Friday, July 28, 2017

and then we were interviewed

hi all.
i have told you all about our recent adventure of The Limberlost Challenge.
well the evening after the race we were interviewed.
we discussed what has sparked our running together as a family, and a whole bunch of other questions.
the interview was great.
we had been speaking about dan being the inspiration for each of us and our running.
his story has had a lot of impact on our family, and he inspires me daily.

the article has just come out this week,
so exciting...
she has focused on dan's story, and i believe she did a great job.

you can read the article here:
'How Running Saved an Ontario Man's Life, Bonded a Family Through Sport'

i wanted to share with y'all the open letter she is referring to.
he wrote this a year ago...
and had the opportunity to share it on the MARs facebook page,
i have shared it on my page a couple times.

since the letter he had run his second 50 mile race, and the Ottawa Marathon.
then he has had some fatigue and other health issues that we have been fighting with and recovering from...

and he has, as i have already shared, run Limberlost recently.

here is his open letter, shared in July 2016:
Why run a 50 mile

         This is the question I have asked myself many times over the past few years. It also the question that everyone seems to ask when they hear that i am going to run one.  I guess running a 50 is one of those things you need a reason to do, like you’re crazy if you say ‘just for fun’.  I mean there are many reasons like, to find out if I can, to stay in shape, I just love trail running, I can see more trails in a day than most people see in a week. All these answers are great but they don't really justify running 50 miles.  I mean if it was easy then any meaningless answer would do, and everyone would be running them.  The real answer and desire is deeper than all these things.  It is buried deep inside my soul, it is an expression of my hope.
         When i first decided to run an ultra, i wanted to, but the idea seamed outrageous, it seemed impossible, like something only the truly elite could do.  As i looked into the growing trend toward trail running and ultras i started to believe it might be possible, I mean, not all these people could be freaks. If only a handful of people could do this then, of course, they must be freaks, but thousands of people are doing it.  My view of the impossible began to crumble a little and the line between reality and fantasy began to move.
         Now to fully understand my transition between thinking i could run an ultra and actually believing it, I will have to fill you in on some of my history.  My running career was quite short.  I ran cross country for my last three years of high school.  I wasn't a star runner, really just average, the third scorer on my team.  No scholarships, no post-secondary running, that really was it.  The next ten years of my life i just ran randomly, really random, once in a while i would feel like running so i would go for a run.  I once ran a 10k and my legs hurt so much i wasn’t doing that again.  In fact, i actually believed that I couldn't run further than 10k but then everything changed.
         It all started with my brother-in-law, a stand-up comedian, who decided that he wanted to run a marathon for his bucket list, and he wanted to do it before his next birthday. I started to think if my brother-in-law, Tim, a non-runner, could do this, then i should be able to as well.  At age 29 i signed up for my first marathon.  I started researching training programs to find one that would work for me, but of course i could not find one.  I don't think the people making them are thinking that a guy working a 50 hour work week, of hard manual labor, would train for a marathon. They wanted me to run 4-5 times a week, 3 seemed much more reasonable to me.  The schedule was not the hard part for me but the battle between thinking and believing was where my struggle would be.
         In my head is where my journey really begins.  My life has always been full of unreached goals or a lack of even setting them.  My life was dominated by that crushing feeling that doubt and fear produce when they are not challenged.  I would always give up before i ever reached my hopes and dreams. What i truly believed was that things were only possible for someone else.  Over the years this mindset created a deep depression in my heart.  I believed I was a screw up and completely worthless.  This goal to run a marathon challenged the roots of who i believed i was and this challenged my heart.  If i was to run this marathon I would have to believe differently.  When you are plagued by doubt it is very easy to give up before you start, despite all the fear and doubt I was able to make a plan.
         Running three days a week was all i could handle with my job, and I began to surprise myself.  Very quickly I surpassed the furthest distance I had ever run, 11k, and found with training I could run further than i ever believed possible.  While my running was going well the rest of my life was becoming a mess.  Stress from work and home was becoming too much.  I now had two kids and we had just bought a house, I felt we had no money and when looking back, my wife was possibly going through postpartum depression.  It was all too much for me. My head was just swimming with stress.  I kept running, trying to escape the stress, but the running was beginning to be a stress on my relationships as well.  I wasn't ready to give it up though, it was the only thing making me feel good about myself.  The depression was uncontrolled and soon took over my life; sleep and eating patterns were messed up, thoughts began eating away at my soul.  I was in misery and eventually a day came when something happened that ruined me. I saw myself as so valueless that I tried to take my life.  I truly thought that everyone was better off without me, especially my wife and kids, they knew all my failures and faults.
         Thanks to many great people, first responders, nurses and doctors, my life didn't come to an end that day. I very quickly became overwhelmed by the love and support i received from friends and family.  i was sent home from the hospital quickly, i think because i had so much help at home.  This life altering event definitely woke others up to my situation, but I was not fixed.  I was still a broken man.  I didn't know how i was supposed to get better, but one thing I did know was suicide was not the answer.  Up until this point in my life my belief in God was a key part of my life, but I was beginning to doubt the very existence of God.  The Bible says that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  At this point in my life I was a Christian, I was found and saved, but I didn't feel like it.  I felt completely lost and not at all saved, where was I going? what was i doing?
         I went cold to God, deep down i still had a root belief in him, but I didn't want to think about it or deal with it.  How could something like this happen to me, I was trying to do what was right.  My head was exhausted and I couldn't handle thinking about it, so I made a goal for myself. Take one day at a time, and rely on others to help me.  I slowly began to heal.
         I still ran the marathon with my brother-in-law even though it was only 2 months after trying end my life.  It was by far my worst running experience ever.  I had the stomach flu and walked and ran, with many outhouse stops, to a 4:48 completion.  Afterwords i told Michelle, my wife, that i was never running a marathon again and i meant it.  There were two positive things that stuck with me through the experience.  One was the fact that i actually completed it.  I didn't give up, even with how awful things got, and the other was what my brother-and-law told me. He said “I had already pretty much given up on the goal until I heard that you were still ready and willing.”  He had quit training about the same time i was in the hospital and didn't think we would end up doing it. The whole experience had opened up my eyes to what can happen if you don’t quit.  I found it hard to believe that i had actually gone 42k and i didn't give up.  It was the beginning of the restoration of confidence in myself.  For someone plagued by giving up it really meant a lot.
         It took a whole year and a half for me to start running again.  Through the downtime I realized how good Michelle had been to me.  She had never given up on me even though I had given up on myself.  I also began to realize the Bible is correct when it says the three most important things are faith, hope, and love, but not just for or with other people, but for yourself as well.  Those three things are really what bring joy.  They also laugh at fear, the fear that had so long ruled and controlled my life.  I needed to once again establish those three things in my life.  I had, for so long, hated myself and lived without hope or faith.  This is where running started to play a big part in my life. it gave me the opportunity to face all my fears, in small ways, little bits at a time. 

         In 2013 i signed up for the Band on the Run, half marathon, with the goal of completion.  My logic was that I had already completed a full marathon, so a half should be possible.  Training went easier without the deep depression looming over my head, but doubt was still in the back of my mind looking to sabotage me.  The end was such a surprise to me, I not only finished the race but I placed 6th overall.  Things were awesome for a while my hopes were up and i felt good about myself.  There was only one problem my body never recovered from the race.  No matter how much I slept or how little i did I still felt tired.  Exhaustion began ruling my life as well as every sickness that came.  This was dangerous for me for obvious reasons, with depression, that monster, still lurking behind me.  I went to the doctor a little scared that nothing, or everything, was wrong with me.  The initial assessment was there was nothing obviously wrong with me, but we still had to wait for blood work.  The results indicated that my thyroid levels were off.  The only thing I really knew about that was that my dad had a thyroid issue and they had thought it might be cancer.  The doctors ended up removing his and finding out the lumps were not cancerous, but the fear hit me deep and I told Michelle that if it was cancer i was going to run and keep running until i beat it or it took me.  I realized that i had so many uncompleted dreams in my life and I wasn't going to sit in bed and die.  After more blood work and an ultrasound I found out that I had Hashimotos disease, and not cancer.  I also realized fear was kind of like sitting in bed and letting yourself die. I mean when you are dying there might come a point when all you can do is sit in a bed, but to do that early would mean that you miss out on so much in life.  That is when my dream, to run an ultra, began. No more waiting for something to happen to me I was going to run an ultra or break my body trying.  During the fall of 2013 I tried to start running again, but I was really having a lot of problems with energy going up and down and I couldn't really run.  Still the dream of an ultra began to grow inside my heart and I became really sure I wanted to run one.
         Through a friend, Sharon Bennett, I heard about The Limberlost Challenge (TLC) and the 56k became my goal.  It was on the short side for an ultra and I thought it might be manageable, it was in the range of possibility. The thing that really got my attention with the TLC is the fact that it is hidden away in the woods, no crowds of people, and I might be by myself at times.  I felt that being alone at times was good thing because if i have a breakdown and want to give up, maybe no one would see it happen.  This was a good place to continue facing my social fear that was the aftermath of a suicide attempt, and also would really help me feel significant to complete such a large goal.  The Bible teaches that we have value, that our creator cares for and loves us, and that we are significant, but I had forgotten that.  Maybe not forgotten, I just didn’t believe it any longer.  Nobody wants to believe they were made to scale mountains when they are afraid to leave the house.
         After a spring of training I took on TLC 56k, I was really underprepared although I didn’t know it at the time.  Two laps out of four was all I could really handle, and I had to push hard to complete lap 3.  At the end of lap 3 I was spent, but my wife and kids had arrived and they cheered me on through the start/finish area and onto lap 4.  You know that point where you start to feel like everything you have to give isn't enough and you are ready to just give up and quit.  My life has been controlled by that feeling it haunts my dreams when I’m awake and asleep.  I was there, ready to quit 1km into lap 4.  I hit the big hill and i quit.  I sat down on a rock and was done.  Tears began to run down my cheeks as i thought of my kids waiting to see me to finish, and me walking back, in shame, and dropping out.  I sat for a minute thinking, there was nothing wrong with me, I wasn't broken, my legs still worked.  I could walk.  I was well under the time limit.  I decided to continue by walking.  I thought it might be slow but I wasn't quitting. After a couple km of walking i soon found that I could run, and hope was being renewed, I would finish and my kids would see their Dad cross the line.  I was glad to be alone on that lap because i cried most of the way, and i was glad that fear and doubt didn't win this time.  I finished, believing that I had just done the most difficult thing in my life.  It took more courage for me to finish than I ever thought possible.
          At the time i didn’t know if I would run that far ever again, but I still didn't quite feel like I was done.  By definition everything over a marathon is an ultra, but most ultra runners consider 50 miles as the line, almost double a marathon.  I took my time to enjoy my victory, but was already on the market for my first 50 mile.
          Out of this new found courage, I also went out to a running club practice, The Muskoka Algonquin Runners (MARs).  My road to recovery continued with MARs.  The first run I joined them for should have scared anyone away, we ran about 20k with an attempt on a 3:30 final kilometre.  I also heard words and stories that cannot be repeated, even on a construction site.  I wouldn’t let them scare me away even though I’m sure that is what they were trying to do.  Even now MARs is growing on me and they are becoming my family. In the fall I ran cross county with MARs, and had a lot of fun, and my desire to run a 50 mile was planted too deep to ignore despite the fact that i was still having energy issues associated with my thyroid.  In November I signed up for the Cayuga 50 mile, I was committed and now had to really train. I went through the hardest winter I ever faced training for Cayuga, but when spring came and all the training paid off I ran 50 miles with relative ease, finishing in under 10 hours, which is apparently a big goal for a lot of ultra runners.  I was satisfied that I had pushed through all the hard times to complete this goal. It meant a lot.
         More than anything I fear failure.  Failure is a difficult thing to understand because success can be defined in so many ways, and is different for every individual.  It really comes down to knowing who you are and where you want to go.  In the past my fear has crippled me, causing me to miss opportunities and chances to really chase dreams which were close to my heart.   Running has opened up a door for me to face fears and to pursue goals which, in the past, I had no belief that they were even possible.  The most amazing part of facing fear is that no matter if you succeed, or not, you have faced the fear and that fear doesn't hold you prisoner anymore.  As bad as we think failing is, the thing that is truly worse is not giving yourself the chance to succeed. 

            When I really look at why I run a 50 mile, it comes down to hope, that is all.  I cannot survive without it.  The Bible says, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.”  Some people might pretend that they don’t fear or don’t fail, but I believe without either of those two evils you cannot  fully experience hope or joy.  True freedom comes when you escape fear and failure through Christ, when you live each day as a new beginning.  The past and its mistakes are gone, some of which I have made are most horrible.  This is where my wife continues to be a most amazing example.   She does not bring up or dwell on my past and all the ways i have hurt her, but instead she enjoys my freedom with me, and is most patient when I continue to struggle with fear and doubt.  I used to run to get away from things.  I poured my anger into my running and it was a battle and a fight and time and time again I would be defeated.  Now I run towards goals and places I want to be. Instead of being a release, from tension, running has become a tool to gain hope and freedom.  Strength is renewed not destroyed.  The Bible says “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.”  I have experienced that burden of slavery and wish that upon no one. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Limberlost #6: it was a dark and stormy night.

dan decided to run the 14km race within the week before.
three of us would be running.
the boy would be with me and dan would be on his own - first heat, 
and running to see how fast he could do it.
it was going to be a different mindset than the 56km.

Last year:
 there were huge thunderstorms the friday night before The Limberlost Challenge (TLC).
the rain continued throughout the day of.
the mud was crazy awesome!
such a difficult but amazing race.
i wrote about it here.

This year:
 the weather reports were calling for thunderstorms for Friday.
the boy voiced:
"i really hope the thunderstorms come so the trail will be muddy"
he got his dream on friday night.

it was a dark and stormy night...
power was lost to many in the area.
our power came back on at 3:30am.
i did not have a good sleep.
the thunderstorm didn't last all night but it was muggy and humid.
and as i said i know the time the power came on.

i dreamt about the race..
but as dreams go, 
none made sense.

I was just happy the boy had fallen alseep easily.

morning came way too early.

but excitement peaks when one realizes what the day holds. 
the girl got up and was so excited for the day.
we were bringing her to friends' at 7am on our way to the trails, 
and she was so excited to go.
they would bring her to the race later.

the boy woke a little later, 
but without any problem.
he woke up excited!
since we had readied everything the night before we had nothing but to get dressed, 
eat a little breakfast, 
brush teeth and make a bathroom stop before we headed out the door.

dan came to me and put his arm around me and spoke quietly.
"have patience with him."
i needed to be reminded of those 4 little words.
i assumed i would be, but if he has a hard time at all then patience will be needed big time.

we were off!

the boy in the new shirt i made for him, and his dad in the matching hat.

these photos show the shirt looking dirty because i took them on sunday night...after it has been washed.
those are stains, 
that i didn't try too hard to get out.

daddy's hat: it says 'trail runner' on back.

we drove our little one to our friends' house and away we went.
chilly morning, 
but no rain.

in the past we always arrived a good hour before the 56km race, 
so this was strange to be arriving when the majority were arriving.
after parking we headed over to get our race numbers, and shirts.

how exciting to see the boy's name on the list.

the boy and i got our t-shirts but since dan registered late he would have to wait to see if there were any shirts left.

we chatted with some of the MARs runners before the race.
i love that group of people.
they have been so encouraging over the last couple years.
i know i am not in their class of running, 
but the excitement and encouragement i receive from them, 
even when not being a member,
has pushed me and encouraged me so much.
and they have been amazing for dan and his running.

Race Time.

dan had estimated that the boy and i would take about 2h 15m.
as long as everything went well.

the first heat of the 14km lined up and the boy and i went to cheer his dad on.
and all the MARs runners.

then it was time for us to line up.
i reminded him to take it easy at the beginning.
that he will be happy later if he does now.

and we were off!

running slow.
pacing myself.
he did not want to run slow.
he ran ahead of me and even ran backwards for some of it,
wanting me to catch up to him.
i always go slow on the road part.

then we turned onto the trail.
he started leaping over roots and rocks...
i began running with lighter feet too.
once i enter the trail it becomes fun.
so easy to speed up without meaning to.

the trail was not crowded this year, 
last year was ridiculous.
i think having the three heats helped.

we ran across the first bridge without having to wait - 
i have had to wait the last two years.

usually i don't race with the camelback, 
but this year i had the camelback with gatorade in it,
if needed.
i also had Clif Bloks and a couple Clif Bars.
when training the boy usually gets a Clif Blok at the beginning and then every 2km after.

at the first aid station, 
my favorite aid station,
the one girl was chatting with me and him.
"he's only 9 and he's running this...
and here i am just sitting here."
she was quite impressed.
i told her that we couldn't do this run without her, 
and i thanked her.

by about 5km he had slowed down.
he was walking easier, 
and i asked him if he was tired.
he said yes.
i told him he could make it to the 6km marker and get his next blok.

we stopped at 6km and he ate it...
after that his energy and excitement rose.

he had consistently been running slightly ahead
and then waiting for me.
then running with me...
until he sped up a little and then had to wait for me.

at 7km...
the half way point, 
i wanted to take a quick photo.
just one photo on the trail is all i wanted.
but we couldn't get the 7km marker in it and didn't want to take too long to try.

i found that i spent most of the race keeping up with him, 
instead of me setting the pace.
but maybe those moments where he had to wait for me actually helped him keep up the energy.

there was mud on the trail,
just as he hoped.
he spent as much time running through the mud puddles as he could.
while others worked their way around them he ran right through.
i decided to follow his lead.
except at one.
the largest and deepest puddle from last year now had a boardwalk over it.
i ran on the boardwalk...
he ran through the puddle,
laughing the whole time.

he passed people at every puddle.

we got to the 10km marker and he had his next Blok.
this was the farthest distance he had ever run.
and he still had a crazy amount of energy.

i checked the time and realized that we hadn't even reached the 2 hour mark yet.
when i told him he was so happy.
he wanted to try to be faster than 2hr 15m as he knew dad estimated.
so we decided to try.

he began to speed up.
i began to too, but it was so hard.

just past the 10km we were surprised by a cheering squad of Dan, the girl and a bunch of friends.
he ran past them first.
i heard them cheering.
then i came running past and blew a kiss to my girl.

it was such a wonderful surprise to see them.

at the 12km marker we stopped for the last Blok.
once i gave it to him i gave him permission to run ahead of me.
to run to the finish and beat the expected time.
he was so excited to be allowed.

i know...
he was supposed to run with me.
the last 2km i was not worried about him.
he was strong, had tons of energy and i was starting to hurt.
i'd see him at the finish line.

i was full of mixed emotions as he took off and i lost sight of him.
i was so proud of him.
he had worked so hard for this.
his attitude had been amazing.
but i was a little sad that i wouldn't be crossing the finish line with him.
i had thought about that feeling of running through the finish with him - i'd probably cry...
i was pretty sure i would.
but now it wasn't going to happen.

i had tried keeping up.
i couldn't do it.
he picked up speed with ease.

i ran the last 2km thinking about all the people who had cheered him on throughout the trail.
the young moms who hoped that one day their kids would want to run with them.
the girl at the first aid station.
the girl who gave him a high-five as she passed him.
the people laughing with him as he passed them at a mud puddle.
the 'way-to-go' and the 'are you running the 14km?  great job' comments.
about his smile and infectious energy and attitude.
no one seemed annoyed that they were passed by a nine-year-old.  
people were impressed and encouraged him.

we had prayed, just that morning, that we would be an encouragement to those around us that day.

now he was out of my sight.
and he'd finish before me, 
not with me.
i was sad, 
but so proud of him.
i thanked God for this opportunity for him.
i knew his dad would be waiting for him at the finish.

the last three years the boy has run across the finish line with his dad.
this year his dad would be there to run the last bit with him.
that was enough to let him go on ahead.
his dad didn't cross the line with him, he left that part for the boy!

i ran with another girl for the last, and longest, km.
we encouraged eachother and crossed the line seconds apart.

Dan had completed his race: 1:13:07.  8th overall.
i finished my race: 2:16:35. better than last year, and i'm happy with that.

the boy...
did he beat the estimate?
estimated time: 2:15:00
the boy finished his race:
he had done it!

he beat the estimate and beat me by 6 minutes...
something he will not let me forget
and completed The Limberlost Challenge.

it has been an incredible journey.
but incredible.

if you were to ask him what he thought of the race he would say:
"it was awesome!"
but he also says that
he doesn't plan on running it again until he's 12.

when dan went to get a shirt after the race he decided on a ladies small and gave it to the girl.
she was thrilled to have her very own TLC shirt.
the girl wants to run it next year.
we told her not until she has run at least one Band on the Run 5km.

i love everything about The Limberlost Challenge.
the volunteers,
the other runners,
the trails,
the aid stations,
the food,
the mud,
the lakes,
seriously, everything.

i love having the opportunity to hike the trails with my family all year long.
but racing them with the boy...
whole new level of love.

i am so thankful:
to God.
first off He created that beautiful place.
he placed people with a passion for outdoors and caring for His creation right there,
and they take care of the trails beautifully.
he gave people a passion for creating this event in the first place.
to run these trails, 
surrounded by the beauty.

for the passion of running my husband has.
it has inspired me
a former hater of running.
it has inspired my children.

we wouldn't have been on this journey in the first place if Dan didn't love running so much.

i am thankful
to the powers-that-be.
for saying yes to my plea that my boy have an opportunity to run this race and fulfill his dream.

for the friends and family that prayed for us as the training happened and then the race.

for those who were able to be at the race that day to cheer him on.

for AmyLynn who encouraged me to keep a blog about the journey to post after the race.

for Rhonda and Theresa who captured the finish line crossings.

for Jason who captured the video of the boy running out on the trail.

i can't believe this is all done.

onto the next journey...
whatever that may be.

See the results of TLC 14km race here
Check out how the Muskoka Algonquin Runners (MARs) did at Limberlost Here