This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Honor Scroll- Covering the Distance

There is a quote, by an unknown author, that says, "There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream." I can't begin to explain how powerful these words are to me. I used to think the "dream" was about ME and MY desires. I thought it was about winning. About reaching a high level of endurance and conquering seemingly impossible distances. I thought the dream was all about me......

That was before I realized the "dream" has NOTHING to do with my personal achievements. It is about all of us. About our parents and grandparents. It is about our children and their children. It is about the HOPE that we will, one day, live in a world without cancer.
So many of us share this dream. So many are putting in the "miles" without asking, "How many more must we go?" Without giving up, quitting or becoming overwhelmed by the distance. This is something we ALL share and I am so proud to be just a small part of this effort. The Honor Scroll 50 mile run was only successful because of this attitude, perseverance and the combined miles that we all "run" everyday in pursuit of the DREAM.

In total, there were 161 names that made it on the Honor Scroll this year. There were also a couple of last minute names that came along on a separate piece of paper (not written in marker on my belly- sorry). The support for this was awesome and the donations reached close to $1200 between online contributions and personal checks/cash received. Considering that I "JUST ASKED" for money back in February... and November.... and June..... and last April.... that is incredibly generous on your part. I will NOT ask again..... until I do. That reminds me- you can still donate by clicking here ------>DONATE<------

On to the race.....

My friend Charley and I made the trip together. We arrived in Little Rock, AR on Friday evening, set up camp and made our way over to the packet pick up. When I told them my name they said, "You will be bib #3. Because you were 3rd overall last year." Great. No pressure there, right? I had confidence that I would run a faster time but you never know.....

The race started in the dark at 6 a.m. in the typical ultra-marathon way. "Go." And we were off. With the 50k and the 50 milers starting together it was easy to start too fast. But I quickly settled into position behind the lead pack and ran "my" pace. After about 2 miles of pavement we hit the trail head and things slowed down some. The sun was starting to rise and we continued knowing that Mt. Pinnacle was only a few miles away.

Mt. Pinnacle is a very steep CLIMB that has to be negotiated around mile 5. It is a CLIMB, not a run or walk. The pace slows down considerably along this stretch. Luckily, it only lasts about 10-15 minutes. I think the total distance is only 1/4 to 1/2 mile but DUDE.... it is crazy hard. As I reached the top, I offered to kiss the photographer but he declined. Guess he wasn't as happy about my reaching the top as I was. At this point I realized that going down the backside was going to be just as slow going.

After the successful crossing of Mt. Pinnacle, it was time to start the real race. I didn't even attempt to keep pace with the leaders. I have learned, for me, that is the quickest way to crash. I would much rather run my own pace and hopefully close the gap on the back half. This strategy usually works for me. Charley, on the other hand, was right there with the leaders. He went on to place 2nd overall in the 50k. Dude is a freaky awesome runner.

Around mile 10 something happened that would cause me to change my strategy. A little pain in my right knee showed up. This was not a new pain but it had been almost non-existent in the past week or so. I chose to ignore it. This is a "child-like" strategy that usually works for me. You know, the "I can't see you, so you can't see me" approach. By mile 12, it was evident that this would not be the case. The knee was hurting and starting to swell. I knew that the 50k trail would split in about a mile and I had the option of dropping to the shorter distance. I felt that 31 miles was a much smarter distance for me considering the circumstances.

There has only been a few times in my life that people have confused me for smart. This was NOT one of those times. I took the 50 mile fork in the trail and didn't look back. This is what I came for. This is where the Scroll was going. Just the way it was. I am a huge fan of the mantra, "Rub some dirt on it- you'll be alright" and this is what I used for the next 12-13 miles. I hit the turn around in 5th place and found my drop bag. I spent a few minutes wrapping my knee and refilling my hydration pack. Opting not to change shoes or socks because all the creek were up and there was no hope of keeping dry, I left in 8th/9th place.

Despite my knee issue, I was still on pace for a sub 9 hour finish. I realized that a top 5 finish was not going to happen but I could still come in with a decent time. All I had to do was keep moving. That was all. Easy. How hard could that be? Uhhh........

I got passed by a few people over the next 10 miles. This is demoralizing and not something that anybody likes. For me, it is a very rare occurrence to be passed on the back half of ANY race and I HATED it. But I also knew the deal. Didn't make it okay but helped to keep my spirits from sinking to low. Just keep moving. No problem.

Mile 35 aid station is the last cut-off and opportunity to drop with the guarantee of a ride back to the start/finish area. I limped in and the questions started. How bad was it? Can you run? Do you want to drop? Do you....... WHAT???? Drop?? I told them that I would rather eat a bullet than quit now. Everybody got quiet except for one lady. She said, "Well then, you'd better get going. There's still 15 miles left and you're wasting time." As I limped back onto the trail, I couldn't help but smile- she understood the insanity of an ultra.

The last 15 miles were rough and I couldn't help but think that maybe it was supposed to be rough. That somehow this was showing me that it won't always be easy. No matter how prepared or confident I am- there will be days that are harder than the others. Days when 15 miles seem like 150. Days when I don't think I can run one more step. Days when the pain is all I can focus on. Days that suck. There is no way that I would even dream of comparing this to the fight of those on the Honor Scroll but it seemed almost symbolic. Just keep moving. Don't quit. Believe in the dream......

I hit the finish line in 9 hours 28 minutes and 11th place overall. This is 45 minutes slower than last year and a full hour slower than my target time. Just looking at those numbers, it my be misinterpreted as a bad day. I can honestly say after a week of reflection that it was a GREAT day. I had ONE hard day. ONE. That is nothing. I should be thankful for that ONE day. As I continue "running those miles" in pursuit of the DREAM, it is a great comfort knowing that I am not alone and that, together, we will one day cover the distance.