You can’t always get what you want
By Rachel ToorAs featured in the November 2009 issue of Running Times Magazine
I’ve been trying for a while to hate Shannon Farar-Griefer. It’s not working.
We first spoke a few years ago when Shannon, an ultrarunner and endurance horsewoman, was interested in getting into Ride and Tie, a sport that combines those passions. We chatted for a long time. We’re the same age, same height, and have similar interests. We could be the same person. Except that she’s Hollywood-hot, philanthropist-rich, has sushi with the Van Halens, owns horses, a beautiful house, and is happily married with two teenage boys (Moe and Ben), and a two-year-old. Oh, plus she started a business that was an instant success. Who wouldn’t want to hate her?
At the 2007 Western States Shannon gave every runner a pair of the Moeben arm sleeves she had designed — and manufactured — to wear when she competes in 100-mile races. They were a viral marketing sensation. I was skeptical, as I often am of trends. I’d seen people wearing them and scoffed. The colors and designs can be a little outre, too L.A., for my all-in-black New Yorker taste. The sleeves seemed silly and gimmicky. I just didn’t get it.
The week before I was to pace at this year’s Western States, I competed in the World Championship Ride and Tie. The day before the event my partner Pip, a sweet but young Arabian gelding, dumped me into a pile of poison oak. By the end of the race, I was scratching like a chimp.
At the awards ceremony, all the (human) competitors got their choice of Moebens. I had come around to wanting to try the arm sleeves, but again, was skeptical of those for the legs.
I complained (and complained) on Facebook about my itchiness. The creator of Moeben commented that I should have used her leg sleeves; they would have protected me not only from nasty UV sun rays, but from poison oak juice. I tried to hate her.
When I ran into Shannon at Squaw Valley before this year’s Western States, she was, as usual, warm and delightful. She showed me her wares and gave me a pair of sleeves to try. She also gave me one of the hemp shirts she provided to each runner. It’s softer than a baby butt. And less smelly.
The Western States course is one of my favorite places, but this year I was pacing scared. The dangers of the 100-mile race are well known: dehydration, hyponatremia, muscle cramps and tears, nausea, kidney failure, bug bites, cougar attacks (not the kind by older women like me), and blistering sunburns. My problem: On a course that is largely single track, you can’t help but brush by evil weed every few steps. Poison oak looks innocuous, like some sweet house plant. Let me tell you, it is not.
I wished that I had chosen to take Moeben leg sleeves from the Ride and Tie. They would have saved me from the poison oak and made me less twitchy about getting more itchy. Once out of the green stuff, I could have pushed them down and used them as rock-stopping gaiters.
Instead I wore Moebens on my arms from the start of the race until well after the finish. I am always cold — people who know me casually think this is amusing; my good friends find it obnoxious — but the day was hot. I kept the sleeves bunched at my wrists and used them to wipe my sweaty, dirty face. Then, after the river crossing, at 2 a.m., when I was shivering (and everyone else was merely warm) I pulled them up. When the sun came out and even I was feeling the heat, I wetted them down; they cooled me.
For 13 hours I said to my runner, Robert: “Can I tell you another thing I love about these sleeves?” For 38 miles, he let me tell him.
The truth is, I could never hate Shannon Farar-Griefer — she’s too nice, too much fun, a fabulous girl’s girl. I am grateful to her for making a product that has made my running more comfortable. I may still be envious of her good life, but I’m glad to have her in mine, especially in the form of Moeben sleeves.