The first time I ever ran more than 5 miles was Mother's Day 2008 at the Sandrat Trails in Lawrence, KS. I showed up for a group run with the Kansas City Trail Nerds expecting to run 6 miles. I realized first thing that I was not fast and two individuals hung back and ran with me, Gary Henry and Coleen Shaw Voeks. I am greatful to both of them to this day for making me run farther than I ever imagined I would have done that day - 11 miles. After that run, I went home and was wiped out for the day and so sore the next day I could barely move. I only share this as a pretext because I now realize that the body is an amazing piece of equipment that needs maintenance, work and TLC. Now I can go run 1/2 marathons and still have energy the rest of the day to carry out daily activities.
Rock Creek Heavy Half - October 24, 2009: I felt prepared for this, my third half marathon, and found myself quite excited on my way to the race. I was primed, full of energy and ready to tackle the course. There was the normal pre race activities complete with many friends whom I have made in the past year. I had a plan for the race - start slow, get to the first aid station and then speed up until the last aid station where I would then put it in high gear, well as high a gear as I can anyway. And so we bagan with a bang and up the hill, turn and into the woods we went. I positioned myself so that I would not get in the way of the faster runners. Once in the woods and on the single track, we fell into a long winding line of runners and we stayed pretty much together for a mile or so before we began to separate.
I found myself feeling pretty good and running a nice steady pace when walla.........the first aid station. Wow, that went fast. Okay, I know, not really that fast but the time really flew by for me. I believe I took a cup of Heed, turned on the mP3 player and took off. First mistake, I should have had a Gu or Hammer Gel. Taking off from here, I was ready to pick up the speed a little bit but somewhere along this part of the trail it got rocky and the leaves covered those little stinkers. I was tweaking my knees and twisting my ankles. My back began to hurt and I started getting frustrated. I just wanted to run faster but I kept slipping and loosing my footing. I hung in there and utilized a few choice words as my memory started to come back, "I remember this from last year now. How could I forget this?" At one point, I even told myself I was not going to run this next year.
I then found myself catching up to 2 people, the guy in the red shirt and the girl in purple. I was still struggling a bit but foraged onward wondering where the heck that 2nd aid staion was. I started to wonder if I had missed it and wanted badly to ask the other two. Just then things began to look familiar and I knew I was close. I trotted into the Trail Nerd aid station and desparately asked for Ibuprofin. None was out and Ben kindly went to his car and found some for me. I am very thankful to him for that as my back was hurting. I drank a cup of Coke, snarfed some chippies and slammed a Hammer Gel and off I went again in pursuit of the girl in purple. This part of the race went very well and fast and I kept the girl in purple in my sights the whole time. I would catch up to her and then she would pull away. Drats!
Ah, and then the 3rd aid station, my buddies, my friends, the Trail Hawks. I stopped long enough to consume another Hammer Gel and get some Heed in the water bottle, only to find out a few minutes out that it was melon flavored - GAG! The girl in the purple took off out ahead of me as I finished up at the aid station and felt good at this point, especially knowing that I only had 2.8 miles to go. So off I went in pursuit of the girl in purple.
I soon found myself in the midst of those pesky, leaf covered rocks as I began to struggle on them again. I also found myself getting light headed at the top of the hills and was a little troubled by this and concerned in light of my Meneire's disease. Living life with such a condition can be scary when you feel like an attack could be coming on at any moment. At the top of each hill, I would pause and hang on to a tree momentarily until I gained a sense of stability. Being on a low sodium diet and being on a diuretic is going to be a challenge when I do begin my pursuit of ultra running but if it is one thing I don't mind, it is a challenge.
I began to feel some pain from the jolting and my mind began to question, "Why?" Whenever I get this feeling, I quickly remember and go over in my head, my friends' race reports of their ultra races. The details of those reports and the pain that they go through remind me that I can do this and I will. There is something about other people's experiences that make us realize we can do what we set our minds to do. I suddenly began to see the familiarity of the trail that leads to the end and I began to pick up the speed a bit. As I topped the last hill, paused momentarily, I knew I had to push through the pain not just to finish but to finish strong. I passed one person and then another and as I made my way towards the finish I began to hear the voices. Ah, there in front of me was the girl in purple and I just wanted to pass her. I sped up to try to get around her and she slowed down and stepped aside to let me pass. Well that was easy and I soon heard the cowbell, oh that wonderful sound of a cowbell.
I may have finished strong but I was 9 minutes slower than last year. Oh I have been humbled. I did win first place in the women's master division but I don't really feel worthy of that honor. I was slow in spite of what I considered a better training plan. I battle often with whether I want to train hard to be faster and better or just run for the fun of it. There are costs and benefits of each. I have a great deal to contend with in my every day life that sometimes I just like the break to get out and run. And because I squeeze my weekday runs in during the daytime, I can't really dedicate much time to them. I enjoy running alone on my gravel roads near my house because it gives me time to think and solve problems. Running with groups is rewarding as well but I feel I am too slow for this right now. I don't like to slow them down any. When I get faster, I will rejoin them but for now I want to run alone.
There is a very competitve spirit inside me that wants to train hard and push myself to be faster and better and to run farther. I see my friends do it and watching them achieve such greatness brings happy tears to my eyes. It is difficult to find the extra energy to train like that when I am stressed to the max in my life right now. I want very badly to step up and push myself but I am tired. My two young daughters need a devoted mother and there are many unfinished projects that need finalizing before I can commit to what I want to accomplish in my running. It is hard to explain to anyone who has never had to deal with the complexities of so much adversity at once. I am strong and I will rise above, just give me time. Remember my name as I will return.