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,