The world lost an incredible mother, wife, daughter, friend, attorney, underprivileged advocate, and community member suddenly and unexpectedly on October 16, 2013. In honor of my late wife, Holli Wallace, I am training for the Hallucination 100 mile trail run and raising money for the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

My training progress

Monday, April 18, 2016

Life always gets in the way of my running


On Saturday, I'll start the NO WIMPS Challenge with a half marathon down in Pinkney followed by a marathon on Sunday.  I did this is 2013.  It's the first of several small goals I use to keep me on track for the big run.  I'm marginally prepared although I expect experience at this race and in general will be enough to carry me through to the end, even if my times aren't what they could be.  Life has gotten in the way lately and sidetracked my well organized training plan.  In the past month or so I've been sick, the boys have been sick, our basement has flooded, we've celebrated holidays and a birthday, we've had a sleepover with a houseful of energetic boys, Elliott and I road tripped to Niagra Falls, and I've been down to Mexico for a few days.  I sometimes tell students that you need to have life plans so that you know how to gauge how serious things are when they go wrong.  It also gives you some sense of the path that you should return to after recovering from those inevitable moments when life gets in the way.

Elliott and Oliver lead the path that guides me.  The problem is that there are thousands of daily decisions and negotiations along that path that rarely have clear solutions or answers.  Family, work, and (dare I even suggest?) time for myself are a juggling act with ongoing decisions of what to drop and what not to drop.  What kind of parent does it make me that goes for a three and a half hour run on the eve of leaving his kids to work in Mexico?  I think that I am doing fine, but questions like this cross my mind all the time.  When Elliott was upset that Holli had to work she would explain to him that she enjoyed her work and that, while she would miss him, it was important to her and that she was grateful to have the job and that she was helping people.  I remind myself that living a life that is not just for them is the only way to live a life that will be meaningful for them.

Perhaps it is only related in my mind, but yesterday was Elliott's first travel soccer game and today was Oliver's first soccer practice of the season.  It seemed to me another step in their independence.  I love to watch them play, especially in those moments when they are so clearly thriving in the moment.  It doesn't work all the time, but I hope that they know that there are moments when I am away from them and thriving too.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region?


I think that there is a very reasonable question regarding why I chose the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region as a the charity to raise money for in Holli's honor.  I'm not sure if there is a single answer so much as a confluence of things that just made it the right thing to do.  As I sit here looking at old photos of Elliott's part birthdays, I am reminded of what a dedicated mother she was and how important that it was for her children to be nurtured and loved.  In fact, it was a mantra that I used frequently to get through the first year.  I asked myself what she would have wanted most and the answer was always that the boys be nurtured and loved to the best of my ability.  There are some days that I do better than others, but it was and still is a clear goal.

Today, Elliott spent his birthday without his mother.  It will be like that for the rest of his life as, of course, it will for Oliver.  This isn't a burden that goes away in a year, or two years, or even decades.  After today, it will be another holiday, major life event, or life challenge.  I'm sure that they will think about it in different ways as they get older, but it will always be there.  A hole in their lives.  It's a hard thing to watch children grow up without a parent.  The truth is that there aren't very many people or places that understand what it is like for a child confronting this type of loss.

We have missed very few support group sessions organized by the Children's Grief Center.  Elliott and Oliver never fuss about going and are always glad to go and glad to be there.  The staff and volunteers know them well, are exceptionally warm and friendly, and always patient and kind.  I know that it is a place where they feel like they belong in a world where they don't quite fit in the same way that they used to.

Elliott and Oliver are certainly testament to the benefits of the Center, but I know that there are more children out there who are facing similar challenges who may not know that the Center is there as a resource.  It's a hard thing to confront.  Going the first time was hard.  It still is sometimes, but the simple truth is I'm not sure where we would go if the Center was not there.  I don't know of another place filled with kind, caring staff and volunteers, as well as people who also know what it is like to spend another birthday without a mother.  I wish that the boys didn't need to belong to a group like this, but we didn't chose this path and I am grateful to be able to support a group that will help the boys move along it.  It's what Holli would have wanted.

Monday, March 7, 2016

109 miles in February

I like numbers and statistics.  In February, I ran 109 miles and burned a total of 11,874 calories.  I feel pretty good about that.  Of course, more important than simply the numbers is what they mean.  In 2013, when I was last training for Hallucination, I clocked 101 miles in February.  By April of 2013 I was up to 176 miles (with a drop in May due to a trip to Asia) before peaking at 191 miles in July of 2013.  I figure that this means that I am pretty close to on track.  I am also very pleased to have received $2,000 in donations pledged so far.  Just last weekend, I finalized the details on the website that I will use for actual donations and I will post the details soon.  Still moving forward...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I need six people to commit to collecting $500

I'm working with the excellent staff at the Children's Grief Center to set up a more efficient online donation system.  Once that is done, I'll start collecting donations on a more formal basis.  My initial goal is to identify six people who are each willing to either donate directly or help collect donations of $500.  That's just 10 donations of $50.  If you are willing to commit to being one of the initial six people raising $500 for the Children's Grief Center in Holli's name, please email me (brianjasenthomas@gmail.com) or send me a private message on Facebook.  I'll get you a shirt as soon as they are printed and a leather bracelet that says "Run for Holli."  Please help me out.

In other news, training is going well.  I've started planning to run a series of races leading up to Hallucination.  These races serve as miniature goals to help keep me motivated.  Also, through a combination of coincidence and intent, they are something of a trip down memory lane.  First, I'll run the Trail Marathon in Pinkney on 4/24 (as well as a half marathon on 4/23 to complete the No Wimps Challenge).  I've actually run this race a few times, including in 2013 when I was also training for Hallucination.  I'll follow this with the Two Hearted 50k in Paradise on 6/24.  I've never run this before, but it just seemed appropriate.  Finally, I'll peak my long runs with with 50 miles at Burning River on 8/6.  This was the location of my second 100 mile race. 

Please consider being one of the first six to commit to collecting $500 for the Children's Grief Center.  I'm off to put some miles on the treadmill.

Friday, February 19, 2016

On grief and ultrarunning

Holli and I used to talk about running a fair amount.  Even though she wasn't a runner, she was my crew at all of my major races.  In long races it isn't unusual to lose the ability to understand clearly what you need or what is going on.  You can forget to eat, forget to drink, forget to change gear, the list goes on.  It is nice to have someone who knows what you need even when you do not.

We inevitably lean on past experience to understand current experience.  I've found that the difference between ultramarathons (in particular 100s) and shorter races is the number of ups and downs that you experience.  In shorter races, there is often a clean arc that goes from feeling great to feeling tired to feeling the elation of finishing.  With ultras you must endure several cycles of ups and downs before crossing a finish line that, at least for me, rarely brings a sense of elation.  Only later does a sense of satisfaction set in.

The myth of grief is that there is some sort of clean arc to the process.  The finish line lies when one has gone through all the stages, taken enough time, finished grieving or moved on.  The language of grief coming to an end is so much a part of our lexicon that you don't notice it unless you are given reason to pay attention.  Of course, it isn't true.  There is neither a clean arch nor a finish line.

On Wednesday, I heard my 4 year old son explaining to one of his little friends that his mom died.  Moments like that are heartbreaking and I know that there will be more. There is no finish line, just more ups and downs in a jungle gym of emotions that is neither fair nor predictable.  At times memories are a comfort and at times they are an open wound.  There are moments of pride and satisfaction as well as defeat.

The night after I finished my first 100, I dreamed that I was still running.  It had it's ups and downs, but I was glad to still be running.  And I felt strangely disappointed when I woke up in bed.