I’m starting to think about MdS as a restful vacation with a bit running thrown in. I’m not underestimating the desert...
Pacing duties (You might laugh)Liza
I got to pace my good friend Chris at the Cactus Rose 100 the weekend before last. I ran with him for 15 miles dressed as a prickly pear cactus pad. Unexpectedly, this was the smaller adventure of the night. Like most ultrarunners, I have a large bag of partially used batteries — because I put new batteries into my headlamp and flashlight before each race. All the partially used batteries go into the “Used Batteries” Ziploc. Having this “Used Batteries” bag weighs on my soul somehow. I hate how it takes up space on the shelf and I dream of emptying it. This mania led me to stuff all 16 ounces of Ziplocked batteries into my Nathan pack before I headed out with Chris. Bandera is rocky enough and hilly enough that I figured if I actually had to replace a battery, there’d be time to do it. (Right, I realize that was full-on craziness now. But if it weren’t for the delusions, I’d have nothing to entertain you with.)
So Chris and I are running along and my flashlight dies. It doesn’t get dim slowly; It just has a heart attack and dies. No problem. I’ve got a pound of batteries. Of course these batteries are in my Nathan pack, below my water bladder, which is under my prickly pear costume.
And Chris is having the best 100 miler of his life. There is no walking in sight. So I take the headlamp off my head to use as a flashlight. Then I put my water bottle under my arm and wiggle one arm out of the Nathan pack. Of course the prickly pear costume shifts in front of the headlamp as I do this and I’m thrown into complete darkness. More wiggling, more darkness, a partial shoulder dislocation, more wishing Chris would start walking, and finally I have my fingers on the “Used Batteries” bag. I struggle to pull it out from under the water bladder as Chris continues to run. I am equal parts happy for his wonderful race and wishing his calf would cramp for a short while. Finally we come to a steep hill and we start walking. I quickly get three batteries out of the bag. Of course, the headlamp has become incredibly dim at this point. And I can’t shine it at the batteries to see which end is which because it’s Bandera, and inattention is rewarded with blood. So I put the top of the flashlight in my mouth to unscrew it. Then I dump the battery cartridge into my hand. So now I’ve got the battery cartridge, and the other two pieces of the flashlight in one hand, and the headlamp and heavy “Unused Batteries” Ziploc in the other, my water bottle under my arm, and my Nathan pack slung over one shoulder. And the cactus costume foam is beginning to rub my neck raw. I’m sure an hour has passed at this point.
Chris is on fire. He runs up a hill. I curse under my breath. Then I begin the process of figuring out the right direction to insert the batteries into the flashlight cartridge. Lots of feeling of springs and battery bumps. I manage to insert three batteries while running with the top of the flashlight in my mouth. I insert the cartridge. I screw on the top. I press the ON button. Darkness. Okay, surely I’ve just inserted the cartridge upside down.
Will Chris ever walk?
I curse quietly, make cheerful pacer conversation, and begin the process of reinserting the battery cartridge. Sigh. This time the battery cartridge pack ends up in my mouth. It doesn’t taste like the outside of batteries should. I ignore this information. What feels like nine hours later, I’ve reinserted the three AAA batteries, flipped the cartridge and replaced it. I press the ON button again.
Quiet swearing. More cheerful conversation: “Wow Chris, you’re really running well.” I’m thinking the prickly pear cactus costume foam has actually taken off a layer of skin at this point. Another hill and I manage to shine the headlamp on the flashlight battery cartridge. It’s covered in battery acid. Okay then. I shove the flashlight into a pocket and reassess. The headlamp is dim, but functional. Surely it will last until the next aid station. I start a deranged conversation with Chris about how it’s so important to have experienced runners as pacers. My headlamp gets dimmer. There’s no moon. I ask Chris our ETA to the next aid station because his estimate will be much better than mine. 2o minutes. I do a little celebratory cactus dance behind him.
We pull into the aid station where many friends tend to Chris as I switch out headlamp batteries. I am filled with relief. I am offered a new flashlight. I almost refuse. I’ve only got five miles to go and my headlamp will be fine. Chris’s guardian angel intervenes and I accept the flashlight. I refuse the offer to put new batteries in it though. We leave the aid station with lots of light and Chris’s can of Spaghettios in my pack. Exactly 12 minutes outside the aid station my headlamp goes black. I swear to God. I will let you imagine the contortions, swearing and passage of time as I blindly replace three AAA batteries in the headlamp. Of course they don’t work. And, of course, the second set of batteries doesn’t work either. Chris finally slows to eat Spaghettios and I am able see that the end of the battery isn’t making contact with a small piece of metal in the headlamp. I do my best to pry the metal out with the end of a GU packet. Chris hands me the empty Spaghettio can at this point and starts running. I work on the headlamp as we run. Healamp, flashlight, and battery Ziploc in one hand — empty Spaghettios can in the other. It’s a lost cause. So now I’m down to the borrowed flashlight with questionable batteries. Totally unacceptable. And what will I do if it starts to dim?
Ultimately I am not forced to steal glow sticks. Chris makes it to his next pacer, and the cactus costume doesn’t flay my neck.
I confess the whole story to Chris when we are half a mile out from his next pacer. I tell the story well, which takes the edge off my incompetence. Chris laughs because he is good like that.
Rest assured that I’ve got lots of new batteries and a new headlamp and flashlight for Javelina — and a competent pacer. And it’s going to be a full moon. Keep your fingers crossed for me anyway people. 🙂