Wednesday, August 7, 2013

LCA XC goes into the wild

What was I thinking?

It began as a simple idea: take a bunch of teenagers camping and running in the mountains. But most things that seem simple are about as easy as getting a put-it-together-yourself floor lamp back into the complex maze of cardboard and Styrofoam. Something normally gets broken or left out, neither of which would be a good thing as far as this little adventure goes. It would be extremely bad form to lose, break, or render useless any member of the team.

But the kids (defined heretofore as the Liberty Christian Academy cross country team) showed enough interest that left me with no recourse but to plan, prepare, and pray for the best. So it was set. August 5 and 6. When it was all said and done, nineteen kids signed on the dotted line. A few of my  runners didn't take the bait; didn't drink the Kool-Aid of how fun it would be to run about seventeen miles and summit three mountain tops all in a matter of one afternoon, evening, and then next morning. Their loss.

I figured I would be the only running adult. But who could I con into driving, sleeping on the ground, and cooking over ground-hugging grates? Hum. This might be tough. But sure enough, three dads stepped up and grabbed the golden ring. My young and currently injured assistant coach also made the trip as well as a twenty-something cousin of one of the girls. So, okay. I think I had the adult to kid ratio at an acceptable level.

"Coach," someone asked, "Are we going to do any team building activities."

I smiled before replying, "Yep. Go ahead and set up your tent." I was right. It was team-biuilding as well as highly entertaining.

With a show of hands, most of the kids had never run seventeen miles in a short period of time, even if divided into three different runs. And yet, they excitedly followed me across the parking lot and into the woods for the first assault on Harkening Hill and a slight detour to old Johnson's farm. We laughed, climbed huge rocks, and took breaks in the guise of photo ops along the way. The run was fun and relatively easy running for the back half of the miles. Hence, by the time we got to camp and were met with the smell of charcoal-cooked hamburgers, everyone had miles of smiles plastered on their face. Mountain #1. Check.

In the interlude between runs and after bellies had been satisfied, Dr. David Horton challenged the group with stories of record-setting runs, suffering and satisfaction, and the challenge of doing more than you think you can. As normal, the more he talked, the more the kids realized they were in the presence of someone very special.
 
Though all good things must come to an end, something else must follow. And what followed was a twilight hike to Buzzards Roost and Sharp Top Mountain. The sun set as we watched it's descent before running down the long and twisting road, a safer return trip than the rugged trail we climbed. Though hesitant at first, the group turned off their headlights, allowing their eyes to adjust to the darkness. They were amazed at how easy it was to define the road's surface. What the girls soon discovered, however, was their vision was not acute enough to pick up the guys hiding in the shadows. Time after time, screams rose into the night air as the girls startled at the bodies jumping out at them. Despite that, no one suffered a heart attack and all arrived back at camp, pleased with their nighttime run. Mountain # 2. Check.

I discovered that kids like to talk, cackle and squak- a lot - whether it be around the campfire or tucked inside their tents! From all the noisy bus rides, I should have expected as much. It was a fine line to walk between acting like a wicked witch and a permissive do-anything-you want mama. I certainly didn't want to have the park ranger come calling to chastise us. But never fear. They finally ran out of energy and drifted off to sleep, dreaming, I'm quite sure, of the adventures that awaited them come morning.

Well, maybe not, if their demeanor upon waking was any indication. As a group, they don't seem to be morning people. It took some effort to rouse the campers, especially the girls. But one by one, they staggered to the food table, tentatively chewed on Pop-Tarts, bananas and peanut butter. "We're leaving in 15." Nothing. No movement.

"We're leaving in 10." More dilly-dallying.

"We're leaving in 5." They hardly looked up.

"We're leaving now. Shoes on!" Shoes afoot, the group took off for the 2.7 miles up the Blue Ridge Parkway, made the equally long climb to the summit, enjoyed more rocks (yes, a common theme for the trip), before descending a technical, rocky trail. It was a long morning, legs were getting weary, and most realized they needed calories. Nevertheless, all made it back to camp in one piece, proud of their accomplishments.

Thanks, LCA runners (and parents) for trusting me. Thank you for loving adventure. Thank you for believing in doing more than you thought possible. Thank you for treating each other with love and respect. Thank you for making coaching a pleasure.

I love you, LCA XC.

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