Monday, October 28, 2013

Running On Empty ...

two weeks ago today was the beginning of the end ... the three-day downward spiral that eventually brought to an end of a 16 year relationship filled with love and a lot of laughter.  two weeks ago when I sat down to have my morning coffee with my little fur-face Sammy Loo and she just wasn't acting right I never would have guessed that two days later she would be gone.  my girl gave it the good fight and I have always said that truly loving a pet is doing what is best for them even though it may be killing you ... and sometimes that is knowing when to let them go; knowing that ending their suffering is the kindest act of friendship you can do for them.  and thank you to the wonderful, compassionate veterinarian that made it possible for Joe and I to say our final goodbyes in our home with Sammy on my lap in the chair where we sat together having coffee every morning.

so it was a brutally tough week.  every time I tried to run I would just intermittently just open up in tears and have to walk.  prior to Sammy getting sick I had been on a running high with the great run that I had at Oil Creek 50K.  I couldn't wait to get back out and race again.  so it was a last-minute decision to go to the Tussey Mountain 50 Miler on Sunday, October 20.  when Sammy first got sick and needed to take meds I had already decided that I would not go to the race so that I could stay home and take care of her.  when she died my heart was truly not into running a race.  Joe tried to convince me that it would be good to just get out and run and just have time to think or not think.  ok, so I thought maybe this was true.  but on Saturday morning as we prepared to leave for PA, it just didn't feel right.  I didn't want to be away from home and leave Yip and Salem.  I just needed to be with my kitties ... after all, they were mourning the loss of their sister, too.  but everything was ready to go and as torn as I was I decided to give it a try.

my head and my heart just were not into the whole run right from the start.  despite two IPAs on Saturday, which usually helps me to rest well before a race, I slept pretty restlessly.  I woke up Sunday morning not even having my race stuff together.  I filled my bottle with water and threw some gels and NUUN tabs into my race vest and figured I would just hope for the best.  the weather was supposed to be perfect for running - high 40s and partly sunny.  my kind of running weather.  we got to the race site and saw some friends, which helped to distract my thoughts until the start.  and then we started and pretty soon I was running alone and my mind just kept going back to Sammy and Yip and Salem.  I just never got into the swing of things with my run.  I ran with a laminated photo of Sammy on the back of my race vest and as I was running along another runner asked if that was my number one fan.  I could barely answer and as soon as I was out of his earshot I was crying.  by mile 10 the physical pain of running on the road was catching up to me.  this race is a mix of dirt and paved roads, similar to what I run on at home ... sometimes.  obviously I have not done enough long-distance road running in a long time.  I love the soft dirt of the trails, the skipping and jumping over fallen trees, roots, and rocks and the change-up of using different muscles that comes with trailrunning.  obviously I had a lapse in memory of how brutal roads are to me.  by mile 10 my low back was screaming.  I was holding a decent pace and all I could think is that if I slowed up it would take longer to get this thing over.  and I wanted it over.  so I kept plugging along and around mile 15 my friend Katherine caught up to me and we had a nice talk as we walked up a hill.  and then she pulled away from me and all I could think about was my back pain.  and my heart was heavy and I continued with intermittent outbursts of tears as I thought about Sammy.

by mile 27 I really really wanted it all over.  things were just going awful and I couldn't turn them around.  problem was that Joe was not out on the course crewing for me.  before the race started I had hoped that he would find a spot somewhere along the course to watch the race and I would get to see him, but so far the only time I saw him was when he was driving a volunteer back to the start.  so I left the mile 27 aid station hoping that I would see him at the next station, around mile 32.  and so the death march continued and I walked, ran, cried, cursed, and just hoped that I would see Joe soon.  as I came into the mile 32 aid station I started to scan the crowd for Joe.  I didn't see him and I didn't see his car.  I needed to stop and I didn't know what to do.  it seemed that the race really didn't have a good plan for getting people who dropped back to the finish; basically you had to try to hitch a ride with another crew person or relay team.  but then something magical happened.  as I came into the aid station I saw a familiar face ... with green hair.  Teresa!  The Avocados were out on the course!  I met Teresa some years back and she is a wonderful person and every year at Tussey she and some friends have a team called The Avocados and they are just awesome.  Teresa came over to give me a hug and I just broke down crying.  she asked me what I needed and I told her that I just needed to be done ... now.  she understood.  she helped me over to their team van and offered me warm clothes and food.  I really didn't need any of that right then.  I wasn't really sweaty because of the cool temps, I was warm enough, and my appetite just wasn't there.  but then one of the other Avocados offered me a beer.  oh yes, that was what I needed.  and it tasted so good.

we never did see Joe and I wasn't able to reach him on his cell phone.  so I rode in the Avocado van for the remainder of their relay run and I drank their beer.  and I had some time where I wasn't crying and I wasn't thinking about missing Sammy and it was the best part of the whole weekend.  and I can't thank that group enough for taking me in.  they were exactly what I needed.

as we rolled into the finish area, three beers later and my back feeling a bit better, there was Joe standing at the finish line, waiting for me.  this was definitely the best way I have every finished this race!

I can at least talk about Sammy now without crying, although writing this right now brings me to tears.  She was such an amazing piece of work.  there are so many things that I miss about her.  Yip and Salem are acting way different not having their sister in the house.  and they have definitely stepped up and having been taking wonderful care of me and Joe.  we are very lucky to have them and very lucky for the time that we got to spend with Sammy.  I am back to running and feeling pretty strong and ready to tackle the next 50 miler ... with Sammy riding shot gun on my back.  we will have a better go at it this time, I know it.  she wouldn't have it any other way.

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