This blog briefly reflects upon my adventures in both running and life, and what I've learned along the way.The purpose of documenting these adventures is partially a meditation tool for myself, but also to help you and others learn with (or from) me. Our journeys may be separate, but we can all push eachother to reach our peak potential.
in the middle of a forest.The trees are
thick with a vibrant shade of green, but peaks of sunshine still manage to seep
through.Purple, pink, and orange
flowers line the either side of the trail.To the east I can hear the gentle babble of the sparkling blue river I
just crossed.To the west, large purple
mountains clash with the clouds, dotting an azure sky.When people talk about things being
beautiful, a day being perfect, this is surely what they mean.
I have not been able to fully appreciate all the natural wonders around
me.I’ve gone mile without picking my
head up.The constant chatter in my head blocks out the chirping birds, the
light wind brushing the leaves, and even the crunch of my footsteps on the soft
dirt trail scattered with twigs.My
vision is skewed, not because of a lost contact, but because I am too busy
searching for another trail.
passed another trail a few miles back heading towards the south, and another a
few miles before that heading toward the east.Neither felt quite right, so I kept going.Now I am second guessing that decision. I
know there are a few more side trails coming up ahead, but will they lead me in
the right direction?Where am I going
anyway? I think I am…
maybe no quite lost.
term “wander” probably best explains the past 2 years of my life.According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,
it means to:
to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal
b: to go idly about
to follow a winding course
to go astray (as from a course) :stray <wandered away from the group>
c: to lose normal mental
contact : stray in thought
<his mind wandered>
from 3b, I’d say, yes, that is about right.
college, I thought I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do with the rest of
my life.How quickly that all became
blurry. For starters, things happened
that I couldn’t have predicted.Then I
began to learn more, read more, and do different things.My thinking began to change.This took effect on the ideas I had for
myself and my future.
times, I became frustrated.I knew I was
on this Earth for a purpose, but what the heck was it!?Too many times, I let my frustration turn
into disappointment, bringing me to tears.Running was not the answer, nor were the two jobs I tried out.Life satisfaction was a far off concept for
wandered.And I’m still wandering.But I think I’m getting closer to that one
path, that one trail that was meant for me and me alone.
thing is, I’m getting there because of all the things I’ve learned along the
way in these past two years.I’ve
learned I hate driving an hour to work, in a busy and crowded city.I also hate dressing up and wearing heals.On the other hand, working with kids in an
unstructured environment isn’t for me either.
learned people can’t read my mind.Sometimes, I just need to say how I feel, even if that’s not that
natural thing for me to do.Communication is key.
learned to be me, and I’ve learned what I value.I like to be warm, happy, an d well fed…but I
don’t need a whole lot.I don’t really
like BIG things, just small, simple things…and things that are as eco-friendly
learned I love running...but not when it becomes my forefront.Then it becomes work, and with that comes
unnecessary pressure.I like running for
its serenity, and how it enhances who I am.
re-learned what my values and my morals are.
list goes on and on.
these things have helped shape who I am, and expanded my horizons.
only I would have slowed down, picked my head up, and enjoyed the views along
I was wandering.But, as it turns out,
wandering is what I needed to do.I may
have gotten a few bumps and bruises along the way, but my wandering wasn’t
really such a bad thing after all.
haven’t done too much research on the subject, but I don’t think I’m alone in
my experience of these “wander years”.Actually, I think the majority of the population goes through the same
thing.Usually though, it’s given a
adults, it’s most often known as a mid-life crisis.For teens and young adults, they’re either
lazy or “dreamers” who need to come back to “real world”.
are the exceptions of course…
are the child prodigies and young entrepreneurs, some millionaires before they
reach adulthood, who know exactly what they were born to do.Then there are those who have a calling so
strong that they know, even when still playing in the sandbox, that they were
meant to lead, preach, or heal.
hard not to be jealous.
truth be told, we are all meant to be on this earth for some reason, and most
of us have to do quite a bit of digging to get there.And that’s okay!Because it is when we wander that we make
mistakes, we fall, and we learn.It’s a
time of exploration, self-discovery, and beauty…if only we take the time to
pick our heads up and enjoy it.
it’s unfortunate that our society looks down on wanderers, instead forcing many
people to take on jobs that they really don’t enjoy (yes, you can find meaning
in those jobs too, you can find mean in your life in anything you do, but that’s another blog!).Recently, I listened to an audio CD, “Thrive”
that listed Copenhagen, Germany as one of the world’s happiest places.A huge reason for this is because people have
the freedom to try different job without fear of debt or others’ opinions – the
sacrifice is that the majority of a person’s income goes to taxes, but hey, who
cares if you’re happy!]
hope in writing this blog is to encourage others to embrace their “wander years”
because they are an important part of our lives.It takes a lot of trust in oneself, and maybe
a Higher Calling, but there is no point in worrying or getting down on yourself
in these years.Our wander years having
meaning and purpose, whether they are spent exploring the mountains or working
at a restaurant just to get by.As long
as we don’t give up and believe in ourselves, we will all find the direction we
are supposed to be traveling in and reach our destinations…or destinies.
wander on my friends, and enjoy the adventure.
(This is a necklace Sandi got for me towards the end of college)
“Do I have a time goal for Black Hills
100?Yea, I have an idea of what I’d
like to run.But I know there will be
struggles.If they’re small enough, I
know I can reach my time goal.If
they’re big, probably not.But then I
get to prove my strength by overcoming those obstacles, and I will be just as
satisfied with my efforts.”
The last two sentences rang true for
Black Hills 100.Unconsciously, I think
I knew that this was not going to be my race, that I was going to have to fight.And fight I did…for all 100 miles.
The race started at 6:00 am on a
beautiful morning at Woodle Field in Sturgis, South Dakota.I started out slow, really slow, as the first
1.2 was on a paved bike path and I needed to make it to the trail without
stopping to stretch without having to stop and stretch my leg/hip.I succeeded, just barely.
After that, the race would follow the
Centennial Trail for the next 40+ miles.It started off with beautiful rolling hills of green grass and wild
flowers, with endless views into the horizon. I couldn’t help but smile.
We didn’t enter the woods until about
mile 6.At mile 7 I thought “my leg is
really f*d up” as it still felt tight.Luckily, we hit a climb after that and the discomfort subsided.My breath was unusually heavy for the slow
pace, but I shrugged it off, thinking I just had to shake out the cobwebs from
my taper.The course was completely new
to me, more gorgeous than I could have imagined, so I just need to relax and
By mile 20, I had already fell hard
twice and dealt with 3 side stitches.By
mile 29, I was already feeling exhausted and knew my only goal would be to
Already, I was praying for strength
and repeating my mantras in my head. Trying to match it with the “hih-huh” of
breathe, I repeated “believe” over and over again.At large steep and rocky hills, I told myself
“hills make you stronger”, even if at the time I just felt like they were
breaking me down.
At the Dalton Lake aid station, I saw
Steve and could tell he looked a bit concerned.I had just blown a nice downhill, but my
legs just wouldn’t let me take full advantage.He tried to push me out of the aid station, but I told him I didn’t need
to rush.“I’m sooo tired babe” I said,
as I tried to stuff very low calorie watermelon down my throat. I knew I was going to finish, I just knew it
was going to be grueling. Already, I had
no hopes for placing.
I was almost in tears hiking up the
rocky ATV trail, which would last for the next 13 miles (being tired, the rocks
even made running on flats difficult, and I often walked the downhills to avoid
gorging myself with a stone).In thought
“He doesn’t understand!”I felt like he
was pressuring me.Well, he was
actually.All he kept telling me is that
he wanted that darn buffalo head that the top 3 men and women would
receive.I felt like top 10 would be a
stretch.Don’t get me wrong, I love that
Steve believes in me, but I just wanted to run to run. And I wanted to run with no expectations.
I kept going, shuffling as best I
could, walking when the rocks were too much to pick my feet over, or when I
crossed paths with a 4-wheeler.
After 6-7 miles, I reached the Nemo Aid
Station.I was not amused when Steve
told me “just keep swimming”.Then it
was another 6-7 to the next aid station.
Finally I reached the aid station at
42.5 and stuffed another 4 slices of watermelon down my throat.I knew from reading the course description
that the next few miles would be some of the most runnable on the course.Still, I left the aid station walking.However, I was getting close to the
turn-around.I knew if I made it to mile
50, I could make it to 100, no matter how much I suffered.I began to access some positive thoughts (I
had already tried many of my other positive thought mechanisms earlier, such as
gratitude list, but I couldn’t fully grasp them) and started to run-maybe
shuffle- a tad faster, with a smile on my face.I can’t say I caught a second wind, as I never really had a first one,
but I did begin to feel a little better.
Still, my legs were almost useless,
so, I ran with my heart.
This time, that took new meaning for
me.I realized I had given very large
pieces of my heart to several others, so I ran with them.
I knew Sandi was sending all of her
positive energy my way.I pictured her
running strong and silent behind me.I
knew she wouldn’t say much, because she knew I was doing all I could to keep
putting one foot in front of the other. She knew I was fighting my demons. Still, I could feel her strength emanating
from her very being towards me, and just knowing she was by my side gave me
I ran to the aid stations to see
Steve, even though I knew he’d try to make me eat more food that my stomach was
at war with.I ran knowing that soon it
would be dark, the sun would stop burning my skin, and he’d put on his headlamp
and be with me to the finish.
At times, I even pretended Pacer was
there running next to me, trying to race ahead.In my head, I constantly had to yell “Heal!”, “Back!”, “Slow Down!”, and
“You’re not being a very good pacer, Pacer!”
After a short time, I started to see
some of the top runners come back down the course.The top female (who finished second overall
and ran under 20 hours!) looked amazing, and we yelled encouragement to each other.Even thought it was somewhat disheartening
seeing the all the runners headed back and knowing where I should be, it was
still great to spread some good vibes amongst each other.
Around mile 46, the course hops off
the Centennial Trail and takes another trail to the turn-around.Before I knew it, BAM!, there was another
ginormous hill to climb.I didn’t realize
that the “runnable section” only lasted for about 2-3 miles.The 4 miles before and after the turn-around anything
but easy.For about the 4th
time that day, I ran out of water with well over a mile left to go, even with a
In any case, I was pretty happy to
reach the turn-around.I stayed a few
minutes to fill up my water bottles, and even managed to walk away eating the
Larabar Steve handed me.Of course, as
soon as I did turn around I saw about 5 other women right behind me.I didn’t really care.I figured they’d pass me shortly, so I just
hiked up the next long climb as best I could.
Here, my thoughts started to drift to
my dad.I had an idea before the race
started, and now I was certain.I wanted
to give my buckle to him.Over the
years, he had done a lot for my sisters and me.Even though I had been a bit upset with him the week prior, I knew he
would do anything his little girls.Without a doubt, I knew that during a near death experience from heart
attack 16 years ago, when his heart stopped, he came back to earth because he
knew we still needed him.
I knew my medal was not going to
represent my best performance, but instead, my best effort to overcome
adversity and prove my ability to persevere.I wanted that buckle for him, as just a small token to say “thanks for
everything Dad”.That thought would fuel
me the rest of the race.
Back at 57.5, I asked Steve if he
would begin running with me there.He
said “no”, he had already worked out a car arrangement with some other people. I
was somewhat disappointed, but I left that aid station in good, trying not to
thinking about how I was going to kill myself running through the next section
in the dark.
The next 7 miles were more runnable
than I had remembered, and I made it to the Nemo aid station still in
daylight.To my surprise, Steve was
there waiting for me in his running clothes, having rearranged the car
deal.The only downfall to this was that
I didn’t have enough time to tell him I wanted my arm sleeves.(Luckily, it turned out I didn’t really need
him.The only time it really got
cold-cold enough where I could see my breath- was when we reached a section
with Native American spirits.At the
time, I didn’t want to know anything about that.Looking back, I wish I would’ve been a bit
more relaxed and intuitive there, as I very much respect their spirituality, as
it mirrors my own in regards to our oneness with Mother Earth.)
I was happy to have the company as I
had been running on my own nearly all day.We were even able to get in a bit more daylight running before I had to
turn my headlamp on somewhere on the top of the hill.
The next 10 miles weren’t easy, but I
was able to do a decent amount of running, even on limited calories.
Then I hit rock bottom. Even with under a marathon left to go, the
distance seemed almost unbearable.I didn’t
stop, but I began to panic as I ran.I
felt light-head and nauseas, my breathing was sporadic. I began to trip,
stumble and fall.
Once, I fell on to my hands and
knees, crying to the ground.It took all
my will power to stand up again and keep moving.
Another time, I kicked a small
boulder into my left ankle, and I curse the night sky.
Steve said relatively little.He knew I was working hard to keep it
together.I knew I couldn’t afford the
I kept thinking “Things have to get
better.Low periods have their end too.”
I was wrong.
At mile 10 my stomach could take no
more.I managed a few grapes and some
FIZZ.A volunteer had been nice enough to
make some of Scott Jurek’s ultra bars from Eat & Run and I took one with me,
but as soon as I took a bite I immediately spit it out.It was a very adamant “NO!” from my body.
I was hoping to throw up, anything to
get the terrible feeling out of my stomach.Worse was that Steve and I were approaching daylight with a long section
of rolling downhill.I didn’t want to
run.Even the thought was
agonizing.On the other hand, Steve had
let me know earlier that I was 3rd
place, and he wanted the buffalo skull.I could stand getting passed, but I couldn’t stand it knowing I didn’t give
it my all.
So I cried and I ran.I must have been whimpering like a wounded
animal, praying that my stomach would settle just a little bit, just enough to
keep from passing out from the awful feeling inside of me, mixed with the huge
We completely by-passed the last aid
station.There was no point, I was going
Steve asked me what was coming up,
but all I could really remember were some pretty views and rolling hills.
Somehow in the past days, these “rolling
hills” changed into a series of long climbs.One felt like a wall in front of me.I thought of the quote “When you can’t run, walk.When you can’t walk, crawl.”I was all but literally crawling.
The last 4 miles of trail were
agonizing with more small hills popping into view.I had never wanted to reach a road so badly
in my life.When we were almost there, a
herd of cows were spread out on the trail.As we got closer, most moved out of the way, except one.I looked at the cow, and then at Steve.Both had the glint of charging bulls in their
eyes, but I was not about to be less than 2 miles from the finish had not make
it because of two testosterone raging animals.I told Steve to c’mon, and he followed, possibly realizing the potential
harm of 1,000 lb cow.
It wasn’t until we reached the bike
path that I really began to calm down.I
could finally feel how close we were.However, with .7 left to go, Steve then kindly informed me that I had 7
minutes to make it to the finish in under 25 hrs.I didn’t really care, but at the same time,
it’s not really in my nature to back down from a challenge.I tucked in behind Steve shoulder, letting
him pace me in.We reached the 100
meters left on the track with less than 30 seconds to spare.It took everything I had left, but I finished
in 24:59:44. I got that damn buffalo head for Steve. Immediately after crossing, I collapsed into
the the grass.I didn’t move
for 30 minutes.
The next few hours were a blur.Walking to the car, it was all I could do to
keep from passing out, experiencing periods of fogginess and blackouts.I laid down in the back of the car, and could
hear Steve’s voice, but couldn’t open my eyes.I did smile when I heard him at the McDonald’s drive thru, and he cursed
as they told him they weren’t serving fries yet and the milkshake machine was
down.Later, with me still in the car,
he even went a coffee shop and ate breakfast, without me even knowing.
Mentally, I had never been so depleted.Without ever feeling good in the race, I had
used up every ounce of mental energy I had.I didn’t want to think about running, let alone racing ever again.I still don’t.This may sound a little silly of me to say,
but I feel “washed up” and I need a break.I don’t know if the urge to race will come back.If it does, great, but I’m ready to make a
mark in other ways.The past 2 years
have been a struggle to find my path, my purpose.While I still don’t feel like I have fully
uncovered that path yet, I do feel like I am getting closer.Perhaps my years of wandering are coming to a
close and running will shift out of my focus, to something I do simply because
I enjoy it.Because I love where finding
out where my own to feet can take me.
To close, here is a ripped article clip on Lynn Bjorklund from Trail Runner Magazine I've kept with me for the past few weeks, and constantly thought back to as I was running. In it, she offers advice to female runner are nearing their training and racing limits:
"Eat real food, enough of it. Keep your period. Train under a coach. Don't betray the long view for a single event. Train and race with enough caution so you'll still be healthy in 20 years. FIND YOUR WORTH INSIDE OF YOU, NOT IN SOMETHING EXTERNAL LIKE A RECORD OF SOMEONE'S OPINION OF YOU."