For the past five years, Sweet Pea has been asking me to run the American Odyssey Relay (AOR) with him. He first asked me like 2 days before the race…I was like, really???? Last year when he asked me, I seriously considered doing it…was trying to work out logistics but in the long run it just wasn’t meant to be…
This year…after a weird series of events and many emotional challenges, Sweet Pea and I find ourselves hopeless committed to each other and so running the AOR was a given. When I first committed to running this race with him back in January, I had no idea what kind of impact it would have on me….really…no idea.
In the months..and more specifically the weeks leading up to the race, I was a nervous wreck. This winter was so brutal. The weather, combined with all the crazy life events (divorce, kids moving, etc.), made training less than a priority (not like it ever really is…but this time I had an excuse) so as the days got closer, the more nervous I became and I started to wonder if I was gonna have to drop out at the last moment. Actually, dropping out crossed my mind more than once or twice but I knew if I did, I’d never hear the end of it so I just decided to do it…..and, if I needed to bow out during the race, so be it. Just to be clear, that decision did not in any way remove any of my anxieties away…yeah, truth be told…I was a nervous wreck but I was committed…or about to be committed.
So, the Thursday night before the race started, we, meaning the 12 people most of whom I did not know and with whom I was about to spend the next 30 plus hours in a van… all met up at tommy Engler’s house to get ready to drive up to Gettysburg. It was at that time that the reality of what I was about to do really kicked in and my stress level was through the roof. I knew I wasn’t in shape to do what I was about to but yet I kept moving forward. I was thinking to myself…maybe I’ll just not show up..i’ll just go home…no one will notice, right?
Well, needless to say, I didn’t go home. I showed up, got in the van and headed up to PA to start this crazy shit show of an adventure. As soon as I got to Tommy’s house, I knew this was gonna be nizz-uts. Everyone was downstairs getting juiced up for the ride up north. By the time we all got in the vans and we were ready to go (like herding cats), I’d say the majority of the folks were 3 – 4 beers in. We caravanned up ….in our respective vans…drinking the whole way mine you. Sweet Pea and I were in van 1…which by the way, is the van to be in but I‘ll talk about that more later on. The second I got in the van I knew I was in for it…there were only 4 and it smelled like hot sick dirty ass…..WE HADNT even started to run and the van smelled horrendous!!!! Come to find out, it was just one shitty asshole who didn’t mind offending the rest of us under the justification that he was only gonna get stinkier. Fuck man, take a shower!!!! Were you raised in a barn??? We shoulda tossed his ass to the curb…or at least made him run behind the van.
We got up to PA just in time for Bengy to get us all checked in. We got our shirts, packet, etc and we were ready to move. So at this point, most normal people would pack it in and start getting ready for bed…you know, cuz we were about to run 200 miles over the next day and a half. But NOOOOOOOOOO, not us…we all went out to dinner and to drink… After we finish dinner, we headed into town to really get our drink on … We closed down one bar (I say that as if there an abundance to choose from…I think there are three total in all of Gettysburg) but that was not enough…we had to go find another bar to drink some more. At this point, it’s about midnight and most of the folks had been drinking since 5. We go into this dive bar and immediately get in a fight with the little townie tool box bar tender who obviously was bitter cuz of his dead end life living in Gettysburg, PA. We asked for an Irish car bomb and his response was…..”we don’t serve those on account that they are raciest.” Okay hold up sparky….i get and actually respect the fact that ya don’t serve them on account of being offensive and insensitive….but raciest?????? That doesn’t even make sense…so I was all like “dude..can you please explain to me how that is ‘racist’?!?” Then, the little bitter wanna be hipster got all uppity with me and was all like “then I just won’t serve you.” Nice attitude asshole..no wonder why you’re in a dead end fucking job in a dead in town….but away…I digress. So, we stayed in this little shit hole long enough to allow Liam Neeson (aka Carl Ginsler) to puke up his Ruby Tuesday salad bar ham chunks all over the floor…..take that you salty ass shithead of a bartender; you mess with the bull, you get the horns.
Well, after that mishap, we were tossed outta the bar and finally everyone was ready to pack it in for the night….we headed back to the hotel and turned in.
6:00 am Friday morning!!!! Rise and shine…sweet Pea and I were a little worse for the ware from the night before but we gathered ourselves up….got dressed, packed up our shit and headed downstairs to embark on our adventure.
Since we were van 1 our runners started off the morning….we met up with Yobel….she is the girlfriend of Yankowski (known from this point forward as Forrest Gump). Yobel was the first runner to go…gawd bless her. She took the challenge on without a blink of the eye, smiling the whole time. We got to the start line just on time…missing a few member of the team who were still sleeping off their hangover from the night before….here is a photo of the motley crew as we started.
The first couple of transitions went pretty smoothly (despite the fact that Yobel got lost and ended up running 7 instead of 5 miles). It was a beautiful morning….cool but clear; perfect running weather. The dynamics in the van were a little off at first…after Forrest was showing his true rainman colors, I was thinking between this tard and the smelly bastard in the front I was never gonna make it…but after a while, Forrest started to grow on me and at one point had me laughing so hard I was almost pissing myself. He is one strange-ass cat. “…so Mark…do you remember that time when you yelled at me…that was a funny time wasn’t mark….” Cool story bro…and did you find five dollars in the suburban while mark was yelling at you? Every time Forrest opened his mouth I was convinced he was fucking with me…no one is that clueless, right?? Turns out, …he is. And the whole dynamic with his girlfriend left the rest of us in the van in a constant state of “WTF???” She was cute, in good shape, intelligent, personable….just made no sense…I guess she was just the Jenny to Yank’s Forest. Who know…and who am I to judge, right??? Oh yeah…so forgot to mention the background story of those two…this in and of itself could be a book but I’ll try to keep it short…like when we were trying to figure out room situation; meaing how many and who was sleeping in what room, Bengy mentioned that these two cats, jenny and forrest, have been dating for like 3 years and still have not consummated their relationship…good for them..right? But here’s the thing…Forrest has been married..and to some crazy Lebanese bitch who apparently shot his gun through the car windshield while they were in the car together….and home boy’s response was, “you sholdn’t shoot the gun in the car….” That is just the tip of the iceberg of the crazy that is forrest…”
Alright..so anyway…the first 4 transitions went well….everyone did extremely well…then, there was me. I think, as I was taking the baton, we might have been in 2nd place. I made sure that wasn’t the case for long. Stinky Mother Fucker (SMF) ran right before me and was expecting me to transition like I was gonna run some 7 min mile. Sorry honey…that was most surely NOT gonna happen. I was sooo psyching myself out …I just needed to calm myself and remember to breathe. I grabbed the wrist band and took off down the road. My first leg was only like 4.5 miles but it was my hardest leg; I knew that going into it. What I didn’t know was that the first .9 miles of that leg were all uphill….dude…I was tired, hung-over, and out of shape….there was no way I was gonna be able to master this….I started to come unglued….i felt so horrible physically, but I felt even more horrible because I thought I was letting everyone down. I started to cry and just felt like shit…just then, I saw van 2 parked on the side of the road..at first I was all like NOOOOOOO, I don’t want anyone to see me like this but then, I saw Bengy get out of the van and come over to meet me…he totally talked me off the ledge…it honestly meant a lot to me…more than I think he knew…he gave me the encouragement that I needed to keep on going…”thanks Bengy!” After that, I was able to calm down and didn’t even truly mind that I was passed by two people….the first one passed and I was like geeze..where did you come from…then the second one passed and I was for chrissake….what the hell???!!! Am I THAT slow???? Yeah, the answer to that question is YES…yes I am. Oh…yeah and as I was running I came on this farm house and a goat who had gotten out of his pen decided he was gonna play chicken with me….When I saw him cruise out into the street I was all like….oh shit, here we go…I’m gonna get wrecked by a goat on my first let…but as I got closer I guess I got more intimidating and he eventually took off….Yeah!! Take that goat!!!
Sweet Pea was the next transition so as I was finishing, he was starting his first leg which happened to be one of the hardest legs of the whole relay. He asked for that torture, man!!!! That’s why were in Van 1 with all the serious runners. So we, in van 1 followed along beside my Sweet Pea to make sure he had whatever he needed; water, encouragement, etc…. He did so well, I was soooo frigg’n proud of him…he closed the gap that I created during my leg and he kicked that massive hill’s ass!!! See below for photo of him…people were cheering him on…it was truly impressive and it made me super-hot for him.
After sweet pea finished, Van 1 was done for the next several hours. I felt so good…the first of three was over and now we had time to chill. Just as we finished though…the sky started to open up and the weather got UGLY!!!! It started to rain and the wind picked up and the temperature dropped like at least 10 degrees. Poor Liam had the worst of it..7.5 miles in the hardest rain (at one point hail), and strong winds all on top his ham chuck purge episode from the night before. He totally musta been hurting.
I really don’t remember much of the second set of legs we ran…I remember at one point we ended up at Boonsboro High School and we were able to take showers after our runs. I had never been so happy to get a shower in all my life!!! It felt so good…it’s funny how the little things can mean soooooo much. We (van 1) finished our 2nd legs around 11:00 at night…After everyone showered (even the SMF got one, thank gawd) and got something to eat, we headed to our next transition site (Bavarian inn parking lot) to rest while van 2 finished their legs. At this point, I was starting to become delirious and I don’t remember too much …but there were two things that I do remember…one was how frigg’n surreal the whole thing seemed to me at that point. It was like 2 am and there were a sea of vans with 100s of runners all in different states of consciousness; some sleeping, some talking, some doing whatever…but it was nothing but a collection of folks who decided to take on a challenge that the average joe would never even dream of doing…it was really cool to be a part of that…but the second thing I remember was lying in Sweet Pea’s arms in the van, just feeling so at peace. I was soooooo happy that I had the opportunity to do this…and to do this more importantly, with him. Gawd I love him!
Finally…3:30 am came it was our turn to run again…I was starting to freak out again cuz my leg was coming up soon and I was exhausted…it was cold, dark, my knee was starting hurt and I had to run my last let on the canal by myself with no way of getting any kind of support…it was only 3.2 miles but man I was FREAK’n. Sweet pea walked down to the transition site with me and stood with me waiting for Yobe to come in…he opened up his jacket and held me close to keep me warm…it was awesome and very reassuring. Soon, I was all geared up with reflectors and my head lamp and I was on my way…the trail was flat but fuck if I wasn’t freak’n dark. The head lamp was too big for my head so it kept falling down to the bridge of my nose making it so my field of vision was limited to just below my feet. UGH!!! Wait a pain in the ass but I pressed on…seemed like the longest 3 miles of my life but I did it..I finished and after that I was DONE!!!! It felt sooooo frigg’n awesome!!! What a great moment! It was a feeling that you just can’t explain unless you’ve done it and I loved that I got that!!!
Sweet pea ran the last leg for our van …that leg seemed like it was just as hard as his first…it was straight up hill and this time it was starting to get hot. His legs (actual legs) looked like they were starting to cramp but man he was kick’n ass and take’n names. I always knew he was a competitor but I never really got to see how much until this race. I was so truly amazed by his tenacity …he did so well and I was so proud!!!!
After Sweet Pea was done…we were done with the race!!!!! What an awesome feeling and this leads me to why Van 1 is where it’s at. We wrapped things up…dropped everyone off…went home to take showers (even had time for some nookie), headed down to the finish line and still had enough time to down two margaritas before we joined the rest of our team to help cheer in the last runner!!!
We finished just over 30 hours and overall did really well despite my effort to bring the team down…but how we placed was not the important thing in my mind….as we were all standing…remembering the events of the past two days…it was the camaraderie that was formed among us all that made this event something I will never forget!!!! I loved every minute of it and I look forward to many more AORs with my baby!!!! Thank you Sweet Pea for asking me to do this with you…it will always be a very special memory of us..for me.