With a bonus story about how someone might have wanted to punch me in the face in the 24 degree weather at 3am!
I almost got all snarky on Instagram and captioned this photo, “Who needs mani/pedis and blowout bars, this is how real girls do a GNO!” But then I remembered that I would think a night of mani/pedis and blowout bars would be fun too (although I would feel so out of place I wouldn’t do it) so why did I have to be all snarky and act like my GNO was better than anyone else’s? I mean, how shitty is that? “Ooooh…look what we did which makes us way cooler than anything you might do!”
Sometimes my instincts are to be a total self-righteous asshole.
But! It was our Girls Night Out and we had been looking forward to it all week and savored every second of it.
It started with the Tick Ridge 25K which I did last year. It was a gorgeous race, but I injured myself so I was not sure I wanted to do it again, especially so soon after my Grand Slam. Early in the race planning they announced that there would be camping opportunities and I thought Oh, man…that would be SO FUN.
BUT! Last year it snowed, and I’m a tough girl, but I don’t really want to camp in sub-freezing or snowing weather. I did decide to sign Nikki and I up to volunteer, but I was holding off on deciding to camp until the week of the race. When the forecast looked clear and cold, but not sub-freezing, I decided we’d go for it!
(Donnie and Wes were never part of the plan because Wes had a basketball game and Donnie’s back does not like sleeping on the ground.)
We practiced setting up our tent Thursday because it’s been awhile since we used it and I also wasn’t sure if I could do it by myself. You kinda need two adults as it’s a tall tent, but it turns out one 9-year old who follows instructions well is sufficient! We got to the campsite around 4pm on Friday and had our tent set up in about 5 minutes. We were quite a team! It was still in the 50s but as the sun was setting, the temps were plummeting. We had prepared for 32’ish that night, double layer of sleeping bags (we don’t have good sleeping bags, so two cheap ones had to suffice) and double blankets. We stayed by the fire until the crew gathered in the tents that were set up for race day, for dinner.
I’ll tell you what made the whole thing worth it…some of my favorite people in the world were camping too. Some were using the cabins on the property that were really nothing more than small building that might provide some sort of shelter from the wind. The floors, I’m sure, were harder than the ground. Some brought RVs of one sort or another, but all in all? It was a fantastic group of people to hang out with shivering by the fire. Talking and laughing and just a wonderful evening with with fun people.
We probably hung out until about 7:30 or 8pm, and then we bundled up and headed to bed. Nikki kept her big winter jacket on to sleep, I kept everything BUT my winter jacket. We slept in our face buffs, our gloves, our hand warmers and everything else we could layer on. We piled in the sleeping bags, under the covers, and went to sleep.
(Sidenote: There were port-o-potties. I have no problem with port-0-potties and Nikki tolerates them, but at night? She found them TERRIFYING. Just being enclosed in one in the dark, even with a head lamp, scared her to death. I stayed with her, but that intense fear was unexpected.)
Now, if you’ll recall, I wake up before 4am naturally. So, as expected, I started waking up at 2:30am. I heard voices at first and thought, “Oh! Maybe they’re setting up for the race!” I mean, I knew most everything was set up, but I also knew there were some things that had to be done that morning, and volunteers were coming at 6am. So…maybe it would take 3 hours to do what needed to be done before the race-day crew got there? I wasn’t sure. I sat for awhile and listened and I didn’t hear much rustling, but I did hear whispers. One voice I recognized. I had to pee anyway so I thought, Well…I’ll check out the situation. If they’re up, I’ll help, if not, I’ll come back to the tent.
I got out of the tent and there were 2 people by the fire. They were two people I didn’t know (there were a few I didn’t know) a father and an older daughter, maybe a teenager? I gave them a quiet wave, moved my chair by the fire, and headed to the bathroom. When I came back I sat down and thought I’d survey the situation to see why they were up (or what job they were tasked with) and wait to see what need to be done. I whispered in my quietest voice, “Good morning,” and settled in by the fire.
I sat there for a bit and nothing else was going on. Hmmm…why would they be up? The other voice I had heard was a familiar one so I kept waiting for him to pop up somewhere needing help (He’s the “up early to get things rolling” type) but I never saw him pop out from anywhere. I kept looking around and I knew I had heard him, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found. It’s hard to help someone you can’t find. And I didn’t know what this father and daughter were waiting on…it was all strange, I wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do.
Nikki eventually hollered from the tent, scared to wake up and see I wasn’t there. I went back and crawled in with her and thought I’d just listen some more until I heard the familiar voice again, then I would go offer my services.
OKAY. Now that you’ve heard my part of that story, let me tell you what REALLY happened so you can see why I’m thinking – in retrospect – I might have almost gotten punched in the face.
The familiar voice I heard evidently woke up to the smell of smoke, meaning someone had gotten the fire going again. He was worried that something was wrong because he knew no one should be up before 3am. (Notice how his instincts were, “Let me check on something that is really off!” while mine were, “Yay! Someone’s up for the day! Let’s start the party!”) He came out and saw the same father and daughter by the fire and checked on them. They were evidently FREEZING and MISERABLE and DESPERATE for warmth, hence the 3am trip to the fire. So, the familiar voice let them warm up and he went back to his tent.
NOW ENTER THE PSYCHO GIRL (me) GETTING UP AND SAYING GOOD MORNING WITH A SMILE AND A WAVE!
I mean, can you believe me? How did they not punch me in the face? I feel like an idiot. But I also think it’s hysterical because it is SO. VERY. ME.
ANYWAY! Back to me cuddling back up with Nikki in the tent.
Around 4am she decided she had to pee so I took her to the port-o-potty. My BFFs by the fire had gone back to their tent. (Probably scared of the woman who thinks 3am is a good time to say, “Good morning!”) After that trip she was pretty much awake, so we sat by the fire for awhile until someone really DID show up to start working a little before 5am. She and I started helping the best we could and got the day going.
The only bad time of the whole adventure was from about 5:30am to 7:30am. It was SO COLD (it had dropped to 25 or so, if rumor is to be believed) and it takes awhile for the sun to get up and start warming things. Nikki was UNHAPPY. It was fine in the tent, but being up at 4:30am in 25 degree temperatures NOT bundled in a sleeping bag? NOT OKAY AT ALL. She was wearing about 50 layers, including my big jacket, and asking me to sit on her while we were handing out volunteer hoodies.
Once the sun was REALLY up and she had other kids to hang out with by the fire, her mood improved GREATLY. Still, she made gatorade at 5am and moved cases of water and labeled chili – I was impressed with my girl. Miserable, but willing to work.
Eventually we got everything going for the race and it was time to send the runners off. She and I were working the finish line, I was helping with the timing and she was in charge of calling out race bib numbers as racers headed in to the finish so we would know who was coming. It was quite a fun experience. Also – I finally understand the importance of having your race bib super-visible when you’re finishing a race. I decided anyone who pins their bib to their back should have to be required to work a finish line at a local race.
The thing about this race is it was a 10K and a 25K. And it was a trail race, so times are going to be slower than a road race. The lead 10K guy came in under an hour, the last 25K person was expected around 4:30 to 5 hours. That’s 3+ hours of calling out numbers at the finish line, and she did GREAT. I was so proud of her! She was actually having fun and taking it very seriously. The weather cooperated too, giving her a nice warm 50+ degrees or so to hang out in the sun while she worked. I was in the shade, so not as warm, but still…it was a perfectly beautiful day.
With a few racers still out on the course, she and I started packing up our campsite. She carried tons of stuff to the car for me, never once complaining. She helped me get the tent down and carry it and was a happy/willing helper the entire time. Even on very little sleep and a lot of hard work.
And then, 2 seconds on the road, she passed out and slept for the hour ride home.
All in all? It was a great day/night. I got to alleviate some of the guilt I feel for not being a good volunteer (I have friends who run the same races I do, but direct races and hold board positions in the tri/track clubs…they make me feel lazy.) and have a memorable outing with Nikki. I asked her if she would do it again tomorrow and she said, “Yes! Can we?”