108 Days – Bastards in Wonderland

“This is neat!”  I smiled over to Monte.  “I feel like I’m introducing my new boyfriend to…”

“All your old boyfriends?”  Monte laughed, looking around at the highly skewed male population of what I lovingly refer to as the ‘AC10o Boys Club.’

“I was going to say family, but I guess that works too!”

10 Bastards total arrived at Chantry at 6:30am on Sunday morning to be shuttled out to Chilao Campgrounds, about an hour away, and to run 22 miles back to their cars.  This was the first official training run of the Angeles Crest 100 which encompassed miles 53-75.  It was important to me that we all made a great first impression in this community that I respected and loved so much.  I had emailed Hal, the race director, to let him know we would be joining, and brought with me some refreshments for him to pass out to the runners when he met them all at the make shift aid station 7 miles into the run.  I wanted to leave today giving more than we had taken so that we would be welcomed back.

We finally took off a little after 8am from Chilao to begin our run.  Even the faster Bastards took their place mid to back of pack and let the veterans lead, knowing there were a lot of twists and turns in those first few miles.  It wasn’t long before we had spread out and paired/grouped off.  Dawn, Rocky and I decided to stay together and play with our pacing a little for the Grand Canyon.  As we passed through Shortcut Saddle, the run started feeling more like a girl’s night out than any kind of training.  We waited at Shortcut to make sure the entire team was through before taking off, which put us in the back of the pack.  I confirmed with Hal who my team members were, taking responsibility so that he would not have to wait for anyone, and we volunteered to take the ribbons down for him on our way back to Chantry.  As we dropped down onto the fireroad on Edison, Dawn smiled at both of us and said ‘This is so much fun!”  We found a few tractors along the road as well and couldn’t help but stop for a mini photo shoot on our descent.

It was days like today that I remembered why I became a long distance runner.  Although I loved the challenges of bettering myself as an athlete, new PRs, race awards, etc, something about today brought me back to the reason that I began this type of racing in the first place.  There were no friendships like the ones that were developed during hours on the trails, overcoming obstacles, no matter how great or small.  There were no conversations like the ones had during an adrenaline lit, euphoric state in what to me were the most beautiful places in the world, my little wonderland.  There was something within my endurance family, that made me always feel like I was home.

The following day, that comfort zone would take a hit, when news of the Boston Marathon bombings reached me at work.  My love for distance running began in street marathons, and I had 12 friends total running the race that day.  I calmly went to the Boston Marathon website, locating each of them in the athlete tracking information, concluding that none of them were near when the bombings took place, although it would be later in that evening when I would get official word that all were safe.

I’m not entirely sure what I am supposed to or even allowed to feel about what happened on Monday.  I was not there, and no one I know was injured.  I have people in my life who are currently in war zones every day, facing greater dangers than my friends running Boston did that day.  Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel about that either.  What I will say is that this struck my heart in a very personal way.  That community is, and always will be, my piece of heaven in this world, my wonderland.

As I reflected back on Sunday, the excitement that my Bastards felt running with the Angeles Crest 100 runners, and holding their own, the laughter Rocky, Dawn and I shared as we climbed up on the tractors and tore down the race markers, waving them like streamers behind us as we ran down the trails, it made me realize that this will ALWAYS be heaven.  No terrorist act, great or small, will ever take that away from me.  There was something special about these people, within the group I ran with this day and among those who ran Boston on Monday, finished the race and continued running straight to the hospital to donate blood.

I love my community, from those that ran the AC100, to my Bastards, to everyone at the Boston Marathon.  We are strong, and we have many, many adventures ahead.  NOTHING will ever stop that.

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