Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tornado Miles in Hampton

“Jay, hi. Do you have a floor?” I called my friend Jay in a flurry of exhaustion.

“Miss Moran, it is past your bedtime.” [It was 9:20 p.m.] “And yes, I have a floor.”

“Okay because I was just running and was going to keep running and then there was this tomato thing…tornado, oops. So I stopped and need to sleep, like on a floor.”

Jay was unphased, because he’s my friend and he just gets me. For some people, I’d probably have to explain, “Yeah, I was running for 83 miles because I needed to train, and then there were tornadoes. And I go to sleep at 9:15 p.m.” But Jay already knows these things, and he didn’t find any of this unusual. I slept on his couch, and left at sunrise. But before this happened, a bunch of things occurred.

A couple of months ago, Shannon McGinn sent me a facebook message asking if I would like to join her relay team this weekend at the Happy Pace Race 24-Hour Run in Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton, Virginia. She thought we could easily break the team record, and—at only 553 miles—I agreed. I needed a low-key build-up run around this time, and it’s tough to convince yourself to go for a 75-mile run on your own. So I signed up, and it went like this:

“Nine ten!” I sang out my bib number as I approached the finish line attendants. I was about 30 miles into the race at that point, reporting my lap completion. Up until that point, I wore a cotton tee, but as I finished this lap, I pulled it over my head to exchange it for a technical tee. I was covered in dirt and inchworms and could taste my red Powerade mustache. “I’m pretty,” I said and bounded into the team tent.

“Guess what!” I found Charles West, our crew captain. “My first marathon was a Boston qualifier, in honor of Boston Marathon weekend.” He laughed and told me I should eat. Shot Bloks and Powerade, check check.

Passing through the aid station, I grabbed a Nuun tablet and some water. I bit one-third of the tablet and took a swig of water, just as I passed a group of boys about my age. I smiled, and foam erupted from my face. I will say this: Never put an ENTIRE Nuun tab into your mouth because you’d probably end up with a cleft palate. They're supposed to be mixed with water. “Oh, great,” I thought. “I am foaming at the mouth, and now everybody is going to think I have rabies.”

I got a second wind, just as a cold front entered and the winds picked up. So much wind took place. It’s like my inner life was written into the structure of the troposphere. I felt confident in my strength. I have been in the weight room a lot lately, and a strong however makes a difference. “However” is a euphemism for “butt.” You’re welcome.

Hours passed, and the runners quieted in introspection. I ran by a couple (holding hands! cute!) and the man nodded toward me, “This girl is unreal.” Probably this was meant as a compliment, but I had been inside my head for so long that it launched an existential crisis. Oh, my gosh. What if he’s right, and I’m not real? There’d be no way of knowing…

When I got into the 70s, sleepy tiredness overwhelmed me. Shannon happened upon me in a root-filled back-stretch of the trail. She asked me if I needed anything. "I'm dreaming of ice coffee," I muttered.

Shannon is an art therapist. I think she's good with emotions. She smiled, affirming my discomfort. "Why is it feel you need ice hockey?" I laughed and enunciated, and a lap later I was chugging an ice coffee, which we had at our aid station! Score! I gulped the coffee, pouring it down my face and shirt as I drank, like a Corporate America version of a Gatorade commercial.

Then the storms came. The course was surrounded on either side by bodies of water and several open field areas, which became flooded. Lightening flashed repeatedly, punctuating the obscurity of nightfall. It was terrifying. On the far side of the course, I approached a glowing phantasm. It was a woman, hiding with her headlamp inside of a pale pink poncho and walking the wrong direction. "Come on!" I called, when I figured out she was a human. "This is not safe." The race course was temporarily closed due to lightening and tornadoes touching down in the area.

Inside the weather shelter, Team Awesome tallied our miles and found out we had achieved our goal! We already had the record, 13 hours in, and finished the day with 813.25 miles. With the goal secured and no real individual investment outside of the team record, most of us headed off. Shannon stayed behind and ran, finishing in 83.5 miles. I was later surprised to hear my 83-miler landed me 2nd woman among the 24-hour field. Honestly, what a cool day. Thanks so much to George Nelsen, the RD. It was a fun, well-organized, low-key perfect day. And way to go Team Awesome! :)
(I love this photo. RD George is beckoning us forth to run.)


  1. Awesome job to you and Team Awesome. Too bad the weather didn't cooperate!

  2. Hahahah! "I have been in the weight room a lot lately, and a strong however makes a difference. “However” is a euphemism for “butt.” You’re welcome." Ahahahahah! Vintage you! :)

  3. It's all a matter of perspective! With the thunder and lightning came my lost mojo! Ok . . . I never had much mojo to start with. Heck I walked everything past 30 miles I think. But my spirit came back. Enjoyed meeting you and wish I could have talked with you some . . . but you're just too frickin' fast! Slow down to a snails pace sometime and we'll talk!

    Frank Lilley - Team Awesome's token old guy.

  4. Haha Frank, you were awesome and helped keep everyone's spirits high. Way to put in a long day on the trails. Personally, I was terrified by the lightening...I didn't even need a headlamp! :) keep it up! See you on the trails again soon, friend!

  5. VERY nice! And, as expected, I laughed while reading this.

    And, about that iced coffee. I'll count accomplishing that as one of the more interesting feats we managed during the race. I think there was a total of four people it took to get that done, including Shannon giving us a heads up. And, when she told me she passed you my immediate thought was "wtf!?"

    People like you are heros to me and part of the reason why I love this sport so much. I get the distinct honor of working with the best in the world, like Team Awesome. And every once in a while I even get to run with and get my however kicked by them too.

    -Charles West