Hold On…Just a Little Longer

It seems like it’s been a lifetime since I last talked to you and in some ways it truly has been. So much in my life has changed and then changed again, so although there are lots of words waiting in the wings, I’m not really sure where to begin with all of it. There is a huge lesson in all of it though and that is, just when you think you cannot bear to deal with even one more thing, one more thing comes along and you fight your way through it. You take one more step toward your belief in yourself being re-established. You take one more step away from the expectations of others. It’s a scary place to be sometimes. Standing far, far outside the relative safety of your comfort zone and all that it entails.

As you take those first tentative baby steps, you find yourself having to hold on through one more mind bending explosion of disbelief. Hold onto all those emotions you’re feeling for just one more minute that turns into one more hour and one more day. Eventually, the days turn into weeks and then months have gone by with no sign of a light at the end of this journey. Your comfort zone is now far removed and you’re no longer sure it ever really was your zone of comfort. Rather it was a place in life where you simply settled because that’s what you thought you were supposed to do. That’s the place you were supposed to be. That’s the place where it was best for all concerned if you just planted yourself and did not budge at all.

I would’ve never thought of running as something I was meant to do, or something I was supposed to do and certainly not something that was implanted in me to do. I’d always despised it before. Somehow though, running became my peace of mind and even that was taken from me and I found myself second guessing its necessity. Until the headaches and insomnia returned in full force. Oh yes my friends! Some people turn to drugs and alcohol or prescription medication to alleviate the stress of life and aid in their sleep cycles. I had been on prescription headache relief and sleep aids for two years before I really got serious with the amount of miles I ran every week. Once my mileage became a nice steady base of 30 miles a week it was like a veil was lifted, the insomnia was there one day and all of a sudden it was just gone. I could sleep! The headaches went away with only a few stragglers who held on…

Hold on for one more month. Do whatever you need to do. Tie a knot in that rope you’re holding onto for dear life and pray that it’s strong enough to keep you safe. Pray that it’s strong enough to keep you from tumbling back down into the hole you’ve spent these months crawling out of. Granted, it was a hole that I helped dig. Every time I turned my back on what I felt was right. Every time I compromised the boundaries I’d established for myself and our family. Every time I allowed someone in my life, an important someone no less, to make me feel as though balancing between my needs and that of the family was a selfish act. Is it selfish to take care of oneself? I say not! Everything that I’ve learned in the last 28 years of parenting has taught me that in order to be the BEST parent I can be I must take care of myself first.

What is it about being a mother that makes it okay for someone to come along and tell you that what you are doing is not enough? You are not enough. You are selfish. You cannot take time away from the “family” to replenish your soul because it’s not right. You cannot spend time with others who are of a like mind because they’re not your family and the entirety of your focus must be on just your family to the exclusion of all else. Oh, and just for good measure, while you’re being repeatedly told that these are all selfish acts, you have to put on this act of perfection for others. Nobody would believe you if you told them that you live with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Once the doors close and any temporary residents depart, the mask comes off, the joker goes away and the coldness arises from the depths. Sounds dramatic I know, but that makes it no less true. Hold on.

Just hold on. That’s what running ultras has taught me. Every mountain eventually tops out and then you are coasting back down again. When your legs tell you that they cannot possibly take another step that they’re too tired, you have to fight that feeling and keep moving. I had to keep moving forward and break out of the set expectations that were before me. Breaking out of those expectations meant breaking vows I’d made to God and that was a big deal to me. When one makes a vow to God you don’t simply break it without a lot of deep reflection and conversations with your God. How could I cleave our family in two and cause a huge disruption in our lives? Many nights of fitful sleep over the course of several years. I asked for guidance and none appeared. I prayed for strength and I received more trials.

On one particular day there was a moment when it all reached a very anti-climactic breaking point and I knew it was over. I prayed for a method to help me begin the process and within days I had my answer. The method was provided. I knew in that moment and every moment since that this action of breaking my vows was acceptable in the eyes of my God. You can call it coincidental or whatever you want to call it. I held on some more. This was just the beginning and it was not going to be without pain. How ironic is it that when you ‘fall in love’ there’s no pain with the butterflies in your belly, but when you find yourself disliking the person you were supposed to love through ‘thick and thin’ there is so much pain you’re not quite sure where it all comes from.

Pain. I learned all about this facet of life from a very early age and every step along my journey has only taught me more information about it. How deeply you can feel pain before it knocks out your other senses. How much pain you can tolerate before you just become numb to it all. Running taught me that pain is really an issue of mind over matter. Put it out of your mind then it no longer matters. Think about something else other than the pain and before you know it – you no longer feel the pain you once felt. This journey through the divorce process was very similar. There were days when I was in so much pain I did not know how I could possibly continue to move forward. I second guessed every single decision made.

Yes. I second guessed the decision. For those of you who know me personally this may come as a shock. Maybe, just maybe, I was overreacting. Maybe the problem was me and my way of thinking. There’s truth there you see. I was growing, branching out into other endeavors of life and felt as though I was not able to breathe or move without asking first for permission. Maybe comfortable was better than this struggle. If I just apologized and agreed with all that he’d wanted me to be, maybe we could save our marriage…..again. There was another side of me though that would not accept this. If our marriage was meant to be saved it would take two people wanting to do so not just one and I’d seen not a single sign from him that he was desirous of saving it.

Again there’s the correlation between running and life. Second guessing yourself and failing to follow through with your plan which then results in failing to accomplish the mission you set out for. I set the course, maintained the course and followed my heart as well as my mind along the way without deviation. It hurt. There were days when the pain was immeasurable. I missed……..wait. WHAT? What did I miss? The relative ease and comfort of knowing exactly what to expect from that particular rollercoaster is what I missed. Going around and around in circles, upside down and feeling as though my insides were being torn out by way of my heart is what I missed? Oh, there were good times too, but often they were simply bandaids to cover the wounds that had sunk in deep like a fish hook.

It’s over now. Finally. I can breathe and now learn what there is to discover about this person I’ve become and am becoming. There will still be pain and there are many more lessons left to learn, but I’m looking forward to the road ahead with our daughters. I’m looking forward to demonstrating for them that when you truly love someone there are sacrifices that need to be made, but they should never be of self belief. Hold on and be strong. Hold your course and love yourself enough to know that there is more to this life than what exists inside this little bubble of a comfort zone. Step outside of it and see the entirety of the world you’ve been looking at through your single, little window.

Life goes on….

Peace

~TLT

 

Serendipity

This is a long one so if you aren’t ready to read almost 3000 words you might want to look at a different blog post (race report)! 🙂

There! Finally, I was headed into the tree line about 10 or 15 minutes behind the very last person who started on time. Could I have started on time? Yes! Unfortunately for me, my brain took a detour before the start of the race as I was putting on all the layers of clothing I’d need to survive the cold, and I completely forgot to attach the timing chip to my ankle. Duh! Such a newbie mistake and one that cost me time. Time is a precious commodity out there when you are running against the clock!

Allow me to rewind the clock a little bit for you to the day prior. I had arranged to have a substitute take over my classroom for the afternoon so I could make the three – hour drive to Bandera. As luck would have it, my substitute did not show up which meant I had to wait a little bit longer before I could leave since it’s not prudent to leave a classroom full of fourth graders unsupervised. Luckily for me, I work with a fantastic group of people who covered down and took care of my class so I could leave!

Once I left work and loaded my race gear into the car, there wasn’t much else for me to worry about other than getting to the race site. Off I went to make the drive down there over the winding back – country roads of Central Texas. I knew once I arrived the only worry I’d have would be…..finishing what I started. How’s that possible you ask? Well, I’ll tell you! Not only do I have some of the best co-workers, I’m equally blessed to have a few close friends who are oftentimes more like my family than anything else. I was racing the clock to get there before the sun went down in order to get my race packet. There’s not much worse for me than driving to a new location, in the dark.

Except in this case, there is one thing worse than driving on unknown roads in the dark and that is arriving at the race location after dark to stand in the freezing cold waiting to get your race packet. I didn’t want to do that. Timing is everything! In fact, I could probably start this story much further back than simply the day prior and really set the stage, but I won’t bore you with all those details!

To make a long story short, I arrived before the sun went down, met my good friend John, retrieved my packet and listened to the race brief while trying to stay somewhat warm. You see, a cold front had settled into the region and though we are accustomed to their scattered arrivals, this one was a doozy and may have broken some records in the state of Texas. As soon as the race brief was over it was time to head to the camper for some of John’s tasty white chicken chili and wait for another runner to arrive from the Austin airport.

I have to tell you that there’s something wonderful about the simplicity of a friendship that allows you the ability to know, with absolute certainty that you don’t have to worry about anything. Running these events can be pretty stressful if you allow it to be which is kind of contrary to the entire purpose for me. Knowing that my singular purpose was just to finish this race that I’d trained five months for was more helpful than I can verbalize.

I mentioned the other runner John and I were waiting for. That other runner happened to be Gordon “Gordy” Ansleigh!! The father of endurance running and the originator of Western States Endurance Run was going to be sleeping in the same camper as me, a mere mortal! This had to be an epic weekend! I wasn’t sure how it was all going to go down but I knew that it would, without a doubt, be educational at the least.

Despite the excitement, I put my head down around 8:00 to relax and visualize finishing the race. I had no clue what I’d signed up for – only what I’d seen on the videos and word of mouth from my friends. This would come back to bite me later as the race progressed.

Race morning started off just fine without any hiccups at all. I woke up early, ate my breakfast…all the usual stuff. We arrived in plenty of time to sit in the nice warm truck and wait for the time to start. You see, it was about 18 or so degrees outside, so there was no way we were going to wait outside for the gun to go off!! At around 7:20 we got out of the truck to head to the start and place my well packed drop bags in their appropriate places and then get in line with all the others waiting to head up the hills and through the sotol cactus forest.

Everything was perfect until the gun went off and I started my watch, looked down and realized CRAP!! I forgotten my timing chip. Without the chip – there is no race! Back to the registration table I went!! Now you’re caught up..As I said, time is precious and things happen for a reason and all those other cliché’s we often hear and don’t think much about.

The great news is that the benefit of starting after everyone else already had was that I was forced to run MY pace. You see, when you start with the rest of the pack you tend to get sucked into running at the pace of those around you for as long as you can hang with them. This is NOT a good thing for someone like me who needs to keep their heart rate low for as long as possible.

This race sends you uphill pretty quickly so there’s not a whole lot of time to worry about pacing, though you can certainly expect the old ticker to get some good exercise. Due to the fact that I was far behind everyone else I was headed up Sky Island while the remainder of the field was headed down. This was a bit hairy at times since there wasn’t a whole lot of room to maneuver in spots. Imagine these human cannonballs barreling down this ankle breaking rocky landscape full of twists, turns, loose rock and trees while you are like a salmon swimming upstream going in the opposite direction.

Up and up I climbed then up and up some more until reaching one of the summits. What a spectacular view! I wanted to stop and absorb all the beauty, but I really did not want to mess around too long because, well like I said before, timing is critical. As I was hiking the up hills I caught up with some of the other runners, including Gordy who had stopped to take off some of his cold weather gear.

From the moment I passed him I made it my mission to remain ahead of him and not allow him to pass me!! It sounds slightly ridiculous to my own ears that I was making it my mission to not let this 60 something year old man get ahead of me, but I’d seen him in action at Rocky Raccoon 100 last year and knew he can make really good time on the trail.

It’s always a nice treat to meet up with others on the trail because chatting helps the miles go by so much faster sometimes than running solo. I am usually plugged into my music within the first mile but wanted to save my battery on my phone so I was thinking about my friends who talk about being in the MOMENT. Be right here, right now without tuning out via the music.

I played cat and mouse with several women off and on throughout the first half of the first loop. I only stopped at the aid stations long enough to top off my Tailwind with more of the same and grab a few pieces of something to eat. This too came back to bite me in the butt. I waited too long to start eating. It’s important to eat early and as often as your body will allow it because if your energy level gets too low it’s very difficult to come back with the same level of energy again.

By the time I saw John at the halfway mark of the loop at the Chapas aid station I was not a happy camper. I really felt like I bit off more than I could chew and was seriously underprepared for the terrain. Those hills chewed me up and spit me out like the rock dinosaurs that had left all those rocks for us to navigate. What I didn’t know at the time is that the hardest of the climbing was yet in front of me!! John did what he always does and laughed it off and told me that I would be just fine. Humph…

Shortly after that I ran into my old buddy Norma who I’d trained for Brazos Bend 100 with and hadn’t seen in over a year. It was good catching up. We went through this long field and she told me to save my energy for what was to come. WHAT? Oh yeah, there are some hella-hills that make our “hella-hill” on our home trails look like a baby hill. She was right too! These hills had steps built right into them, uh huh. Steps for giants and the grade……oh I don’t know – 17% maybe? Lemme assure you though that whatever they are in real numbers they FEEL 25% harder when you’ve already traversed approximately 24 miles and your quads are trashed.

No whining here though. I knew it was going to be a tough race for me. The first time up those enormous mounds of rock with Norma and several other women felt hard but manageable. Going down the other side was certainly interesting as well! Then you go through these mine fields (I kid you not!) of rock. It literally looks like a bomb went off and implanted all these rocks into the dirt and grass. Trip on one and find out! I promise it won’t move…nor will it feel the greatest either.

While we were moving I told Norma that there was no earthly way I was going to be back out for a second loop. HAH! Serendipity had other plans I think. Other than tripping on one of said rocks and pulling my hamstring enough to make me cuss….loudly there was no physical reason for me to stop. I was just being a baby and didn’t WANT to go up those hills again oh and it was going to be a night in the dark and cold too.

We pulled into Lodge, at the halfway mark (8 hours and 30 minutes later) and there was John with my headlamp just like I asked. He asked me what I needed or wanted and I told him I didn’t WANT to go back out. He basically laughed (again) at me and told me to stop being a baby (or something to that effect) and get back out there. So, after close to ten minutes (too long) messing around low and behold, there was Gordy pulling in. Dammit!

Out I went for the second loop thinking to myself, what just happened? Of course, John knew that once ON the loop I wouldn’t just stop – tricky guy he is and I kept thinking about Gordy catching/passing me. The section from Lodge to the first aid station (about 5 miles) went by much quicker the second time through and as I was trucking out after grabbing a quesadilla, here comes this young lady that I’d been back and forth with all day. She and I started chatting just outside that first stop. Rebecca is her name and as the fates would have it, we probably saved each other’s race!

You see, the trail running community is almost like a huge extended family. We all have strengths and weaknesses and though we will pray on weaknesses (like slowness), we also know that sometimes we need to lean on others to get the job done. I told Rebecca that I was simply aiming to finish that blasted course so if she wanted to pass to let me know and I’d let her by. Nope. She sat there (not literally!) in my back pocket while we chatted off and on and both grumbled about how hard the course was and how much we were hurting.

As night fell it seemed as though the aid stations were moved further away than they’d been the first time through. That was not the case for sure, but boy oh boy did it feel that way at times. I wasn’t cold or injured. The borrowed jacket (Thanks T2!!) and three shirts plus leggings, hats, neck gaiter and mittens kept me warm enough but my right hip was really bothering me and it hurt to move a certain way. We kept pushing. We jogged where we could and then walked the technical stuff. Pretty soon it was more hike than jog but Rebecca stayed with me.

At some point we started looking for the headlamps of other runners. They were like magnets pulling us forward and then we’d pass them and back into the dark we’d go. At some point I could tell Rebecca was really suffering with the cold. I asked her about her hands and she said that the two sets of gloves were doing nothing to keep her fingers warm. I told her to take her gloves off and put her hands into the neck gaiter I wasn’t yet wearing. That made her feel moderately better and on we went into the night.
I too was suffering but with nausea and knew from previous ultras that it was due to not enough calories going in and the body expending a great deal of energy to stay warm. At one of the aid stations I grabbed another quesadilla but couldn’t get it down without gagging so that went into the trash.

Somehow we made it to Chapas!! There was John!! I was quite happy to see his scruffy face I must say! We’ve been here before and he knew what he needed to do in order to get us to the finish. Once he is on a mission you’d be hard pressed to deter him from it. We chatted for a little while as I choked down some food and then the chatting stopped and we just moved. Every now and again we’d have a spurt of talking but by now it was freaking COLD. The long field prior to the twin sisters or whatever they’re called (I have my own name for them!) went by much faster in the dark and we made it to YaYa aid station.

I don’t remember much here but I do remember the volunteer who asked my name then took my hands in his warm ones and said something like, “You’re doing a great job!” as we were leaving. John gave me some hand warmers and those were a Godsend as well!!

Somehow, we made it to Last Chance aid station. Here, there was an angel!! The angel (volunteer) offered me a PANCAKE…freshly made with syrup and then, there were little strips of pure heaven to stuff inside the pancake…bacon!!! I really needed those calories and a texture other than noodles or quesadilla. True story – I really don’t even LIKE pancakes but that one was a little baby miracle!! We were now somewhere around 5 miles until the finish, but still had to traverse the toughest terrain.

I digress for a minute….at the halfway mark I’d asked John to meet me sooner than Chapas because (in my infinite wisdom) I told him that by the time I left Chapas the worst of the trail was over and I wouldn’t NEED him……Hmmm…good thing he didn’t listen to my idiocy. Now, back on track….

My vision kept doubling and my feet continually tripped over the rocks that the dinosaur bomb had exploded all over the place; the moon seemed as though it had a double rainbow colored halo and was stalking us through the wood line and I was thinking…..absolutely nothing. It was a matter of just moving that much closer to the finish line.

I was still attempting to jog when the path was not strewn with jagged rocks but for the most part I was just working at staying within eyesight of John’s back and moving as fast as my legs would go. The climbs now were so difficult for my quads to manage I kept slipping and guess who was there to offer a hand to keep me from tumbling back down the daggone rocks and cracking my dome….that’s right. My friend. He was there on the way down the slippery slope made of icy rock debris, acting as a human break so I didn’t break my neck as well. A human speed bump he was! What a guy! 🙂

Nineteen hours and thirty minutes later we crossed that finish line and I was handed that beautiful, shiny belt buckle that signifies so much more than just this one race. Serendipity my friends…

I’d apologize for the length but guess what, I’m not going to. If you made it this far – Thank you for reading!

Until next time friends

~Peace

TLT

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pawns in King Solomon’s Court

I have much on my mind this day, and the words seem stuck in my head as though they’re struggling to make it out of their tangled maze – though the results they dread. Children are a gift from God above. They’re given to us for whatever reasons He has seen fit. As we go through the motions of our lives, the little ones are often caught in the crossfire of mixed emotions and childish games. These little people have their very own thoughts and feelings though and are not meant to be used as pawns to cause pain to those we see fit to harm.

King Solomon of the Bible told the story about the selfishness of human beings who look out for their own best interest, rather than for the best interest of the child. We’re to guard them with our lives, hold them up to the highest esteem and keep them safe while they follow their own dreams. As parents we ought not to put them in a situation where they must make a choice to love one more than the other. There is naught that breaks my heart more than to watch the actions of a child who is so confused by the situation they believe in order to love their father, they cannot love their mother.

It would be the same feeling if the situation was reversed and a misguided child was under the assumption that in order to love his mother, he had to abandon his father. As parents it is our responsibility to love our children unconditionally and with a consistent nature so that they feel secure enough they know they don’t have to choose. I imagine myself in the shoes of the kings court….ready to sacrifice the child to the afterlife..in order to prevent them from being used as a tool to cause pain. I’d rather give up my own life and sacrifice my state of happiness than to make my children choose that which they should have no business choosing. They’re only children with very little thought of the future and have only a small idea of what they’ll be losing.

Children are not meant to make major life choices. Hence the reason why we’re not legally able to vote until we’re 18. They’re not capable of choosing what is the best for them and the remainder of their lives when they’re under the age of majority. This is the reason why children under the age of 15 or 16 are not able to drive at all and even once they do reach a given age, they must be supervised by an adult. We have to hold them up and make the right choices FOR them until they’re able to do so for themselves. It is so sad to me that grown people use children to seek an advantage over another. I didn’t choose to bring babies into this world to mother just so I could use them as pawns in a twisted game of chess. We’re adults supposedly….who should do what is best.

Until next time friends

~Peace

TLT

The Fire of a Heart Breaking…

Reach into the fire if you dare! Can you feel the pain? Or does your arm just grow still with the fear that is driving you insane? How many times do you reach out and how many times will you be broken before you decide enough is enough and stop the incessant choking?

Reach into that red hot fire. Can you feel the flame? Or does your body grow weary at the thought of trying once again to fight through the shame? How many times do you reach out? How many times will you be broken before you say you’ve had enough and stop the slow smolder?

I Dare you to reach into that glowing fire once again! Can you feel it burning yet? Or is your mind so numb from the walls around you that once again you forget? Forget the heartache that’s a permanent scar of promises made and promises broken and the winding road that’s taken you this far. How many times do you reach out? How many times will you be broken, before you decide life is wasting away and decide to be emboldened?

 

Prose….On Judgment

As you sit on the sidelines of my life blinded by what you perceive

And ignorant of all you do not know

You dare to pass your judgment, critical of the choices made

That have nothing to do with you.

 

When looking back on your life and decisions you have made

Can you sit there honestly, knowing all you know now

And say you never made mistakes?

 

As you sit on the sidelines of my life, blinded by the love you feel

And ignorant of all the critical errors, you dare add shame to the mix

As if it is suddenly your duty to lay waste with your verbal landmines

 

Look back at your own life, I dare you to peak

Take a look at all that was said and done, that caused such family strife

Would you like there to be fingers pointed

At a time when you felt your life was so bleak?

 

The lessons learned in this lifetime are earned by pain and joy as well

But please do not feign to sit there and judge my own personal hell

As if you know it or have seen firsthand

When all you have seen is the outer shell….

 

~TLT

Try your Best…Is a Farce (RANT)

Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a minute if you will. How many times have you been told to just, “try your best”, or any variation thereof? You are working your tail off to accomplish something, and someone decides that you need some motivation and informs you that all you need to do is give it all you have. As if putting every ounce of energy into this particular task will somehow, magically, make it work where it did not before.

You could spend days, weeks, months, or even years trying to accomplish this particular feat to no avail. All of your energy, time and focus has been in an attempt to make your life work better or run more smoothly, and yet you find yourself frustrated with the results. Did you ever play team sports in school? Let’s put it in terms of basketball. You stand on the free throw line day after day, practice after practice and no matter how you position your hands, no matter where or how far apart you place your feet and no matter how much coaching you receive – the ball will NOT enter the basket. Did you try your best? I bet you did! Yet, for whatever inane reason, the ball refused to make the sound you were struggling desperately to hear.

You tried hard, then you tried harder and you did the best you could with what you knew and with what you’d been taught but it simply was not enough. Sound familiar? There are some things in life that are just not meant to be or, on the flip side of that coin, there are some things in life that are inevitable. Telling ourselves and others that they only need to work a little harder though, is a farce. In my mind it’s right up there with participation medals. If you are not talented enough to place yourself or your team on the podium then why should you receive a medal? This is teaching our children especially that even if you did NOT try your best, you still get an award. Is that the way it is in the real world? Nope!

As I just pointed out, there are times when your best is not good enough. It happens to the majority of us, so why do we insist on putting ourselves through the misery of thinking that if we only try harder it’s going to change everything? It’s not. Get over it. Which leads me to my next point. You did the best you could with the tools that you were given is another bit that grates my nerves slightly because it’s almost like making an excuse for bad behavior in adults.

Last I checked, we all have this thing called FREE WILL. This means that we make choices and although they may not be all bad, we certainly make the choice between doing what is right or not and then, here’s the kicker – generally speaking there are consequences for our actions. Make your decisions and stick to your guns, but remember that there is nobody to blame but yourself for how it turns out. Part of being an adult means owning your own mess. Sure, we all make mistakes. Lord knows I have made PLENTY!

Mistakes are funny things though you see! If you have an accident because you turned down a wrong way street, it was a one time thing and therefore a mistake. The next time you drive by that street you will remember that you had an accident there and not repeat the behavior. Lesson learned. On the other hand, if once again you drive down the same one way street and have an accident, it’s no longer a mistake. This is an extreme example of course but you get the idea. We make errors in judgement that cause us pain usually and these are called MISTAKES. Acting out the same behavior over and over again, despite knowing that it’s going to lead to pain – this is no longer a mistake. It’s a behavior over which we have FREE WILL to either cease or continue. To say that you did the best you could with the tools you were given is an excuse.

*RANT OVER

Until next time friends…

~Peace

TLT

“Race” Report (It’s long!)

I use the term ‘race’ very loosely because my reality is that I am simply racing against myself and the times I’ve accomplished on a given distance during a previous attempt. Although, chasing the proverbial rabbit does help me get through some tough patches, it’s simply a game played out in my own mind in order to keep pushing. If you play or have played any sort of sports related activity you probably know what I am referring to. 🙂

On with it then! The first alarm rang at 5:00 a.m on Saturday morning and by 5:30 I was eating some english muffins for breakfast while standing in the kitchen double checking my gear to make sure I had all the essentials. Not very exciting to be sure! By 7:00 I was on the road watching a spectacular sun rise and feeling steady in my mind. As I drove I was picturing myself running under that start/finish banner at the end of the race. I often use this tactic like a mantra in order to remain positive. It seems to help…

About halfway to the race location at the 7IL Ranch in Bellville, Texas which is a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house, I notice the tire pressure monitor warning light up on my dashboard. Really?!  I decide to err on the side of caution and pull over at a gas station with an air pump to check the pressure since the computer on my truck appears to be programmed by someone smarter than I am. Don’t you know, the doggone air pump doesn’t work there. Off I go, praying that it’s a nail that’s stuck into the tire and it holds pressure. A few miles later I see another station and pull in, stick my quarters in and….promptly get eaten alive by a gazillion mosquitos as I attempt to put air in the tires only to find that this pump seems to be letting air OUT of my tire, not putting it in. UGH! I finally get it situated just right to put air into the tire…as I swat blood sucking flying insects SMACK!

I made it to the race location about two hours prior to race start, picked up my packet and stood around for a few minutes talking to my running friends Dan ‘the man’ Macintyre and Dale ‘the Texas Yeti’ Cougot. The fabulous part of this sport is that one can glean so much knowledge from others, if you choose to listen!! Headed back to the truck to grab a protein cookie and chill for a few minutes while taping and lubing my blister-prone feet. I’d heard that there were patches of beach like sand on the course so I wore Altra shoe gaiters to keep it from getting into my shoes. In my experience, sand plus sweaty feet plus friction equals HUGE blisters! Let’s not have a repeat of that issue. Before I knew it we were all lined up behind the start line and it was GO time!!

A phrase you may have heard is that the first mile is a liar.  It tries to convince you that you’re not ready; the body may be a little taut from the taper and your mind may still be caught up on some minute detail. On this day, the first six miles were decidedly unpleasant. The protein cookie didn’t digest well and because of that my stomach didn’t send the right signal to let me know that I really needed to EAT. You must know that a lack of calories in the body really messes with the mind. Here I was on just the first loop and already thinking how badly it sucked, how slowly I was moving (though I wasn’t) and wondering why in sam hill I had signed up anyway.

I didn’t realize until about ohhh 5 miles in that I was HUNGRY!! That’s why my brain was acting so ugly. The problem was, after the three mile mark there was no more food available at the aid stations, so I had to wait until the start/finish to eat. On top of that, I wore my Hokas & I could feel the blisters beginning within the first 3 miles. I ignored it of course and planned to change my shoes at the turnaround. Though blisters and I are very well acquainted, I did not want them to visit on this day!!

     As I came in to the start finish for a high-five from Rob Goyen himself, I noticed the clock display of 1:27 for the first loop! I was ecstatic and simply wanted to hold that pace without blowing up on the last loop!!  The medic gave me a baggy of ice which I stuffed  in my bra, ate food (pretzels, pickles, ritz),drank coke and changed my silly Hokas for the Altra Olympus. I was trying to hurry up through the aid station but didn’t want to forget something either and the ice was an absolute necessity. I took off walking while eating pretzels feeling re-energized. The baggy of ice didn’t last long though before it was a sloshing bag of water! I popped the bag and poured the cold water over my head….ahhhhhhh bliss!
     Loops 2 & 3 were MUCH better physically and mentally! Loop 2 had an elapsed time of 3:04 where I repeated everything I did after loop one, except change the shoes. I also got rid of the neck wrap I’d made because the ice was all melted and it just felt heavy around my neck. I was still happy with how I was feeling and progressing through the course. At one of the “unmanned” aid stations on loop three I ran into Dan again and he did a double take when I told him I was finishing up the 3rd loop. He said, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it!” That was the plan! :)) When running ultras, one must take advantage of the moments when you feel good because whatever goes UP…will come down!!
      As I was beginning the fourth loop I crossed paths with Stephen Moore who was just a few minutes behind me. I told him that I’d see him on the ‘flip side’ and he came back with, “unless I catch you.” HAH!! Guess what that meant? I was going to do everything in my power to NOT allow him to catch me!! LOL! Around 2 miles into loop four, I felt a familiar twinge that told me a blister was rearing it’s ugly little head and it needed to be dealt with. I debated just sucking it up until the start/finish point, but I know from experience how ugly they can become if not handled correctly. I had to stop for blister care. Once done and back up out of the blasted chair, I put  the discomfort out of my head & focused on moving forward – I HAD to make up some time. The stop cost me about 15 minutes!! 😦
     At the start/finish for the start of loop five the clock read 6:22 and I knew not only did I WANT to push it the last 10K, but I needed to do so in order to beat the loss of sunlight. I’d brought headlamps but they were in the truck!! It was a repeat of lap 4 – only faster through the aid station. As I ran that last loop, I walked the uphill and there was one looooong one, then ran every downhill as safely as I could. I thanked the medic (Casey?) and “Waldo” for the tape job on the blisters as I blew through their aid station…Somewhere around mile marker 4 on the course, I saw lightning trying to light up the dusky sky! Seriously? Push HARDER! As I rounded that last corner and the tents rolled into view I knew I was home free. I walked for a few to catch my breath, started jogging then pounded up the chute as fast as my legs would go to the FINISH! When I looked back the clock said 7:52 and change. Not the 7:30 I was aiming for but I’ll take it!! 🙂
     Sorry for the lengthy nature of this one!! There are lots of other details I could put but will spare you this time! 🙂
Until next time friends…
~Peace