But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand
Mumford & Sons, Timshel
I cannot think about what happened for 27 hours and 29 minutes of my life on February 6th, 2016 without tearing up. I feel like I’m carrying this delicate little butterfly in the palm of my hand and if I squeeze too tightly it will crumble into nothingness. Because it all still feels like a hazy dream. And I want to be careful with it–to not forget any precious detail, to not unknowingly add in things that didn’t really happen–but to hold on to this butterfly carefully and admire it from a distance.
Its wings are fluttering, telling the story from when it wasn’t even within my sight–just a thought floating in my head, sometime after my 52.4 mile race when my heart whispered to me–you could try to run 100 miles. To the moment it appeared and I reached out to touch it–when I said the words out loud to others: I’m going to try to run 100 miles and my hands shook as I signed up for the race. I chased the butterfly throughout my months of training–visualizing the finish line, allowing the fear, doubt and worry to become part of the journey but also the glimmer of hope that I could do this. And to the moment when I grabbed a hold of it–when I realized I was going to cross the finish line. It happened somewhere in the 80th mile–maybe it was when the sun came up and I could see I made it through the night. Maybe it was when I realized I only had 4 miles to go–it was somewhere in there when I was reborn–and the beating of my heart told me: You.Did.It.
It’s still alive in my hand, wings fluttering ever so gently. I know it’s going to go away soon. Because dreams don’t stay forever. And the moment I crossed the finish line, was the moment I knew I found the ending to my story. With the help of others, I can do hard things.
Running 100 miles seems like it would be a lot about self-discovery. But I found out less about me and more about the people around me.
Human kindness is how I would describe this 100 mile race.
And I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand what happened during these 100 miles–the genuine kindness of others, my softened and hopeful heart, being full of fear, but being led by a Being greater than I can ever comprehend, who told me, just try– and trust that no matter what the outcome was, His plan is perfect and I have lessons to learn.
You know some people they just won’t understand
No they just won’t understand
Thank you for your message but I don’t understand
No I just won’t understand
With each gift that you share
You may heal and repair
With each choice you make
You may help someone’s day
Well I know you are strong
May your journey be long
And now I wish you the best of luck
Xavier Rudd, Messages
My heart will be forever grateful for the volunteers who did everything they could to help me–duct taping my heel when I realized the tendon wasn’t feeling right, getting me the highest calorie food they could when they learned I hadn’t been eating enough and was getting dizzy, opening my drop bag and searching for the non-existent glove that I thought was there but was lost somewhere in the 20 mile loop–never expressing frustration at me for wasting their time. Every time I saw their lights, heard the music of the aid station, and saw them gather to cheer each one of us who came running up–I felt like I could just burst into tears, and sometimes I did–thankful for their support and genuine desire to help a stranger chase down a dream. I’ve never been at a race where I felt like every single person I came across was trying to help me cross the finish line. Again, without them, my ending wouldn’t be the same.
To my dear friend Adriana who without hesitation agreed to run with me for the last 20 miles. I still cannot wrap my head around her selfless act–and all I can do is say thank you. Over and over. Because without her, I’m certain I would not have this story to tell. At least not this ending.
And my brother who worked all week and had to drive over 3 hours on the Friday before the race. Another 3 hours to get to the race on Saturday morning–how do you express the gratitude people like this deserve? At one point, I remember rounding the corner of the trail, seeing the banners and lights and hearing the aid station volunteers at mile 35-36–my eyes welled up with tears-it felt like an oasis, and the volunteers my own personal angels. And then I heard my name and it felt like a dream–I turned and saw my brother by his bike. There he stood, with a half smile and warm eyes. Seeing his familiar face made me burst into tears as I ran to him and reached out for a little brother bear hug. He would crew and run with me deep into the night–helping me stay positive by saying things only a brother would know to say.
My crew, my pacers, my angels.
I rediscovered the deep relationship I have with my husband. It was just weeks before the race that we were watching a movie…and for a moment, my heart longed for the silly, romantic gestures of the couple on screen. When I told this to Chris, we both burst out laughing, knowing we are so far beyond that kind of new love–the love that tries to impress. The love that is still trying to capture each others hearts. For I am already his and he is mine. Chris and I have been married for 10 years and yet I can hardly remember life before him. When he is away from me for work on overnight trips, I have a hard time sleeping. Longing for the comfort of him just being by my side. And without Chris, I have no doubt I wouldn’t have the ending I could only have hoped for–this fairy tale ending where I did cross the 100 mile finish line.
And if you were to ask me
After all that we’ve been through
Still believe in magic?
Well yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
His story doesn’t start on race day but in the months before–the quiet support when I told him I wanted to try this. Every weekend, both Saturdays and Sundays for 6 months, holding down the fort while I put in hours of training. There were times I wasn’t sure who was more exhausted–me after running 20+ miles or Chris from solo parenting our 4 kids. And when we got closer to race day and I started panicking about what I had gotten myself into–his solid reassurance: You can do it. Just go run–was all I needed to hear. That my husband believed in me–was the biggest gift he could have given me. On February 6th I realized I have so much more than movie love. He woke up at 3:30am to let me sleep in a little longer while he loaded up the truck, crewed me from 6 AM until his first pacing shift on and off running and crewing from 10 PM until he saw me off with Adriana at 3:45 AM. And then he waited for me to come home.
Sometimes love isn’t flowers or cards. Romantic dinners or presents left out to surprise you. Sometimes, love is shown through an act of selfless kindness that shakes you to your core–someone who makes you feel like you are the butterfly. I will never have the words to thank him for his love and kindness–I feel undeserving and so very grateful.
…and at once I knew I was not magnificent
Bon Iver, Holcene
Chris and my oldest daughter Claire saw me off at the start line. I started the race just like I ended it–with tears in my eyes. When the group of 300+ of us took off at 6AM, I whispered to myself one of my mantras: I belong. And I believed it. For the first 3 miles I chatted with the runners around me because we were hardly able to run–all clumped together like a traffic jam. I learned some of them had run a few 100 mile races in their lifetime, some had attempted this one 2 or 3 times and had yet to make it to the finish line, some, like me, had never run a 100 mile race. There were no egos, just a hum of excitement of, let’s see what happens. A quiet respect for the distance we were hoping our legs and heart would carry us.
Miles passed. I left the second aid station feeling positive but somewhere around mile 9 my ankle buckled beneath my step and I crumbled to the ground and I started to wonder, could I really do this? I wanted to look into a crystal ball and see what the story’s ending would say. I tried to enjoy the quiet scenery around me but instead I felt alone–no other runners around me for as far as I could see.
My mind went dark and I couldn’t imagine running 91 more miles feeling this way. I pressed on and said the words of my chosen mantra out loud: I did not come this far, just to come this far. I looped back around to that same aid station at ~13 miles and found myself running alongside another runner. We chatted for a bit and seemed to have the same pace, same strategy–walk the hills, run the flats and downhills. Something about running a distance like this made me open to being vulnerable and real with a stranger, I found myself confessing: I felt weird back there. I felt a little down and that doesn’t seem normal for it being so early in the race. He explained that the distance between the last two aide stations was the longest–nearly 7 miles–and that can mess with your head. I felt relieved. And that is how many of my interactions with other runners and aid volunteers would go throughout the next 85 miles–a quiet, supportive reassurance: You can do this.
It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again
Foo Fighters, Times Like These
I’m so grateful to have been able to smile some of the miles.
I stayed on pace for the first 3 loops–and on pace meant trying to make sure I didn’t run too fast, knowing if I dug a hole too deep, I wouldn’t be able to get out of it later. And after I left for my 3rd loop, miles 40-60 I noticed my left knee was starting to get achy. I wanted to keep an eye on it, knowing if it developed into the stabbing pain I felt during my first 50 mile race, I wouldn’t be able to run another 40 miles on it. I had to change my race strategy–I would run the uphill and flat sections and walk the downhill, which put too much stress on my knee. At one point I pulled to the side so one of the faster runners could pass me–we chatted as he went by and I tried not to get discouraged as I found out he was on his 4th loop to my 3rd–maybe he sensed it because he chose to leave me with these encouraging words: You can do this. Just keep moving forward and you’ll cross the finish line. I chose to believe him. The old me would have compared myself–look at how much faster he is. You don’t belong here. The me that started this race believed him–I can do this. And I belong.
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Rachel Plattern, Fight Song
The sun set on me while I was in the DamNation loop–that loop that felt like the trees were suffocating me in the first 9 miles. As I said goodbye to the sun I brought out my headlamp and put it on, only to discover it just wasn’t bright enough. I had about 5 more miles before I would get to the next aid station which had my bag with fresh batteries. I held it in my hand so I could angle it closer to the ground and I whispered to myself the mantra that would continue to carry me 100 miles: You did not come this far, just to come this far. I chose to not be afraid while running in the dark. I was close to 50 miles. I got angry. I would not let my headlamp be the reason I wouldn’t finish this race. I repeated my mantra, this time with some curse words thrown in: You did not come this far, to mother fucking come this far! It felt good to get angry–because if I was angry, I wasn’t scared. And I squinted and ran as best as I could in my dim light until I reached the next aid station.
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
Hillsong United, Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
Having a brighter light made all the difference. I ran without music, trying to focus all my concentration on the dark, rooty trail. I felt a sense of peace come over me–knowing I was doing something special with some amazing people–I whispered my thanks to God and repeated the Our Father over and over and over. I thought of one of my favorite songs and how many times I listened to it while out on a training run–praying that I would have the faith that is described in the song. And at that moment I knew I had it–not faith that I would finish–but a simple faith in God that I was not alone and no matter what happened–even if i didn’t finish–I could be proud of how far I got.
I was overcome with gratitude–thankful He chose to lead me to this race, even though I had been filled with fear in the days and weeks leading up to it–thankful because of all the lessons I learned before I would ever get close to the finish line. The Human Kindness that was shown to me before it ever even started was one of the greatest gifts of all. My faith in God’s plan, even if I couldn’t see what it was, was the most comforting feeling in the world. I often wondered why He chose running for me–I’m not particularly good at it–and it was during this race I realized His purpose: Running is when my mind and heart are still enough to listen and learn.
Darling you’re with me, always around me
Only love, only love
Darling I feel you, under my body
Only love, only love
Give me shelter, or show me heart
Come on love, come on love
Watch me fall apart, watch me fall apart
Ben Howard, Only Love
I got to mile 60 and collapsed into my husband’s arms. I felt myself unraveling. 40 more miles felt impossible.
I didn’t realize it at the time–but he waited for me at the start line so that I would see him the instant I made it back from each 20 mile loop. I wonder how long he had to stand there each time? Because he couldn’t have known what time I would be coming back–his faithfulness takes my breath away. With tears in my eyes I told him: Don’t send me back out there. I won’t go. Please. Please, let me stop now.
He guided me to our aid station, home, and he filled me up with food, while my brother wrapped a sleeping bag around me as my teeth chattered and my hands shook. And after a few minutes he guided me out of the chair and back to the start line, while whispering the sweet nothings of: You can do this. Just go run. I’ll see you in a few miles. And before I knew it, I was doing it, heading out for my 4th lap, miles 60-80 with my brother by my side.
How many times had we run together as children? Playing in our street, riding our bikes together, climbing trees. Something about running–makes you feel like a kid again. He let me take the lead and chatted with me for the 3+ miles of the first section of his pacing leg–all the aches and tiredness in my legs went away and I felt like was starting fresh again. I felt like a kid running through the woods with my little brother–who now towers over me. Carefree and light. An invisible string connects us–brother and sister bonded by a lifetime of growing up together–I knew before I ever asked him to do this for me that he would in a heartbeat.
We got to mile ~63 where I found Chris waiting for me. Running with Chris for the next ~12 miles in the hardest part of the course for me was exactly what I needed. In the past 10+ years we’ve been through hard things–when I feel like I just can’t go on–he’s always been the one who is there to hold me up and show me I can. His presence was a comforting reminder: You can do this.
When I sat down at an aid station at mile ~73–all the chairs inside the warm tent taken, my teeth chattered and hands shook as I changed my socks in the freezing air outside the tent. He knew exactly what I was doing–stalling. He knew I was taking too much time, dreading leaving that chair, and helped me up and said you have to keep moving. My eyes wandered to the tent where I saw people wrapped in blankets– that’s where I wanted to be. He shook his head no and pulled me back onto the trail–he knew if I went in there, I might not leave. He got me to mile ~76 and I took off for the next four miles with my brother.
Before I knew it and yet what felt like a lifetime, I was heading in to the finish/start line where Adriana and Chris were waiting to see me off for my 80-100th miles. My brother Billy had promised me a warm car, food, blankets–all these things sounded glorious as we finished up miles 76-80. When we got there those promises weren’t kept–I couldn’t find a place to sit, Chris told me the car was parked far away, and all I wanted to do was to rest my legs (and really just stop it all right then and there and go home to eat and sleep). So I snapped. I felt like a bitch whining about no warm car. No chair. Why wasn’t my crew crewing me?! I fumbled through my bag looking for dry socks only to discover there weren’t any left. Which made me want to cry. I knew I wasn’t being gracious when they were all trying their best and once I sat down, sulking to myself, I heard my coach’s advice: Be kind to your crew.
Adriana, Chris, and Billy–If I didn’t say it then, I’ll say it now: I’m so sorry. As much as I love running, it sometimes brings out the worst in me–and I hope to some day learn to bite my tongue when I start feeling frustrated–not with you but myself. Because when I snapped it had nothing to do with a warm car or chair–and more to do with me being angry at myself for signing up to do what felt like utter ridiculousness.
Adriana had such a hard job–keeping me going for the last 20 miles. Temps had dipped to the low 30s, I was moving at a snail’s pace–sometimes barely able to walk sections of the trail let alone run, and I wasn’t in the best mood. She talked some parts while I mostly listened. With all three of them I worried about them hurting themselves–afraid they would fall from one of the many gnarly roots that seemed to reach up from the ground and grab a hold of a foot. I had 60 miles to see the trail during the day–falling so many times I lost count–once falling so hard it knocked the wind out of me. Another time falling so hard my ears rang. But I worried for them–running in the dark would be the first time they would be on the trail–I wasn’t worried that their fall would end my race but that they would hurt themselves so badly that I would never be able to forgive myself for putting them in this danger. Little did I know, they would be fine, it was me who would fall with each of them a few more times before the race end.
I said no, I said I don’t
Close my eyes (Want to go)
haven’t slept in five days (Want to go)
I’ll sleep when we’re dead
Dark Mean, Lullabye
Adriana and I left for the fifth and final 20 mile loop at around 3:45 AM. Miles 80-83 took me a lifetime. I couldn’t figure out why things were taking me so much longer. I remember telling her I just wanted to go to sleep–and when I took a bathroom break on the side of the trail I had visions of me just curling up into a ball, covering myself with pine needles and sleeping forever. My eyes were barely opened and I could hear my labored breathing even though I was moving slow enough for it to be considered a leisurely walk. By this point my knee was aching even walking downhill, and every time I tried to run just a little bit, my head would tell me to quit.
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn
Florence + The Machine, Shake It Out
It really is the darkest before the dawn. Any really hard time in my life has always gotten so very dark before it got better. And this race was no exception. I knew I would make it back to the start line but I didn’t know at that point if it would be on my own two feet or by a car to pick up the DNFers at the next aid station. Every step I took I had to convince myself–just keep moving forward. A mile, a half mile, even a quarter mile never felt so slow in my life. My brain was trying to convince me that I would never finish.
And then…the sun started to rise. It took its sweet time. I remember how quickly it set just the night before–barely giving me a chance to get my headlamp out–this time? It felt like a lifetime before I could see it peeking at me through the trees all around us. But it rose. And I was reborn.
Mile 90 and the glorious sun gifted me with light and hope.
I started doing math in my head around mile 92–always a dangerous activity for me to do after running for over 24 hours. Adriana mentioned we had 8 miles to go. I lose all ability to do math after about 25 miles of running and today was no exception–I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to make the 12 PM cut off time. And even though I said the buckle didn’t matter, I heard my mantra: I didn’t come this far, just to come this far!! with every step I took. I picked up the pace and told myself: Get moving! After a mile Adriana shouted that I did it at a 12:30 pace–Don’t burn yourself out, you still have a ways to go, her wise words echoed in my ears. But my heart told me: Keep running, as fast as you can. You didn’t come this far, just to come this far! We ran-walked the rest of the way–I was confused, why people were walking so slowly–didn’t they know we weren’t going to make it?! Little did I know I had my math all wrong and I was the one running like a fool the last 8 miles of a 100 mile race.
We were a little over a mile away when I saw a couple sitting on a bench. I yelled to them: I did it! I ran 100 miles! I think they just laughed at me in my delirious state. And before I realized what was happening, I looked up to see my husband and children. It felt like a dream. I had hoped they would be there and asked Adriana to see if she could get them to run in with me but I felt like they were a mirage and seeing them after a lifetime of being a part was just the sweetest thing.
My people were going to help get me home.
For my children: Be dream chasers and catch your butterflies. If you surround yourself with human kindness, you can do hard things and move any mountains you choose.
And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars
But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand
And I will tell the night
Whisper, “Lose your sight”
But I can’t move the mountains for you
Mumford & Sons, Timshel