Let it

Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
Harvey MacKay

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Back on the Island

I've been absent. I'm sorry. I have really good excuses. I'll tell you all about them soon, I just need to acknowledge something first.

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 25kMarch 21, 2015

So that happened. I tried not to view the repeat distance as the consolation prize for not being able to do the 50k like I had hoped. I went it to it not nervous, and with no goals except to be honest with myself, respect my body, and finish with a big fat smile on my face.
I started slow. Really slow. On purpose. Around a mile in I settled in next to a girl who was obviously limping and struck up a conversation. Her foot was acting up and she knew it would be a long race, but she had started anyway. I encouraged her, told her my story, and assured her that if I could finish on hardware and scar tissue, she could do this. Then I ran ahead.
A few miles later a new conversation, a new friend. A woman in her sixties who had just begun trail running a few years before. Inspiring. Not long after, my limping friend ran past, killing it. I shouted to her and she yelled, "You're my inspiration!" and sped off. We would leapfrog a few more times through the race. This race quickly became about the people. I spent the entire 16.7 miles in awe of the dynamics and fortitude of the people around me. Everyone has a story. I'm learning that most of us can amaze each other if we just take the time to listen.
The miles ticked away with the scenery. I was often without a running partner, but never without loads of pleasantries and encouragement from every person I came across. Some I knew, many I didn't, but the camaraderie on the trails is just the best. I did my best to reciprocate the encouragement. It has been long enough since the race that I can't give exact mileage, but somewhere along the way, I heard my name, and looked up to see my girl Renee looking fab with a big fat grin on her gorgeous face. I threw my arms wide and we ran into a hug. She had been volunteering, but needed to leave soon and didn't want to miss me. "I came looking for you! I want to run with you for a little while."
Photo Credit Renee: Happy Girls!

There was never more welcome company. I was feeling surprisingly good for being 4 or 5 miles in and 8 months out from a shattered ankle. But I honestly can say what it meant to be watched out for by a friend who knows the depth of the hole I've climbed out of- and helped lower the ladder down to me. It was just everything.

Renee ran with me until we hit her turnoff to head out. Then I took on a gnarly climb with gusto. A short while later I reached the Elephant head aid station where my Wasatch Mountain Wrangler fam was running the show.  It was like showing up at Cheers. Everybody knows your name. I hugged all of them and couldn't stop smiling. Filled my water bottle with Heed, took a swig, dumped it out and refilled with water. Heed was a bad move. My stomach would protest that swig for the next 5 miles. I snagged a few chips and M&Ms and took off, optimistic about my time and how I felt. I bit of half a ginger chew as my stomach started to turn and tried to keep my attitude up anyway. I rocked the switchbacks that killed me last year, and was on my way back toward Elephant head when my ankle, calves, hammies and hips started getting grouchy. Tummy was still not loving it, it was getting hot out, and my smile had faded a bit. When I finally hit the Aid Station again, I needed a Coke and a hug, and my friends obliged. Jennilyn snuggled me while Lane, Kendall and Matt got me drinks. They were busy little rockstars who took the time to take care of me in true Wrangler style. I was grateful and in a few minutes I was ready to roll on. A few more miles out and my hardware was on fire. The fact that my legs weren't well trained for this race was very apparent and I found myself limping along, cheering on runner after runner as they passed me. I'd choke back all the feels now and then, and remind myself that I was grateful to be there "running" at all. Then I'd tell myself that it would hurt like hell whether I ran or walked, but running would get me done faster, and I'd pick up the pace again. I pasted a smile back on my face and started loving it. Just a few more miles. The last few miles are the longest. So. dang. long. But as I neared the finish line, I heard my friends cheering my name. I couldn't smile any harder, and my entire being was flooded with gratitude. I sobbed through my grin and I crossed the line and fell, crying into the arms of some pregnant stranger who asked me if I was okay and handed me over to my big brother Steve, who knew exactly where all my tears came from.
Sobbing through my cheesy grin
Me and the pregnant stranger... collision in 3...2...
Friends and family who had just run longer races themselves got me stew and drinks and blankets and chairs. (Special thanks to Nan and Steve and Craig who wandered all over trying to find my car and get my things.) I settled down for my very favorite part- the afterparty. It wasn't long until Aaron was finishing his 50 miler. We cheered a steady stream of dear friends and acquaintances across the line for hours.
I had finished in 4:17. Around 45 minutes slower than last year. And I didn't care. I was more satisfied with this race than last years. This year hurt more, and my training was not there... for obvious reasons, but I ran the entire thing with gratitude and love. That made all the difference.