Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stolen ultra baby

I feel that the child I just birthed has been stolen from my arms. No one brings her to me. She cannot be seen in her bassinet behind the huge panes of safety glass. Instead, I am left to wonder how she is, what she is feeling. Is she scared? Is she happy? Does she need me? How I wish I could be with her to comfort, console, and encourage.

Sarah Quigg is my baby. Sure, she is eighteen and a college freshman. She was my top high school runner last year. When we first met she didn’t know anything about ultramarathons. But she learned. She learned well, in fact, deciding to name herself “UltraGirl.” Long races along ribbons of trail became her passionate quest. The miles were logged. Trails traversed. Now at this very moment, she is in the process of legitimizing that name—and I am not there with her.

Rebekah and Sarah the night before the big race
I was able to run part of the race course yesterday when checking the markings. With every step, I wondered how Sarah would feel when her feet imprinted the very same dirt my shoes kicked. Would she be smiling? Would she be hurting? Would she be embracing the pain and the effort? Where would she be in the pack of runners? I could only surmise. I was not going to see it for myself.

I almost hurt from not being there with her. It’s not fair. I was there when Sarah’s aspirations were conceived, a mere speck of an idea hidden within the neural pathways of  her brain. I’ve seen that speck grow invasively, no longer able to be ignored. I’ve watched her strength increase as the miles added up. And when I look in her eyes, I see behind the veil and into her very essence. She is a runner. She is an ultrarunner just waiting to be born.

My coaching duties required I be two hours away come race time. Now I anxiously await her phone call as I prowl the confines of an indoor track field house. I need to know every detail of my ultra baby’s first race. I wish I could have been there. Why doesn’t she call?  I muse when I glance at the wall clock. She should have finished two hours ago.

Finally, my phone sounds that familiar ring. It’s her. “So, talk to me.

“Oh Coach T. It was so hard but I finished.”

The details began to unfurl. The first loop of the course flew by, Sarah arriving at the turn-a-round feeling strong and capable. She continued on, pleased with her progress until a mere eight miles remained. But those eight miles were nothing like the first twenty-six. Her stomach ran in the opposite direction. Though she tried to fight her way through it, the nausea soon overwhelmed. She struggled to maintain progress but nothing seemed to work. “I thought I was going to die,” she later told her mom. But with her sights set on the finisher award, a neon green Patagonia shirt, Sarah crossed under the banner and gladly accepted the embrace of race director, David Horton. She shed a few newborn tears out of relief, exhaustion, and joy disguised as pain and suffering.

Sarah’s goal was sub 5:30. She ran 5:37. She’ll take it. I’ll take it as any proud mama would. My baby took her first ultra steps today. She did it without me but that’s okay. It feels good to know I had the privilege of giving birth.

Sleep well, Baby Girl, sleep well.


jenn said...

Rebecca! this is such a great post! I just wanted to say: 1. CONGRATS on your first ultra, Sarah! you RAWKED IT. 2. I leaped frogged alot with her yesterday and SHE was kicking my hiney, until she had to duck into the trees:( She would of been sub 5:20 easy without the potty drama. She was running with so much focus. you would of been proud to see her out there!!

Casseday said...

Great job Sarah! Awesome post Rebekah. It's one of the coolest things for me as a RD to see someone running their first ultra or longest race. Certainly a very special occasion for Sarah and for her Trail Momma!

Sophie Speidel said...

Great post, Mom! And congrats to Sarah!! Another ultrarunner is born!

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Now the fun part is raising that baby into ultra-adulthood!

BTW - Last year, my cross country kids put "TrailMama" on my sweatshirt. I wear it with pride.

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Soph- sounds like you cruised yesterday. I am impressed, as always!

Craig said...

Great post. Missed seeing you and glad to know you are coaching another generation.

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