Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Out of the ashes

For years and years I've wanted a tattoo. I could just never really decide what I wanted. Once I started running I decided I wanted something running related. I picked out some designs I liked and kind of went back and forth on what exactly I wanted. I told myself after I finished my first ultra I would get one. Well, I finished the FlatRock 50k, but honestly, I kind of faked that one. It didn't feel real. I finished it, but I could have done better. I didn't train like I should have and my performance was awful. I didn't get the tattoo. I kept thinking about it and finally decided after I did my 50 mile I was doing it. I was happy with my training so I knew if I had a good race this was the time to do it.

Training for long races takes a lot of time. After accomplishing the goal of these races many people do different things. Many, including myself, write race reports. One friend has been working on a leg sleeve creating a lasting memory of his first marathon and ultras of each distance. After talking with him and my brother some I decided a tattoo to mark the accomplishment of my goal and the journey leading up to it was what I wanted to do. I was talking with Justin and telling him I wasn't sure what I wanted. He thought a minute, sent me a picture, and told me this, "During the course of your training your running and your mental aspect of training was not where it should've been and it was only accentuated by the negative response from a fellow runner. You were torn down and basically broken at the end of the Hawk when your friends picked you up, dusted you off, and helped you rise out of the ashes with a revitalized view of your goals and mission toward your 50, and your off-season training."

The idea of the phoenix tattoo was born. As soon as I saw the picture he sent I knew that's what I was getting. I had never found a design I liked and as soon as I saw this I just knew it was right. Like the phoenix, I felt like I had risen from the ashes to be reborn into a completely different runner and even person in the last 6 weeks before Prairie Spirit.

The first thing that happened that changed how I felt about running and myself was FlatRock. If you read my blog about that race you know that I finished with 52 seconds to spare, but could not have been happier. I learned that I need to just go out and do my own thing and find my own happy. It doesn't matter if I finish first (can't even type that without laughing out loud!) or last. Finishing is what matters and making myself happy is the most important thing I can do when running. Two weeks after FlatRock I paced and crewed at Heartland. Just seeing these amazing runners accomplishing their goals was awesome. I learned so much. Then in the middle of the night when all I wanted to do was curl up in a warm car and go to sleep after already being up for hours crewing and pacing, I started pacing again. I proved to myself that I could keep going even when I really just wanted to stop and sleep. It was so inspiring to see Adam dig deep and continue moving through significant pain and exhaustion. It showed me that I'm capable of so much more than I ever thought. I just need to push myself more and stop being such a wimp.

Two weeks after that I ran 50 miles. I've already told that story, so no need to tell it again. I couldn't have been happier with how that day turned out. I had completely changed my attitude about my running by then. I never got down on myself about how horrible I was and never asked myself why I was doing this. I knew why I was doing it. I knew I wasn't horrible. I finally had confidence. I think I had to be completely broken down like I was at Hawk so I could build myself back up (with the help of my friends) to become a better person. The phoenix is the perfect symbol of what happened to me. The old me died and a new, stronger me was born.

The symbolism of the phoenix can apply to many different life situations, not just running. I could go on and on about what it means to me, but this is a blog about my running, so I will leave it there. Thanks to Justin who helped me with the design and also with explaining the way I felt about it.

Pic. It's not 100% healed just yet

Monday, November 18, 2013

When the Kool-Aid runs dry...

...my friends start drinking bourbon, then people start listening to me, and phrases like "let's go jump off a cliff" get thrown around. It all started last week when Justin started a group facebook chat with him, Joell, Candi, Zach, Kodi, Reina, Eric and me. The thread is well over 2000 messages long as of right now. Sometime last week Candi asked me in the group conversation if I wanted to run on the FlatRock trail this weekend. Of course I said yes. Then Zach said he wanted in, even though he was doing a 12 hour race the day before. Reina asked if she could come and we said absolutely. Justin decided he'd come too. Joell couldn't make it because they didn't want to leave the girls with someone all day. Kodi might still be just a little bit scared of the rest of us, so she declined. Eric had other plans. Zach was running 12 hour Saturday, Candi was going to be at a wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday, I was planning on drinking a lot Saturday night, Justin is always crazy, and Reina seems up for anything. Oh my. It was a disaster waiting to happen!

We woke up Sunday morning to a message from Reina that she was sick and couldn't make it. That left 4 of us. Candi and Zach were going to be late, but I had already anticipated that because Candi is never on time! I got to the parking lot first and Justin pulled in a couple of minutes later. We were talking and he was asking me questions about another trail. We talked about it for a bit and I said "you know, there are bathrooms at each end and places to get water. Maybe we could run there." I'd say that's where the wheels started falling off of our "run." When Candi and Zach got there we filled them in and they were in. They all followed me to the overlook because that's where the trail starts. I think there was some discussion about having a beer before we started running, but no one did. Candi and I had to pee, so we went over to the restrooms and found them locked. We did the next best thing, which was squat against the building beside each other and pee. We got that taken care of and started running. Immediately Justin said he needed to pee and would catch up with us. 

We ran a short distance and had to go down a crevice. At the bottom I told Candi which way to go and we started running again. Soon she started screaming. There was a snake!! OMG. I hate snakes, Justin hates snakes. I don't think Candi likes them very much, but isn't afraid of looking at them the way Justin and I are. Zach decided to start playing with it. I screamed a lot and possibly threw Justin in front of me. 
Here is Zach holding the evil nastiness. Candi took the pic on Justin's phone because he couldn't look at it.

There was lots of craziness on the trail because no one but me had been on it and I was in the back. It's not marked well and the leaves were so thick they made it hard to see where to run. Candi became the first to donate some blood to the trail when she smacked her knee into a rock. We got off the trail a couple of times. We made it to where the blacktop that intersects the trail and I assured them the next part of the trail is easier to see. Yeah, I think I lied. We kept running and were just talking and laughing a lot. I think it was here that Zach asked Justin and I how our Kool-Aid joke started. We told our story. It's a joke that Justin and I started and it quickly caught on with the whole group. At some point I got poked with a stick or something and it was my turn to leave a little blood behind. Pretty soon we were at the end of the trail where the bathrooms are. These are the cleanest bathrooms that I have ever seen! Campground bathrooms that are clean and shiny and even smell good? What?! We spent a lot of time talking about that. Then I showed them another short trail that would lead us back to the longer one so we took that. Candi told a really funny (maybe not for her) story about a cat getting in her house when she was gone for the weekend. 

Somewhere along the way I blew a snot rocket and hit Justin with it. I had been drinking vodka the night before so we joked that I was blowing vodka rockets. We also talked about me sweating vodka and Zach asked if he could lick me. It was early enough in the run that I wasn't completely crazy, so I said no. Justin said I could probably just wring out my buff and they could drink it. Eeeewwww. On the way back I started feeling really pukey. Justin and I came up with a plan of how I was going to puke without getting it all over him. Thankfully I was able to hold it back. When we were almost back to the overlook I saw another snake. I started screaming and cussing and I think I tackled Justin a couple of times. Zach again tried to play with it. We heard voices and realized there was a family of hikers really close. Oops. I think I gave the kid an education his mom would rather he not have. 

We got back to the car and tried to figure out our next move. Again, we discussed whether or not it was time to start drinking. We all went with no because we were pretty sure that would be the end of the day. At that point everyone but me started stripping. Come on guys! This is a family friendly trail! Ok, maybe not with us on it! We ran down a huge blacktop hill to get to the mountain biking trail. We hadn't been on it long when Zach said "Hey, let's make our own trail up this hill." Oh.My.Lord. We went straight up. There was no trail and it was covered with leaves, so it was rough going. I'm pretty sure Zach was my number one enemy in life at that moment. When we got to the top Justin and Zach found a great big rock to climb. Sadly there were no photos because none of us had our phones. After that we saw where the trail that we had been on earlier was so we started making our way to it. There was a lot of climbing involved and it got a little scary a couple of times. 

We got back to the other trail and made our way to the crevice that we had already climbed a couple of times. As Zach and Candi were going up it Justin asked me "where does this purple trail go?" I said I didn't know, but I'd seen the end up by the road before and it looks like if you want to follow it you have to jump off a cliff. Justin said "Let's go!" I told Candi and she told Zach, who was already at the top "Come this way, we're going to jump off a cliff." Not one time did any of us question that idea. We just went. We finally got to a spot where we thought we should go up to where our cars were. More rock climbing. When we got to the top, Zach started sniffing for beer and led us back to the trail. What we did now is what Justin tells me is called fell running. I'm pretty sure it was just us running like fools through the woods with stuff smacking us in the face and scratching our legs. We got back to our cars and there were some handy benches to sit on. We finally started drinking the beer we had been talking about for 3 hours or so. Justin said he was going to go change. The next thing I know I hear his voice say "It's like changing in the open air showers at the beach." I looked over and he was standing in the trash can corral changing clothes and having a conversation with us. 

Some pics while we were sitting around. I said that I couldn't show one of the pics or people would know I run with half naked people. I'm going to be a rebel and go ahead and post it!

Notice the shoes beside Justin. He had brought his bike and planned to ride it after we left. Ha ha ha ha. Funny. He didn't. 

After we had been drinking for a while Justin decided we needed to go run some more, and this time with a phone, so we could take pictures of our antics. We started running down the trail and I told them that if we went back and took some of the road we could get on the end of the purple trail. We knew jumping off a cliff was a possibility, but we all decided we were ok with that. Justin was trying to decide where to put his phone and decided in his pants was the best option. I said something really funny that made everyone laugh and I'm not repeating on here. My parents sometimes read this blog! Anyway, we started running down the road. We got to some purple marks and realized they aren't really a trail, but are marks to tell people to keep out, private property. Crap!! We ran back and someone suggested that maybe we should slide down the giant drainage pipe we had seen earlier to get to the lower level of the trail. Again, no one thought this was a bad idea. It really probably was! 

Some pics from that adventure. I thought I was going to die. 

We ran a bit when Zach decided he should climb a really big rock wall. There is a better picture of this, but I'm using this one because someone (Justin?) decided that every time the suns rays made an appearance in one of our pictures it was Eric's spirit joining us, or something like that. We think he would have really enjoyed our run and hope he joins us on our next bout of foolishness.

We got back on the trail and ran a little bit before we came to a fallen tree. Zach and Justin decided to move it off the trail. Candi helped and I kindly offered to take a photo. Zach and Justin decided that they should lift it up and push it over so it would fall down the hill. It got caught on something and ended up breaking and came down and hit Zach in the face. He started to fall, but Justin grabbed him and hugged him (awwwww) and they stumbled a bit but didn't fall. It's a very good thing because Zach would have hit his head on a rock and it wouldn't have been good. 

We got back on the purple not really trail and decided to go back up. Some climbing pics.

We did some more crazy running through the trees and were back to the parking lot for a final time. More alcohol was consumed (not by me, I was so done) and we sat around talking forever. Some poor lady had brought a chair and a book and was trying to read. Needless to say, she was not at all impressed with us. I think we ruined her day. I had brought Apple Ale, Strawberry Ale and Strawberitas. Zach laughed at me early on and asked just how many girls I thought were going to be there. Ha! he drank three of my girly drinks I think! In fact, when it came to the last strawberita he raced Justin to my car where the cooler was. Justin was going to jump on Zach's back and fight him for it, but thankfully common sense prevailed and he didn't. We talked for a long time until we were all starving to death and we decided to head home. 

We didn't run our planned number of miles, but I think we're all happy with how the day turned out. It was a ton of fun. Hopefully next time the rest of our friends can join us and we'll have an even better time.