Recap: Tackling the Trails for the Dirt-Y Durham Relay Race

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to take part in a completely community-organized relay race over 37 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea trail. A week prior, we held a logistics meeting: how do we get 20+ runners, moving in groups of 3 to 5, to and from each of the 11 sections our fearless leaders (Becky and Sean) had created?

ImageOld school = paper

ImageThis is the point when we had scraps of paper with each person’s name on it and moving them around like strategic generals in a game of Risk. I’m not sure if I was skeptical of this or in deep secretarial mode thought.

After nailing down the hatches of planning (including the critical potluck sign-up list for our concluding celebration), the Dirt-Y Durham County Relay was ready to begin:

ImageOrange was a critical component of our shirts to notify hunters that – while we may move through the forests gracefully, we were not, in fact, their future dinner. Unless.

Last Sunday proved to be an ideal day for long distance running. It was slightly overcast, in the upper 60s at the start, and no impending threat of rain. Our first section runners took off at 7am, setting the tone (and pace) for the day. Our group’s overall goal = completion. It had absolutely poured on Thursday night, and the trails remained soggy (although we would soon learn that mud was not our biggest obstacle).

I helped transition runners between sections 4 and 5 (where one of my friends was so impressed – and/or shocked – by my car having manual windows. Yeah, old school strikes again). Then, I was ready to get some trail time for section 7:

ImageSean, me, and Amanda – ready to rock

Alas, little did we know what await us in this six mile journey. About 2.5 miles in after moving at a great pace, we were stopped by a lake. Unfortunately, this lake was not supposed to be in existence. The rainwater from Thursday had completely flooded out this section of the trail. We scouted out an alternative route, but after not seeing an immediate path to dry land, we forged ahead and forded through the waters. Sean and I let Amanda lead since she had the vertical edge. Once the water reached Amanda’s waist (yes, we were wading through waist-high water), we decided to turn back around and try – one more time – for another exit. Now, I didn’t spend a lot of time growing up playing in rivers and lakes, so stepping into murky waters with unknown contents, I envisioned leeches, eels, and perhaps the creature from the black lagoon. None were present, but that fear pushed me to move through that water quickly.

Fortunately, we did find another way (with more water to wade through), and continued on, stopping to wring out our socks and touch base with the next team regarding our delay. (This is the point where I wish I had brought my phone for photo evidence of this experience). Another mile-and-a-half in, we hit another lake, this one even bigger and broader than the first. Again, we debated wading, but there was no end in sight, and none of us were keen on treading waters again. We circled back and discovered a path around a transformer station. Despite our challenges, we made it to the next leg, a little bit behind schedule, but with a great story to tell.

Fast-forward ahead, I came home, changed shoes and shorts, and headed back out for section 11, the final leg in this journey. We got started at around 4pm, which put us on time for our estimated 5pm celebration at Falls Lake. While there was still water, it was nothing like section 7. That was legendary. But, Aura and I still tackled it:

ImageSince this was the last leg, we definitely stopped to take a few more photos, including some “action poses” – what form!





Alas, we cruised in, and then it was time to dry off, sit down, and, of course, eat. And celebrate.

ImageIt was just a wonderful day and experience. My trail running has been limited, but this opened my eyes to how much I really enjoyed trekking over hills, rocks, twigs, and more (not so much the water). On top of that, I had the opportunity to spend time with a group of people – some of which I had never actually talked to at a YMCA class – but we all spend hours working out alongside each other. This time, it was about the group rather than the individual, which was a nice change of pace. Looking forward already to 2015!

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