Monday, September 19, 2016

When you Plant a Seed...

It all started on June 5, 2016... Caolan had just finished her 2nd 100 mile race up at Kettle Moraine State Forest. I had paced her for 22 miles that night. Wait... scratch that, okay, let's be honest here, the seed was planted sooner at the Earth Day race back in April. However, that little tiny seed needed just a little water, just a little nudging, just a little fire to ignite my soul and make it grow. That's what Kettle did, it confirmed that I wanted this. I couldn't get it out of my head or out of my heart, the fire had been stoked. So on June 7th (or 8th) I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K. 

The summer training went really well, almost too well. I kept waiting for the injuries to pop up, for my body to say NOPE! But it didn't happen. I trained well, I hit almost every single workout on the schedule (with very little tweaking by Caolan). My running buddy Jenna was training for Chicago, so we kept each other going on those 5am runs. 
The few weeks before the race were rough. I was a mess, my anxiety attacks were at an all time high. I am so very thankful that I have now surrounded myself with a few special people who lift me up, who support me, who are honest with me and tell me when to stop! 

The night before the race Caolan posted on my wall a special message that I carried with me for the whole race... 

“The ancestor of every action is a thought” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson Do not forget the seed that was planted back in June - the thought that grew and now the action before you. Remember that it is your mind that matters here. Your body will do what your mind wills. Have a wonderful adventure, even through the pain, the thoughts of 'Why the fuck am I doing this?", the highs and the lows, and then the lower lows which then fade into the next high. If your mind wills it, it will be..."

Race Day is here.....I was scared as hell, but relieved that I would no longer have to think what if... "I don't move fast enough, legs give out, stomach bothers me." It was go time...

Jenna and I at the start

Ann, Mark, myself, and Dave ready to go!

Ann and I met up as we planned and we had talked of hanging together as long as we could together. We knew we had our own races to run, but when it's 31 miles, a buddy for at least some of it is nice! We started out onto the main road towards ZZ. It was already warm and humid and I had a feeling it would be a long day.

Love this photo Jenna got of us out there running!

Ann and I moved along the first few miles. We past the first aide station at mile 1.8 and of course Jenna was there cheering us on. Onward we went. We were both familiar with the rolling cross country skiing trails and hills that we were currently on. We had trained on them before. I do love the tall evergreen tree stands. They make you feel so tiny but fill you with awe at the same time on just how beautiful they are.
Somewhere along the Green Loop in Scuppernong
We made it back around to the Scuppernong Aide station and Jenna was there with fresh bottles. It would be the only time that I would be able to "officially" get crew support. A quick assessment and I realized that my stomach was already getting that bit of a queasy feeling. I knew that I had to keep that in check today as it tends to be my undoing lately A quick handful of skittles and and off we went again. We continued on into a hilly but runnable area. I felt like I was going a bit fast, so I mentioned to Ann that I needed to slow down and back off a bit, and that she could go on at her pace. I was fine. Actually I was having fun, despite the heat and humidity that had my shirt soaked already.

Early in the race when I could still jump

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my crew Jenna was not going to have any of this rule following! At mile 11.5, she was there cheering me on. A quick change of a water bottle that was sloshing and driving me nuts, another assessment on the stomach, a quick trip to the medics for ice. I learned quickly that ice in the sports bra is an amazing thing, and just because there wasn't ice out in the open, didn't mean there wasn't any. I would do this several times! Off I went again.

Ann and I seemed to be playing a game of leap frog as I caught her again off and on through to mile 17, then I lost her (found out later her IT really gave her grief but she finished! I was so happy I had her around the first half). I knew this stretch was going to be long (and hot!) so, I decided now would be a good time to pull out my first brain bag note. See, Jenna knows me, she knows that my mind is my worst enemy. So she wrote me little notes that I could pull out for a smile, or inspiration. The first note said "FUEL!" Yep, she knows me. So I take a sip of my fuel. Then the next "Tell the negative voices in your head to STFU!" Okay, these are good!

Then came the meadow....I knew it would be hard, but I never realized how many hours I would be in the baking sun. I think there was a breeze, but I couldn't tell. I knew how I would have to deal with this.... I would have to walk, A LOT... So I did, and I was okay. I trudge through the unevenness of the meadow, running when I could, walking when I had to. Just trying to put one step in front of the other. 
The meadow
I was very excited to see that the Wilton aide station come up, but even more excited to see that Jenna was there! Her happy face was a welcome sight and she did a great job of making sure I did another assessment on how things were going. There may have been some bad words about the meadow, but I was starting to lose focus at this point. Moving forward and drinking fluids were the only thought I could muster. 
Wilton Aide Station 16.8 miles

The miles kept ticking by and we kept finding ourselves back in the meadow. However, at some point, I really don't remember when but I know it was before 22.5, I think, Jenna appeared again!  She was definitely persistent!  Always with a smile, always with an encouraging word.  Her being there mattered!
More Meadow

Things were getting blurry now and I think body parts were starting to hurt. I'd kicked my fair share of rocks with my toes, and they were starting to bark at me. I kept hydrating and occasionally fueling with the tailwind and a Cliff Banana Mango Coconut pouch. I don't think I really paid much attention to where we were or what was around me. It just seemed like there was MORE meadow, sand, a access road of some kind, and I noticed the sound of hunting rifles (and the sign that said open hunting starting September 1.... UH OH!). A good reason to NOT pull out the music. Then I noticed a young woman walking and attempting to run occasionally. She was doing the marathon and looked like she was in rough shape. The thing that stuck out to me was that she had NO water bottle. The aide stations were 5 miles apart, temps were near 80, and I know the humidity was still up. There was no way she was going to make it standing to the next stop.  I offered her some tailwind, which thankfully she drank. The aide station was coming up within the next mile or so, and her significant other was pacing her (against the rules, but he had no water either) so I was hopeful she would be ok. Then my favorite part, the photographers. I had been seeing them a lot today (I ended up with 47 pictures of me!) and was making fun of them picking some of the worst spots for good pictures.  
Why are you taking pictures here?!
I've got very little run left!
(the woman in the background
had no water bottle at all)
Finally Aide station #5. I had been slowly checking off each aide station, making note that I would not be missing cutoffs and that I was good on time. It was a mental game I played with myself all day. Since Jenna wasn't here, it was quick fill of the bottles, sports bra full of ice, tried to eat food (nope), and off I went again.
Aide Station #5
(missed Jenna at this one,
she was out running
her own long run)
The next 5.3 miles were hell! Here is the course description with my commentary in parentheses, "This stretch of the horse trail (I actually ran into horses that were not too happy to see me) contains a few extremely sandy sections (SO MUCH SAND!). Runners will want to run along the side of the trail to avoid the sand as much as possible (didn't help). The horse trails are mostly wide and flat (liars!) but this section does have a few rolling hills (with loose rocks) and one of the longer uphill (longer? It went on forever and was so steep people were walking up backward) segments on the course."  Yep it sucked!!!  Lots more brain bag letters came out and I might have hit my low point in this section. It was the first time all day, I thought, "I have a long way to go yet..." My feet were hurting, my quads were screaming at me, and all I could do was walk because you just couldn't run on this crap. Thankfully at the end of this, when I was was at the lowest of my lows... Jenna was there once again to cheer me on.  
Jenna coming out to find me at mile 27.7

Another final fill of the water bottles, have I mentioned I'm tired of Tailwind and NUUN? Another full sports bra of ice, and I'm off for the last 3.7 miles of my race.  My mind was very quiet and reflective here. I thought about my husband and boys, who puts up with my crazy and just smile and shakes their heads. I thought about Caolan, who helps me be brave, who nourishes my seeds of adventure and calms my fears with wisdom beyond any I have ever met. I thought about Jenna, who took a day away from her family to be there for me, just because she wanted to. I thought about my friends and family who encourage me, even if they don't understand.

Brain Bag notes
I finally made it back around to Scuppernong, and the last 1.8 miles, I knew this section, so it was like seeing an old friend. I ran what I could, but my body was tired and each step hurt my battered feet. I crossed the road, and began the final run down ZZ for the last mile or so. I couldn't believe I was almost done with a race that I never thought possible. I thought my body would fail me. I thought my mind would fail me. I thought I would let down my friends, my family, myself...and I cried. Tears of joy, tears of triumph, tears for the fact that I DID this, not anyone else.  No one could say "Well, you had a pacer", "Well it wasn't a hard race" "Well, it wasn't that far"  This was all me.  My mind, my body, my heart stayed positive. I smiled and I cried some more as I crossed the finish line. 
Crossing the finish line trying to hold in the tears
More tears
and more tears and a hug for Jenna

I learned a lot about myself this day. My task now is to take the lessons I learned and hang on to them and not let the self-doubt and anxiety take control of me, because when that happens, how can I continue to be brave and live a life full of adventure and love?
Live, Laugh, Love, Run!