they met up and ran the rest of the course together.
They thought the whole mix up was hilarious. They thought about texting or calling me but where would the fun be in that?
Meanwhile Carleigh and Treena took an Uber to the finish, and Greg crossed right before the crews started to take down the finish line.
All in all it was a wonderful day. Had everything gone smoothly, the race likely wouldn’t have been so memorable.
Crystal is a NAASFP certified running coach and mentor. You can find Running with Rhyno on Facebook and @CrystalRhyno on Twitter. Send your column ideas, photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org