On a Whim

Nicole and I right before our race.

Two weeks ago, on a whim of sorts, I decided to sign up for the Flagline Trailfest 50k taking place the following Saturday morning.  The longest distance I had run up until then was about 16 miles and while I had been running regularly ever since the Cascade Lakes Relay I had only increased my weekly mileage to approximately 20 to 25 miles per week.

Why, you might ask, would I decide to do something so seemingly impossible for a relative newbie to the running world?  My answer is perhaps not well thought out, but fairly simple: after a month of personal and professional setbacks I had found myself struggling for faith in others, and more importantly myself, and this race seemed like the perfect opportunity for a much needed  success.

There’s not a lot I can do about the actions of others but I DO have some control over my own actions and abilities.  So when fellow Cascade Lakes Relay team member, Nicole Ruiz, posted that she was going to attempt the 50k (a race she had been training for for quite a while) even after just barely healing a severely hurt ankle, I decided to join her. I needed to conquer something that seemed out of my reach.  I needed success over challenge.  I needed to regain faith in my own strength.

The moment I handed my $70 over and committed to my first ultra-marathon my state of mind swung from being downtrodden and defeated to being focused and motivated.  I had a goal and I was hopeful about reaching it.  I spent the next two days mentally preparing, resting, stretching, and gathering what I would need for my adventure.

Nicole and I 8 miles in and feeling great!

The morning of the race I picked up Nicole and off we went.  Nicole proved to be an amazing running partner.  She took lead on approximately the first 15 miles or so.  She kept my ego in check and paced us so that we could endure the long haul, and she reminded me to gu myself at the appropriate time.  At around mile 15 Nicole needed to walk more of the hills than I did due to a slight loss of endurance from her extended break in training while healing .  She insisted that I go ahead at my own pace if I felt good enough.  I was scared.

Instantly I began to worry: What if I don’t pace myself right? What if her ankle starts to hurt or I fall and get injured? What if she gets mad at me for leaving her behind? What if I don’t nourish myself correctly without her reminders?

At first I insisted on staying with her.  Then she stopped and said “Annette, I’ll actually feel better if you go ahead. This is your race too.” I could tell she meant it.  As I ran ahead I thought how ironic it was that I had committed to this race in hopes of proving to myself that I was all I needed and that I was strong enough, and here I had spent the first half learning to trust someone else to lead me successfully through the unknown.  Someone I hardly knew.

Nicole HAD lead me well and taught me well and now she was forcing me to trust myself and my own abilities to get me through the last and most difficult half of the run.

Around the 25th mile.

The last half of my 50k was brutal but I kept moving and kept in mind all of the tips Nicole had given me.  I’m not going to lie, I cried off and on.  I wanted to give up. I fell. I had moments of desperately searching for a way out, but instead I kept putting one foot in front of the other determined not to fail.

Finally, when I thought I must only be a very short distance from the finish line two little wood nymphs sprang from the trail in front of me! No, I wasn’t hallucinating; the two little girls looking very “fairy-like” to my exhausted mind were my daughters who had come looking for me.  My spirits lifted as I knew I had almost finished.  Then they fell as each turn I took led to another and another until I desperately asked my girls (who were skipping along next to me because that’s how slow my stride had become) “How far until the finish!”

“About a half mile mom!  You can do it!” they cheered. I wanted to die.  My darling girls had traveled a half mile down the trail to run me in to the finish.  Super sweet, but very unexpected.

My oldest, Phoenix (10 years), was able to run me all the way in through the finish line. Every time I stumbled or cried out she would tell me how proud she was and that she loved me and that I could do it.  Honestly, I think I would have walked myself through the finish line if it hadn’t been for her.

Nicole and I both completed the 50k and met our own personal goals.  Since crossing that finish line I have had plenty of couch-bound reflection time.  I did get what I had hoped out of the race in that my faith in myself is mostly restored, but that is only a small part of what I gained.   I made a new friend and realized that there ARE some amazing people out there just waiting to meet other amazing people and accomplish great things.  I need to be open to them .

I was also reminded that I have 3 little children in my life who love me more than anything and are more invested in my happiness than I am, so I must find it and hold onto it tightly- for them.

The End

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