Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sometimes, the Race is a Suckfest: Rock and Roll Marathon, Washington DC

Sometimes, you start in an elite corral, after representing your shoe company.   

Sometimes, you start off strong, and something keeps you from doing what you love.

Sometimes, you get passed by pace bunny, after pace bunny.

Sometimes, you use all of your tricks, but none of them work.

Sometimes, you spend 20+ miles, trying to work through the pain.

Sometimes, you just want to stop, but know you'll feel worse if you do.

Sometimes, things go bad in front of A LOT of spectators.

Sometimes, spectators say exactly the wrong thing.

Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth, and push.

Sometimes, you have to accept that finishing is winning.

Sometimes, you have to step back, so you can move forward.

Sometimes, you have to look for what the experience is teaching you.

Sometimes, it’s okay for it to suck.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thank Heaven for Wet Rats

“Like a wet rat”.   That’s the part of the story that he stressed.  “Like a wet rat, that’s what she looked like when I pulled her out of the water.  I didn’t even see her fall it, I just saw her under the surface, and when I pulled her out, she looked like a wet rat”.  

It was years later, sitting on his swing, that he told me the rest of the story of when I was a toddler and had fallen off a dock full of people, into our lake, unnoticed.  “No one has ever scared me as much as you did that day.  I kept you close to me, from then on.”

He taught me.  I can stack wood like a pro.  It was a weekly chore for my brother Rick and I (Mark used to go hide in the basement---rotten kid).  When I was older, I learned to split the wood, with both an ax and a long splitter.   Earning the right to use the chainsaw was a badge of honor.  I can distinctly picture his face, when he finally let me use it.

I can change the oil in my car and properly hammer a nail, all because of him.  My dad built our house.   He told the tale of the old hunter’s cabin that he framed around (so as to avoid extra taxes--it was an addition not a new build that way).  He physically dug the basement below that cabin, by hand with nothing more than a shovel and an ample supply of Old Milwaukee.  

There are pictures of me holding his hand while he put a second story on that same house.   Ever present.  Ever learning.   I can still vividly recall trips to Mr. Seconds to get supplies.   I was his shadow.

He tells me that as a baby my favorite phrase was “I do it” (originally, Me do do) usually resulting from some sibling rivalry competition with my older brother.   It became a refrain throughout my childhood.  I would see my dad laying bricks for our long path to the house, and I’d sidle up and say “I do it”, and he’d let me help.  Or, he would be working on the boat, and hear “I do it”, and I’d get a lesson on engine repair.  He didn’t say much, but, he showed me he loved me, by letting me do it.  

I didn’t truly feel like an adult, until that moment, after he passed, when something broke in my house, and I had to fix it without his advice.  I remember the tears welling up in my eyes, when I reached for my phone and knew I couldn’t call him for advice.   I stood silently for a few moments, until a little voice came to me:  “I do it”.  

Happy birthday, Dad.  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Spousal Support: A few words from guest blogger Mark Basehart

Each one is different and yet the same--no matter how frequent or infrequent the “get-aways.”  Her last thought before she starts a race is “why am I doing this?” (It always starts with why to power up her happy). Her first thought after finishing a race is “When can I do it again?”  (A restless soul searching for essentialism—the disciplined pursuit of less by doing more). When she tightens her ponytail or puts on her running hat, you know it’s about to go down. She needs her alone time and space. She runs epically, reaching, owning it.  Afterwards, I feel the need to send condolences for the loss of her toenails.

These people—you, who call yourselves ultra-runners—are simultaneously blessed and cursed.  You understand what it is to embrace, live and manifest the YOLO mentality of the 21st century—it is what we ALL crave—to “regret proof ” this life—at one level or another, through the pursuit of our passions of choice. You have found a tribe of like- minded individuals who “get” you and themselves—words need not be spoken, merely one’s presence at a race is proof enough.   These people know the secret of life. But, then again, the same can be said for anyone who finds a passion and pursues it with every fiber of their being.

I have learned that the spouses/partners/roommates/significants/friends of such people had better “get it” or be left behind in the dust as quick as you can say “fartleck” To love, honor, cherish and hold (say it with me, people, for faster or slower, PR or DNF and lactic acid build-up). From the outside, looking in, the basics of an ultra-marathon are as follows: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…. repeat for 3 to 72 hours.  Maddening to us mere mortals.  But this is a sport born from the inside looking out.  As Bruce Cockburn said, …” you’ve got to kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight…”  The epic quest for that ONE THING when breath becomes air and our selves go from good to great. Love, honor, cherish and hold.  Support and feed. At all costs. So, while it doesn’t make for good television, it certainly makes for great Hollywood.  The big reason—present over perfect.  Get it?

 I who “support” an ultra-runner question daily if I “feed” her.  Tapering has brought an excuse for every one of her irrational thoughts and actions.  Including the building of amazing home improvement projects that would bring Tim the Tool-man to his knees with envy and shame.   A clean house and organized life is a sign that she is injured or not feeling well.  Nocturnal marathons are won and lost on a nightly basis in our house. With all due respect, if you’re not a distance runner, your definition of tired is discredited.  “I am tired, I think I’ll go for a run”, is indeed, her runner’s logic.  “You are crazy” is her favorite compliment that takes on more significance when uttered from another runner.  She becomes a mathematical wizard whilst running but doesn’t “sweat the small stuff” off the course. 
For, you see, she is at once stubborn, resourceful and self-sufficient (a byproduct of the sport she loves, breathes and  needs) and, at times,  in need of a “caregiver”—someone who can “crew” her life and her races.  On my part, this takes a balance between anticipating needs, wants, cravings, and wishes, while at the same time not doing TOO much as to upset the equilibrium between thoughtful and enabling—this would call into doubt the self-sufficiency that is a harbinger of her “journey”.  Balance between being sweet and annoyingly nice.

It’s hard to think of a better feeling than completing a distance you have never gone before.  And so, at the “Across the Years” ultra-marathon in Phoenix Arizona, with “Crocodile Rock” blasting from the speakers, Eva floated effortlessly across the finish line under an afternoon desert sky after the completion of 151 miles—her PR. 

“The heart is a bloom, shoots up through the stony ground”…a desert rose was born.  Present over perfect.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dear Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

I'm done apologizing to you.  I have tried to make amends and to appease your whims.  But, enough is enough.

You've thrown wind, rain, hail, ice, mud, blizzards, humidity, blistering temps, and more at me.  I've taken it all.

Sometimes, it has defeated me, and I've had to seek shelter.   Those times hurt the most.  Other times, I've found a way to persevere and push on.  All while you feign innocence by surrounding the days preceding and following my races with fair temps and boring forecasts.  You seem to relish in hurting me.

No more.

I am hear to fight.

Yeah, yeah, I know this will annoy you, and I'll have to bear the repercussions.   I've already seen the forecast for this weekend:  up to 10 inches of snow, accumulating ice, and wind gusts up to 35 mph.

You're getting predictable.

You see, I'm on a quest for my final Beast Double Buckle, and I'm not letting you get in my way of getting that job done.

So, go ahead, Mother Nature.  Do your thing.  I'm ready, and, I'll Run Through It.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Rest: Phunt 50K

“I need to process this.”   That’s my standard line, when I don’t want to respond emotionally.   When, I’m tired.

This past week, the alarm would go off, and rather than play that snooze-alarm math, that both lets me sleep until the last possible moment, AND get ready without looking like my morning is happening at light speed, I simply rolled over.   I overslept for work THREE times this past week.  This is NOT like me.

I inherited my disposition to keep busy from my mom.  “NEVER sit before noon” is her mantra.  Even at 82.  Even when her daughter tells her to wait for her to arrange plowing vs. shoveling her monster driveway.  “I’ll rest after, Eva” she says.  “It’s better that way”.

If you cared to look, on any given day, you would see two emails that I send to myself every morning.  One is a very specific daily delineation of what I want to accomplish and the other is my weekly “Tetris” chart.  The latter, though less detailed, contains enough info that I can keep multiple plates spinning at the same time. This past week, I found myself simply changing the date on my to-do lists.   ‘I’ll get to that tomorrow’, I reasoned.

At the end of the week, the to-do list didn’t have the check marks I had intended.

I thought about calling in to work—just to catch up on sleep, and put a dent in the to-do's.  But, it is the end of the semester, and I have donated every plan and lunch period to working with kids.  Taking a day off will just make me busier when I return. 

The reality of racing this weekend filled me with dread.  “How am I going to stay awake for this car ride?”  “I don’t know if my legs can handle the trails”.  “Snow in the forecast!”  “I need to process this”.

I.  Was.  Tired. 

Fast forward to the starting line of the Phunt 50k.   This is a two-lap course, which prides itself on giving the runners a choice of completing one loop (25k—half crazy, according to the organizers), or two loops (full crazy).   Same medal.   They make it VERY difficult to go on, with the implication that if you are tired…it’s okay to stop.

That’s a dirty trick.

I know the lure of stopping; I’ve seen others rationalize it many times.  Rog and I will ask each other the same question when the pull to stop is strong:  “How will you feel about this tomorrow?”

‘Ok, girl…you want to process, now is the time” I said to myself at the starting line.  I took ten seconds.  TEN SECONDS.   I looked around, at the trails, the sun, at myself.   "You can do this.  Go find your happy."

And, I did.   I ran through mud, and sleet, and hail and snow; through a beautiful forest with unexpected covered bridges; over streams and rocks and roots.  I freed my mind, and let my body do what it loves.

I hit obstacles—mostly emotional.   But, I decided to handle them in the same way:  I would process.   I would think about how I would feel tomorrow, if I made a rash emotional response.   I would look around and see how lucky I am.  I would count and hold dear, my many blessings.  I learned, during this race, what is closest to my heart, and what I can, and more importantly, cannot let go of.

I did finish, and I did do two laps.  As I sat shivering in my car after the race, clutching my finisher medal, I thought about driving home.   I sat and processed the thought for a few minutes, asking, “How will I feel about this tomorrow?”.  Finally, I decided to check into a hotel room.  Mom was right; the rest is better that way.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

Monday, December 26, 2016

Starting Beats Finishing

I've got this sweatshirt. I wear it when I'm building...when I'm studying...when I need to get something done...when I lump out...and, sometimes, as much as it is protested against: to sleep. I've cut off the hoodie. The sleeves are too long. It's stained. It's too big for me. Those I live with roll their eyes when they see it. Noah calls it my "get sh... stuff (edited) done" shirt. I've tried to donate it a 100 times, but I rescue it, every time.

It's from Oil Creek, and not from a race I finished. But, it's from a race I struggled with. That shirt and I...we've got history. That shirt reminds me that I know how to get up when I’ve been knocked down.

As I sit, reflecting on my running year, I know there are less buckles than I had planned on receiving.     I lost fights with gravity, earned a medical time-out, messed up my wrist; collected a bunch of bruises, both inside and outside, and added a couple DNF’s.   I also ran my second fastest 100, ran my second furthest distance  (and, I’m not done upping that), hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail, came back and kicked the butt of a race that had kicked mine, and learned a heck of a lot about myself.  And, challenged myself every step of the way, regardless of my finish status. 

I am thankful for those pitfalls, as well as the milestones.   Had those races gone as planned, all I would have to show for them is a few more buckles, and the misinformed notion that the only finish line is the one at the end of the race.  I may go into a race wanting one thing, but the magic is coming out learning something entirely different.

I know that the growth is in the struggle, and the struggle has kept me showing up, and giving all that I have to a sport that I love.  I never want to take my accomplishments for granted.  I like to feel like I am applying for the job, with just that much more valuable experience, each time I show up at the starting line.  I’ve earned that experience by having goals that sometimes take me several attempts to reach.

It is a change of perspective.   I am not in control of the trajectory of each race.   I am emotional at each start, because I know that I will face uncertainty, exhaustion, and whatever Mother Nature dreams up to throw at me.   I do not win them all, but I give each one a hell of a fight.   I love that this sport has taught me that when there is adversity, sometimes my only course of action is to just take a step…. to just start (again)…to keep moving.  It’s become a bit of a mantra….”Just start, Eva…just start.”

When I was sitting in a lean-to on the Appalachian trial.  I was flipping through a notebook kept to record the musings of those passing through.  One entry stuck with me, “When you start talking about quitting, you’ll find a reason to quit”.  I can honestly say, I did not quit on any race this year.   There were some that bested me.  Last weekend, I fell more times than I can count.  I learned that should I find a mishap on a trail, that my last word would most likely cause my mom to wash out my mouth with soap.  But, I also learned, that I got up, dusted myself off, and started again.   Each attempt hurt more than the last, but I kept going, until it was truly unwise to go any further.    I’ll have another opportunity to grab a buckle, but I will never get to learn that lesson, at that moment again.   I am grateful for unexpected opportunities to learn and to grow from unexpected experiences.

So, here I sit.   Getting ready to pack for my last race of the year.   I have set my basic, target and advanced goals.   I don’t know which, if any, I’ll hit.  But, I do know, I will give it all I’ve got.   I am ready both mentally and physically, and have just one lingering question:  Has anyone seen my sweatshirt?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Have Fun, Dammit-Stone Mill 50 Miler

I had been running for about an hour.   It was dark and although the weather report looked good for the day, my fingers were frozen in the pre-dawn cold.  I could easily see my breath, but struggled to find the trail.   A pet peeve of mine is running in someone else’s headlamp light.  It causes me to cast a shadow into my own light and challenges my footing.   To compensate, I tend to over think what I can control.   I force my thoughts to logistics:  How is my pace?  Did I select the right shoes?   Do I need to adjust the fitting on my gear pack?  Happy I thought to eat some avocado the day before.  Cautious that I am only recently out of my wrist splint.

Suddenly, I stepped out of my own head.   I stopped the endless stream of boxes I was trying to check.   Have fun, dammit.   It rang loud and clear.   Have fun.   You love this---let yourself fall in love.   Don’t try to stop and analyze it, it won’t make sense.   Just feel.   Just be.   Just do.   Just step off the platform and take flight. 

I checked back in.   The sun was rising over a calm and beautiful lake, surrounded by fall foliage in full bloom.   There was a slight fog that gave the scene a dream-like quality.  Behind me I could still see the remnants of an immense super moon.  It was a spectacular sight, and I felt blessed to be a first hand observer of Mother Nature’s paintbrush.  

I ran strong, stronger than I have in months.   I’d come to aid stations, and look at the miles I had accumulated…. wondering how I had pranced through so many.   I took my watch off, and packed it away.   I didn’t care what the time was, I cared about the time I was having.  

I freed myself from thoughts about previous races, about my body’s ways of telling me I have been over-doing it, and about challenges I have yet to face.   I shined a spotlight on this race, and in this moment.  I dealt with only what was in front of me, and consciously decided to focus only on what makes me happy.   I spent a few miles listing in my head events, people and moments for which I am grateful.   I know I ran with a visible smile on my face.  I know I am blessed.

My final challenge in the race was literally chasing the sun.   That beautiful sun, that brought me out of my own head this morning was beginning to set.   It was time to put on my wings and fly.  With about a half mile to go, I watched the sky change to dusk and I smiled.   I had done it.   I let my body do what I had trained it to do.   I freed my mind from the confines of boxes that like to be checked.   I took chances, and was rewarded for my efforts.   And, most of all, I had fun.