Monday, January 1, 2018

Snowdrop Ultra 55

I won't lie to you. I've wanted one of these buckles since 2014. I entered the race that year, but did not finish the 100 miles. I only got 45 miles; and my knee wouldn't work after that. So I dropped.

Here is the 2018 version with the shirt; which I now own.

So the race lurked in my mind quietly for several years. In April this year, I did a 50k in a great time and I felt great after; I wondered if I could do 50 miles or even try a timed 100 again.

I started to watch for Snowdrop entry to open. Opening was midnight on June 28. That night, I was laying awake in bed at 1:30 am thinking how I would enter in the morning. I decided to enter right then and maybe I could go to sleep. It was already 65% full. It filled by 8 am.

But, I'm IN!!

I signed up for a rails-to-trails 50 mile race October 28. It went really really well. I was surprised. I did a 50k on December 16. It went really well. I decided I'm ready for Snowdrop.

On December 24 I went to the Snowdrop course and ran for about an hour. While I was there, two of the race directors showed up. They explained everything to me and gave me a tour. On Monday December 25, I thought it would be ok if I just didn't go. I even drafted an e-mail to the RD saying to give my ticket to someone on the wait list; but I never sent it. I decided to go running first. For one hour, I was sure I would skip the race. Then I was thinking about how I was making an emotional decision, projecting how unhappy cold mud and porta-potties are. Then after 2 hours, I got this tiny little thought: what is so bad about just going one day and seeing how things are? Uh.... what a concept, don't quit without even giving yourself a chance. You can't get to day 2 if you don't go to day 1. You can't get to day 3 if you don't go to day 2.

By Wednesday, I realized: you can't finish if you never start. I decided I would get my butt to the starting line.period. Then, the day before the race, I decided I would get 61 laps done (42 miles) but no other commitment.

This race is a mental race. The course is flat and short. It is not a beautiful dramatic thing like Hardrock; but there will still be blood and tears as each racer meets their own limitations. The whole problem of finishing is mental. Hence, it is unknown territory. I am a notorious quitter. But I am better now than have ever been.

You can't have a journey if you never start.
You can't have grit if you let your fear keep you home.

I went to packet pick up with a box containing about 10 lbs of old race medals. Snowdrop Foundation puts new ribbons on these and hands them out to kids with cancer; "Bling for Bravery."

Day 1: I'm at the race site very early. I was awake most of the night worried about getting a parking spot in the A lot. Driving to the race, I heard a story on the radio about a girl who fell off a cliff while riding her bicycle and almost died; and how she got a love of life itself during the experience. She learned not to just go from thing to thing, but to live each moment as a precious time. Perfect. I need to enjoy this race, not just hope to get it over as soon as possible. Journey they said.

The weather might rain but it is pretty warm. I claim a good spot along the course for my wagon and chair. Eventually, the race starts. I planned to run 3 minutes and walk 2 minutes until I got to 61 laps (42 miles). I did well with this until about 34 miles when I decided to walk the last 15 laps. The course was half concrete and this was taking a toll on my lower back and knees. So I shut down the running. I was on course moving forward about 11 hours and a little. Lots of pit stops to grab food, shift garmins, porta-potty, etc. It did rain for about 30 minutes so I got to use my new umbrella. I was very tired after the 30 min drive home.

Snowdrop Foundation helps kids with cancer. All around the course they have pictures of little kids with cancer. Some say, "In honor of  ____" Some say, "In memory of _____" (Oh, these are the ones who didn't make it). Some say, "Survivor ____" In any case, looking at these pictures made my choke up repeatedly all during the race.

I resolved to show up for day 2, but no expectations on performance. I ate a big bowl of vegetarian cuisine for dinner. I didn't sleep real great.

Day 2: I got to the course and started running at 5:17 am. I was surprised that my legs felt good. So I again did 3 minutes jog and 2 min walk. I slowed down my running speed to lessen the impact. I did real well, with too many pit stops. The weather was pretty warm, but a heavy mist. I was getting wet and had to use a rain shell.

They had some new signs on the course. Here is my favorite:

They also had a sign that said, "They didn't say it would be easy but they did say it would be worth it." These two signs helped me alot mentally.

I must have been a cranky pants a good part of day 2. Some people started finishing. I got to see the things they do for each and every person who gets to 100 miles. All I thought was I don't want all that fuss. Just give me my buckle and let me go. Cranky Pants!!!  Better I finish on day 3 when I won't be so cranky.

I got the second batch of 61 laps done. Another 11 hours on course. The shoes I used for day 2 weren't exactly right. These shoes had caused some problems with one of my toe nails. After I got home, I figured out what to do about that (and used a different pair of shoes for day 3).

I was now up to 84 miles. I knew that come hell or high water, I would finish those last 16 miles, even if I had to crawl.

Day 3: Again, I didn't sleep very much. After 84 miles, my body felt a little beat up. Nothing was broken, but I kept feeling little twinges of pain here or there. My hips weren't happy, so I couldn't lie comfortably. But I had the alarm set for 3 am; and when it went off, I was up and at 'em.

I started forward motion at 4:45. It was very cold. Many people were still on course. Many of these people were walking very slowly and maybe limping.

I, on the other hand, was amazed at the recuperative power of laying in bed for a few hours. I was well enough to again do the 3 minutes jog and 2 minutes walk. I was doing really good. It was very cold and windy, but this didn't seem to bother me.

I had to be patient. It was still going to take a few hours to finish 16 miles. Don't screw up now. But I was excited to see my lap count get closer and closer. And I was feeling better and better. I couldn't believe I was actually going to finish this thing. It had taken alot to get to this point.

At 143 laps, I could hear them mention my name. The RD asked me how many laps as I went by. I said 2 more. She said, "Next lap is your bell lap?" I said, "Yes." She wrote something on her clip board. I kept going but started to cry real tears. Even as I type this now, I'm crying. I was going to finish that race. I finished the final 16 miles (23 laps) in about 3:45.

I am not a quitter!

They actually have a big bell that you ring for your last lap (in honor of a cancer patient completing treatment). As I came through the race crew was again saying my name. I rang the bell. Then, I ran most of the last lap. The crew was watching for me as I came around. They hold a finishers tape for everyone. They announce on the loud speaker. The RD even said it was my first 100 miler (true), and that I almost quit earlier in the week.

Here I am getting my buckle.

This was an experience of a lifetime. Worth it!

A word about me and timed ultras. Why did I go home? Well, for many races, when something goes wrong, my brain is too worn out to fix any problems. All I do is quit, usually with 50 miles. But, when I get home, I realize what I could have done. So this time, I just planned to go home, even though it was a 35 minute drive. Indeed, after day 2, I had some repairs to do on toes and at home, I had the resources.

Also, I know what part of my problem with 100 mile races is. After about 35 - 40 miles, I am not interested in more running. If it is a 50 mile race, I'll tough it out. But I fail to see the point of walking slowly in pain for 65 miles. I admire people who do it, but I can't seem to do it myself.

Monday, November 20, 2017

La Porte Half Marathon

Big announcement: I ran a half marathon today. I am super pleased with my time: 2:13. Because I didn't try that hard. Because I don't train at 10:13/mile speeds. And because it was 3 minutes faster than 2 years ago, the last time I ran that race. And also because in less than 2 months I'll be 59 years old. That seems old, yet here I am. I ran a half marathon.

People always want to know how fast I was. I'm usually embarrassed to say because my time is not great. I'm pleased with it, but it is not in and of itself impressive. Racing is not about winning; although I am competitive. Racing is fun. I saw one or two people I knew, but racing is not really a social event. I don't have people cheering for me at the finish line. I race for myself.

My last race, in October, was a 50 mile ultra marathon with less than 100 people entered. This half marathon had 3,700 people entered and I ran fast. The 50 miles took 12.5 hours. The half marathon took about 2.25 hours. One race went out and back between two rows of trees on a rails to trails course through the Kansas countryside. The other went over a humongous bridge over the Houston ship channel. Such different races. But both gave a sense of satisfaction from the accomplishment.

Yesterday in the half marathon, my Garmin thought I blew off over 1,400 calories. Today, the day after, I did a slow walk jog for 17 miles and used only 1,380 calories. So, yes, my half marathon tired me out; as much as a 50 mile race.

Both races stick in my heart. Different but valuable experience. That is why I do it: it feels good to have the experience.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Spirit Trail 50

Last weekend, I stepped up to the ultra plate once again. This year in April, I ran a 50k in 6:38 and I felt good at the end and knew I could keep going, maybe even do a 50 miler. Then in June, I managed to get myself signed up for the Snowdrop Ultra 55 which in over New Years Weekend. So a 50 mile training run seemed like a good idea. Next thing was to find a race north of here. Texas has been!!

The perfect race seemed to be at the Prairie Spirit Fall Classic 50. It was in Ottawa, Kansas. The course was an out and back on a rails to trails path. The weather turned out to be perfect. The start was a bit chilly at 29F with a slight NW breeze, and I cooled off again after the sun went down but by then I only was cold for 3 miles.

50 miles is a long ass way! I mostly ran completely by myself. Everyone in the 50 mile race, all 30 of us, started in our own wave. By 5 miles in, we'd pretty much sorted out by speed. The course is mostly lined with scrub trees, with soy bean fields on either sides. We went north through town for 2.25 miles and then went south until we had gone 27 miles. Then turn around and go back 23 miles. Psychologically, this race layout is perfect because going to the turn around seems like little more than a marathon and going back, 23 miles doesn't sound like very far.

What do you think about for 12 hours of straight down the path by yourself? Mostly, I had in my head a song by Gloria Gaynor called "I Will Survive." Just the refrain over and over. I kept checking my pace. The first 15 miles was all running at 11:30 pace. Then I switched to 3 run x 2 walk. I maintained a good pace to the 27 mile turn around; arriving there in 6:20. There was a train crossing just before I got to the turn around so I took an extra long walk break and luckily, the train passed. The guy at the aid station made me a fresh hot grilled cheese sandwich which enjoyed. I also used a nice warm bathroom and washed my hands in hot running water.

Going back the last 23 miles was into the wind. It wasn't a bad wind and the day heated up into the high 40s. I slowed down however. The thing about me is I often think about quitting when I am in a race; and I mostly run marathons. For this race however, there were no thoughts of quitting at all. It was like finishing was a fore gone conclusion. And furthermore, I experienced no problems with blisters or with my knees or feet. My upper body became a little achy from my back pack. I drank 3 Ensure 350 calorie protein drinks plus numerous gels and a couple of bars.

On the higher thought plane, I wondered if I was in alignment with the universe. Whenever my mind seemed to wander into negative territory, like what if my knee starts hurting or I have a heart attack or something, I checked my alignment. The negative thinking went away and I just kept going forward. I'd realize that there was nothing physically wrong with me so no point in projecting some disaster. I projected finishing instead .

Why was I doing this? I am a single person so there is no fan club I'm trying to impress. I started ultra running as a way to pray and for a hope of self transcendence. Deep prayer didn't seem to be happening. The other reason was because I wanted to see what it would feel like. In the past, after a 50 mile race, I would fidget in bed and if I had to get up my legs felt like nails. That didn't happen this time. The running part never felt that bad and later, I never felt that bad. Amazing the shape I am in.

I did get a little choked up as I pulled into the finish line. I did it! 12 hours 26 minutes. Awesome!

The race itself is pretty bare bones. The t-shirt was cheap and ugly. The buckle did not come with a fancy ribbon. The aid stations were ok and the volunteers good.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

10 Years Ago

It was 10 years ago today, July 29, 2007, that I first started reading A Course in Miracles. I am still reading, though this year it is the new Annotated Edition published in February.

It is day 42 of the Sri Chinmoy 3,100 Mile Self Transcendence race. I've been following the race every day on the Perfection Journey blog and via the web cam. This year I notice that I have interest in only one of the racers: a 58 year old woman who walks her 60+ miles each day.

In my own life, what about self transcendence? In some way, my inner silence is the evidence. At the moment, my ego is stymied so I am pretty calm. There are lots of people changes at work. That could be evidence of inner changes. I have been without potato chips since the start of the 3,100 mile race (42 days ago). More evidence. This month I will have the biggest mileage and largest number of workout hours in 2 years. Evidence of shifting. I have continued to work on my writing project. Evidence of a future.

This morning, I ran 10 miles in the Seabrook heat at a 5 mph pace. That felt good. I don't have any problems left over from last week's marathons (except for blister healing). I came away from the 2 marathons with a feeling of well being and accomplishment. It was a good thing for me to do. I can hardly wait for my quad; which will be in September.

This bit of scripture has been on my mind. It is from 1 Corinthians 13.4-7. It is the only definition of "Love" I really understand; and wish I could be like; especially that bit about enduring whatever comes.

"Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. 6.Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. 7.It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes." 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Two Marathons and Friends - A Tale of a Weekend

This weekend I created an experience for myself. I ran 2 marathons and I visited 2 old friends. These were marathons 82 and 83 for my life. One of the people I visited was a Sister at the Monastery where I used to live. The other was a long time friend.

Today, Sunday, was supposed to be a relaxing day of resting and getting myself together for tomorrow. I got home late thanks to weather delays at the airport. So I didn't go to bed until nearly 24 hours after I had got up! I slept great. When I woke up, I noticed that the air conditioner seems to have stopped working. So, I called the place I have a service contract with.

Then I tried to get the bread machine going, but messed up on the button pushing; so we shall see what kind of bread comes out. Then I got the laundry going and was successful at that. Then I got the soy milk machine going and was successful at that. Then I made coffee and sat down at my book.

Here is where things get interesting. I stopped to ponder the current emotional situation; and also realized that I barely remember doing a marathon yesterday. I realized I was predicting all sorts of problems with the AC and work disruptions this coming week and how to stay at my house if it is hot. Why was I doing that? I am reading a book called "How Emotions Are Made;" which is added to many other books I have read in my life related to 'you create your own reality.' If you haven't studied reality for several years, then I say, "Don't blow that statement off, but also realize it is complicated." Reality is my emotional experience; made of a social reality I was taught and my own choices.

I realized that I didn't want a stressed out day and my mind could make choices. I didn't know how well it would work but I could at least manage the thinking.

Just as I decided to manage my thoughts, the phone rang. It was the technician saying he was on his way. Already, my universe has turned around as I had not expected that call until late this afternoon. So, I had changed the prediction and I got a happy reality. The technician arrived and quickly knew what to do. I thanked the Universe. As the technician went to his truck to look for the part, I quickly realized that I didn't want to predict further negative problems. I stood in the back yard with my hand over my stomach and projected a feeling of happiness and that everything works out. He came back with sort of the right part. A part that works and gets my house cool but then still needs to be replaced with the right one. I didn't even get through writing this blog post up to now and the AC is back on and running.

So, now, my reality is a series of my emotional experiences and now I have choices about my projections. I get to choose why I am alive. Yes there is a mind bigger than mine. I am not saying I am the creator. I am saying that I have choices about my reality, to some extent, at least now. I think I only gained the ability to have choices after many years of spiritual, psychological, neuro and metaphysical studies.

So, now about the weekend.

My flight with United went perfectly fine. After getting my rental car, I drove into the Missouri countryside to a monastery where I used to be a member. I visit every now and then when I am nearby. This time I was struck with how old and decrepit they are. I didn't feel the desire to stay there and didn't wish I could have stayed and become a sister. I didn't come away with the answer to why I went there in the first place.

Onward. The next day I went out into the Kansas countryside to do a marathon. This race had about 100 entrants, many of whom I have seen before in similar races, and many are retired people in their 70s. The race began at 4:30 due to the heat. I got in about 14 miles of good running; then I did begin to get hot and had to take walk breaks. I was extra careful about fluids and electrolytes. At each end of the short course, I sponged myself with ice water. I finished in good shape.

That evening, I thought about the two days: one with old Sisters and one with many old marathoners. I really admire the marathoners more. I thought, "if my job is to make the most of my life, then doing marathons is what I should be doing."

The midwest is having an incredible heat wave. So the race director offered a 3:30 am start for the next race. I took advantage; though my car thought it was 87F at 3 am. Given 3 hours of darkness, I ran pretty well getting 16 miles done before the sun was up enough to affect me with heat.

I finished the race and hurried back to the hotel so I could have free breakfast. Then I showered and drove to Kansas City to meet a friend. My friend and I talked about her new hobby of mushing dogs (you know, having the dogs pull a sled). We talked about retirement. We talked about my plans for post retirement. This friend knew me when I went to the convent; and yesterday, just shrugged when I told her I still don't know why I went to the convent. It is not important is what that shrug seemed to say.

Then I went to the airport. At the airport, I found that United would upgrade me to first class for $59. I took the deal. Shortly, I was settled in my seat and taxiing for take off. Suddenly a ground stop due to weather. I was glad for that first class seat if I had to sit on that plane very long. I wasn't real happy; but I didn't even try to change my mental predictions until they had to taxi back to the gate to wait. I then began to watch my mind and try to become a pool of calm. It did take some time to get all that sorted out and get airborne. As I tried to snooze on the plane, I realized that I hardly remembered at all that I had run a marathon that morning. Today, I wonder what social reality I was participating in. Many people did not get back on the plane; preferring to instead travel at some other time.

I decided to honor the weekend experience by writing about it and getting one of the photos printed at Walgreens. Yes I ran 2 marathons. My weekend seems to be about how I was creating reality. I am learning what I am doing.

What about the AC? Getting it fixed today is just one of the chores I needed to get done today. It really was quick and easy; and since I have a service contract, it cost no more to get it done today than any other day. This speaks of how my life usually goes. And because most of my life is easy, I have time to do marathons and then wonder why I do them.

PS: the bread came out fine.

Day 1

Day 2

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dear American

It is day 16 of the 52 days allowed for the 3,100 Self Transcendence Race. Three of 10 people are above 1,000 miles. Wow! What a lot of perseverance, endurance, tears, loss of sleep, discipline and unswerving focus on moving forward.

Dear American, say to your government and the media, "Not my soul." By this I mean, be that high integrity person which you are and don't allow the shortcoming of the government distract you from your personal worth. To engage in quiet dis-ing of the president and hating the health care struggle is to sell your soul. I am mainly speaking to that large quiet group of people who go to work and pay taxes. We fund everything. We take up the yoke of work which is our embodiment of honor and integrity.

Now or never, stand up for yourself. Discover your slave narrative and overcome it; then vote for people who have integrity. Not the ones who merely lie. Hate the cost of health care? Do what you need to do to be healthy. Stand outside the pale by engaging emotionally only what brings worth and integrity. You have to pay your taxes but you don't have to be begrudging. Hold the hand of a small child. Take a walk in the neighborhood. Wash the car. Mow the lawn. Do your job. All these little things comprise your personal 3,100 mile self transcendence race.

Are you an alcoholic or an addict? Let today be the day you do something else.
Do you eat too much? Let today be the day you are free to do something else.
I personally engage in self punishment and self sabotage, despite being a very successful person.

Today is my day to do what I know is right. My mental self immolation can change direction. Today I make the declaration of independence and start to live it. Do you doubt I can be more emotionally free starting today? Will I slip? Yes. Will I forget? No. Will I keep on the course of my personal 3,100 mile self transcendence race? Absolutely. I have all the thoughts necessary for healing and moving forward.  I think this has been going on for a long time, but today I feel empowered. I don't feel helpless or hopeless in relation to my seeming emotional flaws. I don't feel the usual hate towards the world around me. I feel good towards myself. Freedom is ringing in my body, mind and spirit.

We the people of America are damn good people; but we need to stand up and be what we are. We need to stop the government from robbing of of our great nation. That is what we really want.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Eve of Self Transcendence

Tomorrow is the beginning of the 3,100 Mile Self Transcendence Race.  I got hooked on this race years ago because it taught me how running could be a meditation. Learning about the inner runner was the start of my desire to be an ultra-marathoner. Now, I use the 52 days of the race to focus my workouts on inner running; self transcendence as it were. Catholics has Lent. I have Self Transcendence.

Heading into these 52 days, I find myself in a very decent place physically and emotionally.

Check out the Perfection Journey blog to get daily stories about the people in the race.

Here is a quote from Sri Chinmoy:
The outer running
Begins on the road
And ends on the road.
The inner running begins
Inside the silence-heart,
And it continues
Along Eternity’s Road.