Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Vertical Mile

My Vertical Mile

I work with a very talented group of athletes.  Most of them are elite runners and have a mile PR (personal record) in the four and a half minute or so range.  Regardless of the exact time, it is impressive and it is fast.  When I came back to work after my vacation I was able to tell them I beat their mile PR.  I told them that my mile PR was 120 miles per hour, but it was vertical.  They laughed and I told them about my first time skydiving.

I had no intention of skydiving, it wasn’t even on my radar.  Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, well-it just didn’t make any sense.  Then we wound up RV camping at an airstrip in Huntington, West Virginia for the weekend of the Marshall Marathon.  When we pulled into the campground I saw a giant sign at the entrance that said, “Skydiving.”  It was a beautiful Vegas style sign and I immediately asked my husband about it.  He told me the campground airstrip runs a skydiving class and also has vintage WWII biplanes you can ride in.  It all sounded interesting but nothing I had even thought of doing before.  He, on the other hand was very interested in flying in the biplane.  His family has a strong background in aviation and one day he will get his pilot license.

After setting up camp we sat outside and watched the skydivers take off in their tiny planes and later jump, parachute and then land in the field nearby our camper.  It was pretty cool.  I could have watched it all day.  But then I discovered the campground had a bar.  After putting down a few gin and tonics and sampling some fried green tomatoes, I chatted the bartender up on skydiving.  She told me she had just turned 50 and she jumped for the first time on her birthday.  She said it was by far one of the most amazing things she had ever done in her life.  I saw a bumper sticker on the wall that said “I (heart) Skydiving”.  I snapped a photo and posted it on my Facebook page with the comment, “To jump, or not to jump...that is the question?”  Several comments showed up and most were positive.  One from my financial advisor that said, “Sure, your  life insurance policy premiums are paid up.”  Many friends I would never imagine said that they had done it and loved it.  I told my husband that I was probably going to do it the following day.  He suspected the alcohol was talking and that this was not actually going to happen.  
      The next morning he went to the hanger to meet with the pilot that did tours on the 1940 Steerman, the WWII biplane.  While they were flying, I talked with one of the skydiving instructors.  I asked him what the hardest part about skydiving was and he said it was that you really have to go against everything you know.  He said a lot of people have a really hard time just stepping outside the plane while you are in the air.  It goes against human nature to step outside of a plane while in flight.  Yup, I can agree with that.  I then took a short walk to the office and signed a waiver for my first skydiving jump.
About a half hour later my husband landed in the biplane and was quite excited about his flight.  He told me that the pilot let him fly the plane quite a bit, other than the take off and landing.  I didn’t want to cut his enjoyment short, but I knew they were waiting for me at the hanger for my jump.  I met with Phil, my jump instructor.  He had me watch a short video, basically about how I can’t sue them if I die and how I can change my mind in the plane and they will be ok with it.  He then helped me get into my jump suit, had me put on a cap and goggles, then strapped an altimeter on my wrist.  He gave me some basic instructions on what to do and what not to do.  He said that we would jump at 10,000 feet and free fall at 120 miles per hour.  Then at about 5,000 feet he would indicate to me to pull the chute.  He said if I didn’t do it soon enough, he would do it on his own and not to worry.  Then after he pulled the chute, I would have to step on his feet and push myself up so he could loosen the harness.  He also explained how we would steer the parachute once it is open and the proper landing technique so we would not get injured.  
       I got on the tiny airplane.  The pilot is the only person that has an actual seat.  I sit on my butt behind him, my legs straight out.  Phil is straddled over my legs facing me.  On the passenger side there two guys, both sitting in the same positions that Phil and I are in.  It seems weird to be in a plane, facing backwards and not be in a seat.  I’m the person that gives my husband’s hand the death grip when we take off and land on a normal commercial flight.  I’m the person that gets nervous when we hit the slightest turbulence.  I usually look at my husband and ask, “Is that normal?”  He will say, “Yes it is just us going through a cloud,”  I know that when his face shows no panic, then it is ok.  He’s not here with me.  I search Phil’s eyes when the plane bounces a little and he pats my leg.  He knows I’m nervous even tough I haven’t said a word.
It takes about fifteen minutes to get to 10,000 feet.  The two guys next to me have jumped before.  They are making jokes and have no trace of nervousness.  The guy up front opens the door and my heart is in my feet.  It is very cold and windy.  He has to work a bit to open the tiny door as it opens upward.  Once he latches it up, he and his friend work their way to the door and they jump so fast that I swear it didn’t happen.  

Phil tells me to work my way to the door, so I crawl on my knees to get there. Phil then has me sit on my knees facing away from him and he approaches me on his knees and connects our harness together.  He pulls them very tight and I feel a sense of calm because he is close and he is completely calm.  We are facing the open door of the plane and he tells me it’s time to step outside to the platform.  Platform is a generous word for what I need to step on.    It is really a piece of metal that was about 10 inches by 4 inches and mounted over the wheel of the plane.  I’d say it was about the size of a women’s size 9 shoe.  I’d say two shoes but I’m not sure both of my feet actually touched it.  As I put my right leg out of the plane to try to reach the step the wind flings my leg backwards.  I hadn’t anticipated how strong the winds were.  You are not allowed to hang on to anything on the plane when you step out.  They don’t want you to put a death grip on the plane and not let go.  Phil said to try again and plant my foot.  I managed to get it there.  He said to get my other foot out and I’m pretty sure that as soon as my foot got out of the plane we just jumped.  

The next thing I see is the world sprawled out me.  It was like the scene in the movies where you see everything coming at you a million miles an hour.  I saw the Ohio River, curving and separating Ohio and West Virginia.  Phil had instructed me earlier to push my stomach out and let my arms and feet fall behind me towards the sky.  We free fall at 120 miles per hour for about 5,000 feet.  I know Phil wants me to pull the chute but my brain and my hand aren’t connecting and he pulls the chute for me.  Then in an instant we go from being parallel to the ground to being perpendicular.  He indicates it is time for me to step on his feet to loosen the harness.  As I step on his feet and feel the straps loosen- I yell, “Don’t drop me!”  He laughs but he knows it is a strange sensation when the harness loosens it feels like you are sliding off and that you are being let go.  He guides my hands to the handles of the chute and lets me control our direction.  I turn us so I can see the area where the Marshall Stadium is and downtown Huntington.  I wanted the birdseye view of where I would be running the marathon the next day.  Then we turn back towards the airfield and see some pretty fancy houses, farm land and the windy river.  I see the airstrip and our campground and our super cute Winnebago RV.  I can see my husband standing on the side of the field watching me as I come in for my landing.  Phil tells me it is time to lift my legs up so that they are parallel with the ground.  I have to do this so our legs don’t get tangled up on the landing, so we don’t get injured.  We hit the ground on our butts and put skid to a stop pushing a nice little pile of fall leaves over us.  I breath easy, knowing I survived and didn’t break any bones and will be fine for my race the next day.  Phil and I get up and he unhooks the harness.  I give him a big hug and thank him.  My husband is all smiles and I can how proud that I did something so adventurous.  I get my first jump certificate from the office and they say I get a free drink at the bar, kind of funny as that is where it all started.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dream Big


I started out 2015 by signing up for a few ultras and a bunch of marathons, hoping for some PR’s and a few new shiny medals and  belt buckles.   I’d like to say I achieved all my goals but that didn’t happen.  At one ultra, I quit at mile 50, crying because of a combination of pain from an injury and frustration from being lost on the course.  At another ultra, I had to forgo finishing my race to help another runner in distress.  I’ve had a few highs and lows with running this year, these are two examples.

       Hallucination 100 Mile Race: I threw in the towel at Run Woodstock.  I turned in my race bib at the 50 mile mark of the 100 mile race.  I gave up, just quit.  I thought I was in too much pain and was too cold to keep moving.  I was not on pace to finish the 100 mile race, but I could have kept going and got a 100K finish at least.  My brain just said quit and I could not resist.  What was worse was that I likely dragged my friend Jeff into quitting with me.  I think that talking about quitting only made it easier for him to quit as well.   And that is exactly what we both did.  If you are going down, why not drag someone with you?  A few hours later we were both rested, fed and warm.   Then the hurricane blew through.  And by hurricane, I mean Matt.  Matt is a firecracker of an ultra runner.  He stopped by our RV to get some gear and found out that I had quit.  He was taking none of my excuses and told me in the nicest possible way to, “Get your ass back on that course and finish something.”  He shamed me into going back to the RD and persuading him to let me have my bib back and to finish the race.  Surprisingly the race director didn’t take much convincing.  Well, if I was going back out there, I wasn’t going to do it alone.  I figured if I was likely the fault for Jeff quitting, then I could also be the reason he went back out there.  I gave him some of Matt’s tough love and he said he would finish that last 16.6 miles with me even if we walked every step.  We saw Matt about 5 miles later and the smile on his face made it all worth while.   Another three miles later Jeff and I reached an aid station.  He had been in a real low spot, I gave him his space but kept an eye on him.  We sat at the aid station a while and he ate some soup.  I filled his water bottle with coke to help give him energy and wake him up.  He looked like he didn’t want to go on.  I told him that there was no way I was going to let him DNF (Did Not Finish) the same race twice in one day.  He let out huge laugh and I knew we would get it done.  Looking back I am still so disappointed in myself for just giving up. I asked Jeff to read this before I posted it, his comment was that I didn’t cause him to quit at 50 miles, I caused him to finish the 100K.But I am thankful for friends like Matt that push you and friends like Jeff that will stick with you through the good and the bad. 

       The Great Allegheny Passage Marathon: Even a marathon finish is hard earned some days.  After not finishing the C&O Canal 100 Miler in Maryland, I searched for another race in the state so I can continue my progress on finishing a marathon or ultra in every state (currently at 32 states done.)  I found this reasonably priced marathon that landed on a Friday and signed up.  The race was capped at 75 people, which included a half and full marathon.  Some of the full marathoners dropped to the half after seeing the course.  It ran alongside a railroad track on a crushed stone surface.  It was 6.55 miles out and back, repeated twice.  It was all downhill on the way out, which felt wonderful- but the uphill return trip was rough.  The total elevation gain/loss for the marathoner was 2,072 feet.  Forty-nine of us started the race.  Twenty-four of us finished the marathon and twenty-five finished the half marathon. The first out and back of the race went by pretty uneventfully.  On my second trip out I started paying attention to how many runners were still on the course.  I realized that there were not all that many people ahead of me.  Now I’m not a fast runner, I’ve done a few good times at marathons, but this wasn’t going to be one of them.   I was within a half mile of the turn around point and a person running the other direction said to me, “Way to go first lady!”  I gave him a puzzled look.  At the next water stop I saw the race director.  He said the same thing to me.  I still didn’t get it and asked him what he was talking about.  He informed me that I was leading the race for the women’s division.    Well, now that is a new one.  Never had that happen before.  I ran along to the turn around and with shortly over a 10K left in the race I saw the next female runner and she was only a mile behind me.  Then I saw another lady right behind her!  It occurred to me that this might be my only chance to win the female division in a marathon.  So I ran as hard as I could to the finish.  I could hear the crunch of gravel behind me.  I didn’t want to look back.  I was afraid it was another lady runner, so I just kept pushing.  I crossed the finish line and a few seconds later so did the guy behind me.  He thanked me for being a rabbit for him to try to catch and pushing him along.  I was told that I was indeed the first female finisher of the marathon and fifth place overall!  Everyone asks what special award I got for finishing first.  I tell them that I didn’t get anything but the bragging rights.  I laughed later when I realized that the first place finisher’s time was two hours faster than mine.  

To sum up my year for 2015, I finished 8 marathons and 2 ultras this year.  I DNF’d two races.   I had a personal worst time at the hardest trail marathon east of the Mississippi River and I won a marathon.  I learned that your friends will push you and pull you along when you need it, even if you don’t deserve it.   I’m looking at new races and distance for 2016.  I have high hopes and big dreams.   If anyone says I dream to big, I just say they think too small.  If people aren’t laughing at your dreams, then your dreams aren’t big enough. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Favorite Thing!

It's time for another giveaway from Skirt Sports.  As most of you know I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a brand ambassador for this wonderful company.  This is an incredible opportunity for me to spread the word about products that I love and would praise even if I wasn't affiliated with them.  This time they are allowing me to give away a product of my choosing.  It only took a second to know that I wanted to give away a Gym Girl Ultra Skirt.  It is by far my favorite product that they make.  I probably own twenty of them, yet every time a new pattern comes out I can hardly resist.

Thanks for taking the time to read this short post, if you haven't already done so- I hope you convert to the skirt!

You can check out the web page for Skirt Sports and watch a short video that pretty much shows what this skirt is all about.
Click here to see the Gym Girl Ultra page

The Fine Print: This giveaway is made possible by Skirt Sports; when you enter the giveaway through the widget below, you agree to the rules of the giveaway. Skirt Sports will collect the emails of all giveaway entrants (but you can later unsubscribe from future email communications). The value of the giveaway is $67 and sales tax, if applicable; the winner will not be required to make any payment. Should the winner choose a print that is currently on sale, they will not receive the difference between the above amount and the actual cost of their product in any form (store credit, coupons, or otherwise). This giveaway ends at 12 a.m. (midnight) Eastern time on November 9, 2015. If you cannot wait until then and want to order your Gym Girl Ultra skirt, or any other Skirt Sports product, ASAP, use this 20% off code for your shopping pleasure:SSTUF20 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Get Out Of My Way

The Old Farts Marathon
Lowell, MI

     I needed to get out of my own way and forge past a summer of unhealthy eating.  I can’t help it that pizza tastes good and ice cream calls my name.  I enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine in the evening.  But too many of these indulgences packed on ten extra pounds that just didn’t want to go away.  

It was time to do something about that extra weight and get healthier.  I found a local gym that was having a weight loss challenge and I joined.  I’m three weeks into the six week challenge.  They provided me with a diet plan to speed up weight loss and I go to their boot camp classes five days a week.  I can feel tons of new muscle in my arms and my core is getting so much stronger.  I’m also down 10 pounds so far.  I can see and feel the changes in my body in just three weeks.

     I decided to test out my new found strength at the Fallsburg Old Farts Marathon in Lowell, MI.  They advertise it as the toughest trail marathon this side of the Mississippi River.  It was 26.2 miles of the steepest climbs and descents I've ever seen. Lots of water crossings, sand, mud, steamy prairie and fallen trees to climb over or scurry under. Oh and did I mention it was 91 degrees? To put it this way, it was HARD.  The hardest marathon I have ever done so far.  Here’s the thing, I felt amazing.  I felt strong as I tackled these hills.  I was steadier on my feet when I crossed the streams on wobbly rocks.  Even though my time was not anything to brag about, I  felt great the entire way and I had a smile on my face as I ran across the finish line.  I even scored an award for placing in the women’s masters division.  I’m glad I finally realized that nothing was going to change unless I changed myself first.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt

Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt
Skirt Sports 13’er
Louisville, CO
June 14, 2015

      Skirt Sports put out a post on Facebook a few months ago that they were having a contest to name the “Big Hill” on their race course.  The race is called the 13’er. It took place in Louisville, Co.   It is a half marathon, 13.1 miles.  But they chose to call it the 13’er because 13.1 miles is not half of anything.  13.1 miles is a big achievement.  Especially when it is at 5,500 feet of elevation and then you hit the big hill.  
I submitted my idea for naming the big hill.  I saw their course map and realized it was similar to  something I run on a regular basis.  It looks like a giant letter “U” if you see it on an elevation chart.  I call my hill the “Bad Relationship.”  I call it that because when you’re in it you can’t really see how bad it is, but anyone else looking at it from the outside can clearly tell it is really, really bad.
The Bad Relationship

Skirt Sports received tons of entries but I was fortunate enough to have mine chosen!  Everyone now refers to the hill as “The Bad Relationship.” They even printed it on a tee shirt and gave me one.  I was pretty excited about this, but then they decided to have a retreat for the ambassadors during their event.  I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.  So I took my first solo trip in almost 20 years and spent the weekend with dozens of people I knew only through Facebook.  One of the other Skirt Sports ambassadors (Marilou) said she would room with me.  I have known her for almost two years through Facebook.  We both hoped the other one wouldn’t be a creep or annoying.  Turns out we got along great, we both run ultras an have a love of dogs and as it turns out, we both enjoy to put back a good local microbrew.

So I left my Border Collie babies and hubby and flew to Colorado.  I spent the weekend in Boulder and Louisville with my Skirt Sisters.  We started with a meet and greet, dinner, and tour of the Skirt Sports Headquarters.  I met Noelle Wilson and Nicole DeBoom.  These two are the beauty, brains, voice and heart of Skirt Sports.  They took us all in like we were their family.  They invited us to their home, introduced us to their husbands and children and did everything in their power to make this weekend about us, even though they had a big race to organize.  They took us hiking in the mountains and had a BBQ by the lake.  We had cake (and quiche) for breakfast while we brainstormed with them about the future of Skirt Sports.  They asked us what we liked, what we would change, what direction we would take.  I’ve never known a company that was this interested in feedback.   I am so thankful I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group.
Race morning was fast upon us and we arrived at the event early for photos and to meet up with the rest of the ambassadors.  Noelle and Nicole had provided us with new tank tops sporting the ambassador logo.  Real Women, Real Bodies, Real Inspiration!  We met with lots of the ambassadors before the race and took photos.  It didn’t matter if you were had not met someone before, that ambassador shirt let us all know who was part of this group.  It let us know who our sisters were.  
      The course was amazing.  A few of the spectators were livestock and I felt they were mocking me for my heavy breathing at mile 2 of the race.  I live at about 600 feet of elevation and this course started at 5,500 feet.  My time was pretty good until I got to my namesake.  The Bad Relationship.  Well, it wasn’t kind to me.  I decided to make the best of it and take some photos so I could show people my hill.  After I “got over it”, we were treated to a beautiful trail run that had mountain vistas like I have never seen before.  After leaving the trail it was a few miles of slight downhill and then the finish.  Then the cake.  Not just any cake.  Kim and Jake’s Cake, a local gluten-free bakery.  This was the best cake I have ever eaten.  At the finish of the race they had a red velvet with a cream cheese icing and a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  I enjoyed my chocolate cake while I watched and cheered in the final finishers.  I had heard some of their stories and knew the obstacles they had overcome to get to this finish line.  But funny when you think about it.  That finish line to them was really the start line for other things, bigger things, greater things.  That finish line was only the start of their next chapter and next goal.
What the weekend boiled down to is that I named a hill, I stepped far outside my comfort zone and traveled half way across the country solo to meet a bunch of people that I barely knew.  When I left, I left with a feeling of sisterhood.  I felt that I had made a bunch of new friends, people that I will likely be bonded to for a very long time.  
This whole weekend happened because of a clothing company.  Really?  A clothing company has changed my life.  I don’t know any other clothing company that has a sisterhood, a camaraderie, a common bond that makes you a part of it just because you wear their products.  Skirt Sports is an amazing company.  I would scream their name from the highest mountain (The Bad Relationship) even if I wasn’t an ambassador.  I did before they chose me (or as they stay, before I stalked them.)  
I traveled home on the plane, back to the real world.  Knowing that the weekend had changed me.  Made me a better person.  I felt like I belonged and that I was with my people.  I always joke that I was not the cool kid in high school.  But in my running life,  I sure feel like the cool kid.  

If At First You Don't Succeed...

If At First You Don’t Succeed...
Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run
June 6, 2015

Shortly after seeing a cougar cross the trail in front of me I had decided my race was done.  I made it to mile 93 of the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run in 2013.  This year, I only made it to mile 47.  I had high hopes that this would be my year but nothing went right and nothing felt right from the beginning.  My breath felt more labored than it should on the climbs and my tendonitis was flaring up in my right calf way earlier than expected.  I didn’t have the day I wanted.  
My pace was slower than it was in 2012, I was chasing cutoff times early on.  I had felt pretty confident about this race until I was actually running it.  I wish it was easy to explain why things happen the way they do at an event.  But sometimes, simply put - you have a bad day.  Somewhere after the 50K mark I saw a group of hikers that were standing off to the side of the trail with their kids, dogs, and day packs.  I smiled and said hello as I ran past them.  Almost a mile further down the trail I came to an intersection that did not have any markings.  I knew there should be yellow flags to tell me which direction to go.  I found a nearby trail map and realized I had made a huge mistake and missed a turn.  After yelling some choice words to the nearby squirrels and birds I headed back to retrace my steps. When I found the turn I had originally missed, I realized that the day hikers had been standing right in front of the sign that was supposed to tell me to turn.  I tried to run faster to make up time but managed to trip on a rock, fall onto a downed tree limb and land with my face only inches away from a patch of poison ivy.  
I made it to the next aid station and my crew was not there.  I guess my pacing was so far off where it should be that they didn’t even know when to expect me.  I moved onward but each step I could feel myself losing my motivation.  I also felt the tendonitis pain and some pretty good blisters growing.  The cougar crossed my path and I didn’t even flinch.  I just looked up and said, “Huh, you don’t see that every day.”   When I got to the Emma Carlin aid station and saw my husband, I just fell apart.  I cried and told him that this day was not working out.  I knew that with the pain that I was in, I would not be able to keep going and finish within the cutoff.  Typically he tells me that quitting is not an option, but I guess even he knew that this day was done.  We packed up my gear and went home.  
Do I feel like a failure?  Yes and no.  Yes, because I did not finish.  But I did the best I could on that day.  No, I don’t regret my decision to quit.  I did the best could with what the day delivered to me.  In the words of Henry Ford, “No one really fails, who does his best.”  
I am going to find out if the third time is the charm in 2016.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, It's How You Play the Game

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, It's How You Play the Game
C&O Canal 100 Mile Race
April 25, 2015

When does it become real?  For some people it is when you sign up for a race, for others it is at the start line.  For me, it got real when I least suspected it.  
I signed up for the C&O Canal 100 mile race with hopes of crushing my previous 100 mile times.  The course suggested it was mostly flat, except for going up and down a very large hill twice.   The race director even advertises that there are only two climbs and how hard could that be?  I grossly underestimated the hill.  I’d hate to see what the race director calls a mountain.  
Race day started with temps in the low 40’s.  I’m pretty sure the entire day it didn’t fluctuate more than a few degrees.  From the start line we crossed a field, then along a road followed by a gentle downhill.  What came after that was a long decent on single-track switchback trails.  At the bottom of the trail we crossed a small stream twice.  If you were nimble enough, you could make it across mostly dry.  But I’ve never been accused of being nimble. 
Shortly after the water crossing we started out on the canal towpath.  The first 20 miles were pretty uneventful.  Unless you count me constantly questioning why I sign up for these races and how I could possibly run 100 miles when this already felt so hard.  Thankfully the next aid station distracted me with waffles.  That was a new one for me on race day.  But I subscribe to the theory of if it looks good, eat it.  

     The towpath edges along the Potomac River.  It was flowing fast and I was surprised to see a few kayakers and paddle boarders out there.  We passed by Harper’s Ferry and connected with the Appalachian Trail.  It was pretty cool to be running on this historic Section. One of the most beautiful things I saw along the path were the fields of flowers I had never seen before, Virginia Bluebells. They were so thick at times they appeared as a blue haze hovering over the ground, like something out of a dream.  

I had decided that this would be my first race I would run solo, with no outside help from friends or family.  Some people refer to this as either running a race “crewed” or “screwed.”  I knew by doing this on my own, I would need to rely on my drop bags and the help of the aid station volunteers.  This was the perfect race to try it out as I quickly learned that the aid station volunteers here were as experienced and efficient as any NASCAR pit crew.  When I approached an aid station someone would grab my drop bag and get out whatever I asked for while a another person would take my water bottle and fill them.  Then a third person was busy getting food ready for me.  It was very impressive.  
Doing a race without crew and pacers can be lonely, but sometimes you get lucky and meet another runner and forge a friendship.  As I was munching on hot pierogi and making my way down the trail, I came upon a fellow that was walking at a brisk pace.  I ran up to him, introduced myself, and asked him how his race was going.  He said his name was Charlie and he offered me a piece of bacon to go with my pierogi.  Bacon?  Sure, why not.  At this point I didn’t know that he would turn into my race partner for almost 40 miles.  There is something funny that happens on the trail. You are stripped down to the most basic version of yourself.  You let your guard down and will tell a virtual stranger more than you might tell most people.  They see you at your best and your worst, sometimes only minutes separate the two.  Our conversations distracted us from what we were doing and it made the time pass more quickly.
We came into the 50 mile aid station well on our way to a sub-24 hour finish.  After replenishing our food and water, we grabbed our rain coats and headed back out on the trail.  A cold rain started and the cloud cover made it darker out earlier than expected.  Within a few miles we had to use our headlamps to see the path.  Charlie got a call on his cellphone from his wife to alert us of a runner about 3 miles ahead of us that was in distress.  The man had called his wife and said he was very cold and he that he could hardly stay awake.  We covered ground as fast as we could to get to this runner.  The temperature continued to drop below 40 and the rain and wind made it seem colder.  When we were moving at a decent pace it was ok, but when we slowed down the cold was quite noticeable.   We finally caught up with the distressed runner.   His flashlight had died and he was trying to make his way on the path in the dark.  He was wearing a trash bag over his clothing trying to stay warm.  He told us several times that he just could not keep his eyes open and he only wanted to sleep.  He was not shaking and he seemed confused.   I know the signs of hypothermia, he was exhibiting several of them.  
Charlie and I both realized at this point we would have to bring this runner into the next aid station.  There were a lot of rocks and roots in this section and I couldn’t even imagine him trying to cross the stream and make it up the big hill without any light in his condition.  We slowed our pace to a moderate walk so he could keep up with us.  I walked a few feet ahead to light up the trail and called out if there was a rock or root that he might trip on.  Charlie stayed back and walked next to him.  We brought him about 4 miles into the aid station.  We were happy he was safe now and could get some help.  He dropped from the race here, it was mile 60.  A term commonly used in ultra running is Did Not Finish (DNF.)  A lot of people also say it stands for Did Nothing Fatal. 
I soon realized that I was shaking beyond control.  Someone brought me a cup of soup but it all splashed out of the cup because I couldn’t hold my hand still.  The race director brought me a blanket to try to warm me up, but it did little good.   They had a fire going at one point, but the rain put it out.  There was no place to get out of the wind and cold, only an overhead shelter so we could get out of the rain.  I sat with Charlie while he got ready to head back out.  I knew that that the next aid station would be another 7 or so miles and I would need to have some warmer and drier clothes to get to it.  I didn’t have that luxury.  Charlie was ready to head out and I told him I made the decision to call it a day.  I knew if I went back out I might be in the same position as the runner we brought into this aid station.  I wished Charlie well as he headed back out on his journey.  I called my husband to pick me up and told him my race was over.  The weather ended the race for a lot of other people that night.  About half of the runners dropped out.
The rain had finally stopped by morning and we found Charlie along the course.  We went to the path to meet him and walk a little together.  He was very happy to see us.  After big hugs he told me that I was the reason he was able to get as far as he did.  I told him to keep going that his journey wasn’t done yet.  
At the finish line it warmed my heart to see Charlie come flying up that big hill one last time. His face was filled with determination, pride and joy.  He was all smiles as he hugged his wife and collected his buckle.  He hugged me again and thanked me for helping him achieve his goal.  
I had hoped to finish this race.  I had also wanted a shiny new belt buckle to add to my collection.  Instead what I got was the satisfaction of helping someone in distress and getting them to safety. 
In the end I know that it isn’t whether you win or lose (not that I was going to win.)  It really was how I played the game.
Charlie and his wife Mary at the finish.