Redemption in the rain

After a few weeks of staying positive in a downward spiral of events I was able to allow myself to be frustrated for a few moments but realized I had two choices.  I could waste energy on being angry and upset that things didn’t go how I had hoped over the last 3 weeks or I could move forward with a smile and laugh at all the crap that got thrown at me.  It is amazing how being positive can change your life.  I have been living this way for two years now and I never want to go back!

The nipmuck in 2010!
The nipmuck in 2010!

After my leg started to feel better from the antibiotics I became optimistic on running the Nipmuck trail Marathon.  The first time I ran the race was in 2004? Maybe?  I don’t remember but I can tell you that I got to mile 19, completely untrained and was not able to put weight on my knees.  I collapsed and got to mile 19 on  my hands and knees.  I wanted to finish that damn race so I began to crawl back to the finish.  The volunteers literally plucked me off the course crying hysterically and told me they were DNF’ing me.  I had to get a ride from a friend and was so very sad.  I believe that may have been a year Deb was racing and finished in just over 4 hours.  My mind was blown and I had delusional fantasies of someday running that race in under 4 hours.  I went to the doctor to find out it was IT band problems so I got fixed up and finished that damn race the next year.  It took me over 5 hours and I was the proudest person around!

Each year I tried to run the race a little faster and was beyond thrilled to finish in under 5 hours!!!  Then in 2010 I came off of climbing Denali a week earlier and ran a 5:38 Nipmuck and had the time of my life!  I stood on top of North America a week earlier and was not supposed to be home in time to race Nipmuck.  I had registered for the race just in case.  As luck would have it we returned home early from our trip and I ran the race.  Last year I had run Sawtooth and spent many miles with Sheryl Wheeler who taught me so much about running ultra distance and she was one of the few who broke that 4 hour mark.  I was inspired when she told me I should try to do it!  Fast forward three years and I was back under similar circumstances.  I had been at altitude (this time unable to acclimate), then Ryans race got cancelled, then I got an infection and somehow luck would come my way and I would be able to run the race!  I was thrilled that I had registered for it just in case.

Me and Scott before the race, photo by Scott Livingston
Me and Scott before the race, photo by Scott Livingston

The forecast was perfect and Mike and Sue had invited us to come over for dinner and then hang out for the night.  We had a great Paleo dinner that Sue made from scratch.  Jack puppy tried to jump off of their loft, over the kitchen cabinets and luckily Sue caught him just inches from hitting the ground.  That is what happens when he doesn’t get to run every day.  The dog is insane and also the best little critter that ever came into my life!  Ryan and I had a very restless night of sleeping (maybe we drank too much?  I hadn’t really had a drink in 4 weeks, ooppps!)

We woke up to a surprise-pouring rain!  Between the leaves, mud and rain we were in for a messy course.  My heart sank a bit because I really thought 4 hours was out of my reach at that point.  Ryan woke up covered in hives and he was warm with a fever.  He was not feeling well and knew his day would be a bit rough.  We got to the race start in the pouring rain and 50 degree temperatures.  I must admit I was not thrilled to be cold and wet even before we started but that is what trail running is all about.  It’s sometimes a dance between you and the trail and sometimes it’s you, the trail and the weather.  Today was going to feel like being thrown into a mosh pit!

I wore my La Sportiva Helios, long sleeve shirt and skirt, my Happy Choucas Hat and UltrAspire Surge pack.

It was awesome to see all of my friends from the Striders who I only get to see a few times a year!  Everyone is so friendly!  Deb and Scott would be volunteering this year with their adorable little kids who are growing quickly!  We chatted with a bunch of people and then lined up at the start.  We took off at a nice comfortable pace and I was shocked to find myself hanging with Scott, Ryan and Staz.  We chatted for a few miles and I was feeling pretty good!  Soon Ryan began puking and I had to make a very hard decision.  I really wanted to break 4 hours so I told him to hang in there and catch me on the second half.  I ran off with a mix of emotions.  Scott and I chatted for a bit and he pulled away slowly as my motivation dipped.  I was then running with an Acidotic teammate for a bit and we ran together until he pulled ahead.  I was alone and it was perfect.  I needed time to reflect on what had just happened.

Dying at the end of the race-photo by Scott Livingston
Dying at the end of the race-photo by Scott Livingston

With just one little moment of going off course because of a downed tree I found the trail and made it to the turn around.  I was greeted by happy aid station workers, grabbed some gummy bears and some coke and carried on.  I was feeling surprisingly good.  My legs were a bit dead on the climbs because of all the elevation I had done over the last 3 weeks but my leg turnaround was great on the flats!  Ryan had caught back up with me right before the start/finish.  I ran really well and comfortably to the start/finish and was shocked to look at my watch and see I was there at 1:42!  To break 4 hours I decided I had to be there by 1:45!  I took my time to pound down a banana and more coke in my UltrAspire cupless cup (everyone needs to start using these, less garbage is always better!).  Ryan had gotten stung in the lip by a bee and wasn’t feeling it so he dropped.  It was hard to move on again but  I was on the second out and back by 1:43 and feeling great!  I caught up with Scott again and we ran together in the rain laughing and throwing the positive energy back and forth!  I think we annoyed a few guys around us with our cheerfulness but we were having fun!

Scott and I seem to be the same pace and we spend many miles together on the trails during races.  He is super positive and we just feed off each other which seems to make us go faster!  Suddenly it felt like the sun was shining on us when we got to the turnaround.  So many happy people there cheering us on!  I mowed down a banana and more gummy bears, drank some coke and looked at my watch.  I looked at Scott and told him it was 2:50 and we could break 4 hours if we pushed it out the last 7 miles.  We took off in excellent spirits!  It was awesome to see everyone on the out and back smiling and having fun!  Nipmuck always draws a fun crowd!

excited to break 4 hours-photo by scott livingston
excited to break 4 hours-photo by scott livingston

The rain came down harder and I ran faster.  I wanted that sub 4 hour finish so bad and found myself so focused.  I pulled away from Scott and ran my heart out.  The conditions kept getting worse, the puddles deeper, the leaves were floating on the puddles and hiding the rocks below, the roots were slick and the mud was getting deep.  I began to pray for strength to keep going.  Soon I was at last aid station and asked how many miles were left.  When they said just over 3 I looked at my watch and set off to try and grab that record!

I ran hard, hard enough where I could hardly breath and all I could do was focus on my breath.  I counted in and out and made a game out of trying to control my breathing.  The rain was coming down in buckets now and I laughed at how the day was playing out.  I felt like I was being tested so I rose to the challenge.  I pretended the trails were dry and I ran as fast as I could.  I saw Carly sweeping the course and was happy to see her smiling face!  Finally I heard voices and saw that beautiful finish line with Clint smiling.  I was finally able to stop and I yelled out “I sure hope I really did break 4 hours!”.  He laughed and said I sure did, 3:53!  OMG!  I was so thrilled!  In the 30 years the race has happened only three other woman have gone under 4 hours.   The course had been made longer several years ago and the other 3 finishes were on the old course.  The record for women on the old course is 3:49 and I was so excited to be so close!

Me and Chris with our winnings-Photo by scott livingston
Me and Chris with our winnings-Photo by scott livingston

One of the things I love about the Nipmuck Marathon is the log that you get when you finish.  My favorite things I have gotten in a race are rocks, sticks and syrup!  There is something really fun about getting your Nipmuck Log with the blue blaze.  They look awesome in our house!  Winning applesauce and apple butter was also an awesome treat!  It was great to see everyone!  Sue was taking care of Jack puppy and it was so nice to see her at the finish!  She stuck around to volunteer and Ryan, Jack puppy and myself went to visit friends who live on the course!  We had a nice visit and then made the long drive home.

Today I did my girls last long run before their race at Vulcans Fury in two weeks.  They have been training hard since April and are so ready for this race!  I cannot wait to see them cross that finish line.  These girls have made the last 6 months of my life so fun and rewarding!  I am proud to be their coach!  The week after the race a new group of beginner runners will embark on a journey that will bring them to a 5k trail race!  It will be fun to bring more runners to our sport and I hope my girls keep running and drop in on a few of the runs.  I will miss them and hope to one day see them at a race, smiling, having fun and achieving new goals!  There are still openings in the 5k program so if you are interested visit www.whitemountainrunningcompany.com for more information!  I also offer online coaching and custom training plans!

Me and Jack puppy mountain biking!
Me and Jack puppy mountain biking!

I want to thank my sponsors La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire and Julbo USA for their support.  They have given me the ability to chase my dreams in comfort and style!  I also have exciting news and am now adding Hypoxico to my list of sponsors.  My system arrives this week and I will be blogging about my experiences with it.  I should have had one before UROC!  Lesson learned the hard way.  🙂  My only worry is that Jack puppy will become even crazier from sleeping at altitude!  Thank you to my coach Jack for training me so well.  He is helping me plan my 2014 season which is going to be full of excitement and new challenges!  Thank you to Ryan and Jack puppy for helping me to become not only the runner I am, but the person I am today.  Thank you to my incredible friends for always being there with a smile and for being there when I need hugs.  Thank you to everyone who inspires me each day, there are so many of you!

Life is full of challenges and lessons to be learned.  Be patient with yourself and be patient with others.  We are all different and that is okay.  Love.  Love yourself, love others, love life.  Be grateful for what you have and always tell the people in your life that you care.  Don’t make assumptions, ask questions-even if you get an answer you don’t want to hear.  Respect each other and understand we are all a walking story.  Some stories are more pleasant than others.  Don’t compare two people, that is the best way to make them enemies.  So many friendships and relationships are ruined by people poking fun and comparing others.  We all have a talent and we all have a weakness.

Jack puppy swimming!
Jack puppy swimming!

Remember this:

Each breath you take is a gift.  Each day is a new beginning, a chance to start over.  You can spend your days miserable, angry and upset or you can choose to spend your days smiling, happy and grateful.  Look at failure as an opportunity to try again.  Happiness is something we can all have.  The next time you feel that your life is not good, write down five things that are good.  (Thank you Carolyn for the idea!)  You will be amazed at the result.  You will struggle to find those five things and by the time you are done you will be smiling….I promise.  🙂

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