Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Katrina Part 3.

And so we continue the story of the first and only time I've been in the back of a police cruiser.

As I said, life was frenzied (so frenzied that one day, while I was living on a tour bus with my male coworkers, I open the door into the tiny bathroom on that bus -- right into my boss using it. That is the definition of Awkward, just so you know). And I barely left the area where we were living and working. Until one night I was invited to dinner with a group of people that included a Cabinet Secretary. So I figured it was ok to actually leave, after ensuring all my duties were taken care of. And I don't even get into the restaurant before I get a call on my cell phone that something needs to be taken care of right then back at the emergency ops center. So I frantically look at my friend who had invited me to the dinner and he jumps into action to figure out how to send me back.

So he commandeers a police car.

I had to admit, I was pretty impressed. Some of us had official flip-top badges so he might've flashed that, who knows. All I know is the next thing that happened was he and the group went with the Cabinet Member, and a nice helpful policeman let me into the back of his car and he whisked me back to my home base.

The only other time I tried to leave for actual downtime, I was nearly accosted by a local yelling at me that I was with the government and had the gaul to just be out having dinner. I'm pretty sure my exhausted, over-worked self started tearing up at which point my coworker sat down with the man and explained how hard we'd been working for many days and that we were simply trying to decompress for a second. They ended up being buds and I gratefully got to actually finish that meal.
And I mentioned other random "politicos" running around. It became this funny game of connection, where I'd be getting emails from DC on my blackberry to go find so and so on a corner outside the JFO who I'd never met but was another politico and needed help navigating the area or something. Even after I left and returned to DC, I'd get calls on my cell from others who had just gone down for another shift, and I'd be standing in the middle of DC trying to explain to someone what road to turn on in Baton Rouge. Insanity.

But before we go into my return to D.C., there's one other person I met while down there that is pretty funny.

Jesse Jackson.

For whatever reason, he felt the need to insert himself into the operations down there, which at the time I found really annoying. And I remember walking past his aide one day in the EOC and his aide asking me if I wanted to meet Mr. Jackson.

I said no.

Which was probably considered rude but I didn't care at the time. However, later, he ended up near me again and my coworkers and I decided to go ahead and snap a photo. It's blurry and I'm smirking -- pretty representative of how I felt right then so very appropriate:

I went on to interact with other folks and continued to work until my direct bosses were sent back to D.C. with short notice again. I wanted so badly to stay and even had one of the military liaisons offer me a place to sleep on a naval ship he was living on right off the coast, but in the end, I knew I needed to go with my bosses.

Then they almost left me.

Sigh. The exit happened so fast that they couldn't find a flight out of Baton Rouge and instead decided to drive to Houston and fly out the next morning (or maybe my boss did it on purpose because of the bathroom incident....). I literally jumped into one of the suburbans as they were heading out.

And that's how my Katrina experience ended. As abruptly as it started, full of emotion.

God Speed, Sandy responders.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Katrina Part 2.

So thank the Lord, Sandy didn't devastate the DC area like we feared, although it obviously did terrible damage in other areas so our thoughts and prayers are with those digging out now that the worst of the storm is over. Since I still have power (and I should be working on someone's annual work assessment but don't want to) let's continue with my Katrina story.

We had just landed and were about to find out where we'd be living. Turns out, we managed to get music tour busses -

off the Ozzfest tour!!

Shut. Up.

Because any hotel rooms rightfully went to the victims, those working the response had to get creative with their own housing and someone, somehow, got several busses, some of which did in fact come from that tour. I was simultaneously feeling awesome and scared of STDs all at the same time.

And here's where one of my favorite "Internal Homing Device" moments occur. Since I frequently run into people randomly connected to my life, it shouldn't surprise me too much when it happens. But this one was extra random. The bus I ended up living on was driven by a man who I started talking to one day.

I was in charge of a lot of the logistics for federal staff so one of the many things I did down there was organize sleeping arrangements for folks, including coordinating when our "homes" -- aka these giant busses -- could go get gas, where they should park, etc. I also put multiple rental cars on my credit card in the heat of the moment just to get staff moving before I later found out the government has a fleet of cars at much easier disposal. You can't say I'm not mission-oriented and resourceful. But you can say people need to tell me these things beforehand!! Ahem. Not that I still have resentment or anything....
So I'm talking to this driver about logistics and of course I have to mention that this is not my first rodeo when it comes to living on a tour bus. I told him my friends are musicians and I ran off with them briefly once and slept on the top bunk and sold merch at their shows.

And he knows! them!

He blurts out the name of the band and I'm like "YES! How do you know them?!" Because this band is from a tiny town in Tennessee and they play bluegrass -- not exactly the same as saying "yeah, NSYNC - you've heard of them too?!"

And he pulls out his cell phone and shows me that in his contacts is the driver of my friends' tour bus -- the driver who I used to go to church with. The driver who is the uncle of one of my ex boyfriends.

Small. Freaking. World. I tell ya.

Anyway, moving on to other funny connections. During Katrina I was still working in a political position and when you're doing anything that involves politicals, you end up running into people you know, even though you are now in a totally different part of the country than usual. And the same goes for the disaster response community. A year or so before Katrina, I helped in response efforts for a series of hurricanes that hit Florida. So I met people "in the field" during that who I would see again running around the joint field office (JFO) in Louisiana a year or so later.

But the politicals were funny. Because people were getting sent left and right down there to do jobs they normally don't do from all different types of federal agencies. And some were self-deploying without orders so they'd just show up and be like "what do you need me to do?" while they bedded down at night on the floor in the JFO. And they'd ask me what to do. These guys were Assistant Secretaries of the Departments of Important Things and they were asking Me, a girl who felt barely out of college still.

Upside down world.

But it was cool to see these powerful people ready to do whatever was needed and to see everyone's compassion and intensity. I distinctly remember the day I landed and walked into the "Red October" (the name for one of FEMA's  "mobile operational command vehicles" that I spent a lot of time in. It's basically a semi-truck that turns into a command center with computers and stuff - very cool.) to find one of my friends whose normal job was to communicate things to congressional staffers but he had been in Louisiana since the storm hit - and he was clearly running on pure adrenaline. He raced through telling me how he couldn't sleep at night because he would think about the people who might have water up to their chests, and how if he goes to sleep, will they have water up to their necks? And he wasn't a first responder so his work didn't directly affect anyone being flooded but he felt that responsibility nonetheless. And that set the tone for what I continued to see around me.

People were high on adrenaline, urgently searching for anything to do to help, fear and sadness behind their eyes. I remember thinking about the national guard units who got back from Iraq only to turn around and have to defend their own community from the mahem that was ensuing among their neighbors. How policeman and fireman had to focus on the job at hand not knowing whether or not their own families were alive. I remember the first-hand accounts from my coworkers who went into the Superdome and how they needed professional counseling as a result of what they experienced inside. Completely unfathomable that this all could happen so quickly in a major U.S. city. So incredible.

But I promised not to get in too deep with these posts. So back to my lighter experiences.

We were in and out of mobile units, JFOs, and emergency ops centers (EOCs) that basically all looked like this:


It was a frenzied mix of first responders, civilian staff, media, military, the Mayor, the Governor, and the occasional cabinet secretary or the President himself. I started running into people I had worked with (or dated...) before. My days were so unpredictable that one minute I was getting a Hep A shot in the back of a tractor trailer, the next I was driving down streets in Baton Rouge getting Subway sandwiches for then FEMA director Mike Brown. The next minute I was giving the shoes off my feet to a coworker who was spontaneously about to take a helicoptor tour of New Orleans and she needed closed-toed shoes to confront whatever disease-ridden waters they might land in.

I barely ever left the compound we were working in, until the one evening I did --

and ended up in the back of a police car.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Me and Hurricanes: Katrina, Part 1.

We have yet another crazy weather situation heading towards D.C. right now.

You know how disaster prone I am, and how I'm even getting stalked by bad weather at my races now (tornado during my first attempt at a marathon, and then another one brewing during Tough Mudder). I originally started this year planning to do the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow which would've been so typical given D.C. is now prepping for Hurricane Sandy to hit us. But I ended up deciding against the race so I'm now left to just prep me and Chloe and think about the thing I always think about when I hear the word Hurricane -- Katrina.

As part of the disaster trend in my work life, being a part of the response to Hurricane Katrina was the second in a string of incidents I worked on (the first being 9/11, the subsequents being H1N1 and an Oil Spill. Some people like a nice, stable work environment -- me? Dangerous levels of chaos please! Which could also describe my dating life at times...but I digress....).

There are so many, many things I could say about what I experienced and learned through that disaster but that starts to get heavy and possibly too revealing of people I worked alongside. I will, however, tell you some of the more funny parts about my own personal experiences during the response.

Before Katrina made landfall, I knew I was likely getting "deployed" down to Louisiana but that was about all I knew. In the end, I was basically given less than a day's notice, left work that afternoon to pack, and jumped on a plane the next morning.

First of all, I was told to "pack for a month" but to plan on being gone "indefinitely." I was also told we didn't know what the conditions were. So of course I go crazy, pack way too much, and foolishly pack things that required electricity...like a hair dryer....and a small portable fan.


Yes, I endured much ridicule for that one. In my 20-something year old brain, I was thinking - Louisiana is hot. We probably won't have AC So my coworkers will love me for bringing this.

Except you know why we might not have AC? Because there might not be electricity. Which is what my fan ran on. Sigh.

So there I am with my giant suitcase at the airport and I discover our transportation for the day is -- a private plane. Various corporations were donating anything they could think of for the response efforts so the group I was heading down with just happened to be heading down on a very nice plane courtesy of a professional sports team. Which was so strange because as soon as we got off the plane in Louisiana - we were going to be sleeping on a bus. Private plane ---> sleeping on a bus. And so began the Upside-Down world I lived in during that time.

And let me reiterate that my stories here are just the interesting or humorous parts of my experience but I in no way mean to belittle the enormity of that tragedy or sound like I'm bemoaning any of the conditions. I gladly would've slept on the floor, gone without food, stayed there for months -whatever to help. I'm so glad I was able to be a part of the response in a tiny way. Now, onto my ridiculousness....

Friday, October 19, 2012

A DC Dana Birthday

I celebrated my birthday this week. And the number one wish people gave me was that I would have a semi-normal, non-awkward/strange day - for once. It almost happened.
First, I have to tell you one of the most exciting things that happened this month (exciting only in Girl World - calm down). One of my stylish friends decided to have a closet purge and let just a few friends come over and take whatever they wanted. for free. and she and I are the same size.
I'm still beaming.
Anyway, so on my actual birthday, I ended up basically wearing an entire outfit of my "new" clothes to work. Including purse and shoes. And I loved the outfit and was told I looked very Jackie O and for whatever reason it's 100% more fun when the clothes cost me nothing so I'm walking around my office to go meet with my supervisor when -
it happens.
My shoes backfire.
Maybe I'm the only one this happens to, but there are certain shoes that - when you're feet start to sweat the slightest bit as you are walking - fall off. And you don't realize it's going to happen until it actually happens out of nowhere. This day was one of the worst I've ever had. So bad that at one point I'm in front of an entire half of the floor -- which is an "open office floorplan" meaning everyone can see everyone else -- and I actually have to stop walking multiple times and regroup. And I think "I might actually have to go barefoot to get the rest of the way to my boss' office!" Which is just so typical because here I am, feeling all nice in my new outfit, on my birthday, and now I'm paralyzed while coworkers look on and I have to do a weird butt-clench looking walk to keep my shoes on until I reach my boss.
In any case, I say all that to let you know that that is the only weird thing that happened on my actual birthday - WIN!
The night of my birthday, one of my friends who works at the Pentagon brought me a sheet of U.S. Army tattoos as my gift (because we all know I love hot men in uniform our faithful Armed Forces.) So I of course put on one of the tattoos immediately (it went nicely with the Happy Birthday tiara I was already wearing. In public. In my 30's.). And the next day I don't feel like taking the time to rub it off with alcohol so I instead decide to just wear a shirt with sleeves. And here is my Facebook post on that day. Proof that Murphy's Law is not done with me just yet. Enjoy :)
"While yesterday, the Universe gave me a break for the most part (except almost falling out of my shoes at work), today it's back in full force. Instead of taking the time to remove my little temporary ARMY tattoo, I just decided to wear long sleeves. Except I didn't realize until I got to work that my sleeves are totally see-through.... and this just happens to be the one day a year we have Dept of Defense staff at my office for an all day workshop. I'm dying right now. Dying."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ragnar: Hours 20 something - 30

I forgot to tell you about the shower situation.

I keep forgetting to mention things that happened earlier, but that's actually perfect. Because it keeps you confused and not knowing what hour in the day we are, or what leg we're on, or who's running at the time. Which is exactly how the entire race felt..

So back to the showers. First, I'm super grateful we had them, as I don't think that's always the case on Ragnar courses. The high school we used just happens to do this to get donations from Ragnar for their sports programs in return for them letting us use their facilities. By the time you get there, you'd offer them a kidney for food and a shower, so it's a win win.

But when I get to the showers, we have two options.
One was a giant room with shower heads where everyone is just straight up nude in front of each other. Which is awkard enough, but there was also no place to set your stuff down in there, so I went with option two, which was standing in line waiting for 4 curtained off personal showers.

Except the 4th one was broken, so make that three.

So you wait for awhile, and you keep hearing the girls in front of you come out and say something about not being able to adjust the temperature.

But they seem fine enough when they emerge, so I'm trying not to worry about it. Then it's my turn and I get in -

and the water. is. SCALDING.

Like, so bad that I can only stand under the water for a few seconds until I nearly yell outloud, so I have to keep jumping out of the shower to regroup, then going in again and repeating the process. At one point I start giggling at how obsured it was and all the while I hear the girls waiting in line outside say things like "well this would work if people got in and got out quickly, but you can't ponder life in there...."

I take pleasure thinking about those girls later getting scalded themselves.

Anyway, back to the race. We all get through our night runs like so:

And the sun starts to come up and yep...still running!

Who came up with this idea again?

And I failed to come back to the fact that, as I mentioned, one of my teammates is a highschool principal. And his school is an alternative school, where kids that get into trouble go. So while we are dealing with all our other situations, and keeping up with runners, and living in  increasingly smelly vans that might not make it through the race, we also hear one half of random phone conversations that go like this:

"Ok, so we'll need to check into what legal action needs to be taken for when someone with that disease spits in a teacher's food...."


"so you're saying the fight started because one boy accidentally walked into the other boy's bathroom stall..."

So that added fun to the rest of our strange days.

And by this point, we've now wound our way back into D.C. so I'm feeling more comfortable because my last leg is actually on a piece of my regular running trail, so at least if I get lost this time -- I can just walk home.

And somewhere around Chevy Chase D.C., we find an exchange that offers pancakes.
That is the extent of possible excitement after this many hours of a race
and more folks tried to catch some sleep

Again, we paid to become this....
And I forgot to mention that another aspect of this was the fact that I was in a van of Tennessee boys. And I've never met funnier people than Tennessee boys, for whatever reason. They just have a way about them and the things they say combined with the accent never fails to make me laugh all the time. And after we take off for yet another exchange point, we pass one of the other racers - a male wearing gold lamé shorts and a superhero sign on his bare chest - and Captain America in my van opens the van door as we roll down the street and yells:

"I like yer britches!"

And the other Tennessee boys in the van are all "Dude, they don't say Britches in these parts! He's gunna have to look that up in the Urban Dictionary...

...or..Rural Dictionary....."

Ha! Anyway, we continue on and we are starting to get to the last few legs of the race, and realize --

we are now completely out of water.

And the worst planned race ever continues.

And I "only" have a 4.4 mile leg left and supposedly there's a water stop during it, so I'll be fine but still. I've been dehydrated before and it's not pleasant. And some of our other runners have longer legs left to do than mine.

And the only other female runner is pregnant. Yep, found out right before the race. Totally fitting, considering all the other things happening here...
So I take it upon myself to go find us all water.

After I asking around if there's any water at the exchange stop we're at and finding nothing, I naturally go to the creepy van offering free candy.

I try to be cute and ask "I don't need candy, but would you possibly have a bottle of water you'd let me have?" *batting eyelashes*

And I get a big fat no.

Jerks. You'll never kidnap people with that attitude!

But I persevere and stalk another van and -jackpot! They were so kind and wouldn't let me just take one little bottle, but gave me an entire jug of water! Aw! I love runners.

So I triumphantly bring my spoils back to our van and we take off yet again. And eventually I start preparing myself for my last leg by laying out my iPhone, headphones, and bottle of water (in case there ISN'T a water stop or I just need more for some reason).

And I get to my exchange point, jump out of the van as it continues on to find parking, and I realize:

that darned bottle of water is still sitting on my seat in the van.

Fine, it's not that crucial.

Then I realize -- I didn't attach my headphone to my iPhone so now I'm music-less.

That needs to be fixed, dang it!

I text FGB Robert who brings me my headphones and I get the "baton" slapped on my wrist and take off.

And by this point on a Saturday, there are a ton of regular runners on this trail so I can only tell if I'm passing Ragnar people if they happen to have the Ragnar symbol on the back of their leg like I did:

And the other normal, non-Ragnar D.C. people out on the trail probably were wondering why I looked so tired and I really wanted to announce to each one that I'd been in a race for over 24 hours already, but I didn't. And the water stop I was depending on -- ended up being poorly placed right at the start of my leg, leaving 4 more miles of me baking in the sun without hydration. Whatever - HOME STRETCH!

We finally drop off our very last runner -- FGB Robert, who has been running like a mad man through each of his legs. And we all race to get to the finish line before him so we can all cross the line as a team. And by this point, we're all hobbling a little, pretty sore, very tired, and we see Robert round the bend and we all gather around and try to join.

But he's still kinda truckin'. So I hear one of my tired teammates yell out a "Easy! Robert. Eeeasy!" and Robert adjusts and we all trot across the finish line and officially become - Ragnarians.

The End.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ragnar: Hours 16-20 something....

I realized I forgot to tell you about my first leg.

So, this whole time I've been nervous that I'm going to miss a course sign and get off track. And sure enough, I take off on my very first leg, follow other runners around a corner, start up a hill --

and lose sight of most the other runners.

I see one girl up ahead so I hurry to catch up and ask if she's in the race (we are in the middle of a town at this point so she could just be a random jogger). She said yes and asks if I know where I'm going. Crap. Neither of us know where we are going.

So I pass her and keep straining to see a sign telling us where to turn. And I hear some man come up and start to pass me, so I ask him if he knows where we are going. And he says:

No - I was following you!

Sigh. I'm thinking "at least I can count that first girl as a Kill*, if nothing else..." and we thankfully find the sign and turn onto a trail to finish out our leg.

*Kills: during Ragnar, teams keep track of their "kills." A Kill is when you pass another runner. You come back and proudly report it to your team, who marks it on the window to intimidate other teams.

And I can be competitive if I let myself, and the Kill thing started to get to me. I started this relay thinking "I just did Tough Mudder - I've got nothing to prove, I'm tired, I've been sick, I'm going slow and not worrying about it."

And then - I spot a runner in front of me.

And I instantly think: "You are MINE."

And I go in for the "kill"- and keep doing that through my whole 5.7 miles, propelling myself to run it a little faster than I thought I would.

I'm now considering keeping my own personal Kill chart in my house and using that to make myself run faster on my own trail. Of course, I'll have to remind myself that no one else is playing and not to yell "YES!" when I pass someone. But I think I can do it.
Anyway, I end up getting 5 kills, which I'm stoked about considering how slow I am. And I come back proudly and announce -- "I passed 5 people!" ....but then have to follow it up with...

but 10 people passed me. :\

Wah, waaaah.

You're supposed to keep track of the net kills, so basically I was -5 at this point. And that's when I decided to follow the lead of my other teammate who finally just wrote: "Pacifist" next to his name on our Kill Tally....

So back to hour...like 16. Somewhere around 12:30 am, we get to an exchange on a cow farm that is serving cheeseburgers so most of the people on my team get one while waiting for our next runner to come in. Even though it's 12:30. And we just ate spaghetti at the highschool a couple hours before that. And we keep getting alternate whiffs of Live Cattle and Cooked Hamburger, giving us the full Circle Of Life to ponder while we stood there. Whatevs.

That's the thing about this race. You're not only not getting sleep, but you aren't getting good nutrition either. We realized we hadn't actually had a meal since that first breakfast before the race. And you lose track of what time it is, so the whole thing is just one really long, poorly lived day.

About an hour down the road, my teammate notes that he thought that Cheeseburger was really doing him a solid....but now it was doing him a liquid.


Good thing there were port-a-johns at each exchange.

And this whole time, I've been nervous about the night run. Because I've heard that at times you might be completely alone and I fear: A. Getting lost. And/Or B. Getting picked up by a van offering Cute Puppies ...and it not being part of the race...

Thankfully, my leg was full of other runners so I was never out of sight of another bobbing headlamp. And it ended up being a really cool experience. We ran through a quiet subdivision and then ran past long stretches of corn fields. All the while the other vans would drive past, occasionally yelling out encouragement. At one point a bobbing head lamp trotted up beside me as we were nearing the next exchange and laughingly ordered for me to "run towards the liiiiight!" and I do and make it back safely to the inside of our now-smelly-again van to get ready to move on to the next exchange.

We'll finish in the next post....

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ragnar: Hours 1-15

and we continue:

Our team splits into the two vans we now have (one replacement from Knoxville, one church van donated by the Pastor we stayed with the night before) and we are split based on where we are in the team line up.

Here's how a Ragnar team works: you're each assigned a number 1-12 and that's the first leg you start. Then you stay in order through 2 more legs, so if you are racer #1, you'll do leg 1,12 and 24.

And the legs vary in difficulty, so some folks are running like a 9 mile hilly leg, an 8 mile flat leg, and 4 mile really hilly leg. Some may run all 7 milers. I ran a 5.7, a 3.6, and a 4.4 and all my legs were really flat - until the very end. And then every single one of my legs ended on a hill. So I'm sure I always came into the exchange points looking even more haggard than usual. Awesome.

Anyway, the first 6 runners get in the same van, while the other van heads on to the 7th exchange point because that's the first time one of that van's runners will be getting the baton.

Did I mention the "baton" is actually a slap bracelet? Which sounds awesome, until you start thinking about how much sweat that thing collects through the course of 30 hours of continually being on runners' arms. Ew.

I was in the second van, so after the excitement of seeing our first runner off at the start line - we pretty much just have several hours of just waiting.

Although the start line was pretty fun because the teams all get really into this and decorate their vans, wear costumes, use noisemakers at each exchanges, etc.

At one point, we parked next the "Creepy Van Running Club" van which was offering Cute Puppies and Free Candy on its windows. Not so trustworthy, I'd say....
And in the spirit of doing this on the cheap, one of our teammates snagged a few Safety Vests from the school he's the principal of and our runners used those instead of regular runner vests (we all had to wear them - they cost about $10 but why not get one for free from the "Incident Response" stash of a school instead?)
We told the guys they should play those up on the run and ask if people needed any medical help, or help...ordering....supplies? What does Logistics do? ....
And besides safety vests, we also had to have -

Head Lamps.

Because this is a continuous relay, through the night, remember. So vest, lamp, and a bike reflector on your backside somewhere. Once we got into the night runs, it looked like a bunch of giant fireflies bobbing up and down on the course. Very amusing.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. So we started the race and headed to our exchange point several miles away - and waited. Or, slept, like Former Green Beret Robert is doing here:
And it was also here that I made the delightful discovery that one of the teammates in my van was planning to run his legs.. in THIS:

He earned the nickname Captain America and developed quite the fan following on the course.

And it was during the Captain's first leg that we found out --

Our other van lost it's brakes.

For those of you keeping track at home, that's TWO vans we've now lost. Two of two.

And I forgot to mention that this race is through some hills in Maryland and you don't always get cell reception. So our two vans have to try various methods of texting/calling each other, trying different cell carriers to see which will go through. And now we have to try to find a rental car around 6:30 pm to come find us wherever we are and replace our second van.

At one point I really thought we were just going to have to throw in the towel before I even got one leg in.

Several phone calls later, we find out the teammates in our second van have resourcefully just jumped into other peoples' vans and were heading like sweaty hitchhikers to the next big exchange point.

But we couldn't keep doing that the whole race, and we weren't having luck finding a rental van.

And then, a miracle happens. And Former Green Beret  Robert is on the phone with the nearest rental company and they are literally in the process of saying "I'm sorry, we have absolutely no vans....wait." And while they are on the phone, someone randomly returned a van right then. Right before closing and right when we need one.

The race will go on!

We joyously meet up with Van 2 at the next big exchange point, which happens to be at a local highschool who opens up for this race so that the runners can eat, shower, and sleep there - like so:

And you don't sleep much, because soon your van has to leave again to grab the next runner, but it's better than nothing. And soon we were off again and I got ready to do my second leg -- the dreaded night run.....

more in the next post....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ragnar Continued

So we left off with my car of strangers discovering the rest of the team had been stranded in Tennessee because one of our race vans had already broken down.

So the car I'm in continues on to West Virginia to stay with more strangers who know the rest of the team, but not us. And I'm chatting along with the driver of my car and I mention that our team is officially promoting the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes - it's a program across high schools for... you guessed it, athletes who are also Christians. And I've been a Christian my whole life and it is nice to have a community of other believers and why not gather around a shared interest like sports? Except I wasn't really an "athlete" in school....I was on the dance team. Don't judge me. Shaking pom pons is sort of like exercise....) 

So I mention Former Green Beret Robert also has FCA shirts for us to wear during the race. And the driver's face changes and he blurts out "that shirt is gunna burn on me!"

Oh dear, this isn't looking good. So I try to laugh and be like "well you don't have to wear the shirt and this group is cool, it'll be fun." So we continue until we pull into the West Virginia house

and it's not a house.

It's a parsonage. A parsonage is the house that a church pastor lives in and it's basically attached to the church.

My driver shows visible signs of duress.

He starts wiggling around in his seat saying "oh I don't know about this, not sure about staying at a church, oh man...." so me and the other stranger in the car are left to kinda look at each other and try to laugh it off. I mean, this is where our team is staying. The other option is -- the car-?

And I get why many people have a bad opinion of organized religion and Christianity so I really do feel bad that this guy is so uncomfortable now. But I also feel like throwing up my hands like -What's next?! I jump in a car with a stranger unknowingly, my team is nowhere near us, our van broke down, and now I have a driver realizing he's accidentally joined an entire team of people he's clearly afraid of.

This is so typical.

So finally the Pastor walks out of his front door to see who is in his driveway and I think I blurt out something like "we're with Robert!" Like some alien leading with "We come in peace!"

And we all find random places to sleep in the parsonage and I'm told there's another girl coming with the team that will need to share my bed when she arrives. And sure enough, shortly after I lay down, a girl tip-toes into my room and jumps in bed with me, no words exchanged.

So I get up the next morning and apparently I'm the last one to join the team meeting taking place in the living room, unbeknownst to me, so I finally hear a collective "Hey Dana!" and I have to walk in sheepishly to a room of MORE strangers, and wave at all them with an "oh hey guys..."

and that's how I met my team.

I finally found the other guy on the team that I'm actually friends with when we all stop to grab breakfast, and I announce that I "still don't know the name of the girl I slept with last night" and we giggle. Then I go to the ladies room -

and discover my shorts have been on inside-out the entire morning.

And so begins Race Day 1.