Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Cyclist Takes a Long Walk in the Mountains

What is the connection between a pair of running shoes, a Sole Dude, and a refrigerator on wheels?  Ha.  That was my weekend vacation.

Let me start by saying the trip was one of endless hilarity, but I also had a very proud moment that I want to share.

Every year Velo Junkie and I find a ½-marathon to run. We try to pick one in a fun and interesting place and make a weekend vacation of it. This past weekend was the event and we found ourselves in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We didn’t go by ourselves this year, my  sister joined us along with my teenage daughter and two teenage nieces. Hence Velo’s new nickname, the Sole Dude. Poor guy. My family has so many females in it that Velo often finds himself in this quandary.

Since there was six of us travelling we reserved a Ford Expedition (or similar) to haul all the people, luggage, food, and folding bikes from Ohio to Tennessee. It just so happened the car rental company didn’t have an Expedition (or similar). They offered us a Ford Flex. A big, white Ford Flex. It looked like a refrigerator on wheels, so we affectionately nicknamed it “the Fridge”. Now I was rolling down the highway with the Sole Dude and the Fridge, my sister, and three teenage girls who had never run a 10k, much less a ½ marathon.

I’ll give a shout out here for Dogwood Cabins of Townsend, TN. Our home away from home for the weekend was perfect. Except it did not have much sound insulation between the rooms and I found out that my sister talks on the phone ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT. The amenities were great and the view of the mountains beyond the golf course was exquisite. It sat atop a vertical incline that caused more than little concern about the race course. In other words, we were screwed. Those folding bikes we brought, they weren’t going to be unfolded. I couldn’t have made it up one of those hills with a mountain bike, much less my little 8-speed Tern.

We went to pick up our packets. This race touts itself as being zero-waste, which means no cups. Instead you get this small contraption called a hydra-pouch. You squeeze the top to open it so you can fill it from a spigot. It has a small funnel on one side to drink from. I looked at it and thought “Hmmmm. I can carry this on the bike for those times you just gotta pee and there’s no toilet in sight.” I never did master the damn thing and spilled more water down the front of me than I got in my mouth.

We made the traditional pasta dinner Friday night and turned in early. Sis got up in the middle of the night to call someone, and then again in the wee hours of the morning. Saturday morning arrived, the day of the race. The prediction was for rain and scattered thunderstorms, but Mother Nature was smiling that day and provided a cool, sunny morning. I really love that old gal sometimes, when she’s not pulling one of her pranks. The three teenagers were pretty anxious and nervous, and with good reason I might add. In the end the course was uphill, but only about 700 ft. over the 13.1 miles.

We got split up almost from the start of the race. My daughter was anxious to put some distance behind her so she took off with Velo. My sister and her kids were somewhere behind me. I think the conversation went something like this - “Mom, I can’t walk that fast.” “Well I can’t walk that slow. I’ll see you at the end.” I don’t think I see Mom-of-the-Year Award in her future any time soon. She eventually turned up next to me and we walked for a while. At about mile 6 the boredom of walking overtook me and I had to run. I caught up with my daughter at about mile 8. We decided we would finish together. As the miles faded away our mother-daughter bond strengthened. I will cherish the moment we crossed the finish line together for a very long time. At least until we do it 
again because now she’s hooked. She wants to join a running group and do better next time. YES! (Pat myself on the back.) I introduced her to a lifetime of adventure, endurance, and a feeling of achievement.

I was just as excited when our last girl came into sight because then we knew we had all made it. It was all smiles the rest of the day despite the aching legs. At least until we decided to drive to Gatlinburg and got stuck in Pigeon Forge traffic caused by classic automobiles and every make and model of pick-up truck imaginable. We finally made it to Gatlinburg only to be swarmed by hordes of Tennessee Confederates, knick-knack shoppers, and surveyors of fudge.

#GSMhalf  #Gatlinburg  #dogwoodcabins