Who am I?

And what am I doing here?

I am the woman I always wanted to be.

But the meaning of my life doesn\’t seem to be known to me.

I thought going to a monastery would be meaningful. Last night, I had a dream about it. I was in the monastery and was to be professed that evening. I had been asked to come back, pre-approved for profession. So I went because I wanted to be joined. But, I also wondered, \”Why do you want to join this place when you have looked at their blog for the past 2 years and thought it was stupid? Why do you want to spend every day on Catholicism? You don\’t believe in it.\”

As I sit here and type, I think, \”Whats wrong with running?\” Look at the girl in the picture who is running a decent but not fast half marathon. She is happy. Several e-friends have said they are jealous of the muscle cut arms. In the original picture I have here at home, I look even better.

My quest of transcendence might be a quest to merely be human.

Americans are taught to keep trying to be more. This teaching produces agitation and dis-satisfaction with ordinary loving situations.

I\’d love to go back to the Silverton 1000 and run for six days. But I\’m pretty sure that the current condition of my knee would bump me off the steep hills on the first day. Whats wrong with totally pleasant half marathons interspersed with 20 hours of training a week?

At work, several great things happened. On Thursday, after a long day of goal setting with the Basic Chemicals team, I was apologizing to the leader for not staying for happy hour; because such things are usually semi-mandatory team building. He said that it was totally optional and no one should ever apologize for not staying or feel bad for not staying. That is the first time that the guilt has been totally removed. He was a messenger of love.

Yesterday, the Environmental Control manager drove me all around the site and pointed out all the water, utilities and infrastructure items he is responsible for. Really, the Chem-park where I work is huge. Nearly a city with 3,000 people and the massive usage of materials as well as disposal needs. I felt very good about riding around and seeing all the sites. He was a messenger of love.

Then, after a very long meeting, I got a golf cart ride from a guy named Mohammed who is very strictly practicing Halal. He is my co-worker and about 20 years younger and really cute. He was asking me how I liked Houston and talking about how he missed the Philadelphia ghetto. It came down to a friendship discussion and how few real friends (maybe only one) we had. He understood when I said that with most people I carry on superficial relationships, not saying anything important but getting along fine. See, he may be on the opposite end of a religious continuum than me, but we feel the same. I left him feeling like he was a real friend simply because we could discuss the subject of friendship. He was a messenger of love.

Whats wrong with being satisfied with a friend in a chemical plant above monastic profession or ultra-marathoning?

Is this love?

Or this?

We should accept all love as equal, no matter where it is found. Nobody is more holy than anyone else.


Silverton Aftermath

I completed my 86 miles of Silverton in the evening of Sunday, 9/4. On Monday, Labor Day 9/5, I drove to Durango. I had a 5:50 am flight on Tuesday, hence decided to spend Monday night in Durango.

I got to Durango at about 11 am, too early to check into a motel. So I had a soy latte and then wandered through a running store. I came out dressed in a new running outfit and headed for a bike path along the Animas River.

I\’d say I look pretty snazzy!

Anyway, I did a little slow jogging and walking for about an hour. I could feel tiredness but no injuries from the 86 mile Silverton jaunt. On Tuesday, United Airlines did a great job of delivering my body to Kansas City on time. So in the afternoon, I completed my usual core workout and added another 45 minutes of cross training.

Today, Wednesday, I had one more day of vacation. So (finally) a fantastic 11 hours of sleep; and then a 7 mile jaunt on trails including a couple of miles on a new gravel road I found. And, poor me, I clicked submit to enter a 50 mile race on 10/8 ( Heartland Spirit of the Prairie).

So here is my point: I didn\’t injure anything at Silverton. I only created tiredness for a few days; but nothing that needs weeks of recovery. I did come away from Silverton transcended. That is, I realize I am at a greater fitness level than I thought. I see I have trained up to a new standard. There was an absence of foot isses I\’ve had in the past. I\’m in fantastic shape, not just compared to other 50 year olds, but compared to everybody. And I\’m smart enough to not go over the injury line.

Two years ago, I entered the Heartland 50 mile. Right then, I got a new job, so I DNS\’d. But I was probably only half as trained as I am now. Now, Silverton proved to me what\’s in me. All I need do is not be stupid and over train going into Heartland.

I am excited about Heartland. Stay tuned.

Here is a blurb for the race information:

“There are several ways not to walk in the prairie, and one of them is with your eye on a far goal, because you then begin to believe you’re not closing the distance any more than you would with a mirage.  My woodland sense of scale and time didn’t fit this country, and I started wondering whether I could reach the summit before dark.  On the prairie, distance and the miles of air turn movement to stasis and openness to a wall, a thing as difficult to penetrate as dense forest.  I was hiking in a chamber of absences where the near was the same as the far, and it seemed every time I raised a step the earth rotated under me so that my foot fell just where it had lifted from.  Limits and markers make travel possible for people: circumscribe our lines of sight and we can really get somewhere.  Before me lay the Kansas of popular conception from Coronado on – that place you have to get through, that purgatory of mileage.

Hiking in the woods allows a traveler to imagine comforting enclosures, one leading to the next, and the walker can possess those little encompassed spaces, but the prairie and plains permit no such possession.  Whatever else prairie is – grass, sky, wind – it is most of all a paradigm of infinity, a clearing full of many things except boundaries, and its power comes from its apparent limitlessness; there is no such thing as a small prairie any more than there is a little ocean, and the consequence of both is this challenge: try to take yourself seriously out here, you bipedal plodder, you complacent cartoon.”

Silverton 1000 – Race Report

It’s down there. Deep down there. Somehow, I will find it. That is all my life is for.

Mine is the story of a girl who could and a girl who couldn’t. A girl who is stubborn against the crowd, the club. A girl who is insistent on the other world, the world of the spirit.

Here is a picture of me on the Silverton course. Yes, that guy is dressed in a Jester outfit and ran more than 200 miles like that. I am stalked (literally) by the Jester.

From Wikipedia: “The root of the word \”fool\” is from the Latin follis, which means \”bag of wind\” or that which contains air or breath…In literature, the jester is symbolic of common sense and of honesty, notably in King Lear, the court jester is a character used for insight and advice on the part of the monarch, taking advantage of his license to mock and speak freely to dispense frank observations and highlight the folly of his monarch…The fool\’s status was one of privilege within a royal or noble household. His folly could be regarded as the raving of a madman but was often deemed to be divinely inspired….”

The runner, the ultra-runner, but especially the multi-day-runner, is a seeker. I am the girl who sought spirit in long distance running. I believe this to be true since I first began running at the age of 13. I was inspired by the idea of freedom and spacious distance. To go to a race course which is one mile, up 235 feet each time, at 9,300 plus elevation, and run 86 laps around it seems folly. Is that what the Jester is secretly symbolizing?

Multi-day races are for the patiently enduring. The average age of the athlete rises into the 50\’s. Its point is the forward movement over time and the eventual mental and physical struggle; a microcosm of life and death and re-birth. I went to Silverton Colorado for a 72 hour running race. I went very unsure that I could run 100 miles in 3 days, but it took all of each day yesterday to prove it to my ego.

No belt buckle for me, but a great showing for a flatlander. I ran 31 miles the first day and threw in the towel as day light waned. I went 24 miles the second day before my endocrine system shut down due to my fueling mistakes. I felt great the third day and went another 31 miles; stopping with a total of 86 miles, at 6 pm in the evening.

3 days. Total hours = 10.6 + 9 + 12.2 = 31.8 hours. Total miles = 31 + 24 + 31 = 86. Total feet climbed = 86 x 235 = 20,210 ft (omg, thats alot). And this brings me to the most major dilemma of the event: why not finish 100 miles and get the belt buckle? Real ultra runners would do that. I’ve already been treated like a loser because I didn’t do that. It is not like I couldn’t have done it. I certainly could have slowly walked another 7 hours until about 3 am, and finished 100 miles.

So I am both a winner (finished 86 miles) and a loser (didn’t finish 100 miles). This is what the Jester jokes to me about.

This is my first multi-day event. There are some awesome people here. Silverton is a beautiful place. I am still impressed at how mature most of the runners are. My age of 52 is about average with very few below age 45, some up into their 70s. We do have a couple of 10 year old boys running too. Two people from Hawaii age 61 and 63 are prolific ultra runners (I was able to look them up at Ultra signup). They made 114 miles total.

You know, each of us here is going through some sort of personal struggle and transformation. It is not really about finishing 100 miles to get a buckle. It is about your daily struggle to keep going to your own personal limits.

I sit quietly and ask my soul for an answer? Why did I come here? Why do I run? I guess the answer is in the fact that I go running again. I am an athlete. There seems to be no other answer than the two edged sword provided by the Jester: I am good enough/ I am not good enough.

The ego’s dilemma and always what the Jester points to: we are all fools, unknowingly naked in our strivings. We are unstoppable in our human endeavors, yet death stalks us all.

I would not trade the life of a distance runner for anything in the world. This life came with me into the convent and was efficacious in getting me kicked out of the convent. Running comes with me into contemplation and self transcendence. Running gets me out of bed each day.

The winner:

Silverton Day 2

Boy, what a dumb name for a blog post. Nothing intriguing about that!

My day started in semi-darkness, 6:15 am. I woke up with an angry achilles, which is not too unusual. It didn\’t feel too bad by the time I started walking the course. The course in harder in one direction because the uphill is longer and has some very steep places. From 6 to 9, I walk jogged the hard direction taking 23 to 25 minutes per one mile lap. Then at 9 am, they changed directions and thing were easier, especially on above mentioned achilles.

Most of us have little table areas lining the course inside the aid station tent. It is fun to look at the tables first thing in the morning. Most of us have everything we need for the day neatly laid out so we can quickly find it.

What\’s it all about Alfie? You know, each of us here is going through some sort of personal struggle and transformation. It is not really about finishing 100 miles to get a buckle. It is about your daily struggle to keep going to your own personal limits.

I am still impressed at how mature most of the runners are. My age of 52 is about average with very few below age 45, some up into their 70s. We do have a couple of 10 year old boys running too. Two people from Hawaii age 61 and 63 are prolific ultra runners (I was able to look them up at Ultra signup). Yesterday they made 35 miles, staying awhile longer than me. I was impressed with that. Today it looks like they only made 30 miles. Which proves to me that this course is tough. I realize what a hurdle those remaining 35 miles for the buckle are.

Back to me. My achilles did pretty well today, but I was slower than yesterday. After about 7 hours my quads were starting to show signs of wasting. I could breathe much better today. I mean I didn\’t feel like puking when I got to the top of the course. At 3 pm, the course direction change loomed. I dreaded having to go in the \”hard\” direction again and actually doubted that I could make it up some of the really steep places. My 24th lap today was the last in the \”easy\” (haha, still 235 feet up and down each time). I realized I was pooped. I decided that when I got to the tent, I\’d ask for a veggie patty and go eat it at my table while I contemplated my situation. To have a chance for a 100 mile buckle, I needed to do at least 8 more miles today. I had done 9 hours so far and 8 more miles would take more than 3.5 hours. And these would be in the \”hard\” direction. I knew I couldn\’t do it.

I came into the tent and approached the aid table. I suddenly felt tears well up inside me, emotional break down imminent. Then, I asked for a veggie patty. They said they were out but could run out and get some for me. I said no. I realized I was done. so I wondered through the tent and out the other side to the port-pottie. The portas were way too full and smelly. As I entered, I started sobbing. There I am in a smelly porta, tired, feet hurt, no food and feeling the depths of despair. This course is too freaking hard (lack of oxygen aside).

After that, I sanitized my hands and sat down at my table to eat a sandwich and drink another shake.

One of the guys came over and talked to me. He didn\’t try to talk me out and was glad I\’ll be back tomorrow. I plan to try 20 miles tomorrow to get an even 75 miles. Another gal who was in the 6 day race had stopped her race at 100 miles saying she completely understood not wanting to go overboard with it. (and she was a person who could sprint the downhills.) I totally believe that if you can\’t hang it together mentally, you should get off the course. Endocrines are done for the day.

Then I drove into town and bought myself two meals (veggie burger and salad).

Today was memorable. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

I\’ve been around this course 55 times. Thats 12,925 feet of climbing.

Silverton 1000 – Ego Busted

I am in Silverton Colorado for a 72 hour running race. I came out here very unsure that I could run 100 miles in 3 days, but it took all day yesterday to prove it to my ego. No belt buckle for me, but a great showing for a flatlander. I ran 31 miles yesterday and threw in the towel as day light waned. I won\’t go that far today as I am a little on edge with an injury and quite tired of oxygen deprivation. Yes, 9000+ feet is hard to run in.

This is my first multi-day event  There are some awesome people here and runners who stick to \”keeping going\” and don\’t ever ask themselves the questions I do about when its time to let go and stop. My ultra running short coming is my unwillingness to destroy my body; hence my mileage is usually a little short of the world\’s prizes.

As I lay in bed last night, not sleeping with heart racing, I recited my spiritual litany to myself. I returned to my soul connection. I realized that its not the number of miles but how I was spiritually as I did them.

Now times awasting. I need to get my food together and get back to the course.

Silverton is a beautiful place.

Who Do I Follow?

You are about to think I follow a philosopher, so I\’ll say upfront: this philosopher has helped me frame \”who I follow.\”

I have been reading the notebooks of Paul Brunton (google him to find these online). I am up to book 5, with 11 to go. This morning I read about 3 different types of consciousness: individual pseudo-consciouness (I call ego), society\’s collective will and true inner divine wisdom.

As a solitary, contemplative, mature athlete, vegetarian, non-religious, spiritualist much of my life goes against society\’s collective will. Hence it feels like sin. My quest to give up many of the things related to money and position cause my ego much angst. Hence they also feel like sin. However, these sins are not true sins. They are in fact life on a higher moral plane than the norm. Isn\’t that interesting. Attempts to rise above the group cause angst. What strength of will or reliance on the inner divine can enable this diversion from group norms?

I am taking a break from workouts for a day or two to rest up for my weekend at the Silverton 1000. I am using the time for reflection and additional meditation. I am resting an endocrine system and feeding it super nutrition. Symbolically, I put new batteries in the car\’s key fob and cleaned the toilet. Today, I will get a deep tissue massage.

Multi-day races are for the patiently enduring. The average age of the athlete rises into the 50\’s. Its point is the forward movement over time and the eventual mental and physical struggle; a microcosm of life and death and re-birth.

My bags are packed. 2 days of work. Thursday, I fly to Durango. Friday, the race starts.

Silence or Sloth?

Today I broke my record for Sunday sleeping in: 9 am. When I first got up, I was feeling a bit like the day was screwed because if it was too warm, there\’d be no long run.

So I sat down to do my usual morning spiritual reading and reflection. I have to ask myself: where is my mind at? See, I haven\’t been feeling driven by anything and I haven\’t been feeling strong negative emotions like I used to. I seem to no longer need to prove I am \”better than\” those who have the world\’s approval. I am more comfortable hanging out there on my own as a religion-less spiritual person.

The result of daily spiritual work should be inner peace. I am finally able to see that inner peace is quiet and with silence in the emotions. The ego loses its control and it is quieter inside. If the ego does speak up and attempt to take control back, I don\’t believe it as much.

I can ask myself about the possibilities and the changes in motivation. If I had inner peace and was spirit motivated, how would that feel? Would it be a more subtle emotional life? Or an emotional life not in the ego\’s world; hence not feeding the ego\’s addictions?

Somewhere in this musing, I had a vision of myself running down a long path, sweating. That was my urge for long slow distance. So, I decided to go running since today was not supposed to be warmer than 90F (haha, you know its been a long summer if 90F seems cool). I packed up my cooler and decided to drive about 23 miles east to where there is a long flat dirt bike path (I had scouted the area yesterday). I started my run at 10:45. This is amazing as just a couple of weeks ago, it would have already been 95F by that time. Today it was only 77F, and I don\’t think it ever got above 85F.

Driving to the trail, I had this revelation. Spirit motivated can be nothing more than in the moment.

I didn\’t find the northern most trail head yesterday. But today, armed with a map, I found the farthest north end and parked there. I can\’t really explain; but there was a little inner battle in deciding to find the north trail head. Then, running back towards the car after 17 miles of running, the trail head I found yesterday had a train parked in front of it. Had I parked there, my car would have been stuck. Since I had overcome my inner resistance, and decided to find the other place, my car was not stuck behind a train. After climbing over the train, and cleaning my hands with a Wet-One, it occurred to me that intuition had worked to push me to NOT park in the place I knew but find the right new place and park there. It seems small, but following these little urges is what being spirit driven is about. I said an inner thank-you.

I had a truly wonderful 18 mile/4 hour low-impact jog. It sure put the icing on the cake for Silverton.

Silverton? Yes, its this coming weekend: http://silvertonspecialevents.com/silverton_special_events_033.htm
I\’m signed up for a 72 hour race. Well, I don\’t plan on being on course more than 12 hours a day, but still….

There is this growing pile of stuff in my living room as I start packing:

Thoughts While Running in a Forest

This morning, I ran for four hours around a 1.05 mile loop in a forest. It was a roller of an easy trail, augmented by 9 flights of stairs and a steep hill. It was cloudy, cool, misty and very green. I wasn\’t going very fast, but still my legs got tired.

The one park I run at alot had a 5k race so I stayed away from it. The levy where I sometimes run had a 5k race so I stayed away from it. The result was the quiet forest.

Why would I just run laps like that? I wanted to keep speed on the easy parts and maximize hills. I am actually training for an endurance event: The Silverton 1000: http://silvertonspecialevents.com/silverton_special_events_033.htm

I am hoping to run 100 miles in 72 hours. I have a hotel, where I plan to shower and sleep for about 6 hours per night. The plan is to run/walk 40 + 35+ 25 miles over the 3 days. that leaves me the morning of the final hours to make up a few miles if needed.

While I was running in the forest this morning, I continue to reflect on my motivation for endurance. It is the same form of motivation which causes me to go to work and do a fantastic job. It is the same motivation that gets me up an hour earl each day in order to do spiritual study and reflection.

I\’ve been accused of not making \”enough\” spiritual progress so far in this life; or not letting go of my ego enough to become enlightened. The Catholics and Christians I know would think I\’m wrong. The other types of spiritualists and Buddhists I know would think I\’m wrong. What I know is I\’ve made a ton of progress in this life. I may still be reading text books and doing basic meditation; but so what. At least I am learning the ideas so I\’ll be ready on my next incarnation.

I\’ve had many teachers; but no single guru.

My commitment to the path, with or without emotional gratification is astounding. I am in charge of my spiritual path. I am not a follower. You realize that doing your own thing is highly frowned on by the various cults. Because I am on my a self-directed path, I am accused of not making true progress or of just entertaining my ego. I have tried the various cults and found them lacking.

Is my path ego entertainment or Self directed? Results will tell, but maybe not in this life.

My main reflective interest is the power within me which drives the endurance. Who is it? From whence does it come? I love it.