Finding My Wings

 

10644763_10204793582739241_8802956298601628442_o-2
Taking a break and enjoying the presence of Mt. Hood on a casual 28+ mile run with my husband.

Only crazy people run marathons. I mean, this is a fact, right? Who, in their sane mind, would submit themselves to so many hours of torture? Who would find joy in this? Those marathoners are crazy.

I have become crazy.

I’ll admit to it, I’ve always been a runner. I love speed. Give me a field, a time goal, and step back. But running long distances, like more then 5 miles? Uh, noooooo.   When I was 18, I was forced to log my mileage for college ball and so, begrudgingly, started bringing my mileage up. At the end of a long summer of training, the team members were given a 2.5 mile all-out test. I did manage to do an impressive 14:27 but never thought much of it. I was a sprinter. Long distances were torture and boring. My philosophy had always been, unless there was a ball involved, I’m was not running far.

Something happened to me that summer of training. I don’t know how or why but during my first year of college, I started running a lot. I would run morning, afternoon, at midnight sometimes. I would run whether I had soccer practice or a game, for 1-3 hours at a time. Snowing? It’s ok…there goes Becky. Pitch dark? No problem because the streets have lights! Water? Nah, I don’t need that. No watch, no training chart, no reason except I needed to run. I would run fast, slow and every pace in between. I ran how I wanted. I was free.

The years went by and life happened. Marriage, children, and work all blossomed, taking away much of the time I used for running. My shoes remained untouched for months on end. One day, after my youngest of four had turned two years old, I picked up my shoes again. I did a mile and thought I would die. A few days later, I ran/walked my way to 3 miles. I could do this. Within a month, I was going out for an hour or more. My husband asked me how far I was running and I couldn’t tell him. Who cares anyway? He did care and loaned me his watch for my next run. I ran 8 miles. Randy turned around and bought me my own watch immediately.  I’m not sure he realized what was about to happen.

That first day, with my own watch, I spontaneously ran 16 miles up the mountain and home again. I was sore but laying in my ice bath, I was happy as a clam. This mileage thing was FUN! Within a few weeks, I did another long run. I was aiming for 18 miles but when I got to that number, I decided I needed to understand the crazy people. I needed to do a marathon. I kept running. 20, 21, then 22 miles…I felt like I was trying to move through cement. I had entered the Bonk Zone. I started laughing like a lunatic. This is all that everyone is scared of? This wasn’t so bad! I’d experienced way worse in my life and in sports. F’ off bonk ‘cause I’m moving on through!

I negative split the last three miles of the 27. I’d done it. I’d joined the few that ever dared to run a marathon. There was no t-shirt or medal at the end of my marathon. No one would ever care but me. I had done this all for myself, embracing every moment of that run, owning up to the pain, adding on unexpected mileage, and transcending my previous self in the process. I was hooked. I could run further! Marathoning wasn’t any kind of elite club but something anyone could do.

We are the crazy people.

My next long run was up a mountain for over 28 miles on a date with my husband. As we both stood in the cold creek at the end of a long day, I knew I needed to go further.

11082458_10206737931306740_7528021862927500404_o-5
Sailing into a 2nd place female age group finish, fourth female overall, in my first official marathon. This marathon is listed as one of the very hardest races in the PNW.

This summer will be my first attempt at a 100 mile distance. I’ve run more marathons in training then I can count. I’ve moved from a solid field sprinting athlete to an endurance junkie. I’ve joined the group of super freaks called ultra marathoners, those of us who dare to run/walk/crawl our way past the traditional marathon distance into the unknown. For us, there is no stopping point. There is no end to what we can do.

I’ve found my wings.

-The Phoenix

 

10892001_10206337901306240_1921166163123693115_n
Orcas Island 50k in 2015. With over 8000 feet of vertical, this was a true test of will.

 

 

On Becoming Super Mom

 

12185394_10208012820298168_4733409747546869727_o

“Mommy, time to wake up! It’s time to get stronger!”

I roll over and check my resting heart rate. 37 BPM.   My beautiful, ornery, energetic, charismatic, dynamo of a 4-year-old daughter sees morning as the time to rejoice. Mom, we are going to get stronger. Mom, it’s time to become more. Mommy, I know you can do it…I know we can do it.

My four children are my greatest cheerleaders, my all time PR’s, and my entire heart. I get asked how I can stand to spend so many hours training, away from my favorite little people. I’ve been told I should feel guilty, abusive, that my efforts to better myself are fruitless, that I will never become more then just a Mom.

I disagree.

11412297_10207036904900893_4446178865293748630_n
Just like Mom…

12030548_10207876912740564_4820973158577478931_o

 

My children are happy, healthy, and see a life with obstacles but with very few true limits. My ultra running husband and I do spend countless hours running and training. We incorporate our children into as many aspects of our journey as possible. Travel, exercise, love of nature, persistence…ultra running is not just a sport; ultra running it is a way of life.   Growth is not always pretty. There are a lot of early wake-ups, late night workouts alone on the roads or in garage. I beat myself up pretty bad at times. My kids have seen me both wrecked and brilliant.   My children have seen me dedicate myself to becoming something bigger. They see me get up and work toward a goal every day. Better yet, they have started to expect and anticipate that work as joy. They have assumed the ultra mindset.   Becoming a super hero to my children doesn’t require that I be the best, it only requires that I teach them how to be their best.

“Mommy, time to wake up!” It’s time to get stronger!”

Yes little one, it is time. Let’s get to it!

 

12232937_10208175565806704_6599715799824227132_o
Quinn winning his age group and placing 6th overall in a 5K at age 8.
886889_10208469637718318_2115632477465081467_o-1
Quinn contemplates the race ahead. He went on to place 2nd overall.

-The Phoenix

Out Of The Ashes We Rise: The Fire of Injury

 

12091206_10207864857079180_2252661939651446557_o-1

I’ll admit it, I push the limits of what my body is capable of quite frequently.  The consequence of my actions:  I sometimes get injured.  I’ve, unknowingly, run an entire ultra with not one but two broken legs.  I’ve played soccer with a concussion, lost teeth to sport, and suffered innumerable muscle and tendon tears.  I’ve been bloodied and stood back up for more.  I was trained to always continue forward.  I understand what it is to accept pain and to move through it.  But what do I do when my body can’t move anymore?  When my norm is relentless forward physical progress and I suddenly must cease, how do I adjust to being, quite literally, broken?

Injury is not a limiter but a building block.  Injury is the time for an athlete to turn thoughts inwards and capitalize on the stillness.  Injury is a time for a specialist to expand total athleticism.  Through ever injury, I’ve followed the same steps:

-Mourning:  a brief pity-party, followed by “well, you knew better!”

-Acceptance: a practical evaluation of injury rehab time and adjustment of expectations.

-Action:  assessment of what is possible and formation of a training plan that capitalizes on the positive.

-Learning:  taking steps to avoid, if possible, the same mistakes again.

Using these methods, I’ve not only overcome every injury I’ve ever had (and there are quite a few with over 2 decades of competitive sporting history), I’ve emerged from the fire, reborn as something better then before.  By accepting injury as not a failure but as an opportunity, I have continued to grown as both an athlete and a human.

10849088_10206366466820360_2901300728596252677_o-2

-The Phoenix Running