Friday, April 15, 2011

The Best Birthday Gift I'll Never Ask For Again. Probably. Maybe. We'll see.

When Jeff asked me what I would do if I had all the time to myself I wanted, I thought it was a hypothetical question. So, hypothetically, what would I do?
Run, of course. I've often wondered how long I could run if I had the time.
Guess what Jeff gave me for my birthday? Yep, all the time I wanted for a run as long as I wanted. He even took the day off of work so he could take care of the girls while I went for a run on my birthday. Wow. Thanks, Jeff. The run was awesome, but the best thing was how loved I felt.
The Birthday Run:
The night before, I set out my gear. I have gels, vaseline, camelback, iphone (complete with a new book to listen to on the run) and iphone arm case, jacket, gloves, tights, shirts, socks, shoes, jacket, hat, jogger's mace, Shot Bloks, Cliff bar, Ibuprofen, Hammer supplements, toilet paper, headphones, and a tentative route mapped out. I am ready.
Monday morning, 5:30 - up, fueled, hydrated, dressed, packed. I'm moving slowly. Do I really want to do this? Sure. Why not.
6:20 am - The run begins. And immediately plans change. I make it to the end of my driveway before deciding to run my route backwards. This means I'm beginning my run with a good couple of miles uphill, into headwinds. Fine. No big deal. I'm still fresh and the morning is young.
7:00 am - I decide to take a completely different route than the mapped one, for the time being, anyway. Of course.
8:00 am - I've wound my way around Rexburg and am finally heading out of town, away from traffic. The book I'm listening to is a mystery called, "The Language of Bees." I'm learning about bees. And Sherlock Holmes. And the book's heroine - his wife.
9:00 am - I'm back on my planned route, having taken the long way to get there. But I miss a turn-off so I have to back track a bit. I'm running slowly and steadily, enjoying the countryside, enjoying the time to myself, enjoying the book, loving the feeling of running and not even realizing I'm moving - it is effortless. For now.
10:00 am - I'm taking my supplements every hour to stave off fatigue, but I'm beginning to feel spent anyway. I take another gel, slowly so as not to cause stomach pain. I keep the gel in my hand and squeeze a bit at a time under my tongue, wait for it to dissolve, then get up the courage to take some more, repeating the process until it is all gone. Nasty stuff, those gels. Hammer is the least nasty, though. Still, they're all way too sweet (which is why I put it under my tongue, to avoid tasting it as much as possible).
10:10 am - I'm at the bottom of Summer's Hill, a long, fairly steep never-ending three-mile hill. Three miles of just up up up. To my right is the road that heads back to Rexburg. It's a tiny bit hilly, but not much. What should I do? I've been running for hours and hours. Can my body handle Summer's Hill, or should I opt for the Moody Road, looping up to the Sugar City Cemetery and heading home as quickly as possible?
Silly me. I take Summer's Hill, which is bad enough on its own, but I am now not only running uphill after 22 miles and too many hours on my feet, I am also running uphill into a 20 mph headwind.
I'm not so sure you can call this "running." I think "crawling" is a more accurate description. But I'm doing it and I make it. Then at the top of Summer's Hill, I run out of water.
10:45 - I'm running home. I am tired. I have no water. I am dehydrated. I have a phone and I consider calling Jeff, but I'm so close - I want to finish this. I'm on the dry farms, only occasionally passed by a farmer in his truck. I don't feel isolated because I know my husband can track me. I try to focus on the book, but the words are not making sense. Then I do the unthinkable - I stop.
It's just for a moment, but I know I can't stay still. I know my muscles will seize up. I tell myself I won't get home any faster if I walk. I have to remind my mind what my goal is and why I need to keep going. There's a lot of self-talk going on right now. I try to listen to the tiny, rational voice telling me what I need to hear instead of the screaming siren in my body yelling at me to give up. I stumble forward until I can control my legs again. I make myself run. I make my feet move, make my body tip forward so gravity can help me in this controlled fall we call running. I get going again, setting little goals: just three more telephone poles, just to the next field, just to the crest of the hill, just to the potato cellar, just to the next road...
11:30 - my GPS tells me I've gone 28+ miles. I'm in my neighborhood. I can either run around the block to make it to an even 30, or I can finish by just turning down the hill to my house and end at 29 miles. I'm so thirsty. I'm so tired. I decide to just stop in at home for a quick drink then run another mile to make it 30. But as I turn down to my house and look at my yard, the sight before me makes a sob catch in my throat. My eyes want to cry but there is no spare water in me. I kind of laugh and kind of whimper out loud because look - there is my husband and there are my daughters, waiting for me on the lawn, yelling out, "Go, Mommy, go! Go, Mommy, go!" I don't care one bit that I'm losing that last full mile, I'm going to stop for my family and relegate this run to where it belongs - second place, like Jeff's gift today of putting me first and letting work come second.
11:40 am - I get my hugs, I get my water, but I know I can't stay put, not because I'm being compulsive but because I don't want my legs to seize up. I head back out of the house to finish my run, this time with two little girls by my side. They're running faster than me. I love it. We make a little loop, ending with my birthday run being just over 29 miles. Not 30. But close enough and good enough.

And the best part of the run? The end. Definitely. Talk about feeling loved. Jeff and the girls were tracking my progress on the computer by following my phone. They saw when I slowed, when I walked, when I stopped. They saw my decision to come home instead of rounding the block. They were ready and waiting for me. The 29.55 miles was a great birthday present, but the best gift was the love of the person who gave it to me. And the little girls who cheered me in. And the sweet sons who were proud of their mom at the end of the day.
(For the record, I did walk some more afterwards, so I suppose I can say 30, but in my mind the running part was 29.55. I ran 31 miles in September, but that was the end of race season, this is just the beginning, and I'm not in nearly the shape I was in then!)

After a shower and a hefty (but safe) dose of Ibuprofen, Jeff and the girls took me out to lunch. Then while Jeff and Oliver cooked my birthday dinner, the girls and I played in the pool. Sam came home from later from school, and then we were finally all together. I got to eat a delicious dinner (Cajun red beans & rice), and scrumptious Coldstone ice cream cake before opening presents, including jewelry made by my children just for me! They'd spent a lot of time the day before carefully threading beads and stones onto a necklace, bracelet, and earrings. As they said, I looked like the "Ultimate Tikki Mom" with the jewelry on. :)
I was spoiled with new running clothes, a great new cookbook from my favorite restaurant in Salt Lake (The Roof) (thank you Mum, Dad & Don!), more Hammer supplements (I love 'em!), lotion, bread, other gifts, and lots of birthday wishes. And of course, don't forget my unlimited running time! Although, as great as the run was, I don't know if I'll ask for that gift again...yeah, it was brutal. But also beautiful.


  1. Happy Birthday, Sweet Stephanie! What a gorgeous memory of a birthday well spent! I can relate to those last few miles of your run! I feel like I'm on mile 52! (I deleted the last one because there was a typo and I can't stand typos when I'm the one who typo-ed them!)

  2. Thank you, Sarah! Hah, you're more like on mile 520! You are one tough and patient gal. I can hardly wait for May 5th. You're nearly there. As for typos, my typos bug me, too. I just saw one in this post and was more than a little annoyed that I'd let it slip. But it's fixed now. I need to read my stuff before posting!

  3. Oh, Steph! What a lovely lovely Birthday gift! Happy Happy Birthday! You're amazing!

  4. Just started trying to run, Steph. I am not and probably will never be a "runner", but I am hoping that I can work toward running a few miles every day. Your stories are exhausting but inspiring. I am glad you had a happy birthday.

  5. Thanks, ladies! I dunno, Mary, it wasn't all that amazing by the end of the run. Mostly it was just good to be done. Lorie, I'm going to start sugar-coating my running experiences so I don't dissuade you from your goals. I love running - and usually the runs aren't nearly so exhausting. Really! :) Keep it up!

  6. amazing sister, amazing sister. that sounds like a fantastic gift - the gift of time and feeling like number one. I am so happy for you, maybe next year ask to sleep in all day