For the first time in my ultramarathon career I had to do something that I’d never done before. I stopped racing an event for the sake of my child. This may come as a complete surprise to some of you. Why? Well…because she mattered most! I could have finished the race with still plenty of time but had to make a decision. Either I could continue to run my race and completely ignore the anxiety and fear I could see as she looked into my eyes while I sat at Foresthill. Or I could say, “Enough is enough, I have to go home now.” So that’s what I did. I expressed to my crew that I was done. My daughter gave my hand a squeeze and reassured my decision saying, “I am proud of you mama. You made it 62 miles.” I knew she meant it. She had seen me race several triathlon and running events over the course of her young life.
When Summer Blu was just 8 months old I took her to the Xterra National Championships in Lake Tahoe. She was absolutely adorable sitting in her stroller waiting for me to come out of the water after my .75 mile swim in the Lake. I recall her stretching out her arms to me as I ran up the shore making my way to transition. She said, “hold you.” Then she started to cry as I gave her little hand a pat and ran past to transition onto the bike. I never got used to doing that to her.
Just imagine your little person waiting as you disappeared into the mountains on your bike not able to understand what the heck you are doing out there and WHY AREN’T YOU TAKING CARE OF ME!
Yet, as she grew up and began to understand that her mom has a little different career focus from most other moms, her perspective shifted. When Summer Blu was in 3rd grade her teacher asked her to bring something to Show and Tell. She brought one of my first place 50 mile awards. As she talked about it with the kids in her class her teacher was surprised. She thought Summer had made up stories about her mom running long miles. In fact, when Summer had said her mom won a 50 mile race, her teacher Ms. Olsen corrected her and said, “ No Summer, you mean 15 miles!” Later in the school year, I met with her teacher and she expressed how sorry she was for not believing her.
This year when I ran Western States my intention was to have my daughter cross the finish line with me. She was going to meet me at Robie Point and run me in. But that didn’t happen. The elements of snow, mud and heat chewed me up and spit me out. By the time I heard my daughter’s small voice come through on a borrowed cell phone just outside of Devil’s Thumb, I knew I had to get to Foresthill and calm her fears that I would die out there that day.
I was way off my goal pace and she had seen many runners come through at Foresthill with pained hollow expressions. She later told me she had made up her mind that no matter what, I was not going to leave Foresthill.
It’s often said Ultra running is a sport of patience and endurance. It’s a sport of Never Give Up and No Limits! Well what about being a sport of Family and Sacrifice.
I don’t even know that I am phrasing that last sentence properly. But the point is when you are out there running for several hours pushing yourself so hard that all you can think of is getting yourself to the finish line. That’s great. But there are times when a family member or close friend may pull you aside and say, STOP! Because they are scared for you. They don’t want you to leave their side because they are so afraid of what may happen. Do you ignore their concerns and press on? Or do you do as I did and see that the outcome of what you choose to do in that moment may make a lasting negative impression that will have a greater impact than your ego about adding to your collection of 100 mile finishes.
The aid station captain didn’t want to snip my bracelet that night at Foresthill. He walked away and gave me plenty of time to change my mind. But my mind was set. My feet hurt, my body was tired and when I am truly honest with myself it would have been a painful 38 mile march to Placer High school. Likely I would have had several more low points with my husband Joe by my side, my mind would have been concerned about Summer’s wellbeing as I faded into the night down Cal Street. Likely she would have been upset that I had left her there on the sideline with her arms outstretched.
But not this time…this time I decided my kid mattered most. More than a belt buckle, more than another 100 mile finish. She was my prize and for that day at Western States 100, 2017, 62 miles at Foresthill was the finish line. I don’t regret it for one moment.
Wow…what do you say to that! I’d love to hear comments from those reading this.