I’m running my first ultra-marathon tomorrow, Triple Lakes Trail, and I’ve signed on for the 40 miler, along with my friend Joanna and just 12 other women. I badgered my running buddies Jon and Danny into signing up as well. We made our final plans over bagels and coffee this morning and are departing at a typically insane hour tomorrow morning.
My training has gone well. I ran 168 miles in August, but I’ve scaled down since then (110 mi for September). My longest run (which seems like ages ago) was 29.5 miles. I’ve done some functional fitness for strength, but my training has mainly comprised 3-4 days/week of running—usually track or hills on Tuesday, a great Thursday tempo run, long run on the weekend, and a recovery run on Sunday or Monday. I think it’s enough. I hope it’s enough.
I ran hard on my segments of the Blue Ridge Relay the second week of September (I was runner #11 on the 12 Things Gawn Fishin’ team, for those in the know—6.3, 5.6, and 4.2 miles, all with a “hard” rating) and wasn’t really sore afterward. I even managed to mostly recover from the sleep deprivation.
I started last week feeling relaxed, excited and pretty confident about the race. Then, my childhood best friend Suzie was tragically killed last Thursday on her early morning run, and my world turned upside down. I found myself grappling with sometimes overwhelming grief and loss. I’ve had difficulty eating and sleeping, averaging 3-4 hours of sleep each night. Constant nausea and emptiness assault my stomach. My whole body aches from stress. Emotionally and mentally, I am exhausted. I honestly wondered how I could attempt the race at all.
Services for Suzie are in Eureka tomorrow, and of course I wish I could be there. But, it isn’t easy to get to Eureka, and what I’d like to do there is spend meaningful time with her children and husband, which won’t be possible.
I thought back to the great run we had together in early July. I was in NJ, visiting Suzie (who came back East infrequently) and her family, and celebrating her Nana’s 100th birthday. Her husband Hank generously volunteered for kid and pancake-making duty so we could get out early for a run together. We ran ten miles on a dirt road near Hartshorne Woods over rolling hills, and talked about our children, our running, our work, and our lives. I shared that I had just signed up for my first ultra-marathon, Triple Lakes 40. I didn’t need to explain to Suzie why I would want to run 40 miles. She totally got it. She was excited for me and we talked at length about the training involved and finding balance, as well as our mutual love of trail running.
Suzie and I always ran a deficit of time. Even when we were in high school, we wrote several pages-long letters to each other every week, and made lists of topics we absolutely needed to discuss. This time was no different. Reconnecting was wonderful after several years, but I left New Jersey wishing we could have spent more time together.
Determination was one of Suzie’s strongest personality traits, and I will channel that tomorrow for forty miles of single-track. I have spent the afternoon working on my game face, which I hope will be aided by some food and sleep. I will spend my day running trails and reconnecting with my lifelong friend. Honestly, I can think of no better tribute.
Bring it on, and see you on the other side!