Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wowing in the Mountains

Barry McDonald Aspen Marathon July 7th

When I first mentioned to Bec I wanted to go to Aspen to run a Marathon she was not impressed at all, in fact I  originally looked to go just myself because of the 8 hrs of driving there and back was not appealing enough to Bec who as some of you know does not like to drive more than 10 minutes at a time. But after some slick talking from mwahh, Bec was in for the journey as I informed her I needed a support person to collect me at the end in case things went horribly wrong and driving home 4 hrs after running a marathon is not so wise. That is why we make a good team, compromise is not a strong human character but  on this occasion Bec was able to see the advantage in compromising for the cause. So on Friday we packed and left for the mountains not knowing what to expect which made me a little nervous.

The Heat wave we had just endured for two weeks was great training for Haiti, high 90's (36dc) most days and having adjusted to the altitude finally I thought to myself, I prepared well and this would be just another test of how everything was progressing along. But this was another unknown 2,000 more feet of altitude. Unfamiliar surrounds, so many unknowns.....but that's part of learning to trust in the vision that was given and prepare as best as you can, with what you have and stepping out in faith that all will come together and the story can be told and shared so we can build the new Maternity center and meet the needs of the women who will benefit from this important service in Haiti.

We arrived at 2:55 pm into snow mass village just 15 minute drive south of Aspen and what a beautiful place to call home at least for a night. Stunning scenery covered in overcast clouds threatening to ruin the day and to top it off we drove past one of the greenest golf courses  I have ever seen. This was a golfers paradise.

Unfortunately I was not here to play Golf (spewing, why could I have been a golf pro).

We walked around the village for a bit, feeling out of place in such flash surrounds. Suddenly a crack of thunder hits the mountain and kids scream and scramble for cover, we head for the free chair lift to head the 300m back up the mountain, as we arrive the attendee receives a phone call, he has to shut down the lift. OK we will walk, Bec not impressed as we are at 7,800 feet and the air is thin, straight away it starts to rain, Great, we set off up the hill Bec hands me the camera and we hike up halfway to a hotel and find shelter under a car park and I decide to run for our borrowed car so we can drive into aspen only thing is I am wearing slides and the rain is heavier now testing all my skill to stay upright and not slide around, by the time I reach he car I am drenched (refreshed) and when I arrive back to pick up my fair lady she laughs at me, thanks honey I reply.

Aspen is one amazing place very cultured, architecturally spectacular buildings and yet to to top it off the private jets at the airport on the way into town speak volumes of the type of playground we had arrived in. Two missionaries from Australia on there way to Haiti, what were we doing here seriously...

We drove around asked some questions from the info center staff and found the park where the marathon would start from and you would not believe it there sticking out of the ground was rugby post in the middle of Aspen. Rugby post where are we again I thought to myself. So we headed back to snow mass village in the rain and had a bite to eat and settled in for a early night 9:30 pm as the previous two nights I had not slept well, something to do with tapering for this run and having all the extra energy or something like that. 10:30 pm finally drift off to la la land, Bec is still awake reading her book, good night...

2am awake to go to the bathroom (to much information, sorry setting the scene) that's it folks no more sleep happening here Greeeeaat so lay there trying to rest and not think about the run. Yeah right when you try, that is all you do,  focus on what your trying not to think about aaahhhhh. 4 am accidentally wake Bec up not a good idea for those playing at home, informed I should go back to sleep and not annoy my wife hmmmm, so I cuddle her instead and Bec is happy again.

4:41 am alarm goes off and it's game on up into pre-run routine, hot shower to fix sore back, smash a blueberry bagel yum, get running gear on check, new socks and new shoes on check. What! I hear you say.  The new shoes,  are you crazy? Breaking them in, during a marathon um yes go with it the old ones have totally had it ok.

5:32 am we set off for Aspen and it's cold outside and threatening rain, please don't rain, Please.
We arrive at the start line and there are people setting up tables and joking around which is a good sign, people start to arrive one lady wearing a white tu-tu outfit and this is the great thing about running it attracts some characters who like to run, fantastic I say.

Bec sets up and wants to take some photos for the website, ok turns put to be 15 minutes of fun. The first site she chose was interesting. As we begin the sprinklers pop up and wet me hilarious!!!

Arrive at the registration table to pick up the runners pack and after 5 minutes of shuffling around we have our pack, 6:15 am nerves start to hit, "why it's a run you have been training for a year now" anyways look for a bathroom and nope all locked up greaaat. 6:30am McDonald's opens and we (desperate runners) file in to use the bathrooms. 15 minutes later emerge relieved and ready to do this run. Spot a guy with a team 413 shirt on with Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" just what I needed thank you Lord.

6:58 am race briefing and then were off onto the streets of Aspen, the elite runners lead us out. A bunch of 10 guys and we wind our way through the streets, not far in the lead guys take a wrong turn I yell out to them but they keep running, I continue and find they rejoin the right course and extended their lead.

We head onto a concrete path and pass some exceptional looking homes as we head out of town thinking to myself this is too quick a pace low 7 minute mile but feeling ok continue to put one foot in from of the other and repeat. As we continue this pace out of Aspen the scenery is breath taking, not because of the altitude or pace but seriously the most beautiful marathon course I have ever seen and it only improved as we continued.

Early on I was in a battle with one guy who would run past me then slow down and then pass me again, I thought what is going on we are 5 miles in so I let him go knowing he would not last at the pace as he was breathing too heavy so early on which is not a good sign.

Around the 35 minute mark I feel the familiar urge that you don't want while running, especially on a track with strangers and no toilets so I held on for 10 minutes but at least I knew I was hydrating properly. Something vital to survival in a marathon which some forget early on how important to take on fluids and pay for it like I did in my first ever marathon in 2000.

We pass streams of flowing crystal clear water and over wooden bridges that look like a movie set and all the while I am thinking is this real, seriously this is amazing. Trying to soak up the scenery as we canter along towards the finish line.

13.1 the half marathon in 1:37:53 that's the fastest half Ive run since starting this training 12 months earlier what the.... 15 miles we pass many drink stations and encouraging words from those who volunteered to make this run happen, amazing how encouraging words can lift the spirit especially after running for a while.

18 miles that's when the emotion hit me I was still cruising along well inside my personal best time and knowing what this whole journey means to so many. Overwhelmed by the support of so many people to let me pursue this vision and tell the story of Haiti and build this Maternity center, hold it together Baz.

The last 6 miles of a marathon are a whole different animal all together, it has been said you can train for the first 20 miles but the last 6 miles are all guts and determination and that's true. This was my  6th marathon for 2012 and each one has taught me that you need to have a big enough reason to push yourself through the pain to finish because it hurts like nothing else I have experienced physically and emotionally. I have been in some very hard places and you draw on those memories in times of pain.

Just the night before Bec found out a very close friend from school's brother had died. He was 35. Leaves behind a wife and two small children. We prayed for comfort and peace for them and it is a reminder of how precious a gift, life is and how we are not guaranteed to be here forever and to live and love each day.

I enter the last mile looking at my GPS watch and see that it says 3:05 and can not believe the time, everything is hurting now and it is a matter of 8 more minutes until the pain stops. See in a marathon there is a finish line and you can stop recover and treat the pain, when something like loosing a loved one happens the pain does not have a finish line your in shock, then overwhelmed, then in denial, then angry, then rational then a mess and repeat. But a marathon has a finish line and when you have someone who loves you more than anything waiting cheering you on and you hear your name being called on towards that line as you enter the finishing. Then you know it was worth the last hour of pain to reach this line and continue the story not giving up and not letting go of the hope that is within you.

Relief, emotions and aching muscles, 3:11 by my watch, 3:13 by there timer (3 toilet breaks cost me 3 minutes), mayhem at the finish line as people yell at you "Congratulations", "We need the timing chip back from you", someone thrust a finishers medal around your neck and then realize you finished the full marathon not the half, thanks very much.

3.13.12, 5th Place and a new PB. "A good day at the office."

People everywhere, supporters, sweaty runners and then I see Bec, that familiar big smile that everyone who knows and loves her, knows well. She imbues my tired, sweaty body and with excitement in her voice tells me how proud she is of me.


Although that is awesome to hear, I feel deep inside it is not about making people feel proud of me. I am running to tell the story of those who inspire me, in Haiti, living in poverty, surviving day to day and yet filled with joy, so humbling to meet such spirit filled people.

The story will be told over 12 days of crossing Haiti, marathon after marathon, story after story how Haiti is being transformed, a new story, a redeeming story one in which Bec and I have the absolute privilege to witness and tell as we look to God to guide us in telling the story and inviting others to help meet the needs in these villages and communities across Haiti.

Will you please join us on this journey sign up to be part of the runforlifehaiti.org events or just a simple donation of some Change for Change, $20 that's it if we can spread the word then the vision can become reality.

Thank you.
Barry McDonald

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