The Same and yet Different

I’ve been thinking about writing this one for awhile, but life continues to roll on and priorities being what they are, it just hasn’t happened. This evening as I sat here trying to process more new information for work related duties over dinner, the idea once again came back into the forefront of my wee brain, so here we are.

People often look bewildered when I tell them about my love of running and even more so when they find out that I LIKE to run ultra distances. To those of you who read my blog but are not familiar with the term ultra-marathon, it means any distance more than the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Now, just because I run these distances does not mean that it’s easy for me. It doesn’t mean that the miles do not exact their own price on my body while cleansing my mind and spirit. To the contrary in fact!

I’ve dealt with numerous pretty minor injuries (huge blisters, neuromas, muscle imbalance) along with the normal muscle soreness and the breathlessness that comes from trying to push a particular pace when the conditions dictate that the run should be nice and easy. I’ve been told that I will never medal, never come in first place, never have the physique to run long distances efficiently. Guess what? It hasn’t stopped me! Does it nag at me when people think they know what I should or should not do or tell me that I should just quit running? Sure it does. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. I digress however!

What I really wanted to talk about are the similarities between running long distances and being in ANY long term relationship. You may be asking yourself, where in the world is she going with this? There are no similarities between these two activities! Ah, but I ask you to hang in there with me and I will endeavor to tell you, dear reader, that there are a few ways in which they are alike. They both require a commitment to stick to your guns when the initial passion to do so has long passed you by. They both have these hidden peaks and valleys that are often unseen until you suddenly come upon them, or they upon you. Both of these events require the ability to plan and yet be flexible enough to know when your plan has gone down the tubes and you’ll simply have to fly by the seat of your proverbial pants.

What do you think? Do you see it yet? Some call it discipline and commitment while others say that one must be a bit of a masochist to push your body, over and over again, in order to complete a long distance event. If you have ever been in a long term relationship, and I use the phrase long term rather loosely to mean any relationship that lasts more than a year, you know there is some degree of pain involved. As human beings we tend to be quite self centered at times and with this behavior comes pain, either our own or that of another person. During the initial infatuation phase you are absolutely entranced by all the passion and bliss; perhaps you even make a commitment to stay together “no matter what”. This happens when running long distance as well – I promise you it does!

You sign up for your race of choice, train your body relentlessly to perform at optimal levels and show up the morning of the big day primed and ready. Somewhere between that starting line and the eventual finish (for me this is generally somewhere after the halfway  point) the creeping vines of ugliness and doubt find their way into your now tired body and mind. The infatuation and passion is ebbing, leaving you wondering what in the world you were thinking when you signed up for this fiasco! Now comes the test to see how committed you truly are to finish what you started. Will you struggle through being tired, hungry and perhaps even a bit grumpy in order to reach your goal? Will you be cross and ugly to the people who have been standing by to give you a hand and tell you that you really DO have the strength or will you grit your teeth, smile through the pain and keep on moving through it?

You move through each mile after mile (or milestone after milestone depending on your perspective) and then the path suddenly rises above you like a goliath. In your head you think that although you are able to move easily enough up this hill the first time, you sure hope that your body remains strong enough to climb it again…and again. How many of you have wondered how many times you can possibly have the exact same disagreement (usually of the heated variety) over the exact same issue with your significant other? Is this not like climbing a hill? What about the downhill portion of climbing? The argument is over and peace once more reigns supreme in your life….ahhhh. It’s like cruising downhill! Are you with me? Have you ran down a hill lately my friends? Let me tell you that it’s a freeing experience to feel your legs moving like pistons beneath your hips as the earth drops down and down. I’d say that with the wind in my face and a nice, even descent, it’s probably the closest I’ll come to flying!

Flying…..until you stub your toe on something and you go flying for real to complete the best ever belly flop on dry land! Hah! Were you expecting that? Did you plan to fall flat on your face, bloodying your knees like an eight year old on roller skates? The answer is probably NO but it happens all the time. As is the case in relationships. You’re running along, minding your own business and following your plan for life when all of a sudden something happens out of the blue and BAMMM there goes your perfect plans! Ugh! How many times has that happened? Okay, so now your well structured plan is garbage to be thrown away with the mornings’ coffee grounds. What will you do now? There comes a time when you have to make the choice to keep going the way you are, with bruised and bloodied knees or a broken heart along the same trajectory, or you have to change things up a bit. Flexibility is a valuable trait and not only for gymnasts and dancers apparently. Agreed?

The bottom line is that even big, ugly blisters drain and eventually heal. Bloodied knees and bruised egos also heal – eventually. Does one have to be a bit of a masochistic to run long distance and repeatedly push the envelope to see how far the human body CAN be pushed to the edge without teetering over? I say, that running 30, 50 or 100 miles in a go is not much different than being in a long term relationship. What do you think?

 

Until next time friends

~Peace and blessings

 

Time and Choices

Apparently, I have a lot to say today since the words appear to be flooding out of my mind and onto the screen so here’s a rarity for me…TWO posts in a day that are not just about running! 🙂

Time and choices

Such simple, ineloquent words and yet they hold so much meaning. I remember when time seemed to stand still. When every minute felt like an entire day had taken place. Now it seems that every day is slipping through my fingers at warp speed and I cannot slow it down. It is scary to think that I am now ‘middle aged’ in lived years despite the fact that I feel as though there is still so MUCH I still need to learn!

My grown children now have children and I yearn for their presence in my life. I also yearn for a certain type of silence. Not the silence of angry words recently spoken. Not the silence of an empty house or sleeping children, rather a silence of the mind. A space in my life where the busy-ness fades and I think of nothing really and yet thoughts race through my mind with haste.

I remember with a pained heart the mistakes of our youth, though take them back I would not because they are what lead me to you. There are so many choices to be made and things left to be done and it reminds me everyday that although we are separate peoples, we are all affected by each and every one. It somehow makes me think of Robert Frost, a Road Less Traveled:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There are choices to be made and the consequences we shall not know until such time as we wander back on that road of so long ago….and even then, as our memories fade we know not which choice we ‘should have’ made…

 

Anniversaries

An anniversary is so much more than simply a date on the calendar and when I hear people say that they married their best friend I wonder.

I wonder how it is that one can be just a best friend to someone who sees you at your very worst and loves you even though it hurts. I wonder how it is that one can be just a best friend to someone who sees you at your very best and loves you beyond life long tests.

I used to be envious of those couples who seem so in love whenever I saw them out and about but then I remembered what goes on behind closed doors is shrouded in clouds.I wonder how someone can love me for who I really am, if even I don’t know who that person is. I wonder how someone can love me through the good and the bad, when sometimes it seems that bad is all there is to be had.

It seems to me that saying one is married to their best friend may be undercutting the height to which love transcends. Marriage must transcend it all through the thick and the thin; through the times of financial struggle and times of ease; through the times of illness and of health. Yet those are only words we speak because when the line is drawn in the proverbial sand, you have to make a choice as to which side of life you will stand.

There are no easy answers and no instructions to follow, whether you are flying high as an eagle or drowning in a pool of sorrow. How will you manage to hold true to your words when they’re left tasting bitter on your lips? Why would you want to leave the person who steadies your emotions with just a hand on your hip?

A decade plus of marriage surely must show you how much you truly do not know this person you have married for better or for worse. Almost two decades of communication between the two surely must indicate that there is so much left to learn. There are choices to be made daily. That’s right I said, there are choices that have to be made – daily. As a wise woman recently said, life is all about choices and when we fail to make a choice that is a choice in itself.

Being married to another person is a study in patience, understanding and stamina to name but a few. When I am out among the trees, I am reminded of the likeness between my love of running and that of marriage.

There are hills to climb and as my friend Doug once told me, you are fighting yourself climbing those hills. Just go with the flow, he said, in his infinite wisdom. Take smaller steps and don’t work so hard. Being married is that way when every step feels like quicksand trying to pull you under to flounder in your misery. Quicken your steps, lighten the load and before you know it you feel as though you are once again floating along effortlessly.

I ask God to help me bite my tongue and guide my words daily. You see, some degree of faith in a power greater than me is necessary to trudge my way through when times are tough and the going is slow. There are things in this world I believe that only He knows. We make the plans but he sets the path and once again this is similar to running a race. We make plans to complete this race or that. We follow our plans and aim for a successful conclusion but sometimes there are lessons to be learned in the falling down and failing.

Anniversary is but a simple word that really means so much more….

A Story of Regret

She rolled over to see the sun streaming in through the bedroom window as though through a crystal chandelier, creating dancing jewels of brilliance on the wall. She wondered to herself why the house was so silent and where her husband was off to already this beautiful spring morning. It would be nice to simply linger in the bed as though it were made of the softest clouds, but there were things that needed to be done. If only….she could remember what those things were.

They were right on the edge of her mind, but stubbornly refused to come back to the forefront. No loss, she thought to herself. If it were important I’d remember what it was. There were no clocks ticking and her music had shut off hours ago thanks to the automated system that shut it down if there was no interaction within 90 minutes. Silence. There was a time when the moments of blessed silence were few and far between. Now though, silence pressed on her like a freight train, again reminding her that there was something she was forgetting.

She drifted off into her mind while looking at the sun jewels shining brightly on the wall. The kids were on her mind a lot lately. Eight children out there somewhere in this dark world where nothing was truly predictable and she was here, lying on her bed trying to remember what it was she ought to be doing. She reached over to see if the bed where her husband would rest his head was still warm, but all she felt was the cold sheet along her fingers and another feeling drifted into her mind. The feeling of regret raised its ugly, scarred head like the demon it was. Telling her that she’d missed out.

What had she missed she mused? Hadn’t she done everything she was supposed to do? Hadn’t she raised her children to be compassionate members of society? Hadn’t she tried to live up to the expectations of those who mattered and worked at being a decent mother and grandmother? She had not been perfect as a mother or a wife but hell, she had tried to do the right thing her entire life, for what it was worth. So what was left now for her to do?

People told her that once you became a parent your life was no longer your own and what you wanted from life no longer really mattered. She and her husband fought for years about her selfish nature and desire to be more than simply a housewife until she finally acquiesced and stopped planning, stopped partaking in events that took her away from her family a few weekends every year and most importantly she stopped dreaming of what was to come. She’d worked at living right here in the present without making any plans at all for what was to happen in the future.

What was the point in dreaming about the possibility of more, if all it brought was heartache so profound it felt as though her heart would fracture from the pain? Why bother trying to balance a life full of adventure and miniature personal escapades with that of marriage and motherhood, if the only product was a peaceful mind within a chaotic life? She had always thrived on what she fondly called organized chaos. She had always performed at her best when, as her husband used to (not so fondly say) run around with her hair on fire from one event to the next. The goal was to feel ALIVE!! Why feel so alive if doing so meant the adrenaline rush was short-lived and often devolved into tears and fiery anger because these things she yearned for were not what she was supposed to do.

As she lay there on her bed of clouds, fighting the demon of regret and staring blankly at the sunshine jewels on the wall ,it came to her. There was nothing for her to do now! The kids were all grown and gone out of the house and the silence was due to the fact that there were no other heartbeats occupying the same space as her. She was alone here in her thoughts, alone in her regret and shame for not making more out of her life. Now, as she looked back through the last 40 years she wondered, what was the point?

The kids no longer called to tell her their stories. There were no grand-babies crawling around because she was unable to keep a long-distance relationship with them over the years since that too was frowned upon by the powers that be. Somebody she used to know once told her that she would grow old and lonely because she was too selfish to understand what it means to sacrifice her own needs for the sake of others. Hah! The joke was on them now wasn’t it? She gave it all up for the sake of everyone else, and yet here she is as she watches the sun play through the window – old and alone, living with the demon of regret….

 

 

 

What you See…Is what You Get

It’s been 24 days since the 100 mile run I showed up for ended prematurely at 40 miles due to an injury, and although I have my head wrapped around the necessity of dropping it’s been a rough few weeks. You all hear the words and see the catchy hashtag of “the struggle is real”. We pay lip service to the issue of depression and the resulting suicide rate amongst our service members. We make jokes and pass judgment.

I’m here to tell you as someone who has battled that demon most of their adult life and has loved ones who are doing the same, depression on any scale is no laughing matter. What does depression have to do with running you may ask. It has a LOT to do with it in my case and that of many others I know and am proud to call my tribe. You see, running is not simply a physical act of quickly moving one foot then the other in a forward motion. Although we are, obviously, performing physical exercise that’s not the whole story.

There’s more to the story of running, for most of us, than simply the physical act. It calms us with the release of various neuro-chemicals. It stimulates other hormones and body chemicals to help us better cope with stress. We feel better about life in general when we are able to run. The inability to run has the same effect on a runner as does not being able to drink coffee on a habitual coffee drinker. Neither of which are pleasant.

As most of my friends will attest, I’m not an overly bubbly person to begin with. I’m not one of those women who walks around with an ever present smile on their face. I am one of those people who, if I know you, tends to say whatever I think needs to be said (within reason), and this often means that I say the things nobody else will for fear of hurting feelings. It’s not my goal, of course, to hurt anyones feelings and I do think about what I say before I say it, but I’m not one for mincing words. All of that to say that I am pretty much an open book. What you see is definitely what you get.

Since I am an open book, not being able to run without pain means that in 24 days I’ve ran TWICE….and neither time without pain. Was it successful? Who knows!! The question is, did I feel better afterwards…..? Absofreakinlutely!! Unfortunately for me, and those who are forced to live with me, running is the only form of physical exercise I’ve found that releases all the tension, eases the inner monster and helps my ‘politically correct’ filter remain in place for one more day. It also eases the feelings of depression that seem to pop in for an uninvited visit for no good reason. The struggle to maintain mental equilibrium is very real friends.

My life is perfect: I have a long-term relationship with my husband, a home, healthy children, beautiful grandchildren, wonderful pets aka fur-babies, honest and challenging employment and my own health to name but the top of the list of all I am thankful for. This does not mean that depression has no reason to reside here, since it does not seem to NEED a reason. That’s the real point dear ones. It just IS…What you see…IS what you get.

Until next time friends…

Peace

~TLT

Veni Vidi Vici…Rocky Raccoon 100 DNF

As I sit here trying to decide how I feel exactly, this Latin phrase rings through my head in a chorus of simple four letter words. I came, I saw, I conquered or in this case WE came, WE saw and WE conquered.

Rocky Raccoon 100 did not transpire the way it was planned. SURPRISE! You can make all the plans in the world but when it comes time for execution of those plans you have to be ready for the inevitability that you cannot control everything. Really? Have you heard the phrase, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray? (Robert Burns) Well, this past weekend was a perfect example of this.

Now you may be wondering how in the world can I say that we came, we saw and we conquered IF things did not go as they were planned. I’m going to tell you! With the help of well qualified people, I trained for this event for 4 months because of an inner belief that if one fails to plan then you plan to fail. 100 running miles is not a distance that anyone should take lightly – respect the distance. I knew what to expect going into it since I’d ran the distance before, yet one can never fully prepare for it because there is so much that is left to chance and the unknown.

The weekend began as it was planned. I felt well rested, hydrated and as ready for the event as one can be. I won’t bore you with the minute details, but trust me when I say that when we were walking to the starting line I felt….calm and ready for the day ahead. Allow me at this point to give props where they are due, and give thanks to a fabulous coach and friends who are more like my family. The drop bags were in place, the plan was clear and after a few pictures and chit chat it was time to GO! (We CAME)

Start of RR100

It was a stunning morning to run! The air was crisp with a touch of humidity thanks to the hours worth of rain we’d received earlier in the morning. The pine trees were emitting their spicy scent and as I breathed it in, while the dark of the predawn morning surrounded me, I still felt at ease. The darkness was complete with the exception of the multitude of headlamps bouncing off the tree trunks. Foot steps fell in a steady rhythm until there was a section of roots nobody wanted to trip and fall over, and then the rhythm slowed. Like a caterpillar we inched our way along through the early morning. I was content for once, running without the noise of music in my ears as I listened to the chatter of those around me. (We SAW)

After the third mile or so, the line stretched out and we no longer were inching along like a rubber band was attached to each of us. I settled into an easy jog and paid heed to the trail ahead of me. Roots are evil you see and quite insidious if you don’t pay attention! The first aid station floated into view, I did a quick mental check and found I needed nothing so I kept on moving through rather than stop. Aid stations can be like miniature black holes you do not want to get sucked into if you can avoid it! The next aid station again just kind of appeared and once again I was not lacking in anything so kept it moving.

It was somewhere around mile 15 when I noticed this little niggling jangle taking place on the inside of my left knee. It didn’t hurt exactly but it was enough to concern me because it was far too early to be feeling anything but GREAT. Told myself, it’s SUPPOSED to hurt so stop being a baby and keep it moving. So I did. That first 20 mile loop honestly felt effortless for the most part even though I was ahead of our “A” plan. I knew it would be necessary to slow it down.

The crew was waiting for me there asking me how I was doing, what did I need etcetera, so we took care of business, rubbed some Tiger Balm on my leg and I moved out with a backwards yell that I was ‘slowing down’ (intentionally). I walked out of the start finish line, ate some and started jogging again while telling myself that there was still a long road ahead and I needed to conserve some energy. Still I was feeling good! In order to ‘get outta my head’ as my friend Mike says, I slipped on the headphones and started listening to some music so I could tune out to tune in to that inner space needed to keep driving on.

Somewhere around mile 25 I guess my knee gave a real twinge of pain. There was not a precipitating event (though I had fallen at the end of the first loop!). I decided to err on the side of caution and slowed it down to a power hike. It was still possible to pull off some decent splits (14 min miles) even power hiking and then I ran into Dave from England by way of Dallas who was also hiking. We shot the breeze for the better part of the next 8 miles I suppose. He’s quite the jet setter having ran some of the most awesome marathons all over the world!

One of my awesome friends, Cindy, met me at an aid station and I told her of my issue with the knee. The message was passed along and it was decided we’d use some KT tape at the last aid station before the start/finish line. Cindy and I did a power hike/jog combination for the next couple miles until nature called. No details needed here only to say that as I was headed into the tree line, I stepped onto the forest floor covered in fallen leaves and twigs, only to feel my left knee give a TWIST and I growled LOUDLY. It hurt – A LOT! It was right about here I really knew that unless there was a miracle, I was not going to finish what I’d set out to do.

At that final aid station before the start finish my friends came into sight and sat me down for a ‘talk’. “Let’s tape it and see how it feels by the time you get to the turnaround point 5 miles away.” Okay. So as I sit and get my leg taped up by another friend, Tony the Footsteps for the Fallen Fireman, who appears as if by magic? My husband and three daughters!! This was quite the SURPRISE! My family has never came to any of my races in the woods!!

Wrapping RR100

The tape job was completed and I was fed so it was time to be off to the turnaround! Tony warned me that the first mile with the tape may not feel the greatest and good thing because it pretty much sucked!! Those last 5 miles hiking and slowly jogging were full of a mental turmoil I am only still processing. I came to do a job! I had prepared – but had I prepared well enough?! Could I make it through another 60 miles of this WITHOUT seriously injuring my body? I had all these people here to support my effort and I felt as though I was letting THEM down by my inability to perform as expected. There were so many thoughts running through my head, even my music wouldn’t shut them up!

The start/finish line…..this is where we conquered! Conquered because I turned my control over to the capable hands of my crew and told them to make the decision of whether I’d continue or not. I’m a little competitive – not with others so much as with my own inner demons and if they’d not told me to stop, I would have kept going until I could not or was pulled. Emotionally WRECKED. Physically a mess, with the love and comfort of my friends and family around me the decision was made.

Today though, I am able to walk without a walker!! I conquered!! Today, I am able to move around with only a modest amount of discomfort that is expected after running 40 miles. I conquered! It’s okay. I’m not happy with it but I am slowly wrapping my head around the idea that although I didn’t finish, DNF stands for something else…..Did Not Fail. I didn’t fail because I TRIED.

We came….We saw and we conquered….

Until next time my friends

~Peace