Promise Land Race Report: What Happens When a Jew (Abby, not Tim) Runs a David Horton Race

7 May

This is Abby.  I know that Ryan’s last post was a real cliff-hanger and you have been sitting on the edge of your office chair/couch/bike trainer/wall of the pool for the past week, wondering about my near death experience.  This has absolutely nothing to do with Ironman CDA, but bloggers can’t be choosers (what?) and I will write a relevant post next time. 

Anyhow, now that my fingers have warmed up enough to type…I’ll give you a brief overview of key players.

David Horton: a sadist race director who teaches at Liberty University.  One of his course requirements is to run an ultra.  He RDs a series of ultras in Virginia.  This race is called Promise Land and is supposed to be between 50k and 34 miles.

Liz, Kyle, Sam, and Rob: friends and/or people I just met at the race.

Ryan: you know him!  C’mon!

I shall begin this epic at the very beginning, not quite in the Garden of Eden but more along the timeframe of when the animals hopped onto the Ark, two by two by two.  Anyhow, in the weeks leading up to Promise Land, I was plagued with a lot of guilt and self-doubt.  How could I do this?  Did I really just register?  What had I gotten myself into?  How did I, a liberal, feminist social worker who lives in Carrboro, send money to David Horton at Liberty University?  Am I that much of a sell-out for a supposedly “best 50k on the East Coast?”  What did this mean for my karma bank, my morals, and my ethics?  To make myself feel better and assuage some of the guilt, I voted early against Amendment One (and will use this as a platform to tell you to do the same TOMORROW) on my way out of town.

Oh yeah, the race part.  Most of the runners camped next to the start the night before.  The boxes of Dominos pizza, Horton’s pre-race talk consisting mainly of inside jokes with his students, lack of alcohol, and a definite “cool kid” scene brought me back to the days of my growing up in Utah and always feeling like the dorky outsider.  Nova, Sam, Rob, Ryan, I all huddled in the outsider circle while Ryan tried to not get caught drinking a beer.  My one moment of personal connection with Horton was when I thanked him for putting on the race and he asked my name.  “Zeveloff???  What is that?  You must have married into that one!”  At which point I had to admit that a) Zeveloff truly is my last name and b) I kept my maiden name.  My response was met with crickets…

Morning started at 3:30 am when the tent next to us got up and got noisy.  My pre-race jitters were somewhat calmed by literally rolling out of bed and being at the start line.  I safety-pinned my yarmulke onto my running cap, per Goofus’ suggestion and we were off.

It was really hard and really beautiful.  The first mile was like the Franklin Street Hill and the next two were even steeper.  A highlight was the sun coming up over the Blue Ridge Mountains and fair amounts of very runnable trails along the side of the mountain and alongside a stream.  Things were hard and fairly uncomfortable until I got to the last hill, which is basically two unrunnable miles studded with rocks and stairs carved into the side.  The temperature dropped and it started thundering.  I realized something was wrong when I gave a fellow runner all of my S caps due to not being able to open the little baggie with my frozen hands.  Then came the hail, followed by more rain, lightening, locusts, wild beasts, and darkness.  I would give you more of the 10 plagues, but I really haven’t gone to synagogue since I graduated from Brandeis.  At that point I started shivering and slowed down.  I made bargains with God: If you get me to the aid station and there is a plastic bag to wear, I’ll finish the race and maybe consider fasting this Yom Kippur.  If you get me to the aid station and there is a plastic bag and S caps, I’ll take those, eat a bunch of Pringles, finish the race, maybe consider fasting for Yom Kippur, and maybe have a Passover Seder where we actually get through the seder instead of just eating dinner…

Behind me, a fellow shivering runner was stopped on the trail, taking off his shirt and not moving.  Another runner came up and told the freezing runner, “You’re okay.  Keep moving.  We’re almost at the top.”  Once out of earshot, the encouraging runner told his friend. “Man, we are no where near the top.  Poor guy.  He needs some help.”  The same encouraging runner passed me and reached into my pocket to give me my bar, as I couldn’t use my hands or arms very well.  He zipped my hand into a plastic bag and said, “You’re fine.  You’re not mumbling or stumbling.  Just keep on moving.”  However, I heard him tell a non-runner on the trail, “That girl needs some help.  She’s getting hypothermic.”  That kicked off my panic and hypochondriasis, at which point all bargains with God were null and void.  I was shivering and hungry and decided that I would quit as soon as I got to the aid station.  I couldn’t wait around for the last plague – the death of the first born.  (Seriously, I have two younger sisters.)  The aforementioned non-runner stopped me on the trail and asked me if I wanted his sweatshirt for the last mile to the aid station.  The proverbial angel was out to meet his fiance on the trail. He put his Liberty Sweatshirt over my head and I had to ask for assistance in getting my arms through the sleeves. 

I made it up to the top of the hill, which just happened to be one of two aid stations with vehicle access.  Kyle nicely handed me my rainjacket and I told him I was dropping out.  I saw Ryan, and per my usual at trail races, burst into tears.  We didn’t get a picture, but I like to imagine what I looked like – blue-lipped, drenched and shivering, wearing an enormous Liberty University sweatshirt and a soggy yarmulke.  Once in the car, it took me a good 5-10 minutes to get my body to stop uncontrollably shaking.  I wore my sleeping bag home and decided that karma is a bitch. 

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