In Over Our Heads: 25k Trail Run

Well friends, to put it nicely, our trail run humbled us. It was the most difficult physical task Loren or I have ever accomplished. Ever. In our young 20-some years of life. And this is how it went: We found the Blodgett Elementary School - about a beautiful 40 minute drive from home - around 7:15 am. As we parked and walked up to the minuscule crowd of runners, I couldn't help but be completely self conscious. Not only were these obviously-experienced trail runners, but this particular bunch of humans were here to run the 50k. Do you know how many miles that is? 30. 30 miles and about 7,000 feet of elevation climb. These folks were the real deal. Nothing like the half-marathon road runners. It was a completely different crowd. As we waited to board the buses, I was humbled by their sweet running attire - very elite, friends. Hats, tights, sleeves, compression things...sweet camel baks, and so on. Here was Loren and I in our sweet saucony trail shoes and lovely yellow waste bands equipped with water & gummy bears. 20140623-132324-48204975.jpg

20140623-132544-48344822.jpg There are some real intense runners out there, guys. Like, we thought we knew how to run - you just run. But nope, you need compression socks and arm sleeves and sweet camel baks.

My niece's 1st birthday party was this same day, 1 pm in Willsonville, OR. Our 25k was supposed to start at 10. The 50k was to start at 8:30. We asked if we could start with the 50k'ers at 8:30 to "be done by 11". *Snicker*

The bus ride was a fairy tale - just two young kids in love and holding hands and dreaming together. Also, tiniest seats ever.

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20140623-133533-48933242.jpg We were giddy and nervous and excited to say the least. We were also eavesdropping on all of the professionals around us, 70% of them gray-headed, and were slightly intimidated by their conversations. We were just two little tadpoles surrounded by sharks.

And then the bus drove up a big mountainous road and dropped us all off. Then left. There was no way to get back but to run, literally. Spotty cell service; we would have to carry each other if someone broke an ankle.

I would love to note that I had the most lovely outhouse experience: pink, flowery, and smelled great. Much better than wiping with leaves; just being real.

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20140623-145840-53920111.jpg Team Brenner commence running @ 9:29 am. Alone. Slightly worried we won't finish the "almost 16 miles" by 12 pm, we begin in a flurry. And we run through a very thick forest filled with tons of roots sticking up, ready to trip you the fleeting second you look up. We run quickly, it seems, only to hear we are at a 10mm pace. 1 mm slower than our training. Discouraged, I insist we run faster, "we don't want to miss Elsy's ENTIRE party, do we?"

Ohhhhh me and my agenda!

Like I said in my Half Marathon post, every time my nike plus app "cheered" us from Facebook, we were given a boost. It was like we still had people on the sidelines, even though there was only nature at it's finest. So, THANK YOU TEAM! Friends, I could walk you through mile by mile. I will never forget this race. It was dreadful. But beautiful. The most beautiful. We ran through thick forest, on tiny trails, we ran through clearings of tall grass + wild flowers, we ran on mountain ridges and looked over the valley. It. Was. GORGEOUS. I was falling more in love with the Pacific NorthWest, all the while frustrated that I was missing my niece's birthday, and very humbled at how amateur we were.

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20140623-150927-54567442.jpg Before the run, I asked Loren, "what do you think God will teach me on this run?" Boy, was I in for a lesson or 7! I will share a few.

Every time we came to "the steepest hill yet," which seemed to be every 50 ft, we told each other "We made it up the last one, we can make it up this one." It didn't mean the hills got any easier. It didn't mean they caused less pain and frustration. It was simply encouraging knowing we made it through the last one, therefore we could make it through this one, together. We reminded each other that flat roads were coming, we shared our water, we cheered each other on. I can't even tell you what a blessing running has been ultimately -- it has knit our hearts together more than not.

Half the time we weren't sure we were even on the trail. We would be running through the forest unsure if we were on the right path. Jumping over rocks & ruts and dodging bushes and SLUGS (spawns of satan). Soon enough, we would see our trail-marker, noting we are indeed on the right course! Do you know how much hope those pieces of red tape dangling from tree branches were? Do you know how much relief we had every time we saw one of the red flags? So. Much. HOPE! It was like, "Glory to God, we won't be lost & eaten by the bears! We won't die of starvation! We are on the right path!"

Around mile 8 I wanted to die. That's right, I wanted to lie down under a rock and shrivel to my death. Fortunately, I had my nifty running partner who encouraged me and high-fived me and told me I could do it. He gave me a few gummy bears and said I have ran further than this, I can do this. So I kept going. Around mile 14, Loren wanted to die. He wanted to stop, drop, and roll off the cliff. I had my second wind and was ready to sprint. But I encouraged him, I prayed for him, I told him he was my hero. I cheered him on for running further than either of us ever had. And he kept going.

Interesting that both of our breaking points were at different times. Also, very helpful, because we were able to build each other up when we felt like crumbling into dust. Which I'm pretty sure we could have. But what amazing moments for our friendship.

I remember thinking through these next thoughts right after I took these photos:

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20140623-152610-55570218.jpg THIS IS A DISASTER! We thought we could run trails! I didn't sign up for this crazy steep, crazy slug doom. I signed up for 15 miles with a 2200 foot elevation climb. I didn't sign up for 17 miles with a 4,922 foot elevation climb. But I did sign up for a trail run.. I even PAID for it. I invested my own money to go through this. It's harder than I thought, it's longer than I planned, it's way more painful than I would have asked for.

Talk about whiny. Here is when my thoughts transitioned:

God, why does this happen more than we think? We sign up to follow you and we don't usually "count the cost" like you tell us to. And even if we do, we don't know what is planned. We don't know the distance you'll ask us to travel or the mountains you'll ask us to climb. We surely don't know the pain we will endure.

But we can have confidence that you will walk us through it. That you'll even carry us on your wings. And we don't have to fear. Oh Jesus, I'm so grateful for you.

God? Do you ever ask us to do things in this life and then they turn out to be a disaster? A flop?

And that is when the words of a man from our church flooded through my heart, "I asked God why he had me do that {something while Pastoring a church} - it turned into a DISASTER. A complete flop. And everyone knew it. Why would He choose that? Humans saw it as a failure. You know what He told me? He said, 'That's none of your business, and you don't ask me again.'"

Sometimes we don't know the fullness of what we are signing up for. Whether it be a race, a sport, a class, and definitely a day to day life following Jesus Christ. When Jesus asks us to walk through the suffering and the pain, and when it appears to us as a complete failure, we have to trust Him. We have to remember His promise, "Do not fear, I am with you." We must choose confidence in His spirit because He knows best. He will carry us through, He will bring us from glory to glory.

Even if it's not how we think it should look.

To you who are peering ahead at the daunting mountain-climb OR who are already clawing up it, with dirt in your nails, KEEP GOING. You can do it! Jesus victored the last one, He will help you conquer this one. Keep pressing your heels into the dirt and moving forward. Don't stop and get stuck, the best way to go is forward. Keep forgiving, keep choosing joy, keep being honest. Lean into His graces, He has strength ready to be given to you.

To you who have your own agenda, "along with God's agenda," you should probably let go of it. You should probably realize sooner than I do, how selfish you become and how self-centered you are in your pursuit of your own agenda. I didn't enjoy the run nearly as much as I could have, because I was so focused for so long on what we were missing. I was so caught up in my plans being ruined and not being able to watch my niece decline cake again. She won't even know I wasn't there -- she is 1. But I was so caught up in MY agenda, I couldn't enjoy what I had originally signed up for and even invested in. Once I did let go, I enjoyed my time with Loren and the beauty that engulfed my surroundings. I enjoyed my circumstance. Let go of your agenda and pursuit, I will always work on this to too, and we will enjoy God's life a whole lot fuller!

To you who are on the path that is empty and narrow, keep your eyes open for His landmarks. He is there and He is guiding you. Let His spirit bring you Hope & Relief, walk in the confidence of being on His path. The best path. Even when no one else is. Keep on forgiving, keep on choosing joy, keep on leaning into Him.

To you who are discouraged and tired and weary...let those around you know. Tell those who care for you and let them root you on! This is why we need the church, we need each other. Let them encourage you and remind you that you can do this, just keep seeking the face of Jesus Christ. Keep sitting at His feet to soak in His love for you and don't forget to give thanks.

To you who feel as though you obeyed God (or are obeying Him) and it feels like a disaster, a destroyed failure, be still and know that He is God. Know that HE knows, He sees the greater picture, and you are one small instrument being used. He is bringing you from glory to glory, and if your heart is obedient to His will, you can have confidence and peace.

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20140623-154058-56458016.jpg Keep forgiving, keep choosing joy, keep loving & being a light, keep being honest before Jesus.

Will we run this again? Many have asked. The answer? Probably yes.

We got our pint glasses as we finished at 3 hours and 50 minutes.

I am in desperate need for a pedicure.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race GOD has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

BY THE WAY: I got 3rd out of 25 women, 9th out of 45 total. Loren got 10th. That shocked us.