All runs are different. Some are joyous occasions of effortless forward motion. Some are shit shows of pain, suffering and mental breakdowns. Most are somewhere in the middle.
This weekend was my last long run before taper and the Blue Sky Marathon on October 2. I know you're probably thinking - damn, did she even train for that marathon? I don't remember reading much about her training.
Little secret: that's because there wasn't much training!
Don't judge me.
Yeah, well, I kind of trained. It was an abbreviated training cycle of about 5 weeks. I don't really recommend that for marathon training, but I was coming off of a summer of running non stop in preparation for the TransRockies, so I figured it was all good.
Famous last words. We'll see how that works out for me.
Anyway, my longest run this past weekend was to be 20 miles. I decided that since the race is only about 45 minutes away, I'd go up north and run 20 miles of the course.
There are just a few twists and turns and ways to get lost (foreshadow).
Ken agreed to come along. He must really like me. Or, he's hoping for some kind of favors. Yes, honey I'll turn off the Real Housewives and get you a bourbon and ginger.
The first loop of 8 miles was steep as shit and gorgeous. I think we climbed about 1,700 feet or so.
Dual shots of old-married-couple-being-tired
Back at the car we re-fueled with some Uncrustables, ice water and Saltstick, then headed out for the last 12 miles. We'd never been on these trails before, and really had no clue what to expect. They were much narrower than anticipated with lots of rolling up and downs.
It was about 10am by now and getting hotter by the minute. There was not one mother eff'ing ounce of shade to be had. Not even a large weed you could hide under. There were, however, some enormous piles of poop with berries in them - the kind that make you scratch your head and wonder who left that turd and why right in the middle of the trail?
No, it wasn't me. I don't eat berries.
So, about 30 minutes in I realized Ken was behind me a bit. We were going out 6 miles and back, so I figured I'd catch him when I turned around.
The trail was really lonely with only an occasional mountain biker. This area (called Devil's Backbone if that gives you an idea) is notorious for rattlesnakes. I was feeling a bit vulnerable and couldn't help but wonder...
WhereTF was Ken?
I got to the turn around. About that time my phone buzzed with a text. One of our high school teachers, age 34, and his wife had been killed in a car accident the night before. Their two year old daughter survived. It was a rollover-one car accident and they were not wearing seat belts.
I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. This was a favorite teacher of Sam's. An all round awesome guy/father/husband/teacher/coach. My eyes kept welling with tears, trying to grasp it all. And, WTF was Ken?
I kept running.
I called Sam at ASU to give him the news. I didn't want him to learn through social media. Again tears.
By this time, I started to get really pissed off at Ken. He abandoned me. Left me out here to rot and be adopted by rattlesnake families. Just cause he got hot and tired doesn't mean he should turn around and leave me. No favors for him.
But wait. Maybe he has a good reason. He's sick. His balls are chafed. He was craving more Uncrustables.
Anger. Tears. Frustration. Sadness. Fear.
I kept running. Thinking of life and death and how quickly things change.
Finally, after 4 hours of running I got back to the car. I was sure Ken was inside the air conditioned Ford Edge eating Uncrustables and drinking my ice water. But... I opened the car door and he was nowhere to be found. He hadn't even been there.
WTF was Ken?
At that moment I started to panic. Yeah, it probably didn't help that I was dealing with the trauma of the unexpected tragedy of last night too. I started asking mountain bikers if they'd seen him. No one had. Just then, a rescue helicopter flew overhead. Really?
I knew if he was on the trail I would have seen him. I had no clue what to do. Is he off the trail hurt or sick? I called friends. No one answered. My mom and dad were out the country, so I couldn't call them. I considered 911, but that felt premature.
Finally, I asked another biker if they had seen him. Yes, he was just a ways back. I started walking until I reached him. Turns out, he had taken a different turn than me by mistake.
I knew it! I knew he wouldn't abandon me (<if he only knew what I had been thinking. Well now he does).
He said: "That run was about 12 miles too long." Yep, I've felt that way before.
After we reunited, I broke the sad, sad news to him.
In the days following that run, I've thought endlessly about life and its many mysteries, unfoldings, gifts and heartaches. I keep coming back to a few simple thoughts.
- I want to feel all moments and be present with all people. No regrets
- I will continue to live a life that will make people miss me when I am gone
- My role is to comfort, support, love and cherish others. And make them smile/laugh.
- When life is too much to bear, I can run. This is comforting to me.
Tomorrow I will go to a funeral to support my friends, our school and our community. I will go to show respect and to find comfort with and connection in people. I will never forget exactly where I was - on a trail by myself surrounded by beauty - when I heard the news of this horrible accident. I will remember Jared, the smiling physics teacher. And I'll probably always wonder why.
RIP Jared and Genevieve. And blessings to their little girl.