Wednesday, April 1, 2015

To Run With the Wolves at Superior 100

My 1979 teapot.
Growing up my mother would tell me to save new things, nice things or items worth something for good. Everything seemed to be worth something since we didn't have much, so the same theme just got played over and over again. "Save them for your kids one day," she would say. What she meant was to put precious things on a shelf or in a drawer and not use them—ever. To protect them from damage or looking shabby—don't touch and certainly don't play with them.

On my 6th birthday, I received a hand-made tea set from my father, who I would see about once a year. It was one of the nicest things I had ever gotten at the time. I put it on my dresser and "saved it for good" like my mother said. The cups and teapot held pins and buttons from time to time, and it would become dusty. I cleaned it,  but I never played with it because I might break it. One day my shelf fell and a cup and the handle of the teapot broke. I glued it back together, and still it sat on a shelf or in a drawer being saved for good—saved for somebody else since I out grew it. It became "stuff" to collect more dust for someone else.

This "save it" theme that went on through the years has bothered me more the older I get because items,  things, and stuff are worthless if there is no connection to a life. It can even be a symbol of regret with the would of, should of, could of attached to it.

My children were recently playing tea party and saying how tiny their pot was. So I pulled out my 35 year old teapot and gave it to them. Not to look at and not touch, but to engage and fill with what ever memories they want to flow. My son asked me if he could have it when I die. I laughed out loud. I felt like it was a sign that the moment was worthy to keep. I said it could be broken by then—so not to upset his sister. He said he only wanted it if it wasn't broken. While my daughter chimed in that she wanted it either way. At last, this vessel had reached its deserving destination and wasn't just stuff.

It made me think. Just like the teapot, my body is a vessel. It's cracked in places with a permanent bruise on my right knee that sags, but still, what am I saving if for? I use this vessel to LIVE in this life. I fill it with hope, dreams and virtuous moments. Sure I want to live a long life and not have a body in need of surgeries from over-use, but what if a shelf crashes down on me, metaphorically speaking, and I can't be glued together—ever. I will be wishing I used the "stuff" God gave me.

So when people ask me why I want to run 100 miles and have in their mind that it's just destruction of the body, this is the reason I won't put myself on a shelf or in a drawer. I am not saving this vessel for someone else to show me what living looks like.
I desire to run with the two legged wolves. The human pack that migrates 100+ miles each year on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota in September, The trail parallels the north shore of Lake Superior. It's a point-to-point race that has been on my radar for several months and quite possibly a year since I first read about it. I was too much of a scaredy cat to seriously consider it about a year ago. It's a process.

In 2013 my first 50 miler at North Country Run in Michigan ignited my love for the trail journey and qualified me for the Superior 100 (because there is a qualification time). My 2014 hematoma knee bang-up, which I just kept running on for 25 miles, answered the question I was seeking that day in an unexpected way. Do I have the heart, strength, ability and courage to take on 100 miles? 

Laughing as I write this—three out of four is good enough. Ability is my weakness. So that is where I will train the most—in the dark, going over roots and rugged terrain, and some mud running.

Fears set in: I am a genetically average runner with an average ability. I hurt—my ass hurts just sitting in this chair too long—training is hard, and there are days that it feels like an endless struggle. It does not come easy for me. I may come in completely last place or even DNF! I am a pup to ultra running compared to the majority of this pack and the times they have set on other courses. I already checked out some stats on that. But the call is howling at me.

My adventure includes 100+ miles which is deemed as one of the toughest courses in the world and considered to be one of the "most challenging, scenic and prestigious in the country"…let's stop right there. I'm SOLD! It's all about the experience. Running loops are not for me. I know I have said this before.

It's a race so difficult that the time to complete it is 38hours and I could possibly be yanked off the course early if I fall behind.
Rugged, Relentless and Remote. Have I scared the hell out of any reader yet?

Q: Am I scared?
A: Of Course!

Q: Is this a goal which quickens my pulse and makes me a little sick thinking about the reality of being in the dark with wild animals, alone and with lots of tripping hazards?
A: Gulp! Yes.

Q: Do I fear I may DNF for the first time?
A: Yes.

Q: What scares me more?
A: Not dreaming. Not doing it. Not believing. One empty pot.

Over the next 5 months my vessel will be filling with what I believe my edge is to complete this:

I am Faithful. 

I am Fierce.

I am Relentless. 

I am Grit. 

I am an Ultra Runner.

I've got the right STUFF.

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