This weekend Jason and I headed up to Fall Creek Falls State Park for a short weekend getaway and the Fall Creek Falls triathlon. We arrived at our little cabin in the woods Friday night and until Sunday morning I gave a whole new meaning to words "rest" and "laziness." I hadn't planned to lie around watching Fried Green Tomatoes and eating Oreos, it just sort of worked out that way when it got too hot to do much else.
When Sunday morning showed up, however, I was ready to toss aside my sluggishness and move! I was ready to run. Only I had to swim and bike first, drat it all. I was in no mood to do either of those things, and for some reason Jason wasn't either. We drank coffee in silence, packing up our things and getting all of our gear ready for the transition area. We got to the race site, parked, set-up, got our numbers written on our arms and legs and made our way to the swim start.
The number of participants seemed smaller than last year...which only made me feel worse about my untrained self. Would I be last off the bike? I almost was last year. How embarrassing. Just call me Grandma Moses. And even before my slower than slow bike ride would be my even slower swim. I hadn't been in the water in weeks, and it was chilly out! I dreaded the cold plunge as I looked out on the swim course and I tried to tell myself it looked shorter than usual.
And then came the lightning. Yes. Blessed, beautiful lightning. The announcer came over the loud speaker and said the race would be postponed 30 minutes. Jason and I decided to go back up to the transition area to get our shoes and go for a jog. Thunder rumbled down river. I grinned to myself as I started the 10k run course.
The run course was mostly on a paved path through the woods. Gently rolling and gorgeous among all the vibrant green foliage and trees. As I ran, not only were my surroundings beautiful, I felt amazing! I had not one ounce of knee pain. Not even a hint. I felt strong and fresh, like I could run forever. I loved this! Every time I saw lightning or heard thunder I restarted the clock. Thirty more minutes. That just might be enough time to run the entire 10k course! And then I could run it again for 12 miles! That sounded much better to me than a swim and a bike ride beforehand.
The lightning and thunder continued, and the woods began to grow darker. I was sure that I would see Jason any minute, as we had decided to run 1.5 miles out and turn back in case the race started. I had planned to tell him when he returned that I was going to run the entire course, but he had decided to do the same so he never doubled back for me.
The thunder became louder and the lightning lit up the woods. The path finally spit me out on the road and I was a little relieved as it had grown quite dark beneath the trees. I ran a quick clip as the storm approached. I wasn't sure where I was at this point, but I was still following the race course. When I came to a fork in the road, I decided to stop following the course and head back to the transition area. The problem was, I did not know exactly what road I was on or how far away from the transition area I was.
As I continued to run, the bottom fell out of the sky. The rain came down in hard sheets and the thunder and lightning were right above me. I hopped off the road and ran along the tree line, thinking this provided some sort of shelter. The thunder was so loud that many times I stopped and put my hands over my ears. This was not at all how I intended this run to go.
A few cars passed me going the opposite direction and they had bike racks, so I figured I was going in the right direction. But for how long? Two cyclists passed and I asked them if this was the way back to the race start. They nodded yes, while pointing in the opposite direction. That was not helpful. The storm continued and I was getting more nervous by the minute. I was in the middle of a state park with woods all around me. There were no buildings, no people, only the occasional car, and no sign of Jason anywhere.
I finally stopped and stood under a tree with my hands over my ears and tried not to freak out. I knew if I were with Jason this would not be so scary. Then I realized I was with Someone infinitely more powerful than Jason... and I asked Him for help. I figured standing around would not get me anywhere, so I continued to follow the treeline along the road which would hopefully take me back to the race start.
A car going in my same direction slowed and stopped. I knew this was not smart, but the storm was raging and I didn't know what else to do. I ran up to the passenger side and said to the driver, "I am trying to get back to the start of a race." He responded that his daughter was also participating in the race and that she had called him to come and get her. He offered me a ride and I accepted, apologizing for getting his seat so wet.
Yes. I know. I got in the car with a stranger. He drove me back to the start of the race, which was a good 2 miles further down the road and across a bridge with no shelter. He was not sure where to go so I showed him where the transition was and he found his daughter. I knew Jason was probably sick with worry as I looked for him among all the other athletes huddled under the race tents. As I stood under the edge of a tent watching the rain and being thankful to be somewhere safe, I saw him run up. He had run the entire 10k course, figuring I'd turned back at the 1.5 mile mark. He was not worried at all!
The race was cancelled. Jason and I packed up our sodden gear, dried it off as best we could and loaded it all back up into his 4Runner. We changed clothes under towels and drove home. I had gotten in a total of 3 miles and that was not going to do. I decided to go to the gym, do my weight workout and run 5 on the treadmill, and 2 back home. That limited my time on the "dreadmill" and my time in the sauna that is Alabama in August.
As I sat at the row machine and looked around me, I had to chuckle to myself. This was just weird. A few hours ago I was standing in the woods during the storm of the century in a different state altogether, and now I was sitting in a quiet gym, sunshine streaming through the windows, calmly doing my weight routine. I still had numbers written on my arms and legs, and I wanted to turn to the person next to me and say, "You wouldn't believe my morning..."
Instead of swimming 1500 meters, cycling 25 miles and running a 10k, I ran 3 miles in the rain, 4 miles on the treadmill (it was all I could take) and 2 miles home in 91 degrees. I suppose the moral of this story should be that sometimes things don't turn out like you planned...and when a race director cancels a race because of a storm...that means there is a storm!