Monday, July 13, 2015

My Running Hero

A smile on someones face doesn't mean they aren't suffering it means that they suffer in grace. Yesterday I spent hours witnessing perseverance and hard work in many shapes and sizes. I worked an aid station all day at the Silver Rush 50 mile foot race in Leadville Colorado. Everyone out there has their struggles. Whether it be a struggle to just get to the starting line or a struggle to get to the finish. It is how they handle the struggle that defines them, not the actual event. We all have to face our demons at one time or another, but people who choose to run ultra marathons seem to like to go to battle with those monsters regularly. I wish I could say that the greatest lessons I have learned about digging deep and suffering come from these races but they do not. The most heroic race I have ever witnessed was merely 2 km in length. There I saw true courage and perseverance and inner strength with character. I met my true running hero.

Let me explain. I spent the year working with special needs teenagers. One of these boys I took to his cross country zones races in the fall. He has a severe seizure disorder, but that doesn't stop him from having enthusiasm for fun. We lined up for the race and he was so excited that the grin on his face outshone the sun. The gun went off and instantly we were left in the dust. The other competitors had gone up the first hill and we were still crossing the stadium. That is when he turned to me and said 'Kiki, I am so fast'. At that moment I realized that if we all stopped comparing ourselves to others we might realize how amazing we are. 

We proceeded to run the race course. During this time he had several small seizures. Now, one of these would have made any other person stop and quit. That is when I learned about taking what life and the race hand you and continuing to move forward. I had tears in my eyes as I watched him stumble forward throughout the seizure. As soon as it was over he didn't miss a step and he put the throttle down and was running his full speed again. Makes a little blister or a tiny cramp seem kind of minor in comparison doesn't it?

These mini seizures were happening quite regularly but he soldiered onwards. When we saw the finish line in sight he found another gear. He was so excited to cross the line and 'win'. We had a downhill to go and he took off down it with me right next to him. Suddenly, I saw his body jerk and I reached an arm out in time to break the fall. This was a full on major seizure. He was on the ground for minutes. There was blood on his nose and his bladder relaxed causing his pants to be soaked. I was quite worried that when he 'came to' he'd be very upset. He doesn't like to be hurt. However, when it was over his first words were 'I need to finish my race'. He stood up and we walked for a bit, the first steps he had walked so far. When we got to the bottom of the hill he started running and he told me he wanted to cross the line himself. I got ahead and was able to be on the other side of the finish line from him. I have had tears in my eyes many a time at my own finish line but I have never been prouder than when I was standing there with a wet face watching him finish. The pride he had in his face was well earned and the perseverance he demonstrated was amazing. Overall it was a fairly good day seizure wise for him. His best days are our worst nightmares. When that medal was hung around his neck I've never seen a more deserved medal! 

Yesterday, I saw lots of perseverance and suffering out on the course. The leaders make it look easy but even for them there is suffering. The people who weren't making the cut offs all have a story and the fact that they were out there digging deep showed courage in every form. I saw people who thought their race was over at 30 miles regroup, do damage control and make it to the finish line. I know this year isn't the year I planned for myself for running, but I am still running and no matter how many times I stumble I will keep running.  My little hero taught me that it's not how many times you fall down that matters, its how many times you get back up and keep going. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Knowing When to Run

When I was growing up I learned everything I know about gambling from Kenny Rogers. In May I took a big gamble of my own and lined up for a really tough 100km run and had another 100km on the schedule 4 weeks later. Now, I normally someone who only bets on sure things and with the current state of my pelvis neither of these were sure things.

Part way through the first 50km of the first 100km race I was cruising along thinking that all was good. I was pacing myself well and starting to think how great it was going. I was thinking I was ahead of schedule and feeling good. In other words I was counting my minutes when I was still on the course. Forgetting that there would be time enough for counting when the race was run!

Gamblers know that when you are on a streak you don't know when it will end. My streak ended at about mile 20 when I did an air jump passing someone on single track and felt the jam occur in my left SI joint. At first I thought I could just run it out but every step caused me to tighten up more to the point where all the time I had spent running down mountains in training was negated and I was walking. I did all my 'tricks' and nothing was working so I plugged on. At this point I knew I had to walk away from the table before I was left broken. I hobbled to the 50km mark and that is where I handed in my chip and cashed out.

As soon as I got home I started intensive rehab and physiotherapy. Better late than never. I still had another chance in 4 weeks to test it. I kept reminding myself that a year ago I couldn't get through 10km without locking up, now I had managed to get to the 50km mark. Improvement of 40km. BUT I had thoughts of the 100 miler in August looming over me. If I couldn't get 100km done how was I going to go another 40 miles? 

After 4 weeks of rehabbing I put my chips on the table and lined up for another race. This time I knew I had to be all in. Once again it was going great, until it wasn't. At 45km this time I went from running smoothly to being locked up. Something just shifted and I was grasping desperately for good cards. That is when I wished I had some whiskey but I took some of Kenny's advice. I decided as I was getting a ride back to the start/finish area that I didn't have to cards to stay in the game this year. I had to walk away and so this year I will not be lining up for a 100 mile run. When I am at the starting line I want to know that my hand is solid and I have a chance. Right now I'd be playing against a royal flush with a very weak pair.  It was time to fold em. You got to know when to walk away and know when to run!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

True Weirdness

After I ran by a group of girls on a pretty steep part of a climb on a popular tourist hike in Zion park they began to cuckoo. It took me a moment to realize that they were referring to me. My initial reaction was to think how rude but it got me thinking. Maybe I have been surrounded so long by incredibly active people and talented athletes that my sense of 'normal' is skewed? My idea of fun is really others idea of torture?

Lucky for me I was being chased up the climb by my partner who had given me a head start. I wasn't alone in the idea of a good time. I have a boyfriend who also thinks that the challenge of making our own marathon around and RV park on New Years day sounds like an incredible way to start the year. Our date nights consist of running up and down mountains together. We spend our holidays going places where there are great trails for running and riding. Camping weekends include mapping out repeats on logging roads to get in good miles. All of it is done with smiles on our faces. 

This weekend we are taking a romantic get away where we will be running 100 km. It should be lots of no fun fun. We will see each other a few times out there and I know we will both be super happy that we both are cuckoo! I like being weird together!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Welcome Home

He's back. I thought I had served him eviction notice in August of 2013, but he has returned. He's moved right back in and made himself quite comfortable in every nook and cranny of my condo. Lurking under the bed at night, in the closets and every time I open the fridge or a bag of potato chips he suddenly appears. I've tried to reason with him that I was doing just fine living without his presence but he isn't responding to reason. He returned to couch surf my life in January when I got 'lucky' and 'won' the Leadville Trail 100 lottery. As soon as I got the news the big fat scary monster knocked on the door and hasn't left since. He's even managed to hijack his way into my holidays!

Now every good house guest knows that you should bring fine wine and stay a limited time, BUT this guy has no social graces. Not only is he freeloading and living in my home he isn't even polite. He taunts me when I do a treadmill workout with jeers of that's all you've got. You have to run that distance 20 more times to get to the finish. When I look in the mirror his big ugly mug appears over my shoulder reminding me that winter insulation isn't going to do me any good going up Hope Pass. The only wine this guy brought is my whining!

It seemed like a brilliant idea to try running 100 miles again. I mean last time I had to do a 100 mile bike the week before. This time I will be nice and fresh I tell my Monster, but his snickers tell me differently. Last time I was super fit and had tons of time to dedicate to training in beautiful warm sun all the time. A bad weather day involved some mist. Now a bad weather day involves 10 extra pounds of clothing and well below freezing temperatures. I try to tame him with the news that I have toughened up in the elements and now I have knowledge of what it takes to finish 100 miles. He only responds with snarky comments like 'every 100 is different', 'you don't know how you'll handle things until they happen'. I attempt to mute him out by turning up the volume on my playlist but he filters in.  The only way to drown him out is complete exhaustion.

Just between you and me 2014 was kind of lonely without him. Don't tell him, but I look forward to his jeers, taunts and fear tactics because that is what gets me out the door and lets me know that I am truly living. Nothing great ever happens in the comfort zone. Welcome home Big Fat Hairy monster and while you are under the bed clean out the dust bunnies. I have no time for that, I have some running to do starting with 2 100km races in May. See if you can keep up buddy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let Go

Today I came across this question posted by a friend.

Only two words to sum up what you wanted to tell your younger self. How do you sum up years of living and experiences in two words. I thought about it and I decided that my younger self really needed to hear only two words. 'Let Go'. 

Let go of expectations. Life is so much simpler and kinder to you when you don't approach everything with a preconceived expectation. It's like racing. Do the training, bring a great attitude and let it happen. 

Let go of judgement. Yes, it is good to not judge others but mostly I needed and still work on not judging myself. Why when we race do we need to define the race as a good or bad race? How about just accepting it as a race and it was what is was? Easier said than done, but it is after all just one event in a life of events. It is hard to not label oneself when thinking about athletics. Everything doesn't need appraisal.

Let go of baggage. Even the smallest bag can become very heavy if you need to carry it for years. Drop it, and move away. At first you may feel you have forgotten something but over time you will get adjust to having the freedom of movement without carting the load around.

Let go of plans. Hard for me, I like to have a plan BUT life isn't about planning everything. I remind myself often that sometimes we have to give up the life we planned to have the life waiting for us. So often when I take a turn on a trail that I didn't plan I find myself enjoying new territory I didn't even know existed. Just like life, take a turn and don't follow a map you wrote twenty years ago. The journey will open up before you.

Let go of the brakes. Momentum is a wonderful thing. Often when things are going really well and flowing on the mountain bike, the best thing to do is let go of the brakes and you will go over obstacles without even knowing they were there. Same in life, if you are death gripping the brakes every little bump in the road becomes a mountain to get over. 

Let go of perfection. Nothing and no one is perfect. Often we find ourselves trying to handle everything perfectly. Be the perfect friend, be the perfect partner or do everything perfectly. It's okay to just do your best. Your best is perfection in process. I have a tattoo that has a few spots where the ink didn't take. The tattoo artist wanted to fix it for me. I refused. I needed a daily reminder that perfection is unattainable. Instead of aiming trying so hard to be perfect, be real. 

Dear Younger Self,

LET GO and then hang on and enjoy the journey cause its amazing!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Contaminate the World

A few weeks ago I found myself in a situation where I was infected by two very contagious people. We have all been hearing lately about horrible infectious diseases, leaving us all with a fear of catching a catastrophic  illness. What I was reminded of during my experience was that not everything that is transmitted from one living organism to another is a bad thing.

Let me explain. I met up with a friend and her friend to do a lovely day of hiking and running in my local mountains. As soon as we were in the parking lot there was laughter and silliness. I can tell you that the symptoms of having fun quickly were evident and we were spreading that infection up and down a mountain. When you come upon three grown woman who spontaneously break into song frequently it seems that smiles are transmitted to other peoples faces. The fun loving and friendly attitude quickly took over everyone we came in contact with on our journey.

I knew that these two were kindred spirits pretty quickly but the fact that we were all life long carriers was cemented when I told them that I sometimes like to run with airplane arms. Instead of questioning what I was talking about, our trail turned into a runway with three planes tilting and negotiating steep banked turns. We put in many miles that day on the trail and I knew that it was a good workout because my cheeks were sore. Laughter is good medicine and good exercise. These two ladies understood how the mountains feed my soul and that a positive fun loving attitude nourishes ones spirit.

Today a friend of mine posted something that reminded me that the best thing we can do for the world is be happy. So go ahead, be highly infectious and contagious in your attitude.... and next time you run, spontaneously break into song while you flap your airplane wings. I promise that the only thing this illness will do is cause a giant smile:)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Being a Tumbleweed

If I were a plant I think I'd be a tumbleweed. Once again the wind uprooted me and I am blowing around. I spent the winter establishing a new home base but for the summer I have returned to Colorado. The beauty of being a tumbleweed is although I am blown away from my roots, over the years I have managed to drop seeds in several places. This means that almost where ever I am I feel like I am home. 

Returning to Leadville Colorado has been a giant homecoming. I have had family reunions with my Leadman family and have been out playing with my great friends. It really has been like summer camp for me. I am not racing this year and that has allowed me to do so many adventures I have dreamed of for years. 

One of my favorite places in the world is the top of Hope Pass. I love being surrounded by the majestic mountains and the serenity overwhelms me. This weed was able to get herself blown up there for a night. Opening the tent in the morning and looking out at meadows of flowers below the peak of the mountain was amazing. If I am ever to run the Leadville Trail 100 again, the memories of my night at the Hopeless aid station will fuel me for miles. I found great hope for the future and all the adventures to come while I was there. 

Good Morning!

Some women are flowers in the garden of life. I'm okay with being a weed, it means I'm hardier and unlike an orchid don't need special conditions to thrive. To really make me happy, let me be free and experience all the world has to offer. I thrive when I am outdoors in nature and my perfect date night is under the stars. 

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

I'm grateful for all the places I have blown and all the seeds I have sown for now I am enjoying the flowering of all my wonderful friendships. Tumble on:)