Monday, September 3, 2012

Birth of an Idea

Conception always starts with an idea.  It may be the idea of what the outcome will be, or it may be an idea of just having a little fun, but there's always an idea that drives it.  Even before the idea comes the introduction.

The Dixie Daredevils' Hood to Coast race actually started at a community Fourth of July cookout.  That's where I met Casey (AKA Turtle).  She said she had just started running.  I had started running seven months earlier but was coming off five weeks of being sidelined due to injury.  A few months later I told her about a movie I thought we should go see about a crazy relay race out on the West Coast.  She was as excited about it as I was since we shared a common running obsession.

The only day the movie was to play (January 11, 2011), the roads were icey and snow covered.  Being from the south, I knew there was no way I would be able to get us to the theater.  Thankfully Casey was very adept at driving in the snow, being from Ohio and having lived in Virginia prior to moving here to Huntsville.  We sat down to watch "Hood To Coast, the Movie", from the opening scene to the closing credits we were enthralled.

Casey's immediate reaction was, "WE HAVE TO DO THIS RACE!!"  I told her I wanted to do it some day, but with a daughter in high school it didn't seem feasible in the near future for me.  Not only that, I explained to her how hard it is to get into the race.  There are more than 2,000 teams who try to enter, but only about 1,000 who get to do it.  They have a mail in registration that is only open one day.  Every team wanting to race must have their entry post marked and mailed in on that day.  The top six teams from each division from the previous year's race are given a guaranteed entry, and then the remaining spots are filled by a lottery system.  I went on to tell her it might be possible for us to get a spot on an existing team, but we may not end up on the same team going that route.  (Teams end up looking for runners to fill holes in their roster.)  Her eyes were bright with excitement and confident enthusiasm.

The very next morning Casey called.  Almost shouting she said, "I found a way we can do it!!  All we have to do is raise $15,000 for American Cancer Society by August and we will get a guaranteed spot in the race!"  I told her I couldn't do the race that year because my daughter was going to be a senior; then she explained further.  We had to raise the money by race day 2011 for entry into 2012's race.  I'd like to say I was as certain as she was that feat was possible.  I wasn't.  Then the part of the equation she doubted came out when she said, "but, can you find 10 other girls who want to do this race?"  I laughed.  "Are you serious?  It won't be a matter of finding 10, it will be a matter of limited it to 10!"

Casey was very new to the running community.  She hadn't yet made all the running friends she has today; she didn't know the obsession we shared was as widely held as it is.  I, on the other hand, knew, without a doubt, filling our team would be the easy part.  I told her we'd have a team by the end of the week, and we did.  The idea was conceived.

Just like the gestation of a baby is marked by trimesters, each with their own set of challenges and rewards, the progression of the idea of doing this race to getting to the start line was marked with the same.

At our first meeting we came up with our team name.  We wanted something that would caption our drive and our southern, Alabamian origin.  Dixie Daredevils fit the bill nicely.  Heather Armstrong volunteered her brother to come up with a logo for us.  The specifics about how we could raise the money needed to be entered into the race were discussed.  Conception gave way to concept and plans were set in motion.

Over the next eight months we sought out corporate sponsors, we sold raffle tickets, we passed "The Shoe", we held a Fun Run and a Pub Run (also a fun run thanks to the Rocket City Hash House Harriers who organized it for us), we Zumbaed, we hosted a Premier Jewelry and a Pampered Chef party, and we had a lot of meetings along the way!  We lost some teammates who were replaced by others, but we were ever driven to our fund raising goal.  On Casey's 30th birthday, the money raised at the Pub Run (which was originally going to be a simple birthday party but quickly turned into a fund raising idea) put the team's balance over the $15K mark and put us in the race!

Once our American Cancer Society commitment was fulfilled, we turned our attention to the idea of working for the money to get us all to the race.  We had high hopes of earning enough money to pay for the vans, gas, hotels and airfare, although we knew it might end up requiring each of us contributing a chunk of personal funds.  The next ten months were tough for most of us on the team.  Job changes, divorce, the birth of the youngest Dixie Daredevil, moves, significant others being deployed, stress fractures, all happening alongside each of us training not only for this race but also for our personal fitness goals.

Any woman who has ever been pregnant can tell you the joys and the challenges of being "with child".  I remember when I was pregnant with my son.  The first trimester was exciting and fun, but also scary and uncertain and marred slightly by morning sickness.  The middle months were the best.  Everyone could see my growing belly, I felt fantastic, I had more energy than I had in a long time, and I loved everything about the process.  The final months were a struggle to say the least.  By the time my due date came (and went) I was ready to have the process be over.  I was ready to be done being pregnant.

I think the birth of the idea of this race was no different for any of us (except maybe the newest member of our team, Patti, who came onto the team in the final stages).  We were ready to get to the start line.  At 9:30am Pacific time, the gun went off at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and Ashley started the first leg of the race for our team.  Just under 30 hours later, Melissa crossed the finish line at Seaside finishing out our endeavor.

Ironically, the day my son was born I started thinking I might want to do this thing again.  Remember when I told you the top six teams in each division get an automatic guaranteed entry into the next years' race?  We came in sixth according to the posted results....

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