This year, I intended not to go over the hay bales during the November 15th Misery Run, put on by Carolina Godiva Track Club as part of their Winter Series. The first time I did the Misery Run, I went over all hay bales (three, twice each.) It was great fun, but a few days later, my right hip began to ache and twinge. The bale setup consists of two "step-up" rectangular bales, the smaller of the two on top, placed on either side of a rolled hay bale. Some folks run and try to use the step-like bales in front as a bounding off point to leap to the top of the rolled bale and then slide down to the step bales on the other side. Others gingerly step up and try to haul themselves up to the top of the bale, ending up in a horizontal position. It's fun to watch.
56 folk from age 14 to 74 came out for this XC run that included two bales (to be gone over 3X each), the big mud hole, and lastly the well watered dung heap. The run takes place on a working farm in Chatham County. This year, I did not see the cattle, only the farm dog, Bella, who wanted to greet every car and runner.
We parked on ground that was furrowed and wet, facing a large pond. Just walking to the sign in area prepared one for the adventure ahead. One woman arrived suited up in a white HazMat looking one-piece suit, face mask, goggles, boots, and gloves. Man, she would get hot, but maybe not dirty. Others were bare legged. Just short of 10 a.m., we gathered at the bottom of the parking field to hear the instructions. Run at your own risk, don’t get hurt, people 60 and above could bypass (go around) the hay bales. We were read the “Godiva” poem by Richard Wolfe, detailing the delights of a Godiva Winter Series run, and then we were sent off. I had gone to the back of the pack, mostly because I would be slow, but also so I could observe the hay bounding techniques of those ahead. I decided to try just one and go around all the rest.
I approached at a medium pace, leapt from one to the second small stepping bales and then sort of jumped up, grabbing with my arms to help pull myself to the top of the rolled bale. I made it up and down without a problem or a twinge. So, from that point on, I went over the remaining bales and was happy to do so. After the first bale we ran on a path that edged a field and then into the woods. I ran out of steam on the path leading towards the woods (a slight incline) but then got my breath once into the woods.
As it happened, I was behind two men (maybe in their forties) one of whom had on colorful socks, who were behind a woman who maintained a 13 minute pace (so said my Garmin.) I was perfectly content with this since I needed to save energy for the rest of the 5.5 mile outing. The men also stayed behind her as we navigated roots, small rocks, and some branches. When we ran downhill then uphill around a curve, to a small rise ahead, I knew what was coming. I had several cuts on my right hand, some of which I had put band-aids on. However, I also wore a green surgical glove over it. My Garmin was covered with a plastic bag. Up the short rise to the lip of a medium size mud pond. I don’t know what happened with the woman ahead of us – I think she stepped aside. The two men went in and then I stepped off into water about knee high. I pushed off, thinking I could wade ahead,, but instead stepped down into a deeper hole, losing my balance. Bam! There went both hands into the mess. I struggled to move forward, eventually reaching the rising lip on the other side, emerging with wet hair, bacteria laden water inside of the green glove, and laughing. I’d worn nylon pants so they would shed some of the water but they still stuck to my legs. The man’s pretty socks were now brown.
The next delight was another hay bale, then around a bend, left on a flat and right, still on a flat, before emerging towards the next go around. Onward and forward. Exhausting! Especially on the straight aways. I would try to keep up with whoever was ahead of me. In the woods, it was not as bad. I could catch my breath while negotiating the terrain.
My nose usually runs and so I carry wads of tissues. After the dousing, the tissues were of no use. Eventually I resorted to ground leaves. Quite harsh on the nose. I also tended to switch from jumping branches or logs with my right leg to my left, depending upon which felt lazier (If I jumped off with my left, my right knee did not have to lift as high)
On my third circuit around, after going over six hay bales, and through the magic pond three times, I emerged from the periphery to head for the last misery of the day: The dung heap. Unlike when I had done this in the past, when the heap was more solid than not, this was more like a dung laden pond. Photos show some folks leaping into it (what – hoping to span the breadth of it?). I stepped in, figuring I would get through this one okay, but, no, my foot got stuck and again, I lost balance, and again, both hands into the muck. Once out of this, there was still some terrain to navigate before, finally, crossing the finish. A hose rinse was offered after emerging, but I declined, deciding I needed a photo of the condition I was in. (I did rinse off after the photo)
I finished 52 of 56 and received a magnificent candy bar for being the oldest finisher. Next time, if I do it again, I will bring extra pants. (I did bring extra socks and shoes.) One predicted one’s finish time before the event. Those closest also got a candy bar, as well as the male and female finishing first, time wise. I was 5:38 minutes slower than I'd predicted (not anticipating having to claw out of muck or doing the bales) finishing in 1:15:39. First male was Dave Mabe in 37:46 and first female was Joan Nesbit Mabe in 44:08. Some folks threw out their socks and shoes, some left them where they had been sucked off in the ponds. Surely, cattle don’t eat shoes.