Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blackfoot Ultra 100k

On the weekend I had the pleasure of running the Blackfoot Ultra 100k. I joined over 300 runners, I was late to the party so I am not sure of the exact numbers. I knew it was going to be a great race the moment I kept asking the locals for an estimated travel time to the race site and nobody knew what trail I was talking about, that told me it must be relatively undiscovered trail. The directions I printed from the website said that the estimated travel time from Sherwood Park, East of Edmonton was about 30 minutes. I decided to leave my hotel about an hour ahead. I was driving slower than usual on the quiet highway at 4:10am just to make sure I didn't miss the turn, about 40 minutes I saw the Blackfoot Park turn sign and I was relieve I still had 10 minutes to go, when I got to the gate of the park I was surprise to find out that the park was dark and empty except for a single vehicle parked, the windows where all steamed, not a great sign, but I was lost,it was so early in the morning and I hadn't seen other cars on the road nearby so I had to bite the bullet and got out of my car to ask for help with directions.
when I approached the vehicle, the passengers where already dressed to my relieve, when I got closer I could see that there where to guys in their early thirties, I tried not to make to much eye contact while I explained that I was lost and I needed their help, who am I to judge, there where two consenting adults,the only bit surprise is when I saw the wedding band on the guy on the driver side, but I quickly remembered that in Canada, two man can legally married,once more to stop myself from making quick judgements. what they told me was that I was at the right park but the wrong entrance " this is the north entrance you need to be on the south, go back to the highway and keep going for about 15 more minutes". Not good, I was now sure I was going to be late, I was worried, but since the race also had 50 mile race, 50k and 25k, all starting at a later time depending on the distance, I told myself I was going to run something for sure.

I got the the race and it was already underway, the worst part is not explaining that you are a participant, and yes, I am late and BTW I also need my race package. Well, is not what a race director wants to hear, I think what ticked her the most was to hear that I had never done it before " Well, you better run hard, you can't be alone and risk you getting lost" I tried lightening the mood," well, is a 100k, how fast can they be running anyway?" well, apparently, fast enough. It took me about 10 minutes to catch up to them, I quickly found a group that was running a pace that I fund was the right one for me, I had a great time meeting new people and the loop seemed to go fast because the conversation and the scenery where great. That work for about the first 25K then I hit the proverbial wall.

The course was design on a 25k loop, the 100k runners did 4 loops, the 50 milers 3 loops, and so forth,The next 25k where not good, I started to fall behind for no apparent reason, I just simply couldn't keep up. I slowed down because I knew it was the only way I was going to survive and everybody started to pass me, a lady caught up to me and slowed down to my pace to chat. She was a nice lady from Edmonton, 52 years old and looked very fit, the sun was now peaking and it was getting warmer, " I am getting to hot now" she said " it seem to be the story of my life recently" " I know" I replied, " it can't be, you are to young dear" she added looking straight at me. " Well, I am not that young, I am 40 but because I have been over training I am hot all the time, sometimes I wake up and I feel like I am feverish" I replied, trying to share my connections. " That could be early menopause" she added with out a hint of sarcasm " I was in my 40's when it started, 46 to be exact" at that moment I had the strong urge to retie my shoes, since I knew I didn't have it in me to speed up, plus did I mention I am JUST 40!. I ended up running alone for most of the loop after that, 25k at a slow pace can be a long time, which it can be good or bad depending on your spirit. There I figure that ultras are a lot like a marriage, you need a strong foundation and an even stronger commitment to be successful at it. Luckily for me I had both so quitting was really not what I thought but it was more on the lines of does it really matter that I am here giving it all when I am so far back from the real race? It was on this lap that I hear that Jack Cook the leader was clocking 1:20min/lap, I coudn't shake that though, all I could hope for was a 2:45/loop, even on a perfect day!.

If ultras are like a marriage the honeymoon phase was oven and I was knee deep taking care of my inner voice, who now resembled more a child in its terrible twos, " I am hungry",' I am thirsty", "I need to go to the bathroom" " Are we there yet?" still, I just kept placing one foot in front of the other. Then something wonderful happen, I just simply felt better, the whole reason for being here was because I wanted to, after all it hasn't been easy to find the time or energy to train but I want to do it so badly that I had always managed, as for not being fast enough, who really cares? even at a 5k I will never have a change of winning anyways so why was I making such a big deal out of it here? and that is not what I teach my kids, why was I treating my inner child like that. the only reason why this even crossed my mind is because it was a loop course, eventually I was going to be lapped by the winners.

I took this time to really take in my surrounding and take some pictures, and to make my day even brighter, I remember that I had never run 100k before, that alone was a celebration. I finish my second lap and I was feeling fantastic, I rushed to to my car to refuel, since I missed the bag drop the the aid station I had to go to to my car for extra food and gels and to change shoes since my La sportiva Fireblades were not working that day, I put on my Montrail Vitesse and it was like magic, is amazing what the right shoes and a bit of caffeine will do after 50k. The next two loops where the easiest, I decide to drink less fluid and eat only at the aid stations, since I was alone on the race, the volunteers became my family, every time I came around they all cheer me on, they knew my name because I was the infamous late runner, but by now they wheren`t mad at me anymore.

I was having so much fun, I decided to run my own race and enjoy it.That was all I needed to remind myself, just like you should never compare your marriage to anybody elses you should never compare your race to other runners. I used me to gauge how fast or slow I should go and instead of relaying on salt tablets or electrolyte replacements, I used the aid station snacks to provide the salt and calories I needed and It worked like a charm. Sometimes what we need to make things work is something simple like a warm cup of coffee, some chicken noodle soup or the right words spoken at the right moment.

I just finish reading Pam Reed`s autobiography the extra mile, and I can tell you one thing, if I where to write a memoir it will never be like hers, there will be no glory, no podium not TV interviews no article on a running magazine, but that doesn`t matter, all I ever aspire to be in this sport is to be a finisher of many other races I plan on being part of it. I can`t tell you my finish time or what place I took at Blackfoot Ultra, but it didn`t matter to me, I enjoyed myself I talked to a lot o great people, I had a chance of meeting Leslie, one of the coolest girls on the planet and hot too, I fail to tell her that how amazing she really is when she introduced herself, I was just savouring the moment, I had accomplish what a had set to do that day and that was to finish my first 100k. I felt great and that matter too, I don`t know how many times I hear- the that can`t be good for you - comment and as long I am healthy I get to enjoy what I am doing guilt free. Leslie race account is always inspiring, and her pictures are just fantastic, plus there is one of me at the finish line, so check it out here.

I Norma take thee...
Driving back home that evening, I realize that sometimes the best thing we can do is to not quit, to have realistic expectations and to enjoy life for what it truly is a journey not a destination.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi

Is hard for me to write today. After much thinking about I decided to go ahead and blog after all my running is a way for me to bring awareness, I owe it to all the parents that I connect that are dealing with blindness and visual impairment, like my online friend blind swan who is a mother of two children both who have the same condition as my son and she is dealing with the same things except is affecting both of her kids.

When there is a high there is a low, trail running have showed me that, Karl’s condition is progressing and everyday when I wake up I feel like I can hear a loud ticking sound, I am unable to stop it and it takes every ounce of my being tor try and find the strength to answer truly when he asks if I think he will be able to drive someday. Last week I dropped him at school and a teacher asked me to come in, for what I thought was a quick meeting about the school family dance or something like that, instead I was met with all of Karl’s teachers, they thought it might be better to talk to me in person instead of sending a note. They are all worried because he is struggling with the things he was OK a few moths ago, they order more equipment for him to be proactive but I needed to get him to the Children’s Hospital again to see where he is at, the truth is, is hard not to notice, I had made the appointment already, I have seen him climb imaginary stairs when he misjudge the distance of where they truly are. I have sense that things aren’t good, but I always want to think that I am just being over protective; talking to his teachers I realize that I am not. In the big spectrum he is still OK, he still have a lot of his vision left, but every time things change, it becomes apparent that the beast is very much alive.

Now there are a lot of emotions that one must go though, I feel embarrassed because this is not as serious as an illness where people must battle with their lives, but he is my son and it hurts tremendously. For mother’s day we all run the Forzani’s Mothers Day Run 5K together, when we got to the start line the sun was so strong and bright Karl had trouble walking so I tied my arm to his to guide him with motion as well as my voice, it worked, at about 1k he got into a rhythm and we managed to finish at 41 minutes, Hans, Lukas and Noah finish at 32 minutes. I was so proud of my kids, I felt a lot better, and I know that even though things will change, we are always going to find a way.

Things are much better now, it takes a lot of digging deep to put things into perspective, I would love to sit and cry and think, why? But that is not going to help me or my kids, is better to put my energy on trying to find a way to deal with situations in a positive way than to dwell out how unfair life is.

I believe we all have the lives we deserve. What I mean when I say that is not that we deserve divorces, sick kids, or unfulfilled jobs. What I mean is that we are all given challenges along the way, is how we choose to deal with them that separate us all; I am going to make sure that I take ownership of my actions moving forward. Is it hard? You betcha, as a single parent alone I feel that if my life was a movie, I will spend half of the movie on a raft in the middle of the ocean trying to get my kids and I to shore while paddling frantically with a spoon, when Karl was diagnosed well, I felt my spoon turned into a fork. But don’t feel sorry, Karl is doing fantastic, he is a bit sad when things changes, but he always manage to be happy and isn’t that what is all about? I want my kids to be happy. As for me, I find happiness as long as I know I am dealing with things in a positive way, what once intimidated me now is not a big deal, I am ready for my first 100 miler, and Brazil? I am only sorry is not happening sooner. I was invited to the luncheon for the CNIB, I am starting to put my son on the map as well as linking the business affluent community about what low vision and blindness is, standing there I vowed to help find a cure, I often hear kind words from people who I know that are not dealing with this , on how I have to be realistic, they haven’t found the cure to AIDS or cancer after all , but none of that matter, I am determine that my son will see the face of the woman he will fall in love, until he looses his sight completely that will be my focus. Is no accident that I chose ultrarunning to bring awareness to this, I remember reading about Brazil 135, the race takes place in an area is called “the path of faith”, the answer to my question on how was I going to deal with this in a positive way was never more obvious.