Thursday, November 18, 2010

Random Thoughts on Love

Bear with me here as I sort out some random thoughts on the topic of love; "love" being in reference to, in this instance, "partner love."

First just a note of background. If there is one thing I have managed to pretty consistently fail at doing, aside from 100-mile races, it is the enduring love relationship thing. Depending on how you look at my track record, you could see this as a negative -- or, you could look at it as a series of lessons I have learned, which now I can apply to and perhaps finally succeed at accomplishing.

One positive, I am a mature woman now, in the years-living category at least. With that age comes experience, knowledge -- a possible benefit over those just starting out in their twenties. To some men, a mature woman knows how to treat him right. (Hmmmm. That sounds promising.) But please understand that this blog entry is in NO WAY trying to communicate that I am some pro at this loving relationship thing. I'm not. Experienced doesn't mean credentialed. Keep that in mind when you read this *opinion piece*!

On to the random thoughts on the topic of LOVE:

  • I do not think that human beings were meant to live alone. I think partnering is natural and wonderful. Of course we can all use some alone time, especially when recovering from a recent heartbreak, or setback in life. I just think in general we are meant to love a partner more closely, more intimately than anyone else.
  • Saying "I love you" is a life-giving statement. I have learned, however, that words are empty when they are just said and not backed up by action. Say AND show your love.
  • Just because you are "in LOVE" and feeling that warm, happy, "nothing can touch me" shield around you doesn't guarantee life will be stress-free. In fact, count on it to be stressful. Feel confidence in that your person was chosen by you as the one to share both good and bad times.
  • I have learned that a partner should be protected from bearing the brunt of your internal pain at all costs. If this hurting does happen, and happens often, it takes a whole lot of time (and effort, and love, and forgiveness) to heal, if it ever heals at all.
  • Be able to say the words, "I am sorry" genuinely. Don't care what outsiders think, what do they know about your sorrow?
  • Once an apology is accepted by you, make your heart accept it. Move on, move past it. Otherwise it can erode slowly over time until your love falls away.
  • Forgiveness is a truly progressed sort of love. It is the right thing to do when there is genuine remorse. Even the "best" folks make mistakes.
  • Try and view "little" irritations as they are: of little importance overall.
  • Before you put being right as your first priority, think about the possible long term effects. You may be "right" or you may "win" the argument -- but you could end up alone and right.
  • Pride is a sin for a reason.
  • "Cover" your partner at all costs. If there is a spray of gunfire, cover him. Protect her.
  • Stabilize instead of stress. When all else falls down around your partner, you want to be the ones still standing.
  • Cherish your partner.
  • Physical intimacy can be awesome. Making love is even more awesome. Strive for the latter.
  • Realize the gift you have been given by God, no matter the road he/she took to get to you. Accept that blessing with thanks and vow to feel blessed every day of your life.
  • If you are in a season of life that finds you without a partner, please try to not despair. You can find love all around you if you look for it -- in the eyes of your children, your family, your friends, your pet friends, sometimes even your colleagues. Lean on them during this time. Let them love you! And be open to a new start (or re-start) when it finds you.
This world today is so full of anger, and pride, and bitterness. Why contribute to that? Why not lead with love every day?

Hold on for dear life, and don't ever let go.

Monday, November 8, 2010

They all act the same

Months back I posted a blog entry similar to this, and removed it because I was told to do so. I have rewritten it and post it now with the disclaimer that all characters referenced in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


They all act the same. I have observed it: like father, like father. In person or on the phone the dialogue is consistently the same:

“Great, how are you? Awh, well, livin’ the dream! Everyone’s fine here, just running around, you know, sitting around relaxing when I should be cutting the grass – but hey, everything is great!”

Their way of living life is by showing the outside a positive, fine, consistent, happy front. As long as that is covered, then the inside can limp along injured, broken, and probably no one will ever know.

I do not lie like they lie. Perhaps “lie” is too strong of a word… perhaps what they say is indeed somewhat true… they are just avoiding the unpleasant, uncomfortable feeling having to explain … what… a life of constant disappointment? This could be either a tried-and-true method of avoiding uncomfortable feelings, or a conscious effort to keep others from suffering that feeling with them. Doubtful, however, the latter… they don’t really think about sparing others their emotions; it is more a learned strategy of self-protection. If only a perfect, happy world looks to exist, then no one is brought in too close. No one needs them, they need no one. Generations can learn this is the way to do life. Surface-level relationships are just easier.

“The child is the father of the man.” William Wordsworth may have meant that, as it was in childhood it shall be in adulthood. I take it further to mean that what we learn in childhood is what we live and pass down to our children. We model certain behaviors. If you grew up in a family where hugs were the norm, you will most likely be more open to hugging as a parent. Granted, you can change (or at least modify) what you have learned… if you recognize this is not how you want to live… but it is difficult to change anything without the motivation to do so. You have to want to be changed.

I was raised with a powerful but soft-hearted father, and an emotionally variant mother. I still love receiving greeting cards from Dad that say, “I love you, Sue” because that is his way of saying the words to me that I truly need to know. Mom was, and still is, a dramatic, theatrical woman who openly shared with me as a child that I was driving her to a “nervous breakdown.” She was also there for me at 2 a.m. to listen to all my heartbreaking details of Jay wanting another girl in the cheer squad, of Gene buying me a hot fudge brownie sundae at Big Boy and confiding that he is gay, and of my first major breakup and how despite my efforts Scott wouldn’t leave Alcohol for me.

Unintentionally, just like my mother, and her mother, I constantly update those who love me of my emotional barometer. My internal storms are usually broadcast for those close to me to see and observe. This previous summer those storms were intense and a lot more difficult to hide. An emotional roller coaster is fatiguing! Besides that, “normal life” went on – all while the turmoil churned. I ran around daily complaining, I have too much work to do! I have a job, and messes that need to be cleaned up… I have to coordinate over 300 volunteers for a national championship race – hell, I have to RUN that 100-mile race! I cried, I had stomach aches, I drug myself to work, I ran poorly. When I feel lost, you see it, and it looked terrible on me. What I had considered a great “strength” of living “authentically” was quickly becoming one of my greatest weaknesses. But how else was I supposed to handle it when that was the only way I knew to feel?

I guess my point is that you learn how to act and react from the environment from which you came, and from which you have lived most recently. If you saw a parent or parents ignoring pain and maintaining a hardcore outside, you might be living the same. If you saw your mother crying when she lost a faithful friend or when she was extremely disappointed, you might believe that it is okay to process hurt openly.

I am not hard-hearted.

I have learned to deal with nearly all life issues with passion. Changing that part of me would be difficult, if not impossible to do… and if I changed that ability to access raw emotions I would radically change the person I have become. Mom taught me that it is better to love and lose than to not love; I have taught my daughters to trust and share their hearts, to not fear being truly close with loved ones. I want them to hug their children someday – big bear hugs that risk their public reputations with friends but really just make them the envy of their enemies. But feeling does hurt. I will give him, the father’s father, that credit: you have avoided heartbreak like a true champion. And why would you want to feel pain if it could be conveniently avoided, right?

You survive like you have been taught to survive.

Mom used to look either rock-solid in charge, or frighteningly distraught. I could tell that it frightened her to have so much of herself invested, to be that “out of control.” When I went away to college she cleaned the house down to the corners. She hung on to memories and drove around with a stuffed toy of mine in the passenger seat for months. Worse than not being able to pack a lunch for me, she had lost a life companion. So I got weekly care packages in the mail, and weekends home, and lots of hugs and special food. Sure, it would have been more clear-cut to be closed and final, saying goodbye and turning off the care switch. Like his father, or like him, or like his son, her life would have been so much simpler to say goodbye and watch me go.

Saying goodbye – and feeling the loss – hurts.

I think for the first time in a long time I am considering that a happy existence shown on the outside does not necessarily mean a cold heart resides inside. True that no one is brought in too close intentionally, because what would happen if they needed someone? They have only learned to be strong alone. Might they still feel passion on the inside, even though it is stifled? Do you figure, though, that anyone will ever access the raw nerve that generates a truly open and vulnerable “I love you so much”? I would hope so. I have to face that it just wasn’t me who could reach it. He said goodbye and watched me go.

So what does this all mean? Probably nothing… perhaps everything. You survive as you have been taught to survive.

To those who love me: thank you for your support over the last year. Please know that all the hours you have invested in me are here, banked for you as the same loving support when you need me. I am here for you! That’s what real friends do – what real partners do – when one is down the other supports. And yes, this way of living, it is hard, and it hurts, and it takes time and investment, and risk – and it is not at all easy.

Indeed, a conversation ends so much sooner if you report that everyone is just fine; and we walk away with our whole selves still intact. I, personally, hope to leave a part of me in the hearts of all those I love.

If we have the power to choose at all, I dare ask, how would you rather live?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Creative Writing

Creative Writing has always been a passion of mine. It lurks in the back of my personality, quietly reminding me that I can escape there once in a while, and I will almost always come away pleased that I visited an old friend. It is one of the rare "raw talents" I possess. Not to boast, writing has come easy to me in life. Embarrassingly I admit that I totally b-s'ed my way through Greek Lit in undergrad -- I mean, really, who totally understood The Odyssey anyway? I got an A for being able to write about absolutely nothing. My professor's comment? "I never thought of it that way, Excellent!"

So the talent has pushed me along a few times in life, when the girls need a story idea, or when I have to write up justification at work for a budget proposal to the Provost. It just comes in handy to be able to write and communicate.

In fact, when I was in high school I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to do feature stories for the newspaper, I wanted to publish books of poetry. I headed off to the School of Journalism at Bowling Green State University intending to be one of those "at the scene" journalists, camera in hand so I could have photos to back up my stories. Unfortunately I was told that my ability to write simply fact was lacking. In other words, I could not simplify, I could not boil it down to the mundane. I had to be "flowery." At least when I transferred to Baldwin-Wallace College I was able to integrate my writing into some creative outlets, like creative poetry, and writing feature articles for The Exponent. I was, in fact, the only reporter on the scene when Beau Coup did a live show right in our student center. I had an exclusive interview and photo. And I got paid for all I wrote.

My favorite professor, Paula Rankin, was a published writer/poet, who taught me so much about living life. In retrospect, even though the term wasn't familiar to me at the time, Paula taught me how to be "present" in my day, to notice tiny details. She taught me "there is a poem in everything." And even more importantly she advised that especially in creative writing, get "triple mileage" out of each line.

All good writers I know -- and by good I mean, those with whom I am familiar and whose talent appeals to me -- write on at least two levels. On one level is the paragraph, the literal story. And the next level is the unwritten meaning behind those words. To a more get-to-the-fact-of the-matter type of person, the message is clear and simple. To a friend, or someone who knows the writer at a personal level, the intent may be completely different.

My point is that there is talent in being able to write on a few different levels. To communicate almost a secret message to those who know the writer.

Since I have begun this blog, I have attempted to put my true self into the posts, mostly all with triple mileage intent. More times than I will admit, I have been audited for content. I have pulled complete blog posts that were personal and meaningful and cathartic for me, but may have been perceived as a less than positive reflection on others. Being audited and supervised really does stunt my creativity -- although I totally understand the need to respect and protect the privacy of those individuals in my life to whom the message pertained.

In case you are close to me, and you have figured out that there are major life changes happening -- there are, there have been now for years. Nothing so major that compared to others I would be outstanding in my plight -- in fact, I have been very blessed over the years. I have two daughters who are so mature and loving and conscientious that I cannot believe I actually raised them! I have been married to a man who showed me that being positive can make life better overall. Thank God I have been blessed with good health, as are my daughters -- thank you, Jesus.

Most of the people I know in my life right now are going through some major life turmoil. We've all taken on too much! We've all tried to multi-task and over do. We've all made promises we are tested to keep, every day. We all have our own pot of tears.

So here's the thing: due to circumstances that really no one exactly knows (only we are living here in our exact lives) and perhaps circumstances I myself was disappointed to have faced over the last few years -- I find myself a single woman (again) today. This decision has shredded my heart since Spring... it was not come to lightly or without great pain. I cannot think the truth in to being just as I cannot think myself happy.

I only ask that we leave the immaturity behind, and respect each other as humans. All of us. No matter which side you take, if you even take a side. Most of you will not even care. Some of you will keep loving us both. A few of you are way to busy to notice a change. A couple of you haven't even read this far.

Unfortunately, reality is reality. I could have come up with a whole creative, well-written blog today that means two things... or, I could have just come right out and said it. Today, plain and simple, a fact is a fact. And I have now reported it to you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig) - Parry Gripp

Short reflection on the Oil Creek 100k

Reflection on Oil Creek 100k course/race day:

  • Easily the hardest course I have run -- due mostly to the technical trails.
  • The course was forgiving in that the climbs were not relentless, and there were runnable sections with fewer rocks and roots (and random oil pipes) than other sections which were extremely challenging.
  • The blue sky weather gave us a spectacular start at 5 a.m. full of bright stars and gorgeous views.
  • The cool temps were a blessing compared even to the weather last weekend for the Towpath Marathon, but it was harshly cold at night if you concentrated on it (or left your gloves at an aid station).
  • Thank goodness for random porto-potties placed in the woods by the race director.
  • Very cool history surrounding and through the area.
  • GREAT door prizes!

Reflection on my results:

  • Okay, so I admit I am embarrassed at my 18+ hour finish.
  • I went out there to enjoy the day, run and have fun, and socialize.
  • I did not race it, I ran it.
  • I stopped for 9 porto-potty breaks -- which if you consider 3 minutes per break that is 27 additional minutes in the bathroom.
  • I stopped and talked and socialized and messed around at each aid station (because they were pretty far apart)... 8 total aid stations, 3 minute stop at each at least, that is 24 additional minutes at aid stations.
  • My longest run before this race was Burning River on August 1st. I have only run a marathon or 50k (or training runs of 20-26 miles) each weekend since.
  • Physically I was not in the greatest shape, I have been stressed emotionally, training poorly, and eating even worse.

My results overall are not THAT embarrassing:

  • There were 13 total drops from the 100k, 49 finishers
  • I was 35th of 49 finishers overall
  • 6 women dropped, 4 women did not start
  • Best of all, , and I was 7th of 13 females, or the 53rd percentile among women (right about where I normally finish)
  • This WAS a tough course. Really.

Looking forward, I would actually like to improve my times -- in other words, race a race instead of just run a race. Perhaps once my life settles down, a few notches below CRAZY, I will be able to actually train and do better than "good enough."

Congratulations to all my friends who were involved, and most importantly congratulations to Terri Lemke who braved the worst night (probably of her running career) and powered through 100 miles of adversity (assisted by a patient and persistent pacer, Mark Carroll). Terri is one TOUGH woman, mentally AND physically. I am so happy for her finish, most of all.

Congrats to Kim Boner who was first place woman for the 100k!

I am surrounded by greatness and hope that one day that greatness WILL rub off on me.

Heal well, everyone!

Monday, August 30, 2010

You just never know

It's Monday. As much as I SWEAR I am trying to be generally positive in my life, based on consistent evidence I have gathered for the past 11 Mondays, Mondays for me suck. I've analyzed the data, and the results suggest that some rather emotionally-challenging events have been placed in my life for nearly three months of Mondays (skewed possibly by my own bias, of course). Anyhow, I have yet to determine what exactly this means to society -- probably nothing -- yet at least the data could suggest why I have been a little bit more, um, UNHINGED, on Mondays (blurring in to some Tuesdays) this summer.

With this in mind, though I make light of it, I want to say: you never know what affect your words may have on someone... or how valuable a hug, or time spent together, can be to a person going through some really rough times.

Have you ever seen the movie "What Women Want"? There is a woman character in the movie who believes she doesn't exist, and is basically pretty desperate. The main character, Mel Gibson, has superhuman powers and figures out that she is needing to be saved; so he shows up at her apartment, gives her some kind words, a promotion, and basically saves her life. This movie character had been struck by lightening and could hear the thoughts of women -- not realistic -- BUT, my point is that you never know what interceding will do. You never know what good your words will do.

I received a thank you note from a neighbor friend the other day -- but it really was only DISGUISED as a thank you note. The note was a message communicating that she knew my summer was a rough one, and that she was there for me no matter what. No details needed, she just knew. It was the nicest "thank you note" I have ever received!

Last Thursday one of my running friends shared that in 2007 he was going through a terribly challenging time in his life, and showing up for Thursday runs with his group -- every Thursday -- kept him sane. He is a recovering alcoholic (now sober for more than 20 years) and who knows what he would have done if not for the stability of that group. He in turn told me to face my life "one day at a time," and helped me personally through that one hour which led to another, and another, and another.

Strangely enough, I found out from two other friends this weekend, and one more today, that my words had helped them get through a day when they were all wondering how that would happen.

My friend at work has such strong faith in the Lord, she knows that He is the ONLY one to keep her going. I am in NO WAY any competition for THE MAN, but maybe something I say in a day might lead her to recognizing more of God's grace in her life?

I am not saying that any of us are weak individually -- that we would not be able to pull together the strength to "get through" the day. I am just trying to say that you never know how your words will affect another person -- so choose wisely. You might be saving a marriage, an alcoholic from drinking, a faithful person from getting lost...

... you might even be saving a life.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One by one

One by one they slide off.
Not an avalanche, all at once,
but slowly, surely
like tiny pebbles falling,
then crashing at the bottom of my heart.

I remember thinking I couldn’t live without him
and all he brought to me;
dreading the thought of losing that steadiness.
I would surely stop breathing!

Now in the middle of emptiness
and sting of loss,
I am living…
rolling in rubble and ruin,
Wondering how I got here
to this wasteland
and why I should even think of breathing
after such a long fall.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pain is difficult

Pain is difficult. As humans I think we try – sometimes to our own detriment -- to avoid pain as much as possible, even if going through that short term suffering will bring us to a better place long term.

“If this were easy, more people would be doing it!” How many times I have heard that statement in reference to running, to running marathons, to running ultras. How many times have I chosen the shortest path, instead of toughening out the longer one, even when I know I would feel better choosing the longer, quality journey!

Lately, I have been once again challenged to actually train for a fast fall race (which race, not quite sure). It has been a distant goal of mine, qualifying for Boston, or just plain being “fast” in any relative sense of the word. With all the other life issues happening around me, and training to go long slow distances, I have previously dismissed the idea of testing my potential. Until now. Without realizing the scope of what I have gotten in to, I have agreed to at least follow the plan (since my plan rarely works anyhow) and see what happens in six weeks.

“It’s gonna hurt, though.” Uh oh. I will be shoved out of my comfort zone at least three times a week, logging three key workouts – track, tempo run, hill repeats. And no, Suzanne, these workouts will be REAL, they won’t be lame attempts at tempo runs, acting like just showing up at the track nets results, I will actually be uncomfortable. If I am willing to do this, he says I will be amazed. I guess I have the bio-mechanics to run well, just not the strength. Get me some strength and I will blow away my personal records.

Do I have the mental strength to take the pain? Can I do this????

Saying yes to what I at times consider a RISK (drama added for affect) is going to take training runs where I begin my stopwatch for a set time and run faster than normal for me, just a step off of race-pace, breath heavily, watching the minutes count down and wanting the agony to be done. Then just a small recovery jog for ten minutes in between, and another set time at a pushed pace. The recovery jog will likely be over more quickly than I have really recovered – but I will have to follow the plan and pick up the pace again. In my brain and in my heart I will likely be screaming, “THIS SUCKS” and I will want to turn away, to quit. I want already to go back on my decision.

Why? People do this all the time. They go through tough times, not being able to breathe, and they are all better off because of it. Why quit?

Why? Because comfort would be much easier! Logging an easy 8 or 9-miler is simple; doesn’t take a lot of thought, or planning, or decisions, or investment really, to slog away for 90 minutes. Heck, when I don’t feel like running there are times I just skip it. Apparently, according to Frank Shorter and my new coach, I absolutely must fit in my three key workouts plus one long run every week, no excuses.

Excuses I have.

But in doing what I have always done – and as the saying goes, I will continue to get what I have always gotten: a less than stellar race performance, finishing in the 60th percentile of women, being a “back of the pack” runner. Do I really want to settle for consistently below average?

Nope. I want more.

This time I need to invest. Move forward with the decision. As some would crassly say, “go balls-to-the-walls.” Day by day, I will have to face discomfort, while still believing each day it is bound to get easier.

Meanwhile, I question my decision. I sit here wondering if I can ever be above average. Perhaps I will be, while there is a heavy chance I will fail. At the very least it could be a life lesson: will pain net progress?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Ever-Versatile Bandanna

As I begin to gather supplies that will aid me to run the Burning River 100 Endurance Race this weekend, I ponder the real value of the items, the likelihood of using what I will jam into plastic boxes ("drop boxes") that the supply crew will "drop" along aid stations of the course for my access.

There is the ever-necessary Body Glide, to prevent chafing; Band Aids for those random blisters; trail socks, a sundry of NSAIDs and tummy calmers, flashlights, headlamps (many more than I will ever need), long-sleeved shirts and backup trail shoes. Present and necessary however, in every single box, is the cheapest running aid ever: a bandanna. For the low cost of around $1.29, I believe its value is close to second-most-important to me in getting to the finish line of this race (second only to water, which I carry).

Silly, you say? Ah, but hear my rationale.

Picture the bandanna. A simple square of patterned cotton/poly cloth. Think of its many uses and true benefits it provides during the course of a long run.

  • It is a lightweight rag, easy to carry; tie it around your water bottle or waist pack loop. Hold it in your hand. I so appreciate that it is just an easy thing to carry.
  • Each time I come across one of my planted drop boxes I swap out the old one for a new, fresh bandana. (Ah, smells like Bounce fabric softener, a comforting smell of home.)
  • Virtually every cool trail runner has one. Well... my coolest friends do, anyway. And I learned from the best: Roy Heger, Tanya Cady, Shannon Fisher....
  • On a team? Buy everyone the same pattern and distribute at the starting line. Boosts togetherness, oneness, motivation.
  • Their mere existence can be inspiring! I have a "black diamond" bandana from Holiday Valley Ski Resort with the words "No Guts, No Glory" written on it. Perfect for the last 50k of a 100-mile race.
  • Use it to wipe my sweaty brow! A handy headband. Otherwise known as a dew rag. A cool hair tie.
  • What a wonderful cooling tool when filled with ice at an aid station. Tie it around your neck for the greatest effect.
  • Trail runners often fall on the trail. We bleed. Sometimes we bleed a lot -- a bandanna could be used as a tourniquet to stop bleeding (read: life saver!), or to just wipe away a caked layer of dust from falling in the leaves.
  • Fall on your wrist? Not a bad support bandage until you can get to the next aid station.
  • IT Band issues crop up on the run? Make a knot, place the knot under the painful spot, and tie tightly around your knee.
  • Streams are wonderful cooling spots of paradise during a summer race. Use the trusty bandanna as a wash-cloth! Wash away sticky GU residue.
  • Chafing from your waist pack? Tuck the cloth in between your tummy and the belt until you can get to the next supply of Body Glide.
  • Need to blow your nose? Well, you get the idea. It's just a little more civilized than blowing in the wind. Really.
  • And speaking of necessary but certainly not civilized things we do on the trails -- imagine the relief, you really have to use the bathroom, and like a mirage a porta-potty looms out of the nothingness. You run into it, trying not to use valuable minutes... got to keep moving... oh no. No toilet paper. Should have looked first. Trusty bandanna? Tear it in half, part with it, put to good use. To my chagrin I used part of my Holiday Valley bandanna in Minnesota last month. :( Totally worth it. This can be helpful, too, if you CANNOT find a porta-potty and all the leaves look like poison ivy. Better safe than sorry.
  • Deer flies. Big biting things. Little biting flying things. Bat them away with your rag.
  • Road crossing? Wave at drivers so they look up from texting and avoid hitting the slow-responding runner!
  • Delusions at mile 60 of Mohican... find me a log or big rock, just to sit down, just to sleep for a moment. Bugs. There are ants all over this log! And that log. Pull out the now-wet, now-torn, dirty piece of cloth and lay it out like a small blanket. Saves me from sitting directly on the crawly things.
  • The finish line is ahead! Wave it around in celebration. Glory.
  • Once home, toss the balled-up gross things into the wash for another training run or race, they are amazingly reusable. And if the dirt is just too set into the fabric, I feel no guilt as I toss them away in the trash.
Let's face it. Even if I end up not using my bandanna for anything, it didn't tire me out carrying it. And what other running supply only costs about $1.29 and is reusable? Even better, if I lose it along the way, it is no great loss... buy another. It's not like a $19 handheld water bottle or other such investments.

So, picture the bandanna with me, won't you? What a useful, simple pleasure of the ultra world.

To all my friends running in the BR100 this weekend, the best of luck. To all my volunteers, THANK YOU for supporting us. To all the crew and pacers, remember to help your runner on with dry socks and shoes, electrolytes and GU, and of course with a fresh new bandanna from the drop box.

Be careful, and have the time of your life. I love you guys.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Mohican Soon -- but Perhaps Not

I realize it has been a week and still no detailed Mohican report. You may (or may not) be disappointed to hear there might not be a thorough report. Given that I was a DNF, I feel a little less motivated, less compelled, and certainly less required to document every step -- aside from in my own mind (again and again) to review the things I could have done differently to possibly change the outcome. Trust me, that documentation has been reviewed, and the general consensus in my own mind is that I did everything as right as I could given the day, the weather, the course.

As ultrarunners we know that even the best training base and fitness level can be up against random challenges we could not have predicted: a last minute rule or course change; a migraine the night before, at the start line, during the race; an unpredicted humid 95 degree day; your pacer delayed at the airport; your family disallowed access to an aid station where you were counting on them for support. Yet we must be adaptable, take things as they come, and hope that when a challenge faces us it is within our control to fix.

I feel that this year the reason for my drop was pretty nearly out of my control.

All day long I was wringing wet -- literally -- with sweat. It had rained early in the race and then I was never dry. My body was fighting a losing battle to cool itself.

It is my personal opinion that placing all 23 road miles in the heat of the day was an unkind move. It became risky when aid stations were 7 miles apart or running out of food and water so much the volunteers had to provide bread and ice from their own freezer. I know ultimately it is the runner's responsibility to support his/her nutritional needs and use aid stations as secondary sources -- yet how many runners in this race were told or intrinsically knew there might not be enough water or ice for everyone? Ah, maybe I found something I could have done differently: packed a suitcase of water and food items at literally every drop-bag location. (I know someone who did this -- and he does it every year, and probably at every 100-miler he runs, "just in case." He finished, by the way. Correlation?)

Back to the story -- I thought I was drinking enough, eating enough; kept ice in my hat (they had supplies when I came through) and paced myself well through those rough hours. I had thankfully met up with Mark Carroll earlier on the red loop and was able to stay with him for 30+ miles, which totally benefited me since I could talk and listen and was no longer alone. Plus, he sang random songs and made random comments that at times left me breathless with laughter. It was actually fun.

In fact I was thinking this year's race was proceeding better than most others for me.

After coming through Rock Point and heading toward South Park I still felt pretty good. South Park to Fire Tower, still pretty good -- especially since my wonderful family was there to crew me. It felt like such a long time in between seeing them -- and in retrospect I think it was somewhere in those miles I lost emotional energy that was not renewed. I live for the times I get to see my family. Moreover, on my trek up to Fire Tower I slowed up to take an electrolyte and ended up losing sight of Mark; Bob said he was right up ahead and Mark wanted me to catch him. I couldn't.

My stomach was beginning to turn on me, so at Covered Bridge I took a ginger chew and accepted generous assistance from Bob and Tanya, who were handing me things in a blur that took my brain delayed moments to compute. I was still so overheated it had not registered to grab a shirt, that a jog-bra alone would not be sufficient for the night hours. Nor did I think to take with me additional ginger chews. I had my flashlight out of the drop-box but left the aid station without it -- Bob yelled to me before I got too far and hobbled over on his broken ankle (!!!) to hand it to me. All this brain fog should have been a sign that I was losing it.

Going up to Hickory Ridge is always a long trek; mileage signs surely lie! I cannot explain exactly what happened but over the span of less than 2 hours I became so dizzy and disoriented that I could not stand still when I stopped. My thoughts were thick, my vision blurry; I couldn't calculate simple math. I was looking for large rocks or bug-less logs to sit down on and get my head together. The overwhelming urge to sleep was overtaken only by the familiar puking.

But don't feel sorry for me. I had a plan.

Once at Hickory Ridge I knew I had well over an hour and fifteen minutes before the cut off. That morning at Mark & Terri Lemke's house, I had given the group one piece of advice: if you are feeling like dropping out, WAIT to surrender your number. Sit in a chair, eat, drink, rest, wait until the last possible minute before the time cut off and then get out of that aid station to the next. Walk if you have to. Good advice, right?

I intended to follow my own advice. I weaved and heaved my way over to a chair and the aid station workers were right on top of helping. They were the most generous group and I am so thankful for their care. I announced loudly and sternly that I was not dropping. I'd wait this out, I'd recover.

An hour later I was lying on a cot with a blanket, unable to sit upright, more nauseous than when I arrived. Terri Lemke -- a woman I believed to be a major contender for winning -- rolled in and was sick herself. She sat down on the cot next to me and reported her race done. It was an emotional battle for her especially because Terri's sons and husband were there, doing exactly what we WANT them to do at times like these: talking her in to just moving on to the next aid station. Urging her not to quit. Becoming her voice of reason, "You will be so mad at yourself if you drop!" Terri was strong. Terri was done. Like so many of the toughest runners out there, her name and my own were added to the list of about 81 DNFs out of 132 starters.

Terri and Mark were amazingly supportive. They took me back to the start/finish line and literally did everything for me. Mark even gave me his sandals so I could get out of my wet muddy shoes. These are the amazing people we are blessed with in the ultra community. I am so fortunate.

I was told after the race that in my delirium at Hickory Ridge I was rambling about not having the right clothes. I don't remember saying these things. I do know that I was wearing very little clothing and once I was wrapped in a blanket and given a sweatshirt there was little hope of warming up on the trails without them. If I had run with the sweatshirt, could I have gone on? No, I couldn't walk straight let alone run and make it to Mohican Adventures before the cut off -- I had removed the time buffer and there was no way I would be able to average 17 minute miles or less for the remaining 42 miles. Besides, I doubt the aid station volunteers would have let me leave while lacking coherence and stability.

Aside from the uncontrollable weather, the course gave little latitude for errors of any kind. To build a time buffer of even an hour meant moving rather quickly on the road section, which is where a body needed to be most protected and preserved for the later miles. A one hour cot recovery was simply not enough for me to overcome heat exhaustion. I was still dizzy days later.

So what have I learned? To pack larger, more frequent drop-suitcases!

I have also learned that a DNF can be difficult to accept when it involves family members who are truly invested in our finishing. They love us so much that they want us to feel successful, mostly because we will be hardest on ourselves.

I want to thank my dedicated crew of daughters Alicia and Savanna, and my dear friend Sharon (and dog Millie) for a long hot day waiting on and for me. I am sorry my attitude was horrendous. I am sorry my delirium caused so much confusion post-race. I love you and love that you are still speaking to me after all I have put you through! Thanks to my husband Bob for coming out to work the Covered Bridge aid station and to support me, too, despite his injury and some really rough times with me lately.

Thanks to the Lemke family for the air-conditioned home which saved me from a sleepless night in a tent with a migraine. You have a wonderful family.

Thanks to all the volunteers for your hard work. I am the Volunteer Coordinator for the Burning River 100, so I know how thankless of a job that can be.

Thanks also to all of my dear friends who were out there with me on race day -- whether we were able to run together or were separated by miles, we were still out there together. And I felt your support and love all day. Hope you felt mine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Disappointing Time

Below is a relatively quick summary of my Mohican 100 attempt on Saturday -- race report will likely appear in the next week or so. I have a lot to say -- and will probably have to edit the final report for emotions; the comments aren't all pretty.

Brutal. I can honestly say that this race took out more talented runners than I could have ever imagined. Drop rate was 62%. Many of the most experienced Mohican runners were finishing within the final hour before cutoff. Who would have thought that the likes of Roy Heger, Mark Carroll, Ron Ross, would be rolling in the later hours with barely any cushion of time, saying this was the hardest Mohican ever -- with more than 35 Mohican finishes amongst themselves alone? This wasn't only the heat... this was more about poor race planning (not on the part of the participants)! More on this topic later.

As for my attitude going in to the race, I was a little (a lot) tempered that I had a migraine all night (but so thankful Mark & Terri Lemke let me sleep upright on one of their home couches). Trust me, this isn't an excuse for running poorly -- I handled it, put it to the back of my mind like I had all the outside stress that was taunting me. This was MOHICAN. "Santa Claus came, Suzanne, this is MOHICAN!!" Mark Carroll said like a giddy child of this gift we receive every year.

I had downplayed the course changes, accepted them without much complaint, announced to a few folks that it seemed extra senseless to put all 23 miles of the course's road section in the 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. heat of the day. I thought perhaps getting the tougher parts of the course out of the way early would be a benefit. I planned well on taking care of my body, I was pompous about it in fact -- "Oh, this course is going to wipe out the less experienced runners early, this is where my EXPERIENCE and KNOWLEDGE will level the playing field!" That pedestal I put myself on was knocked down with a myriad of blows all within 5 miles of trail from Covered Bridge to Hickory Ridge (about 14-15 hours into the race for me). In one hour and 50 minutes I completely and totally lost all control over my body -- all the resources flew into overdrive, attempting to cool my core for probably the twentieth time that day. Nothing was left working to keep my vision clear, my head straight, my legs strong, or my stomach from heaving. I laid on a cot at Hickory Ridge, delirious, for an hour before relenting to heat exhaustion.

The good that came out of my race -- and there is always good, even in a DNF -- was that I had plenty of time to think about my life as it stands. I truly love this sport. I truly love this community we have built. With all the wrong that is going on, this is still right. For well over a year now I have been battling a lot of internal battles. The winter blues never went away last summer, with rare warm days and the cool fall upon us so quickly. It has been a long road of dismal days. There was a lot to think about on that trail Saturday.

I have brought on these challenges myself. This was created by me! I have built too-high of an expectation level in those around me (family, friends, colleagues). When you give and do "above and beyond" folks get used to it -- and then when it scales back within normal range people say, "Is that how you are treating me now? I am disappointed in your lack of effort." Or as I was told by someone close to me after I dropped out of the race, "You quit before you even tried." Really? 60 miles, 14+ hours, that isn't trying? I know, it should have been a finish; that would have been real trying, real doing.

So it seems like this Mohican DNF would be another disappointment in myself. Last year, that is exactly how I chose to see it. This time, as I sit down to write a real race report, I am going to need to focus on the lessons, the joys! Mohican is indeed a gift that comes once a year! And I am going to celebrate with those few 38% who crossed the finish line -- because their tolerance and perseverance earned them a whole lot of respect from our community. I did not hear one complaint about a slow finish time -- to complete this epic 102-mile race under the time cut offs was simply an amazing feat. And I am so glad to have been there to see it happen. There wasn't anything that could have kept me away.

I have just found out that two of my colleagues have progressed terminal cancer.

People, we do NOT have time to remain disappointed in others, nor with ourselves! It is time to recognize and celebrate the efforts of others, of each step we do accomplish, the love we have built, the bonds we have forged. This life is much like Russian Roulette, you never know which chamber holds a bullet.

And if my attitude disappoints you, I sincerely apologize. I love you anyway.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My choice of bliss

We who are running the 2010 "Mohican Trail 100" are closing in to within three days of this all-encompassing event. This Saturday at 5 a.m. I will join at least 148 of my closest friends in the ultra running community and begin what will likely be a 28+ hour personal journey over rocks and ridges, through streams and rivers, mud and roots, searing heat of pavement, with possibly a rain storm and lightening thrown in by God as an added natural challenge. It is a yearly recurring event in my life, one my kids and best friend Sharon have become accustomed to, following me from aid station to aid station, crewing me through the terribly long night, telling me I am beautiful when surely I have had better hair days, acting positive when all I want to do is crawl into the side brush and sleep forever. Who knows how many years I have robbed off my daughter Savanna's lifespan due to her intense worrying about my true athletic abilities getting me through versus a do-or-die attitude that could actually cause me to die someday.

No matter, this is my choice of bliss. I do this because I can. I do this because I want to. I do this for me... and it is one of the most selfish things I do in life.

Selfish, pretty much. Maybe even solitary. I find that the week before a 100-miler I get a little crazy, a lot antsy, not at all balanced or consistent. There are no long runs to reduce my stress either, because if I am doing the training "right," I am backing off miles this week to rest up for my intense weekend comeback to running.

It's a strange week. I write lists. I pack, unpack and re-pack drop bags and drop boxes. I obsess over my January 1st resolutions of upper body workouts that didn't really ever happen, and double long runs with Bill Wagner that happened a lot less than they should have. I tell myself I am fat, and under-trained... and then I debate back and say I am in the best shape of my ultra life. I tell myself this is running and running is simple. You just get there, and start. Basically.

Until the gun fires, however, I find myself on an emotional roller coaster which I am trying so hard not to ride with my family. "Back away from the Mom, Mohican is Saturday. Approach her with caution next Monday (provided she is not hospitalized)." For this drama and burden to all who love me, I apologize.

I am not delusional. No matter how many ultras I have attempted, run, and completed, 100-milers are not easy. Even with Alicia and Savanna (making me cry) meeting me at all possible handler locations, and Sharon shoving espresso beans in my face with a glistening smile, no crew, no pacer, no love-of-my-life, can be positively inside my mind at every mile. I am going to be alone! There will be down times. There will be crashes. There will likely be bonking and puking going on. Yet I must remember that I can and have recovered.

Pacers-of-old can attest, I have come back from the dead when they each thought I was finished before the end. I must remember now because while a runner is living through that special hell, i.e. a major bonk, it is way difficult to believe it will ever get better. I have known runners who have dropped out of a race, pulled a bib number, and recovered a short 10 minutes later (in the shameful car ride back to the start). I will be weak BUT I WILL BE STRONG.

Do you see the conflicting visions? My bliss is somehow equal to puking! I am taking two vacation days to pack bags of back-up batteries, Advil and Aspercream. Plan well but run simply. Have crew but run alone. Hit bottom and recover. Taste failure but beat each cutoff. Hurt in ways you'd rather not experience, yet find joy in the gift of having legs to ache.

Despite all of this self-centeredness of ultra running, each race finish ironically brings with it this amazing global thankfulness. Every aid station volunteer, family member, partner, pacer, new friend, new acquaintance, old friend, living legend, hero who touches your race is an element in your success. You want to thank them all profusely. A deep love emerges that makes a runner realize: I couldn't have done this without you.

So this time around, I think I will be more thankful up-front, before my finish Sunday morning. I want to thank you all now for your undying support. And thank you to each of my closest friends who will be running in front of me, behind me, and with me during the race. Best of luck to you for a strong finish.

My deep gratitude to those of you in my life who have allowed ultra running to remain so special to me despite its relative lack of importance to global crises.

I know it's just running. And running is simple.
It's simply living in the moment.
It is simply my choice of living.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Going out on a limb

So today I went a little bit out on a limb -- for me, anyhow. After another energetic conversation with my colleague and friend Rob Ziol, I picked up on one of his most major messages of the day -- to which I subscribe wholly: he wants to remove the word NO from daily general usage. Imagine the "loser-attitudes" we have created in ourselves just by believing that little word! Imagine how we have limited our possibilities in life.

With that in mind, I created a
Facebook group called, "I am done with NO... Start finding a way!" This group is for all who believe that the word NO should be banned from all dream-planning, goal-setting, problem-solving, child-rearing, loving, working, exercising, BREATHING. This word has assisted to create a society of loser-attitudes that I want to assist in evolving into winning attitudes. Not quite sure *how* I am going to do this, or how much I can do to help others change this attitude -- it just seems like a great place to start, with myself, and then sharing the opinion with others (via a worldwide social network).

It's a little crazy, a little out-there and daring, compared to how I live every day yet why should we be limited in how we live just because of hearing we
cannot do something? Who has that right to tell you NO?
(Unless you are a child and your parent tells you NO for safety reasons, family values, lesson teaching, budget limitations, etc. Which by the way, makes me want to stress now that children are EXEMPT from joining this group simply because hearing No from a parent is generally a good word to heed AND I do not want the outrage of your parents spread all over my blog and facebook group...)

One more caveat. As those dear to me know, I often roll my eyes over my husband Bob's "just be happy" attitude. This is NOT one in the same with his belief. I am not saying deny all obstacles existing and live in dreamland instead, I am saying you see the obstacles, acknowledge them, and walk around them. Or trudge through them. Or talk the obstacle out of the way. Perhaps negotiate with it, compromise with it. Find a way to win. And trust me, this does not guarantee that you will be blissful and happy and skate through your life -- you will likely hurt, you will cry, you will experience pain of sorts -- and you will experience joy, success, and accomplishment.

Perhaps a great way to demonstrate how saying "yes" can net miracles is to post stories I hear from actual people -- folks I know -- who have believed in doing something, accomplished something -- despite meeting up with the word NO quite a lot. Instead of walking away defeated, those folks tried again, perhaps a different way, or with more energy or renewed creativity. If you are one of these folks, email me your story, I will post it! If you know of someone, tell me about him or her, tell me how this person became better just for going forward. I intend to tell you about the special individuals in my life I personally know who finish the races they start; they will inspire me to live a better life. Right now, this is exactly what I need.

Negativity be GONE! Join me. You'll be amazed at how you'll LIVE.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Monday

So, I have no followers. Guess that is what happens when you attempt to create a Blog and then do nothing with it and tell no one about it. Perhaps I will post a few more times and *then* tell people. Must decide who all I want to let in to this attention-deficit life of mine.

Lately my life has been all about random thoughts.... Either because I am ADD or just way too busy? Who knows.

-- If I did not have a to-do-list at work I would not be able to actually perform four jobs to 80-percent capacity as I now do. Some day I would love to do only two jobs at 100-percent, wouldn't that be cool? Gone are the days of 40 hour work weeks, expecting to accomplish the list. It just revolves, moves forward to this week's agenda.

-- Mondays. Mondays pretty much always suck. I have tried taking a vacation day on Monday, to hide, yet then my Tuesday at work becomes my Monday. There is no escape, so why bother... face it, get through it. Blog to procrastinate.

-- So Savanna's math teacher emails me today, in short choppy incomplete sentences, and tells me that Savanna's mistakes are all about lack of attention to detail. My child suffers from the same deficiency as her mother: NO FRICKIN' TIME for ATTENTION to DETAIL. She is lucky Savanna even does her homework. She's in high school, hell, it's a major deal she even SHOWS UP. [note to self: regarding home to-do-list, speak with Savanna about ... what? cuz I forgot already.]

-- Regarding running. Too many choices for the weekends! Too many races, too many good people and tempting offers. Used to be such a small community, now I wait in line to be put on the waiting list.

-- How close do you have to be to a person to take the liberty of pointing out inconsistency in stories? Omission of vital details = lying. Do you get that?

-- It's usually best not to lie, period. `Cuz then you don't have to remember who you told it was just an emotional affair and who you told it really did get physical.

-- You have been driving without a license since DECEMBER, and suddenly on Easter you think you'd best skip dinner at my house for fear of being pulled over? Or was it just nerves over your job interview Tuesday? It has nothing to do with me? Tell Mom to lie better for you, her clueless look speaks volumes.

-- I know this is the information age, and the social networking sites have made it appear that I really DO have 400+ friends. But from YOU I expect a return call. Wait, I take that back -- from YOU I expect a call *before* I call you.

Oh, and if you are one of those people who expects me to call you first -- can you remind me just in case I forgot?

Thanks. -- S.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Tentative Introduction

You'd think a writer-at-heart would already have a Blog, would already have a following -- would want to share all the intricate windings of thoughts that somehow form my single view of life. But no, I have been as far as creating a site, without posting a word. Who will read it? Who will openly criticize? Who will creep into my thoughts without being traced? Or worse still, who will care? Who really *cares* what I think or feel, or wants to take precious time to read my words on ultra running or a day in my life?

Perhaps you will care.

And so I begin.