Tag Archives: running

Running up a Mountain in Maui

Let me tell you about this ridiculous 16-mile race I ran in Maui last week.

And when I say ridiculous, I’m talking no bathrooms, no cheering spectators, no water stations, and no water. Totally unsupported. No water?! Now that’s just mean.

Jax and I wake up at 4:30am on Thanksgiving morning, I scurry into my race gear and down a quick breakfast of peanut butter and toast, and we are out the door within 30 minutes. We drive the hour trek it takes to get to the race site, and then we spend the next 45 minutes circling two-lane roads crisscrossing the mountain in search of this mysterious locale. As 7:00am nears, it is becoming less and less likely that I will be running a Turkey Trot this year; I have pretty much accepted that I’m not going to arrive on time, and then, just in the nick of time, we stumble across Rice Park.

As we are standing at the starting line, which is really more of a starting area than a line per say, the race director describes the course as such: You’ll take a sharp right out of here onto Kula Highway. After roughly 8 miles, you’ll see five trees and turn right onto Haleakala Highway, where you will proceed to run 7 miles straight up a mountain. One hill. No relief. Just up. At the crest, you will enjoy a 2-mile downhill stretch, and you will want nothing more than for this race to be over. Follow Haleakala until it intersects with Kula, then loop around back to the park. Oh, and the course isn’t marked, so I hope you remembered that. Ready, set, GO. And just like that, before I have a chance to get out of my jacket, we’re off.

And I am terrified. Nobody said anything about a 7 mile uphill climb when I signed up for this thing! Perhaps I should have considered the terrain before committing to a race that includes a volcano in its topography.

My first 8 miles are excellent. Jax comes by and relieves me of my jacket, and I am running strong. I use the rolling hills to my advantage, lengthening my stride on the downhills and using the momentum to plow up the other side. I enjoy the beauty around me, and I thrive off the encouraging honks and yells from the passing cars. I smile and wave my way down the highway and thank God for the opportunity, the health, and the ability to be running a race in Hawaii. As directed, I turn at the five trees, and what looms before me nearly knocks me off my feet.

They weren’t kidding about that hill. I don’t stand a chance. I push my body forward but soon have to stop and walk. I am thirsty. As if on cue, my knight in shining armor drives up in his bright red jeep with water bottles in tow. I drink deeply, and I am beyond thankful. I didn’t realize this at the time, but Jax actually bought water for all the runners, and in between stopping to offer support to me, he drove around the mountain hydrating anyone in need. He was the MVP of the day, and there is absolutely no way we could have finished that race without him.

So, I’m intermittently running/walking up this hill, and it is brutal. It is so steep, I sometimes feel that I’m running in place. I run until my legs and lungs burn, then I walk for some relief. Even the walking is difficult. I can’t see anybody ahead of me or behind me as we spread out under the weight of this challenge. It is just me and this mountain, my heavy breathing, and the spectacular view. I climb 1,500 feet in elevation over these 7 miles, and it is a test of my emotional and physical endurance in a way I don’t think I have previously encountered, not even during the marathon. Jax drives by frequently to check on me, quench my thirst, encourage me, walk with me for stretches, and assure me I’m still on the right path and that I don’t have too much further to go.

Somehow, miraculously, I reach the top of this monster and notice the road begins curving in the other direction, and I fly down the remaining two miles. My feet hurt with every pound to the asphalt, but I can’t stop. If I do, I don’t think I’ll have the strength to resume; I’ll probably just lay on the side of the road and wait for somebody to come find me. So I run and run and run with all my might, and I’m greeted at the finish line with a bouquet of flowers from my honey. I’m done and it’s over, and I can hardly fathom what just happened.

We peel the top of our jeep and drive off into the afternoon sun with a perfect rainbow marking our path, and it is the most picturesque thing you’ve ever seen.

Here’s the funniest part of it all: the winner of the race was determined not by who crossed the finish line first, but by who guessed their time most accurately. Prior to the run, we were each asked to predict how long our run would take. I was planning on saying 2.5 hours, because that’s typically about how long it takes me to run 16 miles. The guy in front of me, however, guessed his time to be 3 hours, and that caused me to reconsider my initial plan. It would be silly of me to think that I can run the race faster than this athletic-looking fellow, so I offer 3 hours for my time as well.

Turns out I ran the race in 2:59:58, two seconds off of my prediction, which makes me the winner of the whole thing. How hysterical is that?!? So yeah, you’re looking at the reining champion of the Valley Isle Road Runners’ Turkey Trot.

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Born to Run

I just read the most phenomenal book.  287 pages, and I finished it in 3 days. I absolutely could not put it down.

Sunday morning, I opened the book, and immediately I was engulfed. It took two pages, and I was hooked. What started as an innocent reading session turned into an all day binge. I shirked all other responsibility – laundry, working out, even eating, and that’s saying something. I did manage to get a quick nap in (reading for seven hours straight will do that to you) and tore myself away long enough to bathe the mountain bike, but otherwise, I was glued to the pages of Born to Run. This nonfiction account of one runner’s search for a true understanding of distance running was gripping. It introduced me to the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their fascinating running culture, the biomechanics and evolution of running, and the ultra-athletes that push it to a whole new level.

It was informative, inspiring, factual, thrilling, and captivating. Author Chris McDougall broke running down into its purest art form.  He removed the iPods and Garmins and fancy running shoes, the self images and the drudgery, and spoke of running as a beautiful, natural expression of the body, and I loved every word of it. His words dissected the motivations behind running, how our bodies were built for it, and our inherent need to engage in it.

I managed to watch the Grizzlies take on the Spurs, but at every commercial break my nose was buried in the book. I somehow forced myself to go to sleep before midnight, but Monday morning I was up reading before heading to the office and again on my lunch break. After work, I toted my book to the gym, hopped on a treadmill, and ran with no shoes, just like the Tarahumara tribe. Minus the exercise machine, and insert canyons and mountains. I dreamed of running 50 miles, just as the super athletes in my book did so effortlessly, but I only got in two before it was time to wipe away the sweat and go to Bible study.

When I got home, I convinced myself to entertain a load of laundry before settling down with my book. I stayed up late reading, woke up early for bootcamp, went to work, and then stole moments throughout the day to satsify my reading craving. I forgot to take a lunch break, let alone eat, so I didn’t read the final pages until after my family and all significant others dined at the Rendezvous and witnessed the Grizzlies OWN the Spurs at the Forum (sweet, sweet revenge). Then, after an exciting basketball victory, I finished the book. Borderline obsessive, but it was that good.

Every sentence resonated with me. It made me want to run. Not just to go on a run, but to run for the sake of running. To set out with no agenda or predetermined distance, but just for the passion and pleasure of it all.

Just read it. My account doesn’t do it justice. If you love running, or wish you loved running, this book is for you. I cannot recommend it enough.

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Marathon Training

We are 6 short weeks away from the St. Jude Marathon, so I thought I’d give you a little update as to where I am training-wise. It’s hard to believe race day is right around the corner — seriously, where does the time go??! I’ve been reasonably diligent with my training, occasional lapsing (hey, rest days are good for you!), but otherwise I’ve been generally on top of things. Well, running, anyways. Can’t say the same about the pile of clothes I’ve yet to hang up, or the Pumpkin Cake with Whiskey Whipped Cream I intend to make, or the bed end bench I plan on reupholstering, but you can’t do everything at one time now, can ya? I’m saving those items for a rainy day.

Just this past weekend, Allie and I ran a solid 16 miles without walking a step. At a 9:30 pace. The whole way. If you told me that story several weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. It really is amazing how much progress the human body can make when exposed to consistent training. I remember the days when I was maxing out at 7 miles, and now I consider that to be an easy day. Now that I’m running 13+ miles at least once a week, I’m afraid half marathons just aren’t going to satisfy me anymore. At the same time, though, I’ve promised my body that I’m only going to put it through full marathon training once. I can already feel myself getting addicted to these longer distances, but I know how burdensome they are on your body, and I do want to have functioning knees when I’m 50. So if ever I start talking about running another full marathon, give me a good shake and remind me of all the reasons why I shouldn’t. Please and thank you.

At some point during my productive hours of web surfing, I came across this blog post detailing the St. Jude Marathon route mile for mile.  The guide gives you a taste of what to expect as you progress throughout the course, and it really made the fact that I’m actually running a marathon tangible. It is an excellent source, and I highly recommend everyone running the race check it out, not only for the informative aspect, but for pure inspiration. I literally teared up as I envisioned running the 26.2 miles on that cold December morning, and more importantly, my reason for doing so, which you can read more about at www.mystjudeheroes.org/melissam.

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Run for the Red

Undeterred by the arctic temperatures outside, I will be running my first 5k of the year this Saturday afternoon, which could prove to be disastrous. How so, you may ask? Just weeks after running the St. Jude Half Marathon in December of 2008, I was diagnosed with exercised-induced asthma. This frustrating condition kept me out of my running shoes for most of 2009, save the occasional attempt that left me wheezing, light-headed, and fighting to breathe. Unfortunately, running in cold temperatures increases the chance of an attack, which brings us back to why this race just might take my breath away, literally.

Despite the aforementioned obstacles, I am determined to get myself back in the racing scene this year. And this is where the annual Run for the Red 5k comes into play. The Mid-South American Red Cross has teamed up with the Fire Museum to host a race set for January 9th in downtown Memphis at 4:00, and I will be there in full running gear (and hand warmers!).

If you would like to register and join me and my lovely friend Mere in supporting their life-saving work, we always enjoy new running buddies!

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