Saturday, December 8, 2018

Can't fake fitness

More specifically, I can't fake fitness anymore.

So let's address the elephant in the room. I began my 12th Hellgate 100k+ (66.6) at one minute past midnight this morning, and just like that, I chose to quit after a predominantly 25-mile uphill jaunt under the dark, moonless sky. It wasn't like I missed a cutoff. There was nothing really wrong other than being turtle-like and having a few hamstring cramps. The temps were quite tolerable and wind minimal. I was dressed just right. I just decided I had lost interest in the entire affair. I contentedly quit. And to be honest, I felt little guilt or remorse.

After 25 years of ultrarunning, how did this happen? It was a novel phenomena in personal experience. For what its worth, the following are not excuses. They are simply the facts.

2018 was a rough year but it had its start in 2017. My father-in-law moved into our home in August, his health requiring increasing levels of care as the months progressed. In early November, I completed my 20th Mountain Masochist 50 Miler. A mysterious injury in the aftermath made running nearly impossible for six months, though not for lack of trying.

By the time summer hit, the schedule lightened with Dad Trittipoe's passing. Simultaneously, I was able to ease onto the long road back to the fitness I so desired. But each run was incredibly laborious, leaving me to wonder if my genetics was putting me at risk for an untimely demise. My father died just one year older than my 61 years following cardiac surgery. My mother also had been treated for heart disease. I sought out a stress echocardiogram to identify potential problems. When I passed the test without keeling over, I concluded that age and being out of shape combined with obnoxious heat and humidity had to be the explanation for my pitiful attempts at slogging.

With cooler fall temps, things improved. Mileage was still more than modest but I could tackle steady-state two mile uphill runs. The ill-defined knee/leg issue was manageable, though not perfect. I occasionally meandered along mountain trails in the 15 mile range, but never matched the single 20 mile summer slogfest.

Then Horton asked me to post Hellgate info on the website, including the following query: "Do you want to run the race?" Hum. In the last quarter century, I had never gone an entire year without racing. If I ran Hellgate, I reasoned, I could get at least one race in the 2018 books. So yes. I would run. I was hopeful that I could will my way through the course I knew so intimately. The celebration would be complete when my family boarded a plane Sunday morning, the dawn after such a hard effort, for a long awaited vacation. I was hoping to bask in the satisfaction of a race well run as I played in the resort pool with my granddaughter.

Then the ice storm came and destroyed much of the trail. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I gleefully became part of a chainsawing and hauling threesome. By the end of the 12 hours of hard labor, my knee and quad had swollen to playground ball size. I held little hope of running the incredibly challenging race.

Little by little, I noticed modest improvement but was hesitant to test the leg. In total, I may have run four or five miles between then and race day.

With a compression knee sleeve under a beefier knee brace, I toed the line. Three Junior Shindigglers anticipated a night of crewing and adventure. As I started down the trail from the start, the leg felt okay and I ran appropriately comfortable. The last thing I wanted to do was set myself back by more non-running months in the future.

I felt I was moving okay on the long climb up to Petites Gap. Oddly, few lights pierced the darkness behind me while streams of lights glowed from above. It seemed odd and a bit disconcerting. I had never experienced this position in the back. And yet, my arrival at the Petites aid station was a scant three or four minutes faster than the calculated 18-hour runner.

My confidence was buoyed as I passed a few runners on the downhill. But alas, they pulled away on the next long uphill. Still, I felt I was making decent progress though no easy chatter or laughter as I had been accustomed to in prior years could be heard. I was alone. By the time I arrived at Camping Gap, the aid workers were cleaning up their tables. Only three runners were behind me. Reality was setting in.

My solitude was broken when a couple good friends came up from behind. We chatted together for about 45 minutes in the still darkness until they finally pulled away. Another runner from behind also passed me and disappeared in the distance. By my calculation, there were but one or two runners behind me. This was very strange. Was I really that pedestrian?

I continued to obsess about the impending snow storm predicted to hit in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Texts telling me about changing flights started to arrive Thursday. But with the race ahead of me, there was no realistic way to fly out Saturday night since a finish for me would make it a late return to home. I had actually contemplated withdrawing from the race all together on Friday morning to prioritize precious family time with husband, son, and granddaughter Addyson. But I did not.

And then it hit me. I was not going to be able to fake finishing fitness. If I was honest, I never had a real commitment to this endeavor. Today's scant 25 miles were more than I had run at any one time since November of 2017. What I had was more like wishful thinking that the stars would align to grant me a race I did not deserve. I did not want to endure. I just wanted to go home relatively unscathed and see if we could catch a flight for the afternoon or evening, beating the storm and saving our vacation.

Arriving at Headformost Aid station ten or fifteen minutes before the hard cutoff, I informed them I was done. Other than a sore back and occasional hamstring cramps, I was tired but physically intact. I had told my friends to let my crew, waiting at the next aid station, know to head to Bearwallow, where I would be transported in the drop bag van. I was actually delighted to soon be heading home. I surprised myself at my lack of shame. For the first time, I understood that I am more than my sport. And sometimes, sport is not the end all.

There are about five minutes left for runners to be official finishers as I write. Bless their hearts for staying the course. Cudos to all.

Postscript (Sunday, Dec 9): We did not find a flight but it took hours and hours to rebook for Tuesday out of Roanoke. And, I actually do have some regret for pulling out on this day after as finisher pictures pop up on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Face the fear with rock-solid preparation

Fear is an emotion that triggers a staggering series of events. Upon first sign of trouble, a tiny organ in the brain, the amygala, begins to shout out audibles, as screeching sirens blare out warnings. The heart pounds, blood pressure sky rockets, breathing quickens, and stress hormones stream out from their hiding spots. Blood shunts to the extremities to enable flight and the cerebral cortex, the center for reason and judgment, puts out the "gone fish'n" sign. In both acute and chronic situations, poor decisions are easily made.

Granted, these responses to fear can come in handy. A guy jumps from behind a bush to attack, and you set a new world sprint record. Or, you come across an upside-down car, righting all of it's 2000 pound mangled frame in an effort to free its passenger. Fear can drive unexpected performance. But, fear can also destroy in a much more sinister way.

We talk a lot about fear in athletics; fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear stemming from the past, and fear contemplating the future. Fear sometimes comes into play by what we have done. Other times we fear because of what we have not done. It's possible fear can help us see more clearly, like when we get caught doing something stupid and we panic anticipating the consequences. We are awakened to our own idiocy, much like getting slapped up side of the head. But more times than not, residing fear, in particular, clouds judgement because of loss of perspective. We fret "what ifs" and become mired in potentialities. The result? We go no where fast, paralyzed to take the next step, fearful of the leap to new levels, intimidated by others, and held in place because our tongues are stuck to the frozen pole of unhealthy comparisons. I don't think it has to be this way.

I came across a fascinating TED Talk the other day. Alex Honnold opens the speech by showing a video clip of him climbing El Capitan in Yosemite Park, CA. He is wedged into a narrow split in the vertical wall. He can be seen reaching into his chalk bag to cover his hands in the white powder. But what is not seen is a rope, because there is no rope. 2500 dizzying feet below him is the ground. 500 feet above, the top of this humongous slab of granite. All that holds him to the wall are his well-placed hands and feet. There is neither place nor means to cut the climb short or take a do-over. He is alone. Just him and the wall. One wrong move equaled sure death. I felt my own breathing quicken as I imagined being in his spot. How in the world did he not let fear rule the day?

As I watched his story unfold, I heard him tell of his harrowing solo free climb of equally iconic Half
Dome. At a particularly difficult spot, panic set in. He had doubt whether he could perform the next move necessary to propel him further upward. He had climbed the wall two days prior but with a rope for safety's sake. But now, with the  knowledge that mis-playing that critical move would result in death, he had no recourse but to go for it. He did, and he lived to tell of the successful climb. Still, Honnold spoke of a dissatisfaction even with the accomplishment. He yearned to be a great climber, not a lucky one.

Though he did not free solo for the next two years, he spent seven dreaming about a free solo of El Cap, a 3000-foot wall most people take days to climb while harnessed into a sophisticated rope system. Then for two years he relentlessly prepared. He spent days on end rappelling off the top on a 1000 foot rope, inspecting every potential hand and foot hold and memorizing the thousands of moves that would be necessary. He felt the texture of the rock, visualizing his mindset as he anticipated the epic and ropeless future climb. From the bottom, he rope-climbed with an empty backpack, collecting loose rocks that cluttered many of the cracks. For a full year, he specifically stretched knowing he needed to have optimal flexibility to make the same kind of move he had experienced on Half Dome. Honnold says it was imperative that he "consider every possibility" to eliminate any room for doubt to creep in, because doubt is the precursor of fear. He was meticulous in preparation for his "choreographed dance" up the sheer face of the wall. He was ridiculously faithful in controlling the controllables, and in doing so, fear was conquered as well as that wall. In "achieving mastery" with relentless pursuit of excellence, fear was not even a factor.

The Liberty volleyball team left today for the conference tournament. The women on the basketball team play their first game this evening. The swimmers and divers have a weekend meet in their sites. I wonder if they are ready to face fear head on. Will there be fear in serving what could be the last point of the match? Will a player on the free-throw line be thinking about missing? Will the diver play it safe on the take-off out of fear of over-rotating and creating an embarrassing amount of splash? If they prepared well, fear should not win. If they did not prepare well, all bets are off.

What strikes me profoundly is the fact that fastidious preparation is the most significant deterrent to fear. Sure, there will be some nervousness because nothing is ever guaranteed. But fear? Not if we consider every possibility and leave no room for doubt to creep in. The process is not easy, but it is worth it, even if your life does not actually depend on it.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The race I did not run

It was the third Saturday in October 1994. As I stood in the dark pondering the day, I was a jumbled mess of nerves gone wild. "Fifty miles? What was I thinking?!?"

But then again, when David Horton, the author of this race through the Blue Ridge, chides you with "Bet you can't run fifty miles," there is no recourse but to prove him wrong.

That was then and this is now. A lot has happened over the years. I've been on the top of the podium, run sub-9 hours, but I've also finished a mere fifteen minutes under the twelve-hour cut-off. I've had twenty finishes and two unfortunate medically-related DNFs. I've run the entire length sweeping the course, nearly getting stranded in Montebello because  everyone had already abandoned the finish line. And then was the time I left Virginia's borders so I would not be tempted to run too soon after extensive feet and ankle surgery. But today I did something very unfamiliar. I drove around the countryside and watched.

Today was all about Hannah Quigg, one of my Jr. Shindigglers. Some years ago, after kids I coached in high school caught the adventure bug and followed me to the mountains in their college years, we formed an unbreakable bond. Together, the five of them and one of me, called ourselves the Shindigglers. Oh how I cherish all the miles we shared, the adventures created, and the honesty and openness the trail seems to produce. We did life together, on and off the rocky, dirt paths we trod.

But now those five have grown up and gone away. Sarah lives in Mexico, is married and has a tiny wee one, a Shindigglet, if you please. Abby joined her beloved in holy matrimony this last summer and works as a critical care nurse in Minnesota. Rebecca is hitched to a preacher. Caroline is in medical school. Kendal lives in Texas and will say "I do" this spring. She, too, is a nurse.

With the original Shindigglers no longer available to hit the trails, I've adopted a small but growing group I call the Jr. Shindigglers. I coached Makena in high school and now as a college student, she is running long and strong. In fact, she ran the four races in the 2017 Lynchburg Ultra Series, including this race of masochistic proportions. And then there is Hannah. A classmate of Makena's, she is one of four Quiggs who called me Coach T, sister to Sarah and Abby. She ran the first three 2017 LUS races, but a week before last year's Masochist, her knee went wonky when playing broom ball on the ice. It took months to heal. So on this fine November day, it was time for the monkey to quit taking a free ride on her back. MMTR 2018 was a 50 mile run for redemption.

The night before the race, I asked Hannah to email crew directions. I know the trail so well I could run from point A to point B with my eyes closed. But drive? I had no idea what roads would get me to one or two aid stations. So with directions and coffee in hand, I set off. It was crisp, the sun shining brightly. The trees shimmered with brilliant golds and yellows, the reds just as fetching. I was constantly wowed at the beauty. I couldn't remember a previous race that rivaled the spectacle. But then again, I was never riding the roads in a car nor hanging at an aid station. I wondered if I had
previously failed to appreciate the finest nature had to offer in the heat of the challenge.

Runners approached the aid station, traveling along the gravel track that parallels a swift, bold stream. I picked Hannah out of the crowd, her running style well known to me. She was cruising along sporting a huge grin. With a hug, a few words of advice, and a quick refuel she was off again.

I ran backwards on the course from the next crew access point. Makena had jumped in to keep her company, making spotting the pair easier than picking out a screaming baby in a Sunday service. Laughter and optimism reigned supreme, even when Hannah participated in an impromptu interview for my cell phone. When we arrived at the aid station it was more advice and encouragement, more food, more progress. The two started up the mountain and I started up the car. Quite the contrast from the last 24 years.

I had plenty of time to socialize at the next three aid stations. Chatter was light and easy with aid workers and spectators. It was getting easier to anticipate Hannah's arrivals because I recognized the runners who ran a few minutes in front of her. But in the quieter moments I projected myself into the race, recalling what it was like to have 30 miles on the legs and 20 more to go. Was I jealous? Hum. "Not sure," I thought as I zipped up my coat and snugged my hood to keep the wind from chilling me to the bone.

The last time I sent Hannah down the trail she was 35 miles into the race. Though still smiling and positive, she was getting tired. Makena's time as a companion runner had come to an end. The last miles were going to be foundational to Hannah's development as an ultrarunner. She needed to set her own pace, find her own limits, and come to understand herself in a whole new way. It was an important fifteen miles in which to embrace suffering, solitude, and sustaining grace.

The clock ticked 11:07 when Hannah Quigg crossed the line, exhausted and beyond happy to bring relentless forward progress to a halt. Sausage-like fingers told the story of fluid shifts and electrolyte imbalances. Reddened skin spoke of the increasing cold and biting wind as the sun dropped below the tree tops. But she smiled. She accomplished the task. She started. She finished. She cemented her role as a second generation Shindiggler.

I could not be happier after a race I did not run.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Follow the yellow lines

Jack in his younger days
"Well, you know I can't live here by myself. I'm moving in with you." I guess he was serious. Within a couple days we drove down to his place pulling an enclosed trailer behind the truck. That was the beginning of a whole new reality.

Gary's dad, Jack, boldly made that proclamation back in August. We were rather shocked to find his house in such disrepair, piles of accumulated trash, (most of which were empty ice cream containers), everywhere. Neglected bills hid under the rubble. His neighbors across the street said his decline from ambitious living to hesitant toddling was rapid. It was obvious the time was right to make the move. We packed what we could fit in the trailer and headed back west, leaving for another day the huge task of cleaning out a house and garage filled to overflowing from thirty plus years of accumulated auction finds.

Addy (2) and Great PopPop (92) chat

Great PopPop, as Addyson called him, had an instant impact on our daily lives. At 92, he seemed a bit invigorated by the move. Even as we unloaded the trailer, Seth looked up to see Grandpa barrelling down the hill on his bicycle, both legs spread outward, resembling an ancient PeeWee Herman.Wheeeee! Not too long after his motorcycle was rolled off the truck, I looked out the kitchen window to see him cruising across the yard on his two-wheeled chariot. Oh, boy. This was gonna be a brave new world--for all of us.

Sept 2017 dove hunt
Gary is such a good son. He included his father in garage activities, even if it meant he simply acquired a perch to watch, talk, and sometimes get in the way. When dove season hit, Dad was given the best spot in the field, Gary sitting by his side to ensure that an increasingly confused old man would pull the trigger only when appropriate. (Incidentally, Dad dropped three of those darting fowl to the ground, quite proud that he still had it.) Gary installed a heater in the little out building and bought a special chair with a gun rest so his father could "hunt" deer when that season rolled around. Together, they watched hours of cars shows in the evening at an almost unbearable volume. Dad seemed content and relaxed because his needs--and then some--were taken care of with such love.

Addy and Great PopPop
Then one day we came home. Grandpa and his beat-up, sticker-laden PT Cruiser were gone. It had only been a week since the move. Could he have changed his mind and headed east to his old home? Five hours later and after getting the state police involved, we chased down the blinking dot on the computer screen, thankful that Gary's sister had put tracking on Dad's old flip phone. After driving hundreds of miles up and down I-81, he was finally pulled over. Smiling and clueless, he got out of his car to greet us and the officers. A trip to the Bedford Walmart to get gas for his motorcycle ended in an all-day drive. "But I was just following the yellow lines home," he reasoned. We hid his keys (and ours) from then on.

Wanting to give him an outlet for his decreasing mobility and balance, we got Dad a Kubota RTV to drive around the farm. Along with that, we ordered five extra keys. Grandpa got into the habit of slipping the keys into a pocket or selecting a hiding spot. He
Jack's Kubota
was proud and protective of his new go-anywhere vehicle (which we hoped would NOT include public roads and a return trip to Walmart). One problem though; he kept forgetting what he did with his keys. Our stash of keys became golden.

In his younger years, Jack used to be--well, opinionated. Conspiracy theories, doctor ineptness, and politician antics were topics to avoid when he was around. But now, as the growing dementia smoothed out the jagged edges of criticism, his demeanor became kinder and gentler, gracious and thankful. And his humor? Oh, how he liked to laugh!

Ever see the Dominoes commercial where the guy pulls into his icy driveway, a tree falls onto his car, and then, pizza in hand, he goes topsy-turvey into the air, the pizza splattering across the snow? Dad belly laughed each and every time the commercial came on. We laughed at him laughing, grateful that his dwindling memory made even the most repetitive things funny and new.

Or how about the oft-played Alka-Seltzer Plus commercial? This one shows a woman driving along, miserable with a terrible cold. The camera pans out to show she had left her bag of groceries on the roof of her car. Of course, the bag tumbles onto the road, contents sprawling everywhere. One day, Grandpa's commentary to his care-taker and companion was this: "That woman is so stupid! She does that several times a day!" How could we not laugh at that?

Circa '44. Jack flew, but not at Pearl Harbor
Dad could tell some stories as well, some of which got more and more intriguing the further along he got in his illness. After watching a documentary with Gary, Dad somehow inserted himself into the action at Pearl Harbor. With each telling, the story became more fully developed. Now mind you, he was 16 years old and in high school at the time of the attack. But regardless, the last edition was just about two weeks ago when he reported that after swooping down from 30,000 feet in his fighter jet, he pulled along side a Japanese Zero. Wingtip to wingtip, he described the terror on the enemy's face, tempted to pull the handgun from his holster to end the other's life. Deciding to let him live, he demonstrated how he repeatedly stroked across the extended pointer finger of one hand as if to say, "Shame on you!!!" That was a new ending. We tried hard to repress our giggles.

Of course, there were a million other entertaining stories, proclamations that he owned our house and all the motorcycles, nighttime forages for food, and the rapid decline in reasoning. It was hard to be patient and loving at times, frustrated with this extra adult in the house who required such help and understanding. Every aspect of our lives revolved around him, making change after change as required. I would be a liar to say it was easy.

Hunting at age 85
And then he entered the pain cave. We had no choice but to follow him into that dark and dank cavern. At times it seemed deep and bottomless. Advancing cancer ferociously attacked his spine and lungs. A monster blood clot blocked blood flow into his legs. He rapidly transitioned from ambulation, to wheelchair, to confined to the bed. Medication levels rose quickly to track the crescendoing pain. He writhed and grimaced and called out as we scrambled to get him relief. 39 discs of the Andy Griffith shows were meant as a distraction in his more lucid moments. We hired in overnight help so we could sleep a few hours, before weaving together a tapestry of student nurses and others to help when they could. But even in the midst of the chaos, Grandpa was grateful, kind, sweet, and gentle. Without exception, everyone said so. It was so true.

1993 road trip, Jack and Gary
Medically, there were desperate times. But in those last days, Grandpa rested comfortably, unaware his body was growing weary and worn. Loud, rhythmic breathing became the constant white noise in our home. But something changed yesterday. His breathing, once rapid but steady and deep, began to slow. I sat by his bed, his fevered hand in mine. From thirty-two breaths a minute to ten, and then five. The time was near. Without strain, his previously furrowed brow relaxed, he drew in a breath, closed his mouth as if to smile, and gently exhaled. This man who was a son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and a great-great grandfather had stepped across heaven's threshold into the presence of the Father.

Well done, good and faithful servant. You followed the yellow lines home to the streets of gold.

Jack Harold Trittipoe  June 22. 1925 to April 24, 2018

Saturday, March 17, 2018

How's it going?

"Challenge accepted," I typed without thinking. Oops. Now I was morally bound to follow through.

What had I done? Early this morning, before the day's preparations of the Lady Flames Basketball team for their first game in the NCAA Division 1 tourney, I hastily jotted a Facebook note to Jenna, a friend and talented writer celebrating another birthday. I typed, "Sure hoping your day is special in many ways. Write a blog post!"

Wouldn't you know it? She did, and then promptly wrote back. "Your turn. Enjoy the first round of the tournament!" including one of those winking smiley faces for added pressure. Hence, I am sitting in the hotel lobby at 10:30 pm pecking away on the keyboard.

But there's a problem. What moves me to write is usually a significant event; a race, adventure, or major life occurrence. Tonight it's hard to pinpoint what is appropriate e-scribble subject matter. So I'll begin, but I have no earthly idea where (or when or how) this will end.

This is my first trip with a team where I am not the coach. I serve as the chaplain for this college
basketball team, and that role is quite different from what I'm used to. Great, but different. My goal is to challenge and motivate, be faithful to the Truth, and live life along side these women. Sometimes it feels "right," like when you get in a grove on the court and everything works. But there are those other moments that make you feel more like parsley on a plate; not good for much except adornment. Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled and privileged to be here. It's just hard to remember that I am only called to be obedient in serving; it's God's job to make change.

Then there is the situation at home. Gary's dad came to live with us last August. It's been hard. Really hard. And now he's dying. Yes, we are all technically dying, but he is officially in hospice in our home and declining quickly. He requires 24/7 care with someone sitting close by at all times. His ability to process is almost non-existent. He doesn't sleep through the night, sometimes getting up and banging around four or more times a night. In the last few days, a walker and wheel chair have been added to our houseful of eldercare "stuff."  Tomorrow night will mark the first time we hire in help from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.. Life is increasingly more difficult for Grandpa. Life is logistically more complicated and exhausting for us.
And what about running? Long jaunts along mountain trails have always been my decompression strategy when the noose tightens to uncomfortable levels. But I am still not able to run. I am in my fifth month since I last raced my 20th Mountain Masochist 50 Mile race. The injury I thought would just go away has persisted. In December, I made a decision to hit Reset, giving myself permission to initiate a temporary moratorium on training after racing the long stuff for nearly 25 years. I can now walk and hike fast, but the running motion is not well-tolerated. I've seen a variety of doctors, each with a different opinion. So I continue to build strength and flexibility for those muscle groups most likely contributing to my ills.

So there you have it. Whah. Whah.Whah. I sound like a whiney-piney little girl; discontented and ego-centric. I don't want to be that way. As much as chronic complainers annoy me, I feel like I am dangerously close to being relegated to that category myself. But here is the dilemma: How do I answer the ubiquitous question: "How's it going?" Those words flow easily from the lips of strangers on the street. Casual acquaintances voice the question as they pass by in the hallways at work. And even our best friends ask absentmindedly, often failing to push the pause button on the conversation to allow a thoughtful response.

Have to be honest. I loathe that question nowadays because I absolutely have no idea how to answer it. If I unload all my present challenges on that stranger, they are certain to run. The acquaintances will spread the word throughout the office to keep a safe distance, and the close friends will simply quit asking.

What to do? Do I paste on a smile and lie through my teeth? "Oh, I'm GREAT!" sounding like good 'ol Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes commercials of old? Or do I go to the other extreme and tell the inquisitor every detail of Grandpa's latest craziness accompanied with a complete anatomical explanation of my injury? Or perhaps there is a middle ground. Sounding rather pious, I could give a little head nod, draw in a calculated breath, and with a smidgen of piousness, offer the t-shirt worthy quip, "Well, life is hard but God is good."

Before I go further, let me say that I have many things for which to be thankful. My granddaughter is an absolute joy. My love for her father and his brother and girlfriend huge. My husband is a remarkable man and my forever guy. Our church is family and a source of encouragement. Ministry on campus is growing at a furious pace. So why is it so hard to answer such a simple question?

I suspect my problem is that the difficult, hard things tend to crowd out the pleasant. It's not an uncommon phenomena. I think back to the middle of some tough races. I am suffering big time with more miles ahead than behind. My stomach churns, my legs are mush, and tears of self-pity stain my cheeks. My weak brain is kidnapped and chained to the misery of the moment. If I allow this to continue, my demise is certain at the next aid station.

Aerial photo of corn maze
Although the pain and suffering is real, to focus on it in a negative sense is suicide. In those darkest times, my only chance of survival is to actually embrace the pain for what it is; an opportunity to explore new limits, the impetus to achieve what seemed so improbable moments prior, and the chance to rise above the fray to see the whole experience from a drone's vantage point. It is a choice to think this way, but takes maturity and discipline.

So, you ask, "How's it going?"

Be patient with me. I'm still working on my answer, but think I'm closer now than I was. (BUT, if you could buy me a little more time before asking me THE question, I sure would appreciate it!)

A walk in the park and a pink finish line

By the time I finish most races, I've figured out at least the first paragraph of my post-race story. This was one of the few where the ...