Stage Ready….or Not

Corpus strand

Hello friends and subscribers!!! Here we are inhabiting our life on another Wednesday in the month of July and I am almost fully recovered from the events of last week. You know what this means!! It’s time for me to tell you all about it. As you may remember, my post last week or so was about those blasted roadblocks in life that try to prevent us from reaching our goals. The title of this post could just as easily be Veni Vidi Vici, but since I’ve already used that one it didn’t seem prudent to use it again. (Smile!)

Let’s get to it shall we? Hmmm…Where to begin is the question since it all blends together like a yummy green smoothie. A quick recap of the few days prior to Saturday perhaps is the best way to give you a picture of this event. Beginning the Sunday prior, it was necessary to begin over-hydrating the body with two gallons of water for two days. Then on Tuesday and everyday thereafter the amount of water decreased while the number of calories I was consuming also decreased from the previous week by approximately 1/3 for the same period of time.

The calorie decrease didn’t feel horrible from Monday through Wednesday because whenever my belly growled its displeasure about being empty, I’d simply drink a bunch of water until it FELT full. The other hard part was maintaining my normal level of activity during this period of time. It was almost impossible! Almost. There were several naps taken simply to avoid the pain of being hungry!

I saw my trainer almost daily during this time since the goal was to squeeze out every bit of glycogen from the muscle fibers. This doesn’t sound bad does it? Hah! When a stretchy band that has somewhere around 2 lbs of resistance feels like it weighs ten pounds, and your muscles refuse to cooperate no matter how many times your brain tells them to contract is not a walk in the park let me assure you.

By last Friday we were down to 1/4 of a gallon of water and the 1200 calories required to keep a body moving. Let me tell you something, I thought chugging two gallons of water was HARD, but that was nothing compared to knowing I had to make 30 oz of water last me the day, while feeling like my stomach was eating my spine. The good news was, Friday was a travel day to the venue which was five hours from home. Not a whole lot of energy expenditure taking place whilst sitting in the passengers seat.

balcony view

The picture above is the view from the balcony of our home for the weekend! Beautiful! Upon arrival, it was decided we ought to get the blood flowing a bit after five hours in the truck, so we went for a walk. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt so needless to say, I was soaked in sweat by the time we finished since it was about 90* and humid in Corpus.

We went to the venue from there (after changing) for the athlete’s meeting and to get my first coating of spray tan. Nothing exciting here other than the fact that the spray tan was COLD, COLD, COLD and I felt like there was a sticky residue encasing me. The most exciting portion of my Friday was that I was able to eat a hamburger!! Oh my gosh!! I know, I know. It’s JUST a hamburger for goodness sakes, but let me tell you that if you, as a bread lover, go without eating bread for four or five months and then eat bread it tastes kinda like heaven when you do get to eat it!! Trust me.

The big day began early since Shauna is also training for her own show, so at 3:00 Saturday morning she was up and headed to the hotel gym for her sweatfest. I didn’t really need to be awake yet, but there was no going back to sleep. Some confusion began taking place because the makeup company had previously emailed me stating that they’d be located at the same hotel the athletes stayed at. However, when they texted the confirmation for my 4:45 a.m appointment, they were at a different hotel. Annoyance was a common feeling over the course of this day, and actually throughout the entire prep for the show. I didn’t let it bog me down though. Annoyed or not, things had to happen. We went to their hotel for my session and found that they were running 15 minutes behind, I was their last client and then they were moving to the venue.

We were both displeased with the job they did on my makeup. Thank goodness for the fact that Shauna is really quite the diva!! After makeup it was time to eat my waffle with real butter and IHOP syrup!! YUM! A second coating of spray tan….Brrrrrr and then it was time put my suit on and Shauna to fix the makeup job.

first makeup

Makeup job #1

Lipstick was a mess since I’d just eaten my waffle!

I have to tell you a secret. We’ve discussed the importance of having a reason, a raison d’etre, when we are aiming for a difficult goal. Knowing this and holding it in your mind will help you overcome the most difficult moments during your journey toward a given accomplishment. My “why” for completing this competition, come hell or high water, was simply to give myself more confidence. It sounds funny I know. You’re thinking to yourself, doesn’t one NEED confidence in order to walk across that stage, half dressed in a skimpy bikini in front of a few hundred strangers? The answer to that question is NO, not really. In order to walk across that stage you only have to fake the fact that you are confident. You have to pretend very well and tell yourself that you ARE good enough. You ARE beautiful. You ARE ready. You belong there.

I’ll leave you to chew on that a bit and guess what happened since I have to run. No worries though! As Arnold said, I’ll be back…. ha ha ha!

Until next time my friends!

Peace

~TlT

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Roadblocks

There you are traveling along your chosen path to reach a particular destination. The research is complete. The plan was established and followed to the best of your human ability and intentions, and then all of a sudden BAM!! You run into a concrete barrier. Thank goodness you weren’t speeding! Phew! Major calamity was averted, though now there’s some damage control to implement and an adjustment must be made because the plan you had has been compromised by an unseen barrier.

Life is funny that way is it not? And by funny I really don’t mean that it makes you want to laugh. In fact, generally the opposite is true and rather than laugh at the irony of this life, it often makes us want to scream, cry and throw a three-year old’s version of a temper tantrum. No? Of course, the above scenario when driving would most likely result in some truly catastrophic results, however, roadblocks happen elsewhere as well.

These last eight months of preparation and planning have had their fair share of roadblocks. Illnesses cropped up, weather was a factor, schedules had to be adjusted and now for the coup de gras, the killing blow, a vital piece of the plan falls apart with little hope for recovery. What to do? We all have choices that we have to make, as we have talked about before, and sometimes these choices are cut and dry. Other times, however, choices are not so crystal clear because the outcome is beyond our limited view of our life. We can choose to wring our hands, cry out in defeat and give up. We can choose to play the blame game with all the shoulda, woulda, couldas…

There’s another option though that is probably more productive than either of the two stated above. That option is to pull oneself up by your proverbial bootstraps, access every ounce of energy you have remaining and re-work the plan. That concrete barrier you just crashed into is not going to move, so now you have to find a new way to achieve your goal. Generally speaking, alternative plans are not going to meet the expectations we had in our head of what this journey would look like. The question though is do you WANT to meet your objective more than you want it to meet a given set of preconceived notions of what it should look like when you do arrive at the destination?

Let me be specific now. As you may or may not know, I’ve been training for a Figure competition in the Women’s Physique division since late November of last year. There have been multiple roadblocks and things have not always gone to plan, as is apparently very normal in this chaotic life. I’ll save the story of the journey for another sleepless night though. Things have progressed and we arrived at two weeks prior to the competition date with my specially designed competition suit due to arrive on July 2 from Germany. That day came and went but my suit did not arrive.

Now, for those of you who actually KNOW me, you may have personal knowledge of the fact that the amount of patience I have is not what I am known for. Okay, so I took a deep breath and told myself that the Fourth of July holiday had messed up the delivery and surely it would arrive by Friday, July 6. No such luck. The seamstress is contacted by myself and my trainer as well since she’s known her for at least six years. The trainer tried to calm my anxiety by informing me that in six years of doing business with the seamstress, not a single suit has been lost or not received by the date of the competition.

Here we are friends, basically two days before I leave to drive five hour to the venue and three days prior to the event and………no suit has arrived. BAM!! There’s my roadblock. What can I do at this point? Every waking, and sometimes even sleeping hours, every ounce of spare energy, every penny I could eeek out of my budget has been spent on preparing for this one day. I’m not going to blow smoke here. The thought of throwing in the towel and calling it a loss and a learned lesson did cross my mind on more than one occasion. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on who you talk to, the idea of quitting is not one I am attuned to. I’ve done it and despise the emotional fallout.

What did I do instead? I used this thing we have called social media and put out a small SOS in the form of an @instagram post. Someone MUST know someone who knows someone who can help me come up with a solution. Waiting patiently and asking for help in any way, shape or form are not high on my list of favorites, however, when push comes to shove and the choice is to quit or ask for help – I will ask for help. Thankfully, I have some absolutely FABULOUS friends who are aware of all the struggles encountered, and as luck would have it – there’s a suit!!!

Roadblocks be damned!! I’m going to battle with my own expectations because it’s not the outcome I wanted as far as the suit is concerned, however, the ability to walk the stage is more important than a specially designed suit. Right? Choices have to be made and once again there will be sacrifices made in order to make all of this happen. We can wring our hands and give up, or we can fight with every bit of who we are and what we believe in to achieve our goals in spite of the setbacks.

Until next time my friends!

Peace

~TlT

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Taking the High Road

Taking the road less traveled is often a struggle unto itself. Not only because the path has not been blazed before you, but also because sometimes walking a different virtual path means biting your tongue and changing long-held behavior patterns. Most of us homo-sapiens are absolutely creatures of habit, and this applies to good habits and those that are not so great as well. Even the best of habits can become self destructive if we take them to the extreme, but these habits are not the ones I am speaking of today.

The topic today is about behaviors that are so ingrained in who we are that we may not even realize that they’re self-destructive in nature. Behaviors such as allowing other people to treat us a certain way, eating foods we know are no good for us despite how yummy they taste, and negative self-talk are three that come to mind for me without much effort. If you look on many of our social media sites there are memes about the fact that we accept the love we think we deserve. It’s not only romantic love that this applies to. It applies to any relationship where we permit someone to treat us in a manner that makes us feel badly about ourselves in some way.

Unfortunately, the actions of others are not always overt or intentionally harmful to us, rather they are behavior patterns of that person that tend to sneak up on us and make us wonder if we truly have lost our minds. Do you have a friend that only seems to call you when they need to vent? Do you have someone in your circle who makes little, perhaps underhanded, comments about the way you dress, your weight or (for my lady friends) the way you wear your makeup? How about this. Maybe you have a friend who is never available for you, but there’s an underlying expectation that you should be available for them? Guess what? These are toxic behaviors!

If you notice these things, you have a few choices of course. You can accept it for what it is, you can discuss the behavior that bothers you with your friend, or at the extreme end of the spectrum, for the sake of your sanity, you stop associating with that person as much as you used to. You take the high road and leave them to their own devices and patterns of behavior. Don’t mistake what I’m saying about taking the high road as thinking you are somehow better than that person. That’s not the case at all. What I am saying is that we have to take ownership of our own behaviors and reactions to the behaviors of others in our lives. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

It makes sense that we’d feel some kind of way about being treated badly, even if accidentally. Relationships are funny animals aren’t they? We have to be willing to compromise and bend, able to see how our behaviors affect those around us, and of course, in order to make it better we may need to communicate our ideas and beliefs to others in a productive manner.  If you find yourself compromising your belief system repeatedly and coming out the other end of it feeling like you are somehow LESS than or not enough then my friend, it’s truly time to take a walk.

We cannot change others and therefore we have to move out of their space in order to allow them the space they need to grow, perhaps without us. Honestly, this is a difficult thing for me. Although a bit of an introvert (shhhhhh don’t tell anyone!) I do love socializing with my small circle of friends. As a magnet for all that is broken and lost, I also have a tendency to want to fix everyone and everything. This is a huge problem! We can love people for who and where they are in their lives, but it is not our responsibility to make them better somehow. Maybe they like where and who they are!

Recently, I told a friend that their pattern of behavior left me feeling unwanted despite their repeated attempts with words to make me feel otherwise. It’s my problem to be sure! Unfortunately, they continue to make excuses and hold to their own belief systems and comfortable patterns of behavior as a creature of habit. Sadly, this means that I have to exclude them from my inner circle as much as it breaks my heart to do so. I chose to take the high road. It’s difficult for me to say the least because I wish to be in their presence, but I won’t do it at the expense of my own self-image.

Take the road less traveled and make your own map!

Until next time my friends!

Peace

~TlT

 

The Best of Intentions

actions vs intention

This has been a repeated topic of conversation lately, and it is one that’s important to have at least once with those who are important in your life. Intention is the idea or the plan to complete a task or to behave in a particular manner. As human beings we have many intentions usually. We intend to behave a certain way. We intend to obtain our driver’s license when we turn 16. We intend to complete some version of a college degree by a particular age, etc., etc..

Here’s the issue though. The intent to do something is not the same as actually DOING that same thing. For instance, when I had the intent to complete an ultra-marathon distance running event, it was an idea that I wanted to run a specific distance at that event but, without a plan that intent means virtually nothing. What good is an idea without the follow through? If you intend to be a decent human being then your actions reflect that same intent and you ARE a decent human being most of the time. (None of us are perfect as humans, therefore we cannot assume that we’re always decent human beings since we have a tendency toward selfishness.)

Recently, a friend of mine told me that no matter what I said or did that they would never simply allow me to voluntarily walk out of their lives. Hmmm… Okay, but what would or could they actually do to prevent me from exiting their life? Do they actually have that much control over my intent and actions? How about their own intentions…Do they have enough control over their own lives at the moment so as to have the ability to prevent my exit? Could they put action behind their words so their intention matched action?

Now, this particular friend, maybe you have one similar to this, is someone who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. One of those smooth talking individuals who has probably talked their way into and out of many different types of situations, and therefore is accustomed to people being persuaded by just their words. Unfortunately for them, though kind hearted at my core, I am not a sucker for words alone. If you talk the talk then you’d better be ready and willing to walk the walk as well.

Back in early November of last year, I entertained the idea of competing in a figure competition. It was my INTENT tocompete this summer. What did I do as a result? I completed some research, found people to emulate, talked to women who have competed and then created a plan that would get me closer to achieving that goal. There were actions that followed in the wake of my words. Unlike my previously mentioned friend, there wasn’t just talk but there was also the walk because I am a realist.

We can spout off words galore about the goals we have in life, but until and unless we put our money where our mouth is, we will not get any closer to achieving those goals without action. Some have told me that I am a pessimist or that I’m jaded and cold. Honestly, I don’t see myself that way at all. I have a huge heart that opens readily for those who demonstrate their willingness to reciprocate (shhhh don’t tell anyone!) Generally speaking, I believe peoplehave the best of intentions and have the same needs, wishes and desires as I do. However, it’s also common knowledge that we, as humans, are also often absolutely awful to each other. My goal is to allow people the freedom to show me what they’re capable of.

Show me. Don’t just use your words to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Intention without action is worthless as were the words my friend said to me about allowing me to walk out of their life. The door into my life was closed firmly, and the only way for them to enter once again into my life is by taking definitive action to do so. I’m sad though because as I said, I expect the best from people and when they don’t live up to that expectation I’m left wondering what happened. Wasn’t I good enough to work for? Perhaps I need to lower my expectations? Or maybe, just maybe, the issue is theirs and I need to continue on my merry way owning the closed door and the boundaries they represent between action and intention.

Bad At Love….prose

As so often is the case, it’s easier for me to express emotion via writing than in the spoken word. I’ve been contemplating ways to express these feelings that have been sitting down deep in my gut for quite a while, so it’s not new feelings that are presented for your consumption.

They’re more like ongoing, continuous and ever-present feelings and a belief that I’ll be hard pressed to find a partner in this life who “gets” me and is willing and able to grow alongside me. This is not to say that I’m actively looking for that person though. I’d rather be by myself and happy with that situation than to ever again be in a relationship where feeling inadequate, lonely and hopeless were my daily companions. There’s something to be said for spending time solo.

Without further ado, here are three short pieces written in the last 24 hours or so. Let me know what you think! Also, I’m debating on providing you, my lovely and faithful readers, with snapshots from the YA fiction novel I’m currently writing. We shall see!

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                                       Silence is golden like autumn leaves. True love is a lie, a story you can’t make me believe. They’re fairytales told for the deaf, dumb and blind. To believe in them, I’m under no obligation. Call me cynical and jaded if you will, but even though I’m standing alone, I’m no longer standing still. ~T

                                          ******************************************************

                                         You said you wouldn’t let me just walk away, but here I am with my back turned and I haven’t heard from you in several days. You told me you loved me, we both know now that was a lie you deluded yourself into thinking was true, so you you could say it with conviction while looking into my eyes.  I never really believed you. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now it has fallen like the tear drops I refuse. If I don’t allow them to fall, they’re not impossible to stop.  ~T

                                      *********************************************************

People use words to say they love you, but I’m saddened upon thinking those words hold very little meaning when their actions don’t hold true.

Feeling let down and yet no longer surprised when the sadness wells up behind these hazel eyes. 

Once more it is best to count on self, place feelings high up on an unseen shelf. Expect nothing so you won’t be deceived. It no longer matters what you want to believe.

Words hold no meaning at all, actions of the heart tell the real story. Love is a verb not simply a noun. Find me someday, if you dare, when you figure it out. 

~T                 

Bat at love image

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