Stone Mill 50 Miler


            Oil Creek.  It all seems to start and end with Oil Creek.  This year, I ran the 50k.  As always, the trail was rugged, I had a blast hanging out with friends.  I got to pace two runners to their first 100-miler finish.  I could have done without the bear encounter, but I digress.
            Finishing the 50k felt empty.  I needed it to collect all four buckles, but I crossed the line with more in the tank, and sort of a “now what?” type of feeling.
            My personal tradition is to take a break after Oil Creek.  No running.  Nothing.  Nada.   Normally, I enjoy the first few days, and then I get the itch again. 
            This year was bad.  I didn’t feel like I earned the break.  There is a lull in the racing calendar from Oil Creek until the Beast in January.  There is nothing locally, if I wanted to run, I’d have to travel.  And, here I was with a travel certificate just I was just itching to use.
            It finally dawned on me why I was so desperate for a race.  This past summer, I was in a position that not racing anymore was an option.  I finished up a race in Chicago, firmly believing that I had crossed my last finish line.  I was not okay with it, but it seemed like what needed to happen to regain balance in my life.  I was able to work through the obstacles in front of me, but I was still unsure what my future-racing schedule would look like.  I felt unsettled.
            Stone Mill 50-miler was a game changer.  I was pouring through races with Mark, he wanted me to run a marathon.  The idea had merit, but I wanted more.  I needed trail.  I needed longer than 50k.  I needed to be challenged.  I found all I wanted.
            Stone Mill 50 is not to be underestimated.  It’s full of quad-crushing rollers, mud and a gazillion roots covered by leaves.  Top it off with a low $45 entry fee, and I was sold.  It’s like the trail was flirting with me.
            It was probably about 20 miles in, that I realized something.  I was happy!  Mother Nature was doing her thing.  I was dirty.  I was working my butt off.  I saw animals mauled by what I’m going to assume was a rabid chipmunk (PLEASE do not offer another option).  But, I was singing (loudly).  I was smiling.  I was happy, really, really happy.  Nothing replaces that feeling of digging down, and realizing something is there.  I felt blessed to be able to do what I love and to love what I do.
            I’m a trail runner.  I know this sport is not for everyone.  Lord knows I had no idea it would be for me.  I get to enjoy the spectacular beauty of nature.  I get to challenge myself to run faster and further than I have gone before, or slow it way down and take it all in.  I run on my own power but NOTHING beats getting a text asking how I’m doing.  Every ounce of me is exuberant when I cross the finish line,  not for what I had done, but for knowing I want to do it again.
            Often in a race, there are challenges that make me want to stop.  I might be cold, hungry, exhausted, hurting or ill.  Time and time again, I must find a way to work through it.  I repeat to myself during these trials, “this will pass”.  I must learn to integrate this strategy in my non-running life. 
             Rather than disrupting the balance in my life, running gives me a center.  I am a trail runner.  I’m not done.  Not by a long shot
             Oh, and that travel voucher.  Yeah, I took care of that..stay tuned.

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