Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Not all who wander are lost. Unless you are Wrongway Ferreira

My mom traces back my wayward ways to one Sunday at church. Before Sunday school she had told me that she'd meet me at the back of the church so we could all sit together during mass. As time approached, she looked around for her 7 or 8 year old boy and couldn't find me anywhere along the back wall, in the back pews or in the back waiting room. After probably a few moments of excitement about the prospect of losing her burdensome middle son(I joke. I think.), it occurred to her to look around the back of the church. And there I was waiting impatiently amongst the bushes apparently flabbergasted at her obvious  tardiness. And thus it began. Or born again as Wrong-Way Ferreira.

In actuality, I have an even early memory of getting lost. I don't actually know if it's a memory or a memory of a dream, but I vividly remember getting lost in a lobby of a hotel and having to depend on the kindness of strangers, like Blanche, to find my family. The fact that in the memory, I was in a fancy hotel and the woman who helped me was elegantly dressed, I suspect it was a memory but who knows. It certainly wouldn't be unusual for that to happen to me.

Over the years, I'd get lost on nearly a regular basis; relying heavily on maps and later GPS for routes(like that to my Connecticut cousins) that I traveled dozens of times. I learned to budget in some getting lost time into my trips but more importantly to embrace getting lost. I have found some pretty amazing places(like a natural hotspring in Iceland or more recently a cool state park outside of Myrtle Beach) when lost. Especially in an age of more and more connectedness where everyone is reading the same Tripadvisor recommendations and following the same Google maps, it's really nice to just wander and have some time to wonder. Sorry that was bad. Anyway, I would certainly recommend at some time to just get out there and get lost. And see what you can find.

However, I DO NOT recommend doing so during a race. Or a hike. Or when trying to get home to your rented villa in Portugal well after midnight.

Here's a list of just some of the memorable wrong ways I've taken:

Rhode Island 6 Hour Relay: As part of a six member relay team, I had a simple task. Run a 2.5 mile paved bike path as fast as I could. Check. Apparently, I needed more instructions. Like stay on the path. Instead, I followed a guy who was warming up for his leg, and only after about 20 minutes and not returning to the start did I realized I had gone off course. Luckily the rest of my acidotic RACING team was fast enough to make up the time I had squandered but the nickname Wrongway Ferreira was born.

Shortly after RI-6, I entered the Pisgah Trail race in probably close to the best running shape of my life. A few miles into it it was only me and Justin Fyffe out in front. He would usually have been several minutes in front of me but I think he was training for another race and using it as a training run. Either way, we ran and talked for several miles together only to come across the aid station from the wrong side. After learning where we had gone wrong, Justin took off leaving me trudging past back of  the packers trying to make up for the lost miles. One of the few races where I got lost and added miles.

Usually what has happened is when I get lost, my brain or body finds path of least resistance(or at least shortest distance). Most recently I cut off 1.3 miles of the Harbison 50k and last year I loped off a whooping 10k from the Guyana Marathon. That was a painful one since I DQ'd myself and the two runners trailing me making myself ineligible for the cool locally made Amerindian prizes.

 I also lost out on a possible podium finish at the Kingman Farm Snowshoe race, but I cannot be blamed for this one, as I was closely following the leaders. Still disappointing but I certainly took solace in the fact that, for once, I did not lead others astray.

I did, however, lead my buddy Miles astray during our epic winter hike of the Tripyramids. After a fun but possible breakneck glissade of the 1,000+ foot North Slide, we over-judged the turn to the trail and wound up in thigh deep heavy snow drifts trudging several extra miles back to our car.

There was another time I added miles in a race and that was a very unfortunate experience as it happened about 80 miles into the Leadville 100. I took a wrong turn and ended up coming upon a group of runners that I had passed an hour before. After getting back on track and re-running what I had backtracked on, I estimated I added 2-4 miles to this 100 mile day. Not one of my better experiences.

And it's not just running! I got lost during the Beverly Triathlon both on the bike AND the run. I thought I was crushing it as I was out in the lead, but an ambiguous(to me at least) direction arrow had me off course in no time. I ended up with 2 extra miles on the bike but 3 short on the run. What fun!

Oh and then there's the getting lost at an indoor track race. Well not lost so much as it's only possible equivalent. Miscounting my laps. An indoor 5k is 25 laps(yes, I know. That is awful and something I hope never to replicate). Well I must have liked it so much that I ended up doing a 26th. Nice.

Which brings me to Portugal. After a night out on the town, my two brothers and I somehow split up and I was left to find my way home. No problem. I knew the place was on top of the hill. So in true Ferreira fashion, I took off at a near-sprint at 2am up the hill only to get to the top and be totally lost. Crap. Wrong hill. The correct one was about two miles away but down and back up a valley. Filled with sawgrass and cows. Suffice it to say, the next morning when I awoke, I had lots of painful cuts all over my legs and smelling like what the cat dragged in. .

I would say that is enough misturns during races. I am attempting a 6 hour trail race this weekend which pretty much means I'll be doing the same 2.25 mile loop as many times as I can in that time. I hope that I stay the course but you can trust I'll let you know if I don't.

Until next time,


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