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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Parenting

There is nothing that will make one feel more inept and often guilty than parenting. Guilt can ride your back like an ugly monkey if you let it. Taking from you every ounce of joy parenting can elicit. I have been on my fair share of guilt trips – both self imposed and those thrown at me by those with less than good intentions. Funny enough, I don’t believe that anyone is able to impose on me a greater feeling of guilt about past mistakes than I can impose on myself!

You see, I am quite aware that as a child/mother/wife of 18 years old, I did not set the best examples for my children. I am aware of the fact that I made many mistakes as I was bearing and attempting to raise four boys in my late teens and early twenties. I am also painfully aware that my mistakes cost me to lose so much time with the boys. Time I am unable to get back – nor do I want to.

That’s right! I said I don’t want to take back that painful time. Do I wish I had been a better parent? Absolutely! Do I wish that I had not made the mistakes I made along the way which made the lives of my children harder than they needed to be? Of course! However, those difficult times created resilient young men and helped me be a better parent to my daughters. Those tough times that saw me lose my temper and forget momentarily how precious life is, helped create young men of immense amounts of patience and compassion.

Now, as I look back, after laying next to my youngest sleeping child who had thrown her arm over me and snuggled in for a good nap, I am grateful. Grateful for the knowledge that those mistakes provided. Grateful for the growth that occurred out of the pain. Grateful for the fact that my boys know in their hearts that no matter my mistakes, my love for them is never-ending. There is no reserve amount – no price to be paid. I love them no matter what – even on their worst day.

This is another lesson from parenting you see. I had always heard of the unconditional love of God and my mom always provided me with her manner of unconditional love. I did not truly know the meaning of the term though until the girls came along. You see, there is a different type of relationship (IMHO) between a mother and her sons versus a mother and her daughters. There is no doubt that boys love their mamas without reservation or hesitation – and I them. The love of mother and daughter however, is another animal altogether.

I am not even sure I can put this thought into a cohesive paragraph that makes sense to anyone but myself. With the girls there is an understanding. We communicate on the same plane using the same words that identify emotions. As people of the female persuasion there is a different type of communication that takes place – sometimes it does not even require that words are spoken. We pay attention to the smaller nuances of human behavior and for a great majority of us, this means that we are able to attain a new or different level of understanding.

What I miss about the boys: the sound of raucous laughter and them calling for ‘mama’. The mornings when one of the youngest attempted to make my toast ‘crunchy’ the way I like it, but misinterpreted BURNT for crunchy. They served it to me before I even rose from bed, as though they were serving a queen! I miss sweaty boy hugs and the look of pride on their faces as they successfully accomplished whatever feat they had attempted.

For me, being a parent is quite similar to my ultra running and in fact, the two worlds often intersect in unique and interesting ways. I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the dirt/mud/cobwebby world of the trail. It is often quite unforgiving, cruel and difficult at the same time it brings me a fantastic sense of PEACE. The trail does not require one to think much beyond putting one foot in front of the other. At the same time, there are an abundance of thoughts that occur within my head simply BECAUSE it does not require a whole lot of conscious thought.

Running, especially as slow as I tend to go, requires some patience and compassion; fortitude and stubbornness….persistence and consistency. Does this not sound very similar to parenting? Ironically I find that many of these characteristics I thought I did not have, I have found on the trail. Not only directed or felt for others….but for myself as well. There is so much we can learn about who we are and in what direction we would like our lives to meander by hitting the open road, sidewalk or nearest rocky trail!

It is my serenity….my peace and the place I go to think. It is where I go to just BE…..me. Not mother, wife, teacher, student, counselor….etc., etc., to just be a body cruising the trail….

I am thankful and blessed to BE back on the trail and that has been another lesson learned. That is a story for another day though.

Until next time, don’t be a stranger…

Peace

~TLT

Random thoughts of Randomness

Been a little bit since I blogged and today although I have a lot to say there is nothing really sticking with me. I think that is par for the course, so to speak! I have these random thoughts that come and go every single day and not many really stick around to make a definitive impression. Those that do stick around have to be pretty raw/intense/powerful in order to do so – that’s just the way my brain works. It takes a lot of information in and then lets go of the majority it deems as unimportant. Unfortunately….sometimes because it means I have no recollection of the bad nor the good. Whereas some have a brain like a sponge and remember everything – my brain is more like a sieve and only retains very large pieces of information.

There are a few things on my mind today though. I have been in a blue funky place in my mind for awhile….probably about 6 or 7 weeks long. The moments come and go and some are better than others but for the most part – funk is where I am at. Just when I begin to feel better and maybe climb out of this hole I seem to have fallen into, something comes along and knocks me right back in! I get my cravings for garbage food under control…….and then my craving for LARGE amounts of caffeine kick in, thereby making it so I do not drink enough water. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing since I haven’t really been running….until I decide TO go for a run and get a headache because I have not drank enough water!

Thankfully, I am pain free while running now…..well….at least there is not pain from the injury I sustained back in December. Now the pain is simply from working hard at getting my base level of fitness back. Starting over really does suck in case nobody told you! Hopefully, tomorrow will be good to me and I can break the 10 mile mark for my long run! If so, it will be the longest I have managed since the middle of December! Perhaps this lack of distance in my life is what is keeping me in the blue funk since those neurotransmitters aka chemicals the body makes like dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline etc are some that help balance MOOD. Perhaps….

Perhaps my blue funk is a natural progression due to the changes occurring in our lives. Perhaps it’s an adjustment issue. Perhaps….I hope it is simply the fact that my body, my psyche, brain…..whatever you want to name ME..is in desperate need of some time to run amongst the trees in varying speeds. Perhaps it is the desire of an endurance junkie to get my fix of fresh air and heavy breathing. Since running is the only outlet available where one can simply BE…There are no labels in the trees and on the trails…You are just you and I am simply me – going as fast or as slow as we are able. I know I miss some friends, near and far – and I hope that you are SAFE (JS and AK) no matter where in the world you are!

Conversations this week with students provided endless entertainment and debate about topics such as whether or not homosexuality is a choice or if it is genetic; if we are somehow programmed from birth to be this or that (computer programmer, teacher or psycho killer, child molester) in addition to a very stimulating conversation in 3 different groups of students on the same topic: the lack of a ‘fear’ in the children of this particular generation which is thereby making it less likely for them to have a balanced locus of control.

For many, the locus of control growing up was a healthy fear of what our parents would do or say should we make an inappropriate choice. Somewhere along the way, children were given the power over the parents (as evident in any grocery store in almost any city in the United States) and that healthy fear of the repercussions of our actions was stilled at best and completely reversed at the worst. We talk about children who sass their parents; the children who run through the clothing racks of the nearby department store, seemingly unconcerned with the concept of courtesy or manners; and the fact that parents seem unwilling or unable to get control over these children.

My brothers and I have spoken about breaking the cycle of abuse that many suffered at the hands of parents who had no idea how to parent and made it up as they went along, like so many did. The problem, as I see it however, is that the pendulum swung too far the other direction in a quest for balance. It went wide, to the other side of the spectrum and now we suffer those consequences. We have parents too afraid to tell their child to sit still and enforce that stillness. We have parents too afraid to ‘lay hands’ on their children in order to instill some discipline on them for fear that someone will report their parental judgement to a governmental agency that tells the public spanking is abuse.

I do not intend to start a debate about the evils of corporal punishment, nor the lack thereof in this generation of minions and ‘beasties’, only perhaps AWAKEN the consciousness of some people. If we continue to pretend as though this is not an issue, the issue will continue to grow and fester – and society will pay the price. It is our FUTURE we are talking about after all!

That was another topic discussed this week – that of consciousness but I think it requires more thought on my part and therefore, I will save that particular blog for another day! 🙂 Oh and an EXCITING post about a documentary I watched at Endurance Outfitters last weekend is brewing in the back of my mind as well…..Be sure to remind me!! LOL

Tonight I sleep (thank you Lunesta) and tomorrow…….we RUN!! 🙂

Until next time friends…..
Peace

A motivating factor fear

Let’s talk about FEAR shall we?

Fear is a powerful emotion whether you are a three year old afraid of the boogeyman under the bed, or a 30 year old afraid of spiders. Ironically, fear is a driving force, which typically enabled us to choose the right path when we were children. The fear of receiving strong discipline from our parents if we did something naughty, was often enough to persuade us to make the right choice. If not, and we chose the wrong path, there was the other fear which occurred when the discipline arrived. This type of fear motivated us to STOP behavior – or perhaps, to never act on a childish impulse in the first place.

There are as many types of fear as there are people in this world, for we are all unique individuals and as such, our fears reflect our uniqueness. Fear of new places, new people and new guidelines may keep us from taking a particular job offer or even submitting our resume’ to begin with, for fear of receiving yet another letter of rejection. As someone who has been in search of an employment situation that works for me for the last two years, I can tell you personally – those rejection letters are ugly, nasty creatures that can build any insecurities already living in your mind.

Fear has the ability keep you stuck in place like quicksand. It could be the job you trudge through daily because you are afraid to take a chance and make a change or a toxic relationship that makes you second guess all you believe and how you feel about yourself and the world around you, but you are too afraid of the unknown to make a change. Fear of what others may think, fear of rejection and pain all serve to keep us stuck in place – never moving, never truly growing.

There is a flip side to fear though! I can tell you, for me personally, fear is a great motivating tool! When I was a teenager, looking through my teenage eyes at my surroundings and all of the people I saw who were STUCK in the same small town, doing the same job, in the same house for the same pay – year after year – I made a decision to move. In my late 20’s, after four beautiful boys and a failed marriage already, I felt stuck. I felt as though I was being sucked under and then trampled underfoot by the myriad of bad choices I had made. I was living through the painful consequences of those choices and found it to be unacceptable. I was AFRAID if I did not make a change, I’d grow old and die without having done anything – without having served a purpose. I believed then, as I do now, that we all have a purpose.

That fear propelled me forward into a new era of my life story when I signed my name on the dotted line to join the Armed Forces….It seems like ancient history now, though it’s only been 18 years, to the day almost, since I began basic training. Unfortunately, my time in the service was ultimately cut shorter than I anticipated it would be by a decision based, at least partly, on….FEAR. We can make the choice to let our fears make our choices for us or we can become aware of what is taking place and utilize it to our advantage.

One way I do this is by planning. I LOVE to plan activities, vacations and of course, my own training schedule. I have even helped others plan for various events! Rather than allow fear to decide, I make the conscious decisions necessary to be successful in whatever mission(s) I happen to be working on at the time. Is there fear of the unknown? Am I afraid of failing at whatever it is I happen to be working on? ABSOLUTELY! Am I “successful” at every single mission I set out to accomplish? NO! What drives me more than the fear of failure though is the fear of NOT trying. The fear of growing “old” and having done nothing in my life to affect change. The fear of hitting my 90th birthday and looking back with regret, not at all the mistakes made for that is a natural progression of life, but regret for all the things I “should have” done.

I had a conversation with a friend a few years ago and we were discussing getting older and my unhappiness with this prospect. They told me that there’s no use in trying to fight aging, it’s a fact of life and therefore unavoidable. I told them, of course we all age and eventually die, but I will go kicking and screaming the entire way. Like the poem by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night, 

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Until next time my friends……USE your fear rather than be used BY your fear

Peace~

(From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp.)

Identification

During this time off from all the running I tend to do, there has been a lot of time for me to THINK….about running! Hah! Funny isn’t it? Anyhow, I realized the other day after several conversations with other friends who run – WE ARE RUNNERS. Seems simple right? There is more to it than that however.

When we are running we are thinking or talking about running and other facets of our lives that pertain to running or training for this event or another; we are speaking in short sentences about what kinds of foods we eat to make us better runners (we hope); we are laughing about the most recent escapade we encountered on the trail when we ate something in the previous 24 hours that we really should NOT have; we are planning out loud or with our running friends the events we are signed up to run next or those which we would give a leg or at least a few toenails TO run…

We are not thinking about the bills that need paying, the kids that won’t stop crying or stomping on our very last nerve; the car that needs repairs, the assignment for school or work that needs completion……or perhaps we are thinking of these aspects of our running lives but if so it is taking place behind the lines of all the stuff going on inside our brains that pertains to running. Sometimes, all I can think about is the next breath, the next step, watch that nasty trail troll  – you know it’s going to try to trip you; don’t run so closely to ND’s heels; don’t run too far behind – you will never catch up. Most recently running solo the thoughts are mostly – arrrgh this sucks getting back the base I lost from NOT running due to injury.

What does this have to do with the title: identification? Great question! We ARE runners….5K’s, 10K’s, half-marathon, full marathon, 50K, 100K…and 100 milers, plus – we run. That is not only WHAT we do but is also one way we identify WHO we are. I’ve truly enjoyed this sense of belonging to a community of brethren I’ve not really experienced since I left the military over a decade ago. These people, runners, are a different lot – especially those who tend to run the trails rather than the road. What a great breed of people!! Most of them are truly in touch with their person-hood and who they ARE as people. They will give you the shirt off their backs, sometimes literally…it’s a brotherhood I identify with to a great deal!

For someone who has always and forever felt like an outsider looking in at all the other so called, “normal” people, it’s been a relief to feel as though I belong somewhere! Unfortunately, the last (almost) 6 weeks has left me bereft of their company – this family of runners! I’ve been out of the game due to an injury that truly began about 5 weeks prior to the start of the 100 mile run I completed on December 14 and was further exacerbated during that particular expedition into another realm of my psyche.

This absence from my ‘tribe’ of other runners has left me feeling backwards in more ways than I care to recount! When you start feeling like you are important, meaningful in this life and your head swells a bit because of your success…….take a 6 week break away from that ONE thing that makes you feel FREE. Take 6 weeks away from friends who are oftentimes more like distant siblings and only converse with them half a dozen times over the course of those 6 long weeks – mostly via electronic communication with very little actual ‘face’ time. Tell me how you feel then!

I can tell you it has left me with a changed perspective! It has also made me realize how much I identify myself with all those folks in my tribe…..as RUNNERS. It is not only what I do but it is part of who I am. It is not another hat I wear like: teacher, trainer, accountant, housekeeper, mother….etc., rather it is a part of who I AM. This body that has always felt too heavy, too ‘thick’, too big…..too slow….to be a runner – fits into this tribe just fine as who I AM as a runner…and as a person. A person who also happens to be a runner and a mother, wife and all those other titles life throws at us….

Be careful with how much you identify with any one thing in life for it will define who you are unless you define yourself…..WHO ARE YOU?

My, not so random, thoughts for the day! Until next time….

Peace

Let it go

Life has a way of throwing some pretty vicious blows our way and sometimes we escape pretty well unscathed and unmarked. As a survivor of some life altering viciousness, I have to tell you about an unexpected side effect – my brain does not allow painful experiences, conflicting emotions and even anger, to remain at the forefront of my mind. Sometimes I even forget important dates, conversations and fragments of ideas! This can be humorous at times because it means that sometimes, my daughters escape any sort of extended period of discipline for acts that deserve such. If I tell them that they are on restriction for a week for one infraction or another, I’d better write it down or tell their dad. If I do not write it down – it will be forgotten!

It is one reason why I stick to a pretty regimented schedule of my days, the reason I write down my thoughts and feelings and use a daily calendar to manage my time. If I did not do so I would inevitably forget even the most important of tasks. Sometimes, I am lucky and the act of writing down a conversation or writing a date on the calendar means it will stick in my brain but this is not always the case. It’s a great aspect of my brain because painful experiences like childbirth, verbal unpleasantness with others and even the experience of running 100 miles only a month ago…..disappear from memory. The disappearance of pieces of my life can be an asset or a distinct disadvantage.

It means that although I KNOW I had particular experiences, I know I birthed seven babies; I know when and where I was married; I know the youngest boy graduated from high school etc., etc., I have very few specific or vivid recollections in my memory of these events or hundred of others. It means that if I have a disagreement today, I may or may not remember the specifics of that disagreement a day or a week from today. My brain chooses which nuggets of my life to hold onto and which to let go. It’s almost like amnesia but it’s very selective and there are times that happen out of the blue when I will have a flashback of something that was said or done – but just as quick it’s all gone again.

This aspect of my psyche can also be a bit of an aggravation because I do not remember what was said. Once words leave my mouth and the thought behind them is no longer at the forefront – I have virtually NO recollection of what was said. Especially if they were words spoken in a heated manner, as in an argument or disagreement. Ironically, as my brain forgets some words and deeds – it has a clear recollection of others and usually they are the painful ones created by others. Some words stick inside my head like a tape stuck on repeat so over and over….and over they play inside my brain. Rattling around inside my head like so much broken glass.

There is a biological explanation for this odd aspect of my brain. When the human psyche is placed under a stress load, over and over again in a fright, flight, or fight situation the brain pushes out several very specific chemicals. Now, if you have ONE traumatic experience these chemicals are essentially (usually) washed away down the drain and all is well. However, if this type of situation occurs repeatedly, the brain is continuously under the stress of the situation and added to that is this cascade of neuro-chemicals. The parts of the brain that regulate memories are eventually poisoned in a way from the chemicals that were produced to protect the psyche from further harm. Ironic isn’t it? The very mechanism used to protect it, with repeated dumping into the body, actually causes damage.

The good news for me is that it means I am an expert at letting go of garbage that occurs in my life. Stuff happens, I get angry, upset, hurt….etc and within a week or two have very little recollection of what was said or done. That’s not to say that I don’t KNOW on some level that some mess went down – only that it no longer sits at the forefront of my brain. Some people cannot let go. They allow their emotions to sit and stew, they continually stuff their emotions down and down until it all bubbles over like a volcano in a violent explosion, causing casualties all over the place. Yet, even then, even when they explode causing chaos and the situation is discussed ad nauseam this is not enough for them to say – the situation has been resolved.

This type of person hangs onto that anger or pain etc and allows it to stew and marinate even further, then adds any further perceived injury or insult to what has already occurred….in a perpetual cycle of hurt. I say – LET IT GO. This is an unhealthy cycle that needs severing like a diseased limb. When people hurt you, they apologize and attempt to resolve the issue with conversation and changing the behaviors that caused the issue to begin with – LET IT GO. The person you cause more injury to by holding onto noisiness in your own mind is Y-O-U.

If I held onto every perceived or real injury thrown my way by others, or even caused by my own human stupidity, I would be a mess. Forgiveness of the mistakes of others truly is NOT about making them feel better, rather it is a healthy response that is necessary to keep peace within your own heart and mind. Holding onto anger, disappointment and resentment causes health issues as well as more relationship issues than you already have. Forgive mistakes and move on. We all change and grow and forgiveness is part of this process.

While you are busy holding onto the hurt and using it as ammunition for future situations – imagine if the shoe was on the other foot and all of your mistakes and bad behaviors were thrown back at you…..I say LET IT GO

Until next time my friends….

Peace