Friday, June 29, 2012

To Bone and Back: Hills....hills....and more hills....and still some more....and yup here come some more, that one looks tough

Note to reader:  This is a wicked long story as it bascially tells 8 different race stories.

I woke up the morning of the race feeling good and anxious.  I had trained on hills.  I knew I could run 5 miles on them.  But, there's always that ping of doubt as to whether you'll master the hill or if the hill will humilate you in front of all your friends. 

Adrian, Kristan, and Me
6:50am I meet up with my team.  I only know two members; my brother and his wife.  Adrian, my brother, will be running the 3rd leg and Kristan will run the first leg.  I meet Justin, Jonathon, Chris, Patrick, and Miles.  Justin is a friend of my brother's.  He'll be doing the 2nd leg.  The 2nd leg is agreed to be the hardest leg.  So immediately I'm impressed with Justin for taking it.  Jonathon will be doing the 5th leg, which is my leg but backwards.  Seems like a nice guy.  Chris is our last leg runner.  She only got word that she'd be running with us 24 hours ago.  It's pretty awesome that she would agree to this.  Patrick and Miles are a father/son duo.  Patrick is going to help Miles, his son, run his leg and he'll also be running his own leg.  Double duty. 
And then there was me.  I was to run the 4th leg.

7:00am we meet at the starting line and see Kristan start us off.  We all have personal goals for our legs.  For some, it's to simply not die.  For others, specific time goals are in place.  Kristan wanted to finish her leg in under an hour.  I've shared Kristan's running story on here before.  Recently, she's worked up to run a 5k.  She thought her leg was going to be a 5k or 3.2 miles until a day or so before the race when we let her know that her leg would be 5 miles.  She didn't flinch, she just went to it.  Some runners might have freaked out a bit to realize that they'd have to run longer than they've been training to do.  But Kristan seemed to take it in stride. 

Adrian and Dani
The rest of us jump in the support vehicle and drive up to where the first handoff will be.  While waiting, I get to know the other runners.  Most of them seem to know each other already.  They are a pretty cool bunch of people who seem like a lot of fun. 
Kristan shows up 55 minutes after starting.  She made her goal!!!  She looks happy and I might say a little giddy.  She did a really good job and you can tell she feels proud of her accomplishment. 

Justin takes off on his leg and we all decide to stop every mile or so to cheer him on and to be ready with water or whatever else he needs.  The 2nd leg is brutal.  It's almost ALL uphill.   About half way through the leg, you can tell Justin hurts and would like nothing more than to drag one of us out the car to trade spots with him.  But he just keeps going.  We cheer him on.  Drive a little bit and then cheer him on some more.  Justin makes it to the handoff and Adrian takes off. 
We all pat Justin on the back, run and get him water and orange slices.  He looks extremely tired.  He turns around to look back down the hill, as do we all, and we're amazed at the climb in elevation he just did.  The fact that he's still standing amazes us all.

Onto to Adrian.  We do the same for Adrian as we did for Justin.  My husband and kids find us and travel behind us as we follow Adrian.  We drive a little, cheer him on, drive a little, offer water and cheer him on.  Adrian is doing well.  His hip starts to bother him and so walking a bit becomes necessary.  I know I'm running after Adrian, so I'm getting a little nervous seeing how absolutely huge these hills are.  The ones I've been training on seem like these hills' babies or something.  We get to the next handoff.  I quickly head to the bathroom and then warm up before Adrian gets here.  We all see Adrian coming down the last hill.  He looks tired but he just keeps coming.  Before I know it, he's at the handoff, and I'm off to discover what hills lie in wait for me. 

Always go potty before you run 5 miles of hills.
I start on an uphill, but my adrenaline is pumping so much, I reach the top without even realizing it.  I get a nice big down hill and then I see it.  The first big hill.  It winds up and around a hill and it looks long and steep.  I start my ascent and the steepness of the hill makes my legs feel like I'm trying to run in sand.  I make it up that hill hoping for some flat ground for a while.  I get my wish, but the lovely flatness is over too soon and I'm going up again.  It goes on like this for what seems like forever.  A little, tiny, punie, spot of flat ground followed by another giant hill.  My legs are screaming.  My lungs tell me to stop.  But I'm stubborn during races.  I have yet to have to stop and walk during a race.  I'm NOT going to walk in this one.  My ascent up what I hope is my last hill nearly brought me to my knees.  I so desparately wanted to stop and walk.  To help change up which muscles I was using and in a effort to give me legs some kind of reprieve, I started to run backwards up the hill.  It helps a little, but it made me go a lot slower.  So I turned myself around and kept going.  That last hill seemed like an eternity.  I get to the top thinking that now my legs can enjoy a little jaunt on flat ground.  It was flatter, but not entirely, so my legs didn't get a full rest until much further down the road.  You can spot the handoffs because of the large amount of cars that surround them.  I kept looking for those cars when I got to the top of this hill.  No cars yet!  $&*%@!   And the heat of the day was rising rapidly.  Where were the blasted cars?!

My wonderful teammates and my husband and kids were great cheerleaders.  If they hadn't been there, I would have walked for sure.  The unintelligible yet encouraging screams as they passed.  The cheerful honks.  The lovely water they ran along side to give me. Seeing my girls hanging out the car window chanting, "Go, mom, go, mom!"  It was just fabulous. 
They drive up on ahead to the handoff and for a mile it's just me.  I have one last hill to go and then I'm done.  As I make my ascent up the beast, I fully expect jelly-like legs and burning lungs.  Shockingly, my speed doesn't break and I'm climbing this hill much faster than the others.  I call this phenomenon, "The Anxious Horse Syndrome."  Ever been on a long horse ride?  When you get close to home again, watch out, because that horse might just take off.  That was me.  I knew I only had a mile left and my legs just went faster.  I felt like I'd lost control of myself.  I crest the hill and see the barrage of cars!!  The last little bit is all downhill.  Usually I might be cautious going down hill, but I just ran for it.  I see my husband, kids, and teammates cheering me on and I run faster.  I can wait to get rid of this stupid bone baton!  I hand off my bone to Jonathon and he takes off.   I find myself in my husband's arms as he half hugs me and half holds me up.  I get some high fives from teammates, another hug from my brother and orange slices from my kids.  Then Adrian tells me my time.  48 minutes!  What?!  I ran faster than a 10-minute mile?  This is just icing on the cake.  I beat those hills and did it in a pretty decent time too.  Despite how hard that run was, I feel great.  Later in the day, we all agree that the 4th leg is probably the 2nd hardest. 

Soon we need to catch up to Jonathon.  I bid farewell to Arik and the kids and get in the support vehicle to go cheer on Jonathon.  When we catch up to him, we see that he's making pretty good time.  It's really hot now and running that far and that hard in the blazing heat makes everything that much harder.  We cheer on Jonathon, hand him some water.  Adrian runs alongside him for a bit, dispensing some epic encouraging words I'm sure.  Before we know it Jonathon is done and in 51 minutes.!  He beat his last time and he's thrilled.  Now it's Miles' turn. 
Patrick, his dad, is going to run with him for support.  Miles is only 8, so this will be a feat for him.  The kid did awesome!  He needed frequent walking and water breaks, but he just kept going.  You could tell he was horribly tired, but he wanted to finish his leg.  Go Miles!!
Next is Patrick's turn.  This guy is probably our best runner.  He did To Bone and Back last year on a two-man team.  Meaning he ran 20 of these miles last year!    Patrick's method of running means you walk when you need to so when you start up again you're going faster.  I'll have to try that some day.  We cheer on Patrick and he screams, "I love you guys!" as he runs past.  40 minutes later, Patrick comes barrelling into the hand off and Chris takes off for the last leg of To Bone and Back.

Chris' leg is mostly downhill and flat, but she's running in the worst heat.  She running really fast and strong and she takes advantage of the water we offer at every mile.  She alternates between dumping it on her head and drinking it.  It was blasted hot.  She doesn't slow and doesn't walk.  We're so close to home, I think she's got the Anxious Horse Syndrome too.  When she gets close to the finish line, we all join her and run past the finish line together.  It was an awesome feeling to cross the finish line as a team. 

We end the day with pictures, ice cream, Great Harvest bread, hot dogs and very very tired legs. 
It was an awesome race and I will definitely do it again next year.  The whole team aspect and the support is what made this race so awesome.  The difficulty of the run was even awesome. 
I'll probably find some tougher hills to train on next year so I can try and beat my time, but I hope to do this race every year. 

Thanks to my great teammates, my husband and my kids who supported me during training and on race day.  I couldn't have done it without you!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hold Onto Your Hats, I'm Going Spiritual

I was slaving away on my treadmill this morning, prepping for my race on Saturday.  I didn't run yesterday.  Laziness got the better of me.  And guess what?  Yesterday I felt like dung all day.  Today I was determined to run, despite being home alone with 4 children who can't be trusted farther than I'd like to throw them sometimes.  After I got into my groove on the treadmill, I looked down at my speed.  I was comfortably going at a speed that a week ago would have left me breathless.  I got a big grin on my face and pushed the speed up higher.  Then a euphoria hit.  My grin got bigger and the thought occurred to me that I'm smiling and happy not just because something that was once hard isn't anymore, it was because I wasn't beat today by laziness.  And then another thought occurred to me. (I know!  Two whole thoughts during a run?  How does she do it?!)  I realized that the Adversary doesn't want me to run.  At that thought I laughed out loud.  Why would Satan care whether I ran or not?  Isn't he supposed to be focused on getting me to damn myself?   But I kept having the strong feeling that he is trying to keep me from running. 

Running is a major source of happiness for me.  I've described in past posts that I feel closer to my Heavenly Father and my Savior when I run, especially outdoors.  Running gives me confidence to face other challenges.  Basically, running has a whole lot going for it that Satan is adamantly against.  And then another thought came to me.  He doesn't want me not to run because of an injury or weather restrictions, he wants me to give up on running because of laziness.  That would be the ultimate defeat because it would be my own decision.  An injury kind of makes the decision for you.  If you care about your body and a full recovery, an injury requires you to stop running for a while.  Severe weather that could be dangerous to run in also makes the decision for you.  But laziness?  Laziness is a choice made by you and only you.  And he wants me to make that choice. 

Here's how the process would go:  Knowing that I chose to be lazy over choosing to run would have a pretty negative effect on my self confidence and self-esteem.  Low self-esteem tends to lead to other bad choices in a futile effort to regain my self-esteem.  Bad choices lead me farther and farther from God and His influence and happiness starts to seem like a distant memory. 

I know, I know.  Running is not my only source of happiness.  Family, my job, my church calling, friends.  These all add to my happiness as well, but all in different ways.  The joy that I feel from conquering my own body only comes from running.  I need that to be part of the equation. 

And without running, I doubt I would have thoughts like these.  Thoughts that better help me to understand my relationship to eternity and everything it encompasses.

So down with laziness and thoughts of "I just can't do this today"!!    Hold onto the choice to be happy and never let go.

Happy Running!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Let's Share: Wendy's Story

This story comes from my Aunt Wendy.  It is both her story about how she got into running and her first race. Wendy is like my second mother. She is like my own mom in so many ways; supportive, upbeat, insightful, thinks everything I say is funny, etc.  In short, I love this woman!  She has three grown children, two little grand kids, she's unbelievably loving and awesome in all ways and she is rocking her fifties in a way that I want to emulate. Here is her story:

Until about February of this year, the only running I had done was when I was a little girl, but in years since, running was done completely by accident. You know, when a bee is chasing me, trying to catch the mailman before he that. If there ever was a time my kids saw this rare event, you might hear them say, "LOOK! Mom is actually running!!!" Let me make this clear upfront....I hate exercising and everything about it. I don't like my heart racing, even though I know it's good for me. (Can't I get the same cardio workout by watching a reeeeally scary movie?) I don't like the sweating and the having to wash my hair afterwards every single time. I don't like the sore muscles and let's face's boring. So, for the most part, I didn't feel it necessary to put myself through all this. There was no motivation or purpose to it. Until.....
Wendy sloshing through the mud during the Dirty Girl Mud Run
This year has been a huge milestone for me. For the last couple of years, my body has been building up to full blown menopause. The hotflashes, night sweats, the crying every single day about nothing and the sleepless nights. I finally found a wonderful doctor who prescribed bio-identical (all-natural) hormone replacement therapy. The symptoms subsided and I felt better but noticed that this was the first of three pieces of evidence. The second was when my youngest child, my only daughter, went off to college leaving me an empty-nester. The third was a birthday. No, not my 52nd. I don't know why this one hit me worse than the 50th. Maybe because everyone made turning 50 so fun. 52 isn't a milestone, so no one really makes a big deal. Which I really don't have a problem with, since I want to ignore the number anyway. But there it all was, evidence that I was getting "old" I asked myself, "What could I do to feel young again?" I knew it would have to be something I had to work for....something completely out of my comfort zone...something I didn't think I could do. Hmmmmmm. Then I finally read some of Anna's Running Story blog. I laughed and wept and was completely pulled into the inspiring stories that were there. The next day, I went to work and told a friend about it and she suggested I start training for a 5K called The Dirty Girl Mud Run. It was a run for breast cancer and not only was it a 5K but an obstacle course, where the obstacles were in mud. She said her and I and her sisters and friends could all run together as a team. I didn't even think about it. I just knew I had to do it. So Team Tickle Me Pink was born and I started to train the next day. The day after my first run...barely a mile walking and running... I was so sore, I knew my body had turned on me. But I wasn't going to let that stop me. I ran three times that week, four times the next and five times almost every week until the race...until I could run 2 miles without stopping. I knew I wouldn't be able to run the whole 5K and might have to walk some of it, but didn't care. My goal was to do every single obstacle and to finish the race. I could hardly believe how excited I RUN in a race....running....ME!! I didn't know this person. A person who didn't care about the sweat pouring down her back or the muscles that screamed at her the next day. Someone who is NOT a morning person, who didn't mind getting up an hour earlier in the morning to run, no less. But I was getting to know her and I LIKED her...ALOT. This wasn't the actions of an "old" woman. I had more energy, I was happier, able to handle a stressful job better and everything that everyone ever told me about running was absolutely true...the good AND the bad.
Two days before the race and I knew I was ready. On my way to work that morning, one of my dearest friends in the world called to tell me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She said the doctor's prognosis was good but that she had a fight in front of her. She had absolutely no doubt she could fight the good fight. After hanging up and through the tears I remembered that I was running for a cure for breast cancer. Now the run took on a new meaning for me. I wasn't just running to prove something to myself. I was running for her and any doubts of finishing were smashed. I WOULD FINISH.
The day of the race....I was a little nervous but so determined and excited. It started and I began to run..."this was going to be easy" I thought. I came to obstacle after obstacle....a mountain of hay bales, crawling under a cargo net in mud...a mud pit that we had to run through. I loved it. This was a piece of cake. I got to the first water station and they told us we had run 1/2 a mile. WHAT?! I thought it was at least a mile. I knew then I had a fight in front of me. The rest of the race was long, difficult, hot, muddy and I had to walk some of it. The obstacles started getting harder....climbing over a wall with a rope, jogging through tires when my legs felt like jello but I refused to stop. The last water station and they said we only had about 3/4 of a mile left but I looked ahead and saw a steep hill. Tears started down my cheeks as I felt I could not get up that hill that looked like a mountain to me and then I heard my team mates cheering me on....telling me I could do it and not to give my head I heard my friend who would be fighting for her life, saying, "If I can do can do it." So I started up the hill and felt the rush of knowing I was not going to stop. I made it to the top of the hill only to be met by the last obstacle....a 30-foot cargo net going straight up and over the other side. I didn't even consider stopping but with muscles so tired and tears streaming down my cheeks, I slowly and steadily climbed that net and descended the other side where my teamates were waiting to cross the finish line together. They said, "lets run the last bit." My head didn't think I had anything left for the finish line, but my heart knew better. Near exhaustion, we all jogged that last bit through the mud and crossed the finish line. It was euphoria!!! All these women, hugging each other, weeping openly, taking pictures, laughing, was something I will never forget for the rest of my life.
Wendy is #365.
The morning after the race, I woke up and thought, "Oh good. I don't have to get up and run this morning." I started to get out of bed and my body was so sore and bruised, it felt like it was an 80 year-old woman. How ironic. Something that made me feel so young at heart had left my body feeling like this. I moved around a bit, did some laundry, paid some bills and could feel my muscles loosening up....a fleeting thought came to me...."why not run, even though you don't have to train anymore?" I groaned, got dressed, put the running shoes on, grabbed my IPod and ran the saddest one mile run you've ever seen, nearly limping the whole way, wondering what the neighbors watching thought. "Is she okay? Why is running if she is injured?" I giggled as I ran and felt ....young.
And now as I glance over at my "wall of inspiration" filled with mementos of people in my life who have inspired, encouraged and loved me, I now see my muddy shoes and running number hanging there and I find myself inspired by...of all
Thank you Anna...for your stories. You are the "fountain of youth" and have made this "old" woman, young again.
I really love Wendy's story and I'm so so proud of her.  What I like best about everything is that she got up and ran the next day too.  The race wasn't the end, it was just the beginning.    Running is a funny thing.  It's so dang hard and it's exhausting, but the accomplishment of having run the distance or the race or that huge hill is what we're really after.  And I don't care what anyone says, it is always inspiring to read a story like Wendy's and it's always inspiring to watch someone push past the point where they thought they couldn't go.    Thanks, Wendy, for that fabulous story.
P.S:  I need to get myself to Georgia and run this race with you next year!  It sounds so fun. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Didn't Die! How 'Bout That!

So a few days ago I was on a hilly run.  When I get to Lincoln hill, I silently swear to myself.  That hill can be killer.  The first part hurts and then it levels out a bit and then goes up again on the second part and I've had to walk part of it everytime.   The going is slow on that hill which is just plain annoying.   By the time I get to the top, my calves are on fire.  I don't mean like some nice campfire either.  I mean the kind of fire that sets hell a blaze!  My lungs are expanding to their fullest and I still feel like I need more air.  But a few days ago, things changed. 

I started my ascent up Lincoln hill feeling unusally good.  My legs felt springy.  My lungs felt strong.  But I prepared myself for that good feeling to end once I really got up there.  Before I knew it, I had completed the first part of the hill and I still felt great.  Not just normal great.  At the top of the first part, I got probably the biggest endorphine rush I've ever had while running.  Inside my head, I let out a warrior cry to rival Mel Gibson from Braveheart and I started up the second part with barely a pause.   I resisted doing my warrior cry out loud because a nearby cow was staring at me and I wasn't sure how it would react should I start screaming like a mad woman.  Side note:  Cows freak me out. 
The second part was starting to take the spring out of my legs and my lungs started to beg for mercy, but amazingly, I wasn't slowing down.  I think I actually may have sped up!  In a haze of endorphine and the theme song of Rocky in my head, I made it to the top WITHOUT STOPPING.    I kept on going down the otherside of the hill and finished my run practically skipping back home. 

A few days later, I went on a 5 mile run on the rollings hills above my house.  Up one long hill, and down another, up again, and down again....repeat.  And did that one too without stopping and without being in pain at the end. 

Hills are still harder than flat ground.  They still put more burn in my legs than a normal run.  But hills no longer dominate me.  Training on hills has done more for me as a runner than so many flat runs.  I still love flat runs, so don't get me wrong.  But hills are my little thing I got going on the side.   Shhhh... don't tell my flat runs.