The brain fog lifted briefly this morning and I realized that what I am going through right now is exactly what every one of us, male and female, struggled through at around age 12, give or take a year or two. Think back and recall the way your body suddenly took on a mind of it’s own and all you could do is hang on for the ride. One day your clothes fit and the next they were too tight or maybe too short. If you were truly unfortunate you may have become quite chubby even though you felt like you were starving to death. Another day you woke up with zits all over your face and greasy hair. Then you started having emotional mood swings from hell that made you hate your beloved parents and siblings and also cry over the dumbest things. You may have developed a crush on someone new or stopped being friends with a long time friend, but relationships in general became difficult because you lost your ability to communicate your thoughts and feelings easily. No one understood you at all! You wanted to sleep all day and eat everything in the house and got mad when someone said you couldn’t. Life seemed hopeless one minute and exciting the next! Thankfully your friends were going through the same hormone journey with you and you consoled each other. You hated on the kids who seemed to not have any troubles, not realizing that they really did. You helped each other get through the really dark days. What a wild roller-coaster ride it was and is. All thanks to our good old changing hormones. Can’t wait to get control of my body again some day. But for now I will try to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Looking at these photos what comes to your mind? Do you wonder why people run? Or why they’d pay to show up and run in the rain like this? Or why would they try to stay dry under a tent when they’re about to run in the rain? Or did you notice the couple with the stroller under the umbrella? The lady had a small baby. Or maybe you saw the portable toilets and thought , yuck, I’d never use those.
Or maybe you’re a runner and thought, let’s go, it’s just a little rain! Or you were checking out the starting line and other features of the race course.
I woke up at 4 am, checked my weather app because I knew the forecast, and saw a huge storm headed to where the race was being held, about 40 miles to the east of my house. Got ready to go and was about to get in the van when the sky opened up. Had a few second thoughts , but then I thought , well maybe it will move north. I took off down the highway and eventually drove out of the heavy rain into sprinkles. When I go to the race venue it started raining moderately. Oh well, I thought, I’m here, I’ll put on my rain jacket. I had to walk about a 1/4 mile to the packet pickup area from the parking lot, or at least it seemed like it. In line with the other die hard runners, I started to feel good about showing up. One of them, an older man and amazing runner that I know from trail running, had driven 1.5 hours in heavy rain, hydroplaning on the highway. I thought , if he can do this, I can! Then another lady mentioned that she might just go home. I was thinking, then why are you here? She didn’t leave , though.
We had to wait awhile after picking up our bibs and during that time it rained off and on. It started raining a bit harder right before 7AM so they held off a few minutes. Finally, we saluted the flag during the national anthem in the rain and headed to the starting line. I decided to keep my rain jacket on even though I knew eventually I’d get hot and have to take it off, which is what happened later.
I had registered for this race during a “super low price ,early bird” registration period , read ‘impulse buy’. I could have skipped it since I had run 22 miles the day before, but I wanted to challenge myself and see what I could do.
The title of this blog is really about what goes on in the mind of a runner, and probable other athletes and people who like to push themselves in whatever pursuit they enjoy.
In the car on the way there: Dear God , please get me there safely. Please help me run my race. Please watch over and bless my family while I’m gone from home. (Then I listened to Christian music and the end of an inspiring message from Ravi Zacharias on the radio.) Oh crap, watch the road. Do not look at your GPS while driving! Why are these people in such a hurry at this hour on a Saturday?
Arriving at the venue: Oh no! I thought this was where I am supposed to go but evidently not. I will follow those cars. I hope I’m not late! Whew, I guess this is the place. Well, here comes the rain. Hmm, I don’t want to walk back to the car with my t-shirt, so I will wear my pack under my jacket and bring everything I need . I can just stuff my shirt in my pack, or maybe the pocket of this jacket. I bet the shirt will be too small for me. I guess these people sitting in their cars went to packet pickup yesterday. The sky is lightening up, the sun is coming up soon. I should hide my wallet. I wonder if anyone breaks into cars in the rain. Okay, off I go into the rain with the other nuts.
Waiting to start, while standing under a tent: I hope I can run. I hope my legs and body can do this. Oh, that’s nice that this family is running together and look how enthusiastic and positive their kids are! What is wrong with my kids? I wish my family would run races . I’m cold. Uh-oh , it’s raining harder. Will there be lightning? Will the race go on? Oh no, people are getting bit by ants. I hate ants. ( I have a short chat with the man next to me about ants. We compare scars that we both have on our wrists from ant bites. We talk about the craziness of what we are about to do and how we like it.) Oh, yay, they are starting pre-race stuff. Almost time! Remember to take it nice and easy, don’t go out too fast.
First loop of two 5 mile loops: Well this isn’t so bad. I feel pretty good! I’m not hot and I have energy and I’m passing a lot of people since I stared off in the middle-back section. Oh, she went out too fast, now she’s slowing down. Why is that man breathing so hard? He’s running too fast for his fitness level. I hope he’s okay. Wow, already 3 miles done! That went by fast. Look at all these awesome cops and volunteers standing in the rain for us! I love these volunteers! Wow, they have a lot of orange cones. Careful, don’t slip on the painted lines. Man, I feel so good. I can’t believe it. I wonder if that will change soon. I’ll just go with it and if I have to walk some I will. Oh wow, almost to the turnaround already! 5 miles done. Halfway. Oh , what?! There is the winner coming in! He has run 10 miles already! How do they do it???
Miles 6-10: Hmm, that lady keeps running by me and then walking. I am going to just try to maintain this steady pace as long as I can. Well, I am passing her again. We are yo-yoing. She can’t hold that pace. Why doesn’t she slow down? Maybe she likes the run/walk. She can run well, but she can’t hold it, she’s out of breath. I am slower , but we are averaging the same pace. This is interesting. I will just keep going. Where is she? Oh, I caught her again. I think I might be able to run the whole thing without walking. That is my new goal. So much for my plan to run/walk. Hmm, should I eat a Gu (gel)? I can’t believe I’ve run this far on just water! In the summer I need so much fuel! Mile 7 already! This is flying by! I think I will go ahead and eat a GU just to help me stay strong . But I’m not going to walk. How can I do this with this jacket in my hand? I’ll put it under my arm. Okay, here we go! Last mile, push it. I wish I could run faster . I wonder what my pace has been? (I forgot my watch and was using an app and had not looked at it during the race.) Oh, here I am catching up to that yo-yo lady, I will encourage her. “Almost there! You have a great pace! Go for it!” ( We finished within seconds of each other, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to her after the race, unfortunately.) Push it! Finish line ahead, go hard! I did it! I think I PRd this course! (no, but almost) Wow, that was awesome! Crap, my app won’t stop! My phone is too wet and my hands are cold and wet. (somehow I stopped it but it had a little extra time on it.) Oh, I like this medal.
After the race: I’m cold. I’m hungry. I want dry clothes. I want food. But I have to wait around so I can get the results. Did I place in my age group? Breakfast tacos ! I will eat the insides, no tortillas for me. (I’m gluten free.) Oh, soda, yes, I want one. What is going on ? Oh they are already giving out awards and the cash drawing. I hope I win $100! ( This race gives away 8 $100 bills and 5 $50 bills. ) Well that was pretty tasty, I love potatoes and eggs. I need to sit down and I need a paper towel. My hands are so cold! Oops that area is only for VIPs. Oh, there are some chairs. They are wet, but so am I. Oh it feels good to sit down! I can barely hear the announcer. I better pay close attention. He is calling the winning numbers with little warning. Oh bummer, one number off. Hey I see a lady I know, I want to say hi. She won Masters Female ! And her mom won her age group. Hey there is another trail friend. Good to see and chat with her . I’m so cold. Should I just leave? I will put on my wet jacket. That is actually warming me up. Well, I didn’t win any money or place in my age group. I can finally go get warm!
On the way home: Thank you, God! Thank for you making this a good day. Please get me home safely. Amen. Why are these people driving 80 in a construction zone? Idiots. Okay, out of that death zone. No, I’m not moving over. I’m doing 80. Sorry. Pass me if you want to. Go back to Austin.
So now you know a little bit of what is going on in my seemingly quiet little head.
Super happy to report that I had a great run today of TWENTY-TWO MILES! After many months of being stuck at 15-16 mile long runs, I was able to hang in there and run through the wall. For those who haven’t read my other posts, I’ve run longer than this but I’ve had a bad year and just couldn’t seem to get back on the horse (feet?). I hooked up with a few friends and we knocked out the miles on this beautiful day and I really enjoyed it. I was worried I was running too slow but my pace was better than I thought! 4:12 for 22 miles, including several stops for bathroom breaks and water. Way better than I expected.
The trail was a paved path through tall trees of all kinds along a creek/bayou. It was a very nice path, a little crowded as the morning got later , but not too bad. . I had to get up at 4AM and drive 80 miles to it, but it was worth it. Running with friends in a new place gave me the boost I needed to get it done. Plus it helped that the only way back to my car was to run back after we hit 11 miles. I’m a little short on time, but I am doing my best to get ready for the Brazos Bend marathon in early December and the Snowdrop Ultra 55 hour run at the end of December. This run really boosted my confidence. Thank you, Lord, for good friends and for this day. Amen.
I’m sitting on a country road in my friend’s Toyota Tundra which currently , and often , smells like stinky running shoes and sweaty clothes. We are around 60 miles into a 223 mile run from Austin to Corpus Christi. No, we aren’t a relay team. My friend is running all of it , just like he ran the entire 203 miles of the Texas Independence Relay.
The first time we did this everything seemed easier . This course is pretty hilly , we started at night in the rain, and there is way more traffic than I expected. We also have no other crew members to help us, unlike last time when we had quite a nice group of pacers and supporters. But also I’m just really struggling with not wanting to be here. I’ve been in a menopausal funk lately that has zapped me of all motivation. I’m still fulfilling my responsibilities at home . I just am content to do little else. This is not me ! I’m usually always on the go or cooking up plans. But I would never let my friend down and he doesn’t know I’d rather be at home doing nothing .
But this is dragging on so slowly! Thankfully the sun came out and it’s not so gloomy , but I hope it doesn’t warm up too much . We started the race at 10:30 last night . You can see the video on Facebook. I did enjoy the first hour or two of running through my old college town. It’s not the same, of course. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. New skyscrapers are going up everywhere, along with sky high rents. New toll roads and highways are full of cars. But the downtown night life brought back memories of my freshman year. We used to party on the famous 6th street after walking there from campus, then walk back to our dorm.
Okay those first two paragraphs were written yesterday afternoon. Now it’s the next night and I’m at home and the race/run is over. My friend did not finish this time. Things were just not going well and he decided that he didn’t want to run/walk for another 40 hours. The total was going to end up being more like 80 hours instead of the 68 he had planned. The finish line would have been taken down, no hoopla, and possibly no official recognition of his efforts, but we weren’t sure about that. But we did know we’d be finishing sometime after midnight Saturday night. It was just not his day.
I’m happy to report that I did start having more fun with my fellow crew member after I wrote the first paragraphs. But, boy oh boy, I am so glad to be out of the truck! I am so glad to be at home! I am so glad to be here with my husband, kids and dogs. I am so glad to be able to cook dinner and hang out. Last time we did this I was totally into the race, enjoying the journey through country roads and then all the way from one side of Houston to the other, a long way. We were having a good time even though it was difficult at times to keep my friend going and the run lasted about 62 hours. This time we were very much alone, not much to look at along the way, the road was not very good, and I just felt like we weren’t prepared for it all. But every run/race is a learning experience if you pay attention. This time I learned that it is very important to train for the specific conditions you will be running, that one’s diet matters very much, as in, don’t under eat before and during a race, and that you must have very good reasons to run long distances or it will suck. You can’t run to prove your worth to others or to beat others or to win approval. You must prove it to yourself, beat yourself, gain your own approval. And you must be able to dig deep from your own well of motivation, strength and peace because running for hours and hours alone is not for the weak. My friend is definitely not weak. He ran a 100 miler two weeks ago and got a personal best and won the race! But he was physically tired and not sure of his own reasons for doing this race. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it to him to continue to suffer. His knee, feet and back were hurting the whole time. He pulled the plug at 94 miles, got in the truck and went to sleep. When he woke up I asked him if he wanted to continue and finish at least 100 miles but his heart wasn’t in it. It’s okay. A DNF ( did not finish) is not the end of the world! It doesn’t define your value or status as a runner. I really hope my friend will not beat himself up over this. Running is supposed to be a positive force, not a negative one.
So I’m home. I ran 27 total miles with him and my legs are feeling it, but I am thankful for the experience. We had a good time running until it was no longer fun. I took a break while he kept going into the night. He got discouraged by the hills and got in the truck to sleep a bit. When he woke up, the sun was up and we ran some more . We talked and laughed and braved the dogs and traffic . Then he ran alone all through the night down gravel roads with fences on both sides under the full moon until it just got too hard, something like 32 hours. My brain is too tired to do math. We had adventures! I peed behind two campaign signs next to a school along a road with no trees after holding it for an hour waiting to find a hidden spot. We missed our turn once and had to backtrack half a mile. We saw deer, raccoons, cattle, horses and more dogs. Coyotes howled at the moon that was so bright you could see the road without any lights. We may not have finished the course, but we gave it our all, especially him. It was worth it.