And our first place female runner, from Franklin, Tennessee, 15 years old, with a time of 1:37….Kathryne Hirt!! The announcer said. I couldn’t help thinking, how on earth did I get here?
last month of school for 3 children
email from my parents, “we are moving to Michigan on July 24th”
my brother having open heart surgery
my 14 year old headed to High School
my 14 year old having new friends
In the summer of 1993, I completed lifeguard training.
- swim 200-400 yards without rest
- tread water for 2 minutes
- grab 10 pound brick from 8-12′ of water and swim back with it
Fast forward to May 2017, twenty-four years later. I have been treading water, this time, for 30 days. I swim, then tread. I swim, then, tread. Then, tread/swim some more, all the while, holding on to a 10 pound brick for the duration.
It’s been physically tiring, mentally tiring, and spiritually tiring.
At times, going under. . . at times, heaving for breath. . . at times, crying so hard that I could not breathe. . . at times, my heart, beating so fast. . .
Swimming, treading water, holding on is a lot harder than running.
So f a i n t, I just wanted to collapse. So w i r e d that nothing in my mind could settle down. So c o n s u m e d, I did not want to eat. So e m p t y, I lost a bit of me. Truly, the only thing that I had to offer my friends and Jesus was my need, my demand, my urgency, my longing.
Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget,
how much you have always loved to swim. . .
-Tyler Knott Gregson
Ten Hours, nineteen minutes. 10,500′ climbing. 15:28 pace. Forty miles.
I signed up for Leona Divide 50. I finished Leona Divide 40 with a 50K medal. This was my fifth 50 and my hardest to date, climbs to 4000′ and temps in the high 80s to low 90s. The race director (RD) , Keira Henninger, sent an email out to runners a couple of days before the race to make everyone aware of the heat and to offer several suggestions for key places in the race to load up on drinks and ice. The RD specifically mentioned miles 17 to 26 to load up on ice and water because it was a long, exposed climb.
Miles 0-17.8 My goal with this section was to run it as fast as I could comfortably go. This would be the coolest part of the day and I took advantage of it. The start was about 2 miles uphill on the road. Then, double track trail that fed to single track for the rest of the race. The race started at 6:00a. You did not need a light at the start. I ran hard and was WAY ahead of my projected pace/time by mile 17.8. I did need to slow down. The climbs were not too steep or technical. For me, they were challenging because of the altitude.
Miles 17.8-27 I was happy to reach aid station #3, Aqua Dolce, mile 17.8. The cutoff time was 11:30a. I arrived at 10:15a. I took a few minutes to put ice in my hat, in my bra and around my neck in an arm sleeve.
This section was tough. It was 5.5 miles uphill and about 3-ish miles down. It was exposed except for the occasional oasis of shade. There was a breeze that blew every once in a while to cool my ice soaked body. The top of this climb went to around 4K. The climb to the top and the run down from the top required me to breathe deeply. I unbuckled my vest on the climbs to get a full breath of air.
Miles 27-33 Mile 28 was aid station #4, Bouquet Canyon Rd. The cutoff time here was 1:45p. I arrived at 12:30p. Great volunteers! They were fun and helpful, making light of an insane day. I restocked ice in my hat/bra/arm sleeve. I took a brief, ICE COLD sponge bath, put on sunscreen and loaded up my bottles with electrolyte and water. I do not remember much about this section. It was part of an out/back. Just remember more running up and more running down. The trails were beautiful and runnable. The downhill was sweet.
Miles 33-40 Aid station #5, Spunky Edison. This is where the race got tough for me. I was not mentally prepared to patiently suffer. When I reached this aid station it was about 1:45p. The cutoff here was 2:30p. They were out of ice and they had one container of cold water remaining. The rest of the drinks were warm. I was not prepared, mentally. I wasn’t sure how to process this, and I started thinking about dropping to the 50K. I would still have to run back about 4 miles to the finish. I decided to move to the next aid station at mile 40, before making any decisions. It was an out/back. . . 7 out & 7 back, then 4 miles to the finish. THIS section was the toughest of the day because my body was hot. I was carrying 50 oz of water & electrolyte. I drank my electrolyte and one bottle of water. It was warm. (bleh)
There was plenty of runnable trail in this section, really ALL day the trail was runnable. My energy was low. My water was hot. I knew I needed to eat, especially if I was going to run back and finish 50. I started 1st on my sandwich, eating one tiny bite at a time. I chased it with a bit of hot water. I made it through 1/2 sandwich.
I occasionally confronted my desire to stop. . .
“Do your feet hurt?”
“Do your legs hurt?”
“Are you vomiting?”
“Are you eating/drinking?”
“Are you hot?” **KIDDING!! I was hot!**
No. No. No. Yes. Yes.
It was hard to stop thinking about the 7 miles back to the aid station that did not have ice or coke or cold drinks. I tried eating again. I did not really want to chew, so I slowly sipped 1/2 GU and followed it with more hot water.
I could see the aid station now at mile 40 (I could also see the trail back.) A very sweet, energetic lady came running up the trail to tell me that the aid station was waiting for me with ice and cold drinks. I started to cry. She couldn’t see the tears behind my sunglasses but she saw my mouth turn down and my lip quiver. I made it to the AS with time to spare. I hiked ALL 7 miles in 2 1/2 hours. I arrived at 4:30p. The cutoff was originally 4:30p, but it was extended to 4:50p.
It was too late. I decided a mile back that I was done suffering for the day. I gave up the fight. As soon as I walked into the AS, Sara asked me if I was okay. I said, “no, I’m done. I want to drop.” I think she could have convinced me or anyone could have helped to convince me to go on, but I could not convince myself. I got a ride to the start from a dad, crewing his daughter. I picked up my 50K medal and headed for my car.
Leona Divide: Why run?
- Fantastic Volunteers, very organized
- Sweet, runnable trails, not technical
- Easy to get to from LAX
- Awesome muscle (race) shirt!
- -NOT easy for this TN girl at the end of April. In some ways it was more challenging than Pine to Palm (P2P)
- -Hotter for longer, completely exposed all day in the sun
- -Minor elevation, up to 4K. The top of the climbs and the top of the downhill was hard. P2P was at the end of August. I trained all summer in the heat and humidity. This helped prepare me for the elevation at P2P.
- +I did a great job drinking. I knew with the heat and altitude that I needed to drink to avoid dehydration. I think, overall, I drank more than 2+ gallons in 10 hours.
- -Eating was worse than I thought. GOSH. I ate 1 zbar, 1 1/2 turkey/cheese sandwiches, two handfuls of peanut butter pretzels, one pack of GU watermelon chews. 4 mini peanut butter cups, some watermelon, 1/2 GU, ginger ale, and 4 mini ginger cookies.
The course will be the same as last year: Beginning and ending at the Stone Door Ranger Station, with 26.2 miles of the most brutal, unforgiving, rocky, steep terrain you could imagine in between.
The Savage Gulf Marathon fit perfectly on my training schedule in preparation for my April 22nd race. The weekend of Savage Gulf (SG), I had 31 miles on my training plan. I knew that SG would be a difficult event. It would feel like a moderate 50K. So rather than run in Percy Warner for 6 hours, SG it was!
A few fun facts from the day:
- 4-5 slippery, swinging bridges to cross
- 4-5 water crossings, enough water to get your feet wet
- 62 degree high for the day
- ROCKS. ROCKS. ROCKS. ROCKS. ROCKS. R O C K S.
- 4 aid stations on course. Food/water/soda at the end.
- wet, muddy course
- 29 men
- 14 women
I’ll break this up by my selection of sections.
Miles 0-2.5 very runnable and non-technical. You had better start out running! I settled into the back of the pack. For this race, especially, I wanted to have the space to s l o w down on the rocks. The rocks were slippery and the trail was muddy and wet, due to rain.
Miles 2.5-5 so, so rocky. You head down the Stone Door, a steep, stone, staircase decent. The rocks were slippery. I was very cautious. I did not want to hurt my ankle. I was pretty discouraged at this point (mile 2.5!) because I had to walk this section. I continued to scale rocks until the first aid station around mile 6.3. My average pace from 0-6.3 was approximately 14.55.
Miles 6.8-11 was a climb up, moderate at times, steep for sections. SURPRISE! More rocks. Boulders. Teeter-Totter rocks. Medium rocks. My average pace for this section was 17:12.
Miles 11-18 for the first time in the race that I was able to run on the smaller rocks for a longer period of time. The last 2 miles down to aid station #3 at mile 18 was all runnable. I finally started to get in a better mental place. My average pace for this section was 15:50.
Miles 18-23.6 great runnable section was now gone, enter MORE rocks!! Oh my goodness. At this point, I was so over the rocks. You guys, the rocks were the trail. Good grief. Then from about mile 22.6 to 23.6 was the last steep climb out of the Savage Gulf. I was actually in good shape to hike this one. My heart was beating fast. It was like my body was generating energy to either breathe or keep my heart beating. I pushed the hike and kept my fingers crossed for the last 3 miles of the race!! My average pace for this section was 19:21.
Miles 23.6-26.2 RUNNABLE! I decided to see what I could do with the last 3 miles. It was great running. For the most part, NO MORE ROCKS. Definitely, not as technical. It was hard, but I pushed the pace. I worked very hard. My average pace for this section was 10:00. I was really stoked for that pace!
My stats: 6:57:33. #6 lady out of 14. #29 out of 43 total. 4,330′. (joyful exhale)
Running fills a need so we make fewer demands on others. Running reveals the roots of negative thinking, so the weeds can be pulled. Running reconnects the soul to the source, inspiring hope and creativity.
Trail Race Virgin
My first official trail race . . . 7 to 8 miles (Hardwin Adventures race which apparently makes the race mileage a bit, fluid, shall we say?) didn’t seem like that big of a deal. I mean, I’d done training runs of that distance in Percy Warner a couple of times and felt fine so I really went into it more excited than nervous. Honestly, I didn’t really care how long it took me, I was really just looking forward to some uninterrupted time on the trail in the woods.
I showed up a bit early the morning of the race to pick up my number and get my bearings. I was running this race alone, but ran into some acquaintances at the start which was fun. As I dug a handful of rusty safety pins out of the zip-loc bag full of pins provided and crumpled up my race number (only newbies leave it clean and pristine, right?), I had flashbacks to road bike racing days and started to feel some of those old pre-race jitters. I told myself I was just here to “run” and not “race” and I just needed to simply enjoy being in the woods for a few hours without needing to feed or clean anyone else (Mom of 3, 7 and under, #reallife).
The participants lined up at the start and pledged their commitment to giving their all and running with humility and respect for the land and their fellow runner which of course made me choke back a sob because #waterworks ever since birthing aforementioned children. Then just like that, we were off! After a brief stint in an open field we started a climb. Not a bad climb, really, but the crowd made it feel like I was in a ride line at Disney. Now, if you don’t know me, you must know that I don’t really like to walk or hike when I trail run, I like to run everything – albeit very slowly at times – so this queue was frustrating to me at first. I felt like I could have run this climb if it hadn’t been so crowded but I just sort of settled in and hiked and coached myself by remembering that this would save me some energy for later.
The initial climb led us up to a brief ridgeline where the crowd thinned out. Before long we came to our first significant challenge . . . a descent and subsequent ascent that required sideways footing and the occasional bracing of self with a hand on the hillside. This part was crazy steep! If I’d tried to run down (which I didn’t see anyone do), I feel certain I’d have tumbled head-over-heels cartoon style to the bottom. The ascent on the flip side was nearly as daunting. It was not runnable for me (Boo. See previous note, regarding me not liking to walk/hike) but I went into the race knowing that, so I was truly okay with hiking and had fun passing a few people who had to stop to catch their breath. All this ascending and descending was further complicated by thick mud resulting from rain overnight that was covered by a heavy layer of fallen leaves. These things worked together to make it less of a trail race and more of an adventure race for me.
After the steep ascent and descent the rest of the course fell into a regular rhythm of jeep roads punctuated here and there by climbs and descents of varying degrees of difficulty. My least favorite section was another steep descent down a trail-less hillside coated in thick mud covered with inches of dead leaves to a creek at the bottom followed by a climb with roughly the same conditions just on the other side. Really, nearly the entire course was like this which made it not my favorite, to be honest. Once I came to the first aid station across the creek I knew I had only about 3 miles left and I felt sort of home-free because the race manual had described this section of the 12K to be where you could really start to pick up some speed to the finish. Maybe I read that wrong, but I did not find that to be true. There was still much climbing to be done and I feel like when I wasn’t on a gravel jeep road, I was on one of the plentiful trail-less sections of the course guided by little multi-colored flags sunk in the thick mud and leaf icing on the cake that was the Music City Trail Ultra.
It’s kind of funny . . . another thing about me is my covert competitiveness. I like to think I’m “only competing against myself” and just “trying to do my best” and while that’s true . . . . towards the end, I came across an acquaintance I’d chatted with at the beginning. Given her experience and my lack thereof, I didn’t figure I’d see her at all after the start but here she was. All of a sudden it turned into a race for me. I tried to block out thoughts of “I must pass her, she cannot beat me” and tell myself I didn’t care who crossed the line first but she was so close. I noticed she walked the hills so I became determined to jog them if at all possible. At some point, I came up on her and she seemed surprised to see me. Then I passed her and didn’t see her again until sever minutes after I’d crossed the line. So, maybe I am a bit competitive. Could be genetic.
Takeaways from my first race . . .
- This race was tough but my training had me really well prepared for the challenge of it. Thanks Coach McClain.
- This race was not my favorite, but it was accurately described by the organizer and I feel like he did a fantastic job with the event. The course was really well marked, swag was fun and the atmosphere was chock-full of comradery. Bonus points that it was really close to home!
- I literally crossed the line looking forward to my next race, whatever that will be. I’d really like one that has you on actual trails, though, not trail-less flag marked hillside. I will say – this is not the fault of the organizer and I don’t feel like the event was mis-represented in any way, shape or form. I just really enjoy gliding up and down packed trails. I’m cool with obstacles but this course was just too fraught with less than ideal topography and conditions for me to call it a favorite.
- This is one time I can say without hesitation that I gave everything I had. Oftentimes out of fear of failure I find myself sub-consciously holding back a bit. Not here, folks. When I crossed that line I did it with my last ounces of energy. That, my friends, is a pretty cool feeling.
Some battle their demons everyday. Some battle them once in a while.
On the days that you are being lied to by your demons and pushed around. . . Push back. Be brave. Take up the fight. You are worth it.
What is holding you back?
I woke up this morning, per usual. I’m first up. I wake the girls up and make sure they get downstairs. I prepare breakfast for them. We pray. They eat and get dressed. Jack wakes up on his own. He gets his breakfast and sits with me, while I eat mine. The girls and I leave for school by 6:50a. Jack and I walk to the bus stop, when I get back from dropping off the girls. This is everyday, rain or shine, light or dark. I do not have to think about it and I never do.
I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy lately and I think it is on purpose. Not a day goes by when someone does not ask me, “how are you?” My answer is almost always, “fine, great, or good”. It’s an automatic response, like one of those “out of office replies”.
Do you go through periods of time where you don’t know how you are or what you feel? Maybe, because you’re pushing it away with tasks, busy-ness, fear?
After the kids left, I headed upstairs to get dressed to run. I went through three running outfits. (This is not like me.) Because I was feeling fat, ‘I had nothing to wear’. Finally, I decided fat or not, outfit number three was it. I kissed Byron goodbye. Got in the car. I quickly reminded myself again that fat is not a feeling. Then, I listen to these lyrics.
This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking
This is the unmaking
I’ll gather the same stones where
Everything came crashing down
I’ll build You an altar there
On the same ground
‘Cause what stood before
Was never Yours (Nichole Nordeman, “The Unmaking”)
Lord. . . help me to find beauty in the breaking.
Help me to find the one who calls me beloved in my broken place. . . . In Jesus’ name.
My demons? Today?
“You are not enough”
“You cannot feel loved”
“You are fat”
Demons are excellent shape shifters and can morph from one torturous form to another in the blink of an eye. . . You courageously soldiered on. It was not easy or fun, but you persevered, even when you thought the pain would never stop. Slowly but surely, it abated. At first, you may not have even noticed the subtle lessening of your anger, anxiety, or grief, but as the weeks and months wore on you started to feel more alive and open. That resiliency supports you through every challenge, allowing you to stretch beyond what you thought your limits were, and finding more capacity to bear what you thought was unbearable.
-Nicole S. Urdang, MS, NCC, HSM, “How to Face Your Demons“
I decided to race them. To run hard. To be out of breath. To run steep. To see if I could hang on for the win. 10 miles.
Oh. They were fast and relentless. If I slowed down or walked for a second, I would hear them taunt me. I ran longer. I pushed harder. I climbed steeper. They fell further back. Their lies became muffled. I dropped them, and they never caught me. I won the workout. I beat the doubt. I beat the lies. I beat the fear. I beat the demons.
I started to imagine what my demons looked like. I imagined them running after me. How tall? What shape? Their faces? I KNOW my readers can all relate to THIS. . . they were Me: taunting, lying, chasing. . . ME. . . I am my harshest critic. I am my meanest demon. Today. . . I won. I received this song from a friend. I love it.
When it feels like surgery
And it burns like third degree
And you wonder what is it worth?
When your insides breaking in
And you feel that ache again
And you wonder
What’s giving birth?
If you could let the pain of the past go
Of your soul
None of this is in your control
If you could only let your guard down
You could learn to trust me somehow
I swear, that I won’t let you go
lyrics by Switchfoot, “I Won’t Let You Go”
There is hope on our journey, friends. There are people and places that soothe, heal, calm, and hold us. I have a life full of people and places that I go to when these struggles rear their ugly, lying heads. And, NO DOUBT, I have a Savior in Heaven who says to me, “I swear, that I won’t let you go.”
The challenge of Wednesday’s run was each footfall. My path was steep, muddy, and dirty. Each footfall was different. Each footfall was a challenge. I had to change my running mechanics, if I wanted to remain upright. I had to slow down in places to pull my foot out of the mud. I had to hop in places from rock to rock. I had to walk in places so that I would not slip.
Isn’t this like life?. . . our paths can be steep, muddy, dirty. . . We chose marriage, but we don’t chose cancer. We choose to have children, but we would never chose to bury them. We chose to love our family, but we do not chose to watch one of the members die. We choose the heights of love, but do not wish to navigate the heartache that comes with loving a person.. . . we have to slowdown, change, hop, walk, when we’d rather run. . .
Most often in training (running), I choose the steep places, the dirty places, the out of breath places because they tend to be quiet places, listening places. . . hard. . . places. I always finish. I may be extra dirty. I may be extra tired. I finish carrying mud or scars. The dirt, mud, exhaustion and scars will go away. Scars, more slowly than the other three. Sometimes the scars remain indefinitely.
The steep places do not get easier. I get more adapted. They do not become less dirty. I bring something to wipe away the dirt. The mud depends on the day. The scars? I still get cut and bruised. I become better at taking care of my wounds.
My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.