Running up, over and through the cogs

Posts tagged “Mohican Trail 100

Busting Quads, Skulls and Silence in 2017

14570409_1196042070441850_2652756153731223331_n

Oh my god let me check Facebook again. And again. And Instagram. And my blog ohmergerd. And my YouFace my FingerTag my Ramma-lamma-ding-dong.

One of my goals of 2016 was to stop spending so much time on social media and to start listening more to the actual, physical human beings around me. The result was expanding business as well as expanding mind. I learned to be a better listener, better partner, better trainer. Quieting the noise and finding solace in silence made me a better person.

It also made me a lot busier than before. Working as much as I have been, I wasn’t able to run as many races, and when I did run, I found it harder to etch out time to write about my experiences. I had an epic Mohican 100 finish, an all-day slopfest of fun with my wife at the Evergreen Lake 51 Miler and an over-the-top, joyous Chicago Marathon; but with such little free time from work, sitting down to write out my usual play-by-play of events seemed as daunting as it did tiring.

In addition to that, my yearlong semi-aversion from social media also led me to be more reserved about how much I cried out to the world about my racing and boxing experiences. In the past, I held back nothing in describing them, offering an open door to my soul with zero reservations. Surely there is value in that. I enjoy it. My readers enjoy it. Knowing that others benefit from reading my experiences is indeed satisfying. It’s exactly what I set out to do with this blog from the beginning. And that’s awesome!

Right now though I am enjoying a renaissance in reflecting my thoughts inward. I feel like when the time comes for me to shout out to the world once again, I will definitely know and I will be unable to hold back.

Considering what is on the schedule for this year in 2017, I expect some interesting storytelling to come out of it.

I plan on winning the Golden Gloves.

I plan on finishing Western States.

I plan on winning the Ringside National Tournament.

How many people out there box and run ultras?

There’s gotta be a story in that…

jeff-and-edna-training-pic

Advertisements

Joys of a Journey that Never Ends

“We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.”

E.B. White

jeff and edna namibia 2016 1

Me, greeting and embracing my wife, Edna, at the finish line of Racing the Planet’s 2016 250k Sahara Race (Namibia)

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

I’ve heard it all before. Keep running like you do and you’ll be sorry.

WRONG.

I’ll be ecstatic! And guess what… I am!

Before I found running I was an overweight, depressed young man with little to look forward to. I was wandering the earth (from my couch) lost, disconnected socially, struggling to define myself.

Getting off my ass saved my life and sent me on a journey that has taken me all over the globe. It led me to start my own successful business. It’s how I found my wife.

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

jeff-lung-before-and-after

Um… no.

I started this blog 5 years ago knowing on I was on the cusp of something special. The changes that were taking place in my body and in my mind were beyond positive. I was excited to wake up every morning, to see what great things I could do in my community, to see where the boundaries of limitations might be on any given day, only to push them back a bit further and transform into a better version of myself. I wanted to share my journey. I wanted to inspire others.

Though my posting frequency has dropped off a bit this year, I am happy to report that the journey is alive and well. In May, I accompanied my (now) wife, Edna Jackeline Vazquez, to Namibia as she raced another 250k across the desert. I tagged along as a race volunteer, much like I did last year in China, and once again, I was extremely impressed with the amount of love, strength and fortitude the ultrarunning community provides. The amount of individual accomplishments witnessed in just one of these 7-day stage races is enough to fill a lifetime. I have now been lucky enough to volunteer at two of them; and I must say I am now eager (and mentally prepared) to compete myself, someday soon. Meanwhile, my wife only has one more race to go, The Last Desert: Antarctica, before she becomes a member of the ultrarunning elite 4 Deserts club.

jeff and edna namibia 2016 2

In June, with just one hour and two minutes to spare before the 32-hour cutoff, I crossed the finish line of the Mohican Trail 100, arms raised, legs shot, brain fried. It was a grueling, soul crushing challenge that I never gave up on, despite not being in the best mental space. A full report is certainly in order, but the short version is that I had to adapt from the original race plan and dig deep to finish all on my own, without a pacer, fighting an overwhelming desire to sleep and the urge to quit entirely.

I also sat in a hot tub in my hotel after the race which deserves a report of its own. I highly recommend.

Jeff Lung Mohican 100 2016

In July, I got married! I married my ultimate pacer for life, Edna, whom I met through… yep, RUNNING… thus completing (and also starting anew) the continued life-as-an-ultramarathon metaphor. It was a glorious day filled with love, joy and Michael Jackson dance moves. Te amo, mi amor!

jeff and edna wedding

My business continues to make a difference in the lives of those looking for change. I am thankful to be witness every day to life altering hard work and dedication. Losing weight, getting stronger, being the best versions of themselves possible — my students continue to impress with their willingness to explore their limits on the paths of their own journeys. A young boxer I work with, Alex “The Bull” Garcia, is the epitome of such hard work and dedication. He comes to work hard every day, striving to be the best he can be, knowing that sport can be the door to an open mind and a brighter future.

Iron Lung Fitness boxing

In Alex Garcia’s corner of his most recent match which he dominated and won.

My own boxing career continues as well as I prepare for an October 1 bout in Libertyville (more details to come). Meanwhile, Edna and I are planning to make a reappearance at the Evergreen Lake Ultra (51 Miles), a race we thoroughly enjoyed back in 2014, as well as run the 2016 Chicago Marathon, together. The latter will be the ultimate combination of my favorite race meets my favorite person. We plan to run side by side the whole way.

I look forward to celebrating in the streets!

So to my fellow run crazies, the next time someone says to you:

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

Just remember:

It saved my life.

It brought me my wife.

It gave me a reason to get up and be the best version of myself possible, each and every day.

jeff and edna wedding selfie

 

 

 


I’m Still Ruuuunnnniiiing!

Forrest_BiggestBeard_end

I never stopped running. I never will. It’s who I am.

Since my last adventure recall back in September, life jumped down my throat, taking wild swings and unforeseen chops — testing me in every way like an ultra eats at you, mile by mile, aid station by aid station, poisoning you with thoughts of quitting, thoughts of defeat. It was tough. No question. But I didn’t give up. I put my head down and kept pounding pavement. I laughed. I cried. I fought.

Considering the severity of issues I faced, I found great difficulty in committing my thoughts to a public realm. The time wasn’t right. I needed separation. I needed solace.

I needed space.

But I never stopped running.

1274745_1140295006015502_7728144185182358012_o

(Edna, Melvin and I, minutes before the bell rings)

I never will. It’s who I am.

November was a “rest” month. I took it easy, but shook my legs out regularly.

December was much the same, though I admit, these days I much fancy an hour long treadmill slog over a slick 20 degree bone chiller.

Like last year, January began my boxing training in earnest. I ran regularly (4-5 days a week) to stay conditioned, but much of my training focused on sport specific drills, including sparring. At the same time, my business, Iron Lung Fitness, doubled in size, leading to a heavier teaching load, including four aerobics classes each week that I led like Richard Simmons on Red Bull (still do! check them out!).

February introduced me to Alex Garcia, a local talent with big boxing ambitions. I took him under my wing and we went to war and had a great showing in March. I am very proud of him and look forward to his bright future.

(Alex "The Bull" Garcia)

(Alex “The Bull” Garcia)

And just last night, I followed up my 2015 Chicago Golden Gloves Championship with a trip to the 2016 Semi-Finals. The decision didn’t go my way, but I gave it my all and learned a whole lot about myself along the way, including the fact that I will be back in the ring sooner than later.

BOOM!

Self discovery = Putting myself in extreme situations that measure the size of my heart, mental strength and ability to adapt.

Getting in the ring and committing to combat… running a balls-out-marathon… covering 100 miles on my own two tired feet.

This is not the life everyone would choose. But it’s the only one I know.

I’ll never stop running.

It’s who I am.

(Working the mitts with the best partner one could ask for)

(Working the mitts with the best partner one could ask for)

12671735_1140295042682165_5968700280574915631_o

(Part of the Iron Lung team)

981138_10156515327035062_6633590760163025018_o

(Me, Edna and Papá Arturo)

12779287_1140293506015652_6124726816917314412_o

***

NEXT UP…

My lovely fiancee, Edna Jackeline Vazquez, is training for Racing the Planet’s 250k race across the Namibian Desert and I’m going with her! Like I did in the Gobi last year, I am tagging along to work as a race volunteer and assure she doesn’t get homesick after 7 days of sand-trekking without a shower. It begins May 1st and I can hardly wait for all the adventure to come!

When we return, we will have just enough time to rest before running the Mohican 100, June 18-19. This is Edna’s birthday weekend and I promised her two belt buckles as a gift, even though it will most certainly require a bit of crying, pain and suffering. HAPPY MUTHAFUCKIN BIRTHDAY!!!

Mohican is a beast and we both know it.

Oh well. Bring it on, Mohican!

And after that? Who knows… maybe the Chicago Marathon if I can get in. Maybe some more local trail races. A real non-working vacation would be nice. And I imagine another fight or two or three will be on the schedule.

One thing is for sure in the Lung-Vazquez household: we don’t take no easy roads.

Hands up.

Chin down.

Go to work.


2014: Slowin’ My Roll, Runnin’ In Circles, Commitment

Jeff Lung 2014 Frozen Gnome 50k Butt Slide Hill

(Butt Slide Hill, Frozen Gnome 50k, 2014. Image by Scott Laudick, Runnerpics)

We did it! We made it through another year!

I started it out by sacrificing my footing in a frozen tundra.

A couple weeks later, I “ran” 21k through knee-deep snow, in the time it generally takes me to run twice that amount.

In the spring, I re-lived a dream to run the Boston Marathon, this time with no tragedies, floating atop the endless love and compassion from the good people of New England.

Not long after, I got cocky, raced a teenager and had to pull myself out of the game, flexing those mental muscles.

I recovered in time to run mad, around a .97 mile loop in a municipal park, setting a new personal distance record and fighting to stay on my feet for 24 hours straight.

In September, I experienced three distinct seasons over 50 glorious kilometers in the heart of my home state.

In October, I ran two marathons in consecutive days, and was back to work on Monday, walking around like nothing had happened.

And in November, I popped my century mark cherry by crossing the finish line of the Pinhoti 100, proving that through a sound, prepared and focused mind we can do anything we wish to do.

Throughout the year, I volunteered again at the Earth Day 50k/10k and the Des Plaines River Trail Races. I paced my good friend Siamak to a fierce finish at the Mohican 100 and Edna in her 100 miles at Potawatomi and 100k at Hallucination.

I also had the good fortune of getting another race report published in Ultrarunning Magazine (October issue).

I lived every moment, one footfall at a time, over mountainous trail and monotonous blacktop.

I ran. I laughed. I cried (more than you’d think).

I slowed down. I took it all in. I wrapped myself up in the trail, in the challenge of going far on foot, with pushing myself past any and all boundaries.

But perhaps most exciting of all: I got engaged! The thrill of sharing my life with the woman I love — a woman who shares my passion for adventure, for exploration, for making dreams come true — is more exciting than any race I’ve ever run. It’s a good thing we both love distance running, because life, my friends, is THE ultimate ultra run.

Happy New Year!

Jeff and Edna Powerade Maraton Monterrey 2014

(Un beso en la meta, Powerade Maraton Monterrey 2014)

 

 


Building on the Success of Others

siamak and jeff mohican 100 2014

We did it.

He (Siamak, pictured above on the right, brandishing an epic finisher’s buckle) did it. He finished the Mohican Trail 100 mile race.

And I’m now a perfect 7 for 7 in getting my runner to the finish line of a hundo.

It feels good. No doubt.

I have been thinking about it often, just as I often think about his successful Western States run from a year ago. I think of the pain. I think of the suffering. I think of the pure joy. In completing a task as enormous and as impressive as running 100 miles on one’s own two feet, it is very easy to forget how much discomfort is involved. It’s also easy to forget the reason one would ever put himself in a position to endure such torment: it feels good to be done, to know you have done it, to know you CAN do it. The power associated with such an immense accomplishment is unmatched in the real world.

When you know you can run from Chicago to Milwaukee, suddenly waiting in line at the post office doesn’t seem so bad.

That’s what I want. That’s what I’m aiming for in my own training and my own quest to run 100 miles.

I have had the pleasure of pacing a persistent, successful string of runners, each following his/her own unique path to the finish. The knowledge I’ve accumulated from running with them over the last two years is as vast as it is priceless.

I know mine is a challenge more mental than physical, a quest of quiet introspection that will lead to great accomplishments far off the trail, for as long as my memory remains.

Confident focus, mindfulness and lots of long, slow runs is the recipe.

The rest is just execution.


Patience, Persistence and Pacing

Nate and Jeff Kettle Moraine 100 2014 b

Celebratory hug at the 2014 Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance run finish line with Nate Pualengco.

The left Achilles strain that forced me to DNS at Ice Age was a stubborn little bugger. Stubborn injuries for stubborn people. I suppose that’s what the running gods had in mind.

But I knew better than to sulk and feel sorry for myself. Nothing good could come of that. So I remained patient, stayed active in my recovery, and hoped for a long, healthy summer of solid training.

Four and a half weeks and several short walk-jogs later, I finally had full range of motion back in my left Achilles. I could run without pain. I could get back in the game.

And my health came just in time to pace my friend and client, Nate Pualengco, at the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run. His first 58 miles were smooth as could be, but when he came into the 63 mile Nordic aid station, he was limping from debilitating quad cramps. His crew and I attended to him with massage, ice and fuel, but I could see in his eyes that he was having doubts.

Before he could think about them much more we hurried him up and whisked him away, back into the relentless roller coaster that is the Kettle Moraine forest. I ran with him for the next 38 miles, where we encounted quite a few ups and downs: more quad cramping, sleep deprivation and general fatigue. But all of that suffering set the stage for one of the most impressive final 7-mile strikes I’ve ever seen in a 100 mile race.

Smelling the finish line, Nate turned off all pain sensors and started running hard. Passing people right and left, he pushed even harder. Two and a half miles from the finish, he slammed on the accelerator and it was an absolute thing of beauty, even if I saw most of it from about 50 meters back.

I had to dig deep myself just to keep him in my sights.

But when we got to the finish line it was all worth it. What a glorious scene it was to see him overcome the mental demons and physical pains that are so much apart of completing 100 miles on one’s own two feet. The fact that he finished it with a new personal best time of 27 hours 30 minutes for the distance was just the perfect ending.

Nate and his crew at the 2014 Kettle Moraine 100 finish.

Nate and his crew at the 2014 Kettle Moraine 100 finish.

For me, it was just the beginning of what I hope will be a long summer of training in preparation for my very first 100 mile race this coming November at the Pinhoti 100. Next up, I’ll be pacing my friend Siamak again, this time at the Mohican 100 on June 21. The first time I paced Siamak to a hundred mile finish was at the iconic Western States 100 last year. His performance on that weekend was nothing short of brilliant, so I expect more of the same. This will also be my second time pacing the Mohican 100, as I had the honor of getting Supergirl to the finish there in 2012 in what was my very first pacing experience.

It’s two years later, and I’m now a perfect 6 for 6 in getting my runner to the finish line of a 100 mile race (no pressure, Siamak). Since Kettle, I have been stewing in anticipation to tackle the last 50 miles of the ominous Mohican forest. Mohican is hard. Extremely hard. But in training and in life, it’s the hard that makes the easy so sweet.

Let’s get it on.


Pacing Inspiration: My First Up-Close Look at a 100 Miler

One of the myriad benefits of being involved with the ultrarunning community is that one never wants for inspiration.  Everywhere I look there are fascinating individuals who run long for a variety of reasons, all of them willing and eager to share their stories, each one as special as they are profound.

So when my friend, Anastasia (from here often referred to by her popular nickname “Supergirl”), asked me if I would pace her at the Mohican Trail 100 Mile Trail Run in Loudonville, OH, I jumped at the opportunity.  For the last several months, I have been eagerly awaiting a chance to pace someone in a hundo and this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Fresh off my first 50, well rested and eager to see a 100 miler up close, I cleared my weekend and got mentally prepared to be the best pacer I could possibly be.  In preparation for the task, I asked around, picking the brains of my fellow ultrarunners (thanks Jennifer, Tony and Siamak!), trying to get a good idea of what would be expected of me and how I could best handle my duties.  After all, Supergirl was going for her SECOND 100 mile finish in just TWO WEEKS, aiming to reach the halfway mark of completing the Midwest Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, a feat, which if accomplished, would solidify what most associated with her already know: that Supergirl is one ultrarunning badass!  The pressure was on me to make sure she finished, so I did my homework.

My duties would basically come down to the following: safety, nutrition monitoring, time management and, of course, encouragement.

The Mohican Trail 100 consists of four loops of rugged, technical, monster up-and-down trail (two 26.7 mile loops followed by two 23.4 mile loops).  Runners were allowed pacers after completing the first two loops, so while Supergirl tackled the first half of the race I merely served as crew.  This required preparing drop bags, trouble shooting any problems she encountered, monitoring her checkpoint status online and being ready for her to arrive at the Start/Finish area upon completing each loop.  Supergirl is an extremely calculated runner with a great inner-pacing system already.  She said her plan was to complete her first loop in 7 hours and by golly she did just that.  She said she would finish her second loop in 7 and a half hours, and whad’ya know, she did that too!  After completing both loops I noticed her spirits were extremely high.  Her face was lit with bounds of energy and despite having 53 miles in her legs, she was punchy as could be.  After all, she was having fun!

Ready to tackle loop three, I geared up and joined her at 7:35 p.m., 14 hours and 35 minutes since she first began.

Heading out, my only concern was that she wasn’t really eating much.  Sure she was getting down plenty of carbohydrates through liquids (Perpetuem, Gatorade, Mt. Dew, etc) but she was still having difficulty taking in solid foods.  I took note of such and would encourage her to eat something (ANYTHING!) at each aid station along the way.  This would prove to be a challenge as the aid station spread deteriorated throughout the evening and into the next day, but she did tell me, long before the race even started, that this was an ongoing issue she’d been dealing with in other 100 mile races and that as long as she was still feeling okay and able to drink, we would successfully fuel her run.

As we began I was happy to see she was the same Supergirl I’d come to recognize from our club events: full of life, full of energy!  As is her tradition when tackling hundos, she wore her “Supergirl” outfit, which consisted of a red and blue ensemble accented by her trademark red tutu.  I ran behind her at her pace and watched as the trail lit up every time we came in contact with other runners.  “Party girl!” one woman yelled in jubilation.  “Awww yeah! Here comes Supergirl” said another.  Our encounters only solidified what I already knew: I like being around Supergirl and people like her because she LIVES LIFE.  She doesn’t hold back.  She celebrates the beauty of being alive by pushing herself to see what she’s capable of and her electric personality is contagious.  Her mere presence was enough to lift the spirits of many along our way.

Close to 9 o’clock, the sun went down and the dark canopy of the Mohican forest faded to black.  With our headlamps lit, I took over lead position, scouting the way to the cleanest line of trail (a trail that was nastily decorated with unforgiving rocks and roots throughout).  At this point we transitioned to a fast hike.  It was just too dangerous for us to run with limited visibility; plus it was her game plan from the beginning to fast-walk the night.  The last thing she wanted to do was injure herself in the dark by being stupid when she had plenty of time to work with.  The 100 mile cut-off was 32 hours and by her calculations a 31 hour finish was the goal.  “The most important thing,” she reminded me, “is FINISHING.”  So that’s what we focused on.

The main reason for having a pacer in the first place is to insure a runner’s safety.  Fatigue is a nasty constant in any endurance event, and when a runner tackles the trail after nightfall, the danger zone increases tenfold.  The Mohican Trail, unforgiving in its constant climbs, twisting switchbacks and rugged downs, was a serious injury just waiting to happen in the dark.  Having some experience with night running already, I made sure to bring a second light, one that I would hold in my free hand to create shadows so that our depth perception would not suffer (with only a single head lamp, rocks and roots become 2D objects that become tripping machines and trail tattoo guns).  Leading the way, I scoped out any would-be hazards and alerted her of their existence with a wiggle of a light.  We had only a couple of close-calls, but no actual falls.

All through the night we soldiered up and down and through rough terrain.  We met up with several other pairs along the way and engaged in one interesting conversation after another.  We laughed, we told stories, we sang songs.  We made fun of the shitty aid station food, drew inspiration from our fellow club-members and their memorable catchphrases (LET’S GO MACHINE, BABY!), and reveled in past running adventures.

At one point it became clear that Supergirl had developed some nasty blisters, on both feet, and we faced the decision of whether we were going to stop and fix them or not.  I can fix blisters.  I’ve been doing it to myself for a long time now, but I didn’t have all the necessary tools I would need to do a good job.  From asking other runners, we found out that the aid stations weren’t exactly well equipped to fix them either, so she decided to just keep going rather than risk a bad tape job that could possibly cause more problems.  This was against my better judgement but I could tell that with Supergirl, she needed to be in control, especially when it concerned her own body and capabilities.  She knew better than anyone what she could tough out and what needed immediate attention.  What she needed from me was positive reinforcement and calculated guidance.  Using this strategy, and making a point to approach every suggestion with a jolt of positivity, I was able to get her to start eating (chips, noodles, licorice and even the occasional gel).  Sure her feet hurt.  She was running 100 miles.  OF COURSE HER FEET HURT.  This wasn’t her first hundo.  A few aggravating blisters weren’t going to hold her back.

But would they hold me back?  Little did she know, all the walking (something I was simply not accustomed to) combined with the gnarly trail surface caused my feet to swell and throb and ache and burn.  The last thing she needed was a whiny, wimpy pacer holding her back, so I picked my spots, telling her to go on ahead so I could fix my own issues (ball chafing, ass chafing, blistery feet among them) without her having to see or hear any of it.  I likened this process to my old tripping/partying days from way back, when only positive thoughts were allowed.  NO NEGATIVITY.  I ate and drank appropriately, making sure I was hydrated and fueled enough to make smart decisions.

As the night dragged on, we began to tire.  Eventually I had to slow my leading pace.  And the 2 o’clock hour brought a sudden lag in mood and energy.  I looked behind me to see once happy-go-lucky Supergirl had her head down, stumbling along the trail, sighing deeply every now and then.

“You feeling okay?” I would ask.

“Eh.” She would whimper.

I knew that was going to happen eventually, that at some point the long effort would team up with the darkness of night, bringing her spirits down.  Hell, she’d been awake for nearly 24 hours already, of course she was going to experience some down time.  We finished loop three in about 8 hours — the absolute longest, most ache-inducing 23.7 miles I’ve ever traversed.

But she didn’t dally at the aid station.  She got in.  Ate.  Refilled her bottle and got out.  I told her to go ahead, that I’d catch up.  I had to really examine my feet and see if I could fix them.  Quickly.  Both forefeet were throbbing with firey pain, but I didn’t find any actual bubbly blisters.  I changed my socks, massaged my feet rigorously, then ran to catch up.

When I finally found her on the trail, about a mile away, she was a zombie.

“Anastasia, you feel okay?”

Head down, shoulders sunk, she sniffled.  “No” she cried.  She took a deep, deep breath and said something that nearly broke my heart: “I don’t want to be here anymore.”

These were not the words I was expecting to hear, but here they were.  Thumping me in the face.  I felt my stomach drop.

“Everything hurts,” she said, “my feet…”

“I know, I know.  You’ve been out here for over 75 miles already, of course everything hurts.  You know this.  And you’ve conquered worse before.  But you’re Supergirl.”  (She had conquered worse, just 12 days earlier at the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler, but that’s another story.)

“Anastasia, you told me I can’t let you quit unless you are seriously injured.  Now, are your feet problems a serious injury?  Is this something you really want to q–”

Before I could get out that awfully dreaded word, she cut me off, “Just, just, let me… sit down for a second.”

“Do you think that’s really a good idea?”  Earlier we had discussed that common ultra running mantra “beware the chair”, because once you sit your tired ass down it’s gonna be REALLY hard to get your tired ass back up.

“It’s okay, this isn’t a chair… it’s just a rock.”  She sat down on a big boulder.  I took the opportunity to squat-stretch my hams and quads.  She closed her eyes for 30 seconds, then stood up.

“Okay, I’m better now.”  Except, now she was leaning against me, eyes open, but glassy, far off somewhere.

“You know, it’s 3:40 in the morning now.  In just a little while, the sun is going to come up and everything is going to be beautiful again.  The birds will start to talk to us, the forest will come to life.  Everything will be okay.”  (Long pause)

“Anastasia, are you awake?”

She snapped to.  “I am now.  I was just sleeping with my eyes open for a second. (sigh) Let’s go.  I’m better now.”

And that was it.  We took off back down the trail.  She was all better.  She had her deep, dark moment of despair, and now she was party rockin’ again.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

What a tough, strong, inspiring woman.  Wow.  Just… wow.

We moved down trail and as the 4 o’clock hour approached we switched positions, with her in the lead.  I followed and within a half hour or so I started to get noddy.  I took some caffeine and desperately waited for it to kick in because I was having a very difficult time keeping my eyes open.

We reached an aid station, I slammed some Coke, got Supergirl to drink some chicken broth (against her wishes) and we were back on our way.  A quarter mile outside the aid station I let out a belch so loud I’m sure it was heard back home, which got Supergirl to do something she hadn’t done for a couple hours: LAUGH!

And with that laugh, the first inklings of sunlight poked through the thick canopy.  “Do you see that?” she asked.  “It’s… the sun!!!”

“I know!  I know!” I replied.  No wonder so many cultures are based on worshiping the sun.  “I love the sun!”

Soon, the birds were chirping like mad, rays of light shone through the tree tops, and suddenly, out of nowhere, Supergirl just took off.

She… was… RUNNING!!!

I followed, happy to be moving quickly again, and watched with delight as we were greeted with enthusiastic and encouraging smiles from runners along the way. “Looks like someone got her second wind!” someone said.  “Party rockers are rockin’ again!” said another.  It was no secret.  Supergirl was back.

It started to rain, but it was a slight, cool, refreshing rain.  We scooted along, taking walk breaks on the tough inclines, traversing the rocky downs gingerly yet efficiently.  My feet were killing me, so I knew hers had to be even worse, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at her.  She just powered away.  Strong and deliberate.  It was when we overtook a brawny pair of dudes on a steep incline when I realized just how badass Supergirl was.

These guys were strong, sculpted muscle machines.  And here comes 5-foot nothing, 100-pound Supergirl leaving them in her dust.  I looked back and caught their exasperated looks.  I had to stop and marvel at her badassery myself.  Indeed, this is one tough chick.

The rain stopped and before I knew it, we were in single digit mileage.  There’s really no way to describe the feeling associated with asking an aid-station captain “What mile marker is this?” and hearing him say “94.4.”  How does one react to that?  He or she just smiles and picks up the pace.  And that’s exactly what we did.

A mile or so out and we were off the trail, on a long dirt road climb.  I made sure to look at her face, to study the emotions coming through her expressions.  There was only one: DETERMINATION.

No smiles at this point.  Just concentration, will and desire.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a person so focused.  She was in the proverbial zone.  And why wouldn’t she be?  The girl had just run 99 miles, with only one more to go, on her way to completing her second 100 mile race in two weeks and her third in six months.  I was witnessing a true ultrarunning rock star work!

So when we came down the big hill that dumps on to the home stretch, I fell back and off to the side, making sure to give her the spotlight.  And boy did she shine.  A race favorite of volunteers and fellow runners alike, Supergirl did not disappoint.  Her face lit up with a victorious sheen, arms raised high above her head symbolizing her warrior like conquering of one of the toughest race courses I’ve seen.

As she crossed the finish line in 30 hours, 13 minutes, the crowd roared in her accomplishment.  And I couldn’t have been more proud.

Me with Anastasia (aka Supergirl) after her epic 100 mile finish at the Mohican Trail 100.