Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thank You

Dear Western States 2011,

I have spent the past few days reflecting on the gifts, memories, lessons, and experiences of this past weekend and what crosses my mind the most is just how thankful I am.

It all starts with an incredible trail.  I feel so fortunate to know and love all the miles of beauty.  While I didn't get to enjoy every step of the trail, I got to see the miles through someone else's eyes and see the trail at different times of the day.  I am forever grateful for my runs on the trail with Dana Gard, and learning every special detail that comes to mean so much when you are out there counting down the minutes to the next aid station.  As he said to me on Friday, while we were remembering my first runs on the trail, it just takes a few runs with someone who knows the trail and open eyes and ears to fully absorb.  I was a sponge on those runs, and will forever remember every detail. It is in those details I fully appreciate just how special this trail is.  But, on Saturday it was even better!  I caught myself looking around as we were running, just in awe of the incredible sights.  I would look down at the river, and have to stop myself from telling Aliza to look, as I didn't want her to fall.  No Hands Bridge is everything I love it to be, even when you are rushing across it.  Thank you WS trail for never disappointing in all of your glory!

It happens because of an amazing husband.  I love that Paul embraced the idea of being out on the Western States trail, and that we could coordinate to be there for both of our runners.  We got the best of all worlds: some time to ourselves to run and enjoy time together, and time to be with and help friends!  What an awesome way to spend the weekend and I am so thrilled that he is such a part of this world with me.  So lucky!

The appreciation is rounded out with a day with friends.  Getting to catch up with old friends, making new friends, and sharing a singular passion and focus to be there for people you care about in the most incredible place.

And, in the end, it is all possible because of the strength, fortitude, and desire of a runner!   Our stories and memories on the trail will not soon be forgotten, but it wouldn't be a true thank you without detailing some of the time we shared:
- for letting me push her to drink and eat to get back on track. 
- for knowing how to manage her ability and pushing through pain, even when an easier option sounded more appealing

- for going against her personality to "make everyone happy" and remember that Saturday was HER day!  I know this was a tough one for her, but in the end doing what was best for her race was the reason we were all there to support her!
- And, for trusting me...even with things she hadn't touched in over 10 years!
- And, mostly, because she is just so damn tough!  Two of my favorite stories to ilustrate this point:
M: "time to take an electrolyte"
A: "ok"
a few sec later
M: "did you just spit out your pill?"
A:"I can't swallow them anymore so I have been chewing on them and spitting out the empty capsule."
This continues for every 20-30 min from approx. mile 65-98 (I had her take more electrolytes for the final push up from No Hands).

For the final approx 2-3 miles of the race she was incredibly light headed and her heart rate was up.  Unfortunately, for fear of how close someone might be gaining from behind it was time to put her head down and run up the climb no matter what.  She gave everything she didn't have left in those miles, but didn't get passed!  After finishing, it was time to put the pieces back together.  As we thought she was in the med tent getting an IV, Paul and I walk over to see that they have turned her into a pin cushion.  It was a scene.  The final straw for me was when "med" folk #3 was digging a needle around in her hand saying, "her vein keeps moving on me."  Seriously?!?

Aliza with her new friend
As we had been running earlier I had told her the story of our friend, Stephan, and his adventures of drinking IV fluid so he wouldn't get pulled during an Ironman (kids don't try this at home).  I kind of politely asked the woman digging around in Aliza's hand to take the needle out, and looked over at Aliza and asked if she could do it.  She knew what I meant, and I asked the med folk if they would pour IV solution into a cup for her.  Before she even questioned it, she started drinking it down.  From there, we started breaking electrolyte pills into water (warm water thanks to Paul in effort to get her warm), and she drank that down, too.  In a matter of 10 minutes her color was coming back and she was up and headed to the hotel for a shower. 

I got to be witness to what is so deep in the heart of a true champion.  She holds such grit and determination, but this is in addition to such a genuine heart of gold and a great great soul. 

Western States - maybe 48 hours in complete duration, although I know for many it is an everyday to make it what it is, but always a memory that you can store for an entire year.  Thank you so much for filling my memory bank for another year!  Can't wait to see you again!!