"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? ... So use every part of your body to give glory back to God..." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Patiently recovering.

Just when I think that my body is slowly recovering, random damaged body parts bare their ugly heads.
Sunday night, my toenail fell off. I didn't even know it was damaged and dangling!
Monday night after possibly soaking too long in the tub, I discovered a massive blister. It was 2 inches long and thick. I am sure the Lavender Epson salt and 45 minutes soaking helped it along.
Then today, I was walking into Pier One and the bottom of my right foot started aching.

I did really good with my recovery, I thought. But I have these random aches and pains. One day my right knee will hurt then the next day my left knee will hurt...and nothing while I am running.

And running..I am pathetic.
Monday I ran with Matt and his wife Paula. Paula was hauling butt on the trails. I was sucking air trying to keep up.
I bowed out after 8 miles when I had originally planned on doing 12.

Today, I was excited to run with Lacey. I ran solo to her house and thought I was dying at a 9 minute pace. Granted it is all hills the 2miles to her house but I thought I was going much faster by the sound of my heavy breathing.
I am sure this will be the last day that we got to  run in shorts and tanks. This time last year it had already snowed.
The leaves are in peak here in Michigan. A couple friends of mine posted pictures of Sorenson park. "Lacey, can we run at Sorenson?" I battered my eyes.
She didn't answer right away....
"The leaves are changing and...." I presented my thoughts.
It wasn't long and we were entering the park.

SORENSON. Sorenson was nice, put not as pretty as Holly Rec on Monday. Talking and running with Lacey was a lot of effort. And honestly I wanted to talk with her more. I found myself walking up hills that I normally run. I even stopped more frequently to take pictures that turned out to be just mediocre at best.
We discussed our plans for 2017.

2017 Plans
Looks like we are going to try and find a fast marathon and work on getting Lacey to Boston. I am hoping to qualify as well. Then she has to run a late spring early/summer 50K with me!!
And somewhere in there I need to convince Andy I want to go back to Boston for 2018!
We are looking at Glass City Marathon in Ohio in April.
Now I need to find a spring ultra.

We came out of Sorenson and separated ways.

I was a bit discouraged with my body. Its been almost 3 weeks. I know I need to be patient. I just feel like weak sauce.

I have 1more race in the books for this year. Clarkston Backroads.
I love running this for one reason: JOAN. It has become our tradition since Ariel passed. Joan was one of Ariel's sorority sisters. Running with Joan has become very special to me. Joan is gonna kick my BUTT this year! But I cant wait.

This and that.
I am still having toosh issues. Claudia loaned me her yoga ball. It looks innocent enough. Sheba thinks it is a toy every time I get it out to roll my bootie over it. It is more like a torture device.
I am hoping that my body will forgive me so I can get running again.

Andy sent me a link at work on Tuesday for Lighthouse 100. Still recovering I have to admit, I have been doing some investigating. Ken and Matt have this plan that they have yet to share fully with me, something about a 100M race....
Austin and I were sending pics back and forth. "Mom, I did a good deed today, I gave blood." My good deed is cleaning my maw maws house with Mom every other week. I love seeing my husbands 92 year old maw maw.
What good deeds are you doing?


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cloudsplitter Confessions: Team Harless

I am always shocked at how many people run races and have no one at the finish line waiting for them. Not as much the smaller ones, mostly the larger ones, the epic ones.
I do NOT expect my family to be at every race I run.
Races start early.
Races are not always easy to maneuver through the course, let alone make it to the finish line.
Races require patience.

From the time my kids were little, they have been amazing troopers. They have cheered me on in Boston, spent the night for years in Detroit, and even ran with me at my first ultra. They go to my expos, make signs, and take pictures. We created "TEAM HARLESS" when they were little. We explained to them that we work TOGETHER as a Team. Sometimes we are on the side lines and sometimes we are in the spotlight. No matter what position we played, we were to encourage one another.
My kids understand this well. Especailly as they have gotten more involved in sports themselves. I have spent hours in sweaty basketball courts, I have sat watching them entire weekends, during holidays and even Mothers Day. But this is part of the Team: Sacrifice.

"Its is NOT always about YOU, We need to go and encourage....." I would recite or Andy would respond when one of the kids were grumbling.

My Team is bigger than just my immediate family. This was actually the first year mom and dad couldn't come see Andy and I run The Crim. They have come out and cheered for us for 10 years. They have shared hotel rooms with us, crewed me at my ultras and chased me all over courses.
And for that matter, My brother and sister in law are BIG supports all the way down  in Florida. They both shared a room with me in Disney in January. My Brother got up at 3am in the morning to cheer me and Leeanne his wife on. And this year my sister in law, Deb was a huge support to me through prayer.

MY CREW: Team Harless

It is especially difficult as a spouse to crew you. But I think my poor mother in law was worse. Mom was a nervous wreck the entire time. You could see the fear in her eyes.

There were only 2 places that my crew could see me. Team Harless spent the entire day chasing and waiting for me to make it to the aid stations. And when I didn't come in at the time that they predicted mom had me fallen off the mountain, lost, raped and killed. Her mind went to the worst places.
Every time I saw mom at the aid stations I put my best smile on and tried everything to convince her I was doing GREAT! My family was not just waiting for me to cheer me on. They were chaperoning me to the bathroom, filling my hydration pack, removing clothing and dressing me. They were duck taping my blisters, feeding me and massaging my aching body. Andy was assessing me emotionally and physically. But Andys job didn't stop there.
Andy still had to pace me during the worst part of running Cloudsplitter, the last 15.6 miles.
I was exhausted. I had been running almost 14 hours by the time I had arrived at the Pound Gap Aid Station. I came in with David. Even though David had been pacing me for the last several hours, I was excited to pick up Andy to pace with us the final stretch to the Finish Line. I was glad that it was dark out, Mom and dad couldn't see how terrible I looked.
Andy was foot loose and fancy and itching to RUN. I can't say I felt the same. I just wanted to Finish. I really wanted to finish in under 20 hours, however; the 40 mile cut off resonated in my weakness as a good option.
This is where a good pacer makes all the difference.
I have never been babied by Andy. EVER. And I sure didn't need him to start now.
I didn't need him to coddle me.
I didn't need him to address my soreness and enable me.
I didn't need him to see me in my condition and run me that way.
WHAT I needed was what he gave me.
I needed him IN FRONT of me pushing me, leading ME.
I needed him telling me what I COULD do, what I HAD to do.
I needed him to accept me and work with me.
BUT don't BABY me.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
Andy was incredible.
"Your doing great Nita."
I didn't need Andy to pump sunshine up my butt, simple sentences, made a big impact.
"Stay on my heals, stay with me!"
I didn't need the reminder of what I was doing bad, which was falling behind, instead Andy was able to remind me what I needed to DO.
"Your almost there,  just get to the top."
"You can run, that's it, pick it up."
"You are almost done, You have already ran ____ amount of mile/hours."
Andy didn't share a lot of dialogue with me, it was all in his timing. Being reminded of the victories that I had already overcome and the ones yet to come made all the difference. The last 5 miles David and Andy reminded me the finish line had a pork from the pig they roasted waiting for me. Like a rabbit chasing a carrot I couldn't wait to eat it. I craved it as part of my reward. It put a little pep in my step.

I have been reminded by my running partners that being a spouse as your crew is a hard job. I am not sure if it's being married for 20 years or if Andy is just "THAT GOOD", but he was awesome.

 He waited until I finished to share what he was really thinking. "Anita, I have never seen you look that weak."
You run for almost 20 hours up and down a stinking mountain!
But I didn't say that, I didn't really say anything. Spouses often know you better than you know yourself. I was weak. At the end, my tank was empty. I was sick, nauseous, cold, fatigued, I couldn't even squat in the woods to pee I was so sore.  I was filthy, dirty, smelly, after all due to the fact I couldn't squat I had peed on my legs and down my shoes. Weak was an understatement.

PHIL. 2:4-8 "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Team Harless isn't picture perfect. We all have our moments. And to be totally honest, my oldest son was a terror driving down to Kentucky. At one point, I even told Andy "I DO NOT WANT HIM THERE, He is a distraction." But some where, at sometime, my 17 year old came out of himself and was there for me.
My in laws, they don't run, they don't even understand why you would punish yourself like that. But they LOVE me, The love me more than their routine, their comfort zone or their interests.
Even Andy, He make Facebooks posts, updates, he studied the course, he went without sleep, he even trained all summer just to be there for me.

Being a Team player is a SELFLESS job. You sit in the shadowlands of someone else. You do a lot of work for someone else to get the glory.
But TRUST me, there is something to be said about encouraging and helping others. If you want to feel happiness be a help to someone else with NOTHING in return.

Are you a help and an encouragement to others?
Or are you the kind who needs the spotlight?
Do you struggle being happy for others? Even comparing yourself to others?

Remember, There is no "I" in team.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dear Ariel

Dear Ariel,
I'm sorry, I cried myself to sleep last night. Well actually, I couldn't stop crying so I actually had to take a little sleep aid.
I went to bed early. I crawled under the sheets in the dark. Curled up in the fetal position I just sobbed. It just shook my body. I begged God to take it away from me. I pleaded to make it stop. My stomach was nauseas and my head was pounding but I just couldn't stop. I miss you so bad.
Life is not the same. I miss your love.

I thought it would be better today. What was I thinking. I looked at the clock waiting...
I saw myself walking to the front desk at work. I heard Andys voice...I couldn't understand what he was saying.
I fell limp on that cold tile floor.
It was yesterday, I don't have any powers to bring you back. I am just so confused on what happened.
Just like my father and my mother, I didn't get to say goodbye, I didn't get to touch you, smell you, tell you "I love you."

I am sorry. I tried today to be happy. Ok, I lied. I didn't try. I didn't even care.
Without words.
sick, my hands shook at the grocery store. The cashier kept looking at me. My eyes were swollen and my cheeks were red. I didn't bother putting make up to cover my grief.
I miss you.
One day I will see you. I KNOW you are in Heaven. I love you.

Just trying to breath. What I would always tell you when you cried in my arms. Breath.

Aunt Nita

I opened google on my phone. You TUMBLER came up..Really? I never followed you on tumbler, why did you put them in my phone TODAY?
What were you telling me??
BTW...you were right, I would always let you come to be with me. You WERE my family. You never had to feel alone.

Cloudsplitter Confessions: Provisions

Most of us live within our comfort zones. I don't know about you but I am not a fan of being in awkward circumstances.
I pick my limits.
I try to control my little world, living with enough adventure to make my heart skip a beat but not too much that I go into cardiac arrest.

I may live a little wilder than most 42 year old moms but I still feel tame compared to others.

Cloudsplitter 100K was going to take me way out of my comfort zone.
For months, just the thought of running through the Appalachian, in the woods, with wild animals gave me heart palpitations and sweaty hands.

And for months, I even went back and forth on dropping down to the 50K.

I had so many fears. I knew I had NO BUSINESS running this caliber of an ultra.

I could train the distance but I had NO EXPERIENCE running to that level.

Each time I would read the 16 page disclosure, I would only make it a few pages before my stomach was turning over and I quit reading in fear.

BEARS, MOUNTAIN LIONS, WILD CATS, WOLVES...WHAT was I getting myself into?

"Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of portions of the trail, the Cloudsplitter 100 differs substantially from other organized runs, and therefore adequate mental and physical preparation are of utmost importance to each runner, no matter which distance they choose to enter. The short but steep mountain passes and rugged terrain, although breathtakingly beautiful, are relentless in their challenge and are unforgiving to those not sufficiently prepared."

AHH..Yeah... Pretty sure THAT sent me into a tailspin.
GOD's Voice
Some people beg to hear from God. Some are confused on what he sounds like, is it a whisper? Is it audible? It is different for everyone.
Some of just want a SIGN. Something to know that He is there, that we are not alone. We beg for direction, understanding, comfort, wisdom and the list goes on.

God knew my fears going into training for Cloudsplitter in the beginning of this year. His word says  he knows even my "Murmurings".

Psalm 34:7 "The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. "
I think I thought about bears and wild mountain animals to the point of exhaustion. My friends would send me bear memes and jokes to get me riled up.
I would ask Ken and Matt if they ever saw any on their Ultra adventures. Ken would say they same thing "They are more afraid of you then you are of them." I didn't think that was possible.

Truth be told just 6 miles into running at Cloudsplitter  I hear the lady in front of me yell "LOOK, BEAR..."
I did what I was told and that was NOT play dead, I LOOKED! It was actually a cute little bear cub scurrying across the mountain above me.
I looked harder thinking "MAMA is probably close by." But at no time did I FEEL AFRAID.
God showed up early showing me I had nothing to be afraid of. He didn't just show up, he showed up as a bear cub! I think that lil bear winked at me!

    Psalms91:11"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."   
If you have been reading my blog long, you will know that I have gotten lost in my own city. I have gotten lost on the same trail I have ran over a dozen times. It takes nothing for me to get turned around. I am afraid of being in control of my own destinations.
There is no satellite on that mountain. I can't call Suri and I have no Google Maps.
I purposely positioned myself towards the back of the starting line to guarantee that I would have someone in front of me to follow.
I would stay close to the runners in FEAR that I would be left alone. I just didn't trust my judgment. At one point, I was in the lead of 4 guys. We had ran miles together all taking turns in the front. The problem was when I came to the fork in the road I was in the lead. "NO TRESSPASSING was spray painted on both sides. Each of the guys came down the hill towards me. With my hands in the air, I yelled "What do we do?" "Did we miss a turn?" 
Everyone was confused. I felt better knowing I had them. Together, we all went with one guys "GUT INSTINCT". I was grateful it wasn't mine!
And guess what, HE was right.
I  was never afraid I would get lost. I questioned the trail a couple times but each time I had someone there to help me. God always placed running companions next to me, giving me more confidence in myself. I had more comfort in the idea I was not left to my own vices.

MATHEW 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
I only trained once in the dark. I ran with Claudia and Matt. We ran at midnight to try and simulate how I would feel for Cloudsplitter. It was way to much fun and way to nice.

When I left the aid station, I left alone. I was quickened by FEAR.
Even though I left alone, I knew that there was a guy ahead of me. I was determined to catch him before it got dark out.
The mountain air dropped temps drastically. It was 55' degrees in the mountains and dark by 6:30pm.
Dampness came in with the fog. My skin was like ice to touch and yet I was hot. My nose never quit running.
It took a few miles to catch him but then it was keeping him that I had to contend with.
David was older than me. He was more experienced than me. He was not afraid to run alone or run in the dark. But for some reason, I am not sure why, David took me under his wing. He told me he would NOT LEAVE me to run in the dark alone. He would stay with me all the way through. Even when I picked up Andy to Pace me the last 15.6 miles I was afraid David would leave us. Andy even told him he could "GO AHEAD."  I boldly but quietly told Andy "NO!" I wanted David to stay with us. He was comfort, he was wisdom, he was experience, I trusted him.
He never left us. He crossed the finish line with me.

I prayed, I asked people to pray for me. SO many people prayed for me. God was in HIS glory as I ran. There was a spiritual cheerleading party going on as I ran up that mountain.
He took care of my EVERY need and every FEAR.

Psalms 18:2 "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

I HAD a very significant fear at mile 8 and it continued to grow. My Piriformis was angry. Running up the sandstone cliffs and massive boulders that were cantered did a number on my booty.
I hobbled into the aid station where Team Harless was stationed.
"Anita, How are you?" Andy asked.
I laid on the ground to stretch out my butt muscles. I was cramping all the way down my leg. I explained to Andy it was the worse it had ever been. I had only ran 15 miles. How was I going to run another 46 miles? Andy worked it the best he could, having a nurse as a husband really has its benefits. I was shameless as he massaged my butt in the middle of the aid station.
I left the aid station FEARFUL I was not going to finish. Everytime I ran up I waited for my glutes to fire. I waited for my leg to start cramping. But it NEVER came.
HERE'S what I DIDN'T KNOW.....
Andy posted on Facebook that I was struggling with my Piriformis and asked people to pray.  So many responded in prayer. My Sister in Law, Deb, ALSO posted it on her FB page asking for prayer.
GOD worked a miracle for this PAIN IN THE BUTT, Literally!
I am still in awe.

Do you know what GOD can DO? He works Miracles. He Provides, He Protects and He Promises.
WHAT IF people were not praying for me?
Do you honestly think the outcome would have been the same?

If you are stumbling through Life Alone, Don't. I can not imagine going through this life alone, without him.
He has conquered my Fears through my Faith.

This is the SECOND Confession from Cloudsplitter. If you missed the recap Here is the LINK
And If you want to read my first devotional on Cloudsplitter Here is the LINK Cloudsplitter Confession: GRIT

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cloudsplitter Confessions: GRIT

There was so much that I learned, saw and experienced running Cloudsplitter that I was not able to share.
I am going to do a series called Cloudsplitter Confessions.
I am still not running therefore it gives me more time to write.
2 Chronicles 15:7
"But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work."

I am a pipsqueak. There really is not much to me. I am 5''2 and a 103 lbs on a good day. I am not athletic, I don't look tough and  I don't really even act tough. I have the personality that most people don't even take me serious.
But there is something that burns inside of me. Its a flame that makes my heart palpitate. I can feel myself sweat, my blood pressure raise. I don't play nice. I play hard, I am out for blood. I may not win, but I will fight like Hell to give my all when I put my mind to it.

Darkness had encompassed the mountain. The air was wet as the fog rolled in. David kept looking behind to see how far I was. Andy seemed to be bonding well with David as I fell back alone in the night.
I wanted to be on their "Heels", close to them, part of their conversation. I also wanting to curl up and die. I had been on this mountain for almost 15 hours. I had never trained more that 8 hours on my feet.
I was haunted with David's vivid recollection of what was still to come. I was hoping because I couldn't remember this area of Hell I was about come upon that it didn't exist. "Anita, I am pretty sure we have a really steep hill to get up, remember?..."
"Remember?" God NO! I couldn't remember anything. I couldn't think clearly. I didn't know if I was coming or going. I couldn't think about going UP a really steep part of this mountain again. I thought we were supposed to being going DOWN the mountain? I didn't think my legs could possible go UP anymore. I was really hoping David was wrong.

You couldn't see your hands in front of your face it was so black out. We had head lamps but they were not working well in the fog.
Maybe it was better I never saw it coming.
Maybe it was better that I had trailed so far behind Andy and David.  
Maybe it was better that it was so dark out, so they couldn't see how pathetic I was.

Humiliated up the Hill
I seriously struggle to write this next portion. I was so broken.
"Anita, I am so proud of you, you can do this." Andy had repeatedly spoke these encouraging words to me as I struggled getting 2.5 miles an hour through the trail. I wanted to go faster, I wanted to be stronger, I wanted to just have the energy to respond, but I was vacant of all of that.

I heard them say something but I was too far back. I could only see about 5 feet in front of myself. THAT incline that David spoke of came out of nowhere. She presented herself like my worst enemy. She ascended straight up wrapped in Rhododendron.  The trail was very narrow topped with loose rocks and dirt. The dew had settled, coating the trail with moisture making every step futile.
I started out defeated by the sheer vision of Her.
"Anita, You got this, use your stick." Andy yelled just a few feet ahead of me.
For every step forward I made, I felt like I lost 2 feet back down. My feet slipped, my stick wouldn't drive into the rocks and my weak legs were useless. I couldn't reach Andy. I fell and stumbled. Tears came to my eyes as I scraped my hands in the dirt.
"NITA, GRAB MY HAND." Andy pleaded.
His hand was so close but I couldn't reach it. I was on all fours.
"I CAN'T, I CAN'T." I cried.
The dirt was in my nails, the sharp rocks were tearing my knees apart. I wasn't going anywhere. My body was not responding. I couldn't get up this hill.
Andy begged me "Anita, use your stick, grab my hand..."
I looked up and could see David behind Andy. They both looked so strong. I felt like a failure. I was so weak. I was scared.
No, I was broken. I was going to get up the hill. If I had to crawl. And that is exactly what I had to do. "NO ANDY, I WILL GET UP, Just let ME CRAWL." I screamed at him. Determined.
I was so humiliated. Crawling on all fours with tears in my eyes. But I was going to get up by myself. I didn't want help. I wanted to do it by myself. No matter what it took I felt like the only one that was going to get me up that Horrific incline was GOD. I felt like God put me on my knees.
No MATTER WHAT I was going to do it. My Pride was stripped away from me. I had nothing left but pure GRIT.
Whatever it took I would not quit, I would not give up or give in.
So I continued to crawl. I thought I would never get to the top. I overheard David "Sometimes you are better just crawling."
I was out of breath and mortified by the vision of how pathetic I must have looked like. It took every fiber to get up. Everything was failing, my mind, my body and even my faith. Yes, for a moment I felt the darkness even fill my heart. As I crawled, I begged God to help me. To give me strength to climb up to David and Andy. I couldn't hear him, I couldn't feel him. It scared me. I was so cold and alone in my fears.
I just kept crawling. I never quit.

I am not sure when I got to the top. I can't remember that moment. I can't remember feeling victorious. I just remember crawling. I will never forget that crawl. It did something to me. It took me to the lowest place, a dark place.
I will Never Forget it.

I have thought about that crawl so many times. It still brings tears to my eyes. It was a very POWERFUL experience in a very POWERLESS way.

Collision: Life will present some dark moments in our life. We will struggle to find and stay on the path. It is so difficult to try to see where to go when you can barely see from one moment to the other. We have been in that season of life where it takes all our energy to just move forward. We can not handle another obstacle, we feel fragile, broken, beat up. Then, when we think it just cannot get any worse, it does.
Do YOU QUIT without trying?
Are you Defeated easily?
Or Are you that one that doesn't care what it takes, you will GRIT it out. Come Hell or High water, no matter how UGLY it gets you will NOT QUIT.

“You must pay for everything in this world one way and another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it.”
― Charles Portis,
True Grit  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Cloudsplitter 100K 2016 Recap.

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2Cor 12:9-11

The drive through Kentucky is a white knuckle drive. You are driving on the winding roads through the Appalachian Mountains.

We drove separately from mom and dad, but surprisingly ended up at the church for the 6pm meeting at the same time.
This was our second time at the church. we picked up mu bib and packet at 4pm. Packet pick up was a bit behind. There was a lot of tension in the church. The R.D. had me as a late registrant therefore he  didn't  give me a shirt, a raffle ticket or he didn't put my name on bib. We did not dispute it, he was not in a happy place.

We all arrived at the lodge after 8pm. I gathered my running bag holding all my necessities to go over with mom.
I had a CREW. I felt so spoiled. "Team Harless".
"Mom, You are going to have to LISTEN to what I am speaking, not what I am saying." She looked at me intently. "Mom, I am not going to be able to articulate what I need, I am going to need you to know what I am saying..." I could tell her nerves were rattled.

It was a 15 minute drive from the church in Virginia to the lodge we were staying at in Kentucky.

The Breaks Interstate Park is one of 2 interstate parks in the US that run through 2 states. I would be running in both Virginia and Kentucky.

Together, we held hands on the ball field, 10 minutes before the start line. Circled up, Andy prayed over me before I would take off to not just run my first 100k, but the hardest race of my life.

Shockingly, I wasn't afraid, I knew it was going to hurt. I was confident I could run the distance. It was the unknown elements of the mountain that would test my mind, body and spirit.

A young boy shot a musket into the air and with the loud "BOOM" into the mountains we were off.

I positioned myself towards the back half of the runners, what appeared to be significantly more than I expected. We had overheard the R.D. mention that this year had over 300 runners registered compared to the 100 runners they had the previous year.

We ran through the small town of Elkhorn. For about a mile, we started our ascent to the ridgeline.
The beginning is where the majority of the climb begins. Let me tell you, it was no joke. The path was straight up, with rugged rock and ruts. We were all laughs until we couldn't run and realized the reality of this race very quickly.

It was damp and cool out. I had a light weight jacket and compression socks on to keep me warm without heating up. Even though it was only 52',  it was going to heat up to 75' and very soon drop back down.

I thought that initial incline was never going to end. I even joked yelling "Are we there yet?"

One of the reasons I positioned myself in the back of the pack was to try and "buddy" up with someone.

After a few miles, my calves were burning and I knew I was no where near "Whining Time". We were ascending with slight descents that gave you a little relief and the opportunity to actually pick up your feet and run.
The ridgeline turned into a tight single track. It was beautiful. I was running with a couple others. Together we would take turns in the lead. I was not good at the climbs and would loose my position as one of the guys would joke "Your gonna pass me on the down hills!"
Without ducking down, I was able to run directly through the tight patch of rhododendron thickets. It bridged right over you like a tunnel. You were still climbing up wondering how far you were going to go until you came out and saw the light.
It gently spit you out amongst tall trees and foliage.

At mile 6, there was a lady in front of me. We were on a single track part of the course. "HEY! LOOK, There's a BEAR!"  Without thinking I looked. Sure enough, I saw this black fur ball running above us across the mountain. It was a speedy little cub. I was enamored more than I was scared.
I thought "Hmm, Well I got that out of the way early enough!"

Adrenaline pumping we continued on. We were soon running on this mammoth rock. The sun was shining above us as we continued to move across rock. There was no path. They had spray painted the rock green to let you know you were running in the right direction. The rock was angled and smooth making it difficult to fasten your feet.
We came out on the top of the mountain. It was breathtaking. You could see Kentucky and Virginia. The mountains spread as far as you could see. I was on top of the mountain looking DOWN on mountains, it was then that it occurred to me I RAN UP A MOUNTAIN!

We continued moving, the ridgline was cantered and my piriformis was screaming. My right leg was starting to cramp up every step I took. I could feel my hamsptring wanting to engage a Charlie Horse. The guy in front of me stopped to show me how to stretch it. I did everything he said. I would run a few minutes then I would have to stop and stretch it again. I just needed to get to Birch knob tower where my family would be. That would be 15.6 mile in.

Birch Knob Tower.
The pain in my butt was shooting down my leg. It was NO JOKE. The guy helping me made the obvious and slightly embarrassing question/answer "You know what that is from? Its a weak glute muscle."
Ok.. great, I know, I don't have BUNS of STEAL! It is so funny to have this conversation about my weak butt to some random runner. Nothing is embarrassing between runners.

I could hear clapping before I could see the Aid Station, Birch Knob. People were cheering and shouting "GOOD JOB!" With a big smile I yelled in humor "WORST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER!"
Suddenly it was like the crowd just woke up with laughter.

Mom and Dad were waiting for me. I didn't want to stay long, but long enough to let Andy know I needed prayer.
He laid me down and put my leg in a figure 4 position stretching my butt. It hurt to stretch and it hurt even more when Andy drilled his thumb into my right butt cheek. He added pressure while he stretched me making tears come to my eyes.
I was there a little longer to have mom pull off my compression socks and remove my jacket leaving me in a tank top and fresh socks.

And like that I was back on the trail.

The temperatures heated up. I kept reminding myself to drink and take salt tabs. One of the guys I was running the first 15 miles had already decided he was going to drop down to the 50k. And so it began. I had to stay strong. Quitting WAS NOT AN OPTION.  I reminded myself multiple times.

I told myself to just get to the next aid station. From this point I was running with Jesse and a few other guys. Together we all traded places in the front and the back.

A local did not like the idea of a couple hundred runners near his property, so a last minute trail had to be made. I was really glad that I was with these guys to help me navigate my way through a trail that looked and felt like they had just bushwhacked it. If they had not done such a good job hanging pink ribbons on the trees every FEW feet there is NO DOUBT that there would have been a lot of lost runners.
Jesse and I

I had ran many miles with JESSE. Jesse was great conversation but as we trudged through this make shift trail he was getting more and more quiet. The trail was cut in the mountain with nubs of trees sticking out of the ground. We were tripping and landing on the tops of these. Again the almost invisible trail was cantered. I could feel the inside of both my knee and my foot pulling. "When was this going to end?" I asked Jesse.

Finally, we came out of it unto a wide portion of the trail. The ridgeline was capped with large, loose rocks. It was very difficult to run this. I was in the lead. The guys were scattered close behind.
As I ran down the hill I looked up in defeat. Back up again. Only it wasn't that easy. I came to a dead stop and threw my arms in the air. "WHAT DO WE DO?" I yelled back at the guys as they came one at a time down the  hill. We were all looking at a large fork in the road. On BOTH sides of the two paths "NO TRESSPASSING" was spray painted down the trees.

We yelled at the last one coming down "DID YOU SEE ANYTHING, Did we miss a turn?"
Between the 5 of us, we all confirmed we did NOT miss a turn. We all just went with out gut and took the ascend up to the right in hopes we could still trust out instincts.

I just wanted to get to Mountain Life church. This would be the turn around. This would be the half way mark. This would be the FIRST time I had peed in 8 hours!
After almost a half of a mile, we discovered a very faded pink ribbon followed my a GREEN blaze letting us know we were brilliant and NOT LOST!

We were almost to the Church. I couldn't wait to see my family again. Jesse hadn't spoke very much and looked really pale. He too was looking forward to sitting down and seeing his pacer.

I saw Alec running down the road towards me. I was so happy to see that floppy haired kid. "HI MOM! How are you doing?"
"Good Alec, I am so happy to see you!" I  smiled trying not to cry in front of him.
The road opened up to this little church full of smiles and cheer. Andy came right over. I needed the bathroom. Dad says "Nita, what can I get you?" I respond "DAD, ICE, do they have any ice chips?" He walked we me to the bathroom. He never left me as we walked through the church and he chauffeured me. I looked up at him before I entered the restroom. Tears welled in my eyes, I tried so hard to stuff it down. "DAD, DON'T tell mom, I'm Ok, this is just the hardest thing I have ever done..."
I went pee and washed my hands. The water was ice cold. Like a dog, I just started lapping water out of my hands. A lady from the church was next to me. I realized how pathetic I must have looked. Drinking and bathing my face in the sink. I attempted to regain my dignity as I smiled at the lady and walked out.
Andy and mom sat me down. It was 4pm at this time. The temps were going to be cooling off again. Mom got the bag out and asked me what she could get me. Arm sleeves, my buff for my neck and my headlamp, it was going to be dark the next time I saw them. Mom grabbed my bladder out of my hydration pack and filled it up for me. Andy assessed my body. I was not able to disguise the pain from Andy. He could tell I was weakening. I was paler, my quads were tore up and my knee was distressed.
I had to get going. I had some hot soup, pickle juice and I got up to go before I got to used to the idea of staying. Mom looked so scared. I smiled at her and tried to cheer her up. I heading back to the trail solo. Jesse was still sitting, and in no hurry.
When you entered each aid station and when you exited you had to give them your bib number. I forgot to tell them my bib number as I was leaving. I heard all this commotion. "WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER?" Realizing they were talking to me and many people were yelling at me, I stopped, turned around with my hands on my hips, dancing, and I sang real loud "876-5309"!

I had no one to run with. I had seen a guy hitting the trail about 5 minutes before me. It would be getting dark in the next couple hours. I REALLY did not want to be alone. My watch was not going to have enough battery and I was really scared to run in the dark with my trail judgment.
I was going to catch that guy. I would run steady.
It took an hour to catch him. I wanted to give him a big hug and kiss when I did.
I had ran with him the first 13 miles. David reintroduced himself to me. He was running with trekking poles. I really wished I had borrowed Kens when he had offered. So many runners were running with them.  Every time my feet hit the ground it was like a shock went through my quads.
Humbly I started looking across the mountain path for any kind of a walking stick. Each time I picked on up they crumbled in my hands. They were wet, soggy and rotted. "God, Please set out a walking stick that I can run with." I pleaded.
I saw a light colored stick in the middle of a patch of mud, stick and ground covering. I picked it up and tapped it on the ground, it was thin but very sturdy. I wrapped my fingers around it and ran to catch back up to David.
You couldn't run far before you were on a rugged ascend. I used my walking stick to take the weight off my tender legs. I was able to walk faster and stay on David's toes.
David shared many stories with me. I shared that I really was going to do my best to stay with him so I didn't have to be alone in the dark.
He replied "I was just going to hike this and try to get in under 24 hours, but I will stay with you, I wont leave you in the dark."
David had a photographic memory. He remembered every inch of the trail, reminding me what lied ahead. I was so happy to listen to his running history and have his companionship. He was polite and asked me about mine but I really didn't feel like talking. I explained that 2 of my running partners are always telling epic ultra recaps and I just listen and try to keep up. I was very comfortable not talking.
And he was very comfortable chatting. It was a match made in heaven....

As we came onto a aid station, we saw a guy that had been running with us several miles back. He looked like hell. He was very pale, disheveled and proceeded to explain he was really sick with terribly dark urine.  Hearing this I drank more. I grabbed a cup of boiled potatoes and I grabbed a Dixie cup of Heed and gulped it down.
We also continued to be arriving at the aid stations just minutes behind these 2 small Mexicans. But when they saw us they quickly finished up and headed out ahead of us.

I had taken my arm sleeves off and wrapped them around my stick. David called it my Moses Stick. I wished it could part the trail and make it easier to run. The sun was going down and the shadows were coming down off the mountain. It wouldn't be long before we had to turn out head lamps on.

Even though we were going down the mountain it was no easier. David found a snake on the side of the path. We looked closer. It appeared to be a baby copperhead. I was close enough.
We saw several deer coming down the mountain and the noises in the woods kept you moving.

I started adding how many miles I had ran. Then I started adding up when I would pick up Andy to help pace me. I thought of the things that make me SMILE, Ken, my running partner back home had taught me to do when I am struggling.
"It sure is PRETTY though." I found myself laughing. This had become my mantra when I was tired, sore or both. I told David I was going to have a shirt made:
"Run a ULTRA they Said, It'll be fun." FRONT
"It sure was PRETTY though!" BACK

Darkness came on us like a blanket. "Anita, Turn your headlamp off."
You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It was as black as the ace of spades. This made running really difficult. The trails with getting wet and the rocks felt like daggers as you landed on them.
David explained that we were averaging 2.5 miles an hour. We had to maintain a sub  20min/mi to get in around 20 hours.
"OK, Ok, we can do that."

I was tripping more frequently. I fell very hard at a section that we were running across a large stone. David looked behind and joked "Hey, what are you doing planks now?!" I had almost landed on my face. I was thanking God for my upper body strength that caught my fall just centimeters from face planting.

It was pitch black when we entered Birch Knob Aid Station again to pick up Andy. I sat down as mom grabbed me some warm potato soup and chicken broth. My stomach was tore up. I asked mom if she could get me some ginger ale. I wanted to vomit but that would not be a very good welcome to Team Harless.
Mom took off my shoes and we switched them out. I also took off my tank top and put on a fresh shirt. My skin was clammy and cold. I was starting to shake from the inside out. I wanted more soup but I was afraid of the cream base. David was finishing up as we gave mom and dad hugs.
"MY Stick! Where is MY STICK??" I knew I would never find another stick in the dark. I couldn't run with out it. It was my life line, My Moses Stick. It really was parting the path for me.

With Andy next to me I grabbed David and we headed into the dark abyss. I had no jokes and only broken smiles. We didn't get far before I had to take my shoe off to get a rock out of it. Only it was not a rock. It was a series of blisters. They were angry and ticked off. We duck taped them and took off.
Andy had no idea what he was in for and I just needed to run, I was shaking so bad.

I kept Andy in front of me. I am used to running behind. David lead the way. He was a power house with his trekking poles.
Andy would be just a couple feet in front of me and within minutes I would be trailing 25 feet behind.
"Anita, stay on my heels, stay close."
"I'm trying," I would respond.
David had introduced a plan I started calling "50" You run counting 50 times your left foot as it hits the ground, basically counting your cadence.
"Anita, You want to try 50?" David would ask.
"Yes, lets go." I responded. I never, not once told him no.

I would try to run and catch up with them so I didn't fall back to far. But when we would have a ascend I would fall way back. I couldn't get my legs to move. My feet would slip and I would stumble.
I would drive my Moses Stick deep into the ground and lift my body up and surge forward. I would gain ground doing this using my arms and upper body to carry my depilated legs.

"Your doing good Anita, one step in front of the other." Andy would encourage me.

Andy started tripping. "Pick up your legs Andy" I reminded him. Fog was setting in and our headlamps were not working well.

We hadn't seen anyone on the path in hours. It was so strange. The Green Blazes lit up very well in the dark, reminding us we were on the right path.

It was almost 1am. My watch was dead. I was chilled, tired and pass the quitting point.
I was going to FINISH.
What made me smile?
  • That I had been running for over 17 hours.
  • I had ran UP a stinking Mountain.
  • I was still running when many had already quit.
QUITTING was NOT an option.
If I had to crawl across the finish line I was going to.

With less than 3 miles to go, I turned my head and spotted a light. Even though I was running on fumes I knew it was a runner coming. Minutes later she was on us and minutes later she was beyond us. We had just been passed by another runner and I could not catch her.
Andy was very patient and encouraging. "Your doing good Nita, One step in front of the other."
Then David and Andy were talking. I couldn't hear what they were saying. I ran the best I could on the rugged trail to catch up.
David laid out the plan.
"Anita, do you think you can get in a couple 50's in a mile? If you can increase your pace we can get in under 20 hours."
I so wanted in under 20 hours. "YES, I can, Lets GO, Give me 50."
Pain surged down my legs but I just ran. I got used to flipping my Moses stick around and running like a Indian Warrior.
When David set the pace we were RUNNING, faster than I wanted.  When we finished, I was out of breath.

We came down that last massive hill towards the road that lead through town towards the Ball Field Finish. The descend was treacherous. The rocks were slippery and loose.
I wanted to kiss the ground when we stepped off that mountain. I was so grateful God had kept me safe and upright.
"David, lets do 50." I shouted to the front.
Together, the 3 of us picked up our legs and ran.
We would run until we came to a hill. I knew David was sneaking more than 50 on me but I never complained, I appreciated the pacing and encouragement.
David and Andy were so incredible. David could have left anytime but he stayed right next to me.

You could see the Ball field to our right. 50 here and 50 there. One step in front of the other. Beaten, bruised and confused we ran.
"Anita, You are going to finish well under 20 hours, if you want to walk it in you can?" David commented with a smirk.

"NO WAY, we are RUNNING this IN."
Andy dropped back as we entered the ball field. David picked it up, I picked it up next to him. With my Moses Stick in my hand I ran all the way in.

Overall: 19th
Time: 19:44:49

I left more than just a toenail out there. I left tears, sweat and my pride out there. But I left that mountain with more than a medal. I came home humbled, grateful and victorious. I was reminded God provides, He takes your fears and he gives you strength.
Many, Many times I recited "IN MY WEAKNESS HE IS STRONG."


Monday, October 3, 2016

Cloudsplitter Crawl

We just got home from a 9 hour drive from Kentucky about 5:30 this evening. Cloudsplitter was AMAZING! I want so bad to do my race recap. I also want so bad a hot Epson salt bath.

Lacey watched my dog, Sheba while we were gone. She brought Sheba back and had a bag of goodies for me! Lacey stuck around walking with me and hearing my recap. 40 minutes later and probably less than a mile and I am exhausted.
My legs are pulverized. My blisters are burning. I have dark circles under my eyes like a villain and my stomach is growling.
I think I am going to rummage through the empty fridge for food.
Then I think I will take a Lavender Epson salt bath with the jets on my poor aching body.
All my favorites...I LOVE sharpies! The tank top was funny. Lacey Says "I'm not sure how much you LOVE TO RUN right now..."

Race Recap WEDNESDAY. I won't be running for a while! I don't know how I am going to walk tomorrow at work.
For that matter, I don't know how long I am going to keep peeing on myself because my legs won't bend to sit down!

But it was ALL WORTH it!

I'm gonna go eat popcorn in the bathtub.