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.


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.


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,

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, 

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,

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.


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,

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Until death do us part....

The runner I claim not to be, with such relentless force, emerged this morning.  It jumped out of bed with the alarm.  It sang in my throat "It's stupid o'clock!!!! get up get up or you'll miss it!!!'

Of course, it forgot I couldn't exactly jump.  Yet.  Of course, it forgot that recovery is part of being a runner too.  It forgot to listen yesterday when I promised we would try and run Friday.  Of course, like a kid on Christmas eve, it forgot to care what I thought, how I felt, or my opinion of any of it.  It took off, down the stairs (again forgetting I still need a railing) and barrelled into the living room looking for gifts to unwrap... or perhaps relatively clean running shoes.

How do you conquer 20 days and 900kms of running?

I have no idea.  Slowly.  Apparently.  And with great external force to motivate you.  Waking up every day surrounded by a team of support, encircled by belief beyond your own, with friends, strangers, and family all set on one train of thought.... makes the difference.

To my guides, please hear me.....

Thank you for making every step possible.  Thank you for making the invisible, visible.  Thank you for tolerating my off key rendition of the first line of every 80's song you've ever heard.  And for not telling anyone I fart a lot when I run.  Or that at 9:00am every day I seemed doomed to pee on my shoes incapable of holding a proper supportive pee squat.  Thank you for your laughter, your smiles, your endearing kindness, and your jerkiness.  Thank you for making me run.  It is my firm belief that running 100 miles is one thing, and staying attentive and articulate about every potential obstacle for 50 km or 14 hours, is entirely a different thing.  Thank you. You Are Amazing.  Thank you for telling people we ran, when mostly we hobbled, shuffled and crawled.  Thank you for making sure I stayed awake, got through each day, and went to bed on time.

To my crew, please listen.....

Without you Don, I would never ever have made it 10km along the Bruce Trail.  I call him the Baconator.  He is the king of getting the job done.  Always prepared.  Always on time.  Always anticipating my mood, my cravings, my needs.  He is the most caring and forgiving person I have ever met.  I love him to pieces.  Forever.  I'm sad to not see him every day.  I'm thankful I will see him again at his faithful post at aid station two in Haliburton Forest.

To everyone else who came out for a few minutes, a few hours, a few days.  To those who brought hugs and bacon and salt and coffee and donuts.  To those who knew that just seeing a person from outside the  bubble.... Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

To my online community....

You are wonderful.  Everyday I would get messages and texts and emails sending support.  You picked me up when I was at my lowest.  Your hope and belief carried me through some of the darkest times I have ever, ever seen.  Thank you for believing in me, for believing in this goal.  I got up each day, looked in the mirror and asked myself "why am I here?".  Never once did that answer fail me.  I always knew it was for purpose, it was to see it through, send out the message, which was always greater than me or my aches and pains.

To my family.... (those tied by DNA and those who adopted me... and those I bullied into being members)

Never, ever forget how much I love you all.  Thank you for supporting the craziest things I've done.  Thank you for watching me struggle and knowing you might not be able to make it go away, but never walking away.  Thank you for tolerance, for patience, for kindness, for guidance, and for allowing me the freedom to fail. And mostly for loving me for no apparent reason. Even when I smell.

To the run in us all...

I may greet you a little slowly, tentatively, carefully over the next few weeks... so that neither of us get hurt. So that neither of us say something we will regret.  Please know I respect you and all you have given me.  I love the way you make me crave movement in my legs, in my soul.  I love the way you crank my heart into overdrive without much warning.  I love your impatience, your relentless temptation, your exquisite flirtations.  I love your quirky giving tan lines, your aromatherapy, your senseless disregard for socially appropriate behaviour.  I love your get up and go, your forgiving walks, your crawling ups and sliding downs.  I love your fifteen second trail dance parties.  I love your tree swinging, mud slinging, puddle jumping, falling in love with yourself again and again moments.  I love that I can share you, endlessly, without falling victim to jealousy and envy.  I adore that I find you when I'm tiptoes happy and buried in darkest sad.  With excitement I find you on top of the highest escarpments and in the lowest valleys.  You are under waterfalls, hidden in the dead pine forests, strung along the rivers edge and among the rock face ruins of yesteryear.  I love you before, after and during 900kms.  I loved you before we met.  I love you after you've left.

Dear run, I love that you are mine and I am yours... forever... until death do us part.

much love,
your rm

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wrap up bruce trail

Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 19 wrap up

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day 16 escarpment