Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Volunteering at Free State Trail Race 2009

April 25, 2009 just might be the turning point in my life, or at least one of them. I have had a few in the past several months and I can only say they are making a better person of me. When I signed up to volunteer at this race, I not only wanted to help the runners and the event organizers, I wanted to learn about ultrarunning. I wanted to know if this was something I wanted to pursue. I have always run, just not very far. Running was just an escape, a time to think and solve problems. I never desired to run a marathon as my visual of such a race is a bunch of skinny, half naked, crazy, obsessed, competitive idiots running in a bunched up pack on pavement on a hot, steamy day in the middle of a smog filled city. Not exactly something that peaked my interest. I liked the solitude of running country dirt roads on a cold crisp morning.

Then I discovered trail running which led me to the Kansas City Trail Nerds. I joined the group and lurked on the website, reading the posts. Mother's Day 2008 was my first venture out on a group run with the nerds. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Gary and Coleen hung back with me on the run. Running trails was absolutely enjoyable and the people were so nice and helpful. I knew nothing about ultrarunning but what I did know is that it did not sound like something I could do. Afterall I was 39 and I had knee issues. Little did I know that most ultrarunners are older runners and my knee was just an excuse.

So there I was trying to help as much as I could and trying to keep the kiddos occupied and out of the way. They did pretty good with a few mishaps. I mostly filled water bottles and tried to keep food stocked as best I could. The other volunteers were much better at keeping with the game plan. Having the kids there was more difficult than I had imagined, although I am not sure what I expected. I enjoyed seeing my fellow running friends finish their races and come in for food and drink only to head out again. Liz, Lisa, Levi, MK, Kim all finished the marathon in fine fashion. It was great to see Christy, Debbie and Laurie finish their first 40 miler with the highlight being Christy's smile when she finished. She looked great. Debbie and Laurie looked like they had definitely pushed themselves. Jim put in a fine performance as did Nick. Coleen never looked like she was bothered much each time she came in as she was running the 100K. She's so spunky. Gary looked as though he was doing very good each time in as well.

Seeing my friends, acquaintences and others there, running and battling issues was a learning experience for me. It has inspired me and sparked something inside to aspire to greater things. I realized at this race that I don't really push myself like these people do. Push to and through pain, push to fatigued legs and nausea, push beyond anything you could ever imagine yourself doing and then go a little bit more, a little bit farther, a little bit harder. It is time for me to rise up and do it. I face some adversity but I think everyone does. No one's story is the same but none the less, we all have a story. So what's mine? Well, if you really want to know read on, if not, please stop and move on to bigger and better things. Now is your chance to bail, otherwise, I will suck you in to my life.

I have struggled through many of life's obstacles. I believe there is nothing in life more powerful than adversity to make us better and I believe all things do happen for a reason. The reasons are not always evident but usually there is some sort of growing inside that must take place before we can really say, "Ah yes, now I know why." It is the sruggle through adveristy that makes us better and that struggle many times is done alone. Maybe someone is by our side but the battle must be won by our own determination, will power, strength and endurance. We must perservere. Working at the race made me see my friends come out of the forest after fighting the battle. I can help them as much as I can at the aid station and fellow runners can help them get through tough spots on the trail but it is each one of them that fights through it to get to the finish and to achieve such greatness. To say, "Yes I did do that?"

My challenges to fight through cannot really be any different than most but let me share. I suppose it really began with the death of my mother. March 20, 2001 I had just finished a measley little 3 mile run and was doing some stretching when the phone rang. To make it short, my mother had had a heart attack while on a visit in Ohio to see my ailing grandmother, who had died the day before while my parents were enroute to see her. My mother was in ICU and the picture was bleak. This was totally unexpected. She was 64 and very health conscious. My life was suddenly upside down.

There are four of us siblings and we had all made arrangements to fly to Ohio the next day. I was the first to arrive and my husband came with me. My aunt prepared me for what I was about to see as I approached the ICU unit. I went in and my husband and father went to the waiting room. Next to arrive was my brother. He is a tall, strong and intelligent individual but when he saw my mother he collasped on me and I had to use all my strength just to keep him and I from falling to the floor. Here was this woman who never showed a sign a weakness, who held the family together and never complained, lying on her death bed with tubes everywhere. My other two sisters arrived later in the day. The week ahead was an experience that I wish no one ever has to go through. What to do and not to do decisions to be made by emotionally distrought individuals, whom until this point, I thought were a normal functioning family. All the while, my mother was kept alive by machines. For some unknown reason, before I left home, I pulled out my copy of my mother's living will and brought it along. It was a smart decision as we used it more for our own peace of mind in making the decisions we had to make. The week was long and the sleepless nights combined with the bleakness of our situation left a non-desireable memory entrenched in my mind. Soon it was evident of what had to be done. Being the youngest of four I found myself suddenly in a place of the decision maker. I found myself being the voice of reason and they not only listened to me, they trusted me.

All life support was removed and my mother was moved to hospice. My husband had left mid week to go back home. It was better that way as he wasn't much support to me. It was early on Tuesday, March 27, 2001, that my mother peacefully passed away. The snow was falling outside her window as she lay in the hospital's hospce unit. The day was cold and gloomy. My two sisters and I stood by her bedside as she took her last breath. My brother and father waited in the waiting room. I believe in my heart that women are extraordinarily strong. Most people remember 2001 as the year we lost a lot of American lives, but for me it was the year I lost my mother. With her last breath came an immediate responsibility for my father. We knew he drank but we never knew how much nor did any of us know the problems and stress he placed upon my mother.

Over the course of the next 6 years, I struggled with what to do with my father. I struggled too with the death of my mother and allowing myself to go through the grieving process. I was trying and at one point, my husband looked at me and told me I just needed to get over it. He failed to support me emotionally during that time. I was left to deal with my father and his alcohol issues. Two siblings lived out of state and one sibling couldn't handle it. Matt made himself sparse every time I had to deal with my dad. There were car wrecks, hospital visits, treatment facilities, police issues, evictions, multiple movings and a short time living with me. There were calls at all hours of the night. There were money issues and many issues I care not to discuss. Let's just say that it is something I think about every time I have a drink. In December 2007, I really feel like I found a good place for him and he is still there and doing well. Well, as good as can be expected. Visiting him is sad as there is not much to converse about as he has lost his memory. He is stable though.

In the meantime, I gave birth to two beautiful little girls on July 24, 2003 and February 17, 2005. They say children change your life and they certainly are right about that. There are good times, bad times, sad times and happy times. Chilren make you cry when you want to laugh and laugh when you want to cry. I certainly wouldn't want to be without them though. The majority of the time my soon to be ex-husband was non supportive to me and the children. He was absent most of the time and did not want to participate in the family life. Hell, we all know there are a lot of times we wish we didn't have to do many of the things that we have to do. The only problem was is that he never did those things. Nobody wakes up early in the morning eagar to change a poopy diaper but we do it out of love, responsibility and necessity. Sometimes we grow to treasure many of the moments we thought we would dread while other times we grow to realize that its just not that bad. Get over and do what yo gotta do. Unfortunately, he never got to that point.

That's it for now. Time to end this post but believe me, it is far from over.

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