Cous We Rock: The Fall 50 Color of Life

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This Saturday will be Team Cous We Rock’s 10th Door County Fall 50 relay race.

A 50 mile running race it has become an annual touchstone in the lives of my family.  This year, as with every year, the excitement and anticipation of gathering together with friends and family becomes palpable and, for me, nearly overwhelming.

To get a sense of what the Fall 50 race is all about I stole the following paragraph from their official website:

“The Fall 50 is designed to be a glorious running adventure set against the colorful backdrop of Door County, Wisconsin during peak Fall colors. Participants may compete as members of a team of 2-5 runners or as a solo ultra-marathoner.

The course starts at the northern tip of the Door County peninsula at Gills Rock. The starting line is in front of the Shoreline Restaurant, just up the hill from the Washington Island Ferry parking lot. The course travels south primarily on back roads along the western shoreline. It passes through quaint villages and beautiful park areas including Ellison Bay, Sister Bay, Ephraim, Peninsula Park, Fish Creek, Juddville, Egg Harbor, Murphy Park, Little Harbor, Old Stone Quarry Park and finally Sturgeon Bay.”

The words “glorious”, “adventure” and “colorful backdrop” may well describe the course itself but they also capture the energy and excitement I think everyone who gathers together in a hotel in Sturgeon Bay feels every year.

Ten years ago my son was six – my daughter was four – and when their parents gathered together with aunts and uncles and loaded ourselves into a car to drive to the starting line – they gathered in front of the television to watch cartoons.

Ten years later my 16-year-old son will run at least two of the ten legs of the Fall 50 and he will be the energy and passion his 53-year-old Dad and his always younger Mom will celebrate along the route of the race.

My 14-year-old daughter will stay snuggled in her bed, grateful she gets to spend time in the hotel with her Aunt Katie, Grandma from Green Bay and Great Aunt Pat.

The Fall 50 is, in many ways, the running story of my life.

I am neither a good runner, nor a fast one.  There is a great meme that has a picture of a woman who is running with strong, athletic form and grace with the words “How I think I look when I am running” followed by another picture of a little girl with wide eyes and a harried and exhausted expression with the words “How I actually look when I am running.”

I am that little girl when I run but that woman in my mind.

You get the idea!

But, the Fall 50 isn’t about winning for us. Or, for that matter, being particularly good about running.

For us it was, and always has been, the companionship, the community and the camaraderie of family.

There are so many memories gathered up in the past 10 years of this race for so many of us.

Over those ten years the running has gotten tougher for the older of us, but we celebrate the younger of us now finding the same joy and excitement of coming together for this race as we had ten years earlier.

It’s the pasta the night before in our hotel room.  The card games played around the table throughout the weekend.  The celebratory time we have when we gather in the hotel’s hot tub.

The morning ritual of getting ready to climb into our car and travel the 50 miles to Gills Rock to arrive and prepare for the start of a day of running and laughter.

There are a million memories along the route of those 50 miles of Door County.

Today, we will load up my 2004 Suburban which will officially reach 250,000 miles as we begin our journey tonight to Green Bay and then on to Door County tomorrow morning.

I will pack way too much of everything.  Too much food.  Too much drink.  To many running clothes.

We will pick up my Daughter from soccer and load her sweaty self into the backseat next to her brother.

Before you can say “Door County” they will have on their headphones – the tiny little DVD player screen down – and begin laughing and commenting on some video they have watched a thousand times before on this journey and so many others before it.

I savor and relish every single thing I do to get ready for the Fall 50.  From checking on the weather (that I realize I can’t control) to buying enormous portions of food and drink (clearly, I can’t control myself) all in preparation of this adventure.

Shortly after we arrive in Door County the rest of Cous We Rock will gather.  Cousins, Grandma, Aunt, friends, nieces, nephews, children, husbands and wives will be together.

Kathleen will begin the annual distribution of the incredible shirt she designed for us to wear this year – loud, excited chatter will begin and not end until the last car is packed up and ready to go on Sunday – and the celebration of our adventure will officially begin.

The Fall 50 relay is, as so many other things are, the story and journey of my life.  It never has been a marathon – a lonely, solitary journey of miles.

It has been a twisting, turning, uphill and downhill race.  One where at each leg of my life there has been someone – friend or family – that has taken the baton to bring me to the next leg of my life.

Some legs have been amazing, colorful and joyful – others have been hard, harsh and humbling.  But, each one, the good and the bad, have had me met along the way with love, smiles, encouragement, patience, understanding and compassion.

Team Cous We Rock.

I love you.

Because you rock.

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