Monday, February 4, 2013

What I Learned At Rocky Raccoon on Saturday

I think many people would think that I’m disappointed after dropping at mile 32 with blisters at yesterday’s Rocky Raccoon 100.  I’m not.  Far from it.

I attempted it – actually twice now -- because I thought that I could complete it.  I still think that it is possible, but it will have to wait for another time.

A friend of mine wrote to me on Wednesday, “Look deep.  Sometimes what we thought we were “searching” for through some goal or end result is something completely different and we may find it in the journey.”

I had a minor motivator last year as a result of the arrogance of a few, but that’s really not natural – and not right.

Waverly, my daughter (for any new readers), got me for my birthday last month a day-by-day calendar of Tony Dungy.  It still sits on January 23 this morning, but it reads:  “What’s important is not the accolades and the memories of success, but the way you respond when opportunities are denied.”

Very, very true.  I’ve failed in that area before and the outcome wasn’t good in many ways.  I’m deeply regretful of the last time that I actively recall that happening and I’ve apologized for how I responded.

What I did learn through the exercise of attempting a 100-miler yesterday – and something that I sure that I already knew (and not in a prideful way) – is that I am an individual who is very deeply loved by many, many people and by God.

People who really know me know that for as many people who know me or know who I am know that I never seek attention for myself.  There’s a verse in the Bible, and I can’t find it (even with an online search), that speaks to the “edification of the Saints”.

And I believe that it is where my spiritual gift is – and it is why my abilities – verbal and written – are used to encourage and bring positive attention towards others.

At one point during each of our first loops yesterday, I was running close to Dallas’ Libby Jones and between the two of us it seemed like we knew half of the field.  I chuckled and smiled to myself at the time.

During packet pickup the day before, I had a chance to visit with Rich and Amie James, the race directors of the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, Bill Moeller from Spring, Claude Hicks, Jr., who had just finished the H.U.R.T. 100 in Hawaii two weeks before, Les Ellsworth from The Woodlands, Francisco “Paco” Garza and I saw many others that I knew but didn’t get a chance to say “Hi!” too.

Before the start, I spent a good long time (for a short 10-15 minutes) primarily talking to a very kind, warm Christian man, Robert Lott, Jr., who I’m proud to call a friend.

I quietly watched one of the classiest women in Houston’s running history, Donna Sterns, and her daughter, get their husband and father, Darrell, ready for his 100-mile adventure.  It was very cool to watch and see, especially since Donna’s running history is truly a great one (that she would never tell you of).

It is also just how that generation of runners is.

Somewhere after the Nature Center (the first three miles), I ran into very good friends, Allen Lazenby, Jr. and Kevin Kline, of a good friend of mine, Becky Spaulding.  We shared a lot of good conversation in covering a good bit of the next 6-8 miles or so as we ran into the Dam Nation aid station and through much of the 6-mile loop back.  Robert had caught up to me to the very end of the loop and we went into the aid station together.

When I got to the Park Road aid station, there was Jim Braden.  What a pleasant surprise and as I have stated before, such an honor.  Jim is like Donna in that he’d never tell you all that he’s accomplished – and out of respect to him, I won’t recount it here.

What I learned from Bill Dwyer after I had dropped is that he showed up for Bill’s Volte group run, ran a little bit and asked Bill if I was on the start line and wondered if he could make it there before I made it to the 15-mile mark.  He did, and I, once again, was very, very grateful for the show of support.

I’ve done stuff like that before.  It is fun and is greatly appreciated by people that you show that support to.

Before making it there, I talked to a gentleman who wearing his Toughest 10K Kemah technical shirt and we carried on a good conversation for a mile or two about Seabrook and the Texas Bridge Series.  It is good to talk about good races to another runner.

At the Park Road aid station, I saw Libby Jones, a race director from Dallas, a fellow writer for Texas Runner and Triathlete and a good friend.  She introduced me to her friend, Lesley Jones, who she ran the whole way with, and we carried on a good conversation until we separated for the final three miles in to wrap up our respective loops.

Once I ended the first loop, I was encouraged by the 4:41:56 split in; however, I took about 15 minutes going to my car and making some changes, such as a short-sleeved shirt (for the second loop, which started to warm up.)

The start of the second loop was uneventful.  I saw Amie James early in the loop and when I got to the first aid station in 42 minutes, I was encouraged that it was a little bit faster than the first loop of the morning. 

Probably the biggest mistake that I made was not switching shoes in between loop one and two or at least taking my socks off and re-vaselining my feet up.

Working the Nature Center aid station on the second loop - much to my surprise - was June Harris, a Bay Area Running Club member.  It is always good to see people that you know working the races that you love to participate in.

The next three mile segment, things were moving along OK, but with it beginning to warm up, I knew that chafing may become an issue (which really hurt me physically at the Chevron Houston Marathon three weeks before).

There was a funny moment on the way to Dam Nation when I stopped to … ah … adjust the shorts a little bit.  Amie was coming up from behind with another runner and they chuckled about what happens on a trail versus the things that don’t occur during a road marathon.  The next young woman who came up shortly thereafter boldly said that she “enjoyed the show” (not that I “really” showed anything). 

I found out from talking to her for next mile or so that she was from Kansas and had done the Heartland 100 a couple of times.  It reminded me of somebody (the comment not the 100-milers) and I quickly let it go.  She was a pretty woman though.

When I rolled into Dam Nation, even though I was on the money with my salt tablets (two every hour on the hour), I wasn't getting enough to drink.  The North Texas Trail Runners, who man that aid station do a great job there, were clearly advising me that I needed to drink more.  So I went out on the 6-mile loop with a cold bottle of water and Gatorade.

I soon caught up with Allen again and we walked on a pretty good pace to beyond the turnaround until he got away from me up on the spillway.  And it was here, where the 50-milers joined us from their shorter loop out of Dam Nation, that I began to slow down even more than a 15-minute mile.

When I got back into Dam Nation, I was really hurting.  Every step hurt with a blister on my right heel.  (It still hurts on Sunday.)  I started down the path to the Park Road Aid Station thinking that Bill Dwyer would have made it there by then.  But when I saw a golf cart delivering supplies to Dam Nation, I stopped them and asked them if they were going to be going out soon.  They were, asked me to stay put and they came back – in about 10 minutes – and got me.

I saw Annabel Dixon and Claude Hicks, Jr. before the cart came.  Annabel encouraged me to keep going, but Claude knew where I was at and still congratulated me.

The Community Emergency Response Team with Walker County came, put me on their cart and took me to the spillway.  I saw my friend Becky with three runners that were with her doing the 50-miler and I told her that I had the same “disease” that she did five years earlier in her first 50-mile attempt:  blisters.

The C.E.R.T. cart took me to the spillway, where I got a boat ride across the lake from another trio of C.E.R.T. and event volunteers.  I got out of the boat and immediately turned my timing chip in.

I called Bill, thinking he might have been waiting at the Park Road aid station (~mile 35), but he hadn’t made it to Huntsville yet.  It would have been good to have seen him (and Mary Carter who were planning on making the drive up) as well as Waverly, who was planning on coming up after she got off work.

I thought about staying, like I have many other years, but I knew Waverly was going to be getting home – and when she’s going off to school in six months, I wanted to get back home.  I think most people can understand that.

And I was so very thankful for everything that she did to help me that evening.

She went across the road to HEB to pick up a few things and she cooked dinner for me – chicken alfredo.  And then after I had watched more TV (two and a half hours) then I had in a long, long time, she went and got a couple of blankets out so I could sleep on the couch.

All the while, I scanned through the dial on the television and started watching Charles Stanley, a pastor of a megachurch in Atlanta, Georgia and the founder of In Touch Ministries.  Stanley is one of the few “television” preachers, if you will, that I have ever given any time to, but as I explained to Waverly, I first heard of Stanley listening to the radio in conjunction with programming around James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family”.

He talked about how, in his life, there always seemed to be something missing – and not just that his father had been but that he never allowed himself to fully realize that God loved him.  I think it – like many things – was something that I needed to hear.

I am sincerely happy for each and every person that I know or know of who successfully accomplished their goal on Saturday and Sunday – and for whatever their reason was of pursuing it.

I’ll close a great experience with the ending words of a status update from a first time 50-mile finisher, who feared putting themselves on the wait list (especially after finishing a marathon two weeks before):  “An ultra run ain’t about you, your feet, your hunger or your discomfort.  It’s about the people, the humanity happening all around you.”

So.  Very.  True.

Thanks for reading.

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