I cannot tell you how many times I’m asked … WHY and HOW DO YOU DO IT. I have thought about both for the last two weeks trying to conjure up how to best explain my motivation for attempting to run 135 miles and exactly how I was able to accomplish it. So, sit back and take a little trip with me through the Brazilian countryside and the Camino Da Fe or the Way of Faith.
The words faith and trust were ever present during this journey. Both would be put to the test as I ran, walked and at times felt like crawling. Let me start with FAITH. This race was the very first time I had to put all my faith into the hands of my wonderful coach @Bob Seebohar. As my crew chief he was responsible for calculating and monitoring my food and hydration intake. It was also the very first time that I had run a race without carrying my nutrition on my back and relied on others to hand me what I needed at the appropriate times. Being the consummate control freak this was quite possibly the hardest part for me. Giving up control, not questioning (well I did at times) and accepting that he had my best interest at heart took a little finessing on Bob’s part.
Day One began with a feeling of excitement as the group of runners left town and headed out to the beginning of the trail.
Each section takes you through some mountain ranges, beautiful pasturelands ultimately connecting to a village where the church sits at the highest point.
From there we would connect up again to the trail and head to the next village. From Sao Joao da Boa Vista (the start city) we would connect with 12 other villages. Markings were yellow arrows posted on trees, rocks and ground. I left my crew, and I have to say that I believe it was the absolute best crew out there. Each accepted their role with graciousness and a willingness to help me achieve my goal with no egos involved. I believe this is where I absolutely must introduce all of them to you. As I mentioned, crew chief was Coach/Nutritionist Bob Seebohar, logistics with the car was handled by a great friend John Crowley, my husband Randy Quirk who also drove & was in charge of picture taking, maneuvered through and around detours, agonized over watching me work at a level not even he had witnessed before and Max, our Brazilian interpreter and runner who became such an integral part of our team. What can I say about Max except that he became family to us all…such a wonderful person just excited to be with us and share his beautiful country and people.
Somewhere in the first section Bob joined me as we headed up what appeared to be a cattle trail. It was actually quite fun as we ran and chatted with Alexa and Traci from the U.S. I have to say here that at the end Alexa posted a photo that showed her swollen legs and referred to then as Grandma legs…not sure if she actually knew that she was running along side a Grandma!! I did point out to her that she should be proud of those Grandma legs in a later post…age as we know is all relative and I’ve been know as … Run Granny Run… in one article that I’ll refrain from mentioning.
As the day progressed I got into the grove of running and can’t actually recall many of the mile markers that we hit. The one thing that absolutely stands out for me is that it was either straight up or straight down with very little level ground. Bob and Max split their time running with me and John was able to put in a few running miles as well. He would have put in more but was injured prior to leaving for Brazil so limited his ability to navigate the strenuous route.
The heat was fairly intense, temperature ranged in the 90’s along with humidity at a very noticeable range. Happily for me this was weather that I train in most of the time so it didn’t seem to be much of a factor. There was only one area where I actually told Max that I need to stop, cool down and hydrate. I believe I was just having a moment of insecurity especially when I told him to have the car come back to where we were because I needed to lay down. Chaos ensued and everyone was a bit worried that I was overheating and my husband went on a mission to find an umbrella for me to run with J_ I love him for this but I couldn’t allow myself to hold an umbrella to shade the sun….chapter over when the umbrella arrived and I didn’t use it. I am forever grateful to Randy for that amazing gesture. He always has my back.!!!
And so the night was beginning to come … blisters were taken care of for the moment, and we motored on. I truly loved running through the Pasteur lands, cows looking at us like we were crazy , roosters seeing our headlamps and thinking it was morning and beginning to crow. It’s such a special time out in nature when you’re alone and witnessing such beauty. There was a fog that set in as we were in the hills which was almost surreal to run through.
And now we move to TRUST:
We are already well in to over 24 hours and I’m not exactly sure where I’m at mileage wise. To be honest, I don’t even know where I’m at on the map. What I do know is that I have people who are watching over me. I’m meeting up with runners like Chris Roman and Charlie Engle who are amazing in their own right. They have put in many more miles than I at this point but still able to stay positive and exude an excitement for what we are all trying to accomplish. I guess that is one of the most amazing parts for me in one of these races, people who are selfless and willing to test their own limitations in order to help other to test theirs….doesn’t get much better than that.
NEED TO JUMP TO DAY 2 – SOMEWHERE AROUND THE 30/40-HOUR MARK!!
Ok, now things start to unravel, at least for me. Staying up past 24 hours is a new experience, especially for this grandma who usually is in bed by 9:00 p.m. I’ve run 100 mile runs in the 24 to 25 hour range but going beyond that was uncharted territory. Things were going fantastic until a point somewhere around 12 to 14 miles left. Max and I were running on the road and I was feeling really good. I said to Max, “are we running on the road to the finish?” He responded, “yes”. I thought, I could absolutely do this and Max says to me…”It’s so good to see you smiling.” Road, yes, I could absolutely run that for 12 miles….1/2 mile more and we are diverted to a trail. I say “what is this?” I enter the trail, see the car and have to make a pit stop. Now I see Chris & Charlie again think in my mind…my crew is lying to me…we’re almost to the finish line!! So Max heads down the trail with me and we navigate the course seeing all the Camino Da Fe signs (solidifying In my mind that we’re almost home). Max says, “you’re almost there”….something I’ll remind him later that you are NEVER suppose to say. We met up with Randy, John, Bob and the car and I’m thinking are you guys going to park and join us to run into the finish? Randy gently says no,, we’re not coming. Now the dark side approaches!! Unbeknownst to me, Bob had already said to Randy…”your wife is going to go to a very dark place….just trust that I will bring her back!!” TRUST…we all needed to go there.
The next 3 to 5 hours I went to a place that I had never been before. I became someone that I didn’t even know or recognize. I truly believed that my crew was messing with me and that the finish line was just around the corner. Bob & Max were guiding me however, were way up in front. I started ranting “how dare they go so far ahead especially since they were carrying my food and hydration”. They continued on actually looking like they were having a grand time. Still in my self-pity mode I muscled on. I noticed that they had stopped and when I approached them they showed me a snake (coral to be exact) lying in the middle of the road. I guess I gestured to them both…no problem, it’s just a snake and I kept going (mind you I’m extremely afraid of snakes so this was really out of character for me.) At that point I remember putting my earphones into my head, turned up the music and slowly came back to myself. I started to sing, actually feeling that I was close and began to relish in the gravity of what I was about to accomplish.
So now I guess the last place I needed to go was TRUST…trust in my abilities to finish, trust that everyone in my crew had my best interest at heart and trust that this was truly an accomplishment meant to be. I am the first to always talk about the words Faith and Trust but rarely do I actually get to live them out and see if I truly understand how they interplay in my life. I have been given the extreme opportunity too not only participate in events of this nature for myself but for the benefit of others. For until we realize that we can reach the impossible, stretch ourselves way beyond our comfort zones…life, at least for me, would just seem to pass by. I love the feeling of stretching beyond what I feel I can accomplish to areas where it is unknown. I love being able to give back and help others to see the potential that lies within themselves and that does not mean to the extremes that I take myself, for we all have our own limits.. The Brazil 135 was an amazing accomplishment and adventure. I cannot thank my crew enough for their unwavering devotion to helping me find my level of completeness within the racing world. I will never be able to repay them for what they have helped me accomplish. For if there is one thing that I know for sure…we can only accomplish great things with the support , help and belief of others…we are not alone in this world or our dreams.
So to answer completely WHY and HOW DO YOU DO IT:
I run these extreme races first not for myself but to hopefully exhibit to others that I truly believe in my motto…”If you can see it, you can do it. If you believe it, it will happen…SO DREAM BIG.” I do this because I believe in giving back through my Runwell Foundation to help others believe in themselves , follow their dreams and to regain their lives in “Recovery.” And I also selfishly do this for myself because I love the challenge of reaching way beyond my comfort zone. I ran The Brazil 135 as a 60th birthday present to myself hoping to give someone else a new birthday in sobriety…I finished and was able to blow out that extra large candle and light another, a beacon of hope for anyone willing to work & challenge themselves forward into a new and healthy life.
How did I do it, well honestly I did not accomplish this on my own. Reaching the finish line was a collective effort between my crew and myself. Yes, I had to keep going but know that without their support it would never have been possible. Lesson to self, I am not a “rock”, I am vulnerable, I do crack however, if I allow others to help, I am almost invincible!!!
Will Linda stop at this endeavor? No, probably not, for this was a means to an end. I truly wanted to qualify for Badwater and be able to put in an application for 2013. So that script is unwritten but hopefully you’ll see me out in the Mohave Desert in July running yet another 135 miles!! Until then…”If you can see it, you can do it. If you believe it, it will happen…so DREAM BIG!!”
Runwell my friends.