And Then There Were … 10

(also known as “I think I can, I know I can, and I WILL – because I am too stubborn to quit.”)

It is now just 10 days away… The start of the most challenging race I have ever run…

The Outlaw 100.

Just 10 more days between now and the time that the cruel, painful and hard reality hits.  The reality that I will be on my feet for 100 freaking miles… on my feet, almost continuously, for perhaps as long as 36 hours. 36 hours! A day and half!  Just let that sink in for a minute… I voluntarily signed up for a race involving up to 36 hours of running, walking, hiking, eating, and drinking… and not sleeping. 

What was I thinking?!?

Buckle
Thankfully, it is a hard-hitting reality that comes with a beautiful, blingy, buckle-shaped reward. (Assuming I survive, of course)

The panic is setting in as I realize there are just 10 more days until I find out whether I have given the 100-mile distance the respect it deserves during the last 17 weeks of training.

There are just 10 more days until I will toe the starting line for a distance that may become my new favorite distance… or may make me its whining, blubbering, bawling bitch.

Wait a minute!

Who am I kidding?  

Screw that! 

I am NOBODY’s bitch!

(OK, I could be Corey’s bitch if he wanted me to be, but that’s a whole different story … lmao!)

Seriously, though, I absolutely refuse to allow this race, or any race for that matter, to make me its bitch.

Nope!  It is Just. Not. Happening.

I WILL finish all 100 miles of that gorgeous course. And I WILL have that buckle in my hand during the plane ride home on February 18.  (And then, during my next trip to California, I WILL get that “100M” added to my running tattoo.)

Come hell or high water (and, NO, Jeremy, that is NOT a suggestion that you bring the rain with you to this race), I WILL start that race on February 16 and I will run my 100th mile of it on February 17.

Because I absolutely, positively, unconditionally refuse to fail.

(Note to Self, and to Brandi, Tracie and Corey – Please remember those words so you can repeat them to me at some dark hour when my feet hurt and I am cold and hungry and whining and wanting to sleep and I will start to talk about quitting.)

I will not quit. 

Bib #12 will carry me through the tiredness and the pain and the deep, dark, ugly times when quitting will be oh, so easy… It will give me extra energy in the dark and lonely and cold night hours.

No, I have never done a race with 15,000+ feet of elevation gain, and even though that part of this race is probably the most terrifying part, that 15,000+ feet of elevation gain is NOT going to stop me.  Yes, I am literally terrified that my legs will reach a point where they simply refuse to climb another step.  These sorts of unknowns are scary.

But despite the fears, somewhere deep inside, I know that if I just take my time and keep moving forward, I CAN conquer the climb. I am sure of it!!  How can I be so sure?  Because I have also never done a 100-mile race, before, but I have EVERY confidence that I can cover the distance.  So guess what?  If I can cover the distance, then I can handle the climb.  It’s that simple. End of story.

By the time we start this race in Wilburton, Oklahoma, I will have run over 700 miles in training during the weeks leading up the race. I will have done strength training and elliptical climbs (albeit not as much of either as I had hoped).  I will trust my training.  I will trust the plan that I have prepared so as to not waste precious time at aid stations along the way.  I have drop bags planned out.  I know that I will need to stay hydrated and I will need to force myself to eat, even if I do not feel hungry.  I have a 26-hour long playlist of songs that will get/keep me moving if I need them.

I will trust the training and follow the plan.

I will remember to simply make relentless forward progress. 

I will just keep moving – one foot in front of the other. 

I will remember these things so that I will finish. 

I CAN do this.

I also know that I can finish this race because my friends and family have set me up to succeed!

Brandi and Tracie will be there.  They are running their own marathons on the same challenging course, and then they are going to help me finish my race.  They will be tired and hungry and rather be sleeping, but instead they will be helping me realize this dream.  They are the BEST!

Corey will be there, making sure that I have anything and everything I need, including most assuredly a lot of hugs and kisses and emotional strength that I will be needing more than once over the day and night and day of this race. He is my rock.

Also – This race is going to be fun!!

Seriously – the Aid Stations for the race are “Meego’s Saloon” and “Shorty’s Brothel!”  How cool is that!?

And other people will be there who are going to add to the fun factor! It is going to be like attending one, big, sometimes painful, 36-hour long, party!  Brian and Maria will be there, running their own races and then cheering for Brandi and Tracie and me!  (I met them last year at the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth and can’t wait to see them, again!)  My BB, Dawn, may have a chance to drop by and cheer us on (and if not I get to see her 2 weeks later in Little Rock)!

The Race Directors, Jeremy and Alicia, who have organized and orchestrated this brand-new event, will be there.  I have not met Alicia in person, but she already feels like a friend, and we met Jeremy once before (at the Hawk), so I look forward to saying “hello” to him and thanking them both for their help and advice leading up to this race.

I will also get to meet Running Off The Crazy (ROTC) page admin Bryan Carpenter (and hopefully his awesome wife and kids) and will get to meet many of the ROTC page members who Tracie and Brandi and I have “talked” to via the page, but not had a chance to meet, in person.  Those folks are largely responsible for getting the three of us to this event (and a few other CRAZY decisions over the last few months), so meeting them in person is sure to be a fun time!

To top it all off, this is the inaugural running of this event!  For the rest of our running careers, those of us attending this 2019 event will get to say that we were “there when it all started.” That is a truly awesome thing!!

I am still scared.  But overall, I am looking forward to this upcoming challenge with a cautious optimism and a healthy dose of excited anticipation.  I know that I’ve put in the training and I have the support of friends and family.  This will be my first 100-miler, my first race with 15,000+ feet of elevation gain, and my first race in Oklahoma. 

All I need to do, now, is conquer the nerves, because what’s not to love about that upcoming wonderful, wacky, awesome weekend of firsts?

Absolutely nothing, that’s what. 

It is going to hurt. I know that. It will be a struggle.  I know that, too. 

But this is where the memories will be made.  Someday, there will be a book , and this race is where that story will begin.  So, let’s bring out the Fireball and raise a glass to all of the “firsts” that lie ahead over the next two weeks.

Fireball

Until next time…. Cheers!!  (With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of help from my friends, my next post will include a picture of my very own awesome, beautiful, Outlaw 100 finisher’s belt buckle.)

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A Thank You to the World’s Best Husband

For the last few years I have been a part of a group called Run the Year. I started in 2017, so this will be my third year.  The goal of the group is to run miles equal to the year, so this year it is 2019 miles.

The group has a Facebook page and there are a lot of us who post regularly on that page.  We share ideas, we share milestones when we hit them, we share pictures of runs, we discuss our race “PR” (personal record) when we beat it in a race, we post about shoes, and running attire, fuel for longer races, good races, bad races, dreams races, running milestones, and sometimes we post about family, including parents and kids and grandkids…

And we sometimes see posts about spouses/ significant others. Sometimes those posts are about loss or illness. Those are hard. 

But many times those posts are written by someone who is frustrated because he or she is not able to get in as many miles as they would like because their wife/ husband/ significant other is not supportive of their efforts.  Sometimes it is someone whose husband or wife does not like to “watch the kids” so their partner can run or go to the gym. Sometimes it is someone whose spouse “tolerates” the training but does not support the person’s races.

Those posts are hard to read and harder to scroll past, without responding… and I usually try to just not respond, because I tend to speak my mind about such matters, and I think a lot of people might not want to hear what I would have to say.

Sometimes, though, people write the kind of post that I would write about my husband, Corey. 

They brag about the fact that their husband supported them during a race, or that their wife watched the kids so they could get in a late-night or early morning run, or they post a picture of the brand-spanking-new shoes/ watch/ hydration vest or other cool gift that they just received for their birthday/ anniversary/ Valentine’s Day from a spouse or significant other who “gets it.”

I am one of those fortunate souls.  My husband is, hands down, without a doubt, nothing short of amazing.

I have been telling him since before we were married that I am the luckiest person in the world because he loves me.  And it’s true. 

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I am also the luckiest runner, ever, to be married to such a supportive and amazing man. 

I asked for trekking poles for Christmas, and he got them for me.  I asked for a book regarding race fuel (Feedzone Portables) and he got it.  I asked for XOSkin toe socks, and there they were! 

If I need new shoes, he tells me to get them.  If there is a race I want to run, he supports my decision to run it, and if he has a chance to go and to be there to support me, he does.

He drives me to and from races, he takes pictures, he greets me at the finish, he holds my shit while I am running and he helps me keep my shit together when I am nervous or scattered or just not quite awake enough on those early morning races.  

And not only does he support me, he supports my friends.

Last May I ran my first 50K at the Ice Age Trail.  My friend, Tracie, ran it, too.  She broke her foot 7 miles in.  He was there for her when she came through the start/ finish at mile 13, offering her ibuprofen and support and he was ready to take her to the Emergency Room if she needed it.  And he would have taken her, if she had decided to go.  (Instead she finished the race on that broken foot, like the warrior that she is!) 

By the way, I know that he would have taken Tracie to the hospital, if she decided to go, because at my first trail Ragnar, he drove my teammate to the hospital for evaluation after she hurt herself and was not satisfied with the race Paramedic’s diagnosis.

Oh, and did I mention that when that runner told us she was out for the rest of our Ragnar (we were an ultra team of just 4 runners) and another runner also dropped after 3 of her 6 loops, that Corey stepped up, contacted the race officials, and made arrangements to step in and run some of our remaining loops so that Suzanne and I could actually finish the 118 miles required for a team finish so we could collect our medals? He had not trained, had never planned to run, but when she and I were in tears because we had traveled so far and did not want to go home without our medals, he took it upon himself to make it happen for us. 

(He has  also gone to two other road Ragnars with me, just to serve as a driver for our van, so the runners did not have to worry about driving.   See?  Freaking amazing!!)

A short 4 months after that May 2018 50K, Tracie and I and our awesome friend Brandi ran our first 50-miler at the Hawk Hundred in Kansas. 

Corey could simply have dropped us off and come back 12 hours later to wait for our finishes. 

But he didn’t. 

He was there as we each finished our first 25-mile loop and headed back out for the second loop, always ready with water, Biofreeze, drop bags, or whatever we might have needed as we came through.

See?  I told you!  He is amazing.  He is awesome. 

He is my rock.  And I am so very grateful for his love and support.

No matter how crazy my idea or plan, he supports me. He supports my dream.  Actually, HE is my every dream … but he also supports this other crazy running dream.

I am, without a doubt, the luckiest person on the planet to be married to this man… and it saddens me to know that not everyone is so lucky and not everyone has this sort of support at home.

And because of that, I just wanted to write this, just to share some of his awesomeness with all of you, and to take this opportunity to tell him thank you.

Thank you, Corey, for all that you have done and thank you for the races and craziness yet to come…. I love you so very much …. forever and ever and ever and ever.  And then some!  (And then some more.)

The “Why” Behind Bib #12

February 16, 2018 I will toe the line at The Outlaw 100. It will be my very first attempt at a 100 mile race. I will be wearing bib #12.  That number matters.  It matters a lot.

Here is a little background…

A few months ago, I planned for the Pistol Ultra in Tennessee (in March) to be my first 100 miler. 

But then a couple of on-line friends/ultra runners decided to start a new race – the Outlaw 100 in Oklahoma in February, and I could not resist the opportunity to support their inaugural race and to be a part of the very first year of this event.

When Jeremy and Alicia announced this event, I had not yet completed a 100K.  But I wanted to do their 100-mile race.  So, I made a decision – if I could finish that 100K (untrained as I was) in October, then I would tackle their 100-miler in February.  I committed to them on line, stating that if I finished my 100K then I would definitely be registering for the Outlaw 100-miler. 

But then registration opened and the first 10 spots in the 100 mile event were taken (the 100 mile runners were given bib numbers starting at 1). I had a number in mind… The number 12. I NEEDED that number.

So, I emailed the Race Directors and asked if they could reserve the number for me, pending successful completion of my 100K the next weekend.  Within a very short time I received a response, and they confirmed that the number 12 was mine!!

I started that 100K in October knowing I would finish because I needed to run that 100-miler.  I needed to do something epic with bib #12. 

But why?  Why did that number matter?  Well, settle in and let me tell you why….

At some point in high school I wore the number 12… probably for basketball, but I honestly do not remember. I just remember that I wore the number and it was a “good luck” number for me.

Years later, I had kids. And as they got older, they started sports.  For two of my daughters and my son, their main sport was soccer.  (My older daughter only liked soccer if there were fights or other entertainment during the games. She preferred cheerleading, drama, softball, and swimming/ diving.) 

One of my daughters, Heather, decided for some reason that she liked being number 12 on her basketball and soccer teams.  I had never talked to her about liking the number. But for some reason, she did, and she always wore that number, every chance she got.

My kids have all grown up to be amazing adults. All 4 of them have faced challenges, and adversity, and all 4 of them have risen above those challenges with strength and poise. They have made me very proud.

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My 4 awesome kids – Justine, Elizabeth, Heather and Quentin – circa 1994

And, yes, I have faced my own demons and challenges and certainly more than my fair share of adversity in this life… and maybe someday that will be a topic of one of these posts.  But not yet.  Not today.

Today is about Heather.  Because one of my kids, my number 12 wearing soccer player (Heather), has been challenged more than all the rest of us in the family, combined.  And because a 100-mile race is a challenge, and because it includes built-in toughness and adversity, it seemed only appropriate that I wear her (our) number for my first attempt at the 100-mile distance.

I know, I know.  We all define “adversity” as something different.  The fact that I believe she has been through Hell and back is just my opinion. I know that.  You may disagree.  But if you know her story, then I think you will understand….

You see Heather was like every other high school girl. She played sports, she was on Student Council, and she had a high school boyfriend. 

I didn’t like him. 

His mom and dad were reputed to be drug users, and he did not even live at home. He was older than her (a senior when she was a freshman) and he was a star athlete…the kind of guy that you see in movies, who uses the freshman girl and then discards her and moves on.  But Heather loved him. His name was Anthony.  When I met him, he was respectful and polite and charismatic and I honestly could not find any legitimate reason not to like him.  He was a likeable guy.  I was still not happy about the relationship, but she was in love and I knew that nothing I could do or say would change that.

Against the advice of most adults around them, when Heather became an adult, she and Anthony decided to get married. She was playing college soccer for a community college team that was top 4 in the State of California, in the best shape of her life, and prime for a scholarship to a 4-year university.  But at he age of 19, she decided to give that up, get a job, get married and settle down.

I was not happy. I did not like the decision. But it was not my life.

Heather finished out that first year of college soccer, but then moved in with Anthony and they planned their wedding.  October 23, 2010, they were married.  It was a fairy-tale romance and he was her Prince Charming.  The wedding was beautiful.  They were a beautiful couple. 

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Heather and Anthony

A few weeks later, December 4, 2010 was Anthony’s birthday.  We were all together that evening to walk down Christmas Tree Lane in Fresno where the lights and decorations are one of the biggest attractions around, during the holidays.  Afterward, we enjoyed hot chocolate and wine, at Joel and Michele McNair’s nearby home (my now in-laws).

By this point, Heather and Anthony shared their latest news with us.  Soon after they got married, she had become pregnant, and they were expecting a baby in late July of 2011.  Again, in all honesty, I was not thrilled. 

Don’t misunderstand me – I LOVE being a grandma.  But they were newly married and still getting to know each other, and now they would be bringing a baby into the equation. This just felt too soon, and just about any relationship “expert” would have agreed.   

In “my” idealistic mind, this was not an ideal situation for them. A soccer scholarship would now be out of the question, at least for now.  College would be difficult.  This just did not seem like a wise move for their future.  At least not for the future that I believed they should have. 

But Heather’s future was her own. No matter what I thought was “best” she was charting her own path and doing what she wanted to do with her life.  And, when all is said and done, I believe that all things happen for a reason.  In retrospect, I should have recognized that. I should have known their baby was conceived so soon for a reason…

The next day, December 5, 2010, Heather went to work, and Anthony left for football practice with his AAA football team.  But he never got there.  He was riding his motorcycle way too fast on a bad section of road, lost control, and crashed.  He died, instantly.

All of a sudden, Anthony was gone. 

All of a sudden, my baby girl, became a 19 year-old widow just 7 weeks in to a marriage and 6 weeks into a pregnancy.  My heart was as broken over her pain as her heart was broken over her loss.  It was devastating… for her and for everyone who loved her.

After Anthony’s death I learned a few things about him that I wish I’d known, sooner. For instance, I learned that he was not living at home during his high school years because he was aware of his parents’ drug habits, and he CHOSE to remove himself from that situation.  My misunderstanding had been that they had kicked him out, but the reality was that he chose to live with his church pastor and wife, in order to give himself a better environment.  I learned that, unlike his parents, he was adamantly against any sort of drug use.  I learned, only after he died, that he was a far better human being, in general, than I had realized.

Watching Heather deal with his death was heartbreaking.  Seeing my child in pain, day after day after day, hurt.  A lot.  I hurt for her. I watched her try to put the pieces of her life back together.  I watched her carry their baby for 7 more months.  I was there when their daughter was born, and all the while I kept thinking about how unfair the whole situation was and how he should have been there to see his little girl come into the world.

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I do not know the grief that comes with losing a child (thankfully) but I do understand the sorrow that comes when you see your child lose a part of herself… when she becomes someone different… when something happens that completely extinguishes part of a flame that used to radiate happiness and fun and adventure.  Because that is what we all witnessed.  The Heather who existed on December 4, 2010, was gone.  My daughter was still here, thankfully, but she was not the same person.  And I don’t know that she ever will be.  I hope so. I hope she can regain her zest for life and love and fun and adventure.

She has dealt really well with the loss. Better than I could have.  She is an awesome mother to her daughter, Mackenzie, and she has done all she can to be sure Mackenzie knows her daddy.    

But the true happiness in Heather’s smile has faded.  The bright light in her eyes has dimmed.  And although she has found the strength to move on and move forward, I don’t think she has found a way to allow herself to be truly, really, deeply happy.  The sort of happy that she felt on December 4, 2010.  My wish for her is that someday she will know that happiness, again. That she will find true love and true joy and find a way to rekindle that bright light in her beautiful eyes. 

So…. That is why I chose the number 12 for my racing bib for the Outlaw 100. 

I am wearing number 12 for Heather.

This race is probably going to be the second hardest thing that I have ever done in my life… second only to the difficulty of watching my child endure this sort of tragedy at such a young age. 

And the way I see it, if Heather has been able to endure that loss, that heartbreak, and withstand all that the world has thrown at her since, then my plan to run 100 miles pales in comparison, and I hope to draw upon her amazing strength when I start to falter along this journey.

And when I finish that race, my hope is that because I wore HER number 12, maybe she will be able to share in that happiness with me… Maybe she will see the effect that her strength has had on me.  By sharing my little victory maybe, just maybe, it will help guide her toward finding some little tiny bit of true joy that I know still rests within her soul.   

Because she, and her little princess, deserve it.

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This is what I hope.  And this is why I will be wearing the number 12 on February 16, 2019, when I begin (and finish) the Outlaw 100.

January 3, 2019 (aka With a Little (More) Help From My Friends)

January 3, 2019.  That is a day to rival all days.

Ever.

In the history of days,

January 3 is THE day.

It is a badass day.

It is almost as cool as April 1 (my anniversary)… it is THAT GOOD.

Yes, I know that was 2 days ago…. But it was such a BIG day that it took me a little time to digest and to be able to write about it.  For so many reasons…

First, January 3 was my paternal grandma’s birthday.  She was my “mamaw” (for you Big Bang Theory fans, she was my “Memaw”).  She died years ago after she spent several miserable years in an old folks’ home.  I hated visiting her because every time she would cry and beg me to take her home… but I miss those visits.  She was my dad’s mom (my “dad” was not my biological dad but I don’t think she knew that). When I was little, she would take care of me when mom and dad worked.  She spoiled me. She bought me Calvin Klein jeans in the 1980s when my parents could not afford it. I loved her as much as my parents. And I miss her.  Happy belated birthday, Mamaw…. I so wish you were still here.

This is my Mamaw and my dad (her son) and my 4 kids…

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But January 3 was also a big day… a HUGE day…. For other reasons.

January 3, 2019 was a day I struck the ultramarathon lottery!  This is seriously awesome stuff.  Like the stuff that dreams are made of.

OK – as you now, my biggest scariest race this year is the Leadville 100 miler.

I’s not my first scary race.  That would be the Outlaw 100 that is just 42 days away.  42 days!!  OMG!  I am going to die…..

But assuming I do not die, Leadville is my “goal” race for 2019.  It has strict time cut-offs. It is run at “heavenly” elevations.  It scares the shit out of me.

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Leadville is one of those races that requires help.  I have other 100-mile races that I can do on my own… I mean, I want friends and family there, but I believe I could survive them without a pacer….. without someone running by my side and telling me I CAN finish and I CAN do this and I BETTER do this.

Leadville is not that race.  Leadville is a bitch. Leadville requires timing, and dedication, and perseverance, and preparation.  Leadville requires a pacer.

This is Leadville: https://www.leadvilleraceseries.com/run/

Leadville requires a pacer who can run at elevation and can deal with a lot of climbing.  Hope Pass is 3,000 feet of elevation gain at miles 45 and 55.  It requires focus and attention and determination when you are tired. It requires a pacer.

My ultra-running BFFs are Brandi and Tracie… and they committed to helping me at Leadville.  They want me to beat that bitch!  They are coming to crew me, to take care of me, to kick my ass when I need it.  But they did not want to pace me.  I don’t blame them.  I would not want to pace me.  I will be tired, I will be hurting, and I will need to push.  I WILL be unhappy and I WILL be a bitch.  They know this.  But they love me.  And this is why January 3 is so special….

On January 3 they told me that they had contacted an ultra-running superstar and she would be pacing me for the ENTIRETY of my last 5o miles of Leadville.  They had contacted Jenna Powers…. Jenna Powers is going to be pacing ME!  Wtf?!?!?!?

I knew of Jenna through Run the Year 2018 because she had done 40 races for her 40th birthday. Check it out here – https://40bibs.com/

This was the same Jenna Powers who conquered the Bigfoot 200, the Pigtails challenge 150 miler (in which she was 1st female) and the Umstead 100, as well as other ultramarathon races…

Brandi and Tracie had contacted her and asked her if she would be available to pace me for Leadville.  On January 3, 2019 I learned that Jenna would be there in August, and that she WILL pace me for the last 50 miles of that Leadville dream.

I was in disbelief.

I still am!

I am a nobody.  I am a 52-year-old woman who started running in 2017.  But here I am, living the ultramarathoner’s dream, and preparing for the iconic Leadville 100 with Jenna Powers at my side.

OMG, people this is epic!  This is amazing!  I feel like I have won the lottery and I am over-the-moon excited!

Between now and then I have my first100 miler, the Outlaw 100, and Brandi and Tracie and my awesome hubby Corey will be there to help and to cheer me on and do whatever it takes to get me across that finish line (I expect lots of yelling and telling me to get may lazy ass in gear).  Did I mention that is just 42 days away?  <gulp>

Then there is the Little Rock Marathon with a bunch of friends from Run the Year, and then March 16 is the Pistol 100, which is supposed to be a ton of fun and where a lot of Run the Year runners will also be chasing dreams (and it is close to my daughter Liz and her kids (3 grandbabies) so I get to race and visit family).  I am excited about those races.  I am.

I am excited about February and March and the upcoming challenges … but more than anything I am excited about Leadville. I can’t believe that Jenna will be pacing me.  And I am so amazed and in awe and totally in love with my running friends, Tracie and Brandi (who decided they would crew and pace me for Outlaw before I even knew I would do it) and who will be there for me at Leadville as crew and who contacted Jenna about being my pacer.  They are amazing.  They are the BEST.  They are the stuff that friend fantasies are made of!

I started running in January 2017.  It changed my life.  I have made friends who believe in me more than I believe n myself.  And it is awesome beyond words.

2019 is a year to look forward to for so many reasons… I will finish my first 100-mile race and I will run this year with friends, and I will watch them achieve their own awesome goals, and for the first time, ever, I am starting to believe I can finish the Leadville 100 within its strict time cut-offs.

January 3 is the day it all happened.  January 3 is the day I think of my Mamaw and miss her more than any other day of the year.  She loved me and she spoiled me and she believed in me…. she would have told me I could run (and finish) Leadville, or any other race, if I wanted it bad enough.

But she was not my only supporter. She is not the only one who believed in me. January 3, 2019 is the day that I learned I WILL finish Leadville 2019 within it’s 30-hour time limits because I have the best friends in the world and they made sure I have the best pacer, ever.

Stay tuned!

In 42 days, I run (and hopefully finish) my first 100-mile race.

But in 224 days I start (and definitely finish) one of the most iconic 100-mile races in the nation – the Leadville 100.

This. Is. Epic.  And I am excited!!!

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!

The topic for today is thanks.  And days.  85 days.  But really it is about thanks.  If you’re tired of reading about running stuff, skip the next few paragraphs.  Somewhere about 1/3 of the way through this post I get to the good stuff. The thankful stuff. The “I love who I am and this is why” stuff.

There are 85 days between now and the Outlaw 100, which is going to be my first attempt at a 100-mile race.

15 days after Outlaw, I’ll be doing the Little Rock Marathon. I’m doing it because they have an amazingly huge finisher medal. Last year it was a dragon or a castle or something cool and I signed up because I wanted one. This year the theme is aliens and UFOs, so I am not nearly as excited as I was when I registered, except that there are several (8-10) Run the Year members who are attending, meeting up, etc., which is going to be a total blast, AND I will get to see me awesome Cowtown Marathon BB Dawn, again!  Dawn was one of my two roomies for Cowtown 2017 (my first marathon, ever) and is also a fellow Jacksonville Jaguars fan!

13 days after Cowtown is the Pistol 100 in Alcoa, Tennessee. This WAS going to be my first attempt at a 100-mile race.  I was going to use it as a training race for the Leadville 100, which is probably the most challenging run I will ever do, and it is in August.

But, as fate would have it, after I decided to make Pistol my training ground, and after Tracie and Brandi agreed to come there, run races of their own, and then watch me finish the 100 miler so they would know what to expect when I flip out during the later miles at Leadville… after all of that happened, the Outlaw 100 was created and it became my first “new” 100 mile race.

The Outlaw 100 is an inaugural event. The Race Directors, Jeremy and Alicia, are experienced ultramarathoners and know what they are doing, and the running “family” in Oklahoma are an amazing and awesome group of people. As soon as the race was “born” I knew I had to support it and I had to be there… and like the awesome friends that they are, Tracie and Brandi started planning it before I even knew (or admitted) I would be going!!

Still, I am looking forward to the Pistol race.  There are currently close to 20 of us from the Run the Year 2018 group who are attending the Pistol races and running one of the several events.  Living in SE Wyoming means I run alone. Corey runs a little, too.  He is a firefighter, here, and so he runs to stay in shape for that.  But he doesn’t want to do the longer races like I do. There are no “club runs” or group training sessions.  A race like Pistol, where 15-20 of us will be running and supporting each other, is something to look forward to!

So here we are… 85 days out from my first attempt at the 100-mile distance, but also knowing that I have a marathon 2 weeks after Outlaw and then a second 100 mile run 2 weeks after the marathon.

Seriouslyt?  OMG!  What the fuck was I thinking?!?!

In all honesty, had I known Outlaw would be coming along, I might not have registered for the Pistol 100.

Maybe.

But their finisher award is a buckle with a gun and bullets and the revolver section of the gun actually spins!!!

Who am I kidding? I want that buckle.

And the Outlaw buckle looks to be amazing – a bandit, 2 guns and bullet holes in the buckle.  They’re also offering an option to double-up (add a 5K distance) and get a badge that looks like an old-time sheriff’s badge!  This is exciting stuff!

So, if all goes well, after the Pistol in March, I will be an Outlaw, with a sheriff’s badge and a gun!

How fucking cool is that?!?!?!?

But back to being thankful. 

I am 2 1/2 weeks into my training for Outlaw, I am pondering the year ahead in every painful detail, and I realize that I am so very, very, very thankful.

– I am thankful that I am healthy.  I am thankful that I can actually train for, and plan to run, 100 miles.

– I am thankful for a husband that supports me in all of my craziness.  He supports my crazy goals, does not complain about me traveling for races, or my Ink ‘n Burn addiction (I really need to curb that), and has not complained about the fact that pretty much every item on my Christmas “wish” list this year is related to running.

– I am thankful for my awesome running friends and all of the incredible support that they provide each and every day.  They cheer me on, they provide moral support and they actually plan to come and pace me and crew me and make MY running efforts a success.  I would name names, here, but I would forget someone, so I will just say that if you are a runner and you are reading this, I AM talking about you!!

– I am thankful for my kids, who support my crazy goals, and thankful for my beautiful/ handsome grandchildren, who I hope will be proud of their grandma and will use my own accomplishments to fuel their own goals and dreams.

But those are the easy parts.  I am also thankful for some of the things that have not been so obviously good. 

 – In a weird way, I am thankful for my previous employer, who laid me off.  I am thankful that they offered a small severance package, so that I have a little bit of time before I need to worry about working, again, so I get to enjoy the holiday, train hard, and then look for a job early next year.

– I am thankful for my kids’ dad, because even though things did not work out for us, we still ended up with 4 amazing and awesome children. I am thankful we went our separate ways, because it has enabled us both to become better people and to pursue our own dreams.

– I am thankful for my ex-husband, because he was a supportive step-dad for my kids.  He is a part of the reason that they were able to grow into the awesome humans that they have become.  And because he was honest enough to admit that we could not be happy together, even before I really realized that, myself.  If not for him, I would not have met Corey, and Corey is, by far, the best thing that has ever happened for my heart, my self-esteem, and my unconditional love of life.

 – I am thankful for my parents, even though there were years that Mom and I did not get along, and even though my time with my dad during his final years was not what it could have (and should have) been.  I am thankful that he was there to raise me and love me as his own, even though I was not.  I am thankful that my mom has survived TWO bouts with cancer and is still here. I am thankful that she and I are now the friends that every mother and daughter should be. And I am thankful that I AM friends with my own daughters and son.

 – Finally, I am thankful for the person that I am, today. 

There are things in my past that I cannot ever say I am thankful for, and I cannot even write about, really.

\At least not here.

But if not for those things, I would not be the person that I am, today.  If not for the pain, I might not appreciate the joy. If not for the trials I might not appreciate the triumphs.  If not for the failed personal relationships, I would not appreciate the strength and depth of the love that I have now found.  And if not for that love, I might not have the strength and desire and ambition to tackle such crazy goals as running 100-mile races.

If not for the past – if not for all of the good AND all of the bad – I would not be here.  I would not be the person that I have become. And that would be sad.

I like the person I have become.

I love my life.

I believe in myself and my goals and my crazy dreams.

I believe in ME.

And for that, on this Thanksgiving Day, and every day, I am so very, very grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Running by the Numbers

Runner’s Math.  It is a thing.  If you have not heard of it, before, you have, now.  If you have not heard of it before, perhaps you’re now wondering, “what, exactly, is runner’s math?”

Runner’s math is an activity that many of us engage in, during long training runs or, for me at least, especially during races.

Remember back in elementary school when you would be given a number, like 100, and the teacher would ask you to create as many different multiplication equations as you could that would equal 100?  So, you would have 1 x 100, 2 x 50, 4 x 25, etc.

Runner’s math is similar, but involves breaking down the distance of the current run or race into as many different shorter runs as mathematically possible.  It somehow helps, at times, to make the longer distances feel more do-able, and less overwhelming.  And it helps keep our brains “occupied” during longer runs.

For me, it started when I ran my first half marathon. The half-marathon is 13.1 miles, or 21 kilometers.  The first time I toed the starting line for a 13.1-mile race, it felt daunting.  But I had been told to “break the race into smaller, more manageable, sections, and take them one at a time.”  So I did.  And it worked.  I told myself to “just run a 5K.”  Then, when I got to the 3.1-mile mark, I knew that I j needed only to double it to get to a 10K.  At that point, I could tell myself I was 6.2 miles in, and almost half-way.  On the last half of the race, I would do a similar line of thought – “just 10K from here to the finish.” Then, “just 5K to the finish.”

For those whose minds get quickly bored with the distance-based runner’s math, there is always the alternative, which would be time-based runner’s math.

In time-based runner’s math, I might think to myself “OK, that first mile was 10 minutes and 45 seconds.  If I average that for 13.1 miles, it will take me…. 13 miles x 10 minutes =130 minutes, and 13 miles times 45 seconds is…. (long pause while I try to do the math in my head) … 585 seconds.  OK, 585 seconds, divided by 60 (to convert seconds to minutes) is 9 minutes and 45 seconds.  Add that to the first 130 minutes for a total of 139:45 to run 13 miles.  Now we need to also add another minute and a half or so for the final 1/10 of a mile, which all adds up to a total of 141 minutes and 15 seconds.  So, I should be able to finish this race in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 15 seconds.”

By the time I have done all of that, in my head, another few miles have gone by, I look at the elapsed time, again, see that I ran subsequent miles faster or slower, which changes the whole equation…  and so, I start the process all over, again.

As with any form of math, however, runner’s math can get complicated.  For example, just 8 days ago I completed my first 100K race.  Runner’s math came into play quite a bit during that race.  After the first 10K, I told myself (and friends) “Hey, I am a 10K in!”  I thought it would feel like an accomplishment.  But, somehow, it didn’t. The looming 90K left, at that point, felt daunting by comparison.  Looking at it as having completed 10% of the race felt slightly better. But ultimately what worked for me during that 100K distance, was to count down the remaining aid stations.  There was 3.5 to 6.5 miles between each one.  There were 11 aid stations between the start and the finish.  So, I focused on conquering and counting down each aid station.  In between the aid stations, of course I reverted back to more basic runner’s math to mentally address the distances between each of them, especially during the 6.5-mile sections… those were a 5K, then halfway there, then another 5K and the station would be in sight.

So, there you have it.  The next time you see someone running miles on end, you will no longer have to wonder what they can possibly think about to keep their mind occupied the whole time, because you know there is a good chance that they are working their way through some version of a runner’s math equation.

Speaking of numbers… the Outlaw 100 is now 102 days away.

Between now and then I will run more than 875 miles in training on ~85 days of work-outs.  On 35 of those days I will follow the run with strength training that will have me doing several thousand squats, lunges, crunches, chair dips, bridges, leg raises and push-ups.

Today was my first official day of training – 6 moderate miles followed by a 30-minute strength work-out. It felt good to run again after taking so much time off.

Only 869 more training miles to go….

With a Little Help From My Friends

Hawk-Brandi and Tracie#TracieMadeMeDoIt

OK, so I have to admit…. it wasn’t “only” Tracie.  It was Brandi, too!  That’s them in the picture – Brandi on the left and Tracie on the right.  They are awesome.

As a quick bit of background… (OK, let’s face it, I am long-winded, so this will NOT be quick)….

I started running in January 2017 as part of “Run the Year” by Run the Edge.  If you’re looking for an excuse to get active, #Runtheedge has it.  Seriously, they changed my life for the better.  Anyway – In January 2017, I signed up to run the year in miles, 2017, with my daughter, Elizabeth and son, Quentin.  I started with a Couch-to-5K program and progressed from walking to running.  Elizabeth and I did our first 5K run in March 2017, and we did a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in April 2017.  In between those two races I ran my first trail race, a 12K in California, and I was hooked!

I turned 51 years old in March 2017 and another runner in Run the Year (RTY) named Jenna was doing 40 races for her 40th birthday.  She was doing epic races – marathons and longer.  She was a badass and her idea stuck with me.  After my trail race I knew I needed a goal…. I was 51.  I would be 52 in a year.  There are 52 weeks in a year.  Bazinga!!  I would run 52 races, of any length, in the 52 weeks, before my 52nd birthday!

And I did it!!  But I can’t blame Tracie for that.

Jump ahead in time and I realize that as much as I like 5K and 10-K races, I like half-marathons more.  And I am not fast, especially not as compared to the extremely high caliber of runners that run me “local” races.  Living in SE Wyoming means that “local” races are in Colorado, and most are a 2.5 to 3 hour drive away. But I have endurance.  The idea of the longer races intrigued me, and I decided to try a marathon.  In February 2018 I ran my first marathon at the Cowtown races in Fort Worth, Texas.  I absolutely LOVED it!

Well, somewhere along the way, and within the RTY Facebook interactions, I was lucky enough to meet Brandi and Tracie.  Brandi lives in Wisconsin and when we first “met” it was to put together a team for a Ragnar race in Wisconsin in September 2018.  Tracie lives near Detroit, and I think she and Brandi initially met through RTY and then later I was fortunate enough to get drawn into their circle.  The subject of a 50K (31 miles) run came up and Brandi sent us the link to one near her – The Ice Age Trail 50K.

The day that registration opened, Tracie and I signed up for the Ice Age Trail.  Just barely.  The race filled within 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, Brandi could not run it with us because of other obligations, but she offered to send us recon info on the area, which she did, and when race-day came, she played a very gracious host, showed us the local area, went with us to race check-in, and made sure we had all we needed for our race.

I could write several blogs on the Ice Age Trail and events since, but suffice it to say that the three of us have plotted and schemed and planned a lot over the last year.  Tracie and I did the 50K together in May 2018 (it was the first 50K for each of us, and she finished on a broken foot!) and then on September 8, 2018, all three of us embarked upon our first 50 mile race, together, at the Hawk Hundred in Lawrence, KS.  (By the way, if you ever want to run a 50 mile race, do it at the Hawk.  The Race Directors are amazing and the running community, there, is like family.  I truly believe that the Hawk has spoiled us, as runners.)

In the meantime, on the RTY 2018 page, there are a lot of interactions, a lot of races posted, and a lot of fun banter is exchanged.  Tracie was raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a part of her plan to run the Chicago Marathon and then 2 weeks later she planned to run the Detroit Free Press Marathon.  In the months prior to those races, she recruited a lot of people to join her at both races.

In March 2018 we started seeing photos of the huge medal from the Little Rock Marathon, and several of us in RTY decided we should run it in 2019. But in all honesty, out of all of us in the RTY group, I truly believe that Tracie has recruited the most people to run the most races.

Over time, someone began the #TracieMadeMeDoIt movement within the RTY group.  So that has become a common theme that many of us revert to when we need to blame someone, anyone, for our race addiction, our late-night Ultrasignup race entries, and numerous other related running-related shenanigans (Ink ‘n Burn purchases and Starbucks selfies to name a few).

So, now that you have the background information, I can finally tell you about my next adventure, which is happening “with a little help from my friends.”

Last weekend I “ran” the Javelina Jundred K in Arizona.  It was 62 miles of fairly flat trails in McDowell Park, near Phoenix. Prior to Javelina, I had planned to run my first 100 mile race in March 2019 at The Pistol Ultras in Alcoa, Tennessee.   BUT… as luck would have it…  a couple of very nice, supportive, and awesome people we “met” through another online running group called Running Off the Crazy (ROTC) on Facebook decided they would start up an inaugural event in February 2019 called the Outlaw 100.  It will be in Robber’s Cave Park in Oklahoma, and will offer all distances of races, from 5K to 100 miles.  I wanted to support the new race but also knew it would be harder than the planned first 100 miler at Pistol.

Thanks to FOMO and a desire to support these awesome folks in their new venture, I told them that if I was able to finish Javelina (which I was under-trained for due to an ankle injury) then I would sign up for their 100 mile event in February.

As luck would have it, I did finish Javelina. It was hard and hot and I hurt and I let it get to me, mentally as much as physically, and after the race I sent a text to Tracie and Brandi, lamenting the commitment I’d made to run Outlaw and whining about the fact that I had absolutely no business ever running 100 miles, especially not over the same sort of rocky and rooty terrain we had run at Hawk.  I was torn between the need to live up to my word and my belief that I was an idiot for believing I could run that far.

Then I got home.

I rested.

I got hugs from my husband and cuddles from my dog,

I texted Tracie and Brandi and talked about how I was feeling overall and the heat and the under-training, and as time passed, a phenomenon known as race amnesia set in.

And I started to reconsider.

Maybe I really can do 100 miles, I thought to myself.  After all, I get to run with bib number 12, which is my daughter, Heather’s, favorite number.  She has had a hard go of it for the last few years.  Her strength inspires me.  (I will write about her another time.)

While processing these thoughts, I was continuing to bounce thoughts off of Tracie and Brandi and seeking their input.

In the meantime, I also realized that one of the biggest issues I had at Javelina was being there alone.  I knew I would not be alone at Outlaw, if I ran it, because the folks on the ROTC page are a lot like those at the Hawk race – like a big family.

By Monday night I had “come to my senses” (or lost them all, depending on your perspective) and decided I should go ahead and run Outlaw. It was only a month earlier than the planned 100 miles at Pistol, so it would all be OK.  Right?

And THAT is when they told me the news…

Apparently, as soon as I had said I would run Outlaw if I survived Javelina and I had asked the Race Directors to reserve bib #12 for me, Tracie and Brandi had decided they would travel to Oklahoma to crew and pace me for my first 100 mile race!!

Unbeknownst to me, they were working on travel plans and accommodations while I was running that first 100K.  I came away from Javelina with a renewed and heightened appreciation of my husband and friends who have been at my races.  It matters. It matters a lot.

But they were planning and scheming all of this before they even knew how lonely I felt at Javelina.

These two awesome, wonderful, supportive and crazy friends were planning to be there to support me before I even knew for sure I would be going.  I was floored. Flabbergasted. Speechless. And so very thankful for their love and support.

So there you have it. I will be running my first 100 mile event, with a little help from my friends.

Thank you Brandi and Tracie for your unwavering support, your brutal honesty when I need to hear it, and your crazy sense of fun and adventure.  I am excited to see what lies ahead for the three of us!

And to make the upcoming race even better, my Handsome Hubby, Corey, will also be there!  It’s going to be an epic weekend, and I already know I am going to succeed.  I will finish that 100 mile race, with the support of my Love, Corey, and with A LOT of help from my awesome friends!!

For now, since I am recently unemployed (reduction in force at my international former employer) I have time to write.  And I love to write.  So I have decided I should chronicle this journey to my first 100 miler….and maybe beyond.  I plan for there to be quite a few running-related posts, but also a lot that are not, because I am a grandma and a wife and I love to write.

I hope you will join me for my journey as I run toward both my first 100 mile race, at the Outlaw 100, and also toward whatever other fun that this life chooses to throw at me along the way.

PS – Also, keep in mind that if/when you need an excuse for something, whatever it may be, you should rely upon the tried-and-true excuse that we have all come to know and love… #TracieMadeMeDoIt.