It was a bright (or dreary) cold day in April (or March), and the clocks were striking thirteen (or 9:45 AM)… or so they would soon. Team “Beauty and the Beasts” had been planning this venture for, well, only a few short weeks, but we were ready. Thanks to Pilgrim’s Progress, we were not only prepared for 48 hours in the North Carolina wilderness, but we easily could have traveled cross country with the suggested packing list and secured supplies.
Friday, March 19th, 8:00 AM, the crew met at Orangeman’s humble abode in Belmont. The excitement level was climbing as, one by one, the team arrived. As Orangeman mounted his chariot (a.k.a. White Stallion, Beauty, Grocery Getter, Mall Crawler, Parking Lot Princess), Tiger gave all a pep-talk and safety briefing before heading off for a day at the office.
Minivan and Tesla were Orangeman’s cohorts. Minivan had already claimed shotgun, so Tesla would take the rear. Meanwhile, Pilgrim’s Progress was packing up the rest of his cohorts’ gear in his reliable, off-road-worthy, ol’ truck, as BOS and Sugar climbed in.
After a short stop to fuel up, we headed to “Tater Hole” where we met a “Cousin Eddie” by the dock. The anticipation was getting to the group since this was our first attempt to finish the Mortimer 100 Relay, and as Orangeman put it, our Mortimer adventure was getting “for reals, yo!”
This year, the relay had increased in distance and verticality from previous iterations. Cousin Eddie asked, “who has Leg 8?” Pilgrim said he did. Cousin Eddie answered, “you’ll be OK,” with an odd smirk on his face. “And 15?” he asked. BOS claimed his fate and Cousin Eddie started to give a cryptic description, including 36 paces to a trail that doesn’t exist. A few more minutes of mumble-chatter and a lot of nervous tension, and we sent Minivan off to start Leg 1.
Leg 1 – Minivan (Tiger’s M, Danielle Smallwood)
10:00 AM. With cloudy skies and misty air, and questioning my sanity when volunteering to be the sixth “man” on team Beauty and the Beasts, I was off. It took me at least 36 paces just to get off the damn dock, followed immediately by my first uphill. Having rucked a total of three miles ever (the Tuesday prior), I adjusted my shoulder straps (or should I say, Tiger’s shoulder straps) for the first five minutes trying to get a comfortable fit. Although 20 lbs. may not seem like much, at almost 20% of my body weight, my shoulders were already hurting. But as the minutes rolled by, armed with intermittent GPS and my thumb on the trigger of bear/dog/human pepper spray, I finally found my groove. It was a pretty uneventful 5.8 miles, and as the sun began to poke through the clouds, I was feeling pretty good. I was well ahead of my estimated pace, but little did I know, the drama was already unfolding with the beasts up ahead. Just ask Orangeman…
While waiting for Minivan at the first transition point… “our drama level increased as I slowly backed up the chariot (didn’t gladiators ride in chariots?) into a telephone pole. Realizing that it was not going to fall, and the damage was almost unnoticeable, the groups’ anxiety level dropped, we had a good laugh, and waited for Minivan to arrive. She did, ahead of schedule, and Pilgrim was off. We regrouped, had another laugh at my expense, and took off for the next point.”
Leg 2 – Pilgrim’s Progress
After a small incident on Leg 1 involving a grocery-getter vehicle and a stationary object, I was off… After the first mile, it was time to dodge traffic on the shoulder-less 321A. About halfway through I noticed a young woman getting into her car in the parking lot of a coffee shop across the street. As she tried to place the four-coffee tray into the vehicle, a vicious animal plopped out of the vehicle. It had very large teeth and a giant pink tongue for a 2 lb. canine. The animal eyed me from across the street and then made a beeline for me. I thought, “this is it… it is all over.” The beast got to the middle of the busy street and froze. There was a decision to make. Do I jump into action to save this beast that was coming for my very own life??? Of course! I immediately stopped traffic on 321A and scrambled to the yellow lines to snatch this creature from the jaws of fate to return him to the palm of his caretaker.
Leg 3 – BOS Lenoir 11:30am
970 feet of elevation over 6.9 miles.
After witnessing Minivan bombing into her first handoff and passing off to Pilgrim for Leg 2, I was getting excited to get this adventure underway. Sugar and I jumped in our truck and headed to endex two and three. Upon arrival YHC jumped out and hit the road for an out and back route from Hibriten up 3.5 miles to the fire tower that looks down over the mountainside. Within the first mile, just as we were warned, the dogs came out. First one… fast, scrappy and noisy, but contained by invisible fence. The second one… much bigger, looks angrier and, oh shit, not contained by anything. With a “good boy,” a side step, and a few speedy steps. YHC didn’t stick around to see if he was a friend. In the clear, not quite. What does YHC hear coming my way? Three dogs all barking and running straight for me. Time to move it. YHC picked up the pace and before long they lost interest, or did they. This is an out and back route. Few more chained dogs and we were in the clear. On to the trail for a winding trip up to the fire tower. Once at the tower YHC found a hang-gliding platform and a huge metal frame that holds up one of those huge light up stars you see while driving through the NC mountains. A quick look around and time to bomb back down past the dogs for the hand off to Tesla.
*It’s important to note that Orangeman had a knack for getting others turned around, to put it nicely. And he freely admits to it, “Start of Leg 3 was our scheduled concurring legs. BOS took off up the hill, and Tesla took off for parts unknown, thanks to me. When I say “left,” I really mean “right.” I will soon learn that again, but suffice it to say, don’t rely on Orangeman for directions. However, I didn’t ever come close to getting lost while driving or rucking, so there’s that!”
Leg 4 – Tesla – Section 4 or does anyone know where “Null” is?
So YHC had section four which looked be a fairly in the Lenoir area on a bright, windy morning at 45 degrees. YHC dropped his sweatshirt and went with a pair of shorts and a light long sleeve shirt and headed off per the team’s (Orangeman’s) instructions. Which was turn left on Starcross Road and go to where it intersected with another road about a mile out. At 61 YHC figured this to be a 20 minute or so walk so off I went.
The route had some elevation which I found puzzling at best given the description I had read. That said I went on with things, feeling pretty strong with 30 lbs. on my back and a nice cool day to go for a walk in the foothills of North Carolina, a place I have known forever and have always loved.
Got up to the intersection of Starcross and Ellerwood and noted it on the sheet as Norwood. So I questioned what I had done a minute or so but not that much, it looked like a hard left on both. And I was going to look for this road called “Null” which Ok, they name things up here for local legends and outside of Tom Dula’s grave I figured someone else named Null had written himself into history somehow or another. And it looked right on the map and the profile so left I went and down one hill and up a big steep one. And on, and on, and on.
Have to say it was a great day to be out in the country! Very little traffic. Had some relief but no big deal! I have walked through the mountains for the better part of six decades at this point. So on I went. A few dogs (one lab tried to beg me for pets and I succumbed). Great farm where they raised guineas and German Short Hairs. My kind of folks!
Still, I had not seen anything that said “Null” so I just kept going. The elevation profile was matching up with what I THOUGHT was my pace (turned out my pace was quite a bit faster than I thought it was) so I just kept walking. Until I hit the two-hour mark which I knew I would cover the distance a lot quicker than that. So I did the thing I HATE to do! I relied on technology. Not that I don’t like tech, but I grew up doing this sort of thing without tech and I think we get way too dependent on it. And it tends to fail – spectacularly in many cases. But where I was then I had to call for help. So that’s what I did. Turns out I was WAY off! And way long. Like over two miles over my distance. I was easily at six-plus miles by then according to the GPS info. And no sign of this left turn onto “NULL”. Which means this whole things was in fact – nullified.
So when I got in touch with my team and we worked out where I was and where they were I knew damn good and well that the GPs was going to really screw things up. I promptly began to backtrack under the worst case scenario that if I just walked all the way back I would effect my own rescue. I took ownership of that reality. Was not really looking forward to it, but was all about doing it.
Was probably about a mile plus on going back when I got picked up. We used the time form when I called (the six-mile point) for the leg. Which was both a lot longer and a lot more up and down than what I had to do.
All that said it was a great walk. Lots of quiet and time to think. I always liked that about my old marathon long runs in my youth. I recommend it.
Leg 5 – Orangeman
Seven miles from beautiful downtown Lenoir to Oakwood Presbyterian. Thirty-plus minutes after Tesla was supposed to be in, I get a phone call from him. He is somewhere opposite of where he should have been, phone has 2% battery, and I think he is hangry. I finally get an address, send it to the rest of the team, and take off on my leg. Rolling hills, barking, but not chasing, dogs, and a bit warm. The ruck is progressing smoothly until my wrist, um, Apple Watch rings. It’s Pilgrim… still haven’t found Tesla! I confirm the address was what I sent them, and keep on rucking. Time to put out the Silver Alert??! Five minutes later, and all is good. It wasn’t my address that was bad, it was Google Maps pointing the team to the wrong place. Fifteen minutes later I turn into the church parking lot and send Sugar is on his way.
Leg 6 – Sugar
Pretty basic and mostly flat*. 5-ish miles except for a 300 ft elevation spike in mile 2-3. Once you get over the hump, all good from there on out except for the risk of getting hit by a car, truck or dump truck. The payoff? The country store and a club sandwich made to order!!!! (*There is no flat in the Foothills)
Leg 7 – Minivan
Slightly unexpected so soon, Sugar came racing around the corner in record time, which caused a minor hustle on my part to get ready. The beasts quickly assembled a better ruck sack with the 20lb. weight, helped me strap up, and I was on my way, again. I wasn’t sure which leg of the race I should be most nervous about. This one had me on edge a little because it was 10.4 miles without GPS. Fortunately, it was only two roads. The first three miles were pretty boring, to be honest. Aside from jumping on to the non-existent shoulder a handful of times to dodge murderous drivers, I was in much better shape with the new ruck sack I was wearing. I was very happy to turn north, and within a mile or so, I was entering national forest. I spent the next seven miles or so walking and running and taking in the breathtaking views. Hands down this had to be the most beautiful leg on the relay. To do this stretch in the dark would have been a shame. Two hours and 15 minutes after starting, I finished the 10.4 with achy shoulders and a post-marathon style shuffle. I was more than ready to refuel and rest…
Leg 8 – Pilgrim’s Progress
This was my tough one. Strava said 1000 feet in the first mile. Felt like a lot more. Early in the climb, I had to make a right turn onto Yellow Buck Trail (thanks to the Gaia app), but the climb had just begun. It was hard to enjoy the scenery and with my eyes focused on the tall steps and roots that made up the trail. At the top was a nice clearing with a fire pit. I thought it would be nice to stop here and enjoy the sunset, but, no, I must proceed as the sun is going down and the creek crossings are all ahead. I met up with BOS and Sugar at the halfway mark to refuel with a Gatorade and banana. Then I was off again. Down the road and onto Hunt Fish Falls Trail. This is where it got interesting. As I went down into the valley, it got very dark. What light would come through from the moon or stars was blocked out by the canopy. It was time for the head lamp to guide my way. I am uncertain how many creek crossings I navigated – there were supposed to be five. I was told they were ankle deep, so why were my knees wet? The rocks were slick. The difficult part was dropping down to the creek and finding your way across and losing sight of the trail you came from and the one you were supposed to connect with. There were no markers in sight. At one point I had to push about 20 feet through the brush to the trail (it was where the gaia app said it was).
As I headed out, I could see lights in the distance and hear people talking. Tesla was making his way toward me and I could hear BOS behind him. After three hours and five minutes it was over.
Leg 9 – BOS Middle of nowhere Avery county 9:35pm
1895 feet of elevation over 6.8 miles.
This leg started off from one of the darkest places YHC has ever been. It was chilly and we were all feeling the effects of our first leg(s) and riding in our trucks. Once we got Pilgrim back safely with the team, YHC took off for a five-mile trek uphill. This sucked to say the least. Of course, there are dogs barking in the distance. YHC assumed all they could see was a bouncing light going down their quiet road. Or they smelled a city slicker. Finally, one poked its head out of this dark driveway and came into the road beside me. Interested in smelling and maybe tasting but too lazy to give chase. The road went on and on and would not give, and that climb most definitely didn’t give. More rustling in the trees and barking in the distance while YHC made my way up this road. Finally, a little downhill and YHC was on the way to the Linville post office to pass the run to Tesla.
Leg 10 – Tesla – The Van and the Jeep
By this time, it was not only fully late night in Linville, NC but it had gotten cold which for this time of the year at this elevation is what you expect. What you don’t expect is suspicious if not seriously suspect activities to be going on in your midst.
A little recap here is necessary. As we had headed to the upper portion of Wilson’s Creek, a large Mercedes van was tailing us which was a little north of curious as he seemed determined to be going somewhere with something. So when we got to the start of nine and waited for Pilgrim to come out, we never thought of it. Now naturally the ending of eight by Pilgrim was unique. Dark had fallen and so had the temp. Being a woodsman and hunter for decades, YHC was pretty concerned about anybody in a backwoods situation after dark out there. So we were pretty worried about Pilgrim to the point at 9 pm I walked in after him but with limits. Fifteen minutes and no more and then wait to see him. Losing one was bad enough, two unacceptable.
I was pretty certain I saw him in the woods and that’s a good thing because going back on that trail in the dark with just a headlamp and flashlight turned out to be as risky as I thought it might be. Pretty rough back there and lots of slippage possibilities beside the creek which was still pretty up from the heavy rains the previous week. I didn’t like that combo of dark, cold, wet, and rocks. So going for help was a definite possibility to get Pilgrim out.
Turns out we didn’t need to. I saw his light and he made it down to me. Said he felt awful. I got that for sure! But got it done and no worse for the wear. BOS headed up the hill on nine and we went to Linville and the post office.
We parked away from the light figuring BOS had a two-hour roll in front of him which would put us at 11:30 for me taking off on Leg 10. Then lo and behold the van shows back up. And a white Cherokee jeep as well for company. Or something else maybe. They apparently didn’t like the setup and so they headed out. Strange? You bet it was!
YHC got into his pack and stayed with the shorts and sweatshirt with a decent layer between and headed toward Boone. Once the turn was made on the Forest Service Road it got steep – fast! It was also awesome to there. The sky was brilliant and the cold made it even better with no humidity to create a haze. Just the stars, the moon and me. Dead silence. I have always said that the most deafening sound I have ever experienced is dead silence in the woods. No exception here!
Made the first hairpin turn and it got steeper. And guess what I saw after that – that damn van! As I got closer to it, I have to admit my apprehension increased. And apparently the occupant got notified of my approaching by my headlamp shining into his back area. I saw a light come on and he got up out of the back. Obviously, he had planned to hunker down there for a while. I was in no mood to disrupt any of his activities whatever they were. And headed by him on that steep grade that kept getting steeper.
The walk itself was not that bad but between the grade and the chill I was expending some energy. Gloves were great and I really never got cold at all. But did sweat and was a little concerned about that. The road was fairly pitted and uneven so I concentrated on where my next step(s) would be. Last thing I wanted to do was turn an ankle. So just one foot in front of another and keep plodding on! There was an antenna I kept focused on as I climbed because I figured when I got there that was essentially the top or close to it. And that did turn out to be the case. I could hear a little traffic on 221 so I knew I was close to done. So when things leveled out, I was probably 400 yards form the endpoint. Got there and did a couple of things like strip out of my shirt and wet stuff and got dry ASAP and ate some things and drank water. Never cramped the whole time.
Ten was unique. In the dark I am sure it was even more unique. With “secret agents” out there even more so! Great scenery though in the cold and dark. Enjoyed the route very much.
Leg 11 – Orangeman
Seven miles mostly downhill from near Grandfather Mountain park entrance to New Hopewell Baptist. We sat a bit in Linville before Tesla takes off on Leg 10. The white delivery van that followed us on Roseboro road pulls into the post office parking lot, and after a short bit, a white Wrangler pulls in. Van driver is on the phone, hangs up, and drives off with the Wrangler following. Your guess is as good as mine… booty call or drug deal? When Tesla takes off, we take Old Yonahlossee to my starting point, passing Tesla, and surprisingly passing both a white Wrangler and white delivery van. Again, booty call or drug deal? Finally start my ruck after Tesla doesn’t get lost (I had no say in directions, but I would have told him wrong). It’s pitch black except for the headlamp, and only the sounds of rushing water, footsteps, and breathing kept me company. The steep downhill pushes me to do more runking than rucking, and I make great time. I’ll let my teammates describe how quick I was, considering I had to wake them up from their cold winter’s naps when I arrived. Pointed Sugar in the wrong direction, and started getting myself warm. Couple minutes later, I see Sugar pass by, finally going the right way. Lesson learned; I’ll keep my mouth shut! After a bit of talk with another ruck team, first time we’d seen anyone else, I hear someone yelling from above, “What’s going on down there!” I quickly alerted the gentleman that we were doing a relay race and he will be seeing many more heading this way. I climb into the chariot, head back up the road, miss a turn (but didn’t get lost), talk to the Sheriff who had been called for some sort of disturbance at the church, pulled into Sugar’s destination and waited.
Leg 12 – Sugar
In my past relay experiences, I have come to really enjoy the 0200 legs. Peaceful is the first word that comes to mind and the same was true with this leg but not until after getting my ass kicked by the first three miles.
It started with a wrong left turn (it is NASCAR country after all) and once corrected, started going up. And then going up some more. The kind of up I had never seen before which showed itself for about a half mile between miles 2-4. It was the kind of up that forces you to either slow your pace or wait for your heart to explode out of your chest leaving a mess for someone else to find at some point later in the morning. BUT, once that misery was over and I made it to S.R. 221, it was all “downhill-ish” for the remaining three miles. Cue the peaceful Zen-like experience of running in the mountains at 0200. It was just as expected, unbelievable and was the thing that 0200 runs are made of. No traffic, the world is asleep, silent and peaceful. The blackness of the mountain to the left and the overlook of the lower foothills to the right with lights off in the distance peeping through the trees. Truly peaceful and calming. (Except for the big black drainage pipe that looked like a hungry black bear)
Leg 13 – Minivan
3:30 AM. As anyone who’s ever done a relay knows, there’s no sleeping in the truck or van. It just doesn’t happen. However, under a warm blanket in the pitch-black back country, I managed to find a few Z’s, just a few. But before I knew it, I was up again. This was the leg I was dreading. At just over 5.5 miles, the long stretch of zero-light on the Parkway could have become a little creepy. I had no cell service, and the light on my head and in my hand did virtually nothing to light the long, dark road. Fortunately, my teammates were not far behind. There to light the way with headlights and to keep a protective eye, the two team trucks would leapfrog each other the whole way, making for a quick and uneventful trek. After leaping off the parkway, carefully skipping down the embankment, and walking up to the exchange point at the end of my leg, I felt amazing. I was finished. Orangeman took the sack off my back, and the baton was passed. I thanked the guys for staying with me in the lonely dark. “No problem, Minivan. It was all a part of the ‘Tiger Promise’.”
At the end of the day, and this wildly ludicrous adventure, I think just about every one of us would do it again. Our team worked well together – looked out for one another and supported each other. Whether it was Brett’s horrible habit of pointing the next man up in the wrong direction… or backing his truck into a pole… or Tesla’s own loop during his first leg which took him miles out of the way and had the rest of us close to putting out a Silver Alert… or the threat of snarling dogs and other wild animals… or the loss of GPS and phones that would just randomly shut off… or ruck sacks that didn’t quite fit… or Pilgrim’s ridiculous eighth leg… or 36 paces to nowhere (what the…?)… or explaining what we were doing to the Sherrif… or witnessing some sort of shenanigans during a van and Jeep rendezvous… or sleeping and eating in the back of trucks… to peeing in the woods… to making the handoff at a church with an active funeral service… to Minivan putting her feet and shoes all the way in BOS’s shoes and prancing around… it was an adventure that none of us will forget. What a team! What a crew. Beauty and the Beasts. (However, it’s still uncertain when referring to the team’s name, if Brett is referring to the lone female of the group or if he’s referring to his road-worthy, damaged, pretty truck. The world may never know…)
Next year, this mother rucker is in for another terribly awful, hilariously fun Mortimer. I’ll keep my teammates, and hopefully they’ll keep me. Next year, we’re team “F4.” I’ll take the Mortimer any day over virtual school with four boys. Not even leg eight can compare to that shit… so bring it on, Cousin Eddie. You haven’t seen the last of this fourth F!
Leg 14 – Pilgrim’s Progress
This leg was the perfect ending for my three legs. A short modest climb and a long easy cruise on a wide gravel path. I had been drained of energy and navigational abilities and brought to my mental limit by Leg 8. This leg just required movement and very little thought. I will say that I wish I could have done this one in the daylight. The trip from Trout Lake to Bass Lake sounds like a beautiful route.
Leg 15 – BOS Bass Lake to App Ski Area 6:36am
1131 feet of elevation over 8.8 miles.
While the entire team was sleeping, Pilgrim came in and YHC took off from Bass Lake with hopes to find the team at the Appalachian Ski Area. One of the Foothills PAX took off rucking about 15 minutes before YHC did. They caught us because they were dropping guys off threes at a time and leapfrogging ahead. Regardless, YHC wasn’t going to let these guys pass us so it was time to hit the trail for my first Mortimer kill. Around the lake, and into the Maze of trails. Within the first mile and a half YHC caught, introduced myself, talked briefly, and left our brother from Foothills in the dust. This was the most scenic leg yet as once YHC cleared the treeline and the sun was starting to rise. So cool to see the mountain side come alive for the day. Through Moses H. Cone park, under the Blue Ridge Parkway and up to Flat Top Tower. Well, not quite to Flat Top Tower. YHC was looking for a footpath 36 paces prior to the tower marked by a survey spike. Got it, let’s go; finally, some downhill along the mountain ridge. Out of the woods to the wonky streets surrounding the Appalachian Ski area. A right turn here a wrong turn there and a hell of a time for my phone to do an update. My maps were guiding me when all of a sudden, my phone shut off. It would not restart until YHC plugged it into my backup battery. 49% charge…weird. Once it starts, my map said left, no right, no go to Blowing Rock and turn. An extra mile or so in the wrong direction. Shit! Phone call to the team. Look to the top of the ski hill and wave! Phone jacked, Nav jacked, which way should… never mind. Round the corner, and a few cul-de-sacs, even considered climbing a fence before YHC found his bearings and his team. BOS in, Tesla out.
Let 16 – Tesla – Tesla’s Last Stand
So as we pulled headed over to an old stomping ground of Tesla’s at the Cone Park (where YHC spent a lot of time training for the Marine Corps Marathon in the summer of ’86) it was two things – dark and cold. After a little nap time we headed up the hill to the ski resort to wait on BOS and then I would take it from there. Have to say it was great sunrise and by that time the sleep deprivation issue was not even there – at least for then. It was a lot of fun watching the place wake up, guys coming in to ski and watching the first runs. And it was 24 degrees. So as YHC stretched his legs on a bathroom break it actually felt really good because there was no real wind. Having looked over the course profile, it was pretty apparent what was going to happen. I was going to go straight up and then straight down. And then finish straight up in Boone. So when BOS finally emerged in the morning sunlight, YHC was ready to roll in the cold, knowing it was going to get warm FAST on the way down. Also it was noted that traffic could be an issue and seeing they were all coming UP the mountain made it an obvious choice to walk on the right side some.
So off I went and straight up I went! It was just one of those things where you lean into the hill and keep moving. No problem! Got up above the ski slope and started coming down the road which was hairpin turn after hairpin turn. So I determined the best sight lines were for me to get over on the right side. It was also icy so that decision had multiple components to it. I managed to get into some snow and walk to eliminate slippage as much as possible.
That all turned out to be a good call. I only had one vehicle come up behind me and I had the sight line to let him see me and get on the other side. The issue there was the guardrail limited room so I got back on the right side as soon as I could. Did that all the way down to where you made the big right turn which was clearly marked “Mortimer”. Great to have that out there. Would have appreciated it earlier!
After that turn there was another uphill but not that bad in my opinion. And then started down. Which that road did not have the sight issues the previous one had. And as expected the warmup began.
What I also noting was that I was on the pace I wanted which was sub 20 minute miles. And most if what was behind me had been pretty stout up hill. I knew I could match that coming down which would put me at 1:20. Which as it turned out was about right. That said, downhill can be as bad as uphill. In fact, it actually “damages” you more and it did have an effect on me. There were a few good vistas but nothing to really slow down for so I just got with the downhill.
When I got into Boone there was another sign and so I followed it and stuck to the grass areas as opposed to being on the road. The walk through Boone was uneventful. Then I turned up the last hill.
This was a good one! About I guess a quarter mile uphill or so maybe? But it was a tough hike up. I as a little dehydrated by then so getting up the hill was desirable at that point! One step at a time, one foot in front of the other got it done.
Was glad to drop the pack for sure! My active part was done. And I was no worse for the wear for it. Later in the day would come the sleep issue but until we got to the top of Howard’s Knob it was not a problem.
Have to say this was worth doing. I really enjoyed my teammates and the event. For me, being “comfortable” is not something I look for. I need from time to time to push out and explore that which I have not done before. This was one of those things. I had only put a ruck on several times before I did this and everything went fine. The biggest thing was dealing with no sleep and keeping from cramping. Coming down the hill here I almost did that couple of times but kept it at bay.
Would I do this again? Sure! At least sitting here today in relative comfort I can say that. But I have done that any number of times. I cannot speak for others but my mission in life is to expand the borders and go out and be in the game. Adventure is what makes me go to a large degree. Which gets into some other areas we can talk about later on and we will.
Leg 17 – Orangeman
Four miles from St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country to App State Beaver Field. This may have been my shortest leg, but it was easily my hardest. A steep climb past the App State football stadium (did I say steep… I really meant steeeeeep) wears me out, and I fight off leg cramps on the way back down. No runking for the rest of this leg for sure! Climb 95 steps, yes, I counted them, and I’m heading to my only trail section, winding my way to the baseball field. I make a wrong turn, but quickly see my error, and I’m done, and happy to see my team. It was an honor to be a part of The Mortimer, and a member of Beauty and the Beasts.
Leg 18 – Sugar – “The Glory Leg”
I have seen ‘this kind of up’ before…. but, not like this. It was on this leg that I realized that there are two parts to ‘this kind of up’. The ‘up’ part and then the ‘how long does the up part last?’ part. In short, the entirety of the last half of this 4.5-mile leg is ‘this kind of up’. I can think of no words to explain what I experienced on Leg 18. I could only describe the last part of this leg as the desire to pick up the pace but the inability to do so. Ten steps then stop for a ten second rest and then Repeato until you see those beautiful gates. Ahhhh, those beautiful gates. Had they not been made of chain link I would’ve sworn they were ‘THE Gates’, you know, the pearly kind. Anyway, I made some comment to the PAX guarding the gate about insanity which was received with a chuckle. (BTW, if his F3 name’s not St. Peter it should be.) “Turn right and look for the shovel-flag my good and faithful servant”, he said. No finer words have ever been spoken, almost home. I didn’t see THE shovel-flag but I saw OUR Shovel Flag through the trees and headed that way wanting to ‘run it in’ but the calves said no by way of cramping up so ‘hobbling it in’ would have to do. And it did. Rock touched – it’s done!
The Mortimer. I had heard about it a few years back and thought “that’s nuts”. However, I have thought the same thing about every other Crazy, Stupid and Utterly Pointless (CSAUP) event I have signed up for since being a member of F3 Nation. But what really appealed to me about this one was how it came about which as I understand, a few F3Foothills PAX had an idea and just did it – grass roots style. No flashy website, no official exchange points just the course (which, as I have learned, you’d better study). Since the event, I have been asked several times “How was it?”. “Awesome” is the first word that pops into my mind but that doesn’t do it justice. So, to unpack that one go-to adjective, how about: frightening, intimidating, relentless, exhilarating, rewarding, unbelievable and yes, awesome. Quite honestly one of the best relay races I have done.
I read Feed to Lead early in my F3 days and did not understand why they categorized CSAUP as F2 events until I did one. But they are as bonds are formed through mutual misery and priceless experiences. I have experienced this with every stupid event I have done and this one was no different. Experiencing/commiserating the Mortimer 100 Relay as a member of team ‘Beauty and the Beasts’ will always be memorable and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this team.
One last thing…. always remember, if you run slow, you’re just a slow runner. But if you run slow with a ruck on, you’re a Rucker!
Until next year…
Team Beauty and the Beasts – OUT!