Thursday, July 28, 2016

Things I want to say about success

In high school, I was voted Most Likely To Succeed. I had no idea what that meant or even why people cared about things like that. Even then I had a feeling my definition of success was different than society's. But I had this moment at the Candlelight 12 hour race where I was like This is it. I have succeeded. I have done what I came here to do. It was not when I hit the 40 mile mark, or 50 miles or 55 miles. It was not that I ran farther than I ever thought possible and somehow didn't get a single blister or fall down or even hurt all that terribly much. It was when another runner said to me "You're the banana, right?" and then yelled "Banana!" every time he saw me on the course (in reference to my recent appearances volunteering at races while wearing a banana costume). And after the race, when we were all posting our race reports in the Facebook group and lovely and overly generous people made comments to me like "Your compliments and encouragement were as tireless as your run! You have a beautiful spirit!" and "Thanks for sharing the trail with the rest of us. You were so kind to everyone as you smoked us! We were actually all talking about how sweet you were out there." I cried while reading them because to me, this is what running is about. This is what life is about: encouraging and cheering, giving back to a community and a lifestyle that has given everything to me. Everything. Strength, happiness, a trail family, a husband.

I feel sometimes that I have disappointed people by not having any competitive nature whatsoever, like they have expected certain things from me and I have failed to deliver on them. Competition is great. If that's your thing. It is not mine. And I can't be what someone else wants me to be. I can only be what I am. I'm not the kind of person who wins races or even looks like a runner. I just really love to run.

Sure, I want to keep pushing myself, to grow better and faster and stronger. But achieving those things won't make me better than anyone else. It will just give me more ways to give back. The faster I get, the more people I could pace or join for training runs. The more race experience I get, the more knowledge I'll have to pass on to others. The more miles I run, the better equipped I will be to provide a home for all the poor, orphaned cookies of the world.

Often the focus of sports is on the winners. And rightfully so. They are incredible. But I think people forget that there are so many other kinds of success. Like the success of service, of being grateful for what we've been given and paying it forward, of giving attention to others instead of seeking it for ourselves.

After Candlelight, Eric texted me this picture and said "Did an edit on this. I like it now. So here."

I love it. It perfectly captures the beauty and the spirit and the blur of the event. But this seemingly simple text captures so much more than that. Eric and Sheila spent all night spectating at the race. They have spent so much time spectating at and directing so many other races, and working on trail maintenance. Eric has been injured and unable to run this summer (but hopefully now on the mend). I well remember how fucking frustrating it is to be injured, to not be able to do this thing you love doing. And still he's out there supporting everyone else, giving back so much to this community. This is the kind of stuff I love. Valone, Sean and Dave - the husbands out there supporting their wives in achieving their goals, as their wives have supported them. My favorite seaman Pete, and all the other military personnel, working hard all over the world in service of their country. That, my friends, is success. That's the kind of person I want to be.

Lyric of the moment: "I do it for the joy it brings. Because I'm a joyful girl. Because the world owes me nothing. And we owe each other the world. I do it because it's the least I can do. I do it because I learned it from you. And I do it just because I want to..." ~Ani DiFranco "Joyful Girl" 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Candlelight 12 Overnight Ultra Race Report

I used to say that I never wanted to run 50 miles. But somehow and for some reason I ended up doing just that at the inaugural Candlelight 12 hour ultra this weekend. I'm not sure how it even happened and I'm finding it hard to form coherent thoughts about the race. So first, a non-exhaustive list of thanks, without which such insanity would not be possible:

Infinity of thanks to Danielle, Alison, Bob, Mark, Todd, Dave and Laura for joining me at all the stupid o'clock hours for nighttime training runs. To Alison and Bob for driving me to the race, to Alison for letting me borrow her headlamp as a backup and to Bob for staying to cheer until 3am! To Todd and Laura for volunteering at the aid station during the wee hours of the morning and to Laura for driving me home. To Eric and Sheila for being out there cheering all night long and being the heart and soul of the awesome community that is TrailsRoc. To the Valones for letting me stow my stuff under their pop-up tent and making me smile every time I saw them out there crushing the course. To Amber and Greg for being at the start and finish and for teaching me the difference between black metal and death metal. To Dave and Anita for being such upbeat, friendly people. To 3 generations of Stories for being so encouraging and inspiring - and congratulations to Kristy on her epic win! To Prem, Jeff, Erica, Steven, Stacey, Brian VB and Jeff McB for coming to spectate (and to Steven for bringing GatorBull, the drink of champions). And of course to Race Director Gil and all the volunteers (especially the one responsible for delicious homemade cookies appearing at the aid station at 4am) for making it possible for us to run from sunset to sunrise and everything in between.

The race was a 12 hour event, starting at 7pm on Saturday night and ending at 7am on Sunday morning. The course was a 1.07 mile loop on grass and paved paths at the Equicenter in Honeoye Falls and the goal was to run as many full laps as you could in that time. 

I went into the race never having run farther than 32 miles and never having run for anywhere close to 12 consecutive hours. So my only goal was to keep moving for the entire time and see what happened. I honestly didn't think I'd get more than 40 miles and I expected to walk a lot. Mostly I just didn't want to get injured or fall in any horse shit. 

It was hot, sunny and humid when we started, with temperatures in the 80s. I wanted to bank as many miles as I could before it got dark so I only stopped to walk on the lone hill on the course. I started to get worried because I felt tired pretty early on and I didn't know how I was going to last for 12 hours. But then I sat down to pee (in a real bathroom in the barn, which was awesome!). When I got up, my legs felt better. I also started drinking Mountain Dew and eating more at the aid station and that helped as well. Then I realized I was already at mile 20 and the soreness I felt was just normal 20 mile soreness. I could handle that. I told myself I could sit down every 4 hours and elevate my feet for a few minutes. That seemed to alleviate the heaviness in my legs and give me an extra boost.

The 12 hours went by surprisingly fast. I never felt sleepy, but my brain was too tired to think about much of anything. Which was perfect. Rejuvenated by my first sit down, I just got into the zone and went. I stopped to walk the hill on every loop but I ran most everything else. It was still humid but the temperature had dropped into the 60s. The miles passed and I don't really remember much from miles 26-40. The sun set and it was beautiful. The moon came out and it was beautiful. I just kept going and tried to say "nice job" or "looking good" to everyone I saw out there.

I sat down again when I got to 40 miles. Now I had less than 4 hours to go and I was still feeling good. Suddenly this thing seemed almost doable. It turns out that running 50 miles doesn't hurt any more than running a marathon or 50K. Between miles 45 and 50 I almost cried so many times. I teared up at mile 47 when Pete called me from Afghanistan. And when a woman on the course said to me "You're wonderful! Always so positive." And when I hit 50 miles and my brain was all You're doing this! How are you doing this? Why are you doing this? No really, why are you still running? How are you still running? Oh shit, is this a dream? I cannot even if this is just a dream.

Thanks to Eric for the photo!

Thanks to Todd for the photo!

I legitimately don't know how I ran 50 miles or how I kept going for 5 more miles after that. Some part of me wanted to stop. I had nothing to prove. I didn't even want to run 50 miles. But mostly I was just all I came here to run for 12 hours and damnit I am not stopping until I do that. I do remember that the last hour seemed longer than the previous 11 combined. I crossed the timing mat with 15 minutes left on the clock and debated stopping there or trying to get one more loop. I had no idea what pace I'd been running at this point. I thought it was probably slower than 15 minute miles but I figured I had to at least try for one final loop. Why? I have no idea. I think my brain was just like fuck it, let's wreck everything. I mustered whatever speed I had left, which was very little. I even ran 80% of the hill. When I got to the paved path, I couldn't see the finish clock to see how much time I had left so I just started sprinting. Luckily I made it with 4-5 minutes to spare.

Then everything started to hurt. My legs, my abs, my stomach, my brain. But whatever. I ran 55 miles (over 20 miles farther than I've ever gone before) and stayed awake all night. I got to run through the sunset, moonrise and sunrise. I might be dead now. But it was totally worth it.

I have no words that can adequately explain my feelings about this race. The magic of running at dusk, at midnight, at dawn. The joy of doing something I love, of attempting things so outside my comfort zone and finding strength and awesomeness in actually doing them. The overwhelming gratitude I feel for having met all these amazing people and of having married my most favorite of all of them. 

No more 50 milers for me though. Ever.

Lyric of the moment: "The indescribable moments of your life, tonight. The impossible is possible tonight, tonight. Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight..." ~Smashing Pumpkins "Tonight Tonight"

Monday, July 18, 2016

Head full of doubt / Trail full of promise

I ran before work. I ran after work. I ran in the middle of the night. I ran on tired legs and tired brain and tired everything. I ran trails. I ran roads. I ran hill repeats. I went to Fit1 every week and did things I did not think I could do. I ran alone. I ran with some amazing people I am lucky enough to know. I fell down. I got back up. I ran some more. I rested (that was actually the hardest part - the days I didn't run, the races I didn't do). And then I started to taper and felt tired and achy and like WTF have I done? Why did I think I could do this? There is no way I can do this.

In 5 days, I will start running at 7pm and (hopefully) not stop moving until 7am the next day. I don't know how to do this. I have never done anything like this before. I may never do anything like it again. To say I am nervous does not even begin to cover it. This race is so far out of my league. At least 20,000 leagues out of my league. But I suppose that's the whole point. I signed up for Candlelight because it sounded hard. And I wanted to see if I could do it. I don't know if I can. I am not going to set any pace or distance goals because for me, it's not about those things. It's about attempting things that are outside of my comfort zone. It's about the effort, the training to get to the start line. It's about who I've become in the process of doing all those runs and that training. Am I any faster or stronger as a result? I don't know. I don't look or feel any different. But I have some new stories, some new experiences. And, underneath the terror, I am just excited and happy to run around in circles in the dark, to see how far I've come. And how far I can go.

I don't know what will happen at Candlelight, but I know it will be an adventure. Twelve hours where anything can happen. So all I can do is let it. It will be a night of challenges and pain and joy and promise. And who would want to sleep through that?

If you feel like forgoing sleep to come hang out at the Equicenter Saturday night, I would love to see your face. Or accept your advice, hugs, heckles, or anything to keep me moving.

Party on.




Lyric of the moment: "Decide what to be and go be it..." ~The Avett Brothers "Head full of doubt / Road full of promise"

Friday, July 15, 2016

Do you want to be more awesome?

Remember those 90s late-night TV commercials where Sally Struthers extolled the virtues of the totally not at all fake correspondence school where you could "earn your degree at home" or get a career in an exciting field like "Learning the Personal Computer" or "TV/VCR Repair?" I wish there was an updated version of that commercial for the current decade. And that it said something like this...

Change starts with you. So be awesome, my friends. Use your heads for thinking, your hearts for loving and your arms for hugging. Be good to each other. Together, you can repair all the things that are broken, not just TV/VCRs.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 305

Well, we made it over the hump and it's now past the halfway point of this whole deployment thing. Pete is being promoted to Chief, which is something he's worked very hard for, so he's going through the initiation for that. Apparently it is a very secret initiation process and I do not get to know any details. So I just keep asking questions like "How many teardrop tattoos do you have now?"  (because if the military is going to monitor our conversations, I'm going to make them as ridiculous as possible).

Two weekends ago, I fell while running and twisted my ankle and Pete sprained his ankle in some kind of forklift related accident. This past weekend I was dying a slow, painful death from pooping and Pete hurt his back doing dead lifts at the gym. So here's hoping the couple that falls apart together, stays together. Or something.

While it's encouraging to be past the halfway mark, November still seems like an awfully long time away. If I've found any answers to the question how do you maintain a happy marriage when you are eleventy kajillion miles apart? (approximately), it is this: the same way you do everything.

  • Be honest. None of that vaguebooking crap. Have the conversations. Use your words. Like an adult person.

  • Be awesome. In any relationship, the only thing you can control is your own actions and attitudes. So put in the effort and be awesome in attitude and action. Work on your own shit so that you're not taking it out on other people. Take care of yourself. Do the things that make you happy. And then bring your happy, most awesome self to the party that is marriage and life. Party hard.

  • Be grateful. You get to have a partner in life and adventure. Treat that as the honor that it is.

  • Be kind. To yourself and everyone else. Try to be more understanding and less Judgy McJudgerson. That guy is a real downer at parties.

  • Get by with a little help from your friends. Pirates had it wrong, my friends. Treasure is not gold or jewels or ships. Or even booty. The true treasure of life is friends. Friends who hug you when you're a sweaty hot mess. Friends who show up, for the happy parties and the sad parties and the work-on-each-others-houses parties. Be a good friend. Appreciate the hell out of your friends.

Lyric of the moment: "I have to step away sometimes, to see how much I love my life. And now I am grateful. If something's worth all my time, it's to make sure you know you're on my mind. And I will be there..." ~Gene Evaro Jr. "This Kind Love" 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Everything is shitty and I'm dying: A tale of swallow worts, porta potties and 20 awesome miles

I don't often have shitty runs. But when I do they are very, very shitty. It should have been a warning sign when I woke up and my stomach was off. It should have been a warning sign when I arrived at the trailhead to find an actual warning sign. Mark, Danielle and I met up at the parking lot on Rte 444 at 6am on Saturday to run some pre-miles on the Seneca Trail before the group run at 7am. We discovered that the trail was closed until 9am due to treatment of invasive swallow worts. Naturally we made a few jokes about how that sounds like some kind of STD. Then we ran 4 miles on another section of the trail while we waited for the rest of the group to come to a consensus on whether to reroute our run or rebel against the worts. The group decided to brave the worty section and go ahead with the run as planned.

In the porta potty in the parking lot, I made the first of what would be many pit stops during the run. Then we headed off on the trail towards Boughton Park. At this point, I was still feeling ok, just following Danielle and Alison and chatting away. But as the miles piled on, things went from crappy to shitty to danger! pooping your pants is imminent. Between miles 9 and 10, I was on the verge of tears. I'd stumbled on a pile of logs and twisted the same ankle I twisted last weekend. It didn't really hurt. I was just annoyed at myself for being so clumsy and flawed and at my normally iron-clad stomach for being such a mess. All the Fears and the Doubts and the You're Not Good Enoughs started swirling around in my brain. So I did the only thing you can do in those situations. I kept going. One of the benefits of getting older is gaining a certain kind of wisdom, a wisdom that is like an inoculation against your own virulent strain of bullshit. I don't think the doubts ever really go away, you just get better at talking yourself out of them. I took a few deep breaths and told myself to relax, everything is fine. That was a lie. Everything in my insides was not fine. But thankfully, I made it to the porta potty in Boughton Park in time. As I came out of the porta potty, on the verge of tears, Danielle asked me what was wrong and I was like "I am just a hot mess. I twisted my ankle again. My stomach is a mess. I miss Pete. I miss Mozzie." She asked me if I needed a hug and I said "Yes, but I'm all sweaty." She said she was sweaty too and gave me a hug. Then a 9 month old puppy named Dexter ran over to us and that seemed like the most adorable of signs.

Todd had left his car at Boughton Park, filled with water and snacks. He asked if I wanted a ride, but despite how awful I felt, I never even considered stopping. I had wanted to run 20 miles and run 20 miles I would, no matter how many pit stops I had to make along the way. Two more, if you're wondering. The rest of the group headed back to the parking lot on 444 where we'd started. Danielle, Alison and I did a loop around the pond at Boughton Park to add a couple more miles, then we headed back as well. Mentally, I was feeling much better, though physically I was feeling much worse. Luckily my legs and ankles were fine, it was just my stomach and intestines that were staging a bloody rebellion against some unknown assailant. But the weather was beautiful and the company and conversation were especially awesome, so I just focused on that. And on not pooping my pants. I did have a close call, but Danielle literally saved my ass by giving me tissues and Pepto Bismol tablets from her pack. As a general rule, I avoid pooping in the woods at all costs, but today it was a necessity. As we neared the 20 mile mark and our cars, I was doing the dance of wanting to run faster to get back to the parking lot porta potty as quickly as possible and wanting to run slow enough so as not to crap myself.

After another uncomfortable encounter with a porta potty, I drove home, where I spent the rest of the day watching Murder She Wrote and dying a slow death from pooping. I felt alternately bummed that my misbehaving stomach had kept me from eating ice cream and riding the train at Todd's house with the rest of the group and concerned that all my internal organs had rotted and were now leaching slowly out of my ass. But mostly, I felt gratitude that the bad days are infrequent and far outnumbered by the good days. And that even when everything has literally gone to shit, I am still surrounded by awesomeness.

But seriously stomach, enough is enough. We can't waste this entire 3 day weekend on the shitter. There is so much ice cream and so little time.

Lyric of the moment: "Every minute and every hour, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you more. Every stumble and each misfire, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you more..." ~Bastille "Good Grief"