Sticks N’ Stones….And a Bridge!

I’ve been writing bits and pieces of this for over a week now.

Its hard to express everything and give you all a full feeling for this event. For the emotions high and low and to Express the gratitude I have for everyone that I encountered that day.

You need to really understand that Jeff and Heather are remarkable. They are encouraging, inclusive and down right enablers. They are whole heartedly invested in each and every participant. They are runners themselves and they put on one hell of an event!! Like none other. If you are new to or experienced in trail running and you are looking for the next adventure…press register on Happy Trails Racing…you wont regret it.

I first met Heather and Jeff at Tally and they made me feel like family right off the hop.

I’m not even sure how I ended up saying yes to 50k at Sticks n’ Stones but I’m certain its Jeff’s fault.

I had zero plans on running 50k…ZERO. You see I dont even consider myself a legit runner and I waiver at my abilities on good days so I can only assume I was caught off guard and was drunk or something.

I think the sweater was the final straw! It’s a hoodie people and its gorgeous and feels so soft 🀣

Dont get me wrong I had intended on participating . However the thought was I’d be running 2 loops of the course as part of a relay. I had registered a relay long ago… even before I had a team! Once I registered the team I asked the Running Rarebits group if anyone was interested in being on my team. Well that was easy. I had 5 takers within a week. All 5 paid me and sent me their information before I even did the math….

50k. Relay team of upto 5 runners. 2 loops each. Means each runner gets 10k in. So I was really excited me and my 5 teammates would have a blast running….hold the fucking phone….. Sandi you have 5 people on the team AND yourself (insert palm slap to forehead πŸ‘€) that’s 1 too many. Yeah….that’s how it happened. I needed to rethink this out. So I reached out to Jeff ( the enabler) and asked how sticky his cut off of 8 hours and 6 seconds was. Annnnd yep..there it was I was going to participating in the 50k. If I finished that would mean I would be a 2 time Ultramarathoner. For a girl that told herself in January she wasnt doing anything longer than the Waterloo Ed Whitlock half marathon….she sure did seem to be on a roll.

It truly is because of FOMO… lol and the fact that I enjoy the trails and I like to push myself and I’ve got some naysayers to prove wrong. It’s also good for my mental well being. Sounds weird but sometimes doing things we think we aren’t capable of is the exact prescription. And to support Jeff and Heather via Happy Trails Racing. And the sweater…the hoodie… its golden.

The weekend before I ran Run for the Toad and was on a #rarebits relay team. I pushed myself hard on course and it felt amazing! I was actually feeling pretty good coming into Sticks n’ Stones.

Leading up to Saturday we had a few messenger chats about how we were getting there…who was picking up who and what time.

It was planned and Mintz was coming to pick me up at 640 am.

What does one do the night before a 50k…. well one shouldn’t go Oktoberfesting… but one well 2 did.

It’s all good… home and in bed by 11pm.

Up without a problem and ready to go before the sun came up. It was a mild night for me πŸ˜‰

It wasnt a pretty bad that’s forsure. It was weather messy and as Jeff said one of the sections was kinda like a creek.

We rarebits know how to stand out. Derek had a tent, table and chairs a whole damn crew pit! Amazing! It would prove to be beyond helpful during the day.

I found Karyn… shes a superstar. Already an Ultramarathoner 2 times over she was searching for a goal and had been training hard on this course in preparation. Shes smart!

Start line chaos had me running back to grab my ankle timer and back in time to head off.

Lots of rarebits in one shot here.

Started with Steven 😁…he would lap me a few times later lol

I have this magical way of getting sucked into my excitement each and every time I start off.

Who did I think I was running a slightly over 32 mins 5.3k loop number 1?? COME ON SANDI…reign it in now!!

But I got to share the trail with Karyn.

The happy smiles of 1 of 10 laps.

All smiles here…but let me set the scene for you. Go back 2.8k as I rounded a Bush on my right and instantly threw on the breaks. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK!! Who the hell puts a bridge in a race. Not an over a creek bridge but a Dam bridge. A gushy sound to my left and full on water to my right. A long ass bridge in the middle… like literally the middle of the race. Jeff…. I cursed you at that moment and cried. I was out. Peace out.. I tap. Nope cant do this. I gingerly started onto that horrible asshole of a bridge thinking you can do this just go slowly. Oh screw that I ran ! I ran fast and swore and cried and said it wasnt happening. I COULD NOT do that 9 more times!! As I write this now I think back and shutter. It’s an amazing thing anxiety is…. It’s all consuming and messes with you mind and body. I knew the exact spot of that god damn bridge every loop. I knew nothing else about where I was on course except for where the bridge was and once I hit the wash out part on the trail I knew the finish/start line was close.

Each time I hit that bridge I was overcome… why thank you anxiety how nice of you to show up!

Lap 2…I held Jens hand for a bit on that bridge. Lap 3 I was focused on Dave’s voice. Sorry Dave I actually have no idea what we talked about but I know you talked me through that lap. Lap 4 I tucked myself right up some poor guys arse. I was like a god damn backpack to this poor guy. Sorry fella. Lap 5 I side by sided that horrible thing with some other runner. A much faster than me runner but that didnt matter I was determined that if I should slip and fall over the bridge (which I clearly know was not possible…but ol anxiety made me think otherwise then) my bridge partner would save me. I was exhausted after that. I didn’t want to see that bridge again. Lap 6…. I was alone. Just the bridge and me…in the fog. You know what….the fog was a blessing because I couldn’t see the water!! I ran that bridge like no ones business and I chanted to myself the whole 5 seconds it takes to cross the bridge. Lap 7 I had found an Instagram friend!! We crossed the bridge together and Sasha made me laugh. The first time I didn’t chant myself across that son of a bitch.! Sasha really helped me that whole loop. She was 1 full loop ahead of me but she refused to leave me behind. She insisted on sticking with me that lap. She was amazing. Hurting herself she kept my spirits up and encouraged me the entire loop. Lord have mercy thank you Sasha. Lap 8 I found myself alone again..just me and my tears crossed that bridge. My insane fears hoping all around me making me think all the horrible things I hate about bridges…. but I crossed it and no one even knows how loud my snot cry was because I was alone. On the 9th lap I had Veronica with me. We did the entire lap together. She was running my rarebits teams last lap. She kicked ass out there! Guess what … the bridge… not horrendous because I stared at Veronica’s feet the whole time we ran across it. She was a source of enthusiasm energy and encouragement. She kept me out of my own way and got me to that wash out area before going ahead to let my peeps know I was coming in for my last loop.

Rachael…… I had Rachael for my last lap. I could never do this justice…. I cant put emotion into “paper” to explain how I felt about this. Rachael had finished her 50k and she did one more lap with me. She got to hear my “I hate everything” side. She got to witness tears and she got me over the bridge one last time ….she even screamed it with me…”fuck you bridge!!” Yeah we did!! To be fair we said fuck you to everything. All the hills , the rain, the orange marker signs, the kilometer markers, the puddles, the mud but mostly the bridge. Rachael even had to help me when I fell. Damn it all….I fell…. full on right in the mud.

^^ actual image of me (Sandi SWAN) in the mud 🀣 on that last loop.

Other than the bridge ( which was incredibly retarded {I know that’s a really disgusting word and I’m very sorry…its how I feel about that bridge} and deserved every bad word I called it) the course was wonderful. The day had some weather mishaps and that caused some footing issues but it’s a very good course.

I even took in the beauty of it a time or two while out there. One time in mid conversation with Dave I stopped and insisted he look to our right. It was right on after the turn on the first road section of the loop. There was an opening and it was like looking out a window into the forest. Beautiful.

I had lots of time on that course and spent time with different folks. I encouraged everyone I saw out there. Loop courses are great for that! During the 50k we ran with people doing 25k, 10k and 5k. Many other runners looked fresh and fast….I’m hoping like hell they were doing a shorter distance but kudos to them for being so strong regardless!

Dave was fun to chat with during our loops together. A fellow JP’sTeam member we talked about many different things. Thanks for sharing the trails Dave.

Every single time I crossed a lap off Heather was at the timing mat cheering me on. She is incredible. Cheering me (and nearly everybody) on by name πŸ’–.

When I finished my 7th I felt done. There was a heavy feeling in my chest a feeling of failure. I was standing at the aid station in a fog and Jeff asked me “what do you need” ” how are you” . My response was ” I cant do it”. His reply “Yes you can”. Plain and simple….yes YOU can.

Yes I can. I can.

Shannon walked me to the grassy section and was true heart. Gentle. Shannon was kind and encouraging.

It was on this loop I met up with Rachael. During our chatter I told her when I got back I was changing my shoes. I was done with how my feet felt. I was done plain and simple 🀣. I think I hate running. Rachael had run with Chris for his last lap and told me she would finish up and run my last lap with me. What?? She was going to run 50k (actually 53k) and then come back out for 5 more kilometers. Oh my word 😍. This girl is beyond words.

When I pulled up to the line I did so to a pit crew. Picture the movie Cars. Lightening McQueen coming in and there is the crew all ready. Red Chair, my shoes, new socks, gels, 2 water bottles filled with Gatorade and water and all the rarebits. Uuuuummmmm yeah…πŸ’– super stars. How do I deserve them? Rachael had planted the seed and this group of bits stepped up.

This was the loop I was lucky to have Veronica run with me. She kept me out of my head. We had some fast sections and some super muddy therefore slow sections. We weaved our way through that lap happily chatting and before I knew it we had crossed the wash out. Veronica went ahead to finish and prepare Rachael.

When I rolled in Heather ( still at the finish line cheering) said “We’ll be here for you Sandi”

That last loop. Oh that last loop. The one that had some dark moments and some laughter. The tears and all the verbal diarrhea. Thank you Rachael. You didn’t let me wallow. You pulled me up and pulled me through. That lap would have been nothing but all the self trashing if not for Rachael. She pulled me up. I told her through held back tears I felt like a fake runner. She was a star in my dark thoughts. We screamed together at the bridge and hills. She didnt laugh when I fell and made the “womp ” sound. She helped me. Literally covered in stinky mud I said “oh man…people pay good money for mud bathes “. Other than the pain in my arm I took it in great stride. I will say that its Dave’s fault though lol. When we were on lap 3 he said “If I haven’t fallen by the last loop I’m going to jump in the mud on purpose “…. it was my last lap afterall hahaha. It hurt but whats a trail run without a trailkiss right…

Looks likeπŸ’© I know!!

Past the wash out… right onto the grassy section…. past the pavillion and picnic benches and there is Heather to meet me before the dip and slight incline to my finish.

Shes a cutie pie. She told me the timing mats were down but that Id be getting a finish time. I let her know I hate bridges. I also told her that i did get the 50k in under the cut off time lol. The route was 53k afterall. Lol. I felt like I needed to justify my slowness…. she was so kind and encouraging.

So with Rachael and Heather by my side I started to run at the dip down and then I heard the cheers and then I saw them….

I cant describe the feeling properly. I cant put into words how my insides felt. I can tell you I started to cry instantly when I saw that human arch finish line.

I was the last to finish but I 110% had the winning finish line.

My heart was full and my bucket run over…

Nothing beats this feeling.

Sweaty hugs. Heather even got my ear/hair sweat 😝.

Thank you to the volunteers and aid station crew.

Thank you to Heather Jeff and the kids.

Thank you rarebits ❀

I haven’t yet retired Jeff ….there’s always tomorrow πŸ˜‰

Derek that was the best shot of whiskey I’ve ever had!

Nick…. your words at the end…when You thanked Me…πŸ’“

#HappyTrailsRacing #SticksnStones #Community #RunningSucks #SorryforSwearingInFrontOfYourkidsHeather #RachaelYouInspireMe #Mud #whoputsabridgeinarace #ItWasactually53K #Friends #YouDontHaveToBeFastYouJustNeedToBeFun #ChristyLakeConservation #TrailKisses #ReallyABridge #FakeRunnerRunning #PoweredByRarebitsCheers #BestPitCrew #NothingBeatsAWhiskeyShotFinish #WhenYourFriendThanksYouForYourGritandDetermination #YouLookGreatinRed #IFell #IFeltTheHumidityAfterwards #RetiringLooksGood #MostWinningFinishLine #TheRunninRarebits

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