Thursday, November 1, 2012

Under a Blood Red Sunrise

I am awake.  I don’t know how, but I am…

One hour into the final loop, nearly out and dead to the world, here I am striding as fast as I can, across the top of this damn rock.  No running.  Not yet, not for another few miles.  Not for any measurable distance for several more hours…

The weekend started out great and without the slightest sense of apprehension.  Friday morning greeted us with rain and chilly temperatures.  A cold front was rolling through and promised cloudy and moderate temperatures on Saturday.  As the Cactus Rose course is very exposed, cloud cover would be welcome.  And if the clouds remained overnight, the lows would be fairly mild as well.

At the starting line I did not recognize anyone, other than a few faces I remembered from last year.  Andria and I did meet up with Melissa and we went over last minute thoughts.  With a few minutes till the start I moved to the rear of the assembled masses and took a deep breath.

In the dark the first mile or so was basically a walk.  It would be several miles before the trail opened up and allowed for running without crawling up someone’s ass.

The first loop (twenty-five miles) plus ten miles went as expected.  I ran when the course was run-able.  I walked when it was not.  The only surprise of the first loop was that I completely missed the descent from Ice Cream Hill.  It is long and steep and requires careful footing.  The limestone is flakey and any lapse in attention would easily result in landing on one’s ass – hard.

Andria was waiting for me at Equestrian on both passes and at The Lodge. 

Loop One:  5:33
Elapsed Time:  5:33

When I returned to Equestrian at mile 35 I made the bold request for Andria and Melissa to calculate the necessary splits to break twenty-four hours.

That proved to be wasted breath.  I was still feeling good physically and mentally.  However, the twenty miles through the meat grinder of Equestrian-to-Boyles-to-Lodge (miles 15 through 35 and miles 65 through 85) and back again was about to a catch up with me as I headed for Nachos and mile 40.

My quads began to bark and running turned to walking.  When I arrived back at The Lodge to complete the second loop both thighs were cramping deeply.  Andria and Melissa were slow coming driving up from Equestrian (I wanted to curse then and did till they arrived, and eventually I let it pass and turned my head back to the now.) so I laid on the cold ground and waited.  A few people asked if I was okay.  I may have lied but I don’t remember.
A few minutes later the girls showed up and Andria tried to roll out the cramps with a Stick.  Oops.  The Stick on my right quad ignited a violent spasm up the right side of my spine through my shoulder blade and into my deltoid.  Next she rolled an inflamed hip flexor, which caused my right groin to flare up.

I may have screamed at some point.  I don’t remember.

I may have asked out of the event at that point.  No was the long answer.

Loop Two:  8:37
Elapsed Time:  14:10

The next loop was a slow long slog.  No running.  Night was settling over Hill Country and I resigned myself to accept the original goal I brought to Cactus Rose – just finish.  There was no joy in that acceptance.

Allow me a moment to reflect on the past year…  I am codependent.  Codependency is marked by particular patterns of behavior that lead to soul crushing negative self-talk.  Most people struggle with the Big Picture of completing an ultra, but my codependency makes the struggle even deeper.  So my mission was to pull back and focus on each five mile segment.  Each turn on the trail.  Each solitary step.  Just for today is a common refrain of the Codependent.  I had to repeat that refrain and reflect on the Serenity Prayer to just get through the loop.

While at mile 65 I thought back to last year when I wanted out.  I was way behind that pace but was still going.

I need to point that that other than muscle fatigue I felt pretty well physically.  No joint pain.  My ankles and knees felt great.  I was popping ibuprofen and my team asked questions to monitor my urine rate, flow, and color to avoid any bit of nastiness from over-medicating.

After mile 65 I dove back into the meat grinder and shit was about to get real deep, real fast.  Coming through the final segment from Boyles back to The Lodge I felt as though I would fall asleep on my feet.  The fear began to rise that I would succumb and fall, probably bashing my skull on a rock.  I was in the grip of Fear and Doubt and all the voices that tell me to get the fuck off this course and off my feet.

As I stumbled toward the timing mat to close out 75 miles I considered handing Joe, the race director, my timing chip and walking away.  If I would quit I did not want to give Andria or Melissa a chance to talk me out of it.

Fortunately for them I forgot to hand in my chip.

Loop Three:  10:58
Elapsed Time:  25:08

I made my way to the heated tent step up by the race organizers and slumped into a camp chair.  To say I was dead would not begin to capture just how exhausted I was that morning.  It was five o’clock on Sunday morning and the only thing I wanted was to sleep.  My crew shoved food into my mouth.  I rolled my head from side to side to get away for anything they wanted me to eat. 

Barely under my breath, I begged to quit.  I wanted out desperately. 

I did eat a bit.  No clue what, other than some Ramen.  Maybe some Pringles and banana chips.

Andria did tell me later than I slept for about thirty minutes.  I did stir to see her putting on additional clothes.  My immediate response was “What the fuck are you doing?”  She said she was getting ready to go out with me.  She and Melissa were going to get me up and out and she was going with me.  “No the fuck you aren’t!”  I told her that I could barely care for myself out there on the trail and with the worst ten miles ahead I did not think she would be able.   I don’t for a minute doubt Andria’s heart – she was willing – but I knew she was not ready physically for what lay ahead.  “If you get hurt I can’t carry both of us out.”

So up I stood, turned on my iPod to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast with Bryan Cranston (conversations with Henry Rollins and Steven Wright would follow), and back into the dark I stumble.  It was shortly after six o’clock.

I knew that if I made it through the next ten miles I would finish the race, barring injury.  The climbs, even at a slow walking pace, were lung searing.  As I crossed from Cairn’s Climb to Boyles Bump I looked over my left shoulder to see a blood red sunrise sandwiched in the break between the horizon and low clouds.  Then I realized how determined my walking pace was.  I felt how awake I was.  I was at a polar opposite from how I was at The Lodge.

Coming down the final approach to Boyles aid station I tried to run it in.  Andria was waiting and filled my handhelds to help me get out as soon as possible.  I sprinted (it felt like sprinting) out and down the trail till I hit the first climb toward Sky Island

Sky Island is the highest point on the course.  The ascent and descent, whether going clockwise or counterclockwise, is ball busting brutality at its worst.  Not to mention the crawl over Three Sisters and all the damn stool palms that continued slicing my quads and shins.

My arrival at Equestrian allowed me to shed clothing, my head lamp, and shovel more food down my throat.  The #DoEpicShit tee finally came out.

From here I would loop ten miles through Nachos before coming back to Equestrian, then the final five miles to the finish.

I could smell the finish.

The trail to Nachos is fairly flat in comparison to the stretch from The Lodge-to-Boyles-to-Equestrian, with one exception – Ice Cream Hill.  I clocked the climb at three and a half minutes to cover one tenth of a mile.  I’ve run a half mile on a high school track faster than that.  The Ice Cream Hill ascent is no high school track.

On this segment I caught of with a few runners also struggling to find some reserve strength.  As I pulled away from Nachos a runner and his pacer caught and passed me.  The pacer urged me to join them.  I did my best but continued to walk when I needed to, though I ran more as the quads allowed.  During a gentle rise along a power line I really began to hike a hard pace to keep my head in the game.  I did manage to jog most the final mile into Equestrian.

Once out of Equestrian I had 4.5 miles to go.  I wanted to run as much as possible, but the climb over Lucky Peak within the final 1.5 miles was looming.  I had to save something in the quads.  With two miles remaining I could hear the crowd at The Lodge through the trees.  On I pressed, still walking hard.

I saw the top of Lucky Peak in the distance.  Once over it and another shorter down-and- up it was be flat all the way back.  The climb up Lucky was clocked on my Garmin at under 400 feet.  That steady climb took almost three minutes.  You have to earn this finish, and you know it’s coming all weekend.

Once on the jeep trail I tried to open my stride and push the pace.  I wanted this over as quickly as possible.

There is one final straight away, where you can spy a few of the buildings at The Lodge, before turning back in to the trees for a few hundred yards.  At the top of my lungs I shouted “Honey, I’m almost home!!!” and really hammered the pace.  Glancing at my Garmin I may have seen 7:30/mi.

Down and through the little gully and twenty yards in.  I passed Andria to my right. 

As I crossed the timing mat I came to a stop and meet Joe to collect my buckle.

I was done.

Fourth Loop:  8:14
Race Total:  33:24 (Writer's note - I did not account for seconds in my splits, so if you add up the individual loop times you will note that they come up two minutes short.  Bite me.)

Andria was there to hug me – the one time she has not refused a nasty post-run hug.  Then I collapsed under a shade tree for a Guinness and a rest.

There were a few tears.  There were a few sighs of relief.  But more so there was an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at completing this goal.  In spite of all the walking I finished only one hour behind last year’s time.

Fuck yeah.

Post script #1 – There are far too many details to recall, most of which are lost to me already, to provide a thorough and accurate accounting of my most recent encounter with the Cactus Rose.  And quite frankly, I cannot expect anyone to read through the reams of prose I could spit out regarding the physical, mental, and emotional toll of the event.  Most of it is gone, faded into the dark corners of my mind and body.  Surely some has settled into my bones.  Should you have any specific questions, feel free to ask at your leisure.

Post script #2 - I gave the buckle to Andria.  We will probably get it boxed as a display, but it is hers. I may have covered the course alone, but she was with me at all the aid stations and each step of the way in spirit.  Having her support made this weekend possible and without her, I may not have gotten out of that chair to start the final lap.  I may have said "thank you" to her at least five times a day since I finished.  There are not enough thank yous, really.

Post script #3 - While on the trail and as we drove out of the park, I figured I was leaving Bandera for the last time.  There was a real sense that never again would I run Cactus Rose or any stretch of the Hill Country trail network.  I even assumed that I would never attempt another 100 miler.  There is a real physical and mental toll to pay.  Then a funny thing happened over the next twenty hours.  Though I had a lot of pain in my legs, and my stomach was ripped after too much post-race food and Gatorade, I realized I was not hurt as badly as after last year’s race.  Then in a text exchange with another Cactus Rose veteran I suddenly realized I was planning how to train smarter for next year.  Andria also revealed that to pass the time between aid stations she began making a list of gear she needs for The Next Race.  So I guess there will be a Next Race.

I resume training shortly.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

In three short weeks I'll be in the middle of my second 100 miler.

Actually it will be my third.  I say second because I expect to finish this one, as I did last October.

Honestly thought, my training has sucked.  Plus I'm working a new job with crazy hours.

But I have course familiarity, I have been through the fire before and know what to expect, and I've spent the last forty-nine weeks training from the next up.  It has been a wild ride to say the least.

A few months back I considered refunding the air fare and not going back to Texas.  Andria said No.  She urged me to go, as a way to honor the journey I have made since my last trip out West.

I have to say... I like how that woman thinks.

Come Hell or no water, I'll be back to let you know how the weekend goes.

- L

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hello, again.

It has been a long while since I was last here, telling you of my thoughts and actions.  Since our last visit I've been doing other things, revealing myself in other places, in other ways.  I have also learned much about myself in the intervening months.  Since I last posted I've:

  • deactivated my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Daily Mile.  I no longer gained from these sites what once made them so attractive.
  • spent time in private therapy and continue to participate in a support group for codependency.
  • actively minimized my work load in the field of real estate.
  • been employed for almost one month with a global wholesale/retailer.  This means I am punching a time clock and getting paid on a regular basis.  What is not to love?
  • not run nearly enough.  In the spring I paid for entry and airfare in a bid to rerun Cactus Rose.  As of today that race is ten weeks away.  As of last night I have a raging calf strain and cannot walk comfortably.  I need a flashlight and a few extra hands.  I feel I will be pulling another buckle out of my ass somehow.
  • I've said goodbye, albeit reluctantly, to a few close friends.  The sort of friends that alter one's perspective and are catalysts for remarkable changes in life.  The kind of friends that support you through thick and thin.  The kind of friends that would stick with you forever, but know when to leave you alone.  Unfortunately, this is a forever kind of alone.
Am I happier since I last posted to this blog?  I guess.  But it is relative.  

Am I more content?  Again, it is relative.

What I know is that in spite of whatever ups and downs I am rolling through, I am responsible for my reactions and responses.  I am the one capable of overcoming, of pressing forward, of pushing ahead.  Others may try to hold me back.  Others may try to propel me forward.  But I alone am responsible for the change I seek.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hi. My name is Logan and I am co-dependent.

I have worried about a lot of bullshit in my life.  I have made many self-destructive decisions in my life.  What I can say with the utmost certainty is that I am a victim of my own inability to control my urges and impulses.

Codependency has been will me all my life.  I suspect - rather, I believe - codependency will be will me for the remainder of my life.  Only now I have a label and I have an understanding and I have tools to respond to the behavioral patterns that previously guided me.

I may or may not use this space to write about my struggles with coming to terms with codependency.  Like other forms of addiction, you never beat it.  You can only deal with it.  You can only keep it a bay.

Should have any questions, ask.  If you come with hate or bullshit, I will cut you.  Deep.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Toeing the Line

Something is coming.

Those who care may understand.

Those who don't, or doubt any aspect of my being, can...

Go to Hell

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thought for today

Speak No Ill nor Do No Harm.

To yourself or others.  This is what I must become.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why I Run - Further Introspection

I can never truly outrun The Voices, my inner demons that keep me on the edge of the abyss.  What I find is that I do need to outrun The Voices.  Running for me is like a dance where The Voices are a reluctant partner.

In the dark of night or lonesome moments The Voices sing out like a multitude of angles on high - though their hymns are neither joyful nor uplifting.  Each verse is an attack on my heart, my soul, my very reasons for being.  The refrain hammers home my frailty and weakness.

Running is my time to take the lead in this dance.  I hire the band.  I pick the set-list.  I chose the dance steps and drag The Voices around the dance floor.  I know that so long as I am moving about the dance floor The Voices cannot keep time.  They cannot shout me down.  They cannot shuffle their feet in time with the rhythm of the movement.  The Voices stumble.  I create separation.

Oh they try to bog me down and play the usual mind games.

Rather than listen to The Voices I focus on the sound of my lungs and searing of each breath.

Rather than suffers the raining blows of my eternal enemies I revel in the pounding of my heart against my chest.

Rather than dwell on how The Voices assault and claw at the fabric of my soul I feel muscle, tendon, and ligament pull and stretch and twist as I churn down the path...

Forever forward.

I am not running away.  I am running with...

Till The Voices tire and fall away and retreat to their own quiet spot to rest, I run.  Then after I am finished there is a respite - a ceasefire, a momentary peace.  The purpose for a training plan is not to prepare for a particular event but to get my ass (and my head) back out on the road before The Voices have a chance to awaken from their slumber; before they have opportunity to regroup and refortify.

I do not run to run away.  I run to keep The Voices at bay.

I run to be stronger than anything that aims to defeat me.  I run to be stronger than Me.

Running For Life

One complaint people have about running is that the act of running is boring.  It is so boring that some people refuse to run or shudder at the very thought of running without music or some other auditory distraction.

At some point I made a conscious decision to drop the ear buds and embrace the mental chatter.  Whether I am out for a brisk three miler or slogging through several hours on my feet, my greatest pleasure in running is wrestling with some issue and arriving at a resolution.  Not all runs are great and not all resolutions work; however, the push to be better physically and mentally is worth whatever hurdles are encountered along the way.

On numerous occasions I lack sufficient motivation to push myself and struggle to maintain consistent effort.  Then I happen upon a person that is battling with their own demons or physical illness.  It has been a while but dedication runs have been a great motivator for focused running.  They may be low key and easy; a way to meditate on healing or peace for the person in question.  Or, I may run like a bat out of hell, pouring all my energy into the run knowing that the subject of the dedication is not able to do so.

Since the end of October I have struggled to get back in a groove with regards to running.  Many days I feel listless or else I make easy excuses to head out later.  Unfortunately later is usually after a space of two or three days.

Rather than dedicating a single workout for some individual or cause, I have decided to dedicate an entire training cycle to a single cause.  On Saturday, May 5th I will participate in 2012 Relay For Life of Georgetown, SC.  My personal goal is to run as much as possible and walk as necessary so that I may remain in motion from Noon till Midnight.

Relay For Life is a cancer charity.  I will run for three grandparents taken by cancer, as well as various aunts and uncles who did not survive their diagnoses.  I will run for my father and two of my wife's uncles who have successfully overcome prostate cancer.  I will run for my father-in-law who is only weeks into post-operative recovery for prostate cancer.  I will also from for the OB-GYN that delivered my youngest daughter ten years ago this April.  She lost her fight with cancer.

This is a very personal issue for me.

Fundraising is a component of Relay For Life.  Asking for money is not a natural talent of mine.  Should you feel compelled to contribute I shall be eternally grateful.  I may even send along a little personal gift to express my gratitude.

To up the ante, I shall also pledge to donate one dollar from each #DoEpicShit bracelet I sell between now and May 6th.

What does twelve hours on an asphalt high school track mean with regards to distance?  I expect to complete at minimum two hundred laps, or 50 miles.  If everything comes together well I hope to reach close to 80 miles.

The last few months I have felt detached, disjointed.  On a recent run I found a renewed determination that translated into an excellent eight mile run.  I think that is part of what is fueling my runs.  The push for greater pace/effort is a renewed desire to dedicate to and run for people not able to run for themselves.  I do this because they cannot.  It is scary how hard I am able to push myself; and yet some of these efforts seems so easy in the moment.  A dedication run ceases to be a trainer or merely another daily task to check of the list.  The run assumes a life of its own.  Much like The Relay for life.

It is one of the many reasons I run.

For those not gifted with an ability to read between the lines this is a call for money.  Click either link to donate directly to Relay For LIfe or to purchase a wristband.  Do it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Echos of What Was

I happened upon this song recently.  Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye.  If you know then you will understand why this song is so impactful.  There has been much on my mind of late.  I have talked with certain confidantes and made promises to let these thoughts go.  For as much as this song reminds me of what was, it also informs me that all things - people, friendships, relationships - eventually pass away and are relegated to once upon a time.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Something Is Afoot

Since I returned from Texas I have not trained with any purpose.  I have yet to register for any races.  Blame it on a lack of disposable income.  Blame it on being to weak-willed to trick myself into training for the sake of training.  The problem is that when there is no race to prepare for my mind rarely allows me to run guilt-free.  If the past few years have taught me anything, it would be that I need at least 60 minutes in motion to feel the effects of a run.  Three or four miles just won't do most days.  Seven or eight is more to my liking.  Fifteen or 20 is even better.  Rather than allowing my mind to cannibalize itself with negative talk and self-doubt, my mind urges my body forward.  Sure, on occasion the mind is weak and wimps out when the body has more to give, but often times I find that I am outrunning myself.  Running from the flaws and imperfections and all the defects that mark my frail grasp on humanity.

All this is to say that some days when running for self, training plans or health is not enough, it is time to look outside one's self.  Some of my best runs have come when I've thought about others.  Dedicating a run to someone in need, whether it is a friend or stranger, often allows me to forget my own pain or frailty and push harder than I may have otherwise.  "How would that person run if they could?" is a question I will ask myself.

Which brings me to the present.  My plan is not unusual.  Many of you following this blog have done more for charity than I'll ever consider.  I am hoping this a first step.  Another test of self while contributing to a cause.

Three of my grandparents died of cancer.  My father is a survivor of prostate cancer.  My father-in-law is scheduled for surgery on Monday to remove cancerous tissue from his own prostate.  Both of my mother-in-law's brothers have survived their own battled with the disease.  Then what better way to take on the fight that by participating in the Georgetown County Relay For Life?

On Saturday May 5th, from noon till midnight, I shall attempt to circle the asphalt track at Waccamaw High School as many times as possible.  I am partnering with a team representing Waccamaw Middle School where my daughter attends.  To say I am excited by the opportunity and excited to have a training goal is to understate the obvious.

In the coming days or weeks I shall post a link to solicit donations.  To be clear - I loathe fundraising.  I hate asking for money.  However this is a different story.  If able to contribute, please know that I am forever grateful for your support.

As for a goal...  I am thinking a nice round number is appropriate.

5-0 maybe.

But if I reach that goal with time on the clock, you can be damn certain I will try to go further.