Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marshall Mangler 50k

This was not an easy race.  Which is good, I didn’t want it to be.  I truly felt blessed to be ABLE to run this race.  To know that even though it would be hard, I would get to the finish line.  I knew that there was a good chance I’d come home bruised, dirty, or cold, and I did—all three.

I count my blessings, because today, I ran for my mother-in-law, Thelma (Thel). Heaven only knows if she has weeks, days, or just hours left, but Thel’s ticket to heaven has been purchased…we are just awaiting the departure date.

This beautiful woman was once a power walker.  It was not uncommon to see her around her neighborhood or along the path at Niawanda Park.  She was active until she couldn’t be.

Advanced dementia is a horrible disease.  Thel’s conversation skills during the past few years are akin to one of those amusement park rides.  You know, the kind where you sit in a cart on a track.  The cart passes a switch that activates something in the ride.  When Thel would see me, she would ALWAYS ask me the following three questions:
       1.     Are you still running?
    2.     How’s your mother? 
    3.     Is she staying in her house?

Then, unfortunately, the cart would move on and our conversation would end.  Often times she would look at me and it would trigger the questions again, and again, and again.

Today, I ran because Thelma can’t.

Thel was known for some of her recipes.  German potato salad, Autumn Chowder and her sweet red chili sauce are three that stand out.

I wouldn’t dare attempt her potato salad while she is alive.  That would be sacrilegious.  I make Autumn Chowder from Mark’s memory vs. a recipe every year.  He always takes a few bites, makes that face, and I end up donating the rest to the neighbors.  Okay, so not like momma’s---I get it.  But, the red chili sauce was different.  I liked it so much; I helped her make it, so that I could learn the recipe.  Actually, all I was allowed to do was sit at the table while she made it, but that’s okay.  That recipe, I’ve got.

When I came home from the race, I asked Mark how his mom was doing.  He said she was lucid and that they talked about recipes.  German Potato salad came up---even though she is on death’s door, she wasn’t giving up her secrets.  Then she told him where the recipe for Autumn Chowder could be found.  When he asked about the sweet red chili sauce, she said, “Eva likes that”.    It hit me like a ton of bricks, Her cart made a U-turn!  It was as close to ‘I love you' can be without the words. 

So, yes Thelma, I am still running, and today I ran for you.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to grab a tissue and the recipe for red chili sauce.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

You Can Take the Girl out of the Trail….

I spent most of 2013 on the roads, prepping for the Double Buckle.  I assumed the training would do double duty and prep me for Oil Creek 100.  In some ways, it did.  I was mentally able to take on the challenge.  I knew what I would face.  I knew how to prepare and to execute.  What I didn’t know was how to beat that damned clock.

I just didn’t train the trails enough.  It bit me HARD at Oil Creek.  I needed it to.

Enter, Mendon Pond 50k.  It was my first race back on the trail since OC, and I was determined to nail it.  As is custom, I somehow annoyed Mother Nature and she decided to play with her weather machine.   We had a windstorm the day before with 60 mph gusts.  It was cold, and it was predicted to rain—hard.  AWESOME!!!!  If I was going to prove myself, I wanted something to work with.  Thanks Mom!

This is a small race.  Not long after I got my registration materials, my phone rang.  My buddy Jim was looking for me!  After a bear hug, he introduced me to his friend, who was attempting her first ultra.  We joked that he “Roger-ed” her---yup, buddy—you’re a verb now.  We sat in my car to stay warm before the race.

The race started off almost too warm.  I couldn’t get my layers off fast enough.  Jim’s friend started to struggle at about mile 3.  I wanted to show her the ropes, so I gave her a pep talk, some S-Caps and a pace that she could keep me in sights and learn the course.  It kept me a bit slower, but it put an idea in my head.  I’m going for negative splits.  This means that I would have to run each loop faster than the last.

Lap two was uneventful, and I was able to run it with ease.   I could literally feel the temperatures dropping.  I kept telling myself that if I ran fast enough, the temps wouldn’t matter.  It worked

Until lap 3.  Then the rain started.  It went drip—drop---splat.  It was a heavy, cold rain.  YES!  I’m going to get to run in some mud!  I ran by my car and grabbed the gear I would need and I was off.  The trail absorbed the rain pretty well and I was able to continue with decent momentum on the climbs and descents.  Then my son called.  Seriously kid…No; I can’t come home early to give you a ride.  Okay, there’s my motivation to keep moving.  Still on track with negative splits. 

Lap 4:  The trail had absorbed all it was going to, and it was muddy.  Once you are wet and dirty, it’s not like you can get wetter and dirtier, so I decided to go all out on this loop.  I plugged in my iPod.  First song:  Beast of Burden.  Second song:  Sweet Caroline.  Oh yes!  Still making negative splits, but not with as much cushion. 

Lap 5.  I took a short walk break on the road leading up to the trails.  I started to see people getting down about the weather.  I met a few runners who just hated it.  They motivated me…I decided I was going to pass every runner I came upon.  I missed one, but otherwise met this goal.  I used my experience to navigate the terrain and the weather, and I felt amazing.  I found myself doing what I haven't done in a while---I was singing.  I was truly happy.  I was never so sad to see a finish line!  And yes, my split was negative!

After I got my medal, I stopped by the pavilion to chat with some friends.  Most of them were wrapped in blankets and jackets.  My body figured out that they must be cold, and decided to join them.  I started shivering immediately.   Brrrrr.

It felt amazing to be on the trail, and I will pursue as many trail races as possible this year, including one next weekend.  I also ran fast enough that I was able to help out my son.

Oil Creek..You may take me down again, but this time, it will be with a bigger fight, because you just can't take the trail out of this girl.