VHTRC Women’s Half Marathon, Saturday September 11, 2021 Results

There are just a few things I’d like to say about the Women’s Half this year:

  1. RD Tracy Dahl is a superhero. I’m not sure anyone realizes what an ordeal it is to RD a race, let alone during a pandemic, let alone with a three-year old tethered to your leg. Tracy’s attention to detail turns a nice event into a truly great and memorable day. Whether it’s the thoughtful prizes that are genuinely useful for outdoors people (how did she know I needed a lightweight portable camping towel because Aaron is sick of me always stealing his?), or the fun challenges along the course (thank you #36 for giving Bjorn your wings; he loved them), Tracy knows how to run a show.
  2. The moms are not alright. The WHM field tends to be mom-heavy. All races have smaller fields these days, but the Half usually has 150 runners and this year only had 40. Even the ones that showed up were openly bearing war wounds inflicted from the past year. The pandemic has been the tipping point for moms who were just hanging on by a fingernail pre-COVID. From my own experience, it has been sobering to watch the pandemic hit women in science. There are so many girls and women who want to be scientists and get PhDs (we now outnumber men in fields like biology), but end up leaving, particularly after starting families. I’m yet another woman scientist who had a flourishing career until I had a baby. The pandemic was nearly the nail in the coffin.
  3. Jack can tango. Most VHTRC events are ultramarathons where unhurried racers spend several minutes dawdling around aid stations perusing the options. I therefore hold it against no one that most aid stations at the Women’s Half put out a glorious assortment of sweets, savories, and beverages and sit back and let runners peruse the offerings and take what they want. But I approach the Women’s Half the way I run a road race. I don’t want to stop at any aid stations. It interrupts flow. I have spent two decades mastering the art of grabbing a cup of gatorade from a volunteer without splashing them or breaking stride and then tossing the cup in a trash receptacle a couple seconds later. It is something of a dance to run full speed at someone, communicate your intention, exchange the goods, chug the beverage, and toss it in a garbage bag (swish!) without breaking stride. Everything happens in a flash. It’s particularly hard for a brain locked into running alone in the woods to switch gears and navigate a complex exchange with another human. After the Do Loop I was tempted to just forego the whole mess and keep on truckin’. But when I saw Jack ready with his two cups in hand and making direct eye contact I knew we could tango. That cup of Gatorade would save my race when my expected snack at the next aid station failed to materialize.
  4. The reason we call Keith “Shenanigans”. I understood why Aaron objected to the added responsibility of tossing me a gel at the Fountainhead aid station at mile 8 when he was already charged with the care of our unpredictable toddler. But I should have known better than to plant my gel with Keith, whom we years ago dubbed “Shenanigans” for always scuttling our best-laid plans. When I got the mile 8 I was already dizzy and lightheaded from racing over an hour with nothing to eat. I was counting on Keith, but he was off in the distance doing god knows what. I was so hungry, I just rolled my eyes and yelled “I want my fucking snack!” in his general direction before shaking my head and death marching my way to Wolf Run Showls. I was running on fumes and so loopy by the time I arrived I couldn’t even remember I was supposed to eat. I started to exit the aid station before trotting back to grab a bit of banana. I instantly felt better. I thought about how I spend every flippin’ night barely feeding myself because I am so focused on feeding my toddler and cooking for my family and for just 2 seconds I wanted someone to feed me. Forget it. (Aaron did make it up to me by getting me an enormous post-race burger at Five Guys. I felt human again.)
  5. People are strange… I’ve run this race 7 times and never before has a random hiker guy tried to box me off a bridge when I said “Excuse me, coming by”. When I sidled around him and explained I was running a race he spat I don’t fucking care and still tried to block me out. This little exchange occurred 5 minutes after I didn’t get my gel at Fountainhead. He perhaps did not realize he was messing with a hungry, adrenalined marmot who felt like shoving his wide arse entirely off the bridge. But I settled for flashing him the bird as I crossed and trotted away. I saw him on the return trip and flashed a big smile “You again!” He had not made it very far.
  6. Bjorn is ready to join VHTRC. He immediately got the concept of trail racing and started blasting down the single track, running his own little course over a bridge and back at least 10 times. He fell on the roots more times than not, but each time he dusted off and shrieked “I’m okay!”. Eventually he asked me why he didn’t get to have a race number so I found Sheila’s and pinned it to his shirt. Next year we should have a kid’s 50 meter dash.
  7. This race was a milestone. It’s been an insane year-plus-plus. But September 2021 has been Milestone Month. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to send Bjorn off for his first day of preschool, lunchbox in hand. He loves it. Aaron and I can finally get some work done. Plus, this month I graduated from 9 months of therapy for PTSD. I wanted a tassel or some kind of I’m Sane Again! sticker from the APA for all the hard work. But I’ll settle for a functioning brain that doesn’t dissolve every time I have to take one of those mandatory anti-harassment courses at work. And I have my appetite back. Being insatiably hungry these past few weeks is the truest sign that my high-octane self is returning after a year of dormancy and trial by fire. Thanks to all the volunteers who made it possible and the little nugget of banana that kept me upright at mile 10. The moms are not alright, but we’re hanging in there.
Bjorn chases me down the finish chute. I won’t be able to outrun him for long!

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