Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To My Dog Loving Friends

I just had to share the pics from the puppy playdate we had on Sunday.















Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting Inspired

Have I had so little going on over the past month that I couldn't bother to update my blog...just the opposite. Things have been so busy lately that even the thought of updating my blog seemed too much to bare. Ahhh, deep breath and ready to go!

Brief recap of the end of the month:
- great but too short recovery from Mt. Masochist
- two weeks post-race I ran a 25K, too fast, a wonderful long run in Bastrop (more on that later), and a 5-mile Turkey Trot at my parents (was happy to run 35 minutes on VERY tired legs)
- came home from Thanksgiving, and straight to Kileen to visit Paul's family, and then his parents came to our house the next night
- Thursday after Thanksgiving met up with friends for a business planning meeting at this fantastic restaurant...so good we took a picture of our plates (by the way 1/2 portion split with Erin)

- Then Paul's birthday, and I threw him a Dessert Party. It was great times to over-feed so many for his birthday, and, yes, everyone who came went home with leftovers!!
...in the midst of all of this projects due and working; now can you see where my blog posting time has gone???

So here I am in the midst of a very busy time, and Sunmart is approaching. Sunmart holds a special place for me, even with the crowds on the trail. It is the first Ultra I did, I get to see so many friends out there, and it is a good place to have some speed at the 50-mile distance. Did I mention the trophies are REALLY cool!

As I was getting plans together for the trip, I really created a great weekend to look forward to...I would see Catherine and Bryan on Friday morning, Ashley would stay with me Friday night, and Noelle was kind enough to fill the roll of my crew/ass kicker!
I know I have mentioned it before, but I am not a huge fan of the cold, so when the weather report was calling for a low in the 70s and a high in the mid to upper 80s I was thrilled!! I knew I could run in those temps and know how to manage my nutrition in the heat. I had my plan of Succeed, Cookies, Potatoes, etc. ready to rock.
I got into Huntsville around 2:30 Friday afternoon, had pre-race dinner, and put my legs up on the bed. Chad and Ashley arrived around 5, and had a laugh that I was just sitting in the bed. We had done a very speedy long run together in Bastrop, and I was so happy it had been warm that day. We were ready for the heat, and I spent a bit of time trying to convince them that short and t-shirt weather was a fun thing! They went to have their pre-race dinner, and when they got back I was still on the bed...although I had put my pj pants on. They were quite humored with my pre-race ritual of relaxtion, but I kept reminding them of just how much longer I would be running than they would (they were both doing the 50K). After some good chatting, Chad went over to his hotel. Ashley very shortly joined me in my pre-race vegging.
I actually slept on and off quite well, although when the morning rolled around I felt quite uninspired to be racing. I went through all the motions: getting dressed, body gilding, eating, drinking, loading the car. Off I headed to the park, hoping the vibe of the start/finish area would get me going. I got there and still I was not struck. I laid out all of my stuff in the same fashion I always do, ready to grab and go after each loop. I shared hugs and hellos with all of my friends. I was so happy that Bryan and Catherine were there early enough to share in the pre-race hugs. With 30 minutes to go...I REALLY needed to get going, in my head, so I listened to Brave and Mighty to Save. I tried to get others as hyped about my music selection but not a nibble, apparently God Rock (my new name for my music) is not everyone's running motivation.


Soon enough it is time to get to the start. Noelle and I walk that way, and see Lorena as she is making her way to the start. She had a 50-miler on her life to-do list and today was her day to cross it off. I was so excited for her to go for it. I knew I would see her throughout the day, so I was excited for that. And then, we lined up, I said a prayer during the national anthem, and we were off. I was in a good pack from the beginning, but in a very comfortable position. We hit the first aid station, and the only thing I noticed was that I was drenched...nice.
My favorite section of the first loop is the out-and-back because you see all of your friends on one side or the other. I saw my friend, Pete, on this section. I saw another friend of ours in front of him, and I could see the look in his eyes chasing him. I looked right at him, and said "run smart. run your race." I didn't know if my words would stick, but know he runs his best when he is not trying to keep someone else's pace. He is a very smart runner running his own race. I had already backed off from running with Robert, just for sake of having conversation...his pace was not mine.
Toward the end of the first loop I was sloshing, even after having taken 600mg of sodium. It was an entirely different beast with 80 degrees and 100% humidity. I just started pounding the salt....stomach stopped sloshing but I needed to go to the restroom. I went once in the woods and then when I came through the start/finish ran to go again. I told Noelle I was going to have manage my stomach with the heat, but I forced my food and drink down as scheduled. I have learned the very hard way that the best I can do is continue with food and drink even if I don't feel good...things are much more likely to improve if I can continue to eat. So off on the second loop I went.

It was good to see the 50K people out there on this loop. I was thrilled for the company. I didn't know many of the 50-milers around me, and most didn't have a ton to say...oh well, I had my music and the pines to keep me company. on the back end of the loop I caught up to two of my friends running the 50K, Jeanette and Laurie, and was so thrilled to have their company. I couldn't believe what a rough time I was having for less than 25 miles. Yuck... After a visit with each of them I put my head down and grinded back to the start/finish area.

To my joy, Bryan and Noelle were awaiting my arrival from the loop. I needed their lift. Bryan had decided it just wasn't worth it in the weather; he does not do well with the heat. I was so thrilled to have him walk me out as I was stuffing my face with food to get revamped for loop 3, always my toughest. They had told me that others were having a tough time, and it made me feel good to not be suffering alone. Off I went with the encouragement of Bryan, who said all of the right things!!

Loop 3 was tough because I was so alone. There were people on the trail, just none that I knew. I wanted my friends. I wanted company. The heat was life-sucking and I wanted conversation to distract me. I was so desperate for conversation that when I caught up to one of the Canadian women (the world championship for the 50-miler was going on) who didn't speak much English, I actually fought to piece together a conversation with her. It was pretty funny because all I understood her talk about was falling on the dirt, which she had another name for, and I am pretty sure she didn't understand a word out of my mouth. We got to the next aid station and I drank some soda, put my head phones on and headed off. I prayed to God to give me the strength to fight. I so wanted to be done. I couldn't believe I had another loop to do. I thought of my friend Jamie and her incredible will to drag her leg to the finish at Badwater. I thought of this only being a test of my will, and it was only up to me, my belief in God, and my belief in myself to perservere to the finish. I fought my way to the finish of the 3rd loop.
Noelle could feel the defeat in my eyes, but took my food and drink and walked out with me. I shoved potatoes, cookies, and drink in. I was going to feed my soul to run. It was then I looked her and my watch and said, "I'll be back before 9 hours comes." That meant I had to run! I was fueled, and ready to go. I ran to the out-and-back section and wanted to get the job done. Fortunately there were a few 50k people with the same intention...I ran with them for about 10 minutes and then headed off. I had the wind at my back and the final miles ticking away. I passed two women who weren't feeling very well, but I needed to take what small amount of energy from them I could from them because I needed the continual boost.

I was chasing such a not even secondary goal....first was to finish, second was to break 9 hours. If you would have asked me before the race, I would have thought I would have been in my car in under 9 hours. (did I mention we were going to a party in Austin Saturday night). But, here I was with my new goals and chasing the dream of reaching them. I hit the last aid station, not sure if I liked the random drum pounding or not, and knew I could do it. Then through the trees I could see Larry. I thought he got a glimpse of me because he would be walking and then all of a sudden totally take off. So randomly, this made me run faster..."don't run away from me," I thought. Finally, with about 1.5 miles to go I caught him with all of my chasing energy. (He hadn't known I was behind him) We took off together. At first we talked about the emotion of the draining day, then we were too out of breath to talk. We were running hard, or at least as hard as our tired bodies would take us. To the finish line we landed...proud, happy, and drained. Our toughest day, COMPLETE!!

After I finished, I changed, packed up and awaited the news that I had been dwelling on throughout the day...just ask Noelle...did I win a horse?? Well, actually my showing was not so bad: 9th woman and 3rd American woman, AND an 8:52 finish :) Not quite what I was hoping for but met my reassessed goals!
At times when I was running on Saturday I was overwhelmed by the distance. What was ahead kept daunting me. But then I would think: I am inspired by those that love me, those that show me their strength under so many more difficult conditions in both life and sport, and those that share their lives with me everyday. That is more than enough to get me through a tough day in the woods!!

How Blessed I am!
mer










Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Masochistic Birthday!

This year Mt. Masochist was to be held on Nov. 3rd, my 33rd birthday...how could I spend my birthday any other way??

I signed up early for this one knowing that it would be the 25th anniversary, and David Horton's last year to be the Race Director. Last year the race was sooo hard, I had to go back and so I could take on the challenge again.

About two weeks out from the race I had a wonderful conversation with a friend and someone I respect sooo much. It wasn't just about tapering; it was about being ok in my head about tapering. She nailed exactly how I was feeling, and somehow it helped to know I wasn't alone. I must also admit that it helped that during taper I happened to run into her a few times out and about.

So here I am in this taper, my legs feel great, and the race is less than a week away. Tuesday night I feel a little scratch in my throat. Wednesday morning I just don't feel good...sore throat, sniffles, worst case scenerio in my pre-race book. I see Cassie, and the first words out of my mouth are, "I'M FREAKING OUT!!!" Here I am all tapered and now getting sick. She offered me advice, but I already had in my head to go to Whole Foods and hit the juice bar. I took shots of potions, vitamins, and pastes that will soon not leave my memory. I was determined to cure myself in the next 48 hours without taking anything that would dehydrate me. So I got through Wednesday, with the positive vibes of my good friends, and then Thursday repeated much of the herbal/terrible tasting remedy and more positive vibes. By Thursday evening I would say I was about 70%...not quite how I wanted to head to the race.

Friday morning I headed to Lynchburg Virginia with the hopes of beautiful weather, a not scratchy throat, and some friendly faces. I didn't know many doing the race, and wondered if I would feel like a stranger in their Kingdom. What I would learn over the next 24 hours is that the EAST COAST ULTRARUNNERS are just AMAZING!!

After enjoying some of the history of Lynchburg, the Point of Honor, I ate and then headed over to packet pick-up and the pre-race meeting. When I entered and got my packet, I was warmly welcomed with a hug from Dr. Horton himself. Then Annette introduced me to her friend, Amy, who wasn't going to run. Instead of just sitting back with some unfriendly small talk, she gave to me a friendliness and comfort I can't quite put into words. She offered me race advice, we talked about her move back, and we rejoiced in her reason for not running...even though standing at the pre-race dinner she wasn't entirely convinced volunteering was the position she wanted to be in. It was just incredible.

From there I enjoyed just the constant warm welcome and conversation I received. It was as though I was a part of this community that was foreign to me just a few hours earlier. Every race I have travelled to over the past year has left me with this same feeling...just awesome. I must admit to feeling honored with the people I get to share time with at these races.

The pre-race meeting/seminar/sing-along was quite something. How many times could people laugh, joke, sing about "Horton Miles??" So somewhere along the way, I thought the race was only 52 miles, and that "Horton Miles" were only 2 extra miles. Well, Friday night I learned it was actually 54 miles. I had wanted to have a 10hour race, but that is when I thought it was a 52 mile race...

I headed to the bus at 4:45am Saturday morning. They were heading to the start line at 5am SHARP. I had a nice crew on my bus, and there wasn't too much chatter. When we arrived at the start line, I asked the guy behind me, Jesse, if I could share his light until sunrise. He was super sweet and happy to let me run with him. Before too long, it was time to head to the start line. And after a prayer...off we went.


they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

The first almost 7 miles of the race are on the road, which I actually like. It gives you a chance to spread out and get warmed-up. Many others didn't feel the same. Of course, I probably loved it the most because at about mile 4 a group screamed/sang Happy Birthday to me. (Thanks Krissy, Sarah, and Sarah's team of runners) Then as the sun rose over the dam, it was time to enter the trail....one hour down hopefully just 9 more to go.

The colors were amazing, and the on-going company was even better. There was non-stop chatter with new folks, and the miles were just flying by. Before I knew it we were starting the set of climbs leading to the half-way mark. Part way up, I saw Sophie, a fellow Montrail Althlete, coming up. Her plan for the day was to take it super conservative in the first 1/2 and then see what she could do in the second half. So off we headed together....and before I knew it we entered the aid station that Amy was volunteering at. You must remember that I had just met her the evening before. She hollored and cheered for me, and as I was leaving the aid station I saw on the back of her SUV a set of signs, "Happy Birthday Meredith!" I was just blown away and so truly touched!! I told Sophie that the East Coast Runners had made my day so special. It was crazy. Sophie and I must have covered about 5 miles together, and they were some of the best of the race. We had great conversation, and just a really positive time together. As always, it just makes me feel so fortunate to be on a team with all of these wonderful people!

Up the next hill, and we separated. Before too long I hit mile 27, the half-way point. This is where I had my biggest time waster. I needed to go to the restroom, so I headed into the woods. I ended up having to head pretty deep in the woods to find a covered spot, which took about 5 minutes. Afterward, I went back to where I placed my gear on the side of the trail...a must to mark where you went off trail. I started up Buck Mountain at 5:06 into the race.

Psalm 121
A Song of Ascents.
1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
This was on a sign at the top of the climb up Buck Mountain!

Amy had told me that this is where the race changes. This is where I needed to move. So I did just that. I came up a guy named John toward the top who was having a rough time. He is diabetic and was having stomach issues. When we got to the top I saw the Ginger Ale and suggested he have some of that to settle his stomach so that he could eat a little. He did and off we went down the other side. We had a great time and ran back and forth until we got to the loop. It was there his crew said, "Run this section and be back in an hour." So, they weren't talking to me but it was pinned in my head. I asked John, "can we do this section in an hour; isn't it like 7 miles?" He said, "it's over 6 and last year I did it in 56 minutes." There it was, I was to run this section in under an hour. I can't explain why their impression was what was pushing me, but I was off to follow John. I later found out that he came out in 56 minutes. I exited the loop in 58, and HUNGRY. I grabbed 2 cups of MOUNTAIN LIGHTENING (generic Mountain Dew but I LOVE the name), and a stack of cookies. I wish there was a picture of me running down the trail with this stack of cookies...peanut butter or oatmeal and some shortbread with chocolate all sandwiched together being shoved in my mouth. It was all sooo good, and gross at the same time.

I ran and ran and then climbed and climbed up to aid station 15. Again, Amy was there all smiles but as I was grabbing more MOUNTAIN LIGHTENING I saw her check her watch. She told me it was actually about 5 miles to the next aid station with almost 3 of climbing. After that it was 3.8 to the finish. I looked down at my watch and saw what she did...I had 1:30 to break 10 hours. My plan was simple, if the ground flattened at all I would run. Jenny and I had been trading places ALL day, and I told her of my plan. I said, "it's going to suck but let's see how hard we can push." I actually felt surprisingly strong. I guess this plan had played out pretty well. Holding back gave me some good energy. Neither one of us spoke, but we worked. All the rocks were covered with ankle deep leaves and I just focused downward on the trail. With 34 minutes to spare I hit the last aid station. One more quick swig of MOUNTAIN LIGHTENING and away I went. Before I knew it Jenny was cheering for me from above. I just ran, and ran, and ran. At 9:53 on my watch, I hit 1 more mile to go. I knew I couldn't make it, but I was going to try. I ran, and ran, and ran. When the trail dumped onto the road, I dropped my pack and water bottle. My legs hated me, but there I was the finish line in my face...10:00:44. As the weekend in Lynchburg began, so it ended...with a HUGE hug from David Horton! That is how he greets each finisher.

And then for the comedy...they have this Ironman and Woman competition post-race. Man who benches most 150lb. and woman who benches the most 75lb. Annette grabs me and says you must. I try to explain that I am sore from running with a water bottle in one hand and gloves in the other...before I can debate I am sitting on a bench with 75lbs being lowered to my arms. I grab it, and my arms go down, and down, and down....that's right they don't actually come back up. As the bar is sitting on my chest, it takes assistance to remove it. Funny stuff. Next year I am coming back in full force!!! Fortunately, I think a lesson in Roller Skiing is going to cure that...more on that lesson in a few weeks :)

After that Jesse, the guy who shared his light with me so many hours earlier, and I walked back to get my bottle and pack. We got to cheer on other runners coming in. It was so fun. I got to congratulate all the other Montrail runners on their great days, good health, and very well-executed plans...YEAH SOPHIE!!!

And unlike last year, I actually had time to catch the first bus back and clean-up before the post-race party. I got to share hugs with all the people I spent the day with, and I got to see and thank Amy again!! She already got me excited for next year's race because she'll be back out there.

As I was leaving, I went to say good-bye to Dr. Horton. I thanked him for the gift of the day I had for my birthday, although minus all the above details. He told me that the blessing was in the fact that I realized it was a gift today. He NAILED it... All day I felt the gift: the weather, the leaves falling like rain drops with the wind gusts, the wonderful people I got to share the day with, my health, my ability be able to run such an incredibly tough race, all the love and support I have at home, and that there was no better way to spend my birthday than in God's Kingdom. How blessed I feel!!

And in case that wasn't enough, I got to share my birthday back at home with my friends and Paul. Thank you so much for such a special celebration and evening! It was wonderful!!

Does it really ever get any better than this?



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good Times!

We have what I hope will stay as a new addition to our family: Flyer. He is an almost two-year-old Pointer Champion who is being given up because his legs are too long...he is too tall to continue on with his show life. He is beautiful and a very good dog. Daisy seems to like her new friend!!
We have gotten to experience a ton of firsts with him since he has only been a show dog. His first: stuffed animals, I spend my afternoons collecting them; a 7-mile run on the Greenbelt; morning runs on the Golf Course; nights not in a crate but in his bed by ours; and lots and lots of deer...we still need to work on him not chasing them. He is so fast that before we can blink he is 1/2 mile from the house. He has also gotten to meet so many of my friends, and even went over to meet Scotch and Nick before our track endeavor with him in the morning...that will be it's own story I am sure.















Paul is back to what he loves to do, run. He did his first running race since the trail series. Here is how good he looks running fast. I am so excited to watch him race this season! It keeps him so happy!

It's gotten cold outside : ( I will now be cold, fingers and toes blue and goose-bumps all the time, until Spring crests it's happy head. Probably back to Bikram; I LOVE the hot room for 90 minutes...and the yoga isn't bad.

Have a great week and watch out for the lady with the two charging dogs! mer

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Smell of California

Is that a strange title, maybe a little. There are some smells I can't stand and wish would go away as quickly as possible. The smell of old/stale/brewed too long ago coffee, is enough to turn my stomach. It sits as such a running joke in my house that Shan gave Paul a special heating cup for coffee, so he could drink it without me smelling it. His friend (boyfriend) Jim, oftentimes brews it at his house for Paul pre-race. Clea just thinks I am strange...ok, Paul, Shan, and Doug don't tend to disagree on this matter. Then there is the smell of freshly baked donuts that I can smell from the track on Wednesday mornings. Oh my, what it can do to your stomach when you are running hard. In case I wanted a donut anytime soon, the thought associated with that smell is enough to turn me away. And, I guess, I should mention the smell my camelback can hold occassionally if I don't hurry to wash it. I can't blame all bad smells on other things.

But there is a smell that I got to take home with me, and as I told Paul, "it is my favorite smell in the world." The smell of the woods in California. There is something magical in the air that keeps me coming back for more. Fortunately, this trip, the smell got into my shoes and I got to bring it home to Paul. I couldn't wait to take them out of the bag for him to take a deep breath, which he did. Honestly, I can close my eyes and still take it in...

I arrived in Oakland to 50 degrees and drizzle. on Friday After I picked up my rental, it turned to rain. I had printed off the directions to a local movie theater and thought I would go see Into the Wild. Well between the terrible roads, the rain, and the fear of death...it didn't happen. I ended up driving around what felt like aimlessly. I figured at that point I would just pick up dinner and head to the hotel. It was only 4pm. I got there and was hungry and exhausted, so tired my eyes were burning. Was it the rain, the travel, or just my recent life? I ate and took a short nap.

At about 6, I thought I would go check out the race finish, where we would be taking a shuttle to the start in the morning. To my amazement the rain had let up, I would later see on the news that over an inch had fallen, and the sun was working its way out. I even saw a rainbow. I headed over to the finish, a 5 minute drive, and for the first time since I had arrived I got excited. It was just beautiful! I could smell the rain moving away, and see hope in the day to come.

I went back to the room, got my stuff ready, and got ready for bed. The race didn't start until 9, but we had to catch the shuttle at 7:15...still I would be totally sleeping in. That is if I were actually on cali time. I was up 3:30, 4, 4:30...still on Texas time. I was worried this would bite me later.

I headed to the shuttle, and sat with the nicest guy on the bus. He was going to be a fast one, but after we chatted about the race a bit conversation turned to our families (his wife and their baby and, of course, Paul) Anyway, we got to the race start and it was about 45 degrees; I could smell the crispness in the cold for the first time this year.


It was very cool to arrive at the start and be greeted by none other than Ann Trason. She was everything I had hoped she would be...down to earth and super friendly. She got us all set, and we had 30 minutes to kill. I didn't want to peel off my layers until the last minute.

We got to the start line and Carl gave us our final instructions. He said that the first section was going to be very nasty from the rain, but the rest of the course should dry nicely. He said not to expect a PR with a laugh...yikes, what have I gotten myself into. And off we went.

This is where things go terrible. We take off about 200 yds and start to climb. There is one girl and a stack of guys that take-off, see-ya, and then I am in the second pack. For a moment I am fine there and then realize that my legs feel like they weigh a ton. I have so much mud on the bottom of my shoes and it won't get loose. I stop and stomp my feet, but noone else seems to need to stop. They just plug along...what is wrong with me I think. I verbalize the trouble I am having to the next pack that passes me. I just keep telling myself to suck it up, but boy am I having a hard time with it. FINALLY, this nice man slows up a bit and mentions that once we hit a road at the top it should be much better. I hope he knows what he is talking about. He kind of lingers near me. I wasn't sure what for...to be nice or for my rotten mood company. At one point he says this is what the whole course is like, climbing, climbing, a short downhill, and then more climbing. I almost hit him when he says this. Seriously, I have NEVER had this bad of a start to a race, training run, or anything like it.

Sure enough, we cross the road and the terrain improves. The man is still with me, but I am not moving as well as I would like. Granted the climb is about 4 miles, but it is fairly gentle and felt I should be running it. I let the man who has run it a few times set the pace as we continue to climb. Then finally we flatten for a moment and head downward. I hop in front and he hangs on for the ride. Still my legs feel pretty heavy. From here we have some good downhill and I take advantage. Even if my legs are tired I want to test the push...in case I have to walk it in. Tim, I learn his name this section, stays with me and we chat about so much but mostly he tells me about the East Bay area. He points out the sights as we come to them, reminding me to take a look around. I need to hear what he tells me. It is also during this time that we pass the 50-milers, their course is an out-and-back. It helps me to see them. There are a few people I know, and I am thrilled to see Mike on the trail. He ran my training run in WS with me; and we ran together at TRT...we have documentary proof of that time together!! (Thanks John F. for the footage; Mike and I went on and on about how cool it was to have it!)

After the next aid station, I put one ear of my headphones in and keep cruising along. Tim and I continue to chat, but I need the background music to keep my legs moving. I am cursing myself for not tapering for this race. It could be so much more enjoyable than I am letting it be. In this section, Tim tells me that this one and the next are his favorites. He is right...they are beautiful. It was like being in an enchanted forest and because it had rained, it felt like an enchanted rain forest. We come up to the aid station before we head into the redwoods, and low and behold Graham Cooper is there to fill my water bottle. I want to stay and chat, but as we come in Tim tells me to hurry so that I don't get stuck in a group on the upcoming single track. I follow him, but his getting me moving flustered me and I need a moment. I back off and catch my breath. It is here that I get in a bit of a fight with myself. I tell myself that I didn't come all this way to be out here and walk or move slow. I ate something, and started to push. Tim was right that it was his favorite section because I never caught up to him. It is a constant climb with a small amount of downhill and some decent switchback flats. It is all moist, so I am fairly careful. I come out toward the next aid station and catch up to another guy. I was happy to be seeing people. I fill my water, and they tell me basically one good climb and then it is all downhill, kind off. I start the next climb with force. I catch another guy who tells me that when I hit a certain fork I have peaked and then should push hard from there. The sun is out and finally I am feeling good. Did it really just take me over 15 miles to warm-up?? I could feel my stride open up for the first time all day, and I realized that there might be some hope for me afterall...

Finally I wasn't having to force the good time. I was actually enjoying more than just the scenery. After the last aid station, you head down and the you open up to Lake Chabot . I wasn't expecting it, and just loved it. The race has it's last 1.75 miles on a road around the lake, but of course there were 4 climbs on this road...a very cruel joke. But, I put my head down and continued moving. In the end, I cruised in feeling better than I had all day, and thrilled that things turned around. Tim was waiting for me at the finish line...he finished 2 minutes ahead of me. And, then I come to find out he is 60 years old!!



Once I finished, chatted with Tim, and we grabbed our goodies it was time for me to get back to the hotel to shower and change....they were nice enough to offer me a late checkout. In my mad rush to get my things together, I was hit with something wonderful. My shoes still had the smell from the trail. I took a deep breath in and quickly sealed them in a bag so that I could take my cherished odor home.



Before I headed to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner and gift buying, I went back to the finish to take pictures, thank my new-found friends, and await the finish of some of my 50-miler friends. I got to see Matt, and congratulate him and his new fiance!!. I got to see Steve, great race and good luck at Javalina! And just as I was starting to give up hope to see Mike finish he came in all smiles. I was so thrilled to be there for him after all the support he had given me this summer. It was fun to do the "mini" race and then cheer for others!!



After Mike and I walked out I went to San Fran to Fisherman's Wharf, where the smells of the ocean, the city, and the fresh bread were alive. I bought a fresh loaf of Sourdough bread for Paul, and had dinner at the Pier. Upon landing back in Austin Sunday morning, after 3 hours of terrible sleep on the plane, I made Sourdough French Toast. It was a great treat for both Paul and I!!


After breakfast, I opened my suitcase and once again...even if only for a brief moment, the smell of the California trails came alive. Until the next adventure, the smell will have to remain in my thoughts. mer












Monday, October 1, 2007

Clutz, again.

Friday I ran 30 miles. My schedule was pretty tight so I had to get it done at a pretty quick clip. It was fine, and a great run.

By Friday evening, though, I was exhausted. I couldn't believe that I had agreed to get up to meet someone for a run at 5:30 the next morning. After an early dinner, I was in bed by 8:30.

At 5:30 the next morning, I had planned to meet one of my Tough Cookies for the first part of her run. She is training for Sacramento Marathon and had done all of her longer mileage on her own. The group would be running 8, so if we got in at least 8 she wouldn't have much to do on her own. Again, the day before 30 miles no incident, BUT not 1 mile into my run with her down I went. Blood was dripping down my leg and I was flithy. I recognized then and there that running extreme out of my pace comfort is hazardous to me...when I drag my feet I am destined to go down. I need to find a safer way to run with my running group.

So now, less than one inch from where my knees were healing I am all scratched up again.

Saturday afternoon we went to Kileen to celebrate my sister-in-laws twins' first birthday. They were very cute eating their big pieces of cake...cake was flung all over and Daisy enjoyed taking on clean-up.

Today, October 1, and it's going to be over 90 degrees outside...hopefully a few more weeks of this great weather!!
mer

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Even more words to live by...

"When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it."



"Don't Complain; JUST WORK HARDER!"



"Be good at something. It makes you valuable."



All by Randy Pausch

Monday, September 24, 2007

Last Lecture

Randy Pausch delivered his last lecture... Let the words inspire you:

He said that Jon Snoddy said, "Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. When you are pissed off and angry at them, you just haven't given them enough time. Just give them a little time and they will almost always surprise and impress you."

"The Brick Walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop those who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the 'other' people."

And then the narrator said that Pausch ended on the topic of "more of us should think about what we would say if it was out last chance to say it; as he sees it, it is a gift you give not just other people but also yourself:

It is not about how to achieve your dreams. It is about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way. the karma will take care of itself...the dreams will come to you."

Words to live by!!
mer

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Track Day!












One of my favorite things to do during the week! Luisa and I meet every Wednesday morning for a track workout and to let the dogs play. While it is Daisy's highlight to run the track workout with us, literally at some points, Scotch and Nick run and play with each other.

But today an incredible thing happened, as Luisa and I were running our active recovery we looked over and saw Daisy about to pounce in with Scotch and Nick. We were so shocked that we both screamed. Daisy, then, realized we saw her and ran over to us. It was the greatest.

Summer is still in the air and we had a great sweatfest this morning. I will be so sad when it is cold, but for now I will enjoy the heat!!

Yeah for Track Day!

mer

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Today is Gina's funeral. Yesterday I found out what brought an end to her life. It was heart-breaking to hear that the positive environment that we had once created for her slowly deteriorated. All the love that Jordan tried to give her was not enough to help her, and all the help he offered could not save her. Either of the two possibilities that lead to her death are just so terrible. She was a very good person!

Paul gave some good perspective yesterday when he said, in my abbreviated form, that people who are happy and create a happy environment will leave even those having a hard time feeling better.

I will strive to do that and create that environment for my friends. I would love to be a ray of sunshine for my friends...

mer

PS...I PROMISE pics of the dogs from the track tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Emails

I get all kinds of emails: catching-up with friends, chatting (with maybe just a little gossip), work, training and race reports, pictures, and yes the ever dreaded spam. Last night I received an email that was very difficult to read:

I am so sorry, but because I don't have phone numbers with which to contact you with, e-mail will have to suffice as the means through which I have to share the sad news that Gina passed away Thursday evening.

Along with the email were details about her funeral from her husband of less than 3 years.

I have not seen her since I moved, and have only been in contact with her via email, but shocked me to hear this. She was 28 years old. We worked together until I moved. She was so intelligent, and actually worked on a grant with my mother. It was fun to share a common person with my mom. My mother who is terribly judgemental was actually able to get over Gina's jet black hair, pale white skin, bright red lipstick, and long pointed fingernails to appreciate her genius. Gina and I couldn't be more different, but what we shared always kept us friends:
- a love of animals. Her dog Casper came to the only birthday party I have had for Daisy. She and I always shared an appreciation for the joy a pet can bring to your life!
- she is the only person who ever picked at her cuticles more than I do...random thing to share, but one year we both tried to quit and failed miserably.
- Halloween is her favorite holiday, not so much mine, but we both LOVE candy corn. We shared the theory of one heavy dose of candy corn rids you of the desire for needing to eat them throughout the year. (Clea I guess I will have to eat my dose of candy corn this year for both Gina and I...crazy that you and I were just talking about it)
- desire to have our men well-put-together. She had Paul try on many many pair of eyeglasses to put him in a trendier pair. I won't even mention what he wore before. She took such pride in making sure her boyfriend, now husband, was as handsome as possible...must make engineers not look like engineers.

Anyway, update with a more cheerful note later, but for now I just wanted to take a moment to remember a lost friend...
mer

Monday, September 10, 2007

Changing Gears

Things have been incredibly busy as Paul and I get into our new fall semester routine. Those first few weeks always seem a bit overwhelming, but things calm and a change of venue sometimes helps.


On Labor Day, I had the joy of watching Paul have one of his best racing days to date. It wasn't so much that it was his fastest day ever it what just what he was able to do given his schedule and how busy his life is. Melissa put it perfectly: "That's AWESOME that Paul did so well at the race! It's almost unbelievable that he can balance a full time job, full time school (and be doing so well, Mike told me about his grades), a marriage, AND still somehow manage to keep in race shape. Wow. I'd say it was unbelievable instead of almostunbelievable (in that it can't be true, something must be giving), except that it's Paul we're talking about so I buy it. What a great guy you found, Mer!" He swam fair, but given that he had only done about 5 swims it was excellent, he biked great, and he ran incredible. He has this switch, which many don't, that he can drive through and almost relish in the suffering his body might be enduring to push and be so strong. It is always just incredible for me to see. Those that have seen him race hard, know what I am saying.

Paul Terranova 26:22.2, 2:06.2, 34:44.2 (swim 1500m, bike 40K, run 10K)


At the race, I saw Cam who is the race director of the Dilloman tri. She told me that this year they were going to have any XTerra race on Saturday and a sprint tri on Sunday. She put a bug in my ear to head out and do the races. She then even sent me an email to increase the peer pressure. I wasn't sure...I hadn't had my mountain bike on the trails in years, my road bike was very comfortably on my trainer, and my only swimming had been for recovery in the pool. What combo of this had me prepared for the events this past weekend??


Again, life has been very busy so honestly as the end of the week was rolling around the prospect of an adventure was sounding better and better. Friday afternoon, off I went to sign-up. It had been so long since I had done a triathlon that my USAT card was expired...scary, scary stuff. I came home, packed up my mountain bike for day one and my gear. It felt so odd because it certainly did not seem like much gear was needed. I am so used to packing for ultras, this was quite simple. I woke up Saturday morning and headed to Pace Bend Park for race number #1. The race consisted of an 800 meter swim, a 14 mile mountain bike, and a 5k trail run with some fun inserted in. Fortunately, it was a small race so it was a good start back into triathlon. The swim was uneventful, I was 3rd woman out of the water, but the mountain bike was another story. It was hard. Not impossible hard, but not super easy for not having been on my mountain bike in years. The flats and downhills were great, but the climbs with ledges were major off my bike walkers...I was so not brave. At one point I missed a turn or intersection and had to bushwhack my way back onto the course. I have marks to prove that wasn't easy. Anyway, I got back on course and saw where I had gone wrong on the second loop. Unfortunately, I think I cut off about 2 miles...not for sure but that is what it seemed like on the second loop. Anyway, I headed back into transition thrilled to be on the run and figured I would at least finish the course and let them know that I had made my own course at one point. The run was AWESOME. We had to swim through a cove twice and climb up some ropes on the ridge by the water. It was the most fun 5k I have ever done! I came into the finish having had the best time. Just what I needed!! On a side note, because the race was small the race director was nice enough to give us who had creative bike courses (there were a number of us) race times. I think this was because it was a small race. Trust me, I put the full race distance in effort out there :)


Race number #2 was a sprint triathlon at the same venue on Sunday. I woke up not terribly sore from the day before, but had pretty bad blisters from biking with my mountain bike shoes without socks, major rookie mistake!! I put lube in my shoes and on my ankles and just figured I would suck it up. I got to the race, and realized that this was a great low-key event. I saw some people I know, but really just kind of did my own thing. I went for a swim warm-up with a friend and then headed over to the swim start. Pre-race I had taken two Succeeds and ate 2 packages of Sport Beans. Honestly, hadn't really planned much on the nutrition front for the event. I had looked at some times of similar races, and decided I would be happy to go under 1:20....pretty interesting to have a time goal when I hadn't put the three events together in 2 and 1/2 years. Again, the swim was uneventful, I was 4th woman in my group out of the water. Transition was funny because you had to run carrying your bike out of transition and on this dirt path to the road...not so easy in bike shoes. At the mount line, I jumped on my bike to the cheers of the guys from the bike shop. They were pretty shocked to see me on my bike racing. They know that I haven't raced in sometime and I take pride that I do all of my bike riding on the trainer in the house. I headed out on the bike actually feeling pretty darn good. The course was hilly, but fine. I passed people constantly. I got passed by two people, one lady that is about to do Ironman Hawaii and another lady that got out of the swim with her. I figured if I could keep them in my sights I could get them on the run, hopeful thinking. I kept riding hard and cheered for all of those I passed. I don't know that they were used to being cheered for during a triathlon, but seemed a bit receptive. I passed one guy who actually ended up staying with me on the last miles of the course. As we were about to dismount he came up to my side and said thanks for the push on the bike, and I told him to stay with me on the run for my favorite part of the race. We dismounted and I followed his lead through transition, no longer carrying my bike by rolling on the rocks and prickled grass of transition...not so worried about the flat after ride!! I saw the two ladies head out on the run as I was putting my running shoes on. Off I went...now mind you that I haven't done a brick workout in years, so this was going to be interesting. I passed the first lady right aways and at the first turn I came up to Jen. She had been 5 minutes behind me from the swim wave so she needed to stay less than 5 minutes away from me to beat me. I ran passed her and went for the only woman in front of me. Unfortunately I ran out of property. I went from 1 minute down to 12 seconds... I ended up 6th woman because the woman from the waves behind me got me on the bike. Not bad for my second triathlon of the weekend and first weekend of tris in a long time.


This weekend gave me more than just good placement. It brought about a great change of pace, sense of adventure, and excitement for all things possible. I can swim in open water well, although much better if I actually trained; I can get on my mountain bike and not break or injure anything, and I can run strong off the bike mostly because I am trying to learn to run like Paul. I am working to tap into that wonderful place he can go...still cheering for those around and pushing as hard as I can. I think so often I have this fear of the unknown. I like to do what I know I can do well. But it was just like me letting go at Headlands...when I let my body do what it wants to instinctively do I have a great time doing it.


I have to take a moment to thank Cam, Maggie, Jamie, and everyone who created awesome races this weekend and were so positive and so great cheering for everyone all over the courses. They also really recruited some great volunteers...so that is always fun. Thank you for encouraging me to do something different this past weekend. It has renewed my spirit and sense of adventure. It's all possible; you just have to show up!!


Oh and a bit more great news...I found out Nicole and Dan got engaged AND Jim, one of my swimmers, shaved 4 minutes off of his swim time!! How's that for showing up to practice and working hard. I am very proud! And, thanks Jan for the cheers :)


Have a great week! mer

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Best of Days

The past two weeks have been such a whirlwind that I have put writing it all down as a last priority. But, it shouldn't be, so here goes...catch-up time.

I have had a chance over the past two weeks to fill so many roles in my life, that I have come to realize I am happiest when I am working to fill them all.

Very selfishly I decided (with hardly a nod from Paul) to head to San Francisco to tackle my final race of the summer. I needed a good one to find some level of peace for the tough challenges I have had to face. Somehow I justified this race, by saying I would crew for my friend and a fellow trail-runner after I finished. It became such a win-win situation.

I had the race of my life on August 11th. I had been totally out of my pre-race routine, and had turned over the priority to go to the men who were racing longer than I. This allowed me to just move on instinct. I know how to plan my drop bag. I know what I am wearing, and how to plan for the final pre-race moments. And when given the chance I know how to race. I just let what my body was wanting and preparing all summer to do...run with freedom and joy. I did just that. I enjoyed every moment. I sang out-loud as I descended, and I smiled as I climbed. I shared miles with all of my friends: Luisa and Steph got the first 8 miles, Catherine and Bryan shared the climb with me to mile 22, Clea got the ridge on the way out, Paul brought me on the way back (what I considered the most important section of the race) and boy did he push me, I kept the downhill from Pan Toll to Muir Beach to myself...which actually turned out to be my best moment of the race, descending to Legacy and singing feeling the blessing all the way down. (I knew the day was a gift and was lifted by the spirit of it all; it was a very spiritual descent that I continue to have a hard time putting into words) I shared the most difficult climb of the day with Shan because there was noone that could pull me uphill better than her. I thought about how hard she is working and wanted to share every minute of the last hard climb with her...thanks for pulling me up. I came through the final aid station with my dream in front of me; I needed to move to break 10 hours. I thought about someone who has become my "email" friend, Jamie, and what she must have mustered to get to the finish at Badwater and I pushed. She was injured and continued to climb; I felt great and had no excuse. I pushed and pushed and when I crested the top I ran as fast as my body and legs would go to my very favorite: Avril! I sprinted ALL the way to finish to Julie standing at the finish. She could tell by the smile on my face that I had the day I had been wanting for. It was amazing...9:55:12, 3rd woman, 13th overall!!

Was it being out of my routine and having to let my instinct take over; was it sharing this day with everyone I love; or was it just a freak occasion. Whatever it was to be I took it and still savor it!

As soon as I changed and got some soup; I was ready to work. The guy I had met at Miwok, Steve, and had silently pulled me on the ridge was tackling the 100. So when he came in from the first loop. I helped fill his bottles, get him soup, and try to get him moving out of the aid station. He was having a grand time visiting with everyone around...and eventually knew he needed to move on. Although I didn't see him again I heard he had a great finish. I am very happy for him!!

Soon after, Stuart and Henry came through. I was ready to work. I got them soup, and started to help them at the drop bag site. It was quite cold at the beach and the winds were kicking up a good breeze. I quickly moved their bags and them to the car so that they could change and move on without getting chilled. This process took longer than I would have liked but they left in good spirits and so I was happy for the time taken. My plan was to deliver them a "real" dinner at the next aid station. Both of their weights were down and I wanted to make sure they were eating well. I met up with them 11 miles, and more hours than I would have liked later. Henry was in great spirits, but Stuart was feeling very cold, tired, and low. Again, I sat him in the car to eat. He was expressing to me all that was going wrong, to which I replied, "are you here to have fun, or are you here to finish?" He told me that he was there to finish, so I kicked him out of the car and told both that I would see them at mile 75 with breakfast in tow.

At mile 75, they came in with very little time to spare before the final cut-off. I was concerned. Again, Henry was in good spirits, but Stuart came in and said he was done. I needed to get Henry moving out quickly, so I looked at Stuart and told him that if he wanted to stop that he needed to talk to Wendell, the RD. I wasn't going to make the decision or break the news for him. Henry looked at me and was disheartened with Stuart's decision. I asked Henry what he wanted to do. He said he didn't know. I told him to walk away from the aid station and make his decision. He walked over to the car, changed his shirt, filled his bottles, and told me to meet him at the next aid station. He was invigorated by owning this fantastic decision to keep going. As I took Stuart back to the room he explained that he would hav e never made it because he wasn't going to the restroom, was drinking a surprising amount, and his legs were completely shot from the difficulty of the course...he is a flatlander afterall. I did what I could to make him feel supported.

We headed over to the next aid station to meet up with Henry. When he arrived he wanted to be done. I explained to him that it would be better for him to fight until the clock ran out, then just throw in the towel. Again, I sent him away to make his own decision...I told him he had two minutes and that I would be in the car waiting. Again, I saw him fill up his water bottles. I ran over to him, and he threw me his gloves and told me to meet him at the next aid station...and for the first time in many hours he ran off. It was just incredible.

I decided that the only way he would have a real shot was if I joined him for the last 9 miles. I knew he had been on his own for a long time and that it would be so much easier for him to speed up if we were chatting away. Stuart said that he would take over the driving. Although I couldn't believe I was doing this after I had raced and been up all night, I put on my running clothes to get ready to head out. When Henry came in, he didn't look great but I told him to head out and I would go with him. I caught up to him, and he was having issues other than the clock that was doomed to run out of time. He decided it was safest to call it at day. At mile 91 with no time left, Henry's race came to an end. He showed more heart and will in those last miles, and it was awesome to be part of.

As we were eating our final meal before travelling home, we visited about the weekend. We talked about the difference in my crewing for him at his first 100 finish and my tone this time around. (I was a crazy hyper, intense, and overwhelming crew and pacer...I am surprised he ever forgave me for my behavior) As I have been part of more and more people's races and have done my own, I have come to the realize the importance of calm and ownership. If I remain calm and collected as crew my runners will take the cue as everything is great. I don't have to be hyped-up to have them take care of what they need and get them on their way. I also have come to realize that this is not my race when I am crewing. Decisions have to be made and owned by the runner. I knew their goals, and left it to them to make final decisions. I was paid the most wonderful compliment regarding my crewing style from Stuart:

"You were perfect for crewing! You "thought" for us both, anticipated our needs, yet challenged us to make our own decisions. That was the perfect balance between being too passive and too pushy." Ok, I wasn't perfect, but he was very kind. Although they didn't finish, I was there for them and hopefully gave them exactly what they needed...who could say no to: avocado sandwiches, IN and OUT burgers, Sausage biscuits, and Lattes. (By the way, you too run 100 miles and these foods can be part of your diet)

I barely had time to let the dust settle from that trip, and Paul and I took off to the Smokey Mountains to spend a long weekend with my parents to celebrate their 40th anniversary and our 3rd, which are on the same day. When Paul and I were choosing the date to get married I figured if the date has worked for my parents for so long, it would be perfect for us.

After a very long travel day, our connecting flight was delayed for 6 hours, we entered what Paul ended up terming, "Eden." We stayed in the beautiful haven of Blackerry Farms outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. It was complete Nirvana for days. It is where we learned, "Yes is the answer...what is the question." So many gifts came from our trip:



- a wonderful amount of time spent with my husband
- 3 hour long dinners filled with laughter and wonderful food and wine
- fantastic time with my family...and most of all my father
- Paul on a horse cantoring down the trail
- Experiencing hours and hours in the Smokey Mountains
- and more than anything, a real vacation...

I spend so many weekends heading off to beautiful places to run through the trails. What I sometimes forget is that there is so much beauty in not going somewhere for a race. I can still, and even more so, do the things I love but more than that get quality time with my family and especially Paul.





My best moments and days over the past few weeks have come from thinking a little less about myself, and a little more about those I care about. It was in turning my pre-race priorities over to others that I had the race of my life; it was in giving to others when they needed it most that I could cherish my time out on the race course. It was in creating what my husband and I needed as a couple that we could cherish a real vacation, and it was in letting go that I could fully enjoy my time with my family.
It is the things I do that are not about me that will only help to make me a better person:
- the friendly honest email to my mother-in-law...we both win from that
- being excited for my friends' successes, and genuinely so:
Last weekend while I was hiking, I had three friends finish Leadville: Joe, JT, and Fred. I had one friend prove she is still the champ pacer: Melissa 2 for 2!! And I had a friend swim across the English Channel in the fastest time so far this year...Lynne, 9:50!! And even better, I get to run with her in the fall!!
- Spending time with my family, not only when it is a gift to an amazing place...it has got to be more than that.
- Calling my grandfather...I'm working on that one.
- Making time for my friends, thinking of them, and giving them the best of what I have to offer
- And most importantly, keeping my time with Paul #1 and making our home the Zen experience I know it can and should be...

I love to run, but it is finding the balance of giving that I actually created the best of days... By the way, this is very easy to write in my blog, it is continuing to live it that will remain my life-long challenge.

Have a wonderful weekend and now that I am firmly landed for a little while I will keep up more!




mer

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Using your skills...

This evening as we were sitting in church, I was reflecting on my day. I came to appreciate what I had done earlier in the day...

We woke up VERY early this morning to head to San Marcos for Jack's Generic Triathlon. Since I wasn't racing, I planned to go for a bike ride pre-race and just help out however needed while Paul raced. Before I headed out on the bike the guys in charge asked me to help with bike SAG. This consists of changing tires for people, doing minor bike repair, and getting help quickly if something happens on the bike course....first and foremost it is safety, but really it is mostly a catering service :)

I went for a fantastic hour bike ride on the course, and then changed and got ready for my duty. First thing was to give Paul his split from the few people infront of him. He would be finished and hanging out by time I finished my job. I took off and not 800meters from the transition area did I come up to a guy with a flat. I asked, "Do you have everything you need?" He said, "I have no idea, I have never done this before." I hopped out of the car, took his tire off, and changed it. Off he went. Then I drove maybe 200meters more, and there was a guy sitting at the top of the first climb. I pulled over and went over to him. "Are you ok?" He said he was light-headed from the climb. I helped him pour water on his head and cooldown a bit. Then a girl came riding up to me. "I think I might have a flat." I felt her tire...and she said. "Or maybe I didn't air it up this morning." I grabbed my pump and pumped up her tires which were both extremely low. Off she went, and the guy got up and headed on his way, as well.

I continued on down the road...pumping up many tires (about 5 more), and changed 2 more. Although I must admit that the next two were actually prepared, and just accepted my help for speed-sake. I finally got onto the main road I was supposed to be keeping an eye on. As I got to the end of the road I came up to a guy who had very nice race wheels on and had a flat. I asked if he had a spare. He said, "It's a sprint race. I figured if I flatted I would just quit." As we were discussing this matter, the lone wheelchair athlete came over to me and said he had a flat. He did...there was a wire sticking out from his tire. He walked me through what needed to be done to remove his tire: prop up the chair and take the wheel off. Well I wasn't really prepared for this... Without much deep thought I went back to the car and got our cooler. It was the perfect prop. I took his wheel off and started to remove the tube. I didn't have a spare for him, either did he, and I didn't have a patch. What I found was tape in the car and figured I would just tape the tube, and follow him to make sure he could continue safely. In the meantime, the other SAG approached and they had a spare for the chair. We got him all set and on his way. (I will give him a ton of credit in that he did have a cellphone, and immediately called his family that was waiting in transition just in case they needed to help)

After a few more people to help, I headed back to help serve up food and socialize. It was really a ton of fun.

Anyway, my point...
I am by no means a cyclist. BUT, before I even spent much time cycling I learned about taking care of my bike and changing flats. In my first long distance duathlon I got 3 flats and only had to stop after the 3rd because I had run out of spares. During a 1/2 Ironman it was just pouring buckets and I got a flat on my race wheel. Again, I changed it (with a little help) because I was carrying a spare. Yes, it took time but I just thought that was part of the deal. And finally, to brag on my husband, during a sprint tri last year he got a flat on the bike, changed it, and still won the race. Now, of course, that is not normal...but he never would have not changed a flat during a race.

Now as I do ultramarathons, I feel the same applies. As I am packing my drop bags, and advice I have always been given is to prepare for what can happen. (Better to have and not need, then need and not have) Yes, you may have a perfect day and not need any of that stuff...but chances are you are going to wish and want whatever it is to solve a token issue that arises. It is in that detailed preparation you can calmly face whatever comes your way.

I was so happy to be able to help so many people today, but it was fun to reflect on different skills people choose to have before endeavoring on an adventure. I'll leave it as a good opportunity for me to enhance my tire changing skills...just call me the pit crew!
mer

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Happy Days!

This week has been just fantastic!

- The sun is finally shining and summer is in full force! I am in my glory in the heat. I wait all winter for the sun to shine and the weather to be just downright hot!! It makes everything you do a little tougher, and you feel so much better when you accomplish it strong.

- I have been sharing my runs with my closest of friends, which is such a treat. Luisa and I have finally nailed down our training schedule and hit the track on Wednesdays and do a hilly long run on Fridays. On Wednesday mornings we meet at the track with our dogs in tow. They get to enjoy the wonders of freedom and friendship, while we explore our speed and pain threshold. Scotch and Daisy get so excited to see one another, and Nick just wants to play. I will take pictures of them this coming Wednesday to post. For the Friday runs I have to admit that Stephanie and I started these runs a few months back in her wonderful support of my WS training. But now they have taken a different turn. I pick a good solid hilly run and off we go. Steph climbs like a champ, and they let me set a slightly too aggressive pace. All along we laugh, we visit, and we suffer just a little. We are going to try to continue these every week, which really excites me!!

- Today Luisa and I met up with Clea for the last 8 of her 15-miler. I was feeling quite good, but Luisa was feeling yesterday's run. Clea was being positively neutral in the pace. It was fun, not only to spend time with the two of them, but also to have the two of them get to know eachother better. I think it is such a gift when friends from different circles can come together and enjoy eachother's company!! I think that Steph and Luisa are going to run without me next week when I am out of town, and that just thrills me!

- On the other side of my life, Paul and I got to have dinner together on Thursday night. This is the first evening we had a chance to sit down together in over a week. Between school, work, and sleep imbetween we just have not seen eachother. It was wonderful to talk and catch-up in person. We needed it, and honestly I was really missing him. Soon enough we will see a break, and have more time with eachother. It will be very nice!

Again, all and all a fantastic week! I look forward to many more to come :)
mer


Side Note to my last post: Olga makes a wonderful point. I think we all start blogs, keeping journals, writing down thoughts with an initial intent. Oftentimes, that does change, evolve, mold into something else..maybe wonderfully unexpected and even not as intended. At the end of the day, it is our own evolution. By putting it out there, we risk judgement....I guess that is not what I am here to do, so maybe I have mistakenly read too closely. I will work to read with the intent to enjoy others accomplishments and happiness in them, share what my friends want to say, and learn from what is written.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blogs

My friend David, or Dave, (still not sure which he prefers...I think his wife calls him Dave?) and I were having an interesting conversation during our run yesterday. We were discussing what people write in their blogs, titles, and why write. He had recently stumbled upon a guy who seemed suicidal in his, and we wondered what do you do with that information. Really there is nothing to do...

Then we talked about we have seen some people almost tranform their personality in their blog...to almost use it as a forum to pat themselves on the back or talk about how great they are. We thought that those are pretty funny because the self-absorption begins with the title.

What I have decided is my favorite type of blog is one that just gives me a brief glimpse to my friends' lives and what they are thinking. It helps me know when someone is having a good or bad day and so often I follow-up the read with an email to them to check and make sure all is ok. I love to read the light-hearted moments in their lives; it keeps me close to them even when I don't hear from them regularly. It has actually brought me closer to people I may never have been, but in their blog I see a side of them I am very fond of and want to share.

On a side note to this I have to say that nothing quite beats the emails or time I share with all of my friends...especially those that don't keep blogs.

Now, unlike David/Dave, I am not going to start blog-hopping...I just am not that interested I must say. But, I will continue to read on and glimpse in...the funny, the happy, the busy, and even the self-absorbed. Isn't that why we write??
mer

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My Family

This morning as I was talking to Gabe I thought back to my first summer in Austin. I had met Joe and Joyce before, but not many others. I had been running trails already for sometime, but as a Houstonian a different community. In Houston I had my immediate family and my best friends, who were also my running partners. In Austin I had neither.

It was that first summer that I found my Austin family...I just didn't totally remember that until today. It was Sundays at Bull Creek with Henry, Mike, Jim and sometimes Robert and Diana....and of course Joe with an appearance or two. It was Thursday evenings at Ladera with Paul, Joe, Joyce once, and even their kids. Joe was there to teach Paul and I how to run downhill like we meant it. Then it was oh so many runs with Shan on every trail, and up and down Jester. Little by little I met oh so many more of this group, and always felt a part of it. I was always included, and always enjoyed my time with them. But all of this became so much more than running to me, they became my extended family.

As time has gone on in Austin, and our life has settled, I find that I do so many more runs on my own and spend so much less time with people I used to make time for...until this past week.

You may not always be so close to your family, but when they hurt or need you...you are there. That is what I tried to do this week and the gift actually came back to me ten-fold. A week ago Friday in a terrible tragedy, one of our friends and fellow trailrunners died on the trail. We all went out and aided Search and Rescue last Sunday, and one of our friends and fellow trailrunners found him in the debris on the trail. Words cannot fully describe the loss or the details of being part of that, but my friends who found him gave the greatest gift of speedy closure to his daughter and the rest of his family.

I felt so helpless. I didn't know this man very well, except for brief encounters on Saturday mornings on the trail. But what I knew what that my friends, people who had welcomed me into their family, were in such pain. I just wanted to make it better.

One of our club members decided to set up a memorial run for this morning, and his family set up a memorial service last night. Both took place on the trail. I decided the best thing I could do would be to be there to help. I ended up being the recipient of this gift.

The memorial service was wonderful, and his daughter's words about her father will be in my heart forever. With such passion she spoke of the parallel of the force of nature and the wonderful man her father was. She has such incredible strength. After the service it was so great to be there to share hugs with everyone, and talk about what a great person he was.

And then this morning...I woke up very early to meet Robert and Diana. We were going to tie flowers to the trail intersections to lead people to the site where he had been found...his final resting place. We headed out in the dark with arm-loads of stuff. We tied flowers to trees and fences so that any and all could find there way. Robert took me all the way to the site before I headed back. I found that I could hardly stand there amongst the debris. It was a harder location to be at than I thought it would be. I, then, ran back quickly to help greet people, tell them where to go on the trail, and say a few words before we headed off. I had been so composed up until that point, but got a bit choked up as I spoke, and said:

Before we depart on the Memorial Run, I would like to say a few words. I am not here as one of his closest friends. I knew him only by the brief hug, hello, and quick update on Saturday mornings we would exchange as we passed each other either at our cars or on the trail. As we run today, let us remember a man who leaves a legacy to strive for: honor, grace, dedication, care, and kindness. And may the canopy of trees that line the trail of the Greenbelt emit his spirit forever.

I described the trail and off we went. It was just amazing...his family, co-workers, fellow runners, and even people who hardly knew him came to join. We ran, we walked, we stumbled, and we remembered.

I arrived at the fence to turn in to where he was resting and I stopped. I couldn't go back in there. I waited with Mike for people to come out and we helped them turn back. Mike and I ran and caught up...it had been over a year since we had run together.

When we got back I spent time with each and every person I knew and didn't know very well. It was so strange... so many people came up to me to thank me for helping. They told me how much this short walk meant to them, and words I will never forget are those spoken by his daughter. She said, "Thank you. What you did was so important for us all."

What I realized was that all of this was so important to me, as well. I was able to offer some help and healing to my family. I was able to be there when I was needed, and not just when it was good for me. For this I must thank our lost friend...his legacy I will keep close to my heart.

If only we can all strive to have the things said about us that were said about him...I know I will. I will strive to have the smile on my face read kindness. I will strive to include everyone, so that all can feel like they are my friends and that I am not just part of closed circle. And I will move forward with determination to reach my goals!!

mer

Monday, July 2, 2007

It's Been A Week...



It was a week ago today that I got off a plane and headed straight to the doctor's office. It's been a week of breathing treatments, medication, fever, more medication, and just plain feeling sick. It's been a week of applauding tough decisions and recovering from them. It's been quite a week.




I was having the most wonderful day running through the Western States trail. Everything was on! I was happy, felt great, and making "no mistakes." (Paul's Motto for the race: Fast Feet and No Mistakes) Then a strange thing happened...I couldn't take a normal breath. It was on the climb up to Michigan Bluff that I noticed it. This is a climb I love. It is not steep, it just goes on for a while. I can climb it easily in 40-45 minutes. Last Saturday it took me almost an hour. It was not because of my legs or fatigue, it was because I had to stop to breathe. I was just having the hardest time getting air in...it was so weird. I came into Michigan Bluff and I sat down and refueled. I told Paul what was going on, but I think he just took it as a low moment. I was hoping that was what it was. I headed out and immediately down the trail I realized that this was more than a low moment, something was wrong. I was basically hyperventilating, but not really. If I tried to take a deep breath in, I would cough. I could barely talk. It was miserable...this is how I was from mile 55-62. Paul met me at Bath Road, and I told him to find out if there was oxygen available and if I could take it without being pulled. I got to Foresthill, and the doctor was waiting for me. At first he couldn't hear the wheezing in my lungs, and then once I started coughing he heard it loud and clear. I couldn't get a breath in and the longer I was there the worse things got. The doctor, Paul, and my pacers decided it was unsafe for me to continue. I didn't feel well enough to object to the decision.

Paul loaded me up and we went over to our friends' Lee and Sara house. I didn't even change clothes and just laid on top of a sleeping bag on their guest bed. I did not feel well at all. Paul said that I spent that entire first night grasping for a breath. He said it made him feel better about making the right decision. The next morning I woke up not feeling well, coughing but not able to cough anything up. I made myself eat and drink a bit, but didn't really want to. We packed up and got ready to take the red-eye home. It was during this flight that the worst started to hit. On the flight I started to have the worst sore throat, cough, and just all over hard time breathing. I knew I needed to get to the doctor. The minute we landed I called the doctor's office and got in.

Once at the doctor's office, I started getting breathing treatments to try to loosen up the dirt and swelling in my lungs. I was actually able to cough some dirt up after the 2nd treatment. From there she prescribed meds to help the swelling in my lungs go down and help me clear my lungs. I thought I would feel better soon...not so fast. Apparently, my lungs got infected from the dirt/dust in them. By Monday night I was running a 102 fever, and feeling all together miserable. Tuesday was a bit more of the same, but my fever dropped so that was better.

By Wednesday I was down to a very nasty cough and starting to see the light. Thursday I decided it was time to resume my "normal" activities...things had to be getting better or I was going to make them. Friday was even better, and I went back to the doctor to see that I was improving and get a round of antibiotics for the infection that was in my lungs...nice.

Saturday I went for a run, and found that my legs were still totally fine...did I even run 62 miles the week before...and getting moving helped loosen everything up in my lungs, yum!! I had my first social outing Saturday evening, and it was very fun NOT to talk too much about the race. Sunday I took Daisy for a long run, 7 miles, and then stained our deck. Clea came over to visit after being in Alaska for 10 days and brought me an awesome shirt...I love presents!!

Today is going on as though nothing happened...except for the fact that I am still coughing when I run. But more than nothing took place over the past week...

I was so busy being sick and working to get better that I didn't even barely think about how disappointed I might be for not seeing this finish line yet again. I spent the week just trying to get back to real life that I didn't even miss not being able to run or exercise. I had gone from being in the best shape of my life to barely being able to walk the dog around the block in just a few days, and my legs weren't even tired. Now that I am better I realize that this is how it was meant to be.

In getting sick, and feeling so very sick, the importance of the race took a step back to everything else. My precious moments of talking were saved to talk to my friends. My precious energy went into working and making sure I didn't fall behind at the house. Although my husband enjoyed the silence of me not being able to talk, I used what energy I had to help him catch-up and make sure we had healthy meals to eat.

I could not have taken this journey without Paul and my friends, and I could not have made it through this past week without the exact same people. I never felt an empty hole or a moment of how to handle this because everyone I love has been there before I can even think to need them. It has been overwhelming in the most wonderful way.

I don't know what the very near future will hold except for getting back to 100%, and working with the doctor to make sure this doesn't happen again...or at least I can handle it if it does. In the meantime, I feel so loved and blessed for all of those in my life that right now I don't even feel empty for not seeing the track on Sunday morning.

The track will still be there, and when it is meant to be I will get there...

Thank you for being my support!!
mer

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Dream

The bags are packed, the plan is set, and the prayers are never-ending.

Here is the dream:
- training hard
- staying healthy
- staying positive, as often as possible
- spending my last few days of taper getting positive vibes from those closest to me
- envisioning that run around the track at Placer High School on Sunday!!

In my dreams, I couldn't have asked for more in my days of taper...
- ran with friends (Friday runs have been the BEST, and Karen thanks for having my same schedule and enduring whichever route I pick!!)
- Daisy had her first post-surgery long run...my last trail run before the race. She ran 7 miles effortlessly and healthy!!
- ran with Daisy, her boyfriends, and one of my closest friend's Luisa!!
- surprised my dad and took a trip home for Father's Day... and got to spend time with my 93-yr-old grandfather. He is enough to inspire me to the finish-line!
- went to see Catherine, her new house, and her super adorable son....he was seriously entertaining
- had my favorite meals at my favorite restaurants in both Houston and Austin
- took a road-trip with Paul to Houston and enjoyed having him spend time riding with friends

and as if that wasn't enough...
- have shared the most wonderful email conversations with friends that have only been so supportive to me during this journey.
- and have received the most incredible inspiring notes from friends...I have them all packed!!

Having such a rich and FULL week of joy, love, friendship, health, and fulfillment will just make Saturday/Sunday that much more powerful. I will share my journey with each of the people who make my life richer everyday. To everyone who goes out of their way to be a positive light in my life: you will run with me; you will send me power; you will feel what I feel; and you will be part of my dream.

Off I go...to dream!
mer

So, in all of the irony of the power of my wonderful husband...on 6/23/06 he have me a card that sits on my desk that reads:
If you can DREAM it, You can do it!
He wrote inside:
"You've Dreamed it. Now Go and Do It!!"

As I was finishing this post, I looked over and saw the card...amazing!