Pony Express 100

Pony Express 100
Pony Express 100

Tomorrow I will be sitting at the starting line for my third one hundred mile run. I’ve done all my training and am going into this race well rested and injury free.

Well rested and injury free at the starting line were goals of mine. They seem like no brainers right? But that’s not how I’ve done my last two hundreds.

2013 Pony Express 100 was my first attempt at the one hundred mile distance. My training was going beautifully. My long runs were difficult at times but doable. Long runs are supposed to be difficult after all. Five weeks before the race, I rolled my right ankle. I had rolled my ankle before so at the time I didn’t really think much of it and continued on my run. But this time was different. I had a high ankle sprain and fifty-five miles to run the next weekend with my relay team. There was no way I was going to let my team down. So I sucked it up and ran the fifty-five miles. I knew when I chose to run with my team that I may not be able to finish the 100, but my team run was the most important. So I made it to mile 72 and had to drop out of the race. I wasn’t willing to cause more damage and potentially be out of running for six months or more.

My dad was on my race crew for Pony Express and even though I didn’t finish, he got me the award you see in the picture above. It sits on a shelf in my living room, totally out of place with the rest of the décor. It reminds me of my struggle and determination. Sometimes it’s not our time to finish or reach our goal because there are other lessons out there for us to learn. We have to remain determined. Without the possibility of failure, is it truly worth the pursuit.

2014 Salt Flats 100. I was determined to finish Salt Flats 100 no matter how ugly it got and I did. I was one of three women who finished the race. Two-thirds of the runners dropped out or didn’t show up at the starting line. Forty-five mile an hour winds and 16 hours of rain made me ask myself, how bad do you really want this belt buckle? There was one point in the race when I really considered quitting, but my crew stepped it up and got me back out on the road.

I will finish Pony Express this year.

 

Don’t compare yourself

Ultra Relay Team
Ultra Relay Team

I’m a middle of the pack runner. I would love to be at the front of the pack, but I have to balance life with running. Okay and genetics.

I try hard not to compare myself to other runners, faster or slower. My competition is myself and the course below my feet. Why should you shy away from comparing yourself with other runners? Because you have no idea what is going on in their life or their training.

If you are comparing yourself to other runners, what is it that you are really comparing? It’s probably not running ability.

So many things interfere with training and these are not bad things. They are just life. Everyone has to prioritize depending on the cards they have been dealt throughout life.

I love running, but there are things that come before running, my kids and my job. I have to have enough time and energy to parent and be an attorney well after all the running I do. My running has to fit around these two things.

Other things that impact a runners performance which most average runners can’t afford on a regular basis are coaches, massage therapist, nutritionists, and physical therapists. All of these other professionals could boost our running, but we are unlikely to tap into these resources.

We do what we can by asking spouses or friends to act as massage therapists. We use foam rollers and tennis balls to massage ourselves. We read books and blogs about running to modify our training as a coach would. We read about nutrition and buy cookbooks for athletes. We see a physical therapist when we are injured if our insurance will pay for it and if not, we google our symptoms and do what we can with the information we get back.

When I see other runners struggling through the miles, I wonder what else are they carrying? What stresses are they dragging behind them? A divorce, aging parents, disabled children, empty nest, bankruptcy, unemployment, and all the other things that we all deal with during the various seasons of our lives.

Of course you should be proud of your first, second, or third place award, but never forget those you passed because I’m first at the end of every run I finish alone.

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Elven

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Church always seemed unnecessary to Melanie, even when her dad was alive, but since his death it was more senseless. Regardless of how she felt about it, she pulled on a full knee length blue skirt and white button down shirt and prepared to go with her mother and sister.

She bent down to tie her converse, and Daisy licked her on the mouth.

“Yuck. Ya little sneak.” Melanie reached for the puppy and rolled her over on her back rubbing her belly. Daisy bounced onto her feet and danced around Melanie barking. Daisy noticed her yellow squeaky toy in the corner and darted across the room for it.

Melanie played tug-a-war for a few seconds and then tossed the toy down the hall and followed Daisy. They all climbed into the van and drove over to the church. Melanie glanced around at the vacant stares of the people seated in the wooden pews lining the room. She wondered if any of them believed in god after all the atrocities of World War Three and now the Justice Law. Her mother believed as did Sam, but Sam is just a child. Mom’s eternal optimism fuelled her beliefs.

The arched painted glass windows fill the room with a rainbow of sunlight. Sam walks up the isle to the space behind the altar where the children’s choir is seated whispering to one another. Melanie follows her mother gliding along the hardwood floors. Melanie turns in the pew and searches the rows of people. She knows all of them by sight. She knows the names of most and what they do for a living. A few smile as her eyes meets theirs.

Mitchel opened the double doors at the back of the chapel, looked around, and backed out. The doors opened again, Mitchel held the door open wide and pointed to an empty pew near the back of the room. Seth came in with their mother, Anna, leaning on him as if she didn’t have quite enough strength to get there herself. They slid into the pew, one twin on each side of Anna. Anna had dark circles around her eyes, like she hadn’t slept in days. Her face was cast down at her feet. Mitchel found Melanie. His mouth smiled, but his eyes didn’t.

Jennifer nudged Melanie with her elbow. Melanie turned forward and then flicked a quick glace back at Mitchel. Jennifer turned to see and a frown formed on her face before she turned back. She let out a long breath and patted Melanie on the hand.

Father Chris approached in his green vestments. “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nations shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilence, and earthquakes, in diverse places. Matthew 24 verses six and seven.”

The Father’s words offered no comfort to Melanie during what she considered a national crisis. Her thoughts returned to Mitchel’s family at the rear of the chapel. She threw another glance back at them. Anna was kneeling Mitchel’s hand rested on her shoulder and his eyes didn’t move from the altar.

The parishioners stood and kneeled and Melanie followed along as one drone among the masses. When the service was over Melanie stood and began pushing past people trying to reach Mitchel. Jennifer caught ahold of her arm. Melanie turned and glared at her mother.

Jennifer shook her head. “This probably isn’t the best time Mel. Let’s wait for Sammy. You can take soup over afterward.”

Melanie wrinkled her brow. Her mother was right. Anna probably wanted to get away from the prying eyes as quickly as possible before the questions started. Everyone knew about what went on behind those doors, and everyone had tried to help at one time or another, but Anna would never leave Evan. She had tried once when the twins were small and she almost died.

Jennifer stopped at the grocery store on their way home.

“How come we’re here mom?” Sam asked from the back seat.

“Because we need to make some things for Mitchel’s mommy who is sick.” Jennifer pulled open the sliding door to let Sam out.

“What does she have?”

“The flu.”

Sam scrunched up her face. She had the flu last year and it was not pretty. “She will need lots of chicken soup.”

“Yes and a casserole for the boys.” Jennifer smiled and grabbed a cart from the curb next to the van.

Sam’s eyes got big. “Boys eat a lot.”

Melanie rolled her eyes.

Melanie drove to Mitchel’s home. It was on the other side of town. She passed a few house on the outskirts of Blue River. A few had backhoes in their yards and mountains of dirt. Mitchel had mentioned that people were building bunkers, and she assumed that was what was happening here.

Mitchel’s was the only house down a two-mile dirt road. Nothing was around, besides fields no one farmed anymore. The lawn had died long ago and was now where Mitchel and Seth parked their cars. Mitchel’s truck was there. Seth’s car was not. Evan’s royal blue old Chevrolet with rusted out wheel wells was still hitched to the caged flatbed trailer he used to haul the lawn care equipment around for his business.

Melanie turned off her car and just sat there staring at Mitchel’s home. The moss green paint on the door was peeling, as was the pale yellow of the greying wood siding. Was it a home? Mitchel called it home, but what else did he know. She had hoped that Mitchel’s dad would not be home. There’s that word again. She prayed to a god she didn’t believe in that Evan did not answer the door.

She took a deep breath and got out of her car. She walked around to the other side and stacked the casserole on top of the large container of chicken noodle soup, and added rolls to the top. Jennifer knew that Anna wasn’t sick, but sending food for other reasons may get Anna hurt.

Melanie walked up to the door. Her hands were full. She kicked at the screen door causing it to bang against the frame.

“Get your fat ass to the door.”

Melanie winced. Evan was home and awake.

“I got it mom.”

Melanie knew that voice too.

Mitchel peered around the curtains, eyes opening with surprise and then disappearing. The deadbolt knocked back.

The door made a grating sound as he pulled it open. It was dark in the house.

“What are you doing here?” Mitchel asked glancing into the house and then at Melanie. They never hung out here. They had only stopped by to pick things up that he had forgotten. Over the year they had been dating, she had never seen inside.

“You’re mom said she was sick at church. So my mom thought we should send some dinner over.”

He arched an eyebrow.

“Who’s at the door Mitchel?” Anna’s voice was soft.

Melanie could see her small frail form below Mitchel’s arm. Anna held onto the wall. The sun’s fading light from the kitchen window surrounded her in a white glow.

“It’s Melanie mom, she’s brought over some soup for you.”

Melanie stepped past Mitchel and into the house. Mitchel lifted his hand and started to say something, but she handed him the food she was carrying.

“This is heavy. There’s a casserole for you boys too.”

Her foot ground into something and she shifted her foot. Smiling faces lay on the floor, their wooden frames broken. Shards of glass were scattered. The coffee table was turned on its side jagged broken legs protruding from its belly. The brown rocking recliner was turned on its face.

“Don’t trip Mitch.” Anna clicked on the light. “That smells delicious Melanie.”

A family picture, without the frame and curled on its ends, was thumbtacked to the wall. It was old, the twins could only be three and there was a young girl of about five, who looked just like Anna. A thinner more muscular version of Evan stood with his hand wrapped around Anna’s bicep.

Melanie smiled and tried not to look around the room any more than was necessary to cross without falling.

A metal screen door slammed at the back of the house. Anna cringed. Melanie’s shoulders and stomach gripped her bones. She wiped her hands on her jeans.

Anna was still dressed in her church clothes and shuffled into the kitchen her arms wrapped around her as if it were the dead of winter. “Bring it into the kitchen.”

A truck started outside. Melanie turned toward the noise and her shoulders let go of her spine. Evan was leaving.

Mitchel slid the glass bowl up onto the counter and turned to face Melanie. No one uttered a word. There was enough awkwardness to coat every wall with a fresh layer of it.

Melanie looked down at her hands and feet. “Well, I had better get back home before the sun goes down.”  She brushed her hands on her jeans again.

Mitchel pushed himself away from the counter. “I’ll walk you out.”

“Thank you again Melanie. Tell your mother she’s a wise friend.”

Melanie turned around to say goodbye when she reached her car door. Mitchel slid his fingers into her hair holding the back of her head while his other hand rested on her lower back and pulled her into him.

“Thank you.” He whispered. His lips brushed against her earlobe.

Her eyes filled with tears as they met his. “I’m sorry.”

He put his finger over her lips. “It’s not your fault. You and your mom have done what you can.”

Melanie nestled into him.

“Where did he go?”

“The bar.”

Winter Break

child in coat

As the temperatures drop and snow looms ever closer, many runners reduce their miles for the winter break. Some even stop running all together. One of my friends, Spongebunny, thought stopping sounded like a great idea. His line of thinking went something like this: My next race is not until the end of May. I need sixteen weeks to train for a marathon. If I start training in January, I will be all set for the marathon.

There is nothing wrong with this line of thinking. He would be ready for the marathon in May if he began training in January.

However, there are also drawbacks to proceeding this way. First is the big one. You lose all your fitness that you have worked so hard to gain. You are actually safe for about ten days before it begins to decline. The longer you have been training the slower it will decline. More experienced runners have a larger base to draw upon.

After two weeks you lose 6% of your fitness and you begin to lose muscle power. Not too bad you say. You’re right it’s not too bad and you can actually make up for it with two or three weeks solid training. From 3 weeks to eight weeks it is 12% and more muscle power loss. Nine to eleven weeks off and you’ve lost 19% of aerobic fitness and significant muscle power. After 11 weeks you’re down by 26% and are waving goodbye to more muscle.

By the time winter is over, you are starting over from the beginning. So what can you do about this? Maintain a base of miles through the winter. How big of a base depends upon your miles at the end of race season and what length of race you are going to start the season off with. If you finish with a marathon and want to start with a marathon, shoot for maintaining a 15-20 mile base through the winter. If you are a 5k or 10k runner, shoot for 10-15 miles a week throughout the winter.

The second problem my friend Spongebunny will have by starting training in January is that his body will not have the chance to adjust to the dropping temperatures during training. The gradual adjustment to the cold is much easier to deal with than the sudden freeze zone. This will be a huge blow to his motivation especially given his decline in fitness over that time.

He could just train in doors on a treadmill or on an indoor track, but I am here to tell you a 15-20 mile run on a treadmill sucks almost as much as it does on an indoor track.

If you are going to do you winter training on a treadmill remember to set it at a 1% incline to account for wind resistance and the belt moving below your feet.

Winter Layers

winter running

September was unseasonably hot in the western United States. Now, that October has come the temperatures have dropped into the high 40s and low 50s (Fahrenheit) over the last week. I love running in these temperatures. I love the colors of the changing leaves and the crispness of the air.

I run outside year round. Here in Utah, the temperatures get below zero in January and sometimes in December too. The lower the temperatures the more clothing I put on. Sometimes we have a few inches of snow and biting wind on Halloween. It makes trick or treating rather unpleasant.

At 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I wear a long sleeve shirt, but I’m still in shorts.

At 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I have long pants, a long sleeve shirt and a short sleeve shirt. Possibly gloves as well.

Once the temperature starts slipping down to 35 or lower, my thermal tights and long sleeve shirts come out.

The colder it gets the more thermal layers I wear. My outer layer is windproof. My feet stay warm with one pair of socks no matter how cold it is outside, so long as they stay dry. My hands are another matter entirely. I wear three layers on my hands and then slide hand warmers in as well.

In January, any water I carry freezes solid on long runs. Carrying a handheld water bottle is impossible with three pairs of gloves on. Carrying water only makes my hand colder anyway. I use my hydration pack in the winter. You can buy an insulator for the tube so it doesn’t freeze up. I blow the water out of my tube each time so that it doesn’t freeze.

Any gu you pack along with you should be put in an inside pocket so you can use it when needed. If it is in your hydration pack or an outside pocket it will freeze.

There are a few different brands of spikes you can get for your shoes, that will prevent you from sliding on the ice.

If the temperature is below ten degrees Fahrenheit, I will split my run up doing ten miles outside and then finishing the rest inside on a treadmill. Frost bite doesn’t seem like fun to me.

Winter is an amazing time to run so long as you have the right gear to do it safely. The blanket of white that covers the ground in the early morning hours before any beasty children or dogs have put any footprints in it, is a treat. The moon’s light or the streetlights make it look like diamonds covering the ground.

Christmas lights always make me smile and I recall Christmas mornings I’ve spent with my children and the wonder on their little faces.

Start unpacking the winter gear, it will be here before we know it.

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Ten

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie packed granola bars and fruit snacks into the hydration packs. She was taking Sam hiking this morning and then to a movie in the afternoon. It was their mom’s Saturday to work, which meant it was Melanie’s day with Sam.

Melanie slid the spatula under the golden brown pancake and flipped it over. She put sausage links in the microwave and pushed start. She stepped over the Rottweiler pup, Daisy, who was dancing around at her feet, tongue lolling and dripping drool.

Sam peeked around a corner into the kitchen.

“Psst. Melanie?”

Melanie smiled and then turned around. “Yes?” she whispered back to Sam. Daisy pranced over to Sam. Her wagging tail throwing off her balance causing her feet to crisscross and exaggerating the swing of her rear end.

“Mom here?” Sam bent down to let Daisy lick her face. Melanie scrunched up her mouth and nose as the dog’s pink tongue lapped at Sam repeatedly.

“Nope, you are free to eat in your PJ’s. In fact such naughty behavior is encouraged.”

Sam laughed and sprung up like a jack in the box.

Melanie set a plate of steaming pancakes on the table. “Will you get the butter out of the fridge?”

Sam set the butter on the table and pulled out a stool to get the syrup down from the cupboard. “Are we hiking today?”

“We always hike when mom works on Saturdays.” Melanie set the bowl of sausage on the table next to the pancakes.

“Can Daisy come?”

“We’ll have to carry extra water for her, but I think she would like to come.”

Sam climbed beneath the table on her hands and knees. “Did you hear that Daisy? You’re coming with.” Daisy licked Sam’s nose and wagged her tail.

_______________________

Melanie pulled up to the Indiana Creek trailhead. She pulled Daisy’s big paws through the harness and clipped on the leash before getting out of the car. Sam took ahold of the leash and got out. They were the only car in the parking lot.

“Looks like we have the trail to ourselves.” Melanie laced her belt through her holster and slipped her 9 mm into the snug leather pocket. Sam stared at the gun. It was the first time Melanie had worn it in public. She pulled the hydration packs out of the back seat and held Sam’s up so she could slip her arms through.

“Did you put sunblock on?”

“I forgot.”

Melanie reached into her backseat for her running hat and pulled Sam’s ponytail through the back and onto Sam’s head. Sam took off down the trail as fast as Daisy’s clumsy oversized paws could go.

“Don’t get too far ahead of me,” Melanie jogged down the trail after her little sister. The whisper of the leaves and sigh of the wind loosened Melanie’s shoulders like a hot shower. She pulled the fresh pine filled air into her lungs opening up her chest. Getting Daisy had created more tension between her and her mom, but Melanie knew that it was one of those ask for forgiveness rather than permission decisions.

Her mom was mad yesterday, in fact they had said little to one another in normal tones. Every word stretched with the tension of a rubber band about to spring back into place or snap from the strain. But this morning, Melanie had gotten up before her mom and made coffee. When her mom strolled out of her room hair wrapped in a towel, she ruffled Daisy’s ears and threw a squeaky toy until Daisy lost interest. Her mom probably approved of the dog more than the gun at Melanie’s hip. To Melanie, both were necessary. If her mom wouldn’t carry a gun at least she would have Daisy.

Sam collected leaves, flowers, and rocks along the trail.

“This one is pretty.” Sam handed a piece of rose quartz up to Melanie. Daisy jumped up and bounced on Melanie with her front paws.

“No Daisy!” Melanie grabbed ahold of the puppy and pushed her down. “Stay down.” She forced Daisy to sit.

Sam stuck out her lower lip. “She just wants to see.”

“I know she wants to see, but if you let her act like that when she is small, she will do it when she is big and it will knock you to the ground.”

Sam’s eyes got wide. “She’s gunna be ginormous.”

Melanie laughed. “I hope so.”

Daisy started barking and Melanie’s head popped up. Daisy was barking at the trees. Melanie looked around and rested her hand on the gun. Sam stepped behind Melanie. A squirrel began chattering and something rustled in the brush. Daisy continued to bark in a steady rhythm.

Melanie’s heart drummed against the inside of her rib cage. Another squirrel behind the girls took up the warning call. Melanie scanned the trees around them. She felt Sam bury her face in her lower back.

“Is someone there?” Her voice shook more than she wanted it too.

A rabbit darted out of the bush and streaked down the trail. Daisy took off after it.

“Daisy!” Melanie yelled. “Come on Sam.” Melanie took ahold of Sam’s hand and ran. Daisy crashed through the underbrush. The branches scratched at Melanie’s face and arms.

Sam’s breathing was heavy, and she was starting to wheeze. Melanie cast a glance back at her. They had to stop before Sam had an asthma attack.

Melanie crouched down in front of Sam. “Are you all right?”

Sam nodded.

Melanie put her hand on Sam’s chest. “Nice and deep. We’ll find her.” They could hear Daisy barking again.

Sam’s breathing was slowing. “I think you are like Daisy and I am more like that bunny rabbit.”

“Come on. We can find her if she is barking.” Melanie led Sam through the scrub oak and through a small stream. They pushed through another wall of branches and into a small clearing.

A man was crouched with a hand on Daisy’s collar.

Melanie stopped. He looked up and a smile pulled up on the corners of his lips and eyes.

“Seth, what are you doing out here?”

“This yours?”

“Yeah, we just got her.”

Sam ran up to Daisy and took the leash from Seth. “You naughty girl.”

“You better keep ahold of her. She’s a hunter and nearly had that rabbit she was chasing.”

Seth stood up and shouldered a rifle.

Melanie’s breath caught in her throat. She coughed. “So, what did you say you were doing?”

“Same thing as Daisy, hunting.” He walked to the edge of the clearing and picked up two rabbits. He brushed the dirt and leaves from their smoky fur. They hung limb swinging with Seth’s motion as he walked back over to Melanie and Sam.

“Can you give me a ride home?”

Is running selfish?

running is my oxygen

I often wonder this, when I’m out for hours running and running. I plan vacations around my races and life at my house is coordinated around peak mile weeks and rest weeks. My race registrations and running shoes are just a part of the family budget.

The conclusion I have come to over and over again is that it is a type of altruistic selfishness, like much of what we do. By improving the lives around us, we directly and indirectly improve our own lives or the lives of those who are close to us.

Running makes me happy, and if mamma ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy. It’s like when the airlines tell all passengers to make sure that their own oxygen mask is secured before helping others, because if you can’t breathe you can’t help others. Running is my oxygen.

Running makes me a better person overall. I think more clearly. I sleep and eat better. I’m more emotionally balanced. I have more patience with others. I don’t get sick very often.

My kids can tell when I’m not running. It takes my oldest, Jazz (17), about three days to figure it out. My younger son, Sky (13), takes a little longer. I’ve had to reduce my miles due to injuries and of course to taper for races and there is palatable difference in the house. I’m a little more short tempered because I can’t sleep and feel like I have electricity running through my veins.

My children never go without something they need so I can run and I try to run when my children are sleeping, besides my races of course, so they are not missing time with me either.

Running impedes on my social life more than anything I do with my kids. I don’t stay up late on the weekends to go out with friends because I have to be up at 3 a.m. to run. I have a special diet and can’t eat at certain restaurants. All my extra money is spent on running so I can’t go to movies or hang out at the bar, or go to the theater very often.

But these are sacrifices I am willing to make. Frankly, I have a pretty addictive personality and there are a lot worse things to be addicted too than running. Or maybe I’m just trying to justify my selfishness.