2015 Last Annual Volunteer State 500K Road Race
(or something like that)
Welcome to the Vol State 4H club (Hot, Hilly, Humid, HELL)
This is not going to be a typical race report because not only do I not know how to write one but also because I really have no idea where I’ve been when over the 10 days we crossed Tennessee. In addition, the only races here were between me and myself and me and Oprah . So bear with me or go on to something else. This report is mostly for me anyway and the last thing I want is to bore anyone else. I have tried to put headings on different sections so you can scan the headings if you want and jump to what interests you. For those who are bored, remember that a race report is for the author, not necessarily the reader.
The TEAM (Thank Everyone Around Me)!
Before you leave though, please note that my extreme gratitude goes out to the entire TEAM that carried me across the state and up that &*%$# Sand Mountain and eventually to the ROCK! Obviously the team is led by Mr. Gary Cantrell (Laz) along with Carl Laniak and Jan Walker. These three folks made it possible for me to both start this adventure and to complete it. But there are so many others on this team and I know I will forget some of them but it’s not intentional.
The second most important teammate is my CREW – Mr. Marvin Skagerberg – a legend in the running/ultrarunning world and a wonderfully patient man. He put up with me for 10 full days and watched me yell and saw me cry (not many men have ever had that “honor”). I would never have started if it hadn’t been for him and I know darn well I would not have made it very far again this year without him. He has my undying gratitude. I have no idea how he managed with no sleep and still maintaining constant vigilance the entire time. What an amazing man!
Diane Taylor, Ben Pennington and Jay Hamilton were with me at various points along the way but most importantly they had decided they were going to make sure I finished (you’ll see why that was so important later) and indeed, they did that! I am forever indebted to them as well.
Paul Heckert was an inspiration every time I saw him as was Bill Haecker. Both of these guys were near me at various times and really made a difference when you’ve been alone with yourself (and your crew but you try not to spend a lot of time with your crew because then you’re not moving) for so many long, sleep deprived hours.
Bill Haecker! The coolest guy on the road. Always smiling and making great conversation along the route.
All the road angels were so important especially Kim Montgomery and Peggy Richmond! Kim has been with me in spirit or person since last year’s race and she supported me so very much throughout this one. Ms. Peggy Richmond put out a spread for us at Harry and Ollie’s that was absolutely delicious! And she let me use the indoor plumbing – any woman knows how much that means to them. I can’t thank both of them enough. Then there were others along the way – I didn’t see as many road angels this year as last because of my slowness and because of the times of day I traveled. They are all appreciated!
Probably second most important after Marvin is my very good friend Angela Tortorice! (unfortunately I don’t have a photo of her from this event darn it) I would NEVER have finished without her. She had asked me the week before where I would be on Friday (I have no idea where I was any time) and then she told me it looked grim that she would get to see me. So I was just plodding along in the heat aiming for the crew car when I saw this white car in front and wondered who that was. Soon I could see a body and lo and behold it was Angela! I couldn’t believe my eyes (and in fact, when she moved her car, I began to believe that it was just a mirage/hallucination, until she showed back up). She helped me get what I needed at Harry and Ollie’s and then went on further with me, getting my mind off the road and the pain. She then volunteered to miss the marathon she came there for to help me through the evening. That was a phenomenal sacrifice but it was so valuable. It allowed me to let Marv go get some much needed rest since she crewed me up Monteagle. Then she got me a spinach salad and crewed me as I started out toward Tracy city while Marv got the amount of sleep he planned. She then went back and turned over the reins to him and she went on. But she never really left me. She was with me via text and phone the entire way as I wanted to quit and cry and die. She wouldn’t let me. She was up all night waiting for us to finish. There is nothing more symbolic of a great friendship as all she did. There is no way I can ever repay Angela for what she did! What an angel!
During the time Angela swooped down from Heaven to help me, along came Bill Baker and then Johnny Adams! Two heroes for sure. Their smiling faces and encouraging words got me to Tracy city and then down Jasper mountain. Much love and gratitude to them both!
All the people who supported me on Facebook have no idea how much of a difference they made. Those who texted me and were on Facebook impacted my life in a way I’ll never forget. When I reached out on day 5 I think that I was having a lot of major problems, the world came out in prayers and thoughts and helped me get thru this entire event! I am so grateful to everyone (and I mean everyone) who helped me virtually or in person. Don’t ever underestimate the power of energy transfer no matter where you are in the world. Every time I would read some words of support on Facebook I would get a surge of energy and hope so always know that you do have an impact on other people even if you’re far away. My good friend Rebecca McCulloh was a Godsend as well. I needed her support so many times during these 10 days and she was always there! I have such wonderful friends and am so very blessed.
A note of thanks to Mrs. Cantrell for driving Marv and me in our van back to the motel after the race was over. She didn’t have to do that but she prevented me from having to worry more since I know Marv was totally exhausted and it’s a treacherous drive. Thank you so much, ma’am. I know you were very tired too.
My pre-event team consists of all the people at work who were so supportive of me doing this even if they did think I was totally crazy. I could not have done it without their support. Big kudos go out to my EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner, Mary Ayers – without her I’m not sure I would have made it to the start line and I know that without EFT I would not have been able to make it through many of the days. Mr. Javier Mayen Mena who taught me how to meditate and focus on just getting thru this event. He is such a wonderful man and I have so much more to learn from him. His techniques helped me with proper breathing and the ability to “get to a place” that helped me keep going.
Living ON a BAR (wish it had been IN a Bar) – I Wouldn’t Call This Nourishment
My gut has been a significant problem since my surgery in March so eating the correct things was a challenge on this event. And my wrong choices proved problematic at least two nights (diarrhea is not fun on the road but I guess it was a blessing that these happened at night and not during the day). This is one of the many reasons I’m so glad I was crewed. Last year I was able to eat the usual junk that’s all you can seem to find along the way. I knew this year would be different and it was.
Here’s what I ate for the 10 days: 3 different types of protein bars; popcorn; chicken tenders for the first 3ish days (that was a big mistake because of the breading that’s on it so after the really bad night for my gut, there was no more chicken tenders even though I love chicken); Subway spinach salad with chicken (thank God for Subway even if my name isn’t Jared); 4 or 5 servings of bacon, eggs and hashbrowns – delicious!!!;
And to Drink: water with UCAN electrolyte powder; diet coke; sugar free red bull; coffee; diet ice tea and I even drank hydrogen peroxide with water that Marv was using to clean his wound and put in the cooler one time. I knew it didn’t taste good but thought it was just a sore in my mouth. Good thing it was diluted.
This is NOT a diet I would recommend for anyone running an ultra but it was the only thing that could keep me out of the bathroom and the Subway spinach salads were absolutely delicious!
“Why Are You Doing This?”
This was, by far, the most common question I’ve been asked (after they ask what the heck we’re all out there doing). And every time I had absolutely no answer.
The answer is “Love” – read on…..
Early on – as Ben Pennington and I were trucking out of Parsens into Linden, Ben said that this was something that just “took root” in his mind and then began to grow. That really hit home with me. Two years ago I followed the event on the Vol State list and became enamored with the idea and wondered if someone my age and inexperience could do it. But I finally put on my bravery suit and signed up for 2014. I trained a lot for it in the 6 weeks prior but overtrained and ended up starting with bilateral lower back pain that had prevented me from even walking just 2 weeks before the start. But I tried anyway. I only got to 104 miles and had to drop. But I was “bitten” then. I waited for Laz to post the 2015 sign up list and got my name there right away. I still didn’t know why I was trying this other than that I had unfinished business. But I didn’t know the deep down reason. I found out during the event this year that Laz had no faith in me. Probably a good thing I didn’t know that before because I might have been a DNS (did not start), allowing someone else’s opinion of me to influence my actions.
I didn’t realize until this week (after the race was over) the “why”. And the “why” is that spiritual type of “why”. It’s not something I could possibly been aware of before starting. I just knew I was drawn to this magical adventure for some reason. But during the last part of the race and after I finished, I experienced the beautiful outpouring of love and support from all over the world – both in person and virtually. I felt as if I had become part of a family – a family that would accept me no matter what, no matter that I came in last or would have quit with 16 miles to go (had the angels around me let me), or that I cried and cried those last several miles and not in joy.
I found out that I was the oldest woman to complete Vol State and that gave me a sense of pride and others said I was an inspiration to them and for that I’m glad. My mission in life has always been to have a positive impact on others – first as a physician helping people feel better and then as a coach enabling people to achieve what they want in life. So, to be considered an inspiration by to so many people means almost more than finishing. I know the inspiration is THAT I finished and that’s ok. If I can help others do something and push themselves, that’s great.
The gratitude I feel towards everyone who pulled me through the last 5 days is of a degree I’ve never experienced and I am very big on gratitude. I will NEVER forget what everyone did for me from people who didn't even know me, to people I only met last year, to the race director who had so much more to do than worry about me, to my very good friend who sacrificed an event of her own to keep me going and stayed up all night the last night to make sure she was praying and pushing me on from Texas, to Marv, the greatest man I’ve ever met – the one who got me from the start line to the finish – the one person who had to put up with all my shit (there I said it) and it was a lot. I yelled, I cried, I gave up, I gave out, I gave in – I owe everything to him.
I never have thought myself very worthy of love but this event has changed that opinion in a way that years of therapy probably couldn’t do. This (and the personal insights I had which I’ll talk about later) was the reason the Universe pulled me to this event and the people involved in it. I feel as if I belonged here and that people were really pulling for me although I felt like a little bothersome speck on a piece of paper when the race first started. I knew I’d be at the end and I felt I was just a pain for others to have to wait around for. Little did I know they were all pulling for me. When Marv and Jan told me that around Day 5 or 6, I intellectually absorbed it but it wasn’t until day 9 that I actually absorbed it emotionally.
Bottom line, I did NOT know why I did this before I started but I know why I did it now. I learned so much about myself and now really feel as if I am accepted (even if it’s not on the same par as everyone else) by the family I ran with these 10 days. For that I thank the Universe and all the people supporting and accepting me. There are no words to describe how I feel.
This affirmation describes my experience:
“I am teachable. Life is an education, and I am a student. I am doing the best I can, and every day it gets easier.”
Spending 10 days in and with your body and mind is an experience unlike any other.
Before the race it seemed as if the odds were stacked against me even getting to the start line. As they say, the road to you know where is paved with good intentions. After I did Across the Years this year, I made a mistake and tried a popular 30 day nutrition program which changes the way you eat and how your body processes things etc. It’s supposed to be better but I found I had no energy and my running suffered (even after I recuperated from ATY). But like a fool I stuck with it for the entire 30 days. Then when I added back just one additional food, my body completely rebelled and I ended up with a medical condition that required major abdominal surgery in March. This was followed by 6 weeks of being able to walk but no running. Then when I was able to get back to running, my heel developed a bursitis (I’ve never had any of these things before). All this while my gut was trying to get used to foods again and try to get regulated. This has yet to happen and I’m so very sensitive to foods and am still experimenting with what will and what won’t work. This is one reason I’m so glad I was able to be crewed. That was hard enough getting the foods I needed (I could bring the bars that worked for me at least) – If I had been unscrewed, I’d never had made it.
Then 2 weeks before the start I developed this very weird debilitating pain in the right side of my upper back. I even missed 3 days of work because of it and that’s unheard of. Even last year when I could hardly walk because of the low back pain I could work. I was so worried that this would keep me from being able to go on if I could even get to the start. I faithfully took the medications they gave me and don’t know if it helped or not and was close to pulling out even one day before I was due to leave for Tennessee. The amazing thing is that this particular pain did NOT bother me AT ALL until late in day 10 and even then it was tolerable and very intermittent. The reason it did not even exist completely escapes me but believe me I’m not complaining.
My lower back (with the spinal stenosis) did NOT hurt at all. Praise God! With all the pounding that’s amazing but in many ways I do have a strong body.
My right upper back has been a problem for several years. It hurts when I walk but not when I run…go figure…I used the TENS unit for the first 2-3 days which made it possible for me to go on. I can’t say enough about this unit – amazing how it reduces the pain. But then the gel on the electrodes melted it was so hot. Although I think I might have other pads in my gear, I wasn’t able to go thru and find them and then go thru the contortions to put them on.
Enter the Magic potion!
I had brought two things to use on my musculoskeletal problems and hoped that one of them at least would help. Little did I know I was going to come up with a great solution. I ended up using BOTH at the same time. First I put on this stuff called Soothanol and rubbed that in all over my back. Then after it dried I rubbed in “Pain Terminator” on top of it. As long as I continued to do that, the right side of my back was absolutely fine.
With my upper back and lower back under control by day 4, I was ecstatic. And, as it turned out, I would not have been able to handle it had the upper part of my body hurt while I was having so much problems with my lower extremities and my intestinal issues. So I am extremely grateful that the Good Lord really does give you only as much as you’re able to bear.
On another good note – my vertigo disappeared about day 2 also. I’m sure that was from dehydration (and decreased salt content) and that was another most welcome change.
Feet (You Mean The Stubs At The Bottom Of My Legs?)
No pictures of my feet other than with the swelling (edema) below. But my heels were my downfall. Pretty close to the “Achilles heel” of a human – my feet were that for sure. I think it was the night I left Hohenwald (I think that was Day 5) that everything fell apart. Not only did I have the every 15-30 minute diarrhea problem but the top of my right foot had an agonizing pain with every step. The only thing I can think of is that it was from the night before when we powered up the long, long hills to Hohenwald. Actually Ben was powering up them and I wanted to keep up with him. But I really don’t know for sure that that’s what it was. All I know is that every step drove a knife thru the top of my foot. I think between the two things I made 1 mile in over an hour or maybe even two. I was crying out for Marvin because I didn’t know what to do. We changed shoes and that helped a bit but I know now I need more cushioning. I also think I have high arches and that this was additional pressure on the foot. This was the beginning of my downfall. I limped along. I didn’t want to quit then despite the pain. I was just very worried about the time. And then of course the road sucked big time as they all did. The frigging camber of the roads in Tennessee is a crippler. Maybe the next day (I don’t remember) my heels started really hurting especially my right one (most likely from compensation). After we rested and headed out, Marvin went to a Walmart and got me some inserts that helped quite a bit. My speed (I’m ashamed to use that word) improved for a while. I switched out an insert in my other shoe which gave me more arch support on the left so who knows what the hell was going on with my feet. I just know that it was 4 ½ days of pure agony every time I stepped on my feet. When we stopped, I had to take about 10 minutes to be able to walk in some “ok” type of form again. And when we stayed in a motel, I had to crawl to the bathroom it hurt so much to step on it. When you get older the fat pad on your heel decreases and makes the pressure much greater and more prone to injury. At the time I’m writing this (about 6 days after finishing, I still cannot walk very well and am very slow and need a cane to walk. I just hope I didn’t do irreparable damage to my feet.
The pain in my left foot over the 3rd-5th metatarsals is also still there. Could be a stress fracture or maybe just a bruise. I guess I have to decide when I should go see a doc. Bottom line you can see that no matter how I stepped I was in immense pain.
This was my downfall and when I found out I still had 2 miles to go to get to the motel in Kimball (leaving the 14 miles to go) my math was interfered with by my pain. I just had nothing left, no way to keep going on these feet. I knew I couldn’t make it in the time left (maybe 14 or 16 hours). I completely lost it and was crying for 1 ½ miles until Marv corralled me and put me in the car and took me to the motel to rest. But then I told him I wanted to stop and he just wouldn’t let me. I really was a peace with that decision because I was swollen all over and in such pain. But I had no choice other than to just try to keep going.
Was that a mistake? Was finishing worth any further damage?
After my feet started to hurt, my right ankle then began to swell and hurt with each step. It seemed that no matter what I did to try to relieve pain in one area, another area piped up and said “Yo, whatcha doin here? I was doin just fine til you messed with that…now I’m going to let you know who’s boss!” Ice became my next best friend (after Mr. Bismal – aka Pepto).
After a few Days
Blisters seem to be the biggest problems for most people at Vol State. I took great care in taping my entire foot (both of them) the night before we started. I have learned that before and it’s worked well. Although, as you can see from these pictures I did have significant blisters on at least 4 toes, NONE of them BOTHERED me and I was kind of shocked when I untapped my feet and saw them….LOL..maybe it’s because the other pain was so significant. I am not complaining at all – I just think it’s pretty funny. It allowed me to tape my toes with lots of pads and everything so that they wouldn’t get hit when I was trying to maneuver around the airports. But what I didn’t know was that it made it “obvious” to people that I needed assistance. The additional attention began as soon as I walked into the airport in Chatanooga. I was so grateful. The blisters didn’t keep me from walking but the heels sure did and there is no way I would have been able to make it home without a wheelchair.
Hit By A Car
As Ben and I were leaving Parsens and it got dark, there was NO SHOULDER and the tiny bit there was had the friggin rumble strips in them – NOT fun to walk on. But we did get over into the shoulder/grass and this dufus still ran into us. I was in front and his mirror hit my right arm and then nicked Ben’s elbow. There was no car coming in the other direction preventing him from moving over. Just being a real bonehead! I hope my arm broke his mirror. It was just a bruised arm and so I am very fortunate! Not sure if it was a bad omen or what though.
Your psyche is a powerful force and I realized that my feet were trying to sabotage my success for the last 5 days. There is so much behind that but bottom line is that my subconscious was resurrecting the “you can’t do this; you’re a failure” mantra that inhabited so much of my life. Interesting that my feet didn’t start to go sour until after I made it past where I had to drop last year. It was as if my subconscious recognized that I was already more successful than last year and it couldn’t allow that to happen. When it realized that I wasn’t listening to any “conversation” it was having with me (I successfully shut that out with my resolve to make it even though I was worried about the cutoff times, I was still determined to keep going. That old voice inside me was scared because it wasn’t used to me thinking that I might actually succeed at something. So, when I wasn’t “listening”, it had to manifest itself in some other way to try to get me to doubt myself. Thus came the foot/ankle problems. And they persisted since I still wouldn’t give in. Then when I finally couldn’t take it any more, it won and I quit – or at least I tried to get people to let me quit. I really was at peace (I think I said that somewhere already) but it wasn’t to be.
I used the EFT (see below) to counter the sabotage and make the foot/heel/ankle pain better. I was not going to let my subconscious with its false messages beat me! And it didn’t because even though I had tremendous help those last 16 miles, I still had to do the walking!
How I Made It!
The energy of everyone around me and all those “out there” pulling for me along with Marv, Dorothy (Diane), The Tin Man (Ben) and the Lion (Jay) got me to the mountain.
But, I did have something to do with it ya know…lol.
Although the pain was bad and frustrating for 4-5 days, I was able to manage it until the last half of the 9th day or maybe all of the 9th day (Jasper mountain probably was the real beginning of my downfall with the heat and crappy camber).
How did I manage it all? It’s funny but I used two or three specific techniques over and over again.
The one I used more than anything was visualization! Now, you would expect an ultrarunner to be a master at visualization and have some lofty goal that they visualized. Not me. Mine was a spinach salad. It’s really funny but it worked. I started with the steps I would take (no pun intended at that point) when I arrived in San Antonio. I would go to Walmart (on the way home) and meticulously went through the specific way I always shop for the contents of my salad. Then I would take all these ingredients out of the fridge at home and go through each and every step I employ making my favorite salad. At times I would fluctuate between whether I would just have the basic salad or would I have chicken or steak with it. It was very detailed and specific and you know what? It worked. It made the time go by and took my mind off the drudgery or the pain. I love my spinach salad!
Thinking about Jesse
This is a young girl who has been fighting the horrible childhood illness called neuroblastoma. She’s gone through multiple treatments at multiple hospitals all around the country and was at a stage at the beginning of the race where even being carried by her mother caused immense pain. I felt so badly for her and admired her courage and strength that when I was hurting I just thought about her and all she was going through as just a child. No child should ever have to go through that. No ONE should ever have to go through that. Since I returned from Tennessee she has passed away but I still honor her with many thoughts about her throughout the days. My real guardian angel (Suzanne) passed away from the same illness several years ago and is the primary reason I support St Jude Children’s Research Center every chance I get. The pain I endured was nothing that Jesse (or Suzanne) went through and much, much different than the agony her family and friends are now experiencing. My heart goes out to them.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
This is also called “Tapping” and although I don’t expect many (if any) of those reading this to know what it is and as such many will scoff at it but so be it. It’s sort of acupressure (cousin of acupuncture) and works on the meridians. It’s energy medicine and I’ve used it almost daily on lots of other events or problems/issues.
During the race when my foot pain got so bad I didn’t know what else to do, I used the tapping to ease the pain. It worked and so I found myself tapping (at night I would actually move through the points; during the day I did it mentally) quite a bit. When I would stop and then the camber changed, I would start it up again.
I was so grateful that I know this technique. In the process of tapping I dealt with the self-sabotage that my feet were causing and worked through a great deal of that. It was educational as well as helpful for some pain relief.
I never thought I would rely so much on Facebook. I rarely go on it except when I have a run or an event. I started posting at Vol State just to track my progress and let my “few” friends know where I was. It was kind of just by rote. But when I posted and asked for prayers and healing energy that night outside of Hohenwald with my GI problems and severe pain on my right foot, I was blown away by the support. It meant so much to me and was so helpful. When I read the supportive posts I knew I could continue on.
This continued the rest of the event. It was as if everyone out there knew what I was going through (I hope I didn’t come through as a whiny b^t*h though). And they anticipated that I would need a post to spur me on and keep me going. The energy I felt really proved that there is power in numbers. What it also taught me is that it’s so important to support people even if it’s from far away. You never know what it will mean to them. I was astonished by the outpouring of support and so grateful. It made all the difference in the outcome of my event.
I will never underestimate the power of support from afar. I will also do my best to support anyone I can in any way. It’s the least I can do to pay the Universe back.
I didn’t do this very well but I really did realize that Marv had a plan. Although we disagreed about some parts of it (I always wanted to leave earlier because I knew I couldn’t go very fast and Marv got mad at me for that – amongst many other things that I deserved his anger about). But I guess it was in Lewisburg when I had my first meltdown that I put myself in his hands. He won’t agree but I really did give in and do what he told me at least 85-90% of the time after Lewisburg. That, my friends, is much much more than I have ever surrendered myself to anyone. I am a very independent person and have had to be all my life as I have no close family (geographically). My friends can tell you that for me to follow someone’s orders (remember I’m a retired Naval Captain and am more used to giving orders than taking them so this is foreign territory for me) 85% of the time is phenomenal.
And Then There Was Laz….
“Lazarus Lake i am rooting for you in the vol state this year, terrie... and looking forward to sharing your joy when you reach the rock.”
Laz posted this on “A Race for the Ages” page when I asked about ordering a jacket. This meant more to me than you can imagine. I didn’t even think he knew who I was and if he did, why would he care? I’m not elite or anything special but that one post kept me going when my doubts were building before and during the race. Another example of how what you put out there into the Universe really does affect other people.
Then somewhere along the way during one of his daily updates (I think it was day 8), Laz sent this (abridged) to the list:
|“and then there is terrie wurzbacher.
no one came less prepared than terrie, last year.
she was caught by oprah early,
and struggled futilely,
before going home early...I have to admit that I did not have faith in terrie.
she vowed to come back ready,
and finish the job she had started.I never expected to see that entry.but after she entered this year,
I could sense something different.
she was no starry eyed novice, anymore.
there was an underlying sense of determination
a resolve to finish the job.I have not gotten to see terrie since day 1;
but I have followed her updates with intense interest.
I held my breath early,
when it appeared that oprah might bring her down again.
but, she had the seasoned veteran marvin skagerberg in her corner.
if anyone has the knowledge to get her to the rock,
it is marvin...but, it is terrie who has to bring it on the road.as the days have passed,
I have watched her take back her place from oprah...and then, slowly pull ahead.I have not seen her since the first day,
but I look forward to that next meeting.the look on her face,
when she emerges from the woods,
and sees the rock across the clearing,
awaiting her arrival....
that, alone, will be worth the whole thing.
if we awarded the crown on subjective merit
I am not sure that Laz knows how much what he wrote meant to me. It spurred me on for another reason too. I don’t like to be doubted or to have something think I couldn’t make it just because I had problems last year. I will definitely admit, though, that there probably is no way I could ever do this unscrewed but I do have determination and showed it for at least 9 ½ days.
I thank Laz for writing this for it helped me recognize that someone outside of my team was cheering for me. That helped in the dark heat of the night as the only other poetic thing I could think of was Robert Frost’s “I have miles and miles to go before I sleep” (how true that was).
Thanks so much Laz – not sure I would have made it without that stimulus!
When you spend so much time alone doing the same thing over and over again (running or walking), you have to face your fears, especially when you’re in unknown territory – both physically and mentally. The endurance runs I’ve done before have all been a circle with relatively easy access to my car or aid or whatever. And yes, this time I did have a crew which makes all the difference but there are still fears to face.
“Base Fears”: being attacked by a dog (almost but not quite); of being hit by a car (oh wait, that already happened to me); of having diarrhea or other embarrassing illness and not knowing what to do about it (that happened to); and probably many more.
The fear of getting lost: That is a very big one for me and if for no other reason I was so grateful I had Marvin as my crew because I was so afraid of getting lost. When you hear horror stories of people going off course for miles on end, you have only one desire – to make sure you’re going in the right direction! We only got off course once and that was only for about 5 minutes so that wasn’t so bad.
My overriding fear was not being able to make the cutoff times, especially after my feet went to pot. That was probably a superficial manifestation of a deeper fear of failure but it permeated my entire being almost every step until I would blank it out with other thoughts. But every time we stopped at a motel that was the most prominent thought behind when I decided to get up and leave. Marvin kept telling me I was going to make it but he seemed to think that I could do 31 miles straight on my legs instead of breaking it up. Now I’m not sure that’s what he really meant but I couldn’t think enough to process that one thought any differently – after all, it involved math and that is NOT my strong subject.
I did NOT want to fail. I had latched on to “The Rock” 2 years ago and knew that this was my one chance since it was probably the only year I could be crewed. So, I was willing to go through anything to achieve this goal this year. Until, of course the last 16 miles and then I didn’t care about anything.
I was NOT afraid of being alone out there – must be my New York upbringing – other than for the dogs. I was not afraid of not being able to get much sleep or suffer any other deprivations. I knew they would only be temporary. And for the most part I was not afraid of the pain. It beat me up for sure. Pain is debilitating. But along with the slowness of my pace came that nagging fear of letting everyone down again this year.
This was an event of many contrasts –
I am a city girl and when people talk about how “quiet” the country is, I think of actual “quiet”. Boy was I wrong. The Katydids (I think that’s what they were) were deafening and then there were the bullfrogs “talking” as we walked by. That was the “country quiet” – NOT. But there were areas where it was quiet with “occasional” frog sounds – I could handle those. That was beautiful. And then there were the friggin roosters – they just NEVER shut up. Their constant noise made me want to speed up to get away from their obnoxious call. I almost became a serial (rooster) killer on this trip.
The other contrast was the difference between the night quiet (traffic wise) and the day time massive traffic. That was harrowing and always kept you on your toes. I did realize that these people were on their way to work and respect that but geez did they have to drive like maniacs ALL THE TIME? And those big mothers of trucks – well, need I say more? They don’t move for anyone>
The temperatures were another contrast – oppressive heat of the day followed by the relative cool of the evening/night. It was beautiful at night. I would have loved to just run at night but unfortunately I couldn’t make that happen. The downside of that is that I didn’t get to see the scenery or the people along the way. That was definitely something I missed but I would not trade the “comfort” of night running for that at all.
No Limits (Speed Limits That Is)
I repeatedly saw signs on the side of the road that had numbers on them. In any other city they would indicate what the maximum speed limit was supposed to be. But, I think in Tennessee they mean something else – perhaps that number means “if you go this slow, you’re a sissy redneck?”
I also realized that the trucks and cars in Tennessee did not have any brakes because they tore up AND down hills/mountains as fast as is humanly possible. But they were very good at trying to stay on their side of the road no matter whether the other side was completely empty and there were people on their side of the road.
I began to feel like an arcade game – let’s see how many people we can pick off – “how many points will that be tonight?”
Feeling Like Roadkill
There was so much roadkill on the highways – mostly Armadillos (although Diane and I and also Paul actually saw a live Armadillo – it was waddling away so I have to take Diane’s word that that’s what it was) but there were snakes, birds, skunks, kittys, and even “unidentifiables”. What I did NOT see was deer – that was very surprising for me because I don’t consider where I live in San Antonio to be rural but we are overwhelmed with deer – both alive and roadkill.
As the hours and heat went on, I often found myself feeling as if I, too, were roadkill and just as often wanted to lie down on the side of the road and let whatever was to happen, happen. I probably smelled like roadkill too but that was the least of my worries.
Children of the Corn
By the time we got to the cornfield I felt as if we were some abnormal supernatural creatures but wished I wasn’t so susceptible to Kryptonite (the cornfields). It went on and on and on and of course, the road was rutted and I stepped every which way – not a fun experience for my feet.
Did I mention it never ended???? By this time I already hated Laz very very much for that last friggin mountain (Sand Mountain) as that was totally cruel and unusual punishment at any point in the course, let alone the end.
Thank God Dorothy (Diane) waited for me. That was where I had my last crying jag – I just couldn’t make it any more. But Diane let me cry on her shoulder and then we went on. Thank God for Diane. I was NOT thanking God for Laz however. I had many descriptive words for him at that point.
As I mentioned before, being alone with yourself for 6ish days is a hard thing to do. Although I had Marvin I wasn’t supposed to spend a lot of time in/at the van. Resupply, ice, rest or do whatever and then get the heck back on the road.
I felt isolated when Ben left me into Linden and the last I saw Diane (until day 9 ½) was in the Commodore Hotel in Linden (the MOST wonderful and comfortable bed I EVER slept in). From then on all I had was myself and my thoughts (exception, of course, was when Angela, the hallucination, showed up).
I learned a lot about myself and it was well worth it but I definitely understand Tom Hanks in The Castaway much better now.
What Did I Learn?
I learned so much about myself and had so many valuable conversations with myself and even my parents.
I learned how important it is to live in the “now” – in the present. You can’t do anything about what happened yesterday (or anywhere in the past) and can only learn from what happened and the future is in your hands right now. What happens in the future is the result of whatever action you take in the now. So, it does no good to pay attention to either the past or the future except as it governs your present actions. You can say that I contradicted that by worrying about the cutoff times but not true. My concern about the cutoff times made me evaluate my present actions – how long could I rest/sleep and when did I need to get back out on the road again. My primary present action, however, for 10 days was putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly. I could have been bored and wishing for it to be over and wishing I were home or this or that but I didn’t. I stayed where I was every day – grounded (literally) to what I was doing right then and there.
I also realized I had nothing to prove to anyone. I evaluated my life and my accomplishments and recognized that I have done quite a bit and am proud of all I’ve done. I have nothing else to prove to anyone. That is why I said I was in peace if I had stopped at any point. I would not have regretted it or if I did it would be only temporary while the frenzy was going on. But I knew I had done the best I could and it would even have been logical to stop in order to prevent irreparable damage. I don’t think I’ve ever really been proud of myself and I know that I’ve always felt I had something to prove to other people. Although I still didn’t want to let people down, my driving force was peace and I was at peace.
I found out that I could keep going through just about anything if it were important. And I felt this was important especially after laz wrote such wonderful things about me. I’m not sure that ever before have I had to endure such pain doing something of this nature and not stopping. That was something I can attribute to my German nature (aka stubborn). I can endure lack of sleep too. I had had some experience with that but the last time I had endured any type of sleep deprivation like this was over 30 years ago (probably closer to 40) and it was only for 5 days. I am proud of myself for being able to keep on going with minimal decent food and minimal sleep especially in the face of such pain.
I had some personal discussions with my parents (in Heaven) and came to feel I was finally accepted as an adult and not just their little girl. I found out why they acted toward me as they did and what they really meant. It was very rewarding.
I have previously talked about the power of universal energy being disseminated from people all around the world but this was a very important manifestation of it given my coaching business (in Metaphysics and the Law of Attraction).
I learned to ask for help and to not be ashamed to cry in front of people when I needed help. I have never been one to ask for help but I had to ask for it so many times during this event (especially the last 24 hours) and afterwards – I had to ask for help at the airport and when I got home I had to call someone to help me get to my car. That was hard but I felt that I was worth it and that people were helping because they wanted to, not because they thought it was the “thing to do”.
Once again I saw the camaraderie of all the folks in the ultrarunning world! Everyone is a family and is cheering each other on no matter what place they are in the race. No one wants to see another person suffer and will do whatever they can to help people along the way, even if it means slowing them down.
A smile is such a blessing. Always remember that.
Gratitude is the most powerful force in the Universe and we should practice it many times a day. What you give out really does come back to you ten fold.
And perhaps two of the most important things I’ve learned…
What Do I Regret?
Of course I have regrets but even though last Sunday my biggest regret was signing up and showing up for this event, I no longer really regret that. Not just because I got a “314” decal (my driving force through so many nights and days) and not because it was two years of a dream finally over but because I received so much emotionally and psychologically from ththen my anklee 10 days on the road – the decal and patch only symbolize all that came from this tiny period in my life.
But what I do regret is that I was in too much pain to enjoy (if that’s even a word we can use when talking about Vol State) the last 5 days.
I regret that I had to keep going night and day and didn’t get a chance to savor the surroundings – what I did get to see was absolutely gorgeous and I wish I could have seen more.
I regret that I’m so slow that I had to continually push and push and push and not be able to spend time in any one place or talking long to either another runner or a local. I especially missed being able to see other runners but was grateful for the small pack I was able to interact with.
I regret not being fast enough to be able to try to do this screwed next year. I would love to be able to do that (provided I can walk again sometime soon). I don’t know how to improve my speed to that degree though. I know the odds were stacked against me with my surgery, my ankle and my back but I still don’t know if I could do this with a pack. Last year my pack weighed 1/10 my body weight (mostly water). This year I would have had to drop had I been screwed – I couldn’t carry the dietary items necessary nor could I have done this with the pair of shoes I started with. I will be making a list of items I need to work on in order to have the lightest possible load. I would LOVE to do this screwed but need some other type of training – mostly to increase my stride and speed. Perhaps I can plan correctly and use Across the Years to work on that.
I also regret not taking enough pictures but I ditched my tiny pack after a bit so that I had the least amount of weight. Therefore I didn’t have my phone (aka camera) with me. That is a major regret.
I regret not being able to support the other folks I didn’t get to interact with more. I would love to be able to cheer everyone on because I know that everyone needs some cheering at some point in time!
Thank you Marvin, Laz, Carl, Jan and all others who made this happen!
|The Bench of Despair!!!!!! A Major Landmark for all Vol Staters|
|Almost to the top of Monteagle and then being hugged by the coolest guy Bill Baker! Thank you Bill for everything.|
|The rewards of reaching the Rock – the “314” decal is what I really wanted…but I don’t want to put it on my car in case I have to get a new one…wish I had two.|
|My most prized possession after the race. Ben Pennington gave me this book and inscribed it for me. I wonder if he knows how much this means to me. He is the most sensitive and deep man I’ve ever met and I wish him the best of luck in life.|