“Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being — a call that asks who they are …”
– David Blaikie

Sunday, January 21, 2018

My Fellow Extremists and Extremistas...

It is 1980 or 1990-something and you are standing against the padded wall of the school gym.  In the middle of the basketball court are the dreaded sticky rubber (1980s) or heavy foam (1990s) dodgeballs. The safest place is to be as far back as possible to avoid the vulnerability of getting hit by the flying dodgeballs, right?  At least, that is what I grew up thinking.  I would depend on the brave, courageous souls to go into the trenches of dodgeball warfare by sprinting to the center to grab a ball and start launching.  Those same kids, at the time, exuded confidence and skill - they took risks.  They allowed themselves to expose vulnerability on the dodgeball battlefield.  And, most importantly to me at that time, they did the dirty work so I could stay comfortable in the back.

In life, are you the one hiding in the back, trying to disappear into the padded wall?  Or are you the risk taker?  It all boils down to mentality, of course.

As humans - especially in this phase of evolution - there is a line that we often tend to avoid, whether subconsciously or purposefully - it is the line called....drumroll, please....balance.  Specifically, when it comes to running, or exercise in general, one side of the line is the mentality of, "You aren't tired!  You are lazy, move your ass!" even though you ran a marathon yesterday.

Placed on the other side of that line is, "It's ok, you are tired, listen to your body and try again tomorrow," even though it has been a month since you have been active at all. 

As a recovering Extremist, I preach the importance of finding a neutral place in between the extremes.  I don't kid myself anymore - I was once praised for accomplishing the extremes, but those were easy.  Finding the balance and walking that line in between is the hard part; just like staying in the back of the gym was the easy way out, but taking the risk of rushing the middle of the court to grab artillery was the challenge. Vulnerability and life in the "middle" instead of the "all-or-nothing" is difficult.  It is messy.  It is painful, as is any sort of growth or change.

As you're reading this, you are gaining an awareness of where you may fall on the spectrum of extremes.  When it comes to running, are you all-or-nothing, not surrendering into any sort of biofeedback?  Are you in the imminent burn out "nothing" phase that follows the "all" mentality?  Or are you able to balance out your running schedule and find joy in it instead of dread, pressure or guilt over it?

One of my favorite sayings is this: If you don't realize that your mentality is stuck in a box, how will you be able to think outside of it?  This is awareness, my friends.

I double dog dare you to rush the center lines of your mental struggles, expose your vulnerability, and stay fearful of the extremes.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Running Down Memory Lane...

I am lucky enough to live close enough - yet far enough - from where I spent most of my life growing up.  I had been thinking about driving there to run the old stomping grounds - I even have had dreams about it.  Today, I made it happen.

When I think of where I grew up, I mainly think of the early '90s, even though I graduated in 1998.  My best memories come from swimming in the backyard pool all day, playing Capture the Flag on summer nights, and spending time in my room journaling and listening to one of too many single cassette tapes from Sam Goody.  Well, there you go - I just aged myself for sure now!

There has never been any major emotional attachment to this place other than the fact that I grew up there.  But, today during my run, things were a bit different.  

I drove to the main drag across from a 711 store that was a main "hangout" during my high school days.  I parked at the local Starbucks (which apparently is a newer addition to the small town which is completely built-out and covered in shops, medical offices, and restaurants now).  It's a beautiful day here in North Texas, 80 degrees or so - the sun shining and a slight breeze.  I decided to run the path I would run when I was younger - my "long run". 

I started out slow and easy, running toward the good ol' Speedy K market and Donut Shop shopping strip to which I used to ride my bike. The extent of my mischief growing up was always contemplated on my way to these two places.  I would buy those little gun powder-filled snap-its from the convenient store along with a Dr. Pepper, then head over to the Donut Shop and buy a half dozen jelly-filled donuts and one chocolate glazed.  I would eat the glazed donut and chug the Dr. Pepper before heading back to my neighborhood.  What did I do with the jelly-filled donuts, you ask?  Well, I was a very easily amused - and very creative - little kid and thought the most comical thing on the planet was to watch a donut get smashed in the road.  I have no memory of where this idea came from, but it was brilliant at the time.  My friends and I (or even by my lonesome) would strategically place a jelly-filled donut in the middle of the road and immediately run and hide behind a bush or a mailbox.  We would cheer when the donut was smashed and laugh hysterically when it was barely missed.  This could go on for hours - I had a half dozen of them (and ewww...no one likes to actually eat jelly-filled donuts). The most epic smashing was when a fire truck completely flattened it - unbeknownst to the firefighters as they just waved at us!

I continued to run, realizing that this long run really was not going to be all that long.  I ran past some of the usual spots where the donut smashing occurred and had a few great chuckles, mainly because I have taken my own kids out to do this - and it is still just as funny.  I passed a local pond called "The Duck Pond", cleverly named because, well, there are lots of ducks there.  I passed the alleyway where I had my first "almost" kiss in 8th grade.  I passed friends' old houses and schools I had attended.  

I reached my old street and felt a heaviness in my heart.  The corner house belonged to a dear friend who had passed away in a car fire.  He was one of my best friends and I still have dreams that he is in his pickup truck telling me that he is okay.  I shifted my thoughts to all the fun we had, rollerblading in middle school, then driving all around town talking about life.  
I was in my old neighborhood and it looked so much smaller than I remember.  Perhaps it is because the trees are so much larger and fuller.  The photo to the left is of my old house - and, what we called at the time, the "Butterfly Tree"...  As I remember, it was a baby tree when we moved there in 1989 and it was sick - there was sap all over it which attracted hoards of butterflies.  I remember thinking that it was pretty special. I stopped running and snapped the pic of that tree which now covers the house!  

As I left my old neighborhood and ventured around town, I felt a flood of emotion come over me.  Perhaps it was nostalgia giving me a pat on the back and a handshake for returning; perhaps it was the fact that we remember things as we experienced them. I spent fourth through twelfth grade there - and those were years in which things seemed emphatic to my young mind, to say the least.  I was pretty good at numbing myself out when emotions would arise - I would use running to numb it.   So, today, feeling so many emotions surface all at once while running was so profound for me.  I needed to go and run there - and experience those feelings.  I needed to reminisce and remember.  I needed those parts of my mind to remind me.  There were a lot of hurtful memories that surfaced that I had not thought of in years.  I stood on a corner that was filled with memories and my mind swiftly reenacted several moments that I wish I could get back and speak up for myself or make a different decision.  But I can't.  

I kept running, remembering, experiencing, and feeling the feelings that I was supposed feel in the past.  There are chunks of my life that I remember so vividly it is as if it just happened.  There are other times that I cannot remember a thing - and it is frustrating.  Coming back to a place where so many memories were created was helpful for me - and also maddening (what was the name of so and so who lived on this streetWhat was I into at that time of my life?  Why can't I remember?!).

I returned to my starting point and looked at the clock.  That long run was not long at all - just like the neighborhoods were not as large as I had remembered them. However, the distance between memories in my mind covered many more miles, for sure.  Distance truly lends perspective...

I am so glad that I decided to go for a run in my old hometown today.  Today, I remembered things that I had forgotten (either purposely so, or involuntarily).  The things I tried to forget surfaced as quickly as the memories that I still laugh about or cherish today - and I felt all the feelings.

My runs these days are not to numb the feelings, but to evoke them.  Cheers to almost twenty years since my high school graduation - and cheers to the memories I can hang onto!

Today's Run:
Distance: 5 miles
Anxiety Level: 1
Biofeedback: Stiff a bit from lifting legs yesterday - running it out will feel good!
Pre-Run Thoughts:I wonder how many square miles this whole town is now?
Intra-Run Thoughts: So. Many. Feelings.  
Post-Run Thoughts: What a profound moment during my run!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Good Morning, Moon...

Apple iPhone cameras do not take good photos of the moon. 
This picture does it no justice.
Let's preface this by saying that it is not a good idea to stay up late chatting and laughing most of the night with your significant other when you plan on going for a run early the next morning.  Oh well, it was worth it.

This morning, my alarm went off at 5:20AM and, honestly, I had to hit snooze one time.  I stayed in bed for another five minutes, but the moonlight was so bright, I decided it was time to get up and go for a run.   

As I ran, I reminisced, thinking of my Ninja Running days: running in all black in the dark to remain incognito to the critters (and humans), or so I thought! I used to run in the middle of the night as well as very early in the mornings when I was training for long distance races.  Oh, the stories I could tell! There was this one time (no band camp involved) when...

  • ...I was chased down by a javelina on a dark road in a Phoenix suburb, Arizona.
  • ...the fog was so thick I couldn't see six feet in front of me, but once it cleared, I saw an alligator crossing the road in South Florida.
  • ...someone pointed a gun at me as I ran down a street in Houston, Texas.
  • ...I hallucinated when the sun was coming up during a 100-miler and thought I saw Jabber Jaws, the great white shark, mocking me.
I am still here to tell the tales.  That superior unknown presence has some sort of purpose for me, the proof is that I am still here, trying to live each moment to the fullest.

Today's Run: Distance: 4.1 miles
Anxiety Level: 2
Biofeedback: New shoes always make my feet happy! Currently running in Merrel.
Pre-Run Thoughts: Ready, steady, go!   WOW - look at the moon!
Intra-Run Thoughts:Hearing the sounds of the early morning: bugs, frogs, water fountain on the pond, a dog walking his owner...
Post-Run Thoughts: My mind is refreshed.  I feel like any trace of anxiety has been cradled and lulled back to sleep.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Thought Storms and Running

Recently, we have seen the horrific damage that Hurricane Harvey inflicted upon our beloved Houston.  We cannot control Mother Nature and her wrath.  We have the scientific rationale of warm waters and conditions that create higher potential for hurricane activity; throw in the Texas coastline having a major city that, in fact, is at and below sea-level and we have major destruction.  With the elements of the coastline and warm waters - it makes these tragedies highly likely, but nonetheless, they are unimaginable and we cannot do anything to stop the actual hurricane.  People can prepare for the worst - but, again, cannot stop what nature generates.

When it comes to negative thinking, many people believe that, like Mother Nature, the thoughts cannot be controlled.  Defeating the negative thoughts, as a great friend of mine posted recently, .."is extremely hard, but not impossible."  For me, negative thoughts are triggered by the lack of taking care of myself.  They filter into my mind when I am hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (the concept of H.A.L.T.).  The first and last letters of H.A.L.T. (Hungry and Tired) are actually what will cause the Anger or the feeling of Loneliness.  So, as long as I am nourished and am getting adequate sleep, I am good to go.

Did I know this about myself three years ago?  Absolutely not.  I had to diligently, rationally, and logically break down every single thought and figure out if it was a destructive or a constructive thought.  There were many times I reached out to a supportive and trusted person and asked, "Hey, is what I'm thinking a thought or a fact/truth?"  Most times, it was an irrational or illogical thought due to being hangry (hanger is actually past the point of hunger and merging in with the "A" for "anger" in H.A.L.T.) and/or tired.  Hell hath no fury like a Robyn who goes to bed too late on an empty stomach!

Just like hurricanes have patterns and trends that are studied by scientists to better prepare for the next storms, the thought storms in the mind can also be examined through patterns and trends.  YOU have the power to do this.  As I had mentioned, I know, now, what my trends tend to be that may instigate the negative thoughts to infiltrate.  I have even taken it deeper in that I know exactly what behaviors or familiar coping mechanisms may arise when a certain negative feeling or emotion strikes.  For example, when I am feeling slightly anxious, I will fidget - usually tapping my foot on the ground or sway if I am standing.  Movement, for me, eases anxiety.  This exertion is not destructive, therefore I utilize movement during those low anxiety times.  On the other end of the spectrum, I know that if I am in fight-or-flight-anxiety-mode due to thoughts (not actual danger, although my body often dumps adrenaline in a state of perceived danger), then I know that my past patterns and trend of taking off running, in order to numb the anxiety or just get it under control, will be the first line of defense.  Why is this the first line of defense in very high stress situations?  Because it is the most familiar.  The problem with utilizing that old familiar coping mechanism is that it just numbs and temporarily alleviates the high anxiety - and it will, ultimately, be destructive: We cannot outrun negative thoughts.

So here comes the analogy: Think of a road or highway on which you travel to work or to school everyday.  You take the same roads, often see the same cars with their weird stick family (or bragging rights bumper stickers), see the same street signs, same billboards, etc.  This is the most familiar path from point A (your house) to point B (your workplace or school).  Most people can attest to the fact that they go into "autopilot" when hitting the road and driving to the same daily destination. Have you ever been so lost in thought that when you get to where you are going, you forget how you got there? You think, Wow - that seemed fast - I don't even remember sitting at any red lights today... when in reality, you sat through two red lights and may or may not have ran a stop sign just to get on that familiar highway.

Your thoughts and, in turn, actions can either take that familiar pathway or you are going to have to work hard to build a detour and teach yourself to think (drive) on a different set of roads to get to where you are going.  My mind didn't just have a few roads and a highway. Over 21+ years, my mind had created a superhighway system with a bullet train and I was not paying any attention to notice if there were any other pathways to take.   For most of my life, there were no other pathways for my thoughts to travel.  I had to start building...brick by brick, layer by layer: Familiarity is comfortable and can be destructive if not acknowledged mindfully. Change is uncomfortable but can be liberating and constructive - and change is inevitable.  

What I must do now, in order to keep my healthy pattern construction in place, is the opposite of what my old patterns would have dictated.  At first, it was awful.  I would wake up in the morning in fight-or-flight mode and physically crave hitting the hills and running to get my heart rate even higher in order to bring 'her' back down!  The negative voices would start to scream at me like a demonic drill sergeant, Get the heck out of bed, you lazy sloth! Or, even worse, the voice of negativity would disguise itself as a competitor in a death race, You know if you don't get up and run, then that is a wasted day and someone else out there is better than you...you are never enough and never going to be enough, so just run yourself into the ground - you are worthless. Instead of giving in to that pressure, I sat in my bed, heart racing, body shaking.  I was introduced to TRE, which stands for Trauma Release Exercises (click link to learn more).  This helped me work through the need to cope by moving.  I realized that by doing the opposite of what I wanted to do, I was able to actually work though those negative thoughts in a different way - creating that new neuro-highway for my thoughts to travel.  I realized that there are other ways to deal with negative and destructive thoughts other than taking something that is supposed to be healthy and abusing it.  Many other ways.

After the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, Houston will rebuild, but it will never be the same again.  As a Texan, I have faith that it will be built stronger.  Many of the highways will have detours and a few uncompleted access roads during this time. There will be brand new pathways created, safer for the citizens to travel. 

If you can relate to this post and have experienced negative thoughts that have you using and abusing running as a destructive punishment, rather than a constructive privilege, please take some time to take inventory of why you run (or exercise, drink, use, or whatever your familiar, yet destructive, coping device may be).  If you find that you have to run in order to keep negative thoughts away, I challenge you to challenge yourself by doing the opposite. As I mentioned before, it is very hard and takes time, but it is not impossible.  This is the perfect moment to start rebuilding a new pathway of thought. Examine your old patterns and trends and decide if they are helping you or hindering you.  Create new patterns - write them down. YOU have the power to rebuild yourself stronger and indomitable, just like Houston will.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

7.5 Miles and a Bit More Perspective

Another run completed today.  My skin is shining and clear; I am standing up straighter; I have more energy; the mind fog has lifted.  Today, I listened to my music on shuffle and did not skip any songs.  I was in my zone - a happy place, comfortably jogging.  I did not time myself.  I did not set a pace. I stopped and took some pictures along the way...I explored.   I could have explored down the rabbit hole and ignored everything around me - lost in the tunnel of thoughts.  But, I gained a bit more perspective as I ran mindfully.  This is running free....

Today's Run: Distance:7.5 miles
Anxiety Level: 1
Biofeedback: Cruisin'
Pre-Run Thoughts:I am looking forward to a break from sitting behind the computer!
Intra-Run Thoughts: So many creative ideas flowing - like the breeze today.
Post-Run Thoughts: My body is tired - and I am glad.  I have been struggling with falling asleep at night - being tired is what I crave.  My soul is refreshed.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Awareness is the New Euphoria

"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness...." -James Thurber

If I could ingrain this quote into my subconscious mind, fore-consciousness, and all the other consciousness I may possess, that would be grrreaatttt.  How do you relate to these words?  Let's let Robyn's inner high school English teacher out of the box for a second and break this quote down into parts:

"Let us not look back in anger...":  When I look back into the past at hurtful, or anger-provoking memories, how does that serve me in the present?  Since this is a running blog, after all, I will relate it to the topic at hand.  If I look back at the level of running I used to perform (at the surface level) there were some awesome achievements made - and for good causes.  The fact is that I ran very long distances (marathons and beyond) for quite a while (officially and unofficially).  The memories are a different experience because they are that delusional grey area between facts and thoughts - oh, and throw time in there to blur some of those facts and thoughts, because why the heck not, right?!

When I was forced to take some time off, I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest - I actually had physical and emotional withdrawals, which I will never go through again, thank you very much!  During that time, I felt excruciatingly hurt, which was masked heavily as anger.  I counted down the days until I could run again.  The day finally arrived, and I couldn't get my running shoes on fast enough.  I ran with my exercise therapist next to me on a treadmill.  I had written a journal the day before about how euphoric I would feel once I could run again!  But...guess what?  It was not euphoric.  It just was.  I ran a little longer - waiting for that high to hit and for me to blast off and feel like I was running on a cloud, numb and void of feeling all biofeedback and emotions.  Buzz kill:  it did not happen that way.  I just ran a few miles, hit "STOP" on the treadmill and carried on with my day.  I was puzzled and confused because it was not how I had remembered.  Sure, it felt nice to get the lungs and legs working hard and my heart pumping, but that numbing sensation was absent. 

Depending on how you read that last sentence, it may make you sad, or it may make you think, "Hey, I really need to get to that point because right now, I have to run otherwise I feel my emotions way too much and they are too difficult for me to handle, so I run...and thus, the Merry-Go-Round keeps spinning.  

"...nor forward in fear..." Now that I have allowed a plethora of time to lapse in between being the running addict and breaking up with the addict part, I look forward to what is to come.  It has been almost three years since that day I got on the treadmill and was reintroduced to running again with a healthier mindset.  THREE YEARS.  Before this point in this crazy journey, I would look fearfully into the future when running was mentioned or considered: fear of never being able to run again; fear of not being a credible coach or source for running information; fear of judgment of never running enough.  That fear gave birth to anxiety, which often happens when we look too far into the future.  I have worked very diligently on creating the balance that I personally need in order to have it back in my life.  I handle anxiety in other ways that do not include running - we need to feel those emotions; become emotional wave surfing legends!  Surfers cannot be numb...

"....but around in awareness...." I make sure to take inventory of biofeedback, thoughts, and anxiety level before I set foot outside and consider running.  This is an important process for me, and one that I must stay hyper-aware of.  Running liberated means being aware of surroundings, all senses being utilized, and the thoughts that ebb and flow.  One of the purest aspects of running is the ability to think of anything, everything, or nothing while you run.  It has been one of my favorite parts of the sport.  I heard a beautiful analogy once about thoughts:  Imagine yourself at an airport luggage carousel.  You are an inspector, of sorts.  There are many suitcases and packages slowly passing by.  You can choose to stare at one, study it, even open it if you dare, but YOU have the power to choose.  Those suitcases may be full of memories, amazing clothing from all over the world, or they could be filled with trash, spoiled food, or dangerous, poisonous, items.  YOU have the power to choose!  The suitcases and packages are your thoughts.  You can choose to inspect them closely or let them drift on by.  Most likely, you will see some of those packages pass by again - and you will need to practice that awareness as to which ones you decide to inspect.  This is awareness....

All in all, I hope someone reads this and gains a bit more awareness, which, in turn, will give that individual more power over thoughts. It is truly liberating.  

Day Two of Running:
Miles: 3
Anxiety Level (1=none, 10=debilitating): 2
Biofeedback:  Calves are tight, so better to stretch first...but at least they are not screaming!
Pre-Run Thoughts: It is going to rain and how awesome will that be!  I used to love running around in the rain!
Intra-Run Thoughts:  I actually listened to the Armed Forces Cadences today for good footfalls and stride.  I sang along so the thoughts were minimal.
Post-Run Thoughts:  Simply grateful and blessed to have a strong body and the ability to run - and feel.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sing it, Willie - I am On the Road Again.

Today is DAY ONE of easing my way back into running long distances.  Why?  I want to prove that once you break through the emotional sediment, there is a gold mine of opportunities to truly enjoy the things you used to enjoy - before the thought storm took over and left everything in shambles.

Exercise addiction is a curious thing.   I went to many "Anon" meetings, trying to relate to the addiction piece, but this addiction was so much more complicated to explain in these meetings.  Many addicts and alcoholics turn to exercise to fill the void.  What do exercise addicts turn to?  Alcohol and drugs?  Sometimes they do....

I have worked very hard - and mindfully - to be able to get to the point that I can include running back into my life regularly.

If you find that you are ready to start running again after a hiatus due to injury or medical complication (or life throwing poo at you and, in retaliation, you throw an epic pity party, oh, wait, is that just me?) follow along as I get back on the road.  If you find that running IS your life and you cannot properly function as a human being, please take inventory of WHY you run.

Day One Complete:  4.2 miles
Anxiety (scale of 1 = none to 10 = debilitating): 2
Biofeedback (what my body tells me during the run): Hey, this feels pretty good - but tomorrow your calves are going to wake you up in the midst of your deep slumber and want some major attention, "Charlie Horse!"
Pre-Run Thoughts: Hell, why not!?
Intra-Run Thoughts: Did I forget to blow out the candle?  Did I lock the door?
Post-Run Thoughts: I am  glad I am writing this - documenting it for myself and others.

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's Been A Minute or Two...

Hello!  Helllloooooo!  Echooooo....echooooo.....!  It has been quite some time since this running blog has been updated with fabulous (and cringe-worthy) running experiences.  I am happy to be writing again.  Whether you have stumbled upon this blog because you were searching for a race report, or you are interested in a unique 24 hour treadmill experience, or you heard about that lady who ran 100 miles when she was still breastfeeding her twins and wanted to check it out for yourself, I welcome you.

I am finishing up creating a unique and thought-provoking form of coaching runners called Liberation Running which has helped me immensely during my hiatus from the long distance running scene.  I am currently coaching beginners as well as very advanced runners, and everyone in between!  I am honored to be able to apply my experience to help others reach goals - and avoid the costly mistakes I have made in the past! 

Please check out the tabs above to learn more about my personal running experience, my favorite charities, and coaching styles.

Again, I welcome you - and hope to see you out on the road someday soon!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

24 Hour Treadmill Relay Recap

Four Women, One Cause.
February 16-17, 2011

Wednesday morning started with my son, Dallas, up and at 'em at around 4:30am. So much for a few extra hours of sleep! After getting up and walking around a bit, I was jazzed and ready for the day...and the 24 hour treadmill relay that would start at 8pm that evening!

At 8:00am or so, I received a text from Kelsey, our dear crew chief. She informed me that it would be an interesting 24 hours because she just got her period. I instinctively laughed and thought, That sucks! Madame Karma reared her ugly head and got me good at around 9...my dear Aunt Ruby had arrived as well. THAT SUCKS.

Wednesday flew by in a blur of running errands and cooking food for the night and following day. Red quinoa with cranberries, OJ and almonds, polenta with tomatoes and peppers; bagels, some protein bars, black bean and lentil soup, garbanzo beans with spinach, avocado, and hummus, baked sweet potatoes, bananas with peanut butter. That was the menu for the 24 hours ahead.

I dropped off my bag at the gym where the team was meeting to drive down to the Jobing.com Arena and headed over to watch my kids play at the pizza joint near the gym. All the kids screaming and lights flashing was making me feel out of whack and out of focus, so I gave and received many hugs and kisses from the kiddos and my mom, who graciously flew in to watch them as David was out of town, and ran down to the gym.

I met up with Kelsey, Clarissa, and Jill and started to pack up Jill's car (they had LUGGAGE....we are talking rolley-suitcases!!!). Amy followed us down to the arena. Sarah was not too far behind as well. The mood in the backseat, where Kelsey and Clarissa were seated, was upbeat and giggly. I could tell Jill was concentrating on something as she drove. The sunset was amazing and I wish I had had a camera at that moment.

We arrived at the Arena and Matt Audibert, representative of the Phoenix Coyotes NHL team, met us at the door. He was in jeans and a sweatshirt and had a bag of what looked like running gear! But, I was wrong. I asked him if he was ready to run ten miles on the pacing treadmill and he told me about hurting his hip....hmmmmmmm...

The ladies lugged in all of their bags, blankets, and coolers and I held the door. Sarah arrived about ten minutes late in her own car. She wasn't feeling well and her daughter, Kylie, was running a fever so she needed to be able to leave - just in case. We walked in and saw the treadmills set up, ready to go. I walked in front to take a look at our view and this is what I saw:

Needless to say, it was amazing. Cold...but amazing....and cold.  Brrrrrr....

We set up "camp" and Donna Bartos (president of the Purple Ribbon Council) arrived with her three precious kids. I played tag with them for a bit (I needed to stay warm!).At 7:59pm, Matt had his clock out and ready to start us off at 8:00pm, sharp! We decided that Sarah should run first so she could go home and rest...her eyes were dilated and she was feeling feverish, even in the ridiculously cold arena. Sarah stepped onto the treadmill, Clarissa right by her side, and at 8:00pm, on the dot, the relentless running began! Our cheering echoed across the arena. The 24 hour relay, a first of it's kind, had started off with a bang!

After running 6.25 miles, Sarah got off the treadmill and Jill hopped on. Jill, in her fluorescent yellow tank top (resembling reflective tape!), was all smiles as we put "Anchorman" on the TV for her. Clarissa kept up her jogging and was at about 4.85 miles and going strong. Previously, her personal distance record was 3.1 miles...and that was a week before this run.

Jill's husband, Chad, and her sweet kids, Jack, Will, and Libby all came to cheer for her. Dave Wilson was our volunteer paramedic...THANKS, DAVE! Jill's brother, Ben, also came to support her and he stayed until she reached her own personal distance record of 20 miles!!!!!!! Before that night, Jill had run up to 16 miles on the treadmill at the gym. We both agreed that this was definitely more fun...running in "perfect" running conditions with the cooler air temps and not looking at the same ol', same ol' view at the gym.

Clarissa gave us all a scare at her 7 mile mark...she started motioning me over to her and asked for her inhaler...I hurriedly went through her purse looking for it as someone else grabbed the
nebulizer and plugged it in. Two puffs and she kept on going. She made it to 10.85 miles, more than tripling her own personal distance record. She got off the treadmill and was very emotional and had to have her inhaler again. After almost forcing her to eat (she gave in and had my black bean and lentil soup) she took a nap. Amy, under her electric blanket, and Matt were playing Rummy and talking about Coyotes...and mules, and quite possibly anything in between. I read a book for a bit and chatted with Mike before he went and got into his huge camping sleeping bag, which was apparently "too hot" for him. HA!

After "Anchorman", we watched "Inception", this is when I could see Jill getting into her zone. It was hard to figure out if we should ask her if she needed something or if we should just leave her alone. I gave her a thumbs up every once in a while and as long as she gave me a thumbs up in return, I knew her universe was in balance. I was glad her brother was there to stand by her side and even walk by her side for a bit. Another hour gone and she finished those twenty miles like it was a walk in the park!

Amy Craft was ready to run next! We put "Dumb and Dumber" on the TV and she zoned into her music. She had a solid pace of 7.0+ for quite a while. I had to remind her of what she told me a month or so ago: "I don't know if I can go 6.5mph, it seems so slow!" After hours and hours of running, sometimes the "slow" becomes the "fast"...our perceptions change. She had her "game face" on and she was focused. When I first saw Amy, I thought she was tough and extremely unapproachable (honest truth, Amy...sorry. Ha!). But, like the old cliche states: never judge a book by its cover. She is a very easy going and fun person. When she smiles, you cannot help but smile back. That night, err, morning, she held a hell of a solidly quick pace. Once she got off the treadmill, it was off to change into comfy clothes and get under her warm heated blanket (which, at some point, I stepped on and disconnected the plug...ooops).

After Amy's run, I hopped on the treadmill at approximately 4:00am. I was already stiff from sitting around in the cold air of the arena and being awake for (thirty minutes shy of) 24 hours. I started out running with my Brooks Green Silence running shoes. They are super light-weight and (usually) feel great. I brought my Vibram FiveFingers and Crocs as well so I could switch out shoes if I had a "long haul". After running for only about 30 minutes, I had to get off and go to the bathroom (damn you, Aunt Ruby). Amy hopped back on while I was gone. I have a broken pinkie toe due to an earlier training run this year, and it decided to scream in agony and remind me that it was there.  So, I took the Brooks and Drymax socks off and put them on the spare treadmill near where our paramedic, Dave Wilson, and Jill were napping in their sleeping bags. I put my FiveFingers on along with my favorite shirt from No Meat Athlete and got back on the treadmill.

At this point (and I have no way of telling you what time it was) I felt like I was running on a cloud, well, at least my feet did. My broken-ish toe felt great and supported in the FiveFingers, and I adjusted to my own biomechanically correct running form.  At one point I remember someone asking me if my feet ever even hit the treadmill belt. Well, yeah....duh! I remember my good friend, Marta, telling me that I run lightly, like a boxer.

After a few (or more than a few) more bathroom breaks, and - luckily - some baby powder that Brianna brought (thanks Brianna!) I stopped running at around 8:20ish. I was chafed in areas that I didn't even know existed on my body.

Sarah was back. She was rested and ready to go. She looked like a totally different person. We were all a little (just a little) envious of the sleep she had that night. We are all thankful that she came back too. The realization hit us that if Sarah didn't come back, we would have to carry this thing through to the end as a three person team. After each one of us completed our "long" run, the thought of doing it again was not so appealing to us. So, thankfully, Amy, Jill, and I all had a break to enjoy together. It was at this point that a real (and reasonable) strategy came into place. Each one of us would run for an hour then switch. Brilliant. Why didn't we think of this before? Ah...because the novelty was there earlier on in the 24 hours, once Sarah arrived and started running, giving us a break, the death of the novelty had set in.

Sarah ran for more than an hour. Clarissa had jumped back on and started running with Sarah. During that 24 hour period, she had 3 asthma attacks (the first one due to getting upset that the belt stopped when she accidentally hit it with her hand; the second one after she ran the 10.85 miles and she was overwhelmed with the feeling of such an accomplishment; and the third during her last few miles in which Dave put her on oxygen and told her to call it a night!). Clarissa's strong mind and determination is so strong, her body cannot keep up! She ran a total of 18.3 miles...six times more than her previous PR from one week earlier. She is living proof that one can run, even with severe asthma.

I can't be sure of exactly how long Sarah ran, but she ran strong. I do know that the rotation became Jill, Amy, Sarah, then myself.

At about 2:00pm (18 hours into the run and 33.5 hours of my own awakeness), the "funny-delirious" stuff started to happen. The run was being "skyped" (is that a verb now?) and I was performing for the audience as was everyone else. The delirium had started to rear it's ugly head which makes me laugh at extremely inappropriate times and makes me more "preachy" with my opinions. Some of the people around me were either laughing with me, or taking things personally (which, I covered my butt by making a blanket "apology" before the run - just in case things got ugly!). Here are some highlights from the streamed footage (just scroll down from the black screen).

I truly believe I was in a mental fog at this point. The conversations and things that occurred from late afternoon are blurred together: Phoenix Coyotes practice skate; Atlanta Thrashers practice skate; some guy checking the ice; some people randomly sitting in the stands; high school hockey players running bleachers; Amanda asking me if I could sub her class the next morning ("yes, of course!"); high school hockey game; guys checking the ice again and the ice temperature; re-playing Chris Farley's El Nino skit over and over and over in my head; Interview with Phoenix Coyotes website rep; Donna and her kiddoes coming back to visit and set up for the game; Jill making fun of my stinky Brooks shoes as she finally realized that THAT is where the smell was coming from; Amanda asking me again if I could sub her Friday morning class ("YES!"); talking about food; many more bathroom breaks with baby powder; Brianna running 15 miles non-stop and then, me, walking with her around the arena and chatting about random stuff; helping Brianna stretch her hamstrings; getting a lower leg massage from Clarissa and her 5-in-1 massage oil (OMG); realizing that I forgot my rolling pin (dammit!); Matt Audibert frantically making sure that our crap was all cleaned up and put away nicely; some other guy checking in on us every hour or so (I still have no idea who that guy was!); the National Anthem being rehearsed (cringe, pray, applaud).

Then, all of a sudden, people started to come in and get settled in their seats for the game. It was 7pm, game time, and Sarah was running, and running strong. I finally got to see the famous "Jamie Behrens Run" (someone please post a video of her running!). She had a bottle of Dr Pepper and was so excited to be running with Sarah. Sarah finished over 27 miles total, beating her personal record and I think Jamie actually beat her own personal record too that night...she ran over 4 miles at the end! The music was blaring and the lights were shining all over the place. I remember getting super stoked and annoyingly over-excited that there was a blimp dropping coupons into the crowd (and the excitement died when I realized that the blimp was dropping coupons to the lower level seats - I thought Come on, really? Drop those coupons in the nosebleed section for crying out loud!!!) As I got onto the treadmill, AC/DC was booming though the arena and I was fueled with the 32nd wind of the day. As I started to run, I watched people walk by and asked what was going on. I saw dollars being donated, and eyebrows raising as the true nature of this spectacle was revealed. One woman got on the treadmill and wanted to run because she said that she ate a big dinner. Matt was all over it...in a charming (and super nervous) manner, her that it was a liability. She then proceeded to tell us that she had fallen off of a treadmill a few month back. Ouch.

As I turned up the speed to 7.2mph, I looked in front of me and I immediately recognized my sweet Shelleigh. She stood there in the glowing lights with her family and we immediately connected. I got goosebumps. Here, right in front of me, was someone who knew the true reason behind it all. The music was so loud, I couldn't hear what anyone was saying, but I could read what she said, "Thank you". It all became even more real for me. I set my pace at 7.4 mph for a good 10 minutes then put myself back between 7.0 and 7.3mph for the remainder of my run.

A check was granted to the Purple Ribbon Council. The PSA that was filmed a few weeks prior was debuted on the Jumbotron for all to see and become AWARE of what was going on in the Bud Light Chill Zone that night.

In the last few minutes, I slowed my pace and Jill got on the treadmill with me and started to jog. Amy and Sarah got on the treadmill next to us and started to run. 4 people, 2 treadmills, after almost 24 hours of running and no sleep...you do the math. Jill stepped on my heels a few times so I had her get in front of me. Matt came over with his official clock and we counted down from one minute, then from 30 seconds, then from 10 seconds. Then, just like that, the run was over.

Kelsey announced that we had completed 139.3 miles collectively in the span of 24 hours. We are the first 4 woman treadmill relay to accomplish this feat. Ever.

I had my emotional release (finally) as I gave Jill, Amy, and Sarah hugs. Some pictures were taken (and my purple Hope shirt was in my bag! Ugh!). I got my celebratory (and muchly anticipated) hugs from Donna and Shelleigh along with many, many other women who stood by and watched four ordinary women challenging themselves in honor of an extraordinary cause. Hearing the softly whispered "Thank You"s as I hugged them was my reward for it all. I am sure I can speak for all the runners and crew when I say that every moment was worth it and it will be something that we will cherish in our hearts forever.

As I finish this recap, almost a whole month after the run itself, I had experienced such a close bond with the people that shared those 24 hours with me. The day after the run, I called Jill in the morning...I had such a strong urge to just hear her voice, and Sarah's, and Amy's, and everyone else that was there with us. What we all endured, no one will understand no matter how many times they may read a recap or hear the story. The main thing is that people become aware of WHY we all endured: Knowing that there are many people in our country, our city, maybe even our own neighborhood, who endure so much worse and are afraid to tell their story in fear for their lives. I hope this experience of the Purple Crewsaders gives hope to those who feel they cannot endure another day...another 24 hours. Those same people are the ones who inspired us.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

24 Hour Treadmill Relay PRE-Run

Tomorrow is the big day! The Purple Crewsaders, Jill Monson, Sarah Mitcham, Amy Craft, and I, are running as a relay team for 24 hours on the treadmill at the Jobing.com Arena where the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes play. Kelsey Hughes is our leading lady as crew chief once again and we have Brianna Wilson and Clarissa Borboa, along with others, ready to pace! We have teamed up with Donna Bartos of The Purple Ribbon Council, making magic happen once again! We are running for the children who have been orphaned due to domestic homicide. It has to end.

It has been three months since I did the run solo. I learned so much from that experience and hope that I can be of help to my fellow runners who are all trying to beat their own personal records. I tweaked my training and scaled it down as if training for a 50 miler. I have found that "running" on the treadmill is just glorified "bouncing" in place...so I made sure to do a heck of a lot more jump roping in my own training this time around along with running on the treadmill, hill training and interval training, and of course cycling and tabata training. Every runner knows NOT to eat anything different on race day, but I was lax on that during the solo run is probably what ruined it for my stomach. I have my lunchbox full of wonderful food that I trust and KNOW will fuel me correctly and give me a quick recovery so I can go running on Friday morning with my running club! 

So...once again, I find myself removing the sediment from my mind and clearing a nice cozy cave to zone into during my part of the run. This time, the atmosphere will be much different: The average temperature is 56 degrees Farenheit, my iPod died, and there will be a stadium full of hockey fans in the final hours of running. No pressure.

There will be a skype stream of the run starting tomorrow night. The skype name is "Purple Crewsaders". Please go to PurpleTogether.org and click on "Pucks for Purple" to get more information regarding this run and the CAUSE.
Stay tuned for the RECAP.