My beloved UltraGirl, previously blogged about as "UltraBaby," ran another race that I didn't get to see. Today it was the Promise Land 50K, a tough trail race with about 8,000 feet of climb and the same amount of quad-punishing descent. Being a (reasonably) responsible adult, my coaching calender told me there was a track meet I needed to attend. Though I long for the day to run a race with UltraGirl, it wasn't going to be this time-again. Three races in a row, she raced. I didn't. But I thought non-stop about her, just like any good Mama would do.
|Shivering Sarah Quigg with brother Zach (center) and finisher Dylan Perry|
I searched high and low for her this morning before the 5:30 a.m. start, official timer in hand, poised and ready. Surely, I could see her off before departing for the track meet. I searched frantically but couldn't find her in the large crowd of runners. "Have you seen Sarah?" I repeated over and over. No positive sightings. Where could she be? My heart dropped. A good mama would never let her baby go off to war without a hug and a prayer.
Once the herd of runners disappeared into the darkness, gravel crunching under foot, there was nothing more I could do. After tidying up the pavilion where the masses had guzzled coffee and OJ, and ate packaged donuts, I headed to the car and drove home to get ready. I think I risked a neck crick for glancing down at my watch. "I bet she's on the single track now." Later, "She should be at aid station 2." And, finally, at the track meet, I voiced, "Sarah should be finishing within thirty minutes or so." I couldn't stand not being there, sharing the moment with her. Bad mama. Bad mama.
I texted her, "Well. I want to know." Then I waited. I knew she wouldn't be able to until after leaving the finish. (No cell service in that mountain hollow.) Finally, the call from UltraGirl. This Mama hoped she would hear good news.
"I finished. My knee hurt for 22 miles. I was running in eighth place all day. My goal was top ten women. I looked back at the third last aid station and saw a crowd of five girls come in. Ugh! I held them off as long as I could. I was able to out-climb them. But the last four miles of downhill were brutal and the pain excruciating. The five women passed me. I cried from the pain. But I finished under seven hours."
This girl is tough. Super tough. It's one thing to have something start hurting during a race. But to run a race already injured is a whole different thing. UltraGirl, aka Sarah Quigg, learned something about perseverance and keeping her eye on the finish line. The bone-chilling sleet, hail, and rain late in the race forced her to dig deeper than ever before in her young ultra life. The wicked storm punctuated her pain, driving her further into the arena where fear and dreams battle to the death.
Today, the dream drove a serrated knife deep into the heart of fear. UltraGirl's finish just a few places outside of a top-ten finish proved she has what it takes to be a competitive runner. But more than that, the lessons she learned about pain, suffering, circumstances beyond your control, ruthless conditions, and emotional response are priceless. These things can not be learned from a book. She can't even learn them from her TrailMama. No. They must be learned on her personal trail. And what's learned out there translates into wise living off the trail.
No mother wants to see her baby suffer. But today, it's okay. I'm glad she did. UltraGirl tightened the belt and sucked it up. With time, I have no doubt she'll recover physically. What she experienced today was a right of passage. It was a necessary evil. For that passage will lead her to new horizons and beyond.