Thursday, September 18, 2014

Storm/Carry On: Summer, Fall And Beyond

My heart is a river, and so I run.

I have a secret, come meet me at the sky. You can fly, you can fly, you can fly.

(click on the lyrics in red, and play this lovely song that sounds like I feel upon reaching that summit or peak amidst wind and whatever other weather is out there)

The closest I could come to finding a YouTube video of the track "Storm," that speaks to me most on Colorado's own Paper Bird's album "Carry On," was this. The whole album is there but check out that's Great Gig In The Sky when the folky/bluegrassy ladies are wailing in the second half. These guys played a killer show at Palisade Bluegrass in a crazy windstorm as if nothing was happening, and then I was fortunate enough to catch another amazing set at a tiny theater in Paonia months later, two of the best shows I've ever seen. Their last two albums have been the musical interpretation of how I feel running in the mountains. "Running," used loosely, because I am no Antonio Krupiccio.

I hate to write something that feels like a forced essay or resume summarizing my races, which is probably why I haven't blogged in months. That, and I just finished weathering the storm which was a season working Palisade Peaches with some of my closest friends (want to test friendships? Try that), caring for my children every other week at my place (and being as available as I can be even when it's not "my" time", and am desperately longing for "sleep," and working my regular jobs. I trained as best I could but it didn't leave a helluva a lot of time for running. Still, I got in and out of the Silver Rush 50 feeling good about things. And, peaching season taught a lot of lessons, many of which were applicable to ultra running, dealing with unpredictable weather and product, being tired and cranky (friends being tired and cranky), carry on. Sometimes you don't even have the experience to handle the weird, unique situation presented during your day, but you just go at it the best you can at that moment. We had fun, too. My coworker Michaela and I figured out how we liked to operate the peach stand, and things just flowed. We made cracks about her brother and father peaching on the other side of the mountain and narrated a fictitious reality show about it. We worked hard and had a great time, even if we were tired and banged up at the end of the way. Much like a good day on the mountain.

The Silver Rush wasn't a fast day but steady and surefooted. I knew I would finish-there was no doubt in my mind. It was the first time my children got to watch me race in years. That was a huge deal to me, and there was no way I was going to fail out there. There was a lot of joy in being in Leadville, with them, being crewed by my kids. It was just awesome. I'd kind of dreamed of something like this and it was happening. My friend Tom made it all possible in giving up a weekend to follow my slow ass around the mountain with my kids, something I've said I will happily repay some time. I've been told, though, that he's never going to do anything that dumbass. He might be on to something.

Leading into the Leadville Trail 100, I kind of knew I was burning the candle at all ends. I was feeling good about doing good things for my family but this meant less running than I'd normally be doing. In hindsight, I can see that there was no way mental toughness and stubbornness alone was going to get me through the LT100 with the Extreme Peach Taper, and in hindsight I almost wish I hadn't brought friends out to help, but then again I know they were there for me because they wanted to be there, and that I would do the same for them anytime. I had my wonderful friends Emma-Leigh, Tom, Angela, Elizabeth and Kyle there to crew/cheer at various points, and had past finishers Bryan and Ben there to get me in and out of Twin Lakes,  the last aid station I cleared, with masterful flow.
The gals had me in a dry shirt there before I could even turn around. They were there at the 4 a.m. start, there after I got off of that magical first loop in the dark around Turquoise Lake.  I also was fortunate to get feedback and advice from various LT100 finishers, including two previous winners of the race, who were incredibly kind and generous in sharing their experiences on the course, and how I might apply strategies that work well out there (thank you Kirk and Lynette, two class acts who took time to say things that really helped me to keep moving forward).  I owe all these guys and gals a debt of gratitude for being supportive of my little dream, and offering help when there was nothing in it for them. That's not to mention all the other friends and family who wished me well, fellow INKnBURN ambassadors, and anyone else who supported this common love we all have.  Humbled, that's what I was.

(A role reversal of the 2012 race. I just need to hold up my end of the deal and FINISH the next time)

 It was a fully successful failure to get halfway through the race (the "Hopeless Aid Station 50 Miler," as I call it now), and be deflated, dejected momentarily, but realize that I got to meet the sky in my failure before turning back down to Twin Lakes to think about how to do it right the next time. And that most people would not have gotten nearly as far on what was, frankly, piss-poor training on my part at the end. Not by design, but let's call it what it was.

 I know next year that there can be peaching, and there can be Leadville, but there can't be peaching and Leadville. The most talented and well-trained runners have no guarantees of success at this race, and I don't have a lick of mountain running talent to carry me for 100 miles. I will be working that section out of Twin Lakes multiple times next year, practicing going over Hope Pass, and get in the mindset of being WAY up on time coming in so that when I slow down, I have a cushion to move me slowly to the sky, back down, back up again and over to Twin Lakes.

In the weeks after Leadville I thought I'd bounce back well but was surprised at how little I felt like I had in me-physically, emotionally, for much of anything. I just wanted to sleep all the time. Still, I thought I'd rest up, and come into the Imogene Pass Run, rested and ready to go. Oh, it was far, far from that. My body told me it was done, DONE. It needed a break. I had already accomplished a pretty epic personal worst by the time I found my friend Emma-Leigh, grimacing from a wretching stomach and clearing out her gut several times already at that point. Right then the only thing that was important was us getting in together. Not the race that I was expecting by any stretch. Being as competitive with myself as I have been, I could've been down about it but the fact that it was such a hard day made it empowering. We got to the finish when it would've been easy to say you know what? Fuck it. My dad was there too, and made it to Upper Camp Bird, but felt awful. He opted to turn around and go back to Ouray, satisfied that 15 mile hike was okay this year. Dad then booked his room for the next year, and what will be his third IPR start and presumptive second finish after returning to the strategies he employed in the first finish.

I'm at an odd crossroads now. I am back to my day job, and part-time job number two. I got a small promotion at work and am focusing on learning that new gig. It's not a dream job but it challenges me to learn a lot of new stuff, and talk to patients all day, which is cool for me. And, for once, I am not signed up for any all. I'd planned on the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler last weekend, but without a shred of energy to run it, or drive to show up and run it with my head, I stayed home. We cleaned things around the house, which sounds boring, but had an immediate positive impact on my stress and fatigue levels. I joke around but I do wear my emotions on my sleeve at times, and my heart is definitely a river that needs to run. In this case, it told me I needed to just get out and run a little bit, easy, every day. Not think about training for the next big event, but just let it run and flow. I'll be back to racing soon enough, but for now, it's just time to carry on, and know that I CAN fly again, on and off the mountain.

Carry On this way in my heart, carry on this way in my heart

(Click again for more awesome Paper Bird. It's really ironically (or, perhaps, accurately in my case) called "Don't You Run" but just enjoy the rocking close to the blog)

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