And Now There Is One…

Yes!  It happened!

On March 18, 2019 I completed 100 miles (102 and change according to my Garmin) and earned my very first 100-mile buckle!!

And now there is one… One 100-miler buckle.

The Pistol 100 was an amazing event in every way.  So sit back, relax for a few minutes, and let me tell you all about it!

First, I have to say that for some reason it has taken me quite a bit longer than I expected to actually sit down and write this.  I am not sure why.  OK, I guess I know some of the reasons why, but not all of them.

For one, the buckle came with a wooden stand that has a spot for a plate with the race name, date, finishing time, etc.  I knew that the race organizers would be sending out the personalized plate, and I really wanted to include that plate in the photos accompanying this blog.  It had not occurred to me that it could be 4-5 weeks before the plate would arrive.  It should have occurred to me, given the number of racers who participate in the various events at the Pistol 100. But it didn’t.

img_4817

I believe that another reason that it has taken awhile to write this one is because I found myself physically and mentally drained for several weeks after this race.  Running and walking 100 miles over 29.5 hours, all on pavement, can take a toll on one’s body.  I typically recover quickly from races, and even after the 73 miles and 11,000 feet of elevation gain at Outlaw in February, I felt mostly recovered within 2 weeks.  But not this time.

This time I planned to take at least 2 weeks off of running.  After the race, Corey and I drove up to Kentucky to visit my daughter, Elizabeth and three grandbabies (Emmy, Lincoln and Everdeen).  We then drove home and a week or so after we got home, I flew to California for a week-long visit with my other three kids (Justine, Quentin and Heather) and my granddaughter, Mackenzie.

During my visit to California, I decided it was time to get back into the training mode because Brandi, Tracie and I have a 100K on June 1.  I discovered, then, that although most of my body might have been okay with starting back up, my knees and hips were definitely not happy about the idea.  After 2 “runs” there, which included a fair amount of walking, I decided to give it a little more time.  That was the first week of April.

It was not until the last week of April that I felt like I was physically able to resume running on a regular basis (and even now one knee is still sore with certain movements).

Although I needed the time off, physically, I think that the mental break was also good.  During the time that I could not run, I started to write this blog, but then remembered I was still waiting for the engraved plate.  And I was okay with waiting a little longer to write, I think in part because as soon as I start re-living Pistol, then I will once again feel that excitement over the distance and the accomplishment and the motivation to do it again! And I am planning to do it again. But I also wanted to be sure that I was healthy enough to resume that sort of rigorous training.

Waiting to write this, in some ways, helped to keep me from getting too motivated too soon, if that makes sense.

Last week I finally got back into the running groove and did a 50-mile training week.  Although my knee is still giving me issues, we are now less than a month from the Kettle 100, and I am doing a 12-hour, very hilly, trail race this coming weekend. So, this is a great time to get re-excited and ultra-motivated.

Despite the fact that my recovery from The Pistol 100 took 3 times longer than I expected, that is probably the only “negative” that I can say about this race.

There are so many positive things about the Pistol 100 event, that I am 100% certain I could not list them all.

It was extremely well-organized and well-run.  Check-in was easy.  Parking was close for everyone, and especially nice for the 100K and 100 mile runners, who were able to either crew out of their cars or set up canopies or tables right on the edge of the course and next to the parking lot.  The aid stations were fabulous!! The course is beautiful, easy to follow (no fear of getting lost), and well-lit at night (no need for a headlamp).

IMG_4075

Finally, the support from everyone involved in the race was incredible, from Race Director down to each and every last volunteer.  One lady (Julie) greeted each and every runner as they completed each loop, and then wished them well again as they left on each loop.  She did this for the whole 32 hours that the race went on. And she did it in costume!  Actually, in several different costumes, over the course of the race.  She was awesome!!

The 100-mile course consisted of ten loops.  Each loop was about 10 miles long.  I say “about” because my watch recorded a total distance of 102.6 miles, but it is common for a runner’s watch to have some variation from a race’s official distance. Also, there was a second timing pad a little further out for the 50K and 100K racers.  This made their loops slightly longer than 10 miles, so that 3 loops for them would 50K/31 miles (rather than 30) and 6 loops would be 100K/62 miles (rather than 60).

One of the coolest things about this event, this year, was that we had lots and lots and lots of people attending from our Run The Year 2019 challenge group and a lot of Running Off the Crazy friends from Oklahoma who were also running.

Of course, I was there for that cool 100-mile buckle (the revolver actually spins on the gun!!)  One other gentleman from RTY was also there for the 100 miler (Larry) but he opted to stop at 100K.  Jenna was there chasing her goal of a sub 12-hour 100K,(and she did it!) and Brandi and Tracie were there for their first 100K races.  Maria and Brian were doing the double-barrel challenge, which meant they ran a 50K on Saturday morning and then followed it up with a 50-miler Saturday night!  They also brought a cargo trailer, canopy, and snacks that we all enjoyed and made use of.  Beverly, Valerie and Kristen (and her daughter, Sydney)) were there for their first times doing the 50K distance.  I know there were others, but we did not get a chance to meet and say hello.  The Pistol organizers actually had a banner made to welcome the Run the Year 2019 runners. It was cool!

IMG_4065

Of course, the MOST important person in our RTY 2019 contingent was none other than Trail Mama Dawn Carter!  In typical Dawn fashion, even though she was not running any of the distances, she drove to the race, she brought us enough food to feed an army, and she brought a canopy (it even zipped closed to keep heat inside) and a cot and chairs. She watched over the Run the Year “base camp” for 32 hours. She cooked. She helped fill water bottles. She catered to our every need – as we would complete a lap, she was there to help in whatever way we needed.  She cheered other runners as they passed.  All day and all night and then most of a second day….  She was always there.

At 4:30 a.m., I was freezing cold and shivering and needed a break to get warm. Dawn and Jenna got me into the canopy, warmed up by the heater, dressed in warmer layers (thank you Jenna) and got me fed and ready to get back out there.  Dawn was base camp leader, but she had lots of help, too (thank you, everyone!)  And it wasn’t just the runners… Beverly’s husband, Bob was there and so was Kristin’s daughter Sydney.  Then our RTY runners, as they would finish their own races, each came back to lend a hand.  Beverly and Bob and Valerie also volunteered at the on-course aid station in the middle of the night!  I tell you – runners are the most awesome group of people!  But I gotta say, having Dawn’s support really went a long way toward making my race (and others, I am sure) possible. So thank you for that, Dawn!

Also, of course, my hubby and biggest supporter, Corey, was there when he was not back at our Air BnB taking care of baby boy PoQuito.

Pistol
Post-race with my Handsome Hubby, Corey

I think most of our Oklahoma friends were there for the 100, including Bryan, Alecia, Jeremy, Jana, Christine, and Cheryl, but I know there were others, including Mark and Shawn, that I did not get to say hello to, over the course of the weekend.  Alecia and Christine are also a part of RTY 2019!  And let’s not forget about Mike, another Okie, who was there with his alter-ego “Meego” doing a truly crazy event and more than 100 miles!  He was doing the double barrel challenge, like Brian and Maria, but instead of doing 50K/50 miles, he was trying to complete a 100K (62 miles)/50 mile challenge.  Crazy, crazy, crazy!!

IMG_E4073
Mike and his alter-ego Meego.

One of the best things about this event was getting to see so many familiar faces so often.  It was like a 32-hour running party with a bunch of really awesome people!

(Actually it was more like a 48-hour party, because most of us from RTY got together for dinner the night before the race, which was a ton of fun, and then we regrouped for pizza and beer/wine afterward on Sunday evening.)

This is where I could give you a play-by-play of each loop of my race and how I felt and how long they took.  But a lot of that is a blur by now.  And, honestly, it was a relatively short 10-mile loop, which is paved and has a few little hills, but no change from loop to loop, other than temperature…. and the fact that te pavement really starts to hurt one’s feet after awhile.

So instead, I will simply tell you what matters most.  I completed my first 100-mile race!  I did it in 29 hours, 32 minutes and 29 seconds and I lived to tell about it.

IMG_4087
I stopped to take this picture at the moment I hit 100 miles.  (The race was actually over 102 (by my watch) and so my official finish time was longer.)

I had fun. It was St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday so I wore green for the race, including a green tutu for a few of the laps.  I also started the race with 10 strands of green beads, and I removed one each lap, so I could easily track my progress.  Quite a few people dressed up to some extent.

Here is an awesome picture of Brandi, Tracie and me, during the race.  I think was at about 30 miles…

IMG_E4116

Frankly, I was hoping for something closer to a 27-hour finish for this race, but I lingered too long at the RTY base-camp on several loops (changing shoes, changing socks, changing shoes again, and then that 4:30 a.m. stop was for a full 45 minutes).  Had I been more focused on minimizing those stops, I might have finished closer to 27 hours. But that didn’t matter as much as just finishing, within the 32-hour course limit.  So “just finishing” was the main goal. And I did it!

And although some runners like to sprint in at the end, I chose to walk in the last few hundred feet because I wanted to do it with my “tribe.”  I wanted those who made this possible to share that victory with me. So we walked it in, together.  No, there is no cool finish line photo with both feet off the ground, running it in. But I don’t care. There are other races for that.  This race, for me, was about all of us, as a group, achieving goals together.

So my finish line photo is this one, walking with the RTY pseudo-mascot #LittleSpike, wearing my baggy but warm sweats, and just strolling it in. lol

IMG_4238

And then I got that buckle and we got pictures and we celebrated.  It was epic!

IMG_4272

As a congratulatory gift, Tracie, Brandi and Dawn presented me with a belt for the buckle that is imprinted with “Badass” and also with a beautiful leather covered flask.  Jenna, whose advice and help prior to and during this race were invaluable, also gave me a Pistol “Finisher” shirt.  It was epic, I tell you! Epic!

IMG_4175IMG_4097

 

And I cannot wait to go back out there and do it, again!

Next up:  First is the Tommyknocker 12-hour trail race (with more elevation gain than I care to admit and a race for which I am woefully undertrained thanks to the extended Pistol recovery) with Michele and Danielle on May 11.  We have decided that our mantras for this race are “Carpe the fuck out of the diem” and “Cowboy the fuck up.”

After that is the Kettle 100K (for which I hope to be better prepared) with Brandi (#babybadass) and Tracie (#wiseass) on June 1.  We are running that one together, start to finish, and I am not sure what our mantra will be for that one, but I am pretty sure it may contain the word “fuck.”  I do know we are going to have fun, we are going to beat that time limit, and I am pretty sure we will spend a lot of time bitching and whining and complaining while simultaneously laughing and talking about life and love, bikes, adventures, future races, boots, and goals.

It is going to be one fun Summer!  Stay tuned!

 

Advertisements

The Outlaw 100 Experience

Outlaw 50 buckle
It is a beautiful buckle. It is not the buckle I wanted or expected to bring home from Oklahoma. But it IS a pretty one.

I have been trying to start this blog post for two days, now.  It is not the post I had hoped to write, so perhaps that has made it harder to get started.  After two days of thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that I should simply start putting thoughts on paper and see where it leads me.

Edit – this ended up being really long. So, I have broken it into five sections:

  • The Road to Outlaw
  • The Take-Aways From This Race
  • The People Make the Memories
  • The Course and The Aid Stations
  • Final Thoughts – Then and Now

Hopefully this makes it easier to skip to any one section you might care to read about more than others.

The Road to Outlaw

As you know, the Outlaw 100 in Oklahoma was my first attempt at running a 100-mile race.  The Outlaw had not always been my planned “first” because until October I had planned for the Pistol 100, in March, to be my first 100-mile race. 

The Pistol is mostly flat, paved, well-lit, and assuming the weather is not terrible, I knew that it should be a very do-able race, assuming I put in the training.  

But in October, on-line friends/acquaintances Jeremy and Alicia decided to host an inaugural 100-mile event in Oklahoma at Robber’s Cave Park.  I loved the idea of being part of a first-year race, and I wanted to be able to support their venture, so after I survived the Javelina 100K in late October, I “bit the bullet” and signed up for the Outlaw as my first 100 miler.

When I signed up for the race, there was no race course information available. One of the Race Directors (RDs) compared it to the Hawk 100, a course on which I’d run my first 50-mile race.  It was rocky and technical but not a lot of elevation gain, so that comparison was not necessarily a bad thing. 

So, I entered Outlaw, moved up the training schedule, so it would finish on February 16, and I trained and I trained and I trained.  I incorporated a lot of incline running to get used to hills, in an effort to be as prepared as possible for the Outlaw. I could feel myself getting stronger and faster and I knew I would be ready.

Then, approximately 2 weeks before the race, we were provided with a map of the full course and the elevation chart for the course.  All I could think was “Holy fuck, I am going to die.”  Each 20-mile loop had over 3,000 feet of elevation gain, meaning the 100-mile race would have over 15,000 feet of gain.  I had never done a race with more than 6,500 feet of gain.  Hell, the Leadville 100 only has 1,000 feet more than this… but it’s Leadville!!!

At that point, I should have stepped back, taken a reality check, and reconsidered. 

Although it was too late to cancel travel plans that close to the race, I should have probably opted to drop down to the 50-mile event and call it good. But I was caught up in the romance of this first 100-mile race, and I had committed to wearing my daughter’s #12, and people were coming there to crew and pace and support my attempt, and so I never seriously entertained the thought of not at least giving it a try.

On top of the new information about elevation gain, we kept hearing comments, with increased frequency, along the lines of, “it is a rocky course.” Well, I knew that (or so I thought) because of the comparison to Hawk. 

The Hawk 100 is rocky but it also has a lot of runnable terrain.  It turns out that was not really the case, here. 

Outlaw Pam
In short There is “Hawk 100 rocky,” and then there is “God-dropped-every-rock-he-ever-created-here-and-those-rocks-had-babies” rocky.  The Outlaw 100 is the latter. (Photo credit to Pam Pham)

Lesson learned: maybe it’s not a great idea to pick an unknown course as a first 100-mile attempt. Or maybe it’s even as basic as this – it is probably not a great idea to change plans mid-stream.  I had originally picked Pistol for my first because it was relatively flat (2,000 feet of gain over 100 miles) and do-able and made sense for a first attempt at 100 miles. 

I probably should have stuck with the original plan. It was logical and made sense. But I didn’t.

The Take-Aways From This Race

I can’t say that I regret trying to run 100 miles at Outlaw. 

I do regret that I had to stop after 73 miles, and 11,000 feet of elevation gain.  I do regret that Brandi, Tracie, Dawn, Brian, Maria and my love, Corey, dedicated so much time and effort toward helping me to succeed, but despite their best efforts, I was not able to cross the finish line.  That is my biggest regret. 

I do not regret stopping when I did. I was not hurt. I was not feeling helpless or hopeless or any of the emotions that can make people quit between miles 60 and 80 of a 100-mile race.  My legs were simply “out of gas.”  I had eaten well, I was hydrated, I did not have serious cramping.  I had some mild nausea a few times, relieved by Tums and Nexium (thank you, Maria).  I was not hit by any of those common and expected maladies that can derail a 100-mile attempt.  My legs were just done.  They were the “stick-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done” kind of done.  When I stopped, I had completed 11 miles more distance and over 5,000 feet more climbing that I had ever done, before, and my body was just “done.”

I do not regret the 73 miles that I did complete, because frankly every one of those miles felt like more than a mile, and I am now headed into the Pistol 100 with a confidence that I did not have going in to the Outlaw race.  I now know without any doubt whatsoever that I CAN finish a 100-mile race.  Although I was not able to finish THAT 100-mile race, I am certain that if I had faced any one of numerous other courses last weekend, I would have completed it.  So, despite last weekend’s DNF I feel strong and capable and know I am set up to succeed.

I also do not regret one single minute of the fun times we all shared over the weekend.  For four days, I found myself surrounded by the most amazing group of people, ever, and we had some good laughs and made some truly wonderful memories. 

Outlaw tent all

In the end, the simple truth is that this course was a lot harder than I had imagined.  I think it was harder than anyone there had imagined (other than maybe a local runner or two).

It is of some consolation that I was not alone in underestimating the course. 

31 runners started the 100-mile race and only 5 finished. FIVE!  That means 26 of us (more than 80%) could not complete the race. Many of those who did not complete 100 miles were very experienced 100-mile runners with numerous prior finishes under their belts.  This has helped ease my disappointment in not completing the full 100 miles. 

10 of the 31 runners who started the race were women and only 1 of those 10 finished (Heather Blake, you are a beast!)  

I am also at least a little bit proud of the fact that my 73 miles were the furthest completed by any woman other than Heather, and in fact was further than many of the male runners.  (Yes, I can be a stubborn one, at times.)    

And our 100-mile group were not the only victims of this course.  I do not know exact numbers but I have heard that many of the 50-mile runners stopped at the 26.2 marathon distance and some of the marathoners stopped at the 13.1 half-marathon distance. 

This course was brutal.

The weather did not help.  We started with cold temperatures during the day (low 40s) that dropped into the 20’s with a heavy drizzle at night. 

Yes, this was a beautiful course.  But it was as difficult and unforgiving as it was beautiful.   

The People Make the Memories

Trail Momma Dawn showed up on Thursday with her Jeep Cherokee packed completely full of food, a canopy, chairs, blankets, a heater, more food, a little more food, and then even more food on top of that!  The Shawsomes, Brian and Maria, and their terrific kids Bo and Bailey, travelled in from Texas to support us and to run the 5K race, and they were beyond Shawsome awesome! 

Between Momma Dawn and the Shawsomes, they set up a canopy at the start-finish (SF) area, had a heater going that I used between loops and that was also used by the aid station volunteers to warm up when it got cold and drizzly/rainy at night, they were able to feed all of us warm gumbo and breakfast burritos, and they made me Cup-o-Noodles, and Spaghetti O’s between loops and after I finished.  They were there to cheer me in after every single loop. 

Outlaw warming
Warming up in the tent!

On top of all of that, Maria ended up pacing me for 14 miles!  I don’t think she’d done a trail race before her 5K on Saturday morning, but on Sunday morning, beginning when it was still dark, she led me through 14 cold, wet, rocky, slippery, steep (both up and down) miles and she did it with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step.  In my opinion, she is a natural trail runner and really should start running trail races.       

 

Corey coordinated my SF visits so that I had everything I needed every time I came through the area.  He drove people to aid stations to meet up with me and pace me for the later miles, he shuttled folks back and forth to and from the cabin for supplies and showers and rest.  He was my rock every time I needed one, and knowing I would get to see him as I came into the start/ finish area was a huge morale booster. I am really happy that he did the 5K race – his first trail race!

Outlaw-Corey
My Love, Corey, accepting his 5K finisher’s medal! a caption

Brandi and Tracie worked their asses off! They ran their own marathons, Brandi paced me through the darkest night-time hours (2 headlamps are way better than one, especially when searching for the ever-elusive next orange flag on a trail that was not well-defined) and Tracie paced me through miles 67 to 73, and she was ready to take me through miles 73 to 80, had I been able to complete them.  I can’t begin to tell you how much it meant to me to share this experience with them. It was not the outcome we had hoped and planned for, but I think we all grew and learned from this weekend’s events. I can’t begin to thank them enough for their support and encouragement at all hours of the day and night in the days, weeks and months leading up to the Outlaw.  They were always there when I needed advice or support or just an ear to listen.  They are the absolute best, ever!

Outlaw Brandi and Tracie
Tracie and Brandi!!

Unfortunately, I don’t think we worked on nearly as many chapters of “the book” as we had planned, but we can blame the course for that. It took every bit of our collective attention to follow the course, find the next orange flag, avoid stepping on a rock, avoid tripping on a rock, avoid slipping on a wet rock, avoid slipping on wet leaves on a hidden rock, avoid twisting our ankles on smaller hidden rocks and navigating the “two” (more like 22) water crossings on the course.

Outlaw100-2019-3768

Finally, last but not least, there was #LittleSpike, who was rooting for me all along the way. His support was unwavering and much appreciated!

Outlaw-spike

The Course and The Awesome Aid Stations (Meego’s Saloon and Shorty’s Brothel)

The 100-mile course officially consisted of five 20-mile loops.  However, the reality was that there was one “main loop” that was 13-miles long, and a second smaller loop that was 7 miles long, and the two loops, together, would create one official 20-mile loop.  Each 100-mile runner would complete the 13-mile loop, return to the Start-Finish (SF) area to check in, then leave the SF area, complete the 7-mile loop, and then return a second time to the SF area, at which point the runner would cross the timing mat, signaling completion of one complete 20-mile loop.  Runners would complete that course five times to reach 100 miles.  (The 50-mile runners completed 4 rounds of the main 13-mile loop, while marathoners did the main loop twice and half-marathoners did it once.) 

The nice thing about this arrangement was that runners would be able to see family and friends more often than if there was a single 20-mile loop.  Logistically, this meant that runners could carry a lighter load, in terms of nutrition and hydration, since they could stop and replenish supplies after 13 (or 7) miles.

Both loops started by crossing through a small forested area into a paved parking lot, running maybe 100 yards down the parking lot and back into the woods, where the trail really began.  From there it was a mostly uphill climb and the first of many water crossings.  After about 1.5 miles from the start, the two courses diverged, with the main 13-mile loop heading off to the left and the 7-mile loop heading off to the right.

The 13-mile loop then had some ups and downs and the first larger water crossing (one of the runners slipped and fell on the mossy rocks, here, our first time across) before we encountered Meego’s Aid Station, at about mile 2.25. 

Coming out of the woods onto a road and seeing this positive and enthusiastic group of volunteers was a welcome sight, every time I ran this loop.  The first time through I just said hello but advised them I would be ready for a Fireball shot with Meego by the time I came back through during mile 22.  As it turns out, I had two Fireball shots with Mike Rives’ alter-ego, Meego, at mile 22, then another two at mile 42, with a repeat performance at mile 62 (which happened to be at about 6 a.m. on Sunday). On one of the loops they provided a delicious bean and cheese quesadilla, and on another I asked for just beans and salsa in a tortilla (burrito style) and almost before I finished asking, it was in my hand.  During the night time loop with Brandi, we had some sort of spicy pineapple deliciousness that was amazing! I cannot say enough good things about this aid station, its proprietor Mike Rives, his alter-ego Meego, and each and every one of the volunteers, here.  If you leave Meego’s Saloon without a smile on your face, the something is definitely wrong with you. They practice #maximumenthusiasm and it shows!

Outlaw Meego
Fireball shots with Meego!

The hard part about leaving Meego’s was knowing it would be another 5 miles before the next aid station.  Since this was a relatively small race (a great turn-out for a first-year race, but small by comparison to some others), there were a lot of miles spent alone in the woods following orange ribbons along a trail that was largely obscured by leaves.  There was a lot of stopping to look for the next orange ribbon and wondering if I was on the right path.  Mile 6 presented the steepest downhill trail I have ever encountered, littered with large rocks and a few scattered trees, many of which were close enough to grab onto for support while slip-sliding down the steep hill.  I slipped and landed on my butt twice during the night time loop with Brandi, but I think I may have otherwise managed to somehow stay mostly upright through that section on the other 4 loops.  One of the three biggest climbs in the main loop, and one of the bigger water crossings, were also situated between Meego’s and the next aid station on the course (Shorty’s Brothel).

At about mile 7.25, runners crossed a bridge and entered another paved parking area with a pavilion that housed Shorty’s Brothel, which was set up to tend to (almost) our every need.  I say “almost” only because, of course, there was no real “brotheling” taking place, here.  

There was an indoor bathroom at this stopping point, and it was included in my route through this section, during all 4 loops.  The volunteers at Shorty’s were warm and welcoming, offered up a variety of delicious food and drinks, and did everything within their power to keep us all running.  I had some bacon here during the first loop and salted potatoes every loop after that. (Brandi tells me there were also some amazing chicken quesadillas, here, but I somehow missed those.)  T relied upon this stop for Mountain Dew (for caffeine) and pickle juice (to avoid cramps).  During loop 4, I decided to change my socks, here, because they had been wet for miles and I had hot spots under the balls of both feet.  (Fortunately, it turned out that there were no blisters!) I am ticklish and I have gross feet and I was determined going into this race that no one would have to deal with my feet.  But after 67 miles, when you want your socks changed, having someone there to help you do it, to massage your calves, and to tie your shoes was an amazing thing!  Thank you so much to Shorty and all of the volunteers at the Brothel. You are all amazing!!

Runners would leave Shorty’s, climb a small embankment up to the main highway running through the park, cross that highway, and set out for the final 6 miles of the main loop.  Mile 9 of this loop was similar to an earlier section that Maria called the Troll Garden…  it was littered with hundreds of larger (1-3 feet in diameter) big grey rocks that look like sleeping trolls.  We wished more than once that we could wake them up and make them move, like they do in cartoons. The ones at mile 9 were the worst, though, because they were generally too close together for comfortable footing, but not flat enough on top to simply run or walk across the top of them. Then, just as we would clear that slow section of the course, we faced the last big climb on the 13-mile loop during mile 10.  In that section, the trail climbed up to a beautiful bluff.  It was where my current FB profile picture was taken.  But the path to get there was extremely steep, and by the 4th time of climbing it my legs would go no more than 2-3 steps before I would need to then stop for a rest, take 2-3 more steps, then stop again. 

Outlaw B&W
Resting after climbing that last bluff on loop 4

(At this point, during my 4th time through the main loop, Tracie was with me and I told her “I am done.” I know she did not want to believe me and I am sure that she thought I was simply hitting one of the expected 100-mile “lows,” but I could physically feel the absence of energy.  I was not feeling down or depressed or hopeless… In fact, I still held out hope that I could start to feel better, but I was exhausted beyond redemption.  She suggested I get some food in me at the SF area and then re-evaluate. She was right. There was a chance that some more food would help. I planned to try that.)

Fortunately, the trail from the mile 10 bluff back to the SF was relatively easy as compared to the rest of the course. The one exception to that was about a 1/3-mile stretch of gravel road that was all uphill, during the last 1 to 1.5 miles of both the main loop and the 7-mile loop.  That short but steep section of road was a bitch at the end of every loop, just because it was so steep. But once we reached the top of that short section, we had just a short, wooded section toward Robber’s Cave, followed by a concrete (and downhill) chute that dropped us back into the parking lot we had crossed at the start. From there it was a short 50 yards or so through a final wooded area and back into the SF area.

After the first time through that loop, I returned to the SF area and declared to Corey that this loop was surely the 13th level of Hell.  By then, he had run his 5K, which was very similar terrain, so he understood.  But despite the challenges, I’d completed the loop right well within the time range that I had anticipated, going into the weekend.  After 13 miles, I was still feeling really good.  I took a short break and headed out to the 7-mile loop.

The 7-mile loop had no aid stations (it did have an unmanned water station). It shared its first 1.5 miles and its final mile (or so), with the main loop.  The 4.5 to 5 miles in between were beautiful, had more runnable sections than the 13-mile main loop, and provided some reprieve from some of the more grueling challenges of the main loop. There was one steep climb in this loop but it seemed less steep than those in the main loop, and this loop also had a long stretch of trail through a grassy area and another long stretch of welcome gravel road.  My first time through this loop I enjoyed it and I was still convinced I could finish the full 100 miles.

After 20 miles I was feeling good and headed back out for more.  (“Please Mister, May I have another?”)  After a second main loop, I came back in to the SF area at mile 33 still feeling really good. At this point I was starting to think I should start to use my trekking poles for support on the steep uphills and for balance on the steep downhills. I also thought they would be handy for balance through the millions of small rocks, hidden by leaves, that were ankle-turners (I stopped counting after 20-25 times of twisting my ankle on them).  I made a mental note to take them out with me when I came back in to start my third round of the main loop.

But first I had to do the 7-mile loop a second time.  It was starting to get dark as I started miles 34-40. It got very dark during this loop, and I got lost – really lost – as in a 36-minute mile lost. My headlamp was not very bright and I had to stop at almost every orange flag to search for the next (again, the trail itself was not easily discernable due to the leaves that had fallen, and we did not stay on any one park trail so following the tree blazes was not an option.)  In retrospect, this was the beginning of the end of my race.  I was truly scared for several minutes, and by the time I located the path, again, and regained my composure, completed the loop and returned to the SF area, I was emotionally drained. I now believe that emotional stress affected my physical state of well-being. 

I took a few minutes at the SF to regroup, enjoyed a delicious bowl of Dawn’s gumbo, and warmed up by the heater.  Thankfully, I had a new and much brighter headlamp for the rest of the night.  Brandi was there waiting to pace me through miles 41-53, and we set off. 

Brandi did an amazing job guiding me through this loop. She was able to see most of the orange ribbons without us having to stop and look as often as I had to on the 7-mile loop, when I was alone.  (I would estimate we did have to stop and search for the next orange ribbon a good 15-20 times, but overall it was a lot better than I could have done, alone.)  By this time, it was getting very cold (in the 20s) and it started to drizzle.  Between the heavy mist and our breath in the air, seeing the trail became even more challenging, but not impossible.  At this point, I could feel myself starting to tire and the loop was slower than it should have been, but we completed it, and considering I had now finished 53 miles, I was feeling pretty damn good as we returned to the SF area. 

At that point, I had a second delicious bowl of Dawn’s gumbo, and Maria (Xena) and I headed out for the third time though the 7-mile loop.  This would be miles 54-60. At this point I knew it would take me more than the allowed 36 hours to finish this beast of a race, but I still planned to complete it.

Maria/Xena did an excellent job guiding us through the 7-mile loop, in the dark. I don’t know whether she kept track, but I could guess that we had stop at least 30 times to look for the next damn orange ribbon.  A few times I stood by one while she scouted ahead for the next.  (Hopefully next year they can mark the course with reflective ribbons to make it easier for the runners.)  She negotiated us through the section where I’d gotten lost and we completed those 7 miles without any real difficulties. 

Outlaw with Maria

We completed the loop faster than we planned, so when we got back to the SF area, Corey, Tracie and Brandi were still having breakfast back at the cabin.  It was almost daylight and I was OK to go on ahead for miles 60-73 without a pacer, but in all of her awesomeness, Xena stepped up and volunteered to run with me as far as Shorty’s Brothel, which was 7 miles into the main loop.  There, we met up with Corey and Tracie so that Tracie could take over pacing duties and Xena could enjoy some well-deserved rest. 

That was mile 67. I changed socks. I was tired. The sun had come up and provided some renewed energy and the trail was much easier to follow in daylight. My legs were feeling more tired, but the trekking poles I had been using since loop 3 were helping.  After the change of socks, a kiss from Corey, some Mountain Dew and some pickle juice, Tracie and I headed out for what would be my last 6 miles.

Final Thoughts – Then and Now

In retrospect, I am not sure what I could have done differently that would have enabled me to finish the race.  At some point in those final 6 miles my legs just quit. I mean literally quit.  Putting one foot in front of the other and relentless forward progress were running through my head. I was thinking “lift foot, move forward, transfer weight.” And it was working but just barely. The last bluff climb at mile 70 (the mile 10 climb described earlier) was the final straw. It took several minutes to summit the bluff and I was done.  I knew I could get back to the SF, but I also knew I did not have it in me to climb that bluff one final time.  Later, as we walked up that final steep gravel road section within the last mile or so of the loop, I begrudgingly started to come to terms with the fact that my legs were also not going to be able to carry me up that steep section of road 3 more times.

I mentally evaluated the race to that point. I realized I had climbed 11,000 feet, which was almost twice the climb I’d had in any prior race.  I had finished 73 miles, which was 11 more miles than ever before.  I was not hurt, but I also knew that if I pushed too hard I might risk injury. I have a lot of racing ahead of me this year and no time for injuries.  

At that point, mentally, I was still in the race. I wanted to finish. I knew most of the other runners had already quit during the night and I knew I would be second overall woman, if only I could finish. I wanted it so bad… but at some level, right then, I understood it was not going to happen. Not that day.

As we trotted into camp that last time, I was in tears. It was ugly crying at its finest. Not the happy ugly crying that comes with a huge personal achievement but instead it was the heartbroken ugly crying that arises from a sense of defeat. 

Until that moment, I had never ever had a DNF on any other race (even ones where I was injured) and I was embarrassed about the fact that I was failing. I was surrounded by a team of wonderful people who had sacrificed their sleep and weekend to help me succeed, and in the end I did not come through for them.  I was angry at myself. I was hollow with disappointment.  I felt broken.

I sat in front of the heater to get warm and to eat, just in case that might help. Brandi and Tracie got things ready so we could head back out for the next 7 miles, if I was able. They really pushed me to try (I know that was coming from Jenna’s advice) and they did all that they could do to get me back out on course, but the food did not help with my energy levels and without the energy, I could not go back out there.

I told the RDs that I was done. Then I immediately changed my mind and asked them to give me a few more minutes to decide, because some small part of me still believed that with a little more time the food would help and my energy stores would return.  Tracie and Brandie went out to do the 7-mile loop without me, so Tracie could compete her marathon miles.  And after many more minutes of waiting, the harshest of realities set in and I accepted that my race was over.

In retrospect I now know that stopping was the right thing.  An hour later, after resting, I walked to the bathrooms, and during that walk got very weak and dizzy. I stood to talk with other runners and the effort, again, made me dizzy and woozy.  I don’t recall ever having so little energy at any other time in my life. And it lasted for hours.  I now know, looking back, I could not have physically finished that course.

I continue to console myself with the fact that other, much more experienced runners also quit, and many (maybe most?) quit with fewer than my 73 miles.  One of the other 100-mile runners said he equated each of those miles with 2 on most other courses, so I should assume I ran the equivalent of 146 miles.  Hearing that made me smile. 

Knowing that a number of experienced racers also failed to finish has helped me accept this outcome as a learning experience.  I still see it as a failure and I still regret not coming through for everyone who believed that I could, but I am grateful to also be able to see it as a learning experience and a valuable tool for my ultramarathon information arsenal.  

Finally, despite the fact that I could not complete this course, I really do feel 100% more confident, now, about my next 100-mile race, than I did going in to this race.

And I can’t say enough how much I appreciated the time with friends and my hubby this weekend.  

Oh – and did I mention? I was awarded “Most Enthusiastic Outlaw” by the Race Directors!  Of course, I wanted to (and did) hand that award over to Trail Momma Dawn (and #LittleSpike) because they were the epitome of race spirit at the SF area, all weekend long!

Outlaw women and little spike
Dawn and #LittleSpike with the Most Enthusiastic Outlaw award

What’s Next?

Next stop is the Little Rock Marathon where my friend Trail Momma Dawn will complete her very first marathon!! 

And then it is on to the Pistol 100.   It was my original planned “first 100-miler” and will now hopefully be my first completed 100-miler.  It is also going to be Brandi and Tracie’s first 100K!  And the Shawsomes will each be doing a 50K/50-miler combination race, as will my Smokin’ Hot Granny teammate, Sue Dionian!  Jenna Powers will be there chasing a time goal on her 100K race.  And where would any of us be without Trail Momma Dawn who will be there supporting all of us.  There is a large group (15+ of us) from Run the Year 2019 who are attending.  It’s going to be one fun time in Alcoa, Tennessee!!   

And you know what? I am going to be bringing home the “right” buckle from that one!

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.)

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. 

Image may contain: 2 people, including Corey McNair, people smiling, sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling
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. 

Image may contain: 29 people
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.

Image may contain: 1 person, sleeping, sitting and baby

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.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, closeup

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…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

img_1529165491030 (2)

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!!