Oh my goodness...jump and then run a 50k! Okay, I think I'll do that!
Runners ready?? Start your watch and climb aboard the airplane for the ride up to 13,500 feet where you will leap out of a moving plane to begin your run. The 120 mph, 2 mile (approx 10k feet) free-fall will last 50 seconds before you pull the parachute on your tandem skydive and quietly and calmly float (3,000 feet) back down to the safety of earth. Upon landing you will immediately climb out of your parachute and begin running to complete the world's first ever "Skydiving Ultra"!
Although I tried not to even think about the jumping part of this race, as the day approached, my time to think about it was coming to and end and the doing it was getting real. Tick tock goes the clock, and before I know it, it's Friday and I'm driving to Clewiston, Florida. Even on the drive, I still didn't think much about the jump or run and that's just the way I like it. However, my family thought about it much more about it than I did...poor things, they worry about me far more than I worry about me :)
Arrived in Clewiston Friday afternoon, met a friend at the Skydive Ultra start and finish, checked into hotel and then went to the Tiki Hut to check in for the race. The start and finish is very, very close to the small airport where we will be skydiving - what a perfect place for a jump and run. It's flat and beautiful! I still haven't really given the skydiving part much thought and when I have thought about it, the thoughts provided me with the smallest amount of angst. One of my dear friends made shirts for us to wear. They were lime green (lymphoma color), had a tortoise with a parachute on the back and my mantra of "Choose Joy" on the sleeves. When she showed these to me Friday night, I was speechless and almost brought to my knees with adoration for the heart and sould she put into these shirts. I have the most amazing friends! AMAZING! So very thoughful and so very significant to me. My two other friends finally arrive and one is jumping and running and the other is crewing for us.
When we arrive to check in for the run, there was so much energy and electricity in the air. Many runners and it looked like the running group took up almost half of the restaurant. So much excitement, nerves, tension, and joy all rolled into one. We met several runners and sat down at a table and ordered dinner. We all introduced ourselves and quickly started talking about running and if we have shared any runs together (and we did by the way). The trail/ultra running community is just like extended family. There has never been an event that I have gone to where I felt like I wasn't sitting down with lifelong friends, it's very comforting knowing that no matter what happens on the trails, there will be someone there to lift you up (figuratively and literally). The bond that occurs during these races is unbreakable. Anyhooo...fast forward to Saturday morning, JUMP and RUN time.
When we arrived in the parking lot (we stayed in the Clewiston Inn and did not camp), the 100 milers were dropping from the sky. As Eric, the RD states, "the plane is pooping" and he is 100% correct. As the jumpers come out of the plan, it really looks like the plane is pooping jumpers. Ack...they are up pretty darn high and it finally sinks in that I will be doing that soon!
This race was so well organized and every detail was accounted for. The RD sent out several emails before the race and provided specific instruction for both the jump and the run, he answered every question and made it so easy. There was also an awesome DJ at the race, so fantastic and motivating to hear the music and any announcements during the day.
We heard the call for the 50k'ers to check in at the hangar and I quickly realize that this is getting real! We go to check in and with such great surprise, my friend who was only there for support and give us what we needed decided, at the very last minute, that she would jump with us only if we could all be on the same plane! This actually made me cry a little. I was so excited and it has really been an emotional past few months, so when she committed, it just blew me away. Tears of joy and screaming at the Manifest! Love her for doing this by the way! I now have four of my friends jumping and we are on the same plane! We are having such a good time and we meet our tandem instructors. I think the Skydive folks thought we were a bit crazy, but we laughed and joked and got serious when we needed to. We get fitted for our flight suits and step into our harnesses. Still laughing and having a great time. Our skydive instructors are fantastic and are laughing and joking with us. Such great energy. I truly believe that you attract people that have similar interests and energy. Only positive vibes coming from us and the excitement is building as our names get closer to the top of the board. Our instructors check in with us several times and provide great instruction. The one friend who signed up to jump at the last minute appears to have reservations, but she's marching on with it. We are escatic that we will all be together on our first jump!
To make a long story shorter...we are on the plane and continue to be excited about what's about to happen. We all can't wait and I start to get the itch to get this going so I can run...as we board, I realize that I'm last for my group, which only means that I go first! The tandem instructor (who was top notch and the best) conducts a final check and we scoot forward. Before I know it I am out the door and I'm FLYING!!!! Once my mind and my body synched, it was the most fabulous experience I have every had. The free fall, the turning, the opening of the chute, the sights, sounds, smells, all of it - was fantastic! I can't put into words what a wonderful and life changing experience it was. From the opening of the door on the plane to the landing in the drop zone, it was all fantastic. As soon as I landed, I knew that I wanted to go again, but I first had a 50k to run!
My other friends landed and once we all screamed and hugged, we immediately decided that if we could, we would do it again before we left Clewiston. Once we gathered our gear and purchased our next jump tickets, I couldn't wait to thank the RD for this life changing experience. Poor guy, probably thought I was some crazy lady wanting to hug him and thank him for all he did!
We ran to our cars, changed into our running shoes, put our timing chips on and off we went. The course is almost a lollipop, figure 8, a little more than 4 miles on each side where at the end of every 4 or so miles, you are back to the main aid station and parking lot. We used our cars as our personal aid station and had help from several awesome people. While this run is flat, there is also no cover, and for much of the time, we are running in sugar cane fields. I thought it was beautiful and I loved every stinking second of it! I was always looking in the irrigation ditches for gators, but didn't see any. I did run OVER, yes, OVER a water moccasin and did the screaming snake dance for about 3 minutes. Still makes me giggle - you had to be there. I love running and especially love running with people that share the same passion as I do. Can't describe it.
I also love running races where there are loops because it allows you to see everyone (yes, I love many things), the 100 milers to the 10k runners. It was fantastic watching and cheering everyone on. I make it my purpose to always cheer on fellow runners, no matter what. They don't have to respond or say anything back, I know they've heard it and that's all that counts. Just another reason why I love this community! Love, love, love the ultra runners and trail runners! This race was fantastic, everything was taken care of and, while I am not opposed to porta potties or the woods, this race had real restrooms! After the race, we were able to relax and cheer on the other runners. I was also able to do a little planning for my 100 miler in March. Again, I am so very thankful and grateful for all my friends and what they do for me. They are unbelievably supportive and I am continually humbled by their actions.
I am in awe of all the runners and so proud of each and every one who is able to not only have the courage to start, but also finish their desired distance! I met so many beautiful and wonderful people during this weekend! Oh and by the way, we ended up jumping three more times on Sunday! YES, you are reading that right, THREE MORE TIMES! LOVE IT and everyone needs to do this at least twice! Twice because the first time you aren't really aware of the beauty that surrounds you and the second time you are so much more aware of your surroundings and what a beautiful world we live in. My goal for the race next year is to jump solo! :)
The Sky is Not the Limit
The smell of fresh air
The sound of the wind
The sun reflecting off the wing
The sound of nervous laughter
The excitement is building
The whoosh of the door
The wind rushing in
The waddle to jump
The trust, the fear, the unknown
The moment you jump, the exhilaration
The freefall, the wind in your face
The beauty, the curvature of the earth
The clouds feel like dew drops
The sun in all its splendor
The mind and soul are at peace
The slight tug of the harness when the canopy opens
The feeling of weightlessness
The floating like a feather to the ground
The beauty of the world
~ Susie Q
Yours in running, health and joy,
Susie Q, xoxo
Last weekend I drove 800+ miles to run the Bear Bait 50k with awesome people. People I met on another trail run - the Georgia Jewel. I love my trial peeps by the way :) During my drive time, I was able to reflect on many things. Life, family, friends, my health and all the good things going on. My ramblings below.
I'm focused on celebrating each day, I am focused on relationships with only the most important people in my life, the people that share my love of the little things, my love of life, and my love of the trails.
I know that life can change in an instant, I know that sometimes it can suck and sometimes it and be hard. BUT...I also KNOW that how I deal with it determines the outcome. It's really quite simple.
I have no time or energy for people who are cynical, unhappy, jealous, those who pass judgement, gossip, or compare themselves to others. I have learned that I don't want to waste one second of my time with people who wouldn't help an injured soul, or those who don't make me smile, or those who are not happy, who don't love animals, or who wouldn't buy a newspaper from the guy on the corner or give a dollar or two to that person if they had an extra in their pocket.
I have learned that I have plenty of time for people who love life, accept everyone for who they are, who love to smile, to laugh, choose joy, and for people who are kind, love animals, are courageous, grateful and gracious. Plenty of time for those who love to watch a sunrise and a sun set on the sea, in the mountains, on the trail, or in a meadow. So much time for those who encourage, cheer, and motivate. So much time for those who are working to make themselves better and not bitter.
I have learned that somewhere along the way my little cancer diagnosis made me see things so much more clearly. I am thankful for that. Yes, thankful. The time I spend with my family is about quality, not quantity. There are many who simply don't understand why I spend hours on the trails and/or road without my family. The folks that don't understand "the why" also don't understand our family unit, they don't understand that our clan "gets each other"; we know what each other needs and we work toward making that happen. We all have our "thing" and we make it happen. It's that simple. I can promise you, that when you (and I hope you don't) have to tell your husband and child you have cancer, it freaking changes your life, changes everything, every thought, and every aspect of your family dynamic, it changes who you are. We are so much closer, tighter, and live so much more than we have ever lived. We love to see each other smile, laugh and enjoy life. It's funny and odd, but I have heard this from many people who were diagnosed with cancer or had a similar journey. Why did it take something like that to change our lives? Life is about the journey.
See? It's really that simple. Simple.
The picture below shows the beautiful reflections on Bear Lake also home of the Bear Bait Ultras.
Yours in running, health and joy,
Yes, I'm very late in writing about this race, so punish me and make me run it again next year! :)
In December I ran the Caloosahatchee 50k, I registered for this race without knowing anything about it. I just knew that I wanted/needed to run an ultra in early December. Just so happens, while volunteering at the John Holmes race in October, I met the RD of this race and instantly knew this was going to be awesome. The first two sentences on Ultrasignup.com states, "Some runners will tell you it's the toughest 50k in the Sunshine State! Who is up for the challenge?" So, that sounds a little scary, but so exciting at the same time. My husband and daughter decide to stay home and a friend of mine, who hasn't run an ultra yet, decides to come with me and make this her first ultra. I'm honored that she choose to run her first ultra with me.
In order to get a good parking spot, we arrive at the race site early on race day. I'm pretty stoked to run this race. It's pretty humid and I have no real idea what the course is like. We meet some awesome folks at the beginning of the race and we are off. The trail starts in what looks like a prairie dog field...field of beautiful long grass and many mounds to run up and down. I was given the advice to hike up and down the mounds and not try to run them. This section of the trail was fun and it reminded me of running through fields when I was a kid. As the race dragged on, it became known as the "safari' but is really called "Sunburn Meadow". No cover, beautiful long grass, few palms and beautiful mounds. We exit the safari section and enter the MBT. Someone told me they were black diamond MBTs and I had no idea what to expect. I only knew what black diamond ski trails looked like so in my mind, I think I knew what was expected. My friend and I started running with an awesome runner, who has obviously run these trails before. He was funny, enlightening and very, very helpful for the first few miles. We ran up, down, up, down, around, under, between, beside, etc. It was freaking awesome. I find that when I run looped trails (this one is a little more than a 10 mile loop), the first loop is one of discovery. I am always in awe of its beauty and can't wait to see what I find on the second loop. For me, there is nothing, I mean nothing, like running on the trails and pushing myself. As we move out and enter Wrots O' Ruts section, we kind of knew what to expect...awesome stuff. After that section we make it to the fantastic Aid Station. It's December, it's hot in Florida and we see signs that say "Let It Snow", etc., beautiful and ironic. We come to love seeing these signs because we knew that when we see them, the AS was close by.
Have I told you how beautiful this trail is? It's gorgeous! The AS volunteers are wonderful and send us on our way. We leave the AS and head to Technoville and the Far East sections of the trail. We meet some great peeps along the way and are amazed at how hard this trail is - it's not what we expected, but in the very best way. We don't know what to expect on this trail and don't wan't to exert too much because we know it's going to be a hot and humid day. I don't take my trail running too seriously, in fact, I no longer take much in life too seriously, I just want to have fun and meet the cut off. We are having a great time, laughing, joking, telling stories and just trying to make sure we navigate appropriately while staying vertical.
Someone told us about some of the things we would see along the way. As we were immediately coming down a hill that was around a slight curve, there stood...ready for this? A freaking panther with yellow eyes, just staring at us! Not kidding one bit. Funny how many things run through your mind in a split second. Once it registered that it was a ceramic panther, I had already thought I would be shredded to pieces. We stopped and laughed and laughed and laughed. Un-freaking-believably funny! I loved that this panther was so strategically placed. We decided that now that we know where the panther is, we would get our pictures with the panther on the second loop.
We run into an area that was full of gorgeous trees that we losing their leaves. There were so many beautiful orange, light brown, scarlet and yellow leaves covering the ground, it look like a carpet. The sun was rising and hitting the leaves in such a manner that they sparkled. I tried to capture a picture, but the photo didn't do it justice. Up and down and up and down we go, where we stop, nobody knows. As we progress through the trails, I quickly realize how I underestimated this event. I really had no idea how difficult it was going to be. We know there is an aid station coming soon and look forward to seeing the awesome AS volunteers. Soon we run upon a winter sign "Let It Snow" and we rejoice. It's only a few yards and we run into the AS. If you ask me what makes a race fun and what makes a runner coming back, it's the aid stations. A fully stocked, well manned, positive flow aid station, can and will, make the difference on a long run. You meet the most fabulous people during these runs and build a bond that's hard to describe.
I snack on boiled potatoes (my new favorite during ultras), chips, get to the port-a-potty and water at the AS. Off we go. We run along "Calcutta Ridge" for a short period and the beauty of this trail continues to amaze me and as we run along a bit of water, I am on the lookout for any gators - but don't see any, I think our running scared them away. Running along the ridge, towards the end, you can start to hear people and see a few cars through the trees. I'm thinking --- woo to my hoo --- we've almost completed one lap and we can restock water and get moving. The ridge ends and smack dab in the middle of the trail are these two or three (can't remember) MOUNDS that are about 8-10 feet tall. The trail is marked with orange flags so we know that it is expected we run up and down the monster mounds. We do and it makes me feel like a kid again - and it gets tougher and tougher to get up and down these mounds as the race progresses.
We continue this obstacle course two more times (this race is three loops). For races that are loops, and of course, depending on the distance and the number of loops, the first one is filled of excitement and wonder. The second loop is one where I like to take pictures and for this race, the third loop is the "let's get this done" loop.
Fast forward...we are in our running groove, love the trail and it's starting to get a warmer. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. We run through the first 1/2 of the next loop and we know the panther is coming...heck we ran into it last time...so we know where it is and we are fully expecting it. Except we're not...we run down the little hill and turn the corner --- bam! smack dab into the panther --- yep, same reaction as last time, screams, followed by hysterical laughing. I think they need to have a hidden camera on that section of the trail next year. I am sure the photos would be priceless. As soon as we get a good photo with the panther, we quickly state that on the next loop, we will surely NOT be surprised by this panther. Except, we're not. The third time was the funniest! We run down the hill and smack dab AGAIN, right into the panther. I started screaming and shaming the panther. Pointing my finger at it...and yelling at the dang thing. We only have a few miles left and I guarantee you that this laughter provided us with the momentum to just keep going. In fact, as I write this two months later, I am still laughing so much, I am sweating. Good times for sure.
This was a phenomenal race. The race directors have thought of everything you will need and even thought of things you think you won't need, but will. The trails were well marked and the aid stations were manned by runners, for runners. Fabulous people coming together for a single event is what makes ultra running so much fun. I often wonder if it is the people, the trails or both that keeps me coming back. wonderful and have planned everything perfectly. I LOVE THIS RACE and in fact, have already signed up for the next one in December 2015! Check it out for yourself. Again, if you are looking for a race that is run well and where the RDs have thought all your needs, this is the one. They even placed a case of water on the trails for us when the sun rose higher in the sky! I mean, who does that? RDs that are runners and get it...truly get it. Thanks to all the volunteers and all the time and effort put into this race ~ y'all are phenomenal and thank you for making this such a great experience!
P.S. The more I push my body, the more I love it. The more I push my mind, the more I love it. I believe, truly believe, that how I choose to live my life (running, family, friends) and how I perceive, believe, and think, will have a huge impact on my health. In fact, I am so convinced of that, that I plan to continue to run ultras so I can prove to myself that my theory is true.
P.P.S. Watch out for Florida Panthers...you never know when you may run into one!
Yours in running, health and joy,
This post is about the little "c". cancer. There, I've said it. It's funny you know? But not really funny. People are afraid to say the "c" word, I get it. I used to be one of those people. I was afraid to say cancer. See, I've said it again. It's okay. Don't be afraid to ask me about it, don't be afraid to approach me, it's okay.
My next ultra is about 5 weeks away in North Georgia. This means there are very big hills, mountains to overcome. To say I'm a bit nervous and scared is an understatement. I have been so tired lately so I haven't been training as much as I'd like.
Had a great 15 mile trail run yesterday, felt good, but so slow. Did two face plants, one because we started in the dark and I didn't see the stump waiting for me to fall over. The other was simply because I wasn't paying attention and tripped over a root lip.
My runs are therapeutic and soul cleansing, I wasn't mentally ready to stop, but I was done - I was frustrated I planted face down and pissed off that my training isn't where I want it to be.
I won't stop. Keep going until I can't any longer.
Yours in running, health and joy,
My diagnosis date was 6/24/14 - the day I had an excisional biopsy of a lymph node in my groin. A day like any other day. My husband and 13 year old daughter came with me to St. Joe's while I was put in the good hands of the surgeon. I've run two ultras this year, several trails runs, a marathon and a few half-marathons and am training for a few ultras in the upcoming 6 - 9 months. So I do run a lot. My surgeon told me that the enlarged lymph nodes were most likely from my running, in fact, in my pre-op appointment he didn't necessarily agree that I needed to have an excisional biopsy.
Fast forward two weeks - July 8, I had to go back to the surgeon so he could make sure the site was healing well and get any test results. The only anxiety I had was if he asked me if I had been running - of course I have (and I should not have). I was brought back into the exam room and heard him coming down the hall. He walks in, doesn't look me in the eye and states, "doesn't look good". I'm thinking what the f*ck did he just say? I may even had said that. He said the biopsy results came back positive for Lymphoma. I asked him for details, details, details and he couldn't really give me any more than that. There is an aggressive and non-aggressive form but he thinks more tests will need to be done to determine. He also stated that it was not a diagnosis he would want his wife to have - no joke. I felt like I couldn't breathe and certainly couldn't wait to get the hell out of that office. Checked out and practically ran to my car to call my husband.
Call to hubster went something like this, "hi babe, I'm done at the doctors. Am I on speaker phone? okay, good. Are you sitting down? I have B-Cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma" Dead Silence....I may have even heard crickets....I've never really been one to mince words and prefer to just get it out there. My poor baby, I'm sure I just rocked his world in a way we never meant to. Once it soaked in, he was upbeat, positive, and supportive beyond measure. Our family's mantra from day one - you've got this, we'll beat this! You ran 50 miles without complaining once...you can do this! Yes, no doubts ever!
I will beat this, it's just another run I am training for - except it's a run for my life.
After my husband and I talked for a while, I needed to figure out how to tell our daughter. He stated he would tell her, but I was adamant, it's got to come from me and I get to choose who I tell and who I don't tell. My next appointment was with the oncologist one week later (July 8) so I decided to wait to tell her after that appointment. .
Carry on...it's just cancer, seriously!
~ Susie Q, xoxo