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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Future of Blogging

As an outstanding update to the wonderful people who frequent, or stop by my little blog started oh so many years ago....

Please be advised that the future of my blogging for this year will occur at the Envisions Blog

This is because 2014 is a very big year!  You can read more about the adventure on how I'm attempting to run the Bruce Trail (all 885km or it) in 20 days August 4-23, to raise awareness and funds for Achilles Canada.

Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts with me as this journey of running continues.

Any questions you can contact me at rhonda.brockley@gmail.com

Much love on the run,
rm

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Footprints in the snow

It's not as if we were the first to ever shoe here. Not like uncharted glory. No prize given for breaking the trail or clearing the way. And I'm sure the magic underfoot would still be there, if we'd gone second onto the trail. However, being only my second experience in snow shoes.... It was a combination of amazing.

For those of you experienced at snowshoeing, this post may bore you. I apologize. For those of you who've never been, I suggest reading someone's blog who can teach you how. All I have to offer is my experience of walking through the forest on invisible ground.

Winter in my worst season for seeing. I remember, in my youth, in the days before sunglasses, consistently walking face first into snowbanks. I remember finding the toboggan hill by taking one too many steps. I remember spinning around in the back field of my public school, the bell ringing, and not knowing the way back to class. I remember walking carefully through my backyard to pull ice chunks up to stand them up in circle to make forts.... Then forgetting where I'd put them four steps later. Winter is not my best seeing season, but I do so love winter.

Back to shoeing....


My first snowshoe was with Nathan, who bravely picked me up for 7.5km of run/walking on a trail. The trees told stories as we followed the prints of those who had gone before us. It was so much fun to trust what I couldn't see or feel underfoot. A lot of my running sense comes from feeling the ground with each step. Now there was a layer between me and that. Delayed reaction with each step as sensory receptors were more distant. Running down a hill scared the day lights out of me and I remember thinking... Fear is only as big as we perceive it, so if I can't see this fear in the invisible white wash background ... Then why am I afraid and squealing like a toddler?

Yesterday, we left Barrie and it's beautiful trails and Scott took us to Cranberry Marsh for snowshoeing and wine tasting. Ok you can giggle now. Give the blind girl wine and a sightless season to snowshoe in. Thankfully the wine came last. So tasty too.


Who needs maps? Our predecessors found their way on memory, feeling, intuitive sense of the earth. Has this ever occurred to you when lost on a run? They just went. They made their way amongst the most difficult terrain and footing. So please tell me how it is that I have lost this seemingly generational skill to navigate an earth far wiser than me? Where are the gifts from my foremothers? Where are the honed in perceptions of my sense of direction? Oh hell, where are the tree blazes?  And what's with colour coded maps? The best adventures always lose sight of the goal in the process. And so we merely forged forward and smiled every step. 

They said the trail was groomed the day before, but 8 inches of new snow had fallen. I saw nothing. No tracks to follow, no evidence of ground at all, let alone a trail. Snowshoeing, for me, is like cloud hopping. There could be a twenty foot drop my next step, I'd never see it coming. It's difficult to even feel that coming. My feet so distant from the earth. Such a displaced, almost visiting, kind of feeling. 


The views were breathtaking. That might have been easy to read. It's harder to write. My views were breathtaking. My perception of what the earth woke up to present to us yesterday, were magical. Heavy, icing like snow, hung from the trees, weighing down the boughs, as if to bring them closer to the ground for the season. Pulling them in protectively from the cold, like a parent would a child. Bringing them nearly close enough to kiss.... But not quite. Granting them just enough room to breathe above the snow. A wise decision for adolescent trees, we never wish to smother them.

The rocks stood covered in four feet or more of snow, standing taller than me in some cases. These passings made me grateful I was following, I'd never have seen them coming. Walking into a snow covered rock might hurt a bit more than the average playground snowbank. The only evidence I saw, was the indented hollow formed at the rocks bottom where the snow seemed to forget to fall. As if the rocks feet smelled and the snow was merely giving it space of its own to stand tall in the wind. 

And then there was the wind.... You could take me anywhere and I could stand for hours just listening to the wind. Such stories it tells. Such tales of depth and lingering emotion. The wind brings the trees to song with its dance among them. The wind cares not for how you feel when it's away; it only wishes to know how you feel surrounded by its wealth. Yesterday's wind shared the following tale....

"I'm sad" said the wind. "It's only winter after all, not like I'm dead here, not like I'm sleeping. Yet not many come to visit here in the winter. Not many bring their friends. Fewer listen when they come. Most cover their ears, shut me out. I have things to say. DID YOU HEAR ME? I have things to say! It's lonely sometimes you know. Especially in the dark. Then I call to the trees and ask them how they are. Sometimes they ignore me too. Lots of them are missing these days. They seem to have left me too. I'm glad you came today. I'm glad I could wrap my arms around you for a while. Share with you this sense of place. I'll feel you again, I'm sure. You're one of those runner folk I've heard tell about? Yes trail runners know me well, in all seasons it seems. You are brave folk. Go home. Tell your friends. Bring them out to touch me. I promise them kisses. And stories that will keep them awake on their journey"

We stood still for only moments to listen, but it repeated the same verse for our entire hike. As if daring me to ignore it or forget it. Or maybe praying I would retell it. Often times the tale is lost in the winds aggression. It's rather easy to be bitter about having to endure it's telling.

The end of our hike finished with a small downhill. It claimed my first fall. The snow was kind enough, and deep enough to cushion the landing. And I lived to share my adventure. There's nothing you can't do. I'm learning this every day. Bravery has little to do with that. Trust has a much bigger role. 

Much love on the run(or hike/bike or swim)

rm

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tales of disabled running

It's a Tuesday. It's not a special day. It holds no mystery. It reveals no truth. It gives away nothing in particular. It's just and simply, a Tuesday.

I considered going for a run after work today.

How many times have you had this innerdialogue  during the day? How many times have you waxed or waned on determination or waiting? How many details have entered into the equation swaying your decision one way or the other? How many bartering or self rewarding tricks did you use? And why?

Surely it's not because we don't love running. It's not because we don't actually remember how wonderful it is to get started and see what happens. Feel what the universe has to say today.

I considered going for a run today after work. 

This thought has filled my head all day as I watched the snow falling. It has spun itself a web of temptation around my worry and concern. It isn't a new inner war for me either. Weighing risk and benefit. Judging danger and fear. Contrasting hope and belief with slightly too stupid and stubborn.

I considered a run today after work. I thought this as I slipped on the way to work. Thinking to myself I cannot let fear win. I cannot let the winter white invisible ground lose the sense of my feet upon it. I cannot forget the fight that wages in my soul to prove something of my .... Of my ... "Ability"? 

Perhaps....

I considered a run after work today... I held this occupying thought on my detailed walk home. Thinking where could I go to avoid sidewalks and avoid traffic? Where could my sense of want and need be balanced with my sense of survival? I found a few intersections the hard way on the four block walk home. The noise from the cars in the snow out-decibling the normal traffic patterns I've become attuned to.

I considered a run after work today. I missed one yesterday. Runner guilt is only ever outdone by mommy guilt. I can't possibly let this slide. Swirling thoughts set in my head as I watch the roads dissapear into the white cover of my least visual season - winter.

My favourite line of any poem in the history of my highly undereducated mind goes something like this ;

I will not go quietly into the night, but rage rage into the dying of the light.

I considered a run after work today. Translated into I must try again. I must do better. I must face every fear with courage and strength. Even if I have none. I must not let all the worlds boundaries become my mindset. 

Simply put - stop considering. 

Self talk of a disabled runner.... One who is rather afraid of the unknown. 

Did you consider a run after work today? If so, what made the decision? Was it being tired? Was it busy schedule? Was it chores? Obligations? 

For me it's always fear. Today I fear the ground I cannot see. I fear the traffic that may not stop. Mostly I fear the me that would not consider going for a run after work today. 

Cheers to you on the run!

Much love,
rm

Monday, September 16, 2013

The day I gave up coffee

Not so sure why we choose randomly to deprive ourselves of some favourite lustful treat in our lives. Perhaps because we are fighting some other inner battle that requires focus and so we, in desperation, create an unavoidable distraction thereby deeming us incapable of concentration. Perhaps to see if we can still be classified as human. Perhaps because we read some study that said something persuasive and therefore we ripped the bandaid off with full force. Either way, frame it in whichever stupidity you like, today I did just that. I gave up coffee. 

When you "give up" the thing you figure is your grounding, it's hard to think clearly. So what follows is how my day progressed;

5am - typical startle awake. First thought 1 hr to coffee time. Crap not doing that today. Ok go back to sleep.

5:14am - system restart. Startle awake again. Sorry did you mean that about not having coffee? Omg this feels real. Ok go back to sleep.

6:35am - surely to god you were kidding? Think of 4pm and how the hell you're gonna feel?  Nope nope mustering positivity... Going back to sleep.


7:20 am - alarm goes off. Coffee calls from cupboard "I miss you! I love you! I accept your abstinence, it makes our reunion that much more intense." Frigg... Pull covers over head. Refuse reality.

7:56 am - standing in the kitchen. Plug in the kettle. Teas just as good. Lets make tea. Mug. Spoon. Milk. What did I forget? I'm losing my mind.. Academic study the loss of my brain cells in direct relation with the amount of time spent caffeine free. Tea bag. Oh there's one muffin left. must be strong. Moving on.

9am - I've lost an hour. Seriously not sure how that happened. I look around, obviously functioning in a zombie state. Must have slipped into autopilot mode. Dishes are done. Right I should make more tea.

10am - phone calls to make. Not speaking in clear full sentences. My to do list looks like this; 1. Stop thinking about coffee. 2. Write a proper to do list. And the coffee in the cupboard tosses its hair and winks. Frigg make more tea.

10:35am - depart for YMCA. Plotting membership. Celebrate finding the front door. More because of lack of stimulant than lack of vision. Or at least that's what I tell myself as I meander around moving vehicles muttering apologies. Drink water as distraction.

11:40am - find my way to the grocery store. Eyes pop open at the smell of the coffee grounds in the coffee aisle. Seriously start hallucinating that people are dressed up as the nabob guy. Or the Colombian guy. Pry myself away from sniffing the unopened cans of coffee and proceed to buy greens. Drink water as distraction.

1:32pm - sprint home. Tea woke me up eventually as the truth of just how small my bladder is smacked me in the head. Truth be told the random sprinkler on the road I took that proved to be in the wrong direction might have had something to do with that. 

2pm have lunch. Soup. Tea. Death stare with muffin occurs. Nap wins. Coffee in the cupboard giggles and writes up a new prenup agreement.

3pm groggy, grouchy... Glasses are missing. Must go to work. Why are the tasks that take me three minutes taking 20? Shut up muffin I'm not listening. Drink tea. Walk away slightly proud I'd survived this long. 

5pm - client arrives ... Stupid tea. Good dam thing that muffins not around!  Who's idea was this giving up business? What was I thinking? Coffee texts me to say it loves me still.

6 pm - make tea.. Back at home. Ignore all responsibility of dinner making ceremonies. Telepathically tell the coffee who's making who tomorrow. Sip tea with evil grin.

8:30pm - make tea. Wash dishes. Drink tea. Eat the stupid muffin. Curse karma. Pout ever so slightly at being human.

9:45pm - ensure coffee mug is at the front of the cupboard for tomorrow. Leave bathroom light on. Go to bed. Toss and turn and write ode to my java lyrics in my head.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In the Treads of a 100 Miles




     "You cannot create experience.  You must undergo it" Albert Camus


Step Three of my ultra tri goals for 2013 was a hopeful 100 miles of running at Dirty Girls 48hr Ultra  in Mansfield Ontario.  Contained in every footfall there was a lesson I needed to learn along this journey.  This 8km/5mile loop that repeated itself endlessly into what seemed like forever, held more than promise of a finish, more than a hope of sense of accomplishment, more than the lingering sensation of the big open spaces in which I found myself.... they held the dirt that binds us together.  they held the roots that bring us back to each other with a sense of connection that one has never paused long enough to think about. They send shivers into my soul with the likelihood of a future I never ever suspected of myself or of this life I was given.  They contain, simply, every piece of me I've never known. ... 

     "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please" Mark Twain

The start line. Collected spirits all on a quest.  Gathered likeminded folk in the morning sun.  Oh morning sun, how I wish you'd get bored of shining down on me for a while.  Alas I know you make the earth turn just as much as the moon.  I will find reason to be grateful for you, even if it's just because you make those around me smile.  Lighthearted we set off, cast amongst the trees and dirt for the next 47hrs59mins.  Each moving into their own pace or shared rhythm along this trail.  The earth rising up to greet each step.  The language of runners in my ears.  It rings true in my Salomon clade feet.  My dear dedicated guide Jennifer calling out root, rock. stump as we went.  Such a light footed runner herself i had to really tune into where she landed each step.  There is no such thing as silence in the middle of your dream. There is no such thing as nothingness if you pay attention.  Looping around slowly I learned I remembered some of this course.  Up, down, around and around again.  Step up, veer right, avoid the log sharing its most obtrusive end to all of us runners.  I laugh momentarily as we climb a hill at my crawl pace.  Ultrarunning; the only sport they still consider you a runner just for showing up.  Earned obligation for effort.  And we move forward through the day.  The sun rising up above, higher and higher in the trees.  It cast speckles on the path in front.  It makes my trail invisible, it preplexes my every sense of right.  I strive not to be frustrated over this wonderful sunny day.  People see the sun as hope.  I feel their hope as a reason to keep moving.  So let there be sun.  I stumble.  My fault, I tried to run aside Jennifer so we might partake in a normal stroll down hill.  It's ok, just a bunch of dirt on my knee, small scrap on my palm.  If I escape this weekend with nothing more, I'd mark mysefl lucky.  But wait I don't wish to escape.  I'm filled with the urge to find mud and rool through it feverish for the ultra I crave to be. Looping continues... life continues... time ticks away... 




     "Some of the worlds greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible" Doug Larson

I am aware of how many times I hear the same runners passing by me.  These are amazing people.  They seem unstopppable in my minds eye.  I hear them breathing before they reach us from behind.  They are so zoned into their race.  They know or seem to know that the place they must travel to is ahead, further down the tree lined trail.  Up the next hill. I think surely the sun must go down.  Surely there must be a darkness to this day.  I bargain with Jennifer to lead the fifth loop so I might know for sure if I can find my way at night.  The plan is to be fearless and atempt the darkness alone.  The plan is nothing more than a whimsical thought of invincible in my head.  And as the sun sets it sends the sparkles on the path in the opposite direction.  All I see are shadows.  I wonder if they are premonitions of the demons I'm sure to meet on my own in the night.  I know they are waiting.  I've been fighting them off for weeks.  Big deep breathes, down to my toes to calm down.  How is it possible to be surrounded by so many optimistic people at once? How did I get so lucky?  We stop at the aid station one last time before I am to set off alone.  All refueled and ready to go.  Ready... What an odd suggestive that is.  Who is ever ready to find out what exactly they are made of? 

     "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you're headed" Lao Tzu

Faith in all it's multitude of colours, as mythical as they are to me, rain down.  Into the forest.  Each step a combination of hope and the wise words of guiding I remember in my head.  Starting out at 48km this hill isn't one of the three I remember.  They say there are two hills winners whine about.  I didn't whine over any of them.  But I'm absolutely postivie there were three in particular I swear consistently at.  I cannot think of anything but a clock.  It sits in front of me teasing with it's alluring ticking hands.  Run faster. Move quicker. Ohhh you lost a minute there climbing that hill.  Oops wrong direction honey, come back.  I'll keep track for you.  When I arrive at the 4km aid station I come in hooting and hollering..."I found you!!! I'm not lost!!!" I grab what I could and collect my reality nicely in my head.  "If anyone asks, I was here!" and off into the Dirty boys confusion. This section of the course had tormented me all day.  Too leaf covered, no specific trail to follow.  Flagged for sure but in order to find the flags alone in the sun I actually bent down to grope the leaves.  Yes yes there's one.. keep going girl... Moving on in the space where you may have been but as yet haven't found yourself.  Let's go feet, time is not our friend here.  100 miles at the pace I had set would take approximately 44hrs.  I'm optimistic and stubborn and sometimes a fool... however I knew taking all factors into play, this journey would take a long long time. 

     "Preserverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did"  Newt Gingrich

Rounding out of the woods I have never been so excited to enter the camp ground. The sun was threatening a good night and I had made it.  Thank goodness.  The tent was still where I left it, the start finish line was still found just past all the trippable pillions.  I stop to shout a hurray and then my daughter, Terese and I walk off again into the woods.  This loop was meant as a recovery loop.  Walk the transition into darkness.  Share space with this beauitful girl I have come to know and be so proud of.  Terese was brave enough to take her tired mom into the twilight and get us back to camp safely.  My only parenting wisdom departed is this; if you ever want open communication with your children, show them your weakness and give them room to feel all the truth of that.  




     "People are like stained glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkeness sets in, they true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within" Elisabeth Kubler Ross

Terese gets us back to camp.  Back to Crew captain Nicole and her mom Donna.  Thankful for knowing they were there to help.  More than once just knowing I'd get a hug upon surviving another loop is all that got me through the last part of a loop.  Terese heads to bed and I set off to do a couple of loops in the dark alone.  Oh sweet darkness.  Look at your shining reflective white flags.  Look at how you glimmer your LED lights along the trail.  I don't need to think.  I plug in to some slow drowning coldplay and run.  I run like there is a wind at my back and very nearly caught up with myself.  That first night I only saw about three people.  The start finish aid station kept me going with help from the tastiest soup I've ever had and the best slushies in the world.  I ran my feet until they said you're crazy.  I ran my nose into the furture while my soul got sleepy.  Slowing as time went I began the fun slippery slope of hallucination.  The last downhill after 7k there were fish, big tropical fish swimming down the hill beside me.  Swimming away as if to say, come on girl, this is the way the fish go.  Let the current take you home.  I knew I'd need to sleep soon.  I had hoped not to sleep the entire race.  When I got back to Nicole she was ready to walk a loop with me.  We trudged through the slow quiet groogy me I had become.  She kept me on my feet and moving forward.  And then her mom took a loop.  Donna with no guding experience before and the zombie I had become wasn't making that easier for her.  I remember  stopping at the 4k aid station and sitting in the chair saying "ok I get a 3 minute nap now, make sure you wake me up in three minutes".  Someone rubbed my back, I seem to recall, or maybe it was the fish.  The sun had come up.  Stupid sun.  People had promised I'd find renewal in the daylight.  They were right. I found a renewed sense of annoyance at the sun.  Somewhere around here I was ready to give up on the whole thing.  What was I thinking?  a 100 miles?  I needed sleep.  if I sleep I won't have time to finish. And all time stood still.  

I crashed on an air matress.  Wallowing in the knowledge of what this rest would cost me.  I could not sleep.  I have never known such exhaustion as that moment when sleep would not come.  That meant one thing to me.  I was not done.  All I could do was cry silent tears into the grass beneath me.  So many people believed I could do this thing.  Yet here I was ready to quit.  Ready to define myself in this  moment. My head was so so foggy.  Details drifted in and out of focus.  People seemed to come and go.  The place where you can't remember your name, where your idenetity is blurred, where you've lost all grasp on reality, is exactly where the adventure starts.  It's in this teeny tiny window where boundaries are lost and newness is possible.  Words do not do justice to the gathering of spirits that came together to pull me out of this drudge I was in.  Countless souls gave wisdoom, created a plan to help me see it through.  With all courage gone, I stood again with nothing but stubborn to carry this next loop through.  Jennifer tolerated my tears and brought humour so needed into our race.  In that moment I was fully aware that nothing worth doing was worth attempting alone. Everyone needs a throng of caring supportive people to draw upon when in that dark moment.  I have never seen such community as I did then.

The 24hr racers had taken to the trail.  It pepped things up a bit and we covered more distance.  More familar feet in front and behind.  More random hugs on the trail by friends to push me on.  Aid station optimism offered gummy bears and cookies.  A kind heart said "you will find your feet, once you stop looking for them dear"  I couldn't make sense of this.  I snuck peeks up at the sky as we climbed the bastard of a hill in the middle.  The clouds gone and full sun seemed to dare all my hatered for light.  There is no place for anger in 100 miles.  At lesat not in my 100 miles.  Oh heavens... I haven't given up. The wash out on the hill threatened to comsume my every last wakeful thought.  I stood on the hill half way up unable to move.  Unable to think.  Unable to breathe.  The sleep I had begged for finally had come.  We crawled back to camp and I finally agreed to nap.  One hour I begged, just one hour.  I woke up and called my coach.  I said I keep going but time is too short.  I can't walk 6 more loops to finish this.  I heard the reassuring do what you can safely.  Be smart.  Bravery is meanlingless without intricate balance of stubbornness and belief.  I had gotten this far on the belief others had in me.  Not belief in myself.  That is after all, what I had come in search of.  I fear others belief in me almost as much as I seek to create it.  It carries responsibility like heavy leaves after the settling of dew.   I needed to find a way to remove my ego from this race.  I needed to stop assuming i was on the trail, and instead of how I am inherently part of it and it of me.  I needed to remember there was a difference between finding yourself and constantly engaging in the serarch for your best you.  

     "I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be" Douglas Adams

Around this time I looked down to find shoes on my feet again.  Hello Speedcross. How I love you. And looked up to find Cathy who had come to run some loops with me.  We walked a loop and talked about committing to nothing more than this loop and seeing where that put me after. Terese joined us for the next loop which was a walk run.  She wanted to see Nicole off on her 12 hour race which meant we had to hurry.  My dear daughter, inspiring me to run again.  I can't tell her how grateful I am for that.  We arrrived at the start just in time to give hugs and see the 12 hrs off. One more loop with Cathy and then I was in the dark alone again.  The start of this loop put me at 136k.  Stefan saw me pulled me aside in the cabin at the start line. He simply said "it's time for you to go".  I said "it is?" and he nodded.  Handing me a cup full of food, I turned and didn't look back.  Anger may not carry a role in my 100 miles, but fear definitly did.  I wasn't tired now.  I was genuinely terrified that I had come this close and wouldn't get to the end. My head could possibily have done math to save my life.  I knew I needed 3 more lops.  I knew it was dark.  I knew I had to run.  Someone told me to run.  So I did.  Plugged back into my music, ignored the ground under the headlamp and just ran.  For the first time the entire race I actually passed some other runner. Of course giddy over that I took a wrong turn again and lost the trail temporarily.  I had help the second half of this loop from another runner Sharon, whom I'd never met.  This cemented my belief in the community of ultra running.  The trees seemed to hug the trail embracing us all, as we came back into the camp.  

     "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircae" Martin Luther King Jr.

Must stop segregating pains.  Must stop thinking my knee hurts, my toes hurt.  After a time the neural feedback loop creates the awareness of the whole person, pain at this point being a big part.  Jennifer paced the next loop.  I was completely intoxicated on sleeplessness at this point. I had no awareness that there was anything going on around me.  I felt my baby toe blister explode around 3km into this loop.  When we pulled up to the aid station I flopped into the chair in front of Kinga and was offered a cookie. I remmeber holding Roger's hand like a birthing mother and wailing so loudly the raccons ran away.  I remember spitting my cookie out and staring at the sky and breathing in all the stars I had missed up until now.  Each glimmering a hope of finsh.  Each gathering strength to keep moving.  And some vague recollection that I knew there was time left. I do not have any memory of 4k to 8k of this second last loop.  Except fish.  My fish pushing me along the current.  The last loop was entirely walking.  Again I lost all control of myself and fell asleep walking.  I was giggling about my five year asking me if I was going to win this time? Since I never do? What would I tell him? Tempt yourself with greatness even if you feel you have no right.  I tripped over inaginary roots.  I found every footprint every racer had made along this two day soul searching final task of my summer. Jennifer and I planned a big finish, her cartwheeling and me somersaulting over the line.  And tears, so many many tears.  Tears for accomplishment, for survival, for finding faith after losing it.  And giggles for being done.  Done and sitting in the wet grass with Diane the race director who had a buckle for me.  My first 100 mile buckle in just under 44 hours.  All I could think of was.... I should buy pants.



     "We have normality.  I repeat, we have normality.  Anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem" Douglas Adams. 

Every moment of my enitre race was made possible through the efforts of a huge helpful group of people.  Half way up the biggest bugger of a hill, Jennifer played this song.  I honestly feel, it sums up ultrarunning/ultrarunners perfectly.  Have a listen.... 

Corb Lund "Truck Got Stuck"
 (And I don't mean this in a bad way at all... just in a we take care of each other kind of way... )

Shout out Thank you's to Jennifer, Nicole, Donna, Terese, Dian, Henri, Cathy, Stefan, Kinga, Sharon, Erin and a million nameless runners and volunteers. Thanks for reading and sharing in my blind girl adventures this summer.  More to come, I promise, after all the chaffing, blisters and horrid suntan lines fade.

Much love, 
rm

Thoughts from my enduring Coach, Steve Mertz;

Rhonda told me about her goals last year, and thinking she needed a coach.  I agreed. She needed a coach. The goals she chose (13k swim, 500k bike and 100 mile run) were very aggressive. But, I knew she was stubborn and determined.  So, I started coaching her.  We went through many issues together getting the training she needed. From no pool access, to the frozen winters to, just life in general.

But when it came time to toe into the water, she was more than ready for that swim.  She had done the training better than I could have hoped, and she crushed the swim.  Then came the bike, where again she had put in the training, and again, she completed this goal (not without some issues, but she completed it.)  Two down, one left!  

100 mile run. That is not a joke.  It's long. It's painful. It's mentally unnerving.  We kept in touch through out, and around 3pm Saturday she was hitting a wall.  I called her up and we chatted about making sure she do what she can smartly and stay healthy.  And after that all I saw was her ticking off mileage until she hit the 100mile mark in just under 44 hours. Truly amazing!  

She truly has shown her Beast Mode through out all of this and I cannot wait to help her reach her next goals!

Steve Mertz
Head Coach - Beast Mode Coaching

For every piece of the glue that kept me on track for the last year I owe it entirely to Steve.  He is kind hearted and of full belief in my outlandish and startling goals.  I wouldn't have known where to start with such training for three very different endurance events.  And I would have lost it completely while coping with major life changes at the same time.  Steve kept things realistic and on task.  We worked well to maintain focus and keep what little remained of my head, in the game.  Huge huge thank you to Beast Mode Coaching for walking me through this.  

So many many people helped with this journey.  My other major puzzle piece was connection with Salomon Toronto.  They too seemed to think me capable of this three big goals I'd set and I was ushered into the Salomon world as a Flight Crew Member.  I cannot tell you how proud I am to wear their gear.  I trained with all my favorites as we got closer and closer to the events.  My Missions carried me through road runs, my Speedcross got me through the trail adventures, including 100 miles at Dirty.  The hydration pack that got me through was the Skin Pro 3- the perfect size for me.  I did occasionally train with the larger Advanced Skin 12 as I used to run to my swim lesson and then home again, or the 30 some km home from work after a shift.  This kept all I could possibly need and more all with me as I went.  The s-lab compression skort is my absolute favorite.  It also got me through the 100 miles as I never doubted the help it gave to keep my quads from over fatiguing.  Gotta say... the buff, the visor.. all just made the happy in me come out to play.  And the arm sleeves I intermixed with my knee socks as one was good for colder weather. My running could not have been more comfortable knowing that Salomon had my back (and feet, and legs and arms....) Being a Flight Crew Member means knowing the team a bit too.  I couldn't ask for a better support network for my adventures.  I'm constantly amazed and inspired by their endeavors.  Being surrounded by such indelible people makes me want to try harder everyday.  I can't wait to know them better and to learn all they will stand still to teach me.  Huge buckets of gratitude to Scott Burger at Salomon Toronto for believing in the part of me I wanted so badly to believe in myself.  Cheers Salomon, YOU ROCK!!!

http://www.salomon.com/others/brandstore/salomon-toronto.html




(As seen in my super salomon gear celebrating not being lost after a loop alone)


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From The Stokers Saddle, Tandem Tour 2013

     "When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way."  Wayne Dyer

     When attempting a river crossing towards your dream goal, you must first pick a landing place on the opposite shore to target.  You have to imagine being there with every fiber of yourself.  You must want your feet in that earth more than your fear of strong currents.  Then you have to shift your gaze back.  
     Losing sight of your target allows for focused concentration on the next step of your crossing.  This step, this tiptoe forward along a hopeful path, seems so small compared to the river ahead.  But if miscalculated, the entire crossing would be in vain.
     For me, post long tethered open water swim goal, came the tandem tour.  This tour consisted of a hopeful five days of riding with a total of 500km covered.  It was, by far, the most worrisome.  When you can't imagine how to untangle your soul, I suggest losing yourself in the catacombs of relentless past let downs you've stock piled and gain strength through first embracing weakness.  Remarkably when the last seam of control unravels from your grasp, things begin to move in slow motion.  Even when all time stands still, hope and fear tango to the same beat left pounding in your chest.  The one that wants.  The one that will push beyond what you know to be true to make magic happen.

     "We fear violence less than our own feelings.  Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else could inflict" Jim Morrison

     Training for this tour was very tricky.  I imagine the planning was torturous for my coach, to whom I owe my entire summer.  Motivating yourself is the hardest thing.  Imagine the reality of constantly motivating another person, one who doesn't necessarily share in your dream goal but may agree to go along for the ride.  Guide seeking for ultra anything is always the biggest adventure.  Oh and then there was the awkwardness of not having a tandem bike either.  However; Never let anything stop you, or everything will.
     And so training became solitary hours on the trainer in the basement.  The tandem eventually came by way of a dear friend who believed enough in my dream to fund raise for one.  The event guide and host family was another dear friend Shannon, who has guided for me in the past.  It seemed meant to be as all the details came together.  A week after swimming 13.58km open water tethered, my bike tour began.  July 28 was our first day.  What follows is a recap of events to the best of my recollection.  
Every night I wrote a few things down as to how I was feeling at the end of each day.  So bits of my whimsical whining are intermixed with the actual details of the tour..  

     "Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased". John Steinbeck

 Day Zero or Not a Creature Was Stirring....

    This night was fairly simple.  Food packed for tomorrow.  Route picked.  Clothes laid out (My superhero Salomon cycling gear!) and off to sleep.  My last thoughts were of how I managed to find myself here.
     Ambition breeds change. Or it should.  It should spark a genuine curiosity for the "what if" that lives inside.  Ambition's best friend is motivation.  The hang out together like two star crossed lovers at a hunger games reunion. Motivation stirs desire aggressively into the soft folds of ambition.  It can take you off guard if you're unprepared or unaware of its approach.  Both daringly flirt with bravery and ignorance.  This double date fiasco always leads to adventure.  And in the moment before any concrete action physically takes place, electric sparks ripple through the air.  Tangible soul empowering toughness, mixed with a soft smile of hope dance through this moment.  It starts here, before you can catch your breath.

     "The entire ocean is affected by a pebble" Blaise Pascal.

     Day One or I am Stoker....
Total distance 93.7km
Captain Shannon

     This day I was up at 4:40am.  Tried to stretch a little.  Oatmeal and vega pre-drink in the dark.  Daisy's bags were packed and we set out around 6am.  We got a little lost, travelled the same stretch of road three times.  Therefore got to smell the dump three times.  We saw (or experienced) the terrain to Lakefield, Duro, Warsaw and back.  Stopped for banana ice cream, for frog crossings, veered around caterpillars, had random kittens climb into our snack bag.  We lost feeling in our toes, we parked roadside for facilitated nerve flossing (to return feeling to our feet) and smiled almost the entire time.  Once home, I practiced curse words on the foam roller, ate curry chicken, napped for a total of 26 minutes and had no regrets.  And as I fell asleep, my head was full of random delusional thoughts...
    "Terrain" is an awkward word. I've been thinking of that all day.  There isn't nearly enough ups and downs in the word itself.  It sits there on the screen, mundane and flat.  After its brave tease with the capital "T" everything is the same until you reach the "i".  Even that is a let down, with its middle of the word excitement syndrome.  Life, adventure, challenge and actual terrain is no where near that.  It is engrossed with newness every step, stroke or pedal.  It is refreshing in difference every millisecond.  even standing still changes the terrain.  Three dimensional textures excite every firing neuron, every proprioceptive receptor that is actually paying attention.  Life's ultimate request is simply that we pay attention.  Living becomes enthralling, exuberant and entrancing when cosmic kind of awareness moves through your soul and intention.  And sleep comes with dreams of day two.

     "So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing"  T.S. Eliot

     Day Two or Maximum Tush Tolerance.....
Total distance 102km (split day)
Captain Shannon

     This day I was up at 4:30am.  Stretching, foam rolling, contemplating yoga moves.  Oatmeal and vega pre`drink in the dark. Daisy's bags packed and out the door by 6am and again at 4pm.  We finished this day in the rain.  Out to Younges Point today and out towards Omeme on the rail trail later. It took 30km for my legs to wake up.  We saw two herons, one dead otter, I ate a horrible banana flavoured gel (honestly I think I could have run over a banana with the bike and it would  have tasted better).I accidentally peed on my shoe behind a tree, and we hit maximum tush tolerance.  This is the place best described as the maximum amount of time your brain will allow you to ignore the pain in your tush while enduring the saddle.   Plans and dialogues began to regroup with extra captain help.  I spent the last 22km making words out the letters on the back of Shannon's jersey.  Once home, I took the dog for a walk, danced away my sleepiness, stretched, foam rolled, ate and curled up with an almost empty head thinking of how beaten up I felt.  How much I knew Shannon couldn't continue for three more full days.  How well I understood that.  How well I could feel that need to rest creeping in.  And how much I loved her every desire to keep going anyway.  But I made the calls and changed the plan.  And I crossed my fingers things would work out. Even though self doubt was knocking.  Last thoughts were of not giving in.
      Strategically aligned stars are clearing the horizon in my soul. Knowing commitment is not the same as living it.  Not the same as nurturing it.  Not the same as going to bed with your legs on fire, tush bruised, knowing full well there's no going back on your word to yourself.  Do or die. See. It.Through. Girl... and then sleep came 

     "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with"  Wayne Dyer

Day Three or Bike Grease Under My Nails
Total DIstance 55.2km
Captain Shannon

    This day started at 5am. Shorter day so we slept in.  Stretched, foam rolled, contemplated sanity. Oatmeal and vega pre`drink in the almost dark.  And Daisy's bags packed and out the door by 7am.  Today we went to Millbrook, Ida and around.  I'm told in cycling circles this means something.  All I know is that was one mother of a hill.  In my mental fatigue I forgot my gloves.  My wrists had started to hurt the night before due to the increased downward pressure on my lowered handle bars.  Also spent a good chunk of time wondering if I smelled like diaper cream to anyone else.  Todays ride had increased stops.  Our chain jumped and tangled twice.  The last attempt to fix it ended with us walking the last two blocks to home. The I spent an hour foam rolling and giggling over pictures of the horses we saw wearing zebra coats.  Ate and hydrated.  Plans organized for day four, with a captain switch to Jennifer (also a dear friend and previous guide).  She was stepping in for the longest day too.  And as I curled up t sleep, last thoughts were of fatigue...
    Fatigue settles in by shoveling out ambition.  It throws a tonic stink bomb into the room of motivation and purpose.  It blows the weak links of doubt to bits and pieces.  Then in the carnage, it flanks in and takes over.  It works by holding back the defensive troops and attacks the cognitive function directly.  It shuts down the brain power behind big dream chasing mentality.  It plants seeds of realistic expectation everywhere.  If there is anything I HATE... it's realistic expectation.  If we all wallowed in that alone, we'd still be off meandering around with no fire, shivering, wishing someone somewhere would develop an app for that already.  

     "Fear is the static that prevents me from hearing myself" Samuel Bulter.

Day Four or Lets Play I spy
Total Distance 138.5km 
Captain Jennifer 

     This day I was up at 4:20am.  Foam rolling and stretching in the dark.  Feeling weak  in spirit and tush.  Jennifer's optimistic, albeit sleepy arrival was a comical relief that I needed to set off smiling.  It was Bobcaygoen day.  Also flat tire day.  This provide us with a stop in Lindsay for pumping, a stop at the marina for pumping and watching the entire back tire being lowered into the water to check for leaks.  I spent the day hungry. As if all the sudden i was awake from a long hibernation and ravenous. Thinking every time I opened a gel, please god don't be banana flavoured.  We saw a million rabbits and one live otter.  Jennifer discovered I swear when I'm tired.  My wrists were screaming all day.  We stopped for lunch and to ask directions a few times.  We also stopped at a play ground so I could do some chin up traction on my wrists.  The bumps became unbearable. the distance came up short. And yet I loved every second of this chance to stand up and say yes yes I can.  even if I wasn't sure I could.  At one point Jennifer looked sleepy so like a good stoker I asked her if she wanted to play I spy. I even offered to go first.  That took a minute to achieve the giggles I was hoping for and Iwas rewarded   later for my smartassness when she ducked to avoid a branch that then whacked me in the face.  Once home, I ate and silently prayed for some kind of reason to stop.  The problem is I'd always made my reasons for accomplishing this goal bigger than my fear.  I knew this was my wall, my rock bottom, my emotional pit of self pity.  I taped up my wrists, foam rolled, cold bathed and went to bed. and my last thoughts of the day were about defeat, or at least the many faces of it.
     Rock bottom looks like this; freezing cold water, so cold it makes you cry, in a bath tub not your own, surrounded by people you love... and still feeling utterly alone. Your only  company is self doubt and pity.  Logic always says give in.  Logic always asks for reprieve.  Logic doesn't give a shit about your dreams. Logic is founded in your reality and the life limits you have constrained to every day.   Dreams are whimsical and hover around thoughtfully like a fruit fly that won't leave your wine glass alone.  Dreams and logic are hard to convince to make friends.  Balance is key.  Interspersed with long vacations apart.  And in that moment when you lose yourself, when you completely and totally have no faith and cannot imagine digging deeper.... That is when you either find yourself or lose yourself.  That is when you get to redefine yourself. 

     "There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them" Andre Gide

Day Five orThe Long Way Home
Total Distance 117.6km
Captain Scott

     This day started at 4:20am with tears on my foam roller.  Some day I shall write a country song about the self induced pain and relief I've felt here.  Karma was kicking my ass.  Hard.  I had to start my day with my wrists taped, convinced they were sprained.  I'm also currently developing a theory on how convincible shorter women (sorry Shannon and Jennifer) are to do brave silly things like a bike tour.  I was also extremely grateful Scott could step in for this my last adventurous day.  And I loved that it meant we could raise the captains seat (and therefore my handlebars)  Today we followed the Peterborough Half Ironman Route plus some trail.  The sheep bleated good morning as we passed.  And it was literally a downpour when we started.  But start we did, and with smiles too. We stopped in Ponty pool for tea and donuts and borrowed a hammer (to raise the seat further) from the back of a beer filled pick up truck.  Coming down the Millbrook hill we were clocked on the speed sign at 58km/hr and then met the nice OPP officer in the Macs store.  Now this speed for a seasoned cyclist might seem normal or slow.... but as a stoker, who has no control over anything it is pure chaos.  All I could do is close my eyes and let the world sweep by and trust completely.  That feeling of letting go of every notion of my ability as I understood it to gain strength in my life was profound.  To just be there in that moment as the white lines blurred under tire and know that whatever was meant to happen right now, would in fact happen regardless as to my feelings about it. 
    We whipped around some corners going over 30km/hr and I knew if i had stopped to let fear in, all of this momentum would make me cry.  All i felt was endless belief in the dream of finishing this step.  And potential, outside of the pain in my wrists and my tush, ebbed through my hope.  The things I could plan to do in the future on this tandem were forming in my mind. Of course the reality was knocked hard back into me over several large moan eliciting bumps in the road.  Scott, who hadn't endured five days of saddle time, and who obviously thought my reactions were funny, giggled and yelled back "did you cum yet?'.  Just the right amount of comic relief to help us finish our trip and take us home.
     Complete exhaustion won this day totaling my distance at 507km over five days.  Three captains (Shannon, Jennifer and Scott), One chef and route planner (Gerald), Salomon cycling shorts and jersey to make me comfy and at least look like i knew what I was doing and one dog who sharing my yoga mat consistently every day.... and a million friends and family who tolerated my training and sent encouragement as the tour went on.... all made this possible. Endless thank you's to everyone who had a hand in helping and who dared to believe I could make such a thing come true.  
     Step two of this ultra tri goal is accomplished.  Blood, sweat and tears and done.  Increased my tan line, increased my belief.  increased my hope. 

Step Three, Dirty Girls 48hr Ultra run is August 9.  My goal is to make 100 miles and up to now, I've not  done over 50 miles.  But I'm learning that boundaries are invisible. Unless you actually put effort into believing you see them. 

    "In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you" Deepak Chopra.

Much love 

rm











Saturday, July 27, 2013

Recapping Tethered Open Water Swimming and other tan line tales...

     "You've been given the innate power to shape your life" Steve Maraboll 

..... Recap of my attempt at 13km of tethered open water swimming done in loops across Little Lake Colbourne Ontario July 20 2013.

    As anticipated, the morning of the swim began under cloud cover. The sky always seems to mirror my doubt, my fear.  The swim started in their shadows as if an inner battle was on the brink of waging in these calm waters.  I have never crewed a 100mile racer, and can't imagine that crewing a 13km OWS for a stubborn, albeit giddy, blind girl is a simple task. However this feat would never even had made the sandy shore line without everyone's help and support. Endless thank you's go out to all the help I received this day.

    At 7am we braved the first crossing.   Scott and I tethered through the green waters ("green? Really?" "Yes green" how fitting to be surrounded by such hope). Each stroke built confidence in my soul. Each breath reminding me I was prepared. Each minute drawing a new image of my idea of this day's outcome. About half way back again, the sun came out and I knew the wetsuit would have to go if I'd make it through all 13km. We had started in the quiet, in the hush, before the cottagers knew why potential and ambition were seeping through their windows. 

    "Every day is a blank page that you could fill with the most beautiful drawings" John C. Parkin

     We swapped guides for the second crossing. Wetsuit shed like the loss of a worlds weight off my skin. Here is where my thoughts should have contained some momentary wisdom to lather on some sun screen. There's no better way to cement your tri suit tan lines than to ignore the sun for the reaching of a goal in front of you. 
     David took to the tether for crossings two and three. The average crossing was 1500m. At the end of each loop there was soup, gels, vega drink and water. I had an amazing crew who would bring food into the water as getting out was painfully cold and turned my lips blue in seconds. Crossing four brought Veronique into the tether. It also made me extremely giddy, as if all inhibition, all sense of fear seemed laughable. Because in this moment here I was in the middle of a lake doing what most considered impossible. And here was a canoe beside me and a beach full of friends and family who believed enough that if I believed it..... It was quite possible. 
     My coach Steve, had said that morning "it's just a day at the beach with some swimming thrown in".  And at the 6km point I thought how fitting.... In the beginning of any dream you must first have desire. In the middle you must have humor. And in the end..... Well I wasn't sure yet. Time will tell, she always does.
     And so we kept swimming. And I kept singing. In my head old Raffi songs mixed with bubbles and CCR and some distracted moments when I knew why there are no line ups at the portapots at tris... All kept me going.  David tethered for crossing five and Amy came along for awhile too. And I felt good. At peace with effort, in harmony with breath, consistent with each stroke carrying me further towards the goal. 
     Afternoon had hit the beach and the sounds of children playing brought me to shore each crossing. Veronique, who I'd only met a month before, bravely took the tether again loop six and while I sang under water we covered 2km. Jennifer tethered loop seven and I couldn't help but smile. Of all my friends, she is the one who never questions my crazy. In fact I believe she expects it. Today she had come with her canoe and family to help crew this step of my crazy. 
    Something changed at the start of crossing eight. Some mental switch was being flipped. The water teased resistance, threatened one last battle of rites. With Scott back at the tether we swam through. The first half of this crossing I desperately attempted to make peace with the karma that wanted to erect the oh-so-familiar wall here. I made promises to the fish to stop peeing in their lake. I sang some Beatles in my head. The mental side is always and forever the biggest hurdle. 
    At the opposite shore I handed the tethers and therefore my entire safety net, into the canoe where Jennifer, Kevin and their children would get us across one last time. We had agreed this last crossing would be my ultimate sudden death round with fear. The only way to find myself in these waters was complete and total isolation from everything grounding, to lose myself in the current. 
     The sun, high in the sky, kissing my well done skin, was daring me to finish... To claim this space. And in that moment when all time stands still and all you've ever known fades away, you get a chance to turn back and say not today or an opportunity to push forward and start redefining yourself. With Kevin sporting a white towel like a cape in the canoe for me to attempt to spot and Scott somewhere in the water, I chose to swim. I chose to not let myself down. I chose to let the embracing bubbles guide me back to shore. 100m or so from the buoy line, (not that I knew that) I had so many tears collected in my goggles and such am overwhelming sense of finish just out of reach.  I turned onto my back, took in the now cloudless horizon and paused. Then I heard Jennifer promise I was close and instruct that I should just keep going.  Trust, when felt without reservations, can move mountains ( or in this case a scared blind girl in a lake). We all hit the shore smiling. 
    Funny how chaffing, sunburn and fatigue are meaningless until the dust settles. Funny how a silly small belief in yourself is so potent and powerful. Funny how the best days seem to last forever in your heart setting spark to new dreams. 

Swim stats;
13.58km covered 
6hrs 9min
1500m in a wetsuit
12.83km tethered
750m untethered 
6 gels
3 cups of soup
2L of water 
4 brave guides
8 crew members
17 songs sung
2 new goals set

    This swim was step one of my summers goals of mimicking an ultra man tri. Next step is a five day 500km tandem bike tour. And the following week a hopeful 100miles covered at Dirty Girls 48 hrs ultra race. And the lyric left in my head post swim.....

"I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for" John Mayer 

Much love,
rm