Friday, July 11, 2014

Hindsight is 20/20

It's so good to be back!

I mean back writing in my blog. I had wondered if I would continue to write after Sinister 7 was over, since the theme "When we love someone" was for all those boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy that I was running for, but over the last 8 months, it's become even more meaningful to me. This blog has become a place where I can speak without fear, without trying to impress someone, or trying to be someone that I am not. It's become a place where I can share, and perhaps set expectations. I'm planning on sticking with it. Writing has become a dear friend.

Hindsight is always 20/20. A week after the race, I understand clearly what happened, and what I'm going to do about it. Basically, my mind got the better of me. It's totally understandable... 75% of the male soloists that entered the race dropped out. Only 25% completed. That's pretty mental.

When I dropped out at the end of leg 4, I got into the van and we headed back to our host. I was so happy with the way things went, and even more happy to not be running anymore! I slept the night expecting that I would not be walking in the morning. I was wrong. I expected for sure that the following day I would feel stiffer. When we got to my Parents place in Magrath, the following afternoon. I was still feeling great. There was something not right about that. I had run 55 miles, and I would expect that I should be totally spent! Why was I not? It was around that time that I started to think that perhaps I have been underestimating myself. Perhaps it's the case that I really do have a talent for running. Perhaps I've been blessed with the right body type, the right metabolism, the right environment (thank-you Fast Trax!) to nurture my passion. I'm supposed to be taking the week off to recouperate, but I already felt recouperated on Monday night.

When I arrived in Magrath, I sent a text to my childhood buddy. I asked him for his number, because I wanted to talk to him. Here is a guy who has finished a couple of 100-milers now. I wanted to hear his wisdom. He responded back with his Magrath number! What was this?!? I had to clarify. Texts flew out and sure enough, he was on vacation and staying only two doors down. This is a coincidence that I sorely needed. I needed to talk to someone about my disappointment, but revel in a common passion. We talked for over an hour. It was wonderful. We talked about how you cannot try to eat the entire elephant at once. It becomes overwhelming. We talked about races we've run. We talked about emotions during an ultra. We laughed about how we both felt annoyed sometimes at aid stations. At one point during Sinister, I arrived at an aid station with a sore tummy. I looked at the food they were offering. I thought "Yuck... disgusting.. Wouldn't touch it with a 10-meter cattle prod..." He talked about being offered pretzels at an aid station and exclaiming "Do I look like I want pretzels???". We laughed at the idea of "What part of aid station do you not understand?"

As we talked, I remembered how much I enjoy the company of like-minded people. People who love to move. People who love adventure. When all was said and done, I had committed to run a very exciting race, in a far away land, and I'm super excited about it. What can I say? If you don't succeed, try try again. So, Monday night, three of us went out for a run. We ran all over town. We talked, we laughed, we relived, and we thought ahead. It was as wonderful as any run could have been. It was something I had been waiting for.

Thank-you you two Gentlemen.

So, I've signed up for the Iron Legs 50-mile race next month. It's going to be tough, but I'm ready for it. I'm feeling confident now, and ready to live in the moment. Success is near. I don't get a lot of time to train because I am first and foremost, a Husband, and then a Father. Following that, well... I am an employee, and then a runner/plumber/carpenter etc.

Virginie is going to come running with me at Fast Trax tomorrow. We're not planning on running together. We have very different styles. However, we'll both be able to enjoy the company of others, and that's what I'm most excited about.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Race day memoirs

Well, my mission is accomplished. Perhaps not quite in the way I had originally imagined, but finished none-the-less. I chose to pull out of the race at the 50 mile mark, and I have almost no regrets. I use the word almost because there are always those twinges when you wonder what could have been. Truth is though, I'm extremely pleased with myself. Here is my story:

The race did not really start for me until I arrived at leg 3. Leg 3 is known as death valley because it's hot. It's almost always run in the afternoon when it's hot, and the heat zaps the strength right from you. Leg 3 is open for almost the entire leg. Trees provide little shade, and the heat radiates off the trail so you get it from the top and the bottom. It's also known as Satan's Sack because it's shaped like a giant testicle. :).

Leg 2 was amazing, but also tough, so I began to hit a low spot when I headed up for leg 3. The advice "slow the pace and you will rebound in time" is correct, but I had no idea the time required for me to rebound. I did not until I was finishing the 36 km that leg 3 required. While running an ultra, nutrition and calories are extremely important, so I was using "Hammer Perpetuum". It's a drink that provides not only complex carbs, but good fats and protien. I drank lots of it, but eventually, my stomach became upset. I became bloated, and eventually had to start walking, suffering through the cramps and heat. The whole experience was completely miserable. By 25km into leg 3, I realized I had better duck into the forest or I would be sorry. I was in the forest for about 15 minutes before I felt like I was good again.

Once that ordeal was over, I was dehydrated and weak. I began to drink, and then gradually introduced pertetuum again. Over time, it's true, my strength began to rebound, and I began to fell better. That's when I met up with Virginie, the Kids, and my parents.

At that point, I suggested that we modify the goal, so it's actually achievable. Then, I have something to rejoice in. I've not done many 50-milers, and it's a good starting point on ones way to a 100-miler. Running without Virginie was harder than I imagined. I love that Woman dearly, and as a result, being with her strengthens me. I suggested, that I would run a 50-miler, and that everyone should cheer like I am actually finishing. Everyone was on board.

Leg 4 was tough, but I felt strong and satisfied. When I arrived at the transition area, I arrived running strong, but I was slowing down. Each leg was requiring more time.

I admit, I was sitting on the fence somewhat about continuing on. I felt strong again, but I was going on into the night, and I was so tired! Most of running ultra's is the mental game. Keeping ones mind in check. This is always the hardest part of my game. By stopping, I was choosing to stop on a high point. A good experience at a race will provide such motivation for the next one. By continuing on, I ran the risk of not finishing, and becoming totally defeated. Something I'm a little vulnerable with right now. It's been a tough year of training (or lack thereof). I'm proud to have set a new goal, and achieved it.

The great thing is, is to see the congratulations of people on Facebook. People didn't to say comments like "maybe next time" or "so sorry about...". Everyone was proud and congratulatory. That means a lot to me. Frankly, I realize some of my running was about "people pleasing" and trying not to be broken. As I combat this paradigm and choose to pick a goal that works for me, and still see acceptance and admiration from peers, I come to realize the inherent good in people. Little by little, I am learning to trust people more and more.

How about the fund-raiser? Well I've made my offering and I did my best. Nobody knows suffering like those boys, but they never complain about it. I don't think they know how to complain. At least none of the ones I met, and I can tell you, what kind of offering would a battered runner be? I whole heartedly believe too, that they would want me to do by best, and end when I'm all "funned out" :).

I want to thank my Wife for believing in me, and for all of those friends out there who have followed my blog and been with me through this whole experience. Even though it's just a day later, I can tell you that my story is not complete yet. I'll still continue to run and do my best. Especially the ultra distances. Each experience we have carves us, and makes us who we are. This one has added to my depth as a person, and especially my compassion. I will relieve this day with fond memories for the rest of my life.

Finally, thank-you the Muscular Dystrophy Alberta and Rachel Chan for all her support in getting our message out. Virginie and I could not have done this without you.

Until next post,

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

To the one who holds my heart...

I have been off the radar for quite some time now, lost in the darkness, disoriented by the storm clouds brewing inside a bleeding heart but I've found a shaft of light and I'm ready now to follow it through.

 When I first started on this fundraising journey my intentions were to repay my brothers for all the love and compassion they had given me throughout my short life with them. But they had big shoes to fill and I kept tripping over them until I was so battered and bloody that I couldn't find the strength to stand up again. That's when I realized that I will never be able to fill their shoes. They were giants stuffed in frail human frames and no one will ever be able to come anywhere close to measuring up to them! I have discovered that I am better suited to wearing shoes in my own size but I can still follow in their footprints.

Of all things, I have been delightfully surprised and inspired by the posts my husband has shared. I had no idea he could write so well and so eloquently describe the inner chambers of my heart kept secret for so long. I guess that's the attraction of blogs; the social permission to write more intimately, more vulnerably. A blog often contains an inner conversation that could never be shared in any other social situation. And with that certain anonymity, that delicate balance point where a fragile heart can open just wide enough for others to catch a glimpse, those who have responded  have touched our hearts so deeply.
Today marks our 15th wedding anniversary. I think of all the figurative miles we have put in together and I can't help but be amazed that after all that, I am even more in love than the day we said "I do!". Despite, or perhaps because of all the mountains we have had to climb and the valleys we've had to hike together, our hearts no longer have anything left to hide. When one gets to this point, it truly becomes a divine masterpiece!

In a previous post, I had mentioned that I quite often need to measure my worth by my actions. When my calves became injured and I could no longer run, I dropped out of this whole adventure, feeling that I no longer had a right to post or participate since I felt that donations coming in were based on the exchange of dollars for miles. Having run for over 10 years now, I definitely felt that I was mourning the loss of a very dear friend. Running had become my identity, my bosom buddy, my mantra, my connection with the divine. But my body (injured calves) had betrayed me, yet again and was further proof that I cannot trust ANYONE! Not even myself! The past few weeks have been a time of intense darkness and emotional pain for so many more reasons than just running. And in the past, running was what had kept me sane. I was now a shipwreck about to happen, swallowed by the tidal waves of a raging sea...

A few days ago, my family and I spent a lazy morning watching family running videos and reminiscing about the glory days. We came across the Canadian Death Race video from last year and my heart ached so much, I thought it would burst! So many emotions tumbling together in my mind that only a runner can truly relate to. I have always felt a sense of belonging in the trail running community. Whether one has taken 100 steps from the couch or a 100 miles from the starting line, every runner has a story to share. The courage it takes to lace up one's shoes and step across that line is the foundation of the running community, no matter what age or shape or size. That is what I missed! My heart ached to belong to something bigger than myself, to belong to a camaraderie of people who welcomed you in, no question asked, to stand under a flag of unity where one's position along the journey was discounted because we were all in this together.

My thoughts turned to our solo finish last year where I had unexpectedly come third in my age category. "Solo" is a wholly inadequate word. I could never have successfully finished if that word is to be properly respected. The support of Stephen, his parents, our children, dear friends and countless others who may not even know it... and my brother Mathoni, who's picture I had pinned to my hat; all contributed to my accomplishments and yet most will never be awarded their proper credit. A runner's support crew often remains in the background, in the chaos of transition areas and in the countless hours and toil of training during the many months leading up to race day. The similarities to families affected by Muscular Dystrophy are so similar, it would be ludicrous not to make the connection! I propose that they be counted as full members of the running community because without them, a runner will truly be running solo and setting themselves up for failure!

With only 2 days away from the finale of our fundraiser, I thought I would share some words of advice by Jack Cook, owner of Fast Trax Run & Ski Shop. His words ring true, not only on the trail but wherever life may take us!

Mental Game
If you can focus on the positive and turn any set backs into positives you will be so far ahead come race day you cannot imagine. Focus on the positive completion of your leg or race and use every set back along the way as a reminder of how hard you have worked and nothing stands in your way.

Once your run begins take each moment as it comes and stay in the moment not focusing on the outcome and your event will be enjoyable the entire way. Once you focus on the outcome that is when things become overwhelming.

There will be moments of weakness and fatigue but if you slow the pace and focus on working through, the period will pass and you will rebound in time. The disappointment of stepping off the trail is far harder at the end of the day than working through a rough patch and waiting for your energy to return.