Oh, Lord, is that my lung?

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Walking

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Yeah, go ahead, laugh it up. This picture speaks volumes about me trying to get a workout in while I’m still dealing with bronchitis. You know, I’m not sure if it’s even still considered bronchitis. Had it for over 2 weeks, z-pack for antibiotics as well as a hydrocodone cough syrup and I still sound like a wheezing old nag. Wait,  don’t they take those out to grassy fields and put them down? Let me rethink that description.
Anyways, it was a great spring day,  figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. Get some fitness in and try to walk off this damn hacking/spitting cough. So, hot tea in hand, I grabbed my headphones and hit the pavement.  2.5 miles later & I still hadn’t coughed all the crap up. What was that? Elliptical, you say? Why yes, I think I will. And I did. 15 mins later and I’ve still not cleared out my lungs.
What do all dying men do? A Hail Mary, one last ditch effort. (Yes, I know,  I’ve got a flair for the dramatic. ) I looked across the house and knew just what I had to do. (Mental picture, lightbulb moment) The Jordan Bridge.
5375′ long & it’s highest point allows for 145′ of vertical clearance for ships going through the channel. Blah, blah, blah.  That’s what you’re thinking, right? Let’s just say that the Portsmouth side is HELL. It’s upward span seems as though it will never stop. I swear that’s where I feel like I’m going to puke my guts out. To make matters worse, I decided to do exercises on the way up, every so often I’d do push ups or sit ups. Yeah, glutton for punishment. And that’s why this picture looks as though I’m dying. I AM! I did cough up a lung but the damn thing rolled back down the South Norfolk side and I most certainly wasn’t going back down after it.

I went for a walk this morning & it became quite clear that there were numerous patches of ice on the sidewalk. So, of course, I walk along the side of the street. It’s actually better that way since the sidewalks around here are crap and not every street has one. Gets old really fast to run out of sidewalk and look around to find there isn’t another one or it’s blocked by cars or better yet, ends in the middle of the block. The design of this subdivision makes absolutely no sense from a pedestrian standpoint.
Anyways, I’m listening to the local radio station on my headphones & I’m bundled up in gloves, two coats & a toboggan. Not a sexy outfit but I’m hoping my leggings give somewhat of defined look to my legs. Something that says, “Yeah, she’s cold & sweaty but she’s out here and you’re in there. Wussy.” In reality I think they were saying, “Look, chick, we’ve been stretched enough. “
I came around the corner & for some reason decided to hop up on the sidewalk. No idea why. It’s not as if the road wasn’t big enough & there was certainly no traffic at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. I take one step down and instantly I’m flailing my arms. Back of my mind I’m thinking I can save this and not look like an epileptic ostrich at the same time. Unfortunately, my brain wasn’t able to communicate that to my feet because the next thing I know both of my feet are on the ice patch and it’s game over. Both legs go up and I come crashing down on my right hip. After an exclamation of “Ouch”, I take my headphones out thinking that surely the old man scraping his windshield had to have seen my bronze medal moves on the ice and is possibly calling over to see if I’m ok. Yeah, no such luck. Scrape, scrape, scrape.
As I stand up and look around for any spectators, I come to realize that while my moves may not have gotten me to the top of the podium, I still had my coffee cup in my hand and that’s gotta be worth at least the silver medal.

MCAS Cherry Point 1/2 Marathon

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Race Day

I know it’s been quite some time since my last post but I think instead of rehashing lost episodes of my running misery that I’ll just start from this weekend.

Saturday was the 13th Annual MCAS Cherry Point 1/2 Marathon. Now, if you have been reading my posts then you know this is not the race I’d been training for. No, I’ve spent the last two months trudging my way through training runs to get me to the Full Bloom 1/2 Marathon, April 21st. So, why would I run a 1/2 marathon less than a month before the one that I’m meant to run?? Simple answer, $10. Yes, 10 bucks. How many races over a 5K can you say have a registration fee of $10? I can’t think of a single one.

That’s even if you sign up in the first registration bracket. You know the bracket I’m talking about. The one where you’ve just stumbled upon the race advertisement and it’s a wonderfully low, low price of $65. You tell yourself you’ll hop on that registration form come payday. Only payday comes around along with bills and fast food receipts. Next thing you know, you’re in the last registration bracket and you’re having to shill out $100, just hoping for a race t-shirt. So, yeah, $10 made perfect sense to me.

Granted $10 from the max entry # of 250 runners isn’t gonna get you much in terms of race bling, mile markers, timers or finish line photographers. Heck, it’s not even gonna get you post race beer and hotdogs. You will get a pretty generic shiny dealio on an even more generic ribbon. You’ll even be guaranteed to meet some wonderful people willing to slog along with you and the rest of the miserable herd at the back of the pack. Except there was definitely a lot more than 250 runners. I saw bibs in the 460’s. Guess what? Four porta-potties don’t work out too well for over 400 runners sloshing around coffee and protein bars.

Anywhoo, the race went pretty well for it being so low tech. Mile markers were prominently displayed on corrugated plastic, stick in the ground signs. No timers along the way but there were tables of water, Gatorade, energy gels and jelly beans. If you really wanted to know how you were faring on your time you could always ask one of the baby-faced Marines dishing out the beverages. Somehow, I had envisioned a very select batch of hard-bodied, chiseled face Marines lining the boulevard as we same prancing by. The type who look like they can’t pull their blouse off without help since their rock hard arms are keeping the sleeves stuck in place. Yeahhhh, no. Just a few kids with cow bells but that’s where the enthusiasm and cheering squad ended.

Mile 8 was roughly around the finish area so we got to see the speed demons as they crossed the line. 1:33 was brightly displayed as I passed Speedy Gonzalez heading into the cheering crowd. Some quick calculations and I was on course to get a PR. If it hadn’t had been for miles 10-12, I’d have been in absolute heaven with my time. Not that I’m unhappy with the time I got but those miles were brutal. Long, long, straight stretches and some very bad music choices. One foot in front of the other. Pick it up, put it down. Move it, move it. All the stuff you tell yourself just to get to the end. I was going through all of the mantras. It wasn’t until marker 13 that the energy gel I had scarfed down at mile 7 started to kick in. Just enough to make my feet look like they were doing something other than a shuffle. Probably should’ve taken that sucker around mile 3. Hell, probably two at 3 and one at 7. Heck, there were two perfectly great opportunities along the route for me to be put out of my misery. Shotgun blast area and archery range, yet not a single directionally challenged Marine in sight. Maybe next time I can find the tank trails or the badly marked runway.

Fortunately, for the retail market, a promise to myself of a PR meant a shopping trip. Yes, a pair of brightly colored minimus style running shoes. And while they might help me skip along next years tank trails maybe it’ll keep me from sucking down 4 energy gels come mile 5. Yeah, I doubt it.

Let me just say how important it is to pre-stage water on your long runs. I know, some of you carry a water bottle with you. Wether it’s in your hand or around your waist, you always trot out the door prepared. Last Saturday, I decided to do my long run, 10 miles, at NAVSTA Norfolk. Thanks to the handy-dandy, jogging trail, I discovered I didn’t need to pre-stage bottles since there are several water sources along the roads, sidewalks and golf course. That worked out perfectly since I didn’t want the military police thinking I was planting bombs along the base as I drove up at random points along the route leaving bottles.

My run followed the waterfront to the baseball fields and airplane maintenance hangers. Started out as a perfect run. Breezy, so I could enjoy the saltwater coming off the Bay. Plus it was pretty cloudy so I didn’t have to worry about too much glare off of the water. About the only thing I had to worry about was dodging the numerous puddles that seemed bigger than the Bay that the ships were sitting in. And it was easy to find the water points along the route. Not that there were signs pointing to the nearest fountain, but I did take a good look at the map before the run so I was aware of the general locations. Yep, there’s #1, #2 and #3. Told myself I wasn’t going to slow down on my way to the halfway point by stopping for a swig of water. I’d treat myself on the way back. Figured by then I was most certainly going to need it. Yeah well, that didn’t work out so well.

About mile 4, my piece of gum had turned my mouth into the Georgia cotton field. I couldn’t make spit to save my life. Even stopped at the halfway point looking for an imaginary fountain. Telling myself it made perfect sense that there should be one around the stoplight. Nope. So, onward I trudge back through the trail of no tears, no snot and no saliva. If there had been a way to wring water out of my rapidly disintegrating bubblegum, I’d have done it. I think there may have been a break in psychosis as I pondered the safety of drinking from brightly colored water puddles. Pretty bad. Fortunately, my breaking point came as I made it to the base fire department. Bless them and that holy grail of a Cold War era water fountain. No bottle of hard cider had ever tasted better than that stream of plain H2O.

Finally started trudging bac back to the Jeep and my goal was each water point. Let me just tell you that it took mere minutes before I started cussing every employee of MWR and base engineer. They had shut the water off for each and every fountain. Cue the hallucinations. I was just about to ask the carrier pier QD watch for a bottle of water when I saw the cops. Bless these guys too because one of them handed me his own bottle of water. At that point I didn’t care about diseases, germs or cooties. Thank you, Mr. Cop. You deserve a donut or 12.

Luckily I made it back to the Jeep. Hastily wrapped my calf in the instant ice pack, let the seat back and proceeded to suck on the water bottle I had brought with me as if I was abandoned piglet adopted by a momma chihuahua. You know I had to be out of my gourd because not once did I think about collapsing in the booth at McDonald’s with a Coke and a Big Mac. Yeah, I was parked next to the McDonald’s.

After all of that, I figure my next long run I’ll make a pre-trip to make sure that all water sources are working. Or, I’ll just run the block around my house over and over again so each time I need water I just walk into kitchen. Scenery may not be the best and I may go crazy from repetition but a runners got to do what a runners got to do. Oh, did I mention I’ve got 8 miles to run tomorrow?

I’m a bit behind on my postings so let me cover the weekend thrills. Ok, not thrills so much as brain jarring shivers and enough wind made tears to fill a kiddie pool. By all of that I’m saying this weekend was COLD!!! What in the world happened to the weekdays of 60-80deg temps? Last week was beautiful. Almost made me want to mow the grass. Got over that idea quickly.

Saturday was the Hampton Roads Runners 5k Classic. Signed up back in January, pretty much with the idea, that given the race was in February, it was gonna be cold. What I didn’t think of, was where the route was gonna put the runners. Trail runs for most people conjures images of forest shaded paths or winding around the lake while avoiding piles of goose poop. Who ever thinks of trying to complete a 5k while not breaking their ankle on a tire rut? And who creates a course along a crop field? I mean, what does an open field in winter equate to for runners? Freezing blasts of wind that dries your skin to the texture of coarse grit sand paper and ensures your nose will forever look like Rudolph on a New Years Eve bender.

I had plans of running the race in leggings and a long sleeve shirt. However, after stepping out of the Jeep and walking to the check-in booth, I knew there was no way in hell I was gonna be shedding the sweat shirt. Hell, I even dove back in Jeep, feverishly looking for a pair of gloves. Thankfully I had bought two pair during the last trip to Wal-Mart. Best $6 I ever spent. Oh, let’s not forget the sunglasses. If I hadn’t been wearing them, I have a good feeling that my eyes would have simply poured out of my sockets. I’m so not kidding. That wind was brutal!!!

My goal for the 5k was getting a PR. The last time I ran a competitive 5k was the Hair of the Dog 5k, Jan 1st. Chip time was 30:47. But the last time I had actually run a 5k my time was 40mins. No excuses. Either way, I had hopes of something under 40mins. Our bibs didn’t have chips so everyone’s time was based on the gun, not on the time you skipped over the start line. Either way, my recorded time was 31:52. I like to think that since I started at the back of the pack, that my time was actually 1min less. A girl can only dream. You know what, fighting that breeze and looking around to find my frostbitten lungs, I believe qualifies me to feel good about my time. So there, I’m happy!!

Now Sunday was a different story. Colder temps, more sun, less clouds and softer wind gusts. In my post-race delusion, I figured the weather felt good enough to complete my scheduled long weekend run. 7 miles on a 4/1 set. Once I finally decided to do the run I had to find a suitable place. Can’t stand running the same course over and over. I had plans of running some of the back roads in Suffolk until my husband told me the scenery out there is basically the same as here, low-income family homes. He thought I might as well have just run in our subdivision. 7 miles of looking at the same houses, whiny sniffling kids and beat down cars was not what I needed for motivation. But he did tell me I should check out the trails on the back side of the Great Dismal Swamp.

The Washington Ditch trail head has two paths. One that’s 3/4mile and meant for wheelchair folks just dying to see absolutely nothing but black water, green heads and dying trees in a swamp. The other path is more of a restricted truck trail leading to Lake Drummond all the while bordered by, you guessed it, a ditch. 4.5miles of glorified ditch. But hey, it’s something different  so it seemed good to me. I figured I could run the 4.5 and then back 2.5. End the whole thing with a walk for the remainder of the trail. In theory was a great plan then I had one look at the trail and knew I was in for the worst route of my life. No, I don’t mean I was gonna have to high hurdle over logs or crawl under swamp brush. Much simpler than that. What’s the one thing a runner hates the most about a route. Straight stretches. And that’s exactly what this trail is. A STRAIGHT STRETCH!!! The makers of the trail/ditch obviously believed in a the path of least of resistance. Only problem is that you have nothing but mental resistance to look forward to as you stare down a tunnel of 2nd thoughts. What the heck was I thinking? Let’s add to that, my phone wasn’t fully charged and there’s no data reception in the sticks. What does all that mean? Forget about trying to chart how long it takes you to drag your corpse to the lake and back. Forget about blasting your music to drown your moans and groans so you’re stuck with your own thoughts. AAARRGGHHH!!!! Why couldn’t I have been mistakenly shot by a hunter? All the redneck hunters out here and I had to find the ones that knew the difference between a deer and a blur of stumbling neon yellow.

 

Did I miss something?

Posted: February 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

Running alone has it perks. You don’t have to worry about someone wanting to run faster or slower so they don’t hear what you call singing. You can make a left turn heading for Albequerqe {insert Bugs Bunny reference} instead of following the pre-discussed path. And, after a night of eating tacos and swilling beer, you don’t have to worry about them passing out then rolling into a ditch because of your new eau de parfum. On the other hand, someone to wallow in the misery of long run is always enough motivation to lace up the pain makers. Sure, you can tough your way through a 60 minute pre-planned workout. But when you know there’s a looming 7-12 miler, having someone to share the wealth of ice packs, aspirin and a bowl of saucy carbs is enough to make you want to leave the music behind and spare them your caterwalling. 

In an attempt to make nice with other disillusioned joggers, I decided to meet up with a local running club. I think the selling point was that they were meeting at a coffee house. What better place to dissolve in whiny, achy heap than at a coffee house. Oh, and they have a bathroom. That’s aces in my book. The website said there are a lot of runners preparing for their first spring marathons just looking to improve their times. They figured this would be a great chance to offer a bit of tutelage to the newbies. I think the selling point for me was that there were going to people from both ends of the hare/tortoise team. Heck, I’m thinking there’s going to be some overly cheerful teenagers, a few grumpy middle-aged men looking to impress the teenagers and a couple grannies wearing ortho wedges wondering if they’d be able to make it back in time to use the bathroom.

“When RSVPing, please include your intended pace and distance so that others can partner up accordingly.” Hah!!! Yeah, I replied with my “intended” pace and distance. I’m not sure what I was thinking. That there would a magnetic attraction pulling those who run the same pace to a huddle before the run. Maybe even like those cabbies you see at the airports holding signs that say, “Slower than 10min mile”. Definitely, not so much.

Every person that showed up looked like they had come to race or had just crossed the finish line. I can’t see how the amount of day-glo windbreakers didn’t create a sighting for those in outer space. The amount of money these people had spent on professional running attire could have paid my utilities for a month. Reebok, Asic, New Balance, Nike. Every major name brand was represented. I’m doubting anyone wanted to ask me what I felt about my Corner Store sweate shirt or how WalMart leggings improved my tempo runs.

Anyways, it was pretty evident that I wasn’t going to be keeping up with the crowd. I was pretty happy to keep to myself and take pictures of the sunrise. Oh, yeah, meetup time was 7:00am on a Saturday morning, 26 miles away from my house. I figure if I had gotten up that early on a weekend to drive to beach just so I could hack up a lung, slide across across a mud puddle and limp my way back to the car, then I had better get a move on.

All in all, it went pretty well. Yeah, it felt like I had ground the cushion on my left hip like corn in a mortar & pestle and sure, my singing may have enlightened a few bums enjoying the sea breeze, but it still would have been nice to “enjoy” the run with another poor sap. And to make it a wonderful morning, I grabbed a cocunut mocha latte and a tropical rush yogurt. Plus, I got to share my lovely sweaty self with the preppy, spend happy tourists as they sipped their mochacinos and sprinted to get ahead of me before I could get into the bathroom. Ha-ha, that’s one race I will glady wine!! Who’s the tortoise now?

Running slower than my nose.

Posted: February 12, 2012 in Running day

This last week was rather interesting. I had pulled a muscle in my back and after a trip to the closest military medical facility, I spent the week nursing a bottle of Naproxen. Ok, not really nursing, more like they were the first hurdle to jump on my way to the Pez dispenser of muscle relaxers at the end of a candy buffet bar. Either way, they are beloved enough that I would crush them to dust just so I could sprinkle them on chocolate ice cream! And, while trying to not look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame at work, I was also thinking of the end of week long run. While not relishing the idea of being found face down on the side of trail, contorted like a pretzel, I was still looking forward to hitting the pine needles and mud. Because of my back I had only gotten in one run all week, so I figured this would be my time to really unwind. If I was lucky, I could run the entire 6 miles, without suffering the sticky finger abuse of the lollipop kids as they roll over me on their Big Wheels.  Watch it, kid.

If you’re from the Hampton Roads area, then you know that we had a miniature blizzard. That’s basically where the region flips out because there’s enough snow on the ground to bring the delivery of Krispy Kreme to a halt. Hey, I know I’d flip out, but I certainly wouldn’t have put down salt for that flour dusting that ended up in my yard. No where near enough to be concerned about but I’m sure had someone been on their way to get the requisite End of the World rations and wiped out on the “black ice” then they’d have sued the city. And, lord knows, I don’t need anything else to slow this city down.

While letting the dogs out for the morning after the mini-blizzard, I was greeted by 25-30mph winds. You would think that since they were sooooo excited to be out in this wind storm, that staying out for more than 5 minutes would have been possible. Yeah, not so much. One bark from the little one is enough to tell me, “Hey, uh, it’s cold out here and if you don’t come get us soon, then you won’t have to worry about coming out here to clean up our “bizness”. “

That first step outside should have been enough to tell me it wasn’t gonna be pleasant on the trail. Hell, the wind constantly blowing the cobwebs at the top of my front door should been enough. Did I mention those cobwebs are on the inside of my door and you could pass a wallet through the cracks in my door? There will be a collection plate at the end of this sermon to help pay for the repair or replacement of that door. Amen, brother!!

And to top this wonderful pre-run experience off, I get an allergy attack. You could say I did enough running around Walmart buying out the pharmacy of antihistamines. But, now that I was armed to the teeth with Ziacam, Breathe Right strips & medicated chapstick it was time to hit the trail. Where to go? Why, First Landing State Park, of course. Two reasons: 1) It’s free for active duty. 2) Over ten miles of trail so I wasn’t gonna be passing anyone anytime soon. Unfortunately, reason 1 went out the window as soon as I got there. Free parking was only for last year while they celebrated the parks anniversary. Honor system to pay $4. Conundrum, $4 for parking or $4 for Krispy Kreme. Drat, there’s a car behind me so I’ve got no choice but pay for parking.

Overall, the trail and run went well. Let me rephrase that, it went well in that, no one saw me constantly wiping my nose on my glove because it opened up like a fire hydrant in for the kids on a hot summer day. I know, totally disgusting. Hey, why are you disgusted? I’m the one running out of gloves and having to move onto my shirt. At least my gloves were gray and could hide it. Not so lucky with the shirt.

Finally, I finished the run and got my chance to thaw out in the Jeep. Granted the sudden heat didn’t help my allergies but I did have a stockpile of Kleenex. But what makes this day turn out with a happy ending? I find $5 under the Kleenex. Oh, Krispy Kreme!!

Across the state line

Posted: February 5, 2012 in Running day, Uncategorized

If you’re from the Hamptons Road area, or have had the misfortune of being stationed here, then you know that we’re hurting for running trails. And I don’t mean 2-4milers. I’m talking distance here. Anything over 6 miles. That is, unless you’re willing to run the same thing two or more times in order to call it “long distance”.

Well, let me just tell you, I don’t do repeats. They’re boring as hell and I feel like I’m getting no where. It’s excruciating to run a PRT course that is a down and back. Just knowing you have to pass other worn out, 3mile clubbers, is enough to make you wish you hadn’t even shown up for the run. Oh, yeah, a 3mile clubber is someone who only runs two times a year at 1.5miles a piece. Aka – Sailors! Yes, I was a card carrying, dues paying member but I have since renounced that membership.

So, in my quest for a new route, I figured I’d take a stab at Pungo. I can’t say it’s in the remote neck of the woods but the traffic is generally pretty thin and the scenery is at least crops and woods, not low rent housing and titty bars. But as I drove through the town, for some reason, my foot just never came off the gas pedal. I just kept driving and the next thing I knew I was at Mackay Island Refuge and the city of Knotts Island in Currituck, NC. Hadn’t been to Knotts Island in a few years and was looking forward to seeing the little town with Pete & Charlie (my feet) and not through my dirty windshield.

I parked on the side of the Knotts Island Market and figured I’d do the Ferry loop. At least, that’s what I call it. Hook a left around the store on Woodleigh Rd and connect to South End Rd. The way I figured it, I could take this route all the way to the Currituck Ferry. Yeah, well, that’s Carlton math for you. Miscalculated and ended up turning around right at the turn onto Ferry Dock Rd. Either way, it was 4 miles down so if I too South End Rd and veered left onto Knott’s Island Rd then I’d make it back to the Market right at 8miles. Or so I thought. Once again, foiled by Carlton math. I should have gone another four-tenths down Ferry Dock Rd before turning. If I had then I wouldn’t have looked like an idiot as I kept running back and forth in front of the Market just trying to make up the bit of mileage to equal 8 miles.

I’d love to say it was a good run. I’d love to say I had a PR.  But I can’t. At least not on the good run bit. Maybe the PR. But certainly not my form or breathing. Biggest reason, COLD!!! 43 degrees with a wind chill of 37. And let me just say I felt every bit of that wind chill coming off of Knotts Island Bay and flattening the marsh grass before hitting me smack in the face. I’m pretty sure the locals driving by were thinking, “Idiot” and I don’t blame them. Hell, as I turned the bend by Wards Rd, I COULD SEE MY BREATH!!!! Yeah, idiot, that’s your breath and not smoke coming up from your heels.

Finally, my play of lost ditdot for the locals was complete and I was able to collapse onto the driver’s seat of my Jeep. Was I happy to collapse against steering wheel. Hell, no. Because no sooner had I leaned into the Jeep’s warm cocoon, was I gagged by a smell of ammonia. Yes, something in my Jeep was going to kill me on my drive home and no I couldn’t just easily toss it out. Why, you ask, did I not search out this maliferous odor that any Texas gas chamber would be proud to have in its midst? I’ll tell you why. IT WAS ME!!! Good lord, was I ripe. And I had to deal with it for the entire ride home, all by myself.

Well, I vowed right then and there to share my new perfume with those around and figured who better to bring into my new circle of friends than the cashiers of the local Market who sold me a cheaply made hoodie for $32.95. Yes, ladies, this one’s for you. I do feel sorry for the young lady cooks in the back. They were kind enough to give me some free paper towels. The only thing I can think of is that the smell of frying chicken overpowered my wonderful new scent. Again, deepest apologies.

But while I was limping my way around the overpriced and over ripe fruit, I figured I’d pick up some emergency supplies. Two bags of frozen corn, sports tape, an apple and a bottle of Gatorade. Tape the corn to my calves, munch on an apple and wash the Gatorade down with a leftover Krispy Kreme. Hey, don’t hate. You know you’d do the same thing! Ok, maybe you’d have two doughnuts. And I would have too, if I hadn’t eaten the other one on my way to the run.

Now, bring forth my tub filled with steaming water and epsom salts. Momma needs to thaw out and pray she still has a calf left to walk on tomorrow.

I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with past coworkers and old friends as they took part in the last event to raise money for the Special Olympics. Yesterdays Polar Plunge, in Virginia Beach, was an eye opener to all of the freaks, creeps and crazies of Hampton Roads. If you think the idea of running into the water temps below 45degs is crazy then the idea of homemade costumes just might come as a bigger surprise.

I knew I was in for a unique experience as I pulled into the parking lot. Some rather large ladies wearing multi-colored wigs greeted me as I drove by the empty attendance booth.. The fact that parking was free should have been enough to shock me. I mean, come on. Any other day, any other fundraiser, and the city would have gladly taken the money that you hadn’t already given the charity. Add to that, there was a shuttle to the Plunge. FREE SHUTTLE!!!

Everyone has heard of Mardi Gras. And most people think of half dressed women with large sunglasses, massive hats and drapes of beads as they walked down the streets under confetti and glitter. In VB, there’s no glitter or confetti, but there was also no shortage of half dressed women & men with pipe cleaner hats, felt skirts, furry slippers, body paint and plastic bone jewelry. It gets better. Blue mohawks, red chef hats, belly dancing cymbals, beer can skirts and Alpine lederhosen. All that finery comes together as plunge teams of Goth, Yodelers, Hippies, Cavemen, Crusaders. I can’t even name them all.

 

Some cold water gatherers came grouped together to represent their workplace or club and in my case my friends were sporting their Chief Petty Officer Association shirts. The amazing design on the back of the shirt detailed the warriors who’s lives were lost on August 6th, 2011 in a helo crash, Afghanistan. These gentlemen would have been very proud to see all who had taken the time to raise money for such a worthy cause and then, like idiots, jumped in the same freezing water where they had once done many operational exercises.

 

 

I wish I had known that the Polar Plunge was going to be such an amazing event. Now that I do, I’ve got one year to come up with my own costume. Pretty sure I’ve got plenty around this house to make Plunge worthy attire. Where did I put the old dance costumes and dog collar?

 

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship.”

Under the suggestion of my mom, I brought my bike home with me for the weekend so we could ride the Neusiok Trail. “They mowed the trail. It’s wide open.” Sounded like a good idea. But in the pine tree infestation that is the Croatan National Forest, I should have realized that nothing is wide open. Pine trees are 80-100 feet high and are usually 2ft wide. But when they’re laying across only means back to your car, they tend to look 500 ft high and 5ft wide.

“Five passengers set sail that day for a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.”

I’m not sure if mom was leading this outing or if it was me. When we started at the head of the trail, mom started to ride down the mowed path. Only problem with that is that the trail didn’t go that direction. Signs pointed to a pine straw carpet that led to the end of the trail and to a shelter. At first all seemed well. The path was in the shade, a cool breeze and peaceful. Before we hit the 1mile marker, mom went down. Not gracefully flying down the hill, standing on her pedals. More of a handlebar wobble, teeth clenched and body bracing for impact into the ditch. I looked back in time to see her in mid-tumble. Of course, you’re trying not to laugh. Bite your cheek while asking how she’s doing. She’s ok, now try not laugh in front of her. It’s hard. So hard.

That fall is where we should have taken a moment to reevaluate this idea of a nature outing. Yep, it would have been smart to turn around and head right back to the Jeep. Did we turn around? Hell no. We kept going. Remember, this is a 5.5mile trail and on a bike should have taken no more that 2hours. And that’s with taking breaks to look at birds or the scenery. Let’s try 4.5hours. You read that right. 4.5hours.

“So this is the tale of the castaways, they’re here for a long, long time. They’ll have to make the best of things, it’s an uphill climb.”

For a volunteer maintained trail, I can’t ask for “a walk in the park” experience. But would it be too much to ask for a sign saying that these volunteers hadn’t finished clearing debris from Hurricane Irene of August 2011. This sign could have been on the website or any of the trailhead signs. Something along the lines of “Good to walk, not so smart for a bike”, “If you do bring a bike, I hope you’ve got muscles and Ibuprofen to get that WalMart junker over the pine hurdles”.

And just where did we go wrong? Oh, let me count the ways.

  1. Neither of us brought water or snacks.
  2. I had my phone but by 2.7miles I had eaten through the battery by using the GPS to track our progress and taking pictures of mom’s misery. (Lots of those).
  3. No flashlight or knife. Who’d of thought you’d need that on a 5.5 mile ride that started at 2:30pm?

We did manage to find the Copperhead Shelter. Numerous travelers had signed the guest book or scribbled something on the shelter walls. But the best part was finding a water pump. Yes, a Little House on the Prairie pump. Sad thing was that you couldn’t pump and drink at the same time. The top of the pump wasn’t attached so you had to use one hand to hold the top and pump with the other. I pump, mom drinks, vice versa. I know, I know. A pump in the middle of the woods. Not a bottle of sanitizer in sight. Yee gads, whatever would you do. DRINK IT!! Reminded me of drinking from the water hose as a kid. It was great. Just don’t look at those little floaty black things in the water. You’ll be all right.

The trail was marked pretty well. Numerous metal tags, plastic disks or white spray paint. What’s wrong with all three of those good ideas? They don’t glow in the dark. Yes, dark. By the time we got to the Neuse River/Pine Cliffs it was dark. Not only was it dark but the Cliffs had eroded leaving huge drop offs. It was at that point where we lost all signs of trail markers and had to squint like heck to find pink logging tape. No, that tape wasn’t marking the trail. I’m not sure what it was even trying to suggest. We did eventually find the trail but there were multiple times along the cliffs that I felt like slinging my bike off into the sand and saying F*** this! Oh, yeah, and that’s after mom had already left her bike on the beach saying the exact same thing. You have to understand, after pushing your bike over numerous tree roots, hauling it over tree limbs, pulling it under downed trees and yanking it through vines and brambles, it takes a lot out of you. I can say it is the root of the phrase, F*** It!

So, 6.8 miles & 4.5 hours later, we finally made it back to the truck. Wonderful sight to see the lights of the truck as mom hit the key fob. Only problem then was if the park gate was going to be open so we could get home. If not, then we’d have to drive back to the parking lot and walk through the subdivision back to the house. Mercifully, the gate was open and I was able to get my Jeep from the trailhead. A quick trip to the Chinese restaurant and I was soothing my aching back muscles, hip flexors and calf muscles with Saigon Mei Fun and spring rolls. Not to mention a Mojito topped with 2 Tylenol PM. And what am I doing today. The exact same trail. This time I’m running it.

Cue the Skipper, “All aboard for a three-hour cruise.”