It finally struck me. We’re visiting cemeteries on the Sub-9 Death March Race, March 12th in Indiana’s Hoosier National Forest, cemeteries with real dead people, headstones, crosses, and family history, former farmers and loggers, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons. It reminded me of my grandmother's funeral last week.
At first we got wrapped up in the fastest way to get from one cemetery to another, researching GPS, Google Maps and every area map we could get our hands on. We talked tires and bikes and water and tools. Then, while looking for an online trail map, I saw a link for a genealogy website listing one of the cemeteries on the Death March. I clicked.
Maybe I shouldn’t have. One week ago, I was at a cemetery in a suit and tie carrying a casket, my first time as a pallbearer. It was heavier than I thought and while using a lot of strength, I tried to be as quiet and gentle as possible pulling it out of the funeral coach. It made me think twice about the race. The website listed all the names and dates of the readable markers in the cemetery, some dating back to 1833. Just think, 180 years ago, someone just like me laid their loved ones to rest at Mitchell Cemetery, one of the handful of historic Indiana cemeteries of the Sub-9 Death March.
As I thought about it more, it’s probably not wise to come flying into a cemetery at 20 miles an hour, lock up the brakes, dump the bikes on the ground, scream to your teammate “there’s the sign” and go running full bore to snap a photo.
1) Running is not appropriate at the cemetery, neither is laying on the ground to stretch, jumping up and down to get the feeling back in your toes, or eeking out that fart that’s been pent up for the last hour in your chamois.
2) Soft voices should be used. Also, it’s probably not cool to use expletives or the word “holy” in conjunction with any other word at a cemetery, such as, “holy (blank) I’m (expletive) tired.”
3) Gravestones, markers, plants, crosses are special sacred symbols that represent respect for the dead. Walk around them, otherwise a boney hand may come out of the soil and pull you under.
4) While I have found no proof of it, as childhood memory serves, you should hold your breath while passing a cemetery so the spirits don’t take over your soul.
5) To take some of the creepiness away from the situation of being surrounded by 180 year old corpses, take a second to contemplate the lives of the people at the cemetery. They were just like you once, only with a much heavier wooden wheeled bike.
6) As an added bonus, while I can't confirm any of the cemeteries of the Death March have one, I found out that some cemeteries have a well so that visitors can water the plants and flowers that mark the graves. However, I will not be drinking any well water from underneath a cemetery.