Thursday, June 30, 2011

Doing hard things

I teach an adult scripture class and the crucifixion is the subject of our next lesson.  Not an easy thing to ponder; however, my point is Peter's vehement claim that he would NEVER deny his Master, much less do it three times.  Within a few short hours, much to his horror, he did just that.  

As a Christian, I believe in a God who knows all.  He knows what we will do before we do it.  Therefore, some may ask, What is the point?  Why are we even here if our fate is already sealed?  Well, God does know our outcome, but the point is - we don't.  We are here to figure it out.  In a sense we are here to get to know ourselves.  We learn of our weaknesses and we learn our strengths.  Peter THOUGHT he knew himself.  He honestly THOUGHT he was stronger than he was.  He learned a bitter yet valuable lesson.  He learned he needed more strength.  He overcame and stepped up to become a powerful prophet of God.  
I, like Peter, thought I knew myself pretty well.  I thought I knew my weaknesses and my strengths.  But I've learned these past couple of years, that there's a lot yet to discover.  And much of it I won't know until I'm tested.  Again, like Peter.  
One of the ways to learn about yourself is to attempt something hard.  Something outside the old Comfort Zone.  You may fail ... but you may not.  And as my favorite YouTube video says, “If you never try, you'll never know”.  
Running has taught me that I CAN do things I never knew I could do.  I have strengths I didn’t know I had.  I can run with people who are much younger and stronger than I am.  I can organized a large athletic event.  I can finish a marathon.  I can run five miles at 3:00 a.m. on three hours sleep.  I can be a team captain.  I can put up and take down a tent by myself.  I can toil and camp in heat, wind, and grit without my shampoo and a shower.  I can climb to the top of a climbing wall AND to the top of a volcano.  I can do a triathlon ... well, okay, with a lot of liberties in the swimming portion since I don't swim.   I can sleep in a spider-infested tent .... after the spiders are gone .... but did we get them ALL?   Most of this has happened since I started running nearly three years ago.  This may not sound like much to some of you, but I’m not measuring myself against anyone but me.  The me I used to be.  And remember, I am not in my 20s or 30s (or even my 40s!) anymore.
I used to be the spectator or the support vehicle driver.  Never wanting to try or get dirty or wet.  (I still don't!)  Never wanting to fail and look stupid.  (I still don’t!)  Hence I never really knew myself nor what I could do.  I didn't even know what my fears WERE, much less if I could overcome them!  That marathon was SO frightening!  I didn't want to do it.  It took a long time to beef up my courage to register and then face six months of strict training with my Day of Reckoning looming closer and closer.   And not only did I fear the 26 miles .... I feared the 22 miles, the 20 miles, the 18, the 17, the 16, the 14, etc., that  punctuated my winter and spring every couple of weeks.
Doing hard and scary things builds confidence for the next hard and scary thing.  With each success, we are empowered to try a few more "miles".  That empowerment changes who we are.  With each failure we can learn, as Peter did, to fight through the remorse, make whatever changes are needed, and try again.   Peter reached his potential and though I would never compare sports or tent assembly to what HE became, it's still growth from challenges .... from doing what we’re afraid to do, and learning a little more about the process of becoming what God knows we can become.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

THE TREK ..... honoring heros, past and present

Early last December, we were asked to participate in a re-enactment of an 1800s handcart trek that would take place this summer.  I'll explain the reason for treks further down.

Those of you who don't know me personally, may have guessed by now that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), nicknamed (not by us) "Mormon".  The original members of our religion were mobbed, persecuted, and driven out of their homes time after time, until ultimately they were pushed out of the (then) country.  They chose to settle in an unwanted, desolate valley that is now beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah.  Many of those "saints" were immigrants from Europe, who arrived in this country virtually penniless, yet desirous to gather with others who worshipped in like manner.  This western exodus (1847 - 1868) was headed by Brigham Young, who was handed the reins of leadership after Joseph Smith, the Church's founder, was murdered.  Brigham Young was truly one of our nation's great colonizers, for he accomplished the near-impossible.

Those European immigrants could not afford to outfit themselves with covered wagons and oxen to traverse over a thousand miles.  So an idea was formulated to use handcarts which, though they only represented about 10% of the exodus, became symbolic of the Mormon Pioneers.  Most of them arrived safely.  But the two Martin and Willie companies, (named for their company captains) comprised of families of all ages - over-zealously started out too late in the summer.  They were caught in early winter snow storms and many of them perished.  If not for the rescuers, who were sent back by Brigham Young with supplies and wagons, they would have all died on the barren prairies of Wyoming, 1856.

These people sacrificed everything for their religion.  Their suffering was almost unspeakable.  We feel it's important to remember and honor them, hence many of us take our youth out to re-enact a portion of the journey, and to somehow get a glimpse of their courage and commitment to their God.  These re-enactments are a huge undertaking involving hundred of adults and teens, both on the trail and behind the scenes.  But we want our kids to know their heritage.  We want them to remember.

I was not excited to go.  Though I had not participated in the last trek that was put on by our stake, (a group of nine LDS congregations in our area) I heard a little too much about it from the man in charge - my husband. I had a pretty good idea what to expect.

So after several trips to resale and fabric shops, we were outfitted in our pioneer clothes, involving long skirts, aprons, suspenders, bonnets, and all.  Husband even grew a beard, which is a Whole Other Story ...
We were divided into "families" with a ma and pa, approximately ten kids, and a doll as the "baby".   There were 13 families like ours - each family had one handcart, and the families were grouped into four companies,  each company headed by a "captain".   This type of organization is historically accurate.

Our trek took place in SE Washington on a privately owned farm with hundreds of open acres between the crop circles.  It's desert country - very dry, potentially hot, and shadeless.   We arrived via school buses after a five hour, teen-infested journey - and due to our strange garb - sprinkled with curious looks at the rest stops.

Upon arrival, family photos were taken, handcarts (stored on site in a warehouse) were assigned and loaded, and we were off.  (This facility is used by hundreds of LDS stakes from Oregon and Washington for treks like ours.  A missionary couple provide things like our water and the best-smelling porta-potties I've ever experienced, that conveniently popped up wherever we needed them.)

Our family consisted of nine kids, the doll, Pa, and me.  Drawing from my own heritage of an odd fondness for nicknames, we dubbed our kids:  Rocky Road, Tabasco, Lambo, Carrot Cake, Winchester, Mini Muffin, Poptart, Tannerite, and Peach Pie.  Our baby was promptly named Melanie, which shortened to Melly, which then progressed to Melly Bean (giving a strong clue as to her innards).  We grew quite fond of them all.  I think I can honestly say we had the BEST kids.  Seriously.  I wanted to tell each of their actual parents:  You did well.

The plan was four days and three .... repeat - THREE nights on the trail, ending at the lush (although historically it was anything BUT lush) "Salt Lake Valley", aka Base Camp.  The first day was HOT.  The porta-potties provided the only shade.  I brought a spray bottle filled with water and was instantly popular.  Estimated distance for Day One: 3.8 miles, ending with a long and STEEP hill requiring ropes and many hands to drag the carts to the top.   We camped at the summit in wind that had me fearing that in the morning, we'd have to search for some of our little 90-pound girls who had blown away in the night.   The mas and pas had tents, some of which were nearly gale-launched, had it not been for the human-ballast snoring inside.

The next day the wind continued to blow.  And blow.  And BLOW.  Ohhhhhh, the dust.  It was in our hair, our eyes, our teeth, every layer of clothing and equipment.  It coated everything.  I tied my hair up, Aunt Jemima-style, in bandanas.  Anyone who attempted to wear a hat would have to chase after it every so often.  We were pelted, sand-blasted, and whipped.  The dirt that stuck to my eyelashes mixed with the sweat and looked like a bad case of running mascara.  I have never felt so wretched.  We did around 7 miles that day and finally were able to set up camp and retreat to our tents.  Thank goodness for baby wipes.  They kept me from the brink of despair, as a shower was still two days away.  I can truthfully say, sitting in a porta-potty was a welcome break from the wind.  I could have taken a book in there and been content for hours.  No joke.  And I must say, our kids were awesome.  No complaints.  They didn't have tents.  They are heros.  One of the highlights of that day happened when we were climbing a long hill.  After we reached the top, many of the men and boys ran back down the hill to help those still coming up.  As I said .... heros.

The third day the wind relented.   The boys needed to burn a little energy, so an impromptu hike took them off for an hour or so, while the girls sat on their buckets and talked.  Buckets?  We each had a 5 gallon bucket with an attached cushion on top.  My thanks to whomever hatched this idea, as the buckets carried our stuff and provided a seat up off the ant hills.   When we stopped for a rest, we popped our buckets out of the cart and sat down in whatever hint of shade we could find.   They were a life-saver.  When the guys rolled back into camp, the girls lined up and welcomed them with the hymn, "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning".  At times like that, my emotions render me totally useless for singing.

The third day also presented the "women's pull".  I had high expectations for this event because I choked up just hearing about it on the first trek.  At the bottom of a challenging hill, the men and boys were taken away and the girls were left alone with the carts.  This was to simulate when historically, on the actual Mormon trail, the US Government recruited the men whom they had previously rejected as citizens with constitutional rights, to go fight in the Mexican War.  So the women were left on their own.  We pushed our carts up that long hill and towards the top, there stood the boys, lined on either side of the trail.  They silently stood at attention, hats off, watching us trudge past them.  They had been instructed to stay still and let us do the work.  Why?  It was to help them appreciate womanhood.   At the signal, they were finally allowed to jump in and help.  They couldn't get to us fast enough.  It was harder for the boys to watch and not help, than for us to push alone.   I don't think the impact was as meaningful as it was on the first trek because the kids knew it was coming;  nevertheless, the boys got the message.  These girls were daughters of God and deserved the utmost respect and honor.

That night I was in bed before dark, relieved that a shower was coming the next day.  The dusty wind had picked up again, and I didn't want to step out of the tent after my nightly date with the baby wipes.  It got cold that night, as I discovered when I made my way to the porta-potty at 4:30 a.m.  Poor kids, no tents.  But they all claimed later that they were fine.  Heros.

The last day the babies died.  Including our Melly Bean, whom we had carried every step of the way.  Our kids sobered up as we talked about the children who died on the trail from hunger and cold many years ago.  Of the fathers who died because they'd give their meager food ration to their kids.  Of the women who died leaving orphans.  As we left our blanket-wrapped Melly on the ground and walked away, I made the monumental mistake of thinking of my own babies.  That did it.  I cried for the next quarter mile.

Walking into base camp, some three or four miles later, was glorious.  Tall shady trees and soft green grass represented Zion after our long hike through the grit and sagebrush.  We were among the first to get there and we cheered in the later groups.  The kids frolicked and the adults who had any remaining energy, joined in on the games.  I sat in an actual chair, in actual shade, and watched.

Bottom line:  I appreciate all who made this happen - including the endless planning meetings, the sewing, gathering, recruiting, training, trips to the trail, and on and on.  The volunteered hours by our medical team, photographers, equipment movers and cooks.  There was a lot of behind-the-scenes scrambling when Plan A failed and Plans B, C, or D were hatched on the spot.  They are all heros in my book.  The trek was the most miserable experience of my life, at least as far as I can remember.  I can hike, bike, climb, dig, build, scrub, haul, and run a marathon.  Just let me clean up afterwards.  I would not choose to do it again.  But am I glad I did it?  I am more than glad, I am honored.  My own ancestors were not among those destitute handcart pioneers, but some were among the rescuers.  This is my heritage and I am a part of the legacy.  I learned to appreciate what they did, why they did it, what I have, and to Whom I am grateful.  And I will never forget

Update:  See pictures here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My random milestone

I just noticed that it has been SIX months, to the day, since I started this blog.  And this is my 50th post.  There was no forethought, planning, nor maneuvering to make this anything but the sort-of-coincidence that it is.  Completely random.  And I have nothing significant to say at the moment, other than to acknowledge this festive little milestone.  One question does come to mind though .... What the heck did I fill 50 posts with?  (Yes, I know, poor English, but if said properly, I can't fit heck in there and the sentence definitely needed a heck.)

Fifty posts!  Good grief, have I bored you all to death yet .... assuming you're still here??

I had no idea where this blog would go when I started it, how long it would last, nor did I foresee what it would teach me.   Such as ....
I learned I like to write, as long as I like the subject.  I learned I don't have to put a lot of thought into it --- the words just come.  (Should I admit to that?)  The tweaking and editing AFTER it's written, is much more work than the initial writing and may drag on for days after it's "published" online .... another thing I've learned.   I've also learned that once I start a post, I cannot tear myself away until it's done.  So I have to be careful at times like this.  There can be no pressing deadlines ..... nowhere I need to be ...... because time stops and responsibilities evaporate once I start typing.

I've also learned that ANYTHING can inspire a post.  It doesn't have to be a BIG EVENT like a marathon or the Hood to Coast Relay.  It can just be this - my 50th Post on my blog's Six Month Anniversary.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Mother of All Relays - Part 1

This is the unofficial, 
yet boastfully descriptive,
title of the enormously popular 
Hood to Coast (HTC) relay.

I first heard of it years ago when my brother ran in a team.  Those were the days when I was basically .......  clueless.  I had no appreciation for running whatsoever.  To emphasize just how horribly clueless I was - Favorite 2nd Son ran a half-marathon AND a full marathon while at college in 2006 and to my total shame, I WASN'T THERE.  My response had been - How nice!  I had NO IDEA of the significance of this monumental feat.  Granted, I was 700+ miles away, but at the very least I should have been cheering him via long-distance and then demanding a play-by-play account afterwards and crying as I pictured him crossing the finish line!

Likewise, when my brother ran in the HTC, or would mention that he'd ran in any event and won first place in his age group, I was dutifully impressed .... I really was .... but today, I would have gushed with pride and offered my VERY heart-felt congrats along with an enthusiastic high five!

I next heard about the HTC from a friend whose husband had joined a team from his workplace.  Friend and I heartily agreed that the whole thing sounded bizarre.  Pay money to run all those miles, spend the non-running time in a crowded van with non-showered teammates, and sleep on the ground in some field for ten minutes, then repeat it all again.  Seriously??

Then Friend's husband decided to form his own team, titled "Stormin' Mormons" (a name I found to be endearingly obnoxious) and invited my husband - who, by the way, was not a runner.  My husband does not have the capacity to turn down ANY potential fun, so he agreed immediately.  Some months later, after establishing myself in the running community with my first unimpressive 10K, I was offered a spot on the team, that had opened up due to a pregnancy.  I thought about it for a week or so.  Could I do it?  Do I dare??  Scared silly, I signed on and began training like my life depended on it.  Unlike my Husband, who likes to do his training mentally until almost the last minute.  In other words, he procrastinates.  "Running?" I imagine him saying.  "Anyone can run.  Nooooo problem."

The HTC is a 200 mile relay involving over 1200 teams with twelve runners per team.  (Plus 2 vans per team - you can imagine the traffic mess in Seaside.)   That's A LOT of people CHOOSING to do this crazy - expensive, sweaty-smelly, run-at-any-hour-of-the-day-or-night, thing.  In fact, to illustrate how popular it is, registration (which uses a lottery system) fills on the same day it opens, and hundreds of teams are turned down.  (Then the moaning begins on the message boards, "If any team needs a runner, I would DIE to get in .... PUL-LEEEEZE!!!!)

Needless to say, if your team DOES get picked, the giddy reaction is a happy dance of "YES!!!  WE GOT IN!!  Wooo Hooooooo!!!!!  While at the same time, the wide-eyed newbie teammates are: "C--P, does this mean we're really going to DO this??"

Continuing on ..... the relay begins at historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and ends on the beach at Seaside, where they say you'll find the biggest beach party ever.  Your team never stops running until it reaches the sand, which means you may find yourself at 2:00 a.m., trotting along on an obscure, no-cell-phone-reception-cow-path, somewhere around Mist OR, aka the Middle of Nowhere.  Each team uses two vans with six runners, plus maybe a driver, in each van.  One van attempts to rest/sleep while the other van is on the road, alternating throughout the event.

My first HTC was in 2009.  Husband and I were assigned to Van 1.  Van 1 carried teammates Bryce, Mark, Kyndra, Anna, Amanda, and me.  Our Fearless Driver was Greg, Anna's dad.  I regret that I didn't get a photo of Greg because he was an indispensable part of the team.  He kept track of our timesheet and always knew when to send our next runner out there to grab the baton.
 Van 1  
 Amanda started us out.
That year our start time was around noon on Friday.  Unfortunately, we only see our Van 2 five times during the relay plus at the end.  So my pictures miss half of our team.

Mark finishes his first "leg" and Anna is ready to go.
Kyndra hands it off to me.

Our final runner, Chandler, from Van 2 finishes on the sand.  Van 2 also carried Ricky, Christian, Brent, Jeremy, and Jon.  With Bill as our second Indispensable Fearless Driver.
I don't remember when our team reached the beach - sometime Saturday afternoon.  The entire team waits at the end for its final runner, then we all trot across the finish line together, drivers and all.

As I read back over this post, I'm feeling like I didn't do justice to this experience.  How do I express the fun, the camaraderie, the grunginess, the exhilaration, the bonding with my teammates?  How do I convey the feeling of being on a team ... the headiness of actually participating in something this HUGE??

I can't.

I remember how I felt, somewhere around ZigZag, OR, the first time I took that baton and began to run.  Wow.  I am doing this!  I CAN do it!  I'm running in the Hood to Coast!  The thrill, the excitement, the rush of love for my teammates as they cheered me on, was almost overwhelming.  The High lasted for weeks afterwards.

No, I can't do it justice.  Was it fun?  Oh yeah.  Would I do it again?  Are you kidding?  Um ...  YES!!!!!!

Coming, this summer, to a computer near you:  Part 2 - 2010, My 2nd HTC.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Life before running

Before running, there was biking.  This started long ago when my brother inspired my husband to get rolling.  That he did and for a few years, he and his friend Dave, ruled the STP in that they were the lone Yamhill County representatives (as far as we knew) and put everyone in awe.  The STP is the annual Seattle to Portland bike ride event that most do in two days, but some, including Husband and friends, do it in one day.  200 miles.  They start before daylight and pedal like mad so as to finish before dark.  As with too many hair-brained ideas, the plan was to do it once.  That was the first of ELEVEN times.  I never rode it, but I was in many of the support vehicles over the years.  His biking group mushroomed and one year there were over 20 of our friends making that long one-day ride.

This photo was taken the year our guys were sponsored by Vitamin Water, which provided matching shirts.  The color was perfect.  You could spot them for miles.
You've got to love this photo.  Resting.  Trying to keep the lactic acid from pooling in the legs.
The group has evolved over the years, and Husband has since retired from the tough training that the STP demands, taking on a more sane leisurely approach to biking, with plans to divert his love for the sport in different direction.  Along the way, I acquired my first bike.  (Word from the wise: Save yourself some money and never buy a hybrid bike if you plan to ride with road-bikers.  You will most certainly, and sooner than you think, want to switch to a road bike.  Unless of course, you LIKE being in the rear, working your legs into jelly, trying to keep up.)  We evolved into a tandem, AKA a bicycle-built-for-two.  A tandem allows us to ride together, meaning I can always keep up with him!  Together and with Dear Friends, we have packed on a lot of miles.  We've biked in the San Juan Islands, Vancouver Island, Coeur d'Alene Idaho, the Oregon coast, and just about everywhere in Yamhill and adjoining counties.

This photo was taken atop ridiculously tall and steep Mt. Constitution (lovingly nicknamed "Constipation") on Orcas Island, WA.  Which we climbed.  On our bikes.  But oh, the view!  (When biking, I suffer from a frightening and debilitating condition called, "helmet hair", which is evident immediately upon removal of the helmet.  Therefore, it stays ON for most posed pictures.)
This was on a boat taking us from Victoria BC to the San Juans.  (See what I mean about the hair?)

Columbia Gorge
Newport Oregon.  (Little did I know then, that nearly three years later, I would run down this very road in a marathon.  THAT was totally off my radar screen!)
I love this shot.  Fellow tandem friends, Dave and Nancy.  He's pedaling hard, crouching to minimize wind resistance, and she's peeking over his head.
This is my view when on our tandem.
Here is one of the rare shots of us on the ol' tandem, disembarking from the Wheatland Ferry, just north of Salem.  (It must have been cold, judging by my multiple layers.)
Last year I splurged on my current bike and though I'll never be completely worthy of it, I still feel that same sense of awe every time I clip into its pedals.  I discovered I like it better than the back of the tandem, but at the same time, I also learned that biking had been EASIER (for me) with a stronger rider aboard.

Biking has been a great part of our lives.  Yesterday we rode in our third (and likely our last) Strawberry Century based in Lebanon Oregon.  The name must be from the season during which it always takes place.  With organized biking events, the word century means 100 miles.  (I know a guy who hadn't ridden much and didn't know this, when invited to do one.  He figured it out along the way and managed to finish the distance.  He eventually became an ironman, so don't feel too sorry for him.)  Having spent my winter/spring in marathon training and off a bike, I wasn't prepared to go the whole way, so we just did 77 miles, unlike previous years when we did it all.  We got to ride through this:
And see scenery like this:
Many of our biking friends are still hot into the STP and they train obsessively, so we can no longer keep up.  Nor do we really want to, as we cheer them on.  While riding yesterday through some of the most beautiful country that Oregon has to offer, I saw one lone woman running along the road.  My first thought was, "Fun!"  That thought never jumps into my head when I see a cyclist, so at heart, I am and hopefully always will be, a runner.

Post note:  There's a running debate (Ha!  No pun intended.) .... change that to friendly debate ... in our household.  Which is more difficult, a marathon or the STP?  What do YOU think?  (Your answer may depend on whom you like better ... him or yours truly.  Just keep in mind whose blog this is.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Post M thoughts

I'm five days into Post-Marathon Life with NO plans for another.  So far ... so good.

After practically ruining my toes, I was almost ready to consider going up yet ANOTHER shoe size, from boat to pontoon.  However, I'm experimenting with a better way to do the laces that may allow room for my high arches, yet keep my foot firmly held to the back of my shoe.  I've also found that with more reasonable running distances, like 10Ks or less, I usually don't have a problem.  I'm tossing this onto my barricade against marathon #2!  (I'm also keeping a picture of my battered toes on file, as a helpful reminder and no, I will not post it.)  But with the Hood to Coast coming, I may just buy some black polish and be done with it .... does anyone know where I can find a tiny decal of a Nike Swoosh ..... ?

Got a good pep talk from mentor/friend Mark who gave me lots of great advice that I could have used last week.  Potassium is NOT what I need.  I need Magnesium.  Well, darn.  Too late now.  Plus the unhappy news that leg cramps are a manifestation of not-strong-enough muscles.  "They go away after time," he says.  (Understood to mean:  As long as that "time" is packed with lots of track and speed work and overall working the poor ol' muscles to DEATH.  It doesn't just happen with time ALONE.  Double darn.)  I AM feeling inspired to get to the track and work on some 400 meter repeats - notice how I'm finally beginning to talk the talk?  And what's more, I understood what I just wrote.  Progress!  Anyway, apparently a woman my age should be able to run one 9-minute mile (or faster) to be statistically safe from nasty heart issues.  Just one mile, according to Mentor Mark.  (For men, it's an 8-minute mile.)  So as soon as the ol' legs are rested ..... I'll probably have a coronary just trying to hit that 9 minute goal.

I did run two sluggish miles yesterday because I'm allowing myself some serious down time and I believe in thoroughly milking what I went through last Saturday.   And two miles IS considered restful, in my book.

This weekend, Bryce & I are planning to do one of our favorite annual bike rides, the Strawberry Century, except that we're lopping off a few decades and plan to just do 70 miles on our tandem.  (Still milking.)  I'll probably blog about it, so be warned.

Finally, those two pitiful, yet glorious pounds that I lost running those 26 miles, are back with gusto.  That just about puts the finishing touch on my suspicion that life, age, and weight loss, are really not fair.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


My sister wants details.  So here goes. 
I felt far less trepidation going into this, than I expected.  The past two weeks I was actually a little excited.  Besides, any time I get to spend with Lindsay, my FRP, I'm excited.  She is, for lack of a more worthy adjective, awesome.
We headed for Newport Friday afternoon and checked into the Embarcadero Hotel, AKA Race Headquarters, putting us into the middle of the hubbub.  Packet pickup was exciting and intimidating.  We sized up the other runners.  Was anyone older, fatter, or sporting our clueless newbie look?  Nope.  They mostly looked lean, experienced, and nonchalant.  “Oh yes,” I imagined one saying casually to another.  “This is my 3rd marathon this week.  Let’s grab breakfast at the Pig and Pancake, after we finish.  I’ll meet you there at nine-thirty.  That’ll give me time for a shower.”
This was the 13th Newport Marathon.  Good thing we were not superstitious.  Little did we know that it would turn out to the the hottest.  
After dinner, we drove the route.   And drove.  And drove.  Oh my.  It was a long way.  It starts at the famous Newport lighthouse which sits in a park at the north end of the Scary Bridge.  (Said bridge is, in my opinion, fashioned from the Wicked Witch's castle, by the look of the pillars.)  
Then the route rambles around on some roads that are a blur to me now.  It heads back under the bridge and down to the old waterfront, which is a also a blur.  I do remember running on the boardwalk.  I love running on boardwalks.  The bounce is perfect.  Then it heads inland along a river.  For miles.  And somewhere around mile 15, it doubles back for an ungodly long distance before it finishes in front of our hotel.
So back to us - after pinning our numbers on our shorts and making the final decision as to which shirt to wear in the morning, we swallowed some Ambien, set the alarms, and went to bed.  I think I slept maybe 6 hours.
Bryce dropped us off at the starting line about 6:30 a.m., and headed off to find a parking spot. 
As you can see, I chose my biking shirt with the bulging back pockets, full of food-type-stuff.  Lindsay beelined to join the very long potty line to deal with some Ensure that wasn't sitting well in her stomach, and I was immediately spotted by friends from our fabulous facebook group, Runner's Anonymous (RA).  
900 participants.  It feels pretty amazing to be a part of something like this.
At 7:00 we were off.  I remembered the advice of a friend: “In the first six miles, pass no one.”  T’was good that all 900 of us didn’t heed this advice because those six miles would have kept us in one huge human-glob.  Instead, I was passed almost immediately by nearly EVERYONE, and Lindsay was out of sight in the first minute.  I didn’t see her again until somewhere around mile 15, shortly before I got to the turn-around.  
Bryce kept the camera going at strategic places, or wherever he was allowed access.  (He was and is, by the way, the most supportive spouse a person could ever hope for.)
Later I texted Bryce, “9 miles.  Feel good.”  That was about the last point I actually did feel good.  It all went down hill (my strength, not the road unfortunately) from there. 
My biggest fear was leg cramps.  They had bothered me occasionally on some of my previous runs and they are crippling.   There is no way I can run when they set in.  So I did everything I knew to prevent them.  Potassium supplements.  Plenty of water.  Plenty of food.  Walking breaks.  But somewhere around mile 12 or 13, I could feel them coming on.   When my calf really seized up, it reduced me to a hobble.   I did the only thing I could.  Pray.  “Heavenly Father, what do I do now?”
“Eat”, was my next thought.  So I did.  My bulging pockets were full of Power Bar “Energy Blasts”, those chewy things that are full of carbs and calories.  The cramps subsided and I kept going.  Throughout the entire run, each time the cramps flared up, I would continue my conversation with God.  “Help!  I can’t do this alone.  Please carry me a little.”  And I kept going.  Eat what I could swallow.  Drink every two miles.  Pray.
The water stations, manned by cheerful high schoolers, offered Gatorade and water.  Towards the end, I learned to dump water on my head and down my shirt, and drink the Gatorade.  I’m happy to say, I never got the two liquids confused.  
When I finally got to see Lindsay again, she looked great!  She reached the turn-around ahead of me, so we were running in opposite directions.  She came at me with arms out and we hugged, cheered, and yelled our I LOVE YOUs!  Then off she went and I didn’t see her again until the finish.
Bryce was waiting at the turn-around with cold juice and PB&J sandwiches.  Now I fully admit I have made claims in this blog that I can eat anything during a run and usually this is true.  But this time I was up against a horse of a different color.  I needed to eat, but it wasn't easy.  I managed to down a few bites of a small sandwich then took the remainder with me with promises that I'd finish it.  Which I did.  Eventually.  At least it wasn't an Energy Blast.

The rest of the run was grueling.  My run-with-walking-breaks turned into walk-with-occasional-running-breaks.  I had a goal to get in under 6 hours.  That meant a finish before 1:00.  I was going to do it, come hell or whatever.
The mob of runners had long ago disappeared.  There were just a few of us in sight.  I met a nice woman from Arizona who would pass me, then I’d pass her, and repeat.  Again and again.  She said she hadn’t trained, and was taking it slow.  For some reason, I didn’t hate her for that.  With all my many months of training, and her lack thereof, we were still comrades on the road.  Battling the same beast.
It got hot.  The forecast had said mid 60s.  It actually got up to around 80 which is great for just about any activity, other than running.  The heat didn’t bother me, but Bryce said it probably slowed us down.  Well, okay.  So it wasn’t my slowness and age?  It was the heat?  Works for me.   
I knew at some point the Scary Bridge would come back into sight and that would mean I was on the home stretch.  So I watched for it for miles.  Stupid Bridge!!!  WHERE IS IT??  Finally it appeared off in the distance.  Approximately 5 more miles to go.  At this point my legs absolutely refused to run.  The cramping wouldn’t allow it.  So I brisk-walked.  Hard.  I was grateful for all those years of hard walking before I discovered running, because it paid off.  I’d run for a minute or so, and walk some more.  I was watching the time, still determined to meet my under-6-hour goal.  My legs were DEAD, but I couldn’t stop or even slow down.  I’m somewhat proud to say, I passed several other walkers. 
 At one point I was about 10 feet behind another walker.  I started running and got just ahead of him then had to walk again.  
“The legs just won’t do it.” I said.  “I hear you.” he said.  That was the extent of our conversation, but we shared a complete meeting of the minds.
“Just 1.4 miles left!” the high schoolers cheered at the last water station.   Push.  Push.  Push.  Can’t slow down!  I was at about 5.6 hours.  Push.  Push.  Hurry!!  Then up ahead, Bryce appeared.  He brought much love and encouragement, a bottle of cold water which he ordered me to drink, and then he dumped the remainder on me.  
“You’re almost there!  It’s just up ahead, around the corner!”  The last stretch took us up a small hill, then descended down to the finish line.  I pushed to the top, then, by the grace of God, began to run.  No cramps.  I ran down the hill.  I heard my name shouted out -- RA friends!  The finish line, oops, no, go here .... turn right, into a parking lot.  I heard my name announced over the loud speaker.  Someone handed me the hand-made-of-glass medal and I put it on.  DONE!!  Where’s Lindsay??  There she is!!  (She got in an hour ahead of me.)  WE DID IT!!!!!  I remember the look on her face.  HUGE grin!  We did it.   My FRP and I did it.  (Note the words on the yellow shirt.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Aim the camera elsewhere, please

We walked along the beautiful Portland waterfront this week.  (Still tapering.)  It's a great place for people-watching.  It's also a good place to observe runners since the waterfront is one of their favorite haunts (mine included).  It's easy to see why. 
This time I was particularly tuned into their foot strikes (how the foot meets the pavement) as they cruised by.  I'm always looking for a clue as to how others make it all look so easy.   Heel first?  Not good.  Mid-foot?  Good.  Toe first?  Also good.  At the same time I studied their form, something of which I'm always mindful (and a bit envious), when watching others run.  Most of them glided.  The pavement seemed to rise up to meet them as they floated along.  It's like poetry in shorts.  Smooth, effortless, rhythmical.  As opposed to this:
(I have to constantly remind myself that MOST of the other runners out there are the ages of my kids.  No doubt, 20 years ago, I would have floated with the best of them.  Really.  Oh yeah.)

However, as you can see, I am a schlepper.  In my head I feel trim, perky, and cute -- but on film, the truth comes out.   My stride is better described as a ga-lumph.  And who knows what kind of foot strike I have.  But in spite of my inelegant form, my running history of almost three years is injury-free.  So something's working.  And I figure I best NOT try to mend what isn't broken.

So it's probably better for all, to just keep the camera pointed towards the poetic gliders and the pretty scenery, so that we schleppers can ga-lumph along in the shadows unnoticed.  That way, at least my perky fantasies can remain intact.