only with long haul betty
Be the peace you seek. ~Fil Tribble
I sat down in my corner at Elemental this morning, and rather than sifting through my work email, something prompted me to open up the ‘writings’ folder on my laptop. For over an hour I sat there, reading old words as I was waiting for my favorite coffee compadres to arrive, where we would surely be far too crass, far too loud, and far too all the things we tend to be each morning. It was going to be just what I needed. Anyway, in my reminiscent trip through those docs, one of the pieces I opened up was a response to an old friend of mine. I don’t generally participate in that #TBT thing that you see on social, but I think, just for this one day, I’m going to. I’m going to set the scenario up to share my first, and quite possibly only, Throwback Thursday.
It was the morning of January 17th, and I'd just finished the Long Haul 100 - a 100 mile run in the swampy trails of Florida - to celebrate my 40th. I remember crossing the finish line, being handed a medal, and asked to wait there for my buckle. side note: “What buckle?” was of course my question, because it didn’t occur to me that I might get one. With that buckle surprise, she brought a ridiculously good local beer from her husband’s cooler and a hug. I got in the car, soaking wet from the storms, beaten up from the trails, and really, really content. Content, but also in need of coffee, food, and the longest and hottest of all the long and hot showers in history. It was well before noon when I crawled into bed, knowing I wouldn’t sleep, but as a friend of mine, just tonight, actually, said to me, “we always try, don’t we?” Yes… yes, we do. Of course, it didn’t take very long to determine that sleep wasn’t going to happen, so I opened my laptop to read and respond to all the birthday and race notes. First, Sweet Fancy Moses do I have some incredible friends! I made it through all of my Facebook timeline, all of my texts, and then… then, I opened up my email. I started answering all of the lovely messages in my inbox, but one in particular really struck me. It was the normal “congrats on your race and happy birthday” sentiment, but at the end of that short writ was a question. It simply asked, “Did you cry?” And this was my sleep-deprived, hyper-caffeinated, high-on-running-an-ultra answer:
"The race... I'd like to write out the whole story, and I'll try to after sending this once the caffeine kicks in. Kidding! Sort of... Anyway, no, I didn't cry. I think I shared enough tears with Long Haul Betty on the course. Tears and goosebumps. We had such personal, touching, and intimate conversations. It was true trail talk - like the sort you have when you spend miles and miles on the dirt with someone. I'll tell you about it in person. This is one of the few things that I'd rather share verbally than through written word.
It's interesting (there's that word again). I try to experience these emotions that are "normal" in some situations. I mean, I spend a lot of energy searching inside myself for them, just in case my self-taught habit of controlling and burying feelings that are attached to vulnerability is taking over. I did this with my birthday (as it turns out, I truly just don't care), and I did this for months leading up to the race, all the hours spent on those Florida trails, and for the nearly four hours I sat wet and shivering in the car while waiting for the thunderstorm to pass and tornado warnings to clear. Once the lightning stopped and it was only raining, I put my shoes back on, grabbed the pink bracelet signifying the last loop, and tried to make myself feel something more than stubborn. Don't misunderstand this. I was so happy, and I truly loved being in the woods alone for all those miles, but I didn't feel like I was experiencing 'normal' late-race feelings. Anyway, at this point, the trails were so muddy and full of puddles, and since they were so narrow, the only option was to trudge right through it while holding on to extended tree branches to stay upright, which was so fun! It was hard as shit, though, because my body was a little tired from navigating all the divots on the trails (I'll take giant roots and monster climbs over those constant fucking holes any day) and every once in a while I'd think about the open wounds on my feet and send a silent prayer to the trail gods to not let me get some sort of obscure infection. <- I'm not being unnecessarily paranoid here. This actually happened to a friend of mine and he ended up hospitalized for nearly a week. I have no time for that, and I hate medicine. Because my back-up headlamp battery inexplicably didn't charge enough and was dying, I used another racer's who had dropped for this last loop. His is a different model and is not strong enough for my poor night vision, so I had a hard time seeing. I was grateful to have it, but even more grateful when the sky started to lighten a few minutes before 7am. Not long after, the rain stopped, so I was able to take the headlamp off and pull the hood on my rain jacket down. The sun began to peek through what was left of the clouds, and it felt like a new day.... like the world was waking up. I felt a fresh wave of calm - even though I never felt like the 'calm' had left - and my heart smiled. I had no interest in speeding up. I just wanted to hold on to this. That's another thing... Through the entire race, I never 'just wanted to finish.' I wasn't there to win or get through it. I was there to experience it. I made trail friends, had incredible conversations, joked with the volunteers, gave long head rubs to the dogs walking their owners, went the wrong way and backtracked (more than once. well, more than twice, actually ), enjoyed the silence, and made peace with being in my own head. Anyway, I was just so... something? Something good. Content. I was just so content, and when I saw something beautiful, I'd stop to take it in. Not long... just long enough to feel my heart smile again, and then I'd keep moving forward. Even as I left AS2 for good, as I crossed the makeshift bridge for the last time, and finished the the little stretch of pavement leading to the finish, I never felt the need to hurry. I just felt satisfied.
So have I cried? No. But am I still trying to force a 'normal' emotion that is clearly unnatural for me? I no longer feel the need to, and that is probably one of the best reasons to get on the trail. You get to trudge through your heart and find what's real, and then you find a way to reconcile all that’s swirling around in there."