Nameless Spirits–Part One

24 Jun

I don’t even know where this story starts.

Over a decade ago, when I met Eric? He was a runner. I was a former soccer player who always said give me a ball to chase and I’ll run, but running “just because”? Nope.  I liked Eric because he challenged me, he made me think.  We’d chat on AIM for hours a day.  So when he started inviting me to the track at Naz…I begrudgingly went…and walked.  Can’t get sweaty and nasty in front of the guy you like, can you?

nameless spirits

We were just babies

But maybe it starts when we realized we were going to eventually get married. I think I found the ring box at some point…we’d already talked about getting married…I knew the ring was coming. We started looking for a house.  Every Saturday morning, we’d go to Breuggers, eat a bagel, then spend the day driving around looking at houses. One morning at Breuggers, I spotted a brochure for Breuggers 5k. We signed up when I saw that there were free bagels at the finish line–and then I asked how far a 5k was.  Our first “run,” I literally made it a tenth of a mile to the end of the street before I gave up.  We persevered.  We ran Breuggers. Then we ran other 5ks.

Or maybe it starts when Eric convinced me to run my first half marathon.  At the start line, he advised me to drink water during the race. I had not trained drinking anything. Every 2 miles, I dutifully drank 2 cups of water. I was going to make him so proud of me!  By mile 8, my stomach was sloshing. I crossed the finish line, puked everywhere and vowed I’d never run again.  That afternoon, I started dissecting where I’d gone wrong and how I could do better and researching other half marathons to run.

Maybe it starts when Eric registered me for my first full marathon.  I was excited for another running adventure together.  Then he informed me he was doing the half and would see me at the finish line. It was cold and rainy and my skittles froze in my waist belt and my whole body hurt…but crossing that finish line and running into Eric’s arms was one of the most exhilarating moments.

nameless spirits

This silly girl had no idea what kind of runs would be in her future…

Maybe it starts when I ran my second marathon–and I trained hard and thought I’d run well. But race day came, and the wheels fell off early. I was miserable the entire race–I got into a funk and couldn’t snap out. Eric had put together Sherpas for Shme–every mile, someone important to me was there cheering me on. I wanted to quit, but I wanted to see who was next. I finished–it wasn’t the race I’d planned for, but it was super fun anyway.

nameless spirits

 

Maybe it starts with Kevin and Liz, drinking beers and listening to bad music at Beale Street. Liz mentioned the Dirty German 50k, and by the end of the night, we’d decided we’d train for our first 50k in the 11 weeks we had left. We took a couples’ trip to Philly, explored the city, ran the race, and had a fantastic time.

nameless spirits

Maybe it starts with Eric crewing me through every ultra after that. The no nonsense, of course you can do this, put your head down and grind it out, waiting-at-the-finish-line-for-a-sweaty-teary-hug rock that was always there.  Through years of injuries, surgeries and recovery…it was a rough road for him, but he was always there for me.

nameless spirits

They say you always remember your first…my first 50 miler was a doozy and unforgettable

Maybe it starts with Run ‘Em All, Hike ‘Em All. Cross-country road trip plans fell through, and we decided that rather than take a year to hike all the trails in Letchworth, we’d just do them all in a week.  Eric put it out there, and we ended up making a lifelong friend, Scott, who we had hardly ever spoken to before that week in the woods.

nameless spirits

Maybe it starts with all the races we’ve directed over the years and the incredible #TrailsRoc family we have been part of.  From Dash for Dasher to 0 SPF to Ready, Set, Glow to WTF to Mess the Dress to Mighty Mosquito to Last Runner Standing.  Maybe it’s all the aid stations we’ve supported, most notably Virgil Crest and Cayuga Trails…

Maybe you’ve noticed the common thread–Eric, constantly pushing me and us. To do more, to try more, to meet new people. Eric constantly nudging us into the direction of adventure. Constantly telling me I can. Following me around on training runs and races, hauling my junk food and water, telling me that I just needed to keep moving, that I was strong enough to do this. When I didn’t believe I could, he believed for both of us.

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We knew in April that the likelihood of being able to host Many on the Genny was slim to none. I alternated between hope that we’d be allowed to host the race (because it’s our baby and one of my favorite days of the year) and annoyance (we should just cancel now because even if we were allowed to host the race, there was no way I’d be comfortable with that many people around).

When we realized our permits were not going to come through, Eric drafted the message about cancelling. He hit send, and I cried. A couple days later, he was like, “What if we ran the course together on race day?” It was a no brainer. Of course we should do that. I never even looked at a calendar or gave it much thought…Why wouldn’t we spend the day we had already set aside to be in Letchworth…to be in Letchworth?

Eric created a training plan that included 3 days a week of running and 3 days a week of long walks, plus strength training and pre-hab/re-hab stuff. We reached out to a small group of friends who were important to the race/our running and asked if they could

  1. Hold us accountable for our training
  2. Help crew and pace us on the day ofKeeHol

So we had a plan, we had a crew, and we were ready to get the party started.

I didn’t really consider how short a training cycle we had until a month or so into the 8 week plan (8 weeks!??!?!), when I was thinking about wanting a cut back week…but we didn’t have time for that. Even so, training overall went really well–we knew that because of the limited time to train, we would do a lot of hiking on the back half of the course and on the hills. So we did a lot of walking in preparation–long walks and hikes after long runs.

Everything went smoothly until we had 3 weekends in a row of long runs–a 16, a 20 and a 15 (and technically the 15 wasn’t on the weekend, because Eric had knee injections on a Friday, so we did the 20 miler on a Saturday and then 15 on Thursday.  It was a lot of miles, piled on.  And both of our bodies were feeling it. During that last 15, Eric wavered a bit–and I just kept reminding him of the lack of recovery weeks and the fact that we’d done a 20 not even a week before…that 15 was miserable, which should really mimic what the back half of the race was going to feel like.

Before we knew it, race week was here. We packed up a cooler of food for our crew and a separate one of aid for us. We were lucky enough to get a bunch of beers from Athletic Brewing Company, so we had those.  On Saturday, June 20, we packed up the car and headed to Letchworth at 3:45 in the morning. It was go time…

Nameless Spirits–Part Two here.

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