Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Running A Mile In My Shoes: 3 Days at the Fair

         They say you don’t know a person until you run a mile in his shoes.  I’m not sure about that, but I do know about running a mile over and over again for 6-12-24-48 or 72 hours.  Three Days at the Fair is a timed race around a 1-mile course.  To date, I have run this mile 466 times, including 115 this past weekend.  I have it memorized.
            It may sound monotonous, but there is comfort in knowing the tail.  Let me take you on a trip around the mile.

Start/Finish-This is the happiest place on the course.  It features the one aid station.  They are known to cook to order and deliver hot food right on to the course.  Nothing beats hot chocolate chip cookies at 2 am!
The “HILL”-this thing will grown exponentially from barely noticeable, to OMG!  Before you tackle the hill, you have the choice of stepping a few feet off course to hit the bathrooms or simply continuing on.

Tent City-Turn right at the hill, take a few steps, turn left for a few more, then one more right.  Some of the superstars camp here.

Out and back-Many of the campers set up here.  The out and back is where you will find “crowd support” as friends and family supporting runners are housed here.  Not unlikely to find someone playing guitar, passing out ice or simply cheering.   


The out and back culminates in the garbage can musical chair turn-around.  It can be humorous watching  runners hug this corner to get momentum.


The Downhill slide:  Once you round the garbage can, you run down the slightly downward pitch straight away.   Most try to run here.  You will go by the chicken coop.  These roosters are often confused by the time, and will crow at all hours.

Right at the fence:  take a few steps, go through the gates, look for cars.


Ouch:  After a few steps, you take a sharp left, and take no more than three steps over a rocky, sandy area.  This transition from pavement to dirt, hurts every time.  Yes, every time.

Round the Bend:  You next spend about a quarter mile going around a bend.   The bend is marked with an odd assortment of lawn ornaments.  Apparently, the ¼.½ and ¾ marks are also indicated.  I didn’t learn this tidbit until I had been around over 400 times.

Stained glass dino's;  back to running

Angry Birds Part1;  many start to slow their pace here

Angry Birds Part 2- lots of walking happening

Stained Glass fish:  Paces begin to pick up again.  Halfway!

Kung Fu Santa;  A marker for many to begin running again

Cyclops Squirrel:  Entry to the long straight away back, and a character that will enter my nightmares


Old Bitty Owl:  Keep moving

Seen Better Days Puppy, straight away is ending

Quiet Zone:  The one turn on the course, yes, I’ve missed it, but I shouldn’t have, it is very well marked.

Grass/Gravel  Straightaway:  Relief for the feet, and often a chance to view a horse show.

Back to Gravel:  Turn right and go back on the pavement.  Run past the barns where less adventurous campers hang out.   Start thinking about what you want at the aid station

Heavenly Left:  Make the turn and you are back at the Start/Finish.  You just have to grind up a very small incline.

I have learned to love this course.  What it lacks for in diversity it makes up for in so many other ways.  Aside from the logistics of not having to carry any gear, as you are never more than a mile from it, you get to watch some amazing human spirit quests.   I can think of no where else you can share the same trail as a man setting the world record for 72 hours, a Barkley finisher, a heavy grandmotherly looking lady completing a marathon, a smarty-pants walking encylopedia, friends working hard and hanging out, a special lady, I've watched come close to finishing a 100 several times, finally achieve it, and a multitude of others endeavoring to get out of their comfort zones.

As a group, we battled sun, rain, wind, cold and a Relay for Life with horrible music.   Spirits soared, crashed, and were resurrected.  Friendships were built and strengthened, while bodies were beat up and torn down.  

I was never alone.  I could always see another runner, and was often buoyed by their journies.  I was supported by those with me, and by those who would reach out to me.  All helping me dig deep within myself, to go the extra mile.

Monday, May 2, 2016

C+O Canal: Just Another Way to Say I Love You

Me:  I love you, Dad.
Dad:  What? Am I dying?

In fact, he was.  This was the last thing I said to my dad, and the first time I ever said it to him.  We just didn’t use those words in our house

The first time my mom said it, was on my wedding day.  She was walking away from me, heading out the door.   I knew it was hard for her, and I cherished hearing it.

Once when Danielle (of course Danielle would ask this) asked why, my mom said, “You know you are loved. Why do you need to hear it?”.  

In college we used to say “I ludge you”.  I could do that.  We said it so we didn’t sound gay.  For many of my sorority sisters, there is tremendous irony in that statement.

This weekend, I ran C+O Canal.  I had high hopes for this race, and I trained with a vengeance.  For some reason, I can go pretty fast on that course, and I’ve set two PR’s along that canal.

On the trail, it got pretty “dark” for me.  The rain was relentless, and I could see a time goal slipping away.  I forcefully took control of my mood.  I thought about the words ‘I love you”.  I thought about all of the people in my life who do love me, but may never say the words.  Instead, they show me love by reaching out to me...supporting me in a sport that they may find “crazy”...really thinking about what I need, which may be as simple as letting me know they are thinking of me.

The race was tough.  I finished the first fifty miles in ten hours and I was feeling great.  Then, the sky opened up, and took my good mood with it.  I’m not fond of running against the clock.  I had to do it when I was trying to qualify for Boston, and again when Ironman training.  To me, although it’s great to go really fast, running to hit an arbitrary time, simply sucks the fun out of it.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, after hours of pouring rain, I decided I wasn’t going to look at my watch again.  I set the timer for that goal time and put my watch away.  “Let’s just see what I can do with this” I thought.  I made it to mile 97 when the alarm went off.  And, most importantly, I got there feeling good about myself.

That goal time, yeah, I know I’ll get it.  I was closer last year when I wasn’t trying.  But, more important than a goal time, (that means nothing to any one but me) I am grateful for the experience of recognizing all the love that I have in my life.  I don't take the words for granted.  I consider them a gift.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but my mom was right: I don’t need to hear the words to know.  

I should finish the conversation with my dad.  These were his final words to me:
Dad:  Hey Kid.
Me:  Yeah?
Dad:  Give ‘em hell

I've never heard i love you more clearly in all my life.