|Where the f#@k am I?|
Lost means many things. It’s the fear of I don’t know where I am, where to go, or what to do next. If I can’t figure the route, it’s going nowhere and being left with a sense of emptiness, disappointment and failure.
Without a map, it’s unlikely that I know where to go unless the route is familiar. Landmarks can help, but in not in the desert. One mountain looks like another. Paths curve around and end up anywhere. The sun can indicate direction, but not on a cloudy day.
The way should have been be easy to find in this race. Most events have signs and arrows, so that the route was less a mystery. This one had flimsy ribbons that didn’t indicate much and were easy to miss..
The tough duathlon the weekend before should have been enough. But I had signed up for this one last year and it had been cancelled due to torrential rain the day before. My spot was transferred to this year. So was the bad luck.
The sense of confusion started in the first run. Logical thinking was difficult, since running diverts blood from the brain. I was mostly alone on the trail with another person ahead of me. The rolling terrain took effort to run, but was manageable.
At an intersection, a u-turn was marked with hot pink plastic ribbon. The incorrect path was not blocked off. The other runner took off on it and I yelled to her she was going the wrong way. Would this bring me good karma? I hoped so. The billowing pink ribbon tied to plants was a half-hearted direction to go the other way, like a lazy hand wave. I proceeded, uncertain. Since everyone else had gone ahead, I had no one to follow.
I ran, wondering if I was doomed to do endless miles, meandering into the wilderness. The empty desert stretched to the horizon, though I would have found the road eventually. Would they search for me at some point? I was relieved to get back to the aid station, which was an indication of the right path.
My energy level was good when I got into transition to get on the bike. Unlike last week’s duathlon, I didn’t dread this portion. I ran the bike out and hopped on. The website had vague, unmarked satellite maps that indicated that the mountain bike would go up what I assumed was the paved road somewhere, then intersect at an unknown distance with the trail at a spot marked with a flag. Announcer Guy had said it would be after the first flag about two miles up. He didn’t have any idea what he was talking about.
Riding a paved road on a mountain bike was pointless and I didn’t enjoy it. The heavy and cumbersome machines were meant for dirt and the pavement was boring.
I rode two miles up to a trail crossing, but it wasn’t marked at all. No name and no flag. I went up the trail for a while, doubted myself and came back. I went up farther up the paved road, but still saw no flagged intersection. I couldn’t remember if or where the trail crossed the park road. I thought I was near the end of it. I went back to where I was, unsure. Farther up the trail, I encountered riders going the opposite way. Something was seriously wrong.
The trail I needed to be on is a loop through the park. I don’t get circles, only grids. If a path isn’t straight and the direction is unknown, it’s hopeless to figure out. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I needed to be on the upper part of the curve, not the lower.
I asked the riders as they flew by if I was going the right way, but they ignored me or didn’t hear. One almost crashed into me and she probably cursed me under her breath. One guy finally slowed down and I asked him how far he was and where he had entered. The real entrance was farther up the road, but by this time I had ridden seven miles and he had done fifteen.
The race was basically ruined. I could ride fifteen more miles, but that assumed that I could figure out where to go. I decided to fake it, since I couldn’t fix it. I cursed the race organizers. A racer had to know the route, but some of these roads weren’t even on the park map. Did it have to be this hard? Especially for the directionally challenged? Down the trail again, I went to the road to add more mileage to simulate reality. They wouldn’t be correct, or even remotely fun, but at least it would be something.
I passed the turn-off to go back to transition four miles down, which I would go back to once I did the make-believe route. This was also feebly marked with the ribbons. I saw four riders pass it by. Three of them grumbled about missing it. At least I wasn’t the only one that was confused.
I felt stupid and was utterly disappointed not to find the right way. This race had gone wrong to a monumental degree of screw up. I rode back down the trail for the umpteenth time and made the turn for the actual trail to take me back.
The situation was like one of the dreams where I am lost and trapped in an endless, futile loop. This race was a metaphor for my real life, where every one but me knows the way, and I just pretend to be competent. Life doesn’t come a map, so I either blunder around until I figure it out or go off the cliff.
Slinking embarrassed into transition, after a creative seventeen miles, I came in when most people were about to finish. Being alone was an advantage, since no one knew my mistakes. This was another duathlon where the road portion was much easier to ride and find than the mountain bike. But I had no energy to hate the road bikers this time. I ran out to finish the pretend race. At least I knew the way.
Unlike last week, the second run wasn’t a death march. I was alone, but felt strong. That was one good thing about this fiasco. I just wanted it to end. I tried to be nice to the only volunteers out there and thanked them. If they had been a race organizers, they would have elicited a different reaction from me, like “what the f#@k were you thinking, idiot?”
A rock tried to trip me a half mile from the finish, but I stumbled and managed to end the race without physical injury.
I was happy to finish, but not for the right reasons. Instead of a sense of accomplishment, I was relieved that the experience could now be forgotten as soon as possible. A bad memory, tucked away in a forgotten, hidden place. Hopefully, the pink ribbons will not haunt my dreams.