Sunday, July 26, 2015

Self Narrative

We grow into ourselves it seems.  Every day, every minute, one decision at a time.  Like the favourite jeans we never wish to admit no longer wear quite in the same manner they once did.  We grow into our new skin.  At the end of every day we can only truly live with ourselves.  Learning to love ourselves, our worth, the space we take up, the places we create... that all takes time.  It takes time, hope, love and tons of practice.

I know very little about running.  I know very little about how to train for ultra running.  Gratefully I leave the details up to my Coach.  I know very little about recovery.  I know it as a thankless, frustrating self hating pause in my passion.  I know that that too passes.  I know to run for a cause is nearly as motivating as to run for the pure love of running.  I know I can only speak for me, for each of my own self serving steps along the path.  And I know, am completely aware, that I know very little.

When you were little, and your parents read to you, or a teacher, or a librarian; their voice becomes the voice you hear in your head when you read.  Your favourite science teacher engaged so much excitement for the subject that whenever you turned the page in the encyclopedia.... okay I am old. Whenever you click a new link in Google to continue researching, you hear that voice.  Or your Home Ec instructor, "cream the brown sugar with the butter, using the back of the wooden spoon... no no not a fork" These become stretch marks, self narratives.  Framework.  Social regard for how you think on a topic.

What's my point?

Socially encultured ideas can be both helpful and harmful.  How my generation was raised to think about disability, or rather how we were raised to NOT think about disability, for example, isn't on the helpful list.  To be both disabled in such a world, and to believe it better to remain invisible is a difficult task.  Perhaps it's harsh to say that coming to terms with the fact that I could never colour my kindergarten sky blue, if the word BLUE wasn't etched on the side of the crayon, has been a life long lesson.  The second step of course is to realize that I can in fact, colour the sky whatever shade I enjoy.  That is how I see it; in shades of possibility and promise.  And the ground when I run, darting in and out of visibility.  Why shelter the rest of the world from that perspective?

These days I don't do much trail running solo.  I have found that following a rather connected guide runner has made a huge difference in my ability to learn the skill of trail manoeuvring.  Not that I am skilled. But it offers me a sense of comfort I have not known.  To trust the earth to rise and meet my feet is a lesson I must always cling to.  To dance my feet through a smattering of rock and root on a slight slanted downhill, is not a task I can take on with fear.  Fear can freeze my breath.  Not the fear of the snake I might glance, or the toad that might hop across the trail between me and my guide runner two steps ahead.  But fear of a misstep.  Fear of failure.  When the sunlight breaks through the cloud cover, when it worms its way between the upturned dew drying leaves, when my ground transitions from a contrast I've come to visual terms with to an impossible jigsaw puzzle... Fear stops me.

My memory of steps is very short.  I can interpret and retain and dissect about three instructional descriptives at a time.  Root left, pothole right, rock middle.  Let that go.  Four more have already been fired my way.  Tree slanting in from the right, sharp drop left, narrowing trail into the middle.  Do you remember what comes next?  Do you duck? Or step up?  Too late, you missed three more instructions.  Three more chances at risk, at falling, at failure.  Where in all that, do I have time to actually try and see the trail? We fall into a rhythm of footfalls.  For every 10 things I'm told of, I catch glimpses of 2 or 3.  Following the same route time and again lets me memorize the sequences of this impromptu jig through the trees.  A number of times now, my wonderful, compassionate, ever so patient guide runner Steven has taken me on such a loop.  Over and over we pass through three miles of varied terrain.  Relentlessly, nearly feverishly, he calls out the same land marks in repetition.  I hear them.  I learn them.  But others too.  The way his pitch changes just before the first little technical climb, how he tries to hide its approach as if he knows my knowing there's a hill coming will slow my steps as they cloud with self doubt.  Or the manner in which he slows down just before a sharp right turn with an ever protruding stump on the right.  I feel his feet decide before I arrive, which way through the roots that snake across the trail would be safest for me.  I watch the shadow of his hand held water bottle across the top of the open field for where it splits and changes in angle.  There's a little ditch there, that will shallow your left toes if you are neglectful.  I hear the traffic on the left side of the green space just before the mile one mark, and I know, that six steps of a root dance are coming.  And that watch beeps.  I forget the words.  I hear thoughts instead.  I feel the trees giggle to see us pass again.  And again.  Like the fishermen on the boardwalk, like the geese paddling in stillness, like the breeze that brings promise of a new season.

Self narrative takes me away.  And fear will stop my step.  Sunlight invading my spaced out mind.  Fell behind three steps too many and I am lost. Now I'm angry I am lost.  I hear still, but can't piece it together from six steps back.  Step over a root not there yet.  Self doubt.  Threat of failure.  And I must remind myself, I don't do this running thing by anyone else's standards.  I do it the only way I know how.  "I've fallen behind" is commonly heard from me.  Likely more in my head than outloud.  I've fallen behind.   Yet I feel I've started behind.  Stuck in this encultured sense of trying to be invisible, less of a burden.  Yes I started behind.  But started didn't I?  That counts.  A mile is a mile, no matter how fast.  And a mile is a mile whether you saw it or felt it.

The last time we ran in circles, Steven and I, I said you run ahead really fast.... because he's fast, so fast in fact that in the time it took you to read this, he's finished another 10km.  Seriously, if I could run that fast, getting out the door for anything less than 12km would seem a waste.  So I said, Steven, you run ahead really fast.  I'll run a loop alone.  You can catch me on your second loop.  Self narrative.  I can't do that.  The suns up.  Self doubt.  There's too many options for turning, I'll get lost. Neither one of us armed with phones (return to the stone age right?)  You can catch me translated into you can find me, save me from the snakes, and guide us both out of the scary woods.  Self narrative.  I'm not supposed to do this.  Surely there's a rule book.  I will fall. My surprise?  He said "I'm not that fast, I won't catch you"

Wait.  Back up the bus.  Was that self doubt?  Disguised in good graces of proper mathematics and logic?  Here I am in my head, suffering my own self narrative, my own encultured worry of worth and you, my hero, think you aren't that fast?  Not, oh dear Rhonda, it's technical in there, you might fall, or get lost, or ... insert any number of terrible things my mother loses sleep over (bless her).  Holy self narrative batman.

Of course my answer was, you should leave then.  You're faster when you're moving.  No doubt.  And he was gone.  Before I could take it back.  Before the fear took me, froze me.  Before I forgot the taste of the banana I'd just wolfed down and instead tasted vile self doubt.  And no one left to save me  from my self narrative.

I did get lost, for about 20 meters.  Again stepped over a root that wasn't there.  Turned to see the pond on the wrong side of me.  Retraced my steps.  Found where they seemed to fit among the planks on the board walk again.  Heard that traffic on the left side to the green space.  Hopped over a log sequence in three that I couldn't see at all.  Left hop, left weave, right hop, duck right, hop last time.  Between two rocks, grooved there.  Past this place I was told there was a little board.  Ran over it 15 times or more and have yet to see it.  No shadow to follow, ditch was still very real.  Gravity reminded me to stop listening to myself.

Then it hit me.

I wasn't listening to myself.  The voice in my head, the one reminding me of the careful steps over the board with the nail, the rocks lining the right side of the trail, the root centre, root right, root right around the tree... That voice, keeping me safe, my new self narrative, was Steven's voice.  I've followed him for so many hours, he's become my internal story teller.  My sooth sayer of trees and mud.  My interpretator of the earth in all her glory.

We grow into ourselves it seems.  Every day, every minute, every decision at a time.  I know very little about this running thing.  I do know this, after seven years, it still loves me back.  It forgives me for not stretching enough, for not climbing hills enough, for not fuelling enough, for not visiting enough.  Running finds a way into all the corners of my life. It opens doors of access that I never knew existed before.  Every day I learn that the self defined edges I live in are merely comfort zones of landing between big scary goals.

I also am learning, that blue skies are overrated, that one makes their own magic, that if you offer a loved one a crayon and to be their canvas, you let them write a little in your heart and in your self narrative.  I am learning that some sense of acceptance along the journey is an important missing piece.  I am learning, that ultra running, is forever an ultra mental test.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Launch - Avon Trail Thru-Run

Watch our Launch Video here of the Avon Trail Thru-Run!




Darkness wakes us, the Envisions team that gathered here.  We stand together at a rock I’d missed in the winter snow weeks before.  Jeff, Sally, Susan, Steve, Steph, Steven, Karen, Bernard, and likely more I couldn’t see.  Some had come to run all 111km of the Avon Trail from St. Mary's to Conestgo.  Some came to share in a leg of the journey.  Others we would find throughout the day I’m certain.  By the river we stood.  A community newly formed for a purpose, the beginning of this little dream we have to change the world.  


The town sleeps as we begin.  Perhaps they miss our passing.  This makes me grin, for I miss their passing all the time under the sun.  Perhaps that’s slightly fair.  Crossing the water I breathe in that scent, that fresh spring catch.  You know the one?  A mix of defrosting worms and the promise of knee high mud for the day?  Bless this trail, bless these feet.  Let them carry us through, or if not at least the message of our quest.  


Other’abled Athletes are not often seen at all, let alone seen attempting thru-runs at the ripe hour of stupid o’clock.  Our support team is amazing, guide runners, support runners, company runners, crew, shuttle and those who just stop in for a smile at the side of a road.  They all give the story wings.  The Avon Trail, tucked away and mostly still a slumber, offered the ground to tread, but the story moves through us all.  The purpose of this non-profit, Envisions Project, is to create a space to dialogue about disability and sport, to empower the other’abled to reach beyond a comfort zone and accomplish a big scary goal or two.


Up a few small climbs, through muddy rutted fields, across creeks aplenty, boardwalks, sidewalks, roadside, and into the forest our team shuffled.  Our pace varied greatly throughout the day.  The original goal was to accomplish the entire 111km in under 20hours.  The varying abilities of our runners each leg changed our pace as the day crept forward.  Disability can be like that sometimes, offering different skills in different situations as time and circumstance change.  Any life can be like that sometimes.  Any runner would tell you, everything can change on race day.  Any other’abled person could tell you the struggle of safety crossing a road to buy groceries or pick up the mail can change on a traffic whim, on a weather whim, on an equipment failure, or on garbage day.  Relentlessly the team trudged forward, through a night and into the next morning.  If nothing else demonstrating that we all carry on.  


To watch the earth wake up, both seasonally and again the second morning, is a gift.  How often do you stand alone in the middle of a not yet planted field and stare up at an orange moon?  How many times have you become the arrow on the compass under so many stars?  Have you ever looked fear in the face and screamed into the wind “What, that’s it? That’s your best counter attack?”  Forward movement one slow step at a time, our team climbed that last hill in Conestgo some 28.5 hours later.


Envisions welcomes the chance to stand tall and share with the world.  We pull together like minded people, adventurers, to join the team and accomplish a ‘project’.  Together we dismantle this notion of the “other” and turn it upside down.  Together we support each other, we guide each other, we keep each other going.  We reach towards a big scary goal.  Together we challenge mainstream and inch in a place for dialogue and example of disability and sport. 
Envisions would like to thank all the team members that came out and participated in our Avon Trail Thru-Run.  We would also like to thank the Avon Trail for helping to enable our passage and spread our story.  

If you have a Project idea, let us know! We would love to hear from you. Envisions is a not for profit charitable organization that sets out to help 'other'abled athletes to achieve their goals. Through connections and networking we empower athletes to accomplish the Big Scary Goals we all have.  Email us at envisions2014@gmail.com or visit our website www.envisionsproject.com

If you’d like to get involved in a Project or just find our more please visit our website www.envisionsproject.com or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Cheers to your many adventures!

Much love,
rm

Rhonda-Marie Avery

Envisions Founder

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In Search Of Ultra

Welcome to Ancaster Ontario, to Sulphur Springs Trail Race 2015.  My 50km challenge.

It hangs heavy in the air.  This nearly nostalgic excitement of time and space and all things footrace.  Goosebumps crawl along my arms standing in the registration line on Friday night. Here I am, I remind myself.  I must remind myself.  Here I am.  This me, accepted here.  Shoelaces tied with the superstars of the Ultra.  We are all here on a quest, a goal, a dream, a hope... and some of us a dare... To reach just beyond a normal.

To me that links us.  In some cosmic, super cheesy, karmic driven way, we are all 'Other'.  To run a hundred miles, my dear friend Clay tells me, makes us one in a million.  I trust his math.  It's good for my ego.  

I am other.  I am other'abled, other'mother, other'gender, other'pace, other'driven', other'lover.  I am, me, in so many ways.  I am accepted in circles of understanding of The Bigger Picture.  Whatever that means.  we are all here, in search of the Ultra. The dust covered gators, the quivering quads uphill, the right to stand and say on Monday in our normal lives... I did that.

It occurs to me standing in the start that perhaps I don't fit in because of ... oh insert any number of reasons.  But I think, I hope, that's what makes us all fit in.  Seeing beyond the life I live, into this purpose of creating an awareness for disabled athletes offers me a venue to chase dreams.  Sometimes I fear, they are not even my dreams.  But rather the quests of many who dare not.  Who am I to deny the passage of work and effort through my veins?  Who am I to say I can't, when what I truly mean, is that I won't.  The fear of failure haunts my every breath.  It clings to my sweat soaked shirt under the ripe lunchtime sun on the course of my choosing.  It pulls my shoulders forward and down, in a disgraceful, hide yourself in these trees gait as I trudge behind my wonderful, patient guide.  Fear of failure tempts me to sit in that chair and stay put, making a choice to stop effort before embarrassment sets in.  Fear of getting caught, of being exposed as a fraud in this endurance demographic sings louder than any of my off key attempts at old 80's commercials.

To be in search of something, implies you are missing something.  I think this as I run.  What, on earth am I missing?  I need no buckle, the
coveted bling of a 100 mile race.  I need no further sting in my legs of the DOMS that await me in the morrow.  I need no better grasp on reality, if anything I search to let it go.  Don't we all?  Then what, on earth am I missing?
I wonder what they see, the other racers, as they pass.  A girl struggling?  A girl following?  A girl focused on the sound of light trodden feet?  A girl not lingering out on course as long as them? No 100 for me today. A girl different?  A girl the same? Heaven forbid they see a runner.  I'd prefer they merely notice a presence of an attempt out of place.  Disability never quite fits you see. We get tossed into many different boxes, many different categories, but we never quite fit.  We are the comparison to which one defines 'ability' in it's full functioning form.

Oh how I could fill a dictionary in the preface 'dis'... disallowed, discredited, disengaged, disfunctional, dis....appointed.  A lesson taught any number of times.  A lesson I refuse to learn.

Climb the hills.  Gripping hands on knees.  In search of strength I thought was hiding somewhere.  Disjointed jaunt down the embankment, a newly found fear of the ground that may not rise to meet my feet.  In search of trust I swear by daily.  A grateful prayer to the dark skies that allow me to take a friend through a loop alone, as pacer.  Not a role I've ever been permitted to take on before.  In search of skills I long to be granted in different ways.  To cross a finish line both mine and not my own, in search of Ultra and all it stands for, all it offers, all it takes away. Tangled laces, hidden tears, unspoken regrets for the lack of speed, lack of grace; in search of desire to find something missing.

And yet, as the hours tick away, the question remains; what on earth am I missing?  In search of the Ultra that hangs in the air.  Until I figure it out, I'll keep showing up, hoping for a finish just beyond my reach.  Just past my circumstance.

You can see it in the faces of the finishers, 22, 25, 28, 30 hours later.  They have found their missing piece.  And the buckle to hold up their bravepants the next time they choose to chase down the search for the Ultra.

Write your own dictionary I say.  Quick where's my pen?

What does Ultra mean to you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Envisions Project #1 - The Avon Trail Thru-Run

My how things change.  A year ago, if you'd told me we would be here again; planning, organizing, plotting crew stops, timing guide runners, gathering food and water... Well, I'd ... I'd likely say... with a chuckle..

"Well you didn't expect me to sit still did you? Not when the world hasn't changed yet?"

The birth of our Non-profit 'Envisions' came as a bit of a surprise.  Knowing there is a need for something in the core of your being makes it easier to take on a challenge.  Whether it's a personal challenge, or a task with a bigger scope; passion is a required puzzle piece.  After completing the Bruce Trail end to end with so much help and support and understanding, I was amazed with the free fall that followed.  Emotions you don't expect haunt your every step.  You begin to wonder why you took on such a major thing, if this, THIS was what waited for you at the end of it all?

There is a common thread in ultra-epic adventures of the plummet that comes after.  Of the black dog that stalks your door. The high you ride during, the sheer bliss of accomplishment at the end, but then this gaping hole in your heart a few days after.  In that space, that breathless vacuum, that feels so deep, so empty, so suffocating, I was astonished to receive a few messages from other disabled athletes who wanted to know how to step up and take a chance.

My only thought at the time was, I have no idea.  Who am I to know?

So I ask you, Who are you?  What do you stand for?  What do you move for?  What stirs the passion in your soul?  What drives you out of bed at stupid o'clock to find your shoes and head out in the minus 30 Celsius temperatures to face your fears?  What makes you believe you are worth others belief in you?

'Envisions Project' is the how.  When someone asks me, how do I begin with my goal, my dream, my quest?  This, is the how.  We are the bridge, the connection, the linkage between the here and there.  We are the support system, the belief, the drive, the focus.  Come to us with a dream and we will work to make it real.  We are here to piece together the puzzle of how you can Hike the Grand Canyon,  Climb your Everest, Complete your First Ironman, Take Part in an Adventure Race and a million more quests.

If you haven't heard us, I promise you will.

We are here to challenge the way the world thinks about Disability and Sport.  We are here to complete the sentence, with hope, with grace, with determination; How will you participate?.  And we would love your involvement.





Our first project is a team effort.  We are Thru-Running along the Avon trail.  This 110km footpath runs from St. Mary's to Conestogo.  Through city paths, rail trail, along roads, farmers fields and along edges of river, we will travel.  The group is dynamic and full of 'other'abled athletes, guide runners, ultra runners, trail runners, crew and support people too.  We start our expedition at stupid o'clock (5am EST) in St. Mary's on April 11 2015. Our estimated journey time is 17-20hours to completion.  Some are joining for the entire adventure, others for a leg or two, and some just to pop in and offer good cheer as we pass through.

Our hope with this, our first project, is to launch Envisions, with the message that anyone can take part, if given the right support.  If 10% of the world falls into the disabled demographic, a group that has no bias of age, gender, ethnicity or favourite jelly bean flavour, then why don't we see disability and sport in our every day?  This group has one other wonderful feature; it will welcome you at any time, for either an extended stay or a brief visit.

Think Envisions isn't about you?

Think again.

There are days I sit on my kitchen floor, hands wrapped around the steaming cup of thoughtful tea, and wonder... will this ever change things?  I ponder how the well intended bus drivers patronize me with sympathy the moment they recognize my disability.  I think about how the assistant at Union Station always takes me to the elevator and speaks louder to me when I've asked for help navigating across platforms.  I wonder as to why the teenagers on my street don't know what a white cane means.  I get lost in the dialogue of sports I can't play that are therefore 'off limits'.  I sit on the floor and listen to stories from other disabled people struggling to get to and from the gym to access the bicycle they've been granted a seat on.  In a world where trail running is my every day, but I refuse to grocery shop under the sun of mid day for fear of busy streets, I don't understand why we have to fight for the same simple rights of access to places and things that others enjoy daily.

Back to my question; Who are you?

When you hop on your bicycle, do you you think about how difficult that might be if you were missing a limb?  Or more importantly, missing the bike that accommodated for that difference?  When you drive to the trail for a run, do you think about the highway traffic and how you'd manage if you couldn't see enough to drive there or cross that road?  When you stand at the swim start of a triathlon, do you think about how you might not hear the other swimmers if your hearing was impaired?

Please join us, help us mix up the normal dialogue of disability and sport.  Volunteer your time, your skill, your hope, to help us create an awareness for the 'other'abled athletes out there.

Help us to Envision a new future, full of potential and accomplishment.

Hope to see you on the Avon Trail!!

www.envisionsproject.com

www.avontrail.ca/ThruRun/

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Dare To Believe...

The alarm clock jumps to life in the muted hush of my slumber.  It seems that stupid o'clock waits until just that moment when sleep has finally arrived, finally settled in, finally made friends with the dragons that keep me awake most nights.  The sharp undertones of my wake up call shout from mountains I haven't yet climbed. They squawk relentlessly into the stillness I've cocooned myself within.  This moment of my pre-choosing, this moment I dared to believe, dared to trust, that in fact, I am  capable of achieving my goals.  This moment I dared to believe that I was worth the try.

Yesterday's run clothes hang off the drying rack.  They look limp in the dark, hanging there lacking the incentive to rise up by themselves and dance into movement.  They mirror my insides.  My every fibre, as much in love with running as every other day, craves to retreat heartlessly back into my cocoon and shelter my soul from the harsh weather, the invisible ground I might tread.  I cannot seem to reach out to touch those garments hanging there.  Disdain for my lack of enthusiasm, simmering self loathing for my lack of relish of effort.

Effort.

Some days there is no place from which to retrieve this.

I reach instead for the kettle and the mug that sit in wait each night on my counter.  My eyes adjust to the LED luminescent glow of the heating water.  Breathing in life force, asking, no begging, the universe to lend me some driving force to settle into purpose. Steaming mug in hand, fingers intertwined around in a clutch that reminds me I have strength still.  Slowly, calculated manoeuvre, well practiced, I slid to the floor. My quiet, my peace, my happy place, my thinking space.  Here, eye level with my feet, I dare to dialogue with the what if's my spirit might bring forward.

What if I fail?

Failure according to whom?  To what standard?  Is showing up, trained and ready, prepared to give everything in spite of the odds, considered failure? I may tell myself that, but what would I preach to my children, so impressionable?  Is failure not more contained back under the warm linen? All cocooned in the ignorance that you could tolerate a life without this purpose?

What if I never improve?

Improve in what? Strength? Speed? Endurance? Patience?  Who's judging?  Well I am of course.  This is what you have a coach for. Let him do his job.  Trust in that.

What if it's not enough?

Enough?  Could you ever define what that might be?  Enough?  Can you imagine being more? Or less? Again, Who's judging?  Well me of course.

Tea half gone, stone cold, I put the mug back on the counter.  Pulling myself up off the floor reminds my every joint, ligament, muscle that stillness is not the way of life I choose. Yesterdays running clothes seem to wave in a wind I can't feel.  As if to say, Good morning runner.  Ha!  I do not deserve that title today I think.  Begrudgingly I pull them off the rack, pull them on.  Tossing aside my pjs, knowing there is no retreat from this.   Suunto in the window targeting a satelite that would record my stats, as poor as they might seem, for the entire world to read later.  Snow covered roads await.  Freezing temperatures tease through the walls of my apartment.  And my layers feel bulky around me.  I am transformed to a puffball marshmallow cross.  I am hopeful no one will notice my slow trudge out there this morning.

I wait as long as I can without suffering too excessive guilt.  Shout out several good mornings.  Notice how hearing someone else's voice can pick up my spirits, as if I'm not alone in it all.  Perhaps I'm not.  Perhaps belief is like that, some small thread that tethers us to each other.  Risking all failure, stagnant non growth and the likelihood that even if I am not ever enough, I must live with that too, I step out into the darkness of morning.

In the first 5km I have to walk three times.  I hear the whispers.  I hear the voices in my head.  I thought you were a runner?  Thought you'd accomplished great things?  I walked three times in the first 5km.  I choose in that moment not to keep this to myself.  This struggle, this pull to give in, this untimely unforgiveness for embracing a learning moment brings to me an awareness that I am not alone in that either.  Running in the cold is hard.  Walking in the cold, when dressed to run, is a hardship.  At the time I felt I deserved that discomfort.  Want to be warm?  Run.  My legs in revolt.  My lungs catching up.  My heart sobbing about the enough factor I had tried to leave behind on the kitchen floor.

The roads became busier. The day was winning the skyline.  The ground slipping into invisible, disappearing into the dare of desire.  Is that step road? Shoulder? Snow drift? Ditch beginning?  This struggle I knew. This was my disability surfacing, attempting to place itself in amongst the abled 'runner' genre.  I braved a road crossing to switch things up.  Sometimes a change of scenery makes the world feel new again.  I took a road I'd never touched, alone, solo, frozen day, invisible feet along a sleeping country road.  Risking failure. Gambling improvement. Tempting enough.

I passed a road closed sign.  Paid no heed.  There were still tire ruts under my toes.  I felt them.  Come this way love, they spoke.  Follow.  I did.  Trusting the solid feeling they offered.  Up over a hill I didn't know was there, one I couldn't see on the horizon.  But when I was on the top?  Breath taking frozen world in every direction.  On the wind I smelled breakfasts, heard alarms, rushed lives, all missing this. Invisible frozen world, waking up all around you.  Then the road ended.  I'm certain it wasn't always like that.  It was there one minute.  Gone the next.  Tire ruts misplaced.  Perception of this world again shifted.

Funny how I missed when the run became easier.  Funny how I skipped the overcoming of my fear.  Funny how I jumped from the hill top to the end of the road.  Funny how I don't remember the farmers fields lining the road thinning out.  Funny this feeling of my toes hanging off the edge of the road, my known world.  Staring into the abyss of what if's in front of me.

A 100 miles is my goal.  I have been here before, but not like this.  Not under threat of a 30 hour cut off.  Not with the weight of disappointing such a friend caught in my chest.  Toes hanging off the edge of the road.  Directionally challenged.  Or, challenging my direction?  Trusting in movement.  Trusting in my training.  Trusting in my coach.  Trusting in my shoes.  The earth felt empty in the next step.  Construction lives here.  I felt that.  My soul resonants with the same metronome.  Under construction.  Attempts at growth.  Daring to get up off the kitchen floor.

Daring to believe in my goal.  Daring to trust that I am enough.  Daring to know failure inside and out.

Daring to love myself anyway.

Construction.

I could not tell you what was ahead of me on that land, where the road ended so abruptly.  I turned around, headed back another way.  Sometimes in life you must take the long way around to get where you so desire to be.  I ended up running through a school zone at drop off time.  My heart cried at the din, the confusion, the chaos.  My insides clawing at the edges of my tolerance for it all.  The comings, the goings, the rushing.  Trusting the earth to carry me through safely.  crossing guards I couldn't see, blowing whistles, waving orders.  They don't know I can't see them.

Why should they?  I'm not displaying my disability for them.  I'm just running.  Suddenly craving to hang my toes off the edge of the world again.  Anything except traversing through this.  Think I held my breath for three blocks.  Praying I'd live to run another day.  School buses thundering by.  Funny how I'd been sitting on the kitchen floor talking myself into this run and already I'm craving the next.

I found my turn.  Headed home.  Back to the warmth of my safe space.  My little cocoon of a world where the disability I try so blatantly to disregard can roam free.  Where the coming apart is akin to the piecing back together.  Strip off the layers of run clothes, hang them up on the rack to dry again.  They seem to wave in a breeze I cannot feel.  They seem to tease me with tales from the edge of the world.  They seem to taunt with pestering questions; what adventure will we take tomorrow blind runner?

And again, I dare to believe.... and set my alarm once more.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What makes a runner...

It's funny, this addiction we have to definitions. How do you define what it is to be a runner? How many times have you justified saying 'I'm not a real runner' with some qualifier? 

Oh I don't run fast. I don't run often. I don't run long in poor weather. I don't run before coffee or after work. 

As if the noun declares a particular ambience, or quiet adherence to its Webster tales. As if you are bound to its grip hold on your heart like a vow you took on some track in high school, down on one knee.... 

Repeat after me:

I am a runner.

Let it be enough to know that. Believe in yourself enough to let go of the rest. Expectations of some strict definition is a terrifying way to live. Lace your shoes. Brave your fears. Take to the trail, the road, the mill. Breathe in the cause and effect of making the decision to be here now. Perhaps this is mindfulness?

Running contains no guilt. It doesn't scold or patronize. Perhaps it isn't always patient. Granted it has lessons to teach. However, in the passing of your feet over the earth, through the seasons, in the chaos, or in the quiet, it merely creates an undercurrent to life.

I am a runner. 

Today I am a runner because I know my heart has far too many cracks to chase itself out from the rocks I'm surrounded by. Today I am a runner because the coffee was hot enough to create a want to wrap my hands around the mug as if in some sweet lingering embrace. Today I am a runner because the sun sleeps and I am up kissing the moon good night. Today I am a runner because I am hopeful it will inspire sleep tonight. 

Today I am a runner because there are so many parts of me that don't believe it's true. Because this is how we redefine ourselves, how we create change in our lives, how we flush out the drifting and steer for a while. Today I am a runner. Not because it's a good day to run, not because I'm fast, or feeling the need for a run. 

Today I am a runner simply because, well I choose to be. 

Today, what will you choose?

Much love,
rm

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Running loves you back

It's true that there are moments in a runners life where we feel the struggle, the weight of effort that running requests. It's also true that at other times the pure and simple joy of the run itself, the landscape, the escape, the outlet, the company are all encompassing.  The run can lift us up, carry us away to the most spectacular vistas, the most amazing life changing trails, or the most musically attuned forest canopy. Sometimes the day is just right, the shoes shiver with excitement about the adventure ahead like the over enthusiastic about to be walked puppy tremor aching for release. The sun rise screams good morning, wraps you up in what little warmth an Ontario early November winter offers. The sky whispers come hither runner... Bring your soul so we might dance a while along the way. The clouds set a tempo in your toe, deep within your slow twitch muscle. And the karma of want matches desire to change your own world, one step, one stride at a time. Running helps you overcome the edges of doubt that creep in over time. It grants you space to be just you, exposed to the universe for all the beauty and splendour that we each are. This seemingly selfish place, where the mood is intoned in self care, self preservation and hope, belief for better or at least balance... Is where I am completely certain; Running Loves You Back. 

Running has few demands. It is nearly unconditional with its affection. It's affair with your spirit lasts a life time, long after the mud in your treads dries and cakes out onto the mat, well past when the headlamp has recharged, the drop bag unpacked, and your run pics have been posted online as a declaration of your presence with it.  Running loves you in the quiet, before the alarm shatters your dreams, pursauding you to make them reality. It hovers in the luminescent glow of the stove range light as you stumble through the dim in search of your gear. It rings in your ears with the sounds of your choice inspiring music or merely in the soft wake up calls of the brave birds who toughed out the snow.  The city wakes around you, the run whispers go easy, we have all day my friend. We skip too many moments of this passionate embrace with ourselves, with all the possible, all the hopeful, all our becomings. The run tethers us to the moment as much as it sets us free. It creates a hyper awareness of our need to let go. Running loves you back when your head is full, empty, twisted or contemplative. 

And yes, running demands attention. Focused effort to get out the door and make the attempt, but also aggressive struggle in the maintenance of stretching and rest. Running rewards good behaviour like a kindergarten teacher, offers treats and gold stars for follow through. The warm coffee at the end, the hot shower and lazy clothes, the quiet company of a well spent afternoon on a long meandering trail. The sleepy haze that overtakes too early in the evening, the careful absentminded wash and dry of tomorrow's clothes, laid out to run again. As if there was no question, as if you and the run know, we meet almost every day. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Right to my heart. This running thing, the strongest pull, my most affectionate lover, my most needy friend, my desperate want to please and my ongoing attempt to stand up and deny my definition within its genre. Running loves you back, waits for your return, calls your name at night under the starry sky. Running, as selfish as it is... Knows every nook and crack in my soul and provides the plaster, the mortar, to rebuild, redefine, and carry on... 

So today, spend some time loving the runner in you... 

Much love, 
rm

Monday, October 13, 2014

In Search of my GRR Face

What are you known for?  When people speak about you, what do they centre their discussions around?  Your occupation?  Your family?  Your education?  Your kind spirit?  You genuine skill at .... running? Swimming? Dancing? Cycling?  What are you known for?

I've been treading water in this question for a while.  What am I known for?  I'm not sure of the answer, but I can tell you what I'd like to be known for;  Showing up, giving my everything, being helpful, creating awareness, and always, always working towards creating some optimistic change in the world.

Lately, given our 900km trek down the Bruce Trail, I think I'm known best for running.  (or maybe being the most stubborn person you've ever met)  Yes I do run, rather slowly, typically behind you, and with a quiet determination that rings in my soul for the world to know that disabled athletes are here.  I also knit... and cook... and bravely walk the sidewalk-less strip of road to my office.  And once in a while, I think ... the struggle of being disabled in everyday life is enough, why demonstrate it in sport?

Strip me down to my bare human bones and we are not the same.  None of us are.  Sure we all have a set of similarities that groups us together as a species.  I'll give you evolution.  However, it is in difference that we find similarities.  The 'disability' is a difference.  It creates the similarities upon which the mainstream society has built their world.   My everyday manoeuvring through mainstream obstacles is a blatant demonstration of the struggle.

Oddly, however, I don't think my message would travel far if the only struggle I illustrated was my frustration at being unable to read the ice cream signs at Kawartha Diary. Single scoop of vanilla in a waffle cone please?  Why?  Because everyone has vanilla, and I don't need to read the signs for that.

I am blessed to have amazing friends.  Amazing, brave friends, willing to place their needs and vulnerabilities aside to take my arm and help me participate in the other worldly.  I say other worldly, because, lets face it, swimming 13km in open water, spending 20 days on trail, or crawling through muddy sewage pipes isn't exactly in the everyday experience.

Friday morning, some of these amazing friends jumped in the car and swept me off to New Jersey.  Tri-State Tough Mudder was calling.  Why travel so far for a 10 mile race?  It's true, in the ultra running world the race you run should be longer than the drive you take to get there.  Well guess what?  This isn't ultra running... and honey... we aren't in Kansas anymore...

Saturday morning, just past stupid o'clock we were standing in the rain meeting the other half of the team.  All assembled and standing in the rain; Patrick, David, Solo, Pam, Michael, Aaron, Lisa and myself.  Skilled handed picked for the day.  History with the race, history with the genre, history with a camera, history with the overcoming, history with guiding and friendship.  Everyone of us with a thirst to stand up tall and say we are here to do this, to open this door to obstacle racing to those with disability.  And Tough Mudder welcomed us.  No they didn't clear away the mud.  No they didn't turn the voltage down on the Electric Shock therapy.  No they didn't make anything special.  And in so doing, they made everything special.  Truth be told a Tough Mudder was tough for everyone.  Each person standing at the start line there to overcome something.  Pam and I here for our own over comings.

Each obstacle that was presented to us was a mindful metaphor for me.  Hoist yourself up over an eight foot wall just to get to the start line.

My take away?  Yes you need to get over yourself.  Friends and strangers make that far easier than going it alone.

They called this a 'runnable' course.  I assume because of it's lack of a ski hill.  The extra mud in the cold wet rain made up for that.  Good thing we had some runnable sections in between obstacles to warm up a bit.  The Mud Mile came quickly to us on course; ditches dug in the road and filled with thick heavy mud mounds four feet tall, between each a trench of up to waist deep muddy water.

My take away?  It's a slippery slope overcoming a piece of yourself, and likely on the other side... there are more slippery slopes.  The ruts in between are not a good place to stop.  Keep moving.  Keep going, until you find solid ground again.  And also, always turn around to help someone else pull themselves out  We are all different, but we are all in this together.

Some of the ups and downs on course were so slippery I tried sliding down them on my ass.  Yeah... ouch.... Never willingly give up your footing.  Wait until it's stolen from you.  I held Aaron's hand and we ran.  And yes, yes I did scream like a girl.

Under cargo nets in the forest, military crawling 100 ft through mud under a net.  People in front, people behind.  And me, completely stuck between.  There is no out.  There is only forward.  Encouraging words in front and behind.  And me singing... Just a small town girl.... fist full of mud... Living in a lonely world.... Wait... it's not lonely here.

My take away?  When you are low, you are likely not alone.  Look around.  We are all in the struggle.  Keep moving.

Tough Mudder embraces your discomfort.  In fact I think if we all trekked through their course with grins and no squirming, they'd just make it harder.  The Arctic Enema presented itself.  I'd been dreading this.  A dumpster full of ice water with a plywood board in the middle you had to swim under to exit the other side.  Handing my glasses off was very hard.  Exposed. Hands outstretched.  Feeling for my way in the dark (of course it was in the bright)... Into the intensely cold water, forward  to  touch the board.  Impossible to take that deep breath need to dive as it was far too cold.  Under and out.  Under and through.  Under into the unknown.  Letting go of my want to know. Releasing my need to know.  Control gone.  My only control in my reaction.

My take away?  Vision isn't a sense.  It is a means to think you know something. And somethings demand to be known in far different ways.  You cannot prepare for everything.  All you can do is take belief of better along for the ride.

We ran towards Everest.  This half pipe wall with entrance carrels like a fair ride.  Guides talking, team deciding the best approach.  And me watching.   Everest was white.  Or at least it was to me.  The bodies of the mudders contrasting against it's backdrop.  The slipping, the sliding back down, the chaos of bodies along the top, standing like a wall of authority and aid.  The push of sure will driving the mudders up... the hope filled we can do this together making them stop atop to hold out a hand to their followers.  Aaron asks do you want to try this?   All of my ultra running in my head, never ask if you want to, you are in the race now.

My intention pushes me forward.  My inhibitions hold me back.  My perspective is the quarter toss in the air.  I know that moment I start running I'd lose the hands outstretched up top.  I know I'd lose my team mates below.  I know none of that matters anyway.  I feel the mudders as though they are a mantra... we help you, you will help us too.  So I run, reaching up into the bright abyss above, hopeful some stranger might heave me up.  I know solo is  up there somewhere, but whether or not I"m aiming for her.....

Arms pull me up. Arms make this passing possible.  Arms embracing my attempt.  Arms I'm grateful for.  Intention wins.

My take away?  Letting go of what you can't live with is always necessary.  Letting go of potential is never an option.  See it through, follow the course, no easy out.  Always reach for assistance when things get tough. You're almost there.

Walk the Plank towered ahead.  Ladders up I'm guessing 20 feet.  Again glasses handed off.  Aaron on the ladder beside.  Solo promising to call from the other side.  Patrick in the water first in case.  I ask how many seconds of fall?  How many strokes to the wall?  We listen while the people in front fall, 2 seconds.  We listen as they swim... 10-15 seconds.  Towards my name.  Just fall and head towards my name.  How hard is that?  20 feet above the world.  My makeshift mountain.  My ungraceful world teetering below.  My every fear of heights close by.  Noise everywhere.  Vision no where.  Just down and swim.  Towards my name.  Wonder if I remember my name after falling so far?

The falling... impossible to know when water is coming.  Impossible to judge how long to hold my breath for.  Impossible to know where Aaron will be once I'm submerged.  The falling.  The falling away.  The falling apart.  Ever change your mind sixty times in two seconds?  Ever felt as though two seconds was sixty years?  Ever wonder.... SPLASH....  okay swim... no wait.. my name?  Aaron finds me.  I hear my name.  Four swim strokes I'm there.  Up the cargo net and out.

My take away?  Just because you can't see your next step doesn't mean you shouldn't take it.  It merely suggests you will need to trust the ground will present itself.  Ohhhh and gravity is a mean bitch.  I learned that too.

It started raining again.  The wind picked up.  I got cold.  Don't remember ever being this cold.  Shivering and shaking.  Unable to talk.  Can we run?  I was given a hat and extra shirt from Solo.  I skipped the monkey bars I knew I'd fall off into the water.  If only because I was so cold.  It was ONLY ten miles and here I was wavering on the edge of needing a fire and the end.  Only is such a primitive word...

My take away?  The obstacles themselves are not the only thing you'll have to overcome in your life.

There had been some discussion of the Human Pyramid.  Should we attempt this?  The team was debating how.  Seemed logical enough put the tough guys on the bottom... Sorry Patrick, sorry David... and push the girls up to the top.  The wall itself on an angle and so slippery... three bodies tall.  Patrick got a few up and then slid down.  Let me try. I think he thought I was crazy.  Brace my feet.  I propped against his foot.  And people climbed up.  Knees on my shoulders.  Shoes digging in my shins.  Some small, some not at all.  And me, grinning at this.  My pay back for the day.  My boost.  My tomorrow bruises.  I laid there long enough the team grew weary.  So I clambered up.  That's a lie, I was pushed up.  There's no such thing as an inappropriate touch today.

My take away?  I always have something to give.  Stop underestimating myself.

There was a stretch we were instructed to carry our teammates on our backs.  Aaron carried me.  And I spent these 30 seconds apologetic for my breakfast.  At the switch he hesitated.  Aaron, my friend, you got me here... let me carry you a few feet.  Unbelieving, we managed it.  Together we managed it.  I looked forward to see my team all there waiting.  We race together. Clock turned off.

My take away?  Burdens are only as heavy as you let them be.  And friendship is NEVER a burden.

The Sewage Pipe found us. It found me in my biggest fear today.  Willingly crawling under barbed wire to enter the dark muddy pipe that ascended up hill for maybe 20 feet and emptied 5 feet above a muddy trench.  I made the mistake of not handing over my glasses.  Aaron went first.  Patrick behind.  My own personal body guards.  In under the wire.  Nope, get lower... that stuff is sharp.  Crawling forward. Pushing forward.  And darkness.  Turn onto your back and pull up with the rope. Aaron calling to keep moving.  Patrick inspiring below.  And me, nearly lost in fear of dark closed spaces.  Overcoming some old piece of me decades old.  At the top I sat and looked down.  Aaron at the bottom treading water asking me to pass my glasses down.  Hugging the pipe, leaning off the edge, holding on.  The holding on, before the letting go.  In the pipe to my right a mudder named Shane emerged.  Looked down and asked do we just fall?  I'm not sure I can just fall?  Shane, I shook his hand, me neither.  Lets go together he says.  and we do.  Hand releasing from the rough metal pipe edges. ego still clinging to the hope that we hadn't actually done that.  And the fall, again the fall.  But backwards this time. Once the water graced my entry I was worried I wouldn't find the surface.  Disoriented from the backwards bit.  But thankfully gravity pushed me up.  Swim to my name again.

My take away?  We all have identities, even in the deep dark places.  We are all the same in our difference, only we are here for very different reasons.

I found Shane again on the top of the exit cargo net, or rather he found me.  We hugged and I thought carry on distance solider.

Lots more mud, lots and lots more mud... and the ending... the finale.. the dreaded Electric Shock Therapy.  Standing there taking it in you could hear the snaps as the wires attacked the other passing mudders.  Snap.. Rhonda there's muddy hay we SNAP have to jump SNAP SNAP SNAP over once we are in there.  Patrick is lost to me.  Solo missing too.  David tells me he's earned his keep on this on already.  SNAP SNAP .... I link his arm... and whisper an inaudible pled to come through again.  Aaron is waiting for my girl tantrum to pass.  There is nothing appealing about running 20 feet through hanging charged wires.  SNAP!  Oh god.. are you ready??? SNAP SNAP...

And in we run.  Okay it's more of a delicate rush than a run.  And first shock was, well shocking.  Gravity, I'm sure was standing aside laughing as we travelled through.  How do you like me now Gravity was asking... SNAP SNAP... oh my god... that is my snap, my body shaking, my everything vibrating with a SNAP SNAP... jump over the hay, fall in the mud... Get up Rhonda... SNAP... make it stop.. SNAP SNAP...  Aaron grabs my arm and pulls, literally drags me out.  Am I that fallen?  SNAP... maybe I'm dreaming.  Maybe I'm lost in hallucinations along some trail at 3am.  Maybe this is just a mind trick of staying on my feet.  SNAP...

and we are out.  I fall on my back never so grateful to just be still.

My take away?  Life is about a feeling.  And I am a good conductor.

Too often we tune out, turn off and coast.  A mudder doesn't coast.  A mudder stands up and shows up and gives everything.  A mudder pulls everyone through, gets pulled through and smiles at the end.  A mudder is an identity, a subset of the other world I have come to love.  A mudder will hose you off in your underthings surrounded by 100's of other mudders, all shivering and hoping they aren't too late to sign up again next year.

Life is about a feeling.  Life is about what you make it.  Life is embracing the unknown.  Life is chasing down your dreams, even the really really shockingly scary ones.

And I am a good conductor.

THANK YOU TRI-STATE TOUGH MUDDER!!! thank you for welcoming us and our team.

Thank you team!! I love you all for your bravery and guts.  I love you for pushing and pulling me.  I love you for not judging me or my underthings in the aftermath. I love you for not looking at me as disabled, but as a potential Mudder.  I love you for sharing the day in the shivering muddy cold.

Much love,
rm

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chasing the Coyote

I have run twice with the coyotes.  I remember in the spring, after such a long cold winter, the hungry pack loved myself and another lady or two running the local trails at night.  I remember rushing through the bush to make the road.  I remember thinking.... Man I don't have as much tough stuff as these coyotes do.

I've since spent a good deal of time attempting to find my tough stuff.  Or my "brave pants" as I affectionately call them.  I have tried.... hard pressed, to be the chaser, rather than the chased.

It's a lot like following a guide runner really.

Sept 27 2014 and I find myself in Mono Cliffs.  Scott and I driving towards the race parking.  I feel familiar road.  I feel turns I have turned before.  I feel guard rails that tempt you to remain safe and sound on the right side of the road.  I have been here before.  My Bruce trail senses tingling.  On the right, a stile.  Standing alone in the tree line.  You likely missed it, looking carefully at the road ahead. That path you are intended to follow.  Trails are like that... hidden in the side field of vision that you miss if you are focused ahead.  Trails are like that.  Hidden, yet offering.


The start line.  I haven't seen one of these in many a moon.  Not one I intended to line up at anyway.  Eager spirits.  Happy faces.  Dreams ahead.  Doubts behind.  Runners.  The lot of them.  And me. present and accounted for.  Along the side trails of the Bruce, the dreaded blue blazes we so carefully avoided in August.  Not that I cared much.  Benefits of being colourblind.  

Some spoke to me before the event began.  I got the course description from about three different people.  Careful what you tell me... I may remember.  Up and right and through the fields, up the stairs and around the top, down the valley and straight on into the finish.  Finish.  They say that word like it means something.  Like its a permanent fixture of any race.  The finish.  

How about the next beginning?

I am honoured to send the sprint distance racers off and running.  Thank you Jodi and Norm for that brief moment in time to stand and shout about living your dreams out loud.  Hopefully I heard myself.  I have a lot of living my dreams out loud ahead.  Where did I put those brave pants?  

The challenge runners chase after them with such delight.  Something about orange flags.  Or was that green?  Blue??  I should really pay attention.  

Scott guiding along the up.  There's a lot of up at the start.  Not that it was high, or hard, or long.  Just up.  Rhonda loves to climb.  Slow and steady.  Crowd thins out.  Time chasers in front.  I'm happiest on a quiet trail anyway.  I hear my instructions... root, rock left... And I hear the girls behind, why is he doing that?  I had forgotten my blind runner bib.  My biggest disguise on today.  You think I'm a runner.  Ha!



We jog. we shuffle.  We come across a runner on the ground.  Patti.  She accepts help for her ankle.  And I am so relieved to have been removed from the expectation of my own race. Which up until this point I felt wasn't going well.  I loved the trail, loved the atmosphere,  and hated the self imposed "race" in my heart.  Happy to step out.  Happy to return to my joys in life.  Patti and I walked and ran and sent Scott ahead to let them know we were coming.  Not sure she knew I had no clue where we were headed.  There was trail under foot.  And I loved that.  Wait, Orange flags?  Did they say orange?  Have you been watching?  Oh dear.  

After a time Scott found us again. After a bit more time and a lot of stairs Patti made the hardest decision we ever have to face.  DNF... It haunts us in our training runs.  We feel unstoppable until... Every lesson learned comes with a price.  I hope the runner in her feet remembers to thank her later for being so wise, when most of us would have ignored the signs.  I sent her back with Scott and found myself alone.

Briefly.

Bruce... do you remember me?  




To hide the 'missing' in my heart, I turn some music on my phone.  No head phones they said.  So random notes playing through the forest.  

And I let go......

Come hell or high water... today I was running.  Orange flags?  I didn't care.  Sorry Norm.  Sorry Jodi.  Course or not.. I was running.  If you know anything about me, about this girl I try so hard to be... Rarely, do I run.  But here, on this single track, down that technical rock, over those scattered intertwined roots,  I ran.  Full out.  Ran.  Brave pants buckled tightly.

Scott caught up.  I begged to stay in front.  That has to be hard.  Watching someone you care for take on so much risk.  Stepping back and letting them fail on their own.  Running never loved me so much.  Out of breath.  Out of steam.  Over the rocks.  Over the roots.  Around the bend.  The sun speckling through the branches.  Stealing my trail.  Gone... left? right?? Straight?  Too fast for slow decisions.  Trust the universe to make the right call.  Movement.  And the race outside of that.  Grateful it brought me here.  Grateful it shared this piece of earth with me.  

Down the hill, down the gravel.  That girl at the start said let go here.  So I did.  And man did it hurt when I fell.  Sometimes you run.  Sometimes you fall.  Every time... you stand up. Never stay down.  That's just what they expect you to do.  

Race done and over, I got to watch awards.  I loved that part.  Laughing inside at all the attempts to race.  And me.. just out for a run.  So many amazing people around me.  So many heartfelt efforts.  So many inspiring souls.  In this place.  Along the tree line, you may have missed if you just drove past.  

Always take the time to look for the stile off to the side.  Always look for the running shoes in the mud.  Always chase your coyote.  Find one so big it scares your pants off. 

Thank you CHASE THE COYOTE... for welcoming us here to enjoy this wonderful day in September along these beautiful trails. 




Friday, September 12, 2014

Underfoot in Haliburton Forest

Sometimes you spend abstract time in your own little world.  Sometimes you linger a little longer among the happy moments you remember.  Sometimes ... you simply wish you could embrace the letting go of a step or stage in your life.

Saying adieu to the Bruce Trail has been like that.  It's wakes me up at night, calling on the breeze, reaching out on the moon.  The forest, the rock, the escarpment... whisper, we are about to sleep, winter's coming, you've left us and we are about to sleep, and you are missing our goodnight.

Sure I've been running.  Some of it trail, familiar trail, close to home.  Happy to know what's underfoot.  Happy to reconnect with my memorized steps here and there.  Happier still to be surprised by a subtle change here and there; a foot bridge changed, a tree fallen over, a toe catcher root that finally gave up the good fight and split allowing the safe passage of the next generation of runners.   Some of my running on road, in the quiet hush of stupid o'clock, before the danger of traffic becomes impassible.  There are routes I'd happily take when the sun is hidden.  There are roads I'd cross while the real world sleeps.  I went for a lunch hour run the other day under overcast skies, surprised by the sun sparkling its way through and quickly realized that not only had I forgotten my hat, but also my guide runner.  Oh how I miss you all!

This past weekend I got to breathe you all in.  I got to share space under your ambition while you all chased your dreams in Haliburton Forest.  Oh the subtle aroma of the ultrarunner!  Oh the looks of determination mixed with interspersed exhaustion!  Oh the blisters!  The ITbands!  The aches and pains, the random hunger pains, the smiles, the tears,..... and the running.  

My massage table suffered such confusion under tarp city in Aid Station two.  Never before have I let it out in the wild.  Never before has it felt the pine needle showers when the wind blows.  Never before has it looked so dam good beside a lake.  Here, I found some peace.  My misery over leaving the long meandering Bruce Trail stepped aside so I could breathe.  It wasn't my journey, but I was so so happy to watch you all on yours.  Every step with purpose, every step with determination, every step with the want you've filled your year chasing.  I watched in amazement as my son finished his first trail race, all covered in mud, smiling bigger than ever.

I was lucky enough to break in the afternoon and take to the trail.  This time I brought my trusty guide runner, Steven Parke, and my hat.  This time I was ready.  Unfamiliar trail underfoot.  Happiest feet ever, dancing along the sand, then the rocks, the grooves, the ruts, the roots.  Freedom is the most beautifully freeing thing.  Feeling the trees breathing in, gulping down the energy from the optimism of the runners.  Feeling them returning it just as quickly, as if to feed the runners, fuel them forward.  They've seen you all before. They told me tales of the years you've been through here.  How you start so quickly, how you pass by four times, how your gait changes as your feet tire, how you make so much noise at night when the bears are close. 

We passed through six steps of technical trail.  Six small steps.  Interwoven mud with splattering roots and rocks, downhill and a small right turn, camber to the right.  Did you feel that Steven?  I asked my guide... You've missed your trail I think, he said.  How much you learn to love the things that drive you crazy with frustration, the things that slowed your steps, that focused your concentration.... I am grateful he didn't judge my tears.  Six small steps along an unfamiliar trail.  Just six.  Truth in six small steps of technical underfoot.  A lifetime ahead and so many more steps to come.

We looped around to Aid Station three.  They cheered us on.  I laughed.  No I'm not awesome. Just out for a run.  Wait. There it is again.  This simple thing we too often take for granted.  I can't just up and do this whenever I want.  I need help.  I forget sometimes that I am different. I wonder how many people do too.  But I am.  I can't just take to any trail and run.  Thank you Steven. You didn't come to Haliburton for me I know, you came to pace through the night for Scott on quest for his 20th 100miler. And yet you took time.  Thank you every guide runner who ever braved my horrible singing along the trail.  Just out for a run.  Freedom is the most beautifully freeing thing.  

You can't celebrate every moment.  Or at least we aren't practiced at it.  So I took the time to jump in the lake.  Across from the place my Aid Station waited.  Cooled off in that moment.  Knew there were so many of you out running in this heat, chasing a goal, not stopping for anything.  Knew I wasn't.  You can't celebrate every moment, maybe... but I'm celebrating this one.  After that a wonderful volunteer offered a towel.  We passed a racer on the road.  He cheered us on too.  Said we looked great.  Asked how far we were going today.  I said 5 miles?  I said YOU ARE AWESOME!  go chase your quest... I'm bound to see you later.  Even the forest road hummed with all your footfalls.  It quivered from excitement over so many visitors.  The tree line offered shade.  The sun was high.  The day was, well perfect.  It stank of hope and attempt.  It felt almost like intruding on your space to enjoy this run.  I soaked it up.  Grateful for the ground underfoot.

With my amazing team of volunteers, I got to spend the afternoon and night watching you all come through.  My children feed you and watered you.  They moved me, each time they looked ahead and thought of needs before I could suggest. They made me proud.  They were lost in this race, this forest, this place we all come home to.  I call them my team at Aid Station Two.  But in truth they were a team long before I jumped on the boat.  I'm so grateful for them too, welcoming me, having me, making space for me.  I managed to keep my eyes open and focused until about 6am.  Thankful for a ride back to my bed, I rested until I got to witness a few wonderful finishes.  

I am so so proud of you all.  You all smell really bad though, ps.  And your dreams rub off on all of us who get to watch.   I cannot imagine what it takes to get through that task.  I cannot fathom the follow through to see it done.  You are all amazing.  You crazy ultrarunners.  

You stand as tall as the trees here.  You are as supportive as the ground underfoot, where dreams come true, in Haliburton forest.  

See you next year???

much love,
rm