Saturday, August 20, 2011

Powderface 42

Ok so I'm a little behind schedule on my blogging. It's already the day before Trans Rockies and I'm still not caught up from Powderface, which was mid July.

So I'll back up a little bit.
My last official event was Powderface 42. I didn't race it but I had promised a team of people that I would be there that day with them and that I would run with the slowest person, no matter how slow.

While there was initially about 30 people signed up for the “Nothing is Impossible Powderface Marathon” group last October, standing on the start line there were only four. Kyla, my dad, and Jen and Ed. And, just as amazing, there were three others who would stand on the start line for the half marathon a couple hours later. And believe me, the half marathon is pretty crazy too. Not your typical 21k around flat city streets. All of these individuals blew me away with the dedication they showed to training and not giving up, especially when they got hold of the course profile and realized what they had been (tricked) into. :)

For those who don’t know, Powderface is an absolutely grueling 44km race through the mountains just outside of Calgary. The course has a total elevation gain of 2070 meters with a significant climb of approximately 500 meters over Powderface Pass at the mid point.

I ran powderface last year in preparation for the Trans Rockies Run. It was one of my first trail marathons. I got some kind of stomach issue part way through and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped but still placed second, with a time over five hours. So when you compare that with my marathon time that is closer to three hours, you get an idea of what the course is like.

My promise to my team was that I would run with the slowest person. As it turned out, that was going to be my dad. One of my best friends, Kyla, stayed with us for about the first 5k and then trotted ahead, making it look effortless. A word on Kyla: she is one of those naturally beautiful women that all the guys drooled over in high school, who just doesn’t ever seem to get how amazing she is. And she never complains and is always positive. She’s got this way of breezing through life with seeming grace and ease. As a mother and wife she has always been one of my role models.
Kyla ended up finishing the day in just under 7 hours. Absolutely incredible for someone who really only took up running in January. I don’t think I heard her whine for even a second when it was over.

So there we were. Just Dad and I running along. My sister and I tease him a little bit because he is usually sorta grumpy for the first 30 minutes or so of every run, as are many of us as we work out the kinks and catch our second wind. There are some pretty good climbs within a few km of the course and dad is already apologizing for holding me back. I keep telling him that I want to and am prepared to be there with him and that I’m not leaving. He smiles and pushes on.

It’s only after the first 5k or so, as we’re running along a flat section through the fresh morning air that out of nowhere my dad says “My brother visited this morning.” “Really?” I ask, waiting for him to tell me the rest of the story as my dad’s brother Ted died of cancer nearly 20 years ago. “What did he say?”. “He said he was proud of me and that I was going to do great.”

I’d call my dad a pretty spiritual guy but this really threw me. He rarely talks about his brother and certainly never talks about anything like that so I know this day is significant to my dad. Really significant. And if you knew my father, you’d know how incredible it is that he actually finished this race. I won’t go into all the details of my family history but suffice it to say that dad and I both have fairly strong heads and have had our share of battles over the years so it meant a lot to me and I think to him that we were doing this together. And it’s been amazing to share my love of running with my father, to chat shoes with him, or water packs, or fueling for the race. It’s really brought us closer together and I think given him a window into my world and what I love to do.

The day was long. Dad did incredibly well despite my continual lies of “the top is just around the corner!”. There were a few stations that we almost didn’t make the cut off for. And he was tired and sore. This is a 58 year old man who admittedly has about 15 pounds to lose but is strong like a bear. And once he decides to do something, he is relentless and tenacious.
And I have to say, the best part of the day was the last 5k. We were right near the back of the group. I jokingly tell Dad that I think he should try to pass just one more person. It's a mental game I use sometimes just to keep me moving at the end of a hard race.
Dad's initial response is "no way, I can't. that guy didn't even finish this year, I can't pass him!". But a few minutes later, dad starts racing for the barn. I'm not kidding. I think he was running 9minute miles. "Bad form dad, you can't drop the person who's stuck with you all day and try to beat her right at the end of the race!". But he didn't stop. My sister pops out of the bushes a few minutes later, having already completed the half marathon, and we both get tears in our eyes. Dad doesn't even slow down. He just flies. All the way. All the way to the end where, I go to grab his hand to cross the line with him, a moment I've been visualizing all day, and to this day I'm still not sure that he didn't shake it away from embarrassment. ;). And even though the awards were over, we had a whole crew of people there to cheer for us, including my good friend Jennifer who had driven all the way up from Lethbridge for the weekend, just to be there to watch Kyla and I do it and to spend the weekend with us. A true friend. And others who could have left, but waited there for us to finish. Thank you.

I can't even begin to express how I felt crossing the line with my dad that day. It was over 8 hours of running, 44km. It's a lot of time to spend with your father, especially at the mercy of his blood sugar. :) Come on dad, you know what I mean. Running with someone through pain and through low blood sugar and blisters and muscle aches, and cramping can bring you pretty close. It is a gift that my father has given me that I will be forever grateful for. Not many people can say that they challenged their father, at 58 years old to not only start running but then to take on one of the craziest marathons out there. Powderface is not an easy race by anyone's standards. But dad said he would do it and he didn't back out. He kept his word, he didn't whine. Dad you have inspired so many people to get out and run. Thank you from all of us.

Kyla: we only got to run together for the first few kilometers but as usual, you blow me away. You are a mother of two, and only really started running in January. And on top of that, you had to do most of your training at the local gym on the treadmill because that is where you had childcare! And you finished in an incredible time! And of course, when I asked you how you felt, your response was the par for the course for Kyla: "it felt great!". Kind of like when we asked you how the birth of your children went. Oh it was fine!... I'm not sure if you have some extremely high tolerance for pain or if you're just not a complainer. I think it's probably a combination of both.

Jessie and Steve- both of you. Wow. You have a one year old daughter and both have crazy busy jobs and your own businesses. It meant so much to me that you trained and still showed up to run the half.

Geneva- you've had quite the year. Busy engineer, lots going on in your personal world and even an injury the week before ... yet you still showed up on the line.

Jen and Ed - I can't say that you two don't already kick ass at running because I'm sure you'll be on the podium this year at TR. But your love for running, for each other and for life really shines. You're always smiling, always positive and always enthusiastic.

To all of you: I hope you proved to yourselves that nothing is impossible. I hope you realize what you took on and accomplished. I hope that you can carry that to anything you chose to tackle in life and can look back and say "If I can run that kind of race, nothing is impossible". I hope you keep running and setting new goals, and continue to reach for your dreams. Thank you for giving me new inspiration!

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