I lived in Martinez, California until about two and half years ago. My home backed up to open space; the trailhead was just a tenth of a mile down my street. To say that I loved to run was an understatement. I was also under a lot of stress. At any given point in time I was responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of construction at work as a Project Manager in San Francisco. I had a full-time nanny doing her best to live up to what I thought raising three little people should look like, and a husband who helped me get out the door every morning at 4am, only to leave a few hours later and then sit in two hours of traffic every evening. I loved to run. This was my sanity, reprieve, a moment alone to fix every problem. Essentially it was the only thing holding me together. I ran a lot and I ran (kinda) fast.
Ultimately our life in Martinez was not sustainable and we knew it. We looked for every out, including exploring cities like Portland and Santa Cruz. Eventually we re-discovered Truckee and knew we hit the jack pot. The trailhead was now a quarter mile from my home but dang if it wasn’t worth it! A side job I had down in the bay finally became my focus and passion. I no longer had use for a nanny. Now I am ALWAYS available for my kids…covering both the pros and the cons of parenting. Now my husband and I spend several mornings a week getting ready with our kids. I am happy. I run a little and I run slow.
Even though I run far less than I used to and it’s a moderate pace, this outlook lends itself to wonderful things. I am no longer solving countless problems while I run, because frankly I don’t feel like there is much to solve. I train other people to do the things they love without pain and I love my job. I don’t spend much time training myself anymore because I am focused on others. And that too, makes me happy. During one of my runs earlier this year I decided that I have a good pace and mentality for getting new people (who may otherwise be intimated by the more well-known DPMR “ultra crazies”) into trail running. I decided to start the Intro to Trail Running Group (admittedly the name needed work). We eventually settled on the Donner Party Pacers.
We have such an amazing community! So many wonderful people came out to join our Pacer group! I put together a twelve-week program to get people to complete their first trail race. We met every week to run. Despite anything else going on (short of some nasty blisters one week for me) we got together and ran. Hill repeats, sprints, the Animal; it felt good to get out and run with a group of people. I used to run to fix everything. I was settling in to running with other people just because. Our twelve weeks ended in a half marathon put on by fellow board members Jon and Helen. I was supposed to sweep so I ended up running mostly alone after the first half. I picked up an amazing sugar pine cone. Three years in and I will never get over the sugar pine cones.
Another board member, and dear friend, Lesley helped me run the Pacer group. She completed her first 100K in April of this year. To say it was HUGE is an understatement. When I met Lesley a year prior she couldn’t run three miles without pain. But she did it. She trained. She ran. She completed her first 100k. And then…it only takes a glass of wine and a laptop before you’re signed up for your first hundred. I had to go. I’m not sure I even gave Lesley a chance to say no and I certainly didn’t give her a chance to invite me. She’s important to me and I was going to be there so I booked the KOA in Flagstaff and told my husband we were going camping.
So, the thing about pacing is…it’s not your race. You’ve heard it. You’ve read about it. Hurry up and wait and see what shows up at that aid station and deal with it. Another friend and I lamented about pacing Lesley specifically because Lesley is a pleaser. I’m not sure Lesley will upset the applecart ever. On the plus side, her other pacer and fellow board member, Betsy, decided to join her for the entire 100-mile journey. Betsy was on her 49th (or maybe another number, she’d have to check her ultra sign-up to be sure) hundred-mile race. Betsy is easy. I know what Betsy wants because she says what she wants. The combo was PERFECT. At the first aid station, Bruce (Les’ husband) and I jump out of the van and realized quickly upon seeing our runners that we didn’t entirely know what crewing means. No big deal, a few pointers from Betsy and by aid station 2, we got this.
Aid station 2 wasn’t so chipper. There were jacked up feet and tears. I remember the tears. They were quiet under the shades and brim of her visor but I saw them and wanted to cry for my runner. I gently set a wet wipe on her thigh and thought, shit, I did that. I made her cry when I cleaned her feet. I hurt her more.
I remember asking Bruce what to do if Lesley came into Aid station 3 ready to quit. Did he want me to make her keep going? Did he want me to let her know it was ok to stop? Do I truly believe that I could’ve encouraged one or the other? Let’s be real. We talked about it on our ride to the next aid station. Lesley will do what she wants to do. My opinion will hold little weight. My “opinion” will only mirror what needs to happen one way or another, but ultimately, I will have nothing to do with the completion or folding of this race.
There was no folding, but I watched one of “my” runners peak while the other crumbled. I told one she was kicking ass while telling the other that the tequila was at mile 80. I hoofed it 26 miles behind them wondering if I should talk or shut up. Anyone who knows me knows I can talk. You want stories? I can tell you stories all 26 miles. Or should I let you be in your head. Do you want to be in your own head on miles 54 through 80?? OMG, WTH? Speak or not, run or walk, watch, pace or just know we’re way ahead of where we need to be?
That, I think, fairly sums up pacing. I still love running. I don’t need running to hold my life together as I once did, but I still love running. I also learned I don’t need or want to run 100 miles. That’s a lot. I’m not an ultra-athlete, I’m a mom. I decided on my second, and last (at least until that bottle of wine finds me next to my laptop), 50K that I want to start the Amateur Mom Athletes Group. We are not real athletes; we are just mom’s that want to make the best out of life and stay in reasonable mental and physical shape! We don’t always have to be the pros in our sport but at least we have sports. And, at least we get outside and do that thing that makes us feel strong.
So no, I don’t NEED to run but I still love to run. It’s just a different kind of love. Ultimately my arrival at this happy place….to run or not to run… happily sums up my first year with DPMR.