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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 Hallucination 100 Race Report


Well, it's been about two weeks since I completed the 2016 Hallucination 100 mile trail run.  My legs are back to normal and my feet feel fine although I don't always wear sandals in public so that I don't freak people out (at least 50% of one of my pinkie toes was blistered by the end).  Our final donation total was $7,780 which exceeded both my primary goal of $5,000 and my secondary goal of $7,500.  Perhaps as important to me as the financial total, was the number of people who made a contribution.  Around 73 people, many of whom knew Holli and some who did not, honored her memory with a contribution to the Children's Grief Center and I thought of many of the notes that were left with the contributions during my run.  I was encouraged knowing that so many people still held memories of Holli in their hearts.

I want to thank the boys' grandparents for all of their support throughout my training as well as during the race.  My parents did an excellent job of supporting me as I went through each lap and Mike and Denise did a great job of shuttling the boys around (including a soccer game!) and getting them to the race.   Thanks to Gina, who is the one who introduced Holli and I, for supporting the crew with pizza and cheering me to a finish.  It still brings tears to my eyes when I think of the boys standing there near the finish line waiting for me.  Thanks to Elliott and Oliver for sharing your energy with me.

I'll keep my race report brief.  The race consists of six loops of 16 miles each.  The first two went by smoothly and uneventfully.  As I geared up for loop 3, I heard the gentle sound of rain on the aid station tent as I prepared to start the loop.  It was about about 12:30 AM.  The next loop was rough.  The gentle rain soon became a downpour that made visibility difficult.  The trail could not drain fast enough and soon I was running through water that was ankle deep in places.  I ran through deep mud and through small streams.  Needless to say, I was soaked.  But it was cool and I was still feeling good and lost remarkably little time on the loop.  I encountered a rather large raccoon that refused to move from the trail.  It was strangely surreal, but I was moving along well.  By loop 4, the novelty of running through the rain had warn off and the deep puddles and continued rain made changing shoes and socks an act of futility.  I was tired.

The weather had cleared up somewhat by loop 5 and the sandy soil had reduced the puddles, but there were still plenty of long tracks of deep mud.  It was sunlight again, which always provides some encouragement but I was both physically exhausted and beginning to doze off while running.  I knew that I had sufficient time to finish so I wasn't discouraged, but I looked forward to lap 6 and the sight of Elliott and Oliver waiting as I completed lap 5 warmed my heart.  I even managed to jog out of the aid station before walking once I was out of sight.

There was an inevitability to lap 6.  I knew that I could finish.  It was just a matter of not stopping.  I tried to will myself to run, but could rarely manage more than 100 paces of a slow jog, then only 50 paces, before I had to walk.  As the sun began to set again, I kept having the strangest hallucinations.  I knew that they weren't real so they didn't really bother me, but the imagine of the runner stepping over a small fence was quite vivid even though I knew that nothing like that existed on the course.  Trees became bears.  The winding trail looked a lot like a snake.  Sometimes it moved.  I was dozing off again and with half of the last loop remaining I asked a nearby runner if he was walking the rest of the way.  He was so I offered to walk with him hoping that some small talk would help keep me focused and moving forward.  Dan's feet had suffered with the rain and we both avoided any discussion of blisters.  I'm sure that we made quite the sight shambling along those last few miles, but we kept moving forward.

Elliott and Oliver shrieked in excitement when they saw me come around the corner.  It's a little blurry at that point.  We crossed the finish line together.  Words don't do it justice.  After everyone had left, Elliott stayed with me at the campsite.  I thought about taking a shower, but the bathhouse was too far to walk to so I just changed clothes and collapsed into a sleeping bag.  At 2 AM, I woke Elliott up and leaned on him as I shuffled my way to the nearby port-a-potty.  I felt incredibly satisfied.  Later, I saw that the night of rain took it's toll any only 71 of the 203 starters actually finished the whole 100 miles.

That was going to be the finale, but I already know that there are only finales in movies and books.  This Friday, I'll talk about my run and grief at a TEDx talk at SVSU (www.tedxsvsu.com) which will be the first time that I have ever talked about losing Holli in public.  Speaking publicly about my feelings is not something that comes naturally.  Okay, even speaking privately about my feelings doesn't come naturally.  It feels important though.  I've talked to too many people who have felt alone and isolated after suffering some tragic loss.  I've had my share of setbacks and made my share of mistakes, but perhaps my experience and what I have learned from Holli will help others continue to move forward through difficult times.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Countdown to the race and TEDx


As I write this it is just over 8 days until the start of the race.  Honestly, that's sort of intense.  It's too late for any running that I do to make a difference physically.  I think that I have my equipment pretty much dialed in so, other than assembling everything into one place, I think that I am pretty set there.  I'm working with the Children't Grief Center on materials to have at a table that will be located at the campsite we will have set up.  That's where Elliott and Oliver will be collecting donations in exchange for the tie dye shirts that they made.  I'll be there at 11:00 AM settings things up before the race starts at 4:00 PM.  Of course, I'm still taking donations here: https://www.crowdrise.com/runforholliinsupportofthechildrensgriefcenteroftheglbr1/fundraiser/brianthomas5

I guess I'm mostly working on getting emotionally prepared for the race.  Even a normal race carries a certain emotional weight as you confront physical discomfort and exhaustion.  Of course, this isn't a normal race and the races that I have run preparing for this one have given some insight into how I might feel this time around.  In that typical male manner, I'm no superstar at communicating feelings and emotions, but I know that there will be a flood of feelings over the 28 to 30 hours I'll be on the course.  Some of those feelings will be good and some won't.

So I'm pleased to announce, with an ironic nod to the challenges I face talking openly about feelings, that I've been accepted to give a TEDx talk on ultrarunning and grief on September 30 at SVSU (http://www.tedxsvsu.com/). My hope is to talk about how running has helped me frame my life since losing Holli. The point that I hope to pass along is that the training for a race is more important than the race itself.  The race is the easy part (er, easier).  Training for the race is the hard part. But, of course, the talk isn't really about running. It's about trying to carve out a meaningful and fulfilling life after suffering significant loss. My life is certainly and unfinished and imperfect project, but perhaps some people will benefit from hearing about some of the things that have worked for me.  You would be surprised at the number of hours I have already spent trying to put things into words, tossing drafts, and starting again.  Perhaps to reiterate the point of the talk, my plan is not to "let words come" but to craft my talk and practice until it is something worthwhile. Keep your fingers crossed.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Back to Burning River


Where has the summer gone?  I'm heading down to Cleveland this weekend to run the Burning River 50 Mile Endurance Run.  This will be the first half of the 100 mile run that I did in 2009.  Was it really 7 years ago?  I've been keeping up with my running (mostly) and this weekend will be significant because I have always peaked out at 50 miles before each of my 100 mile runs.  Actually, as I think about it, out of 5 attempts at 100 mile runs the only two times that I dropped out I had not completed a 50 mile training run at the peak of my training.  So keep your fingers crossed for me.

The other reason this feels like a big run is that it means that the Hallucination 100 is only a month away.  I confess that I haven't hammered out all the details of that weekend, but I thought that I would give a general overview for anyone who is interested in coming for all or part of the weekend (you can find a complete schedule here http://www.runwoodstock.com/index.php/info/schedule-of-events.)

1)  Where can I find everyone at the race?  We will have a campsite at the start/finish with a table for the Children's Grief Center.  We'll be selling bracelets for donations and have some information about the Center.  We will probably begin setting up in this area around 11:00 AM on Friday the 9th.  Come and spend some time with us.

2)  Will I be able to watch the race?  Sort of.  Races take up to 30 hours so it isn't really a spectator sport.  The race is a series of 16 mile loops that go through the camp group where our campsite is located.  Obviously, I'll be spending most of my time on the loop, but you will probably be able to predict when I am passing by the start/finish based on my time in the previous loop.  Of course, I'll probably be slowing down each loop.  I'll also be at the start at 4:00 PM on Friday and, if all goes well, crossing the finish line sometime before 10 PM Saturday night.

3)  What can I do?  You are certainly welcome to join us at the campsite.  The weekend is full of events with live music, yoga, food, tye dying, and other activities.  Check the schedule above.  Please note that you will need weekend passes or Saturday concert passes (https://runningfitevents.redpodium.com/2016-run-woodstock).

4)  Can I run (or walk) too?  Yes!  I think that it would be awesome to see Run for Holli shirts at the various races that they will be holding that weekend.  There are three 5k runs that are free if you get a weekend pass.  That's only 3.1 miles!  Walk one with a Run for Holli shirt!  If you are interested in pacing, shoot me an email too.  Pacers are allowed after the first loop.

5) Can I still donate?  Of course!  We have exceeded my initial goal of $5,000, but I would like to hit $7,500 by the end of the race!  You can donate here:  https://www.crowdrise.com/runforholliinsupportofthechildrensgriefcenteroftheglbr1.

I'm going to put an event on the Facebook page so that I can keep track of who is planning on coming that weekend.  Thanks to everyone for their support to this point!


Friday, June 17, 2016

It's more than 50% mental



That's one of those cliches among ultrarunners that has more than an ounce of truth.  You train physically to run the first 50 miles and mentally for the second 50.  My first 100 mile run was the Haliburton Forest 100 in Ontario, Canada (pictured above).  It consisted of two 25 mile "out and back" runs.  Consequently, I hit the 50 mile point at the start/finish point just as the sun was starting to set, 50 mile runners were celebrating their finish, and I was physically more than exhausted.  There weren't many 100 mile runners on the course, temperatures were dropping, and I knew that I had a long, cold night ahead of me.  Holli stayed up most of the night with me, driving from aid station to aid station.  It wasn't fun at that point, but I finished.

I was thinking about this 50% mental rule last week, except this time it was 11:30 PM and I only had to run 7 miles to stick to my training plan.  I was sitting on the couch trying to decide if I should run or not.  I hadn't planned on getting on the treadmill that late, but I had let the boys stay up late as the summer days had gotten longer and right before bedtime Oliver had been missing his mommy.  I wasn’t in the mood to run.  I wanted to sleep. The mental “grit” required to run 100 miles gets all the glory, but the truth is sticking to a training plan takes more mental effort.  If you can figure out how to stick to that training plan the race is easy.  Just kidding, at least it's easier.  I have stare down matches with the treadmill multiple times a week.  Most of the time I get on the treadmill.  Sometimes I don’t.

I’ll be doing a little mental and physical training next weekend with a 50k at the Dawg Gone Long Run down in Dayton, OH with my old friend Luke.  This will also be the first test run of the Run for Holli shirt that I’ll be wearing at the race.  The Booster t-shirt campaign has ended and we sold 44 shirts to make $1,120 for the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region!  That means, we have raised $3,975 towards our goal of $5,000!  That’s incredible!  Thanks everyone!

Even though you can't order t-shirts anymore, you can still make donations here!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I don't believe in ghosts


Yesterday was the day that Holli and I met 19 years ago.  We met in the driveway of a house in East Lansing (photographed above by Holli in 2012.)  Tomorrow will be the day that Holli and I got married 14 years ago.  Holli used to joke that she would haunt me if she passed before I did, although I guess we expected this would be something we confronted in old age.  It wasn't scary.  It was a comforting idea.  Of course, I don't believe in ghosts.

That hasn't prevented Holli from haunting me and I am grateful that she does.  Even after two and a half years, I still imagine her sitting next to me in the car or on the couch.  I hear what she would say in response to both small and large events in my life.  Memories replay on a daily basis with sad, but comforting detail.  At times, the line between when she was here and when we lost her becomes blurred and I forget that she never saw Oliver play soccer, Elliott sell root beer floats, or even meet Peanut.  I know that it is because I saw her there.  I sometimes wish that I believed in ghosts, but I don't.  This hasn't stopped Holli from haunting me.  It is sad sometimes, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

******

Now I need your help keeping Holli's memory alive by helping me support the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

1)  Go here to order a shirt before June 12.  All proceeds go to the Children's Grief Center.
2)  Make a donation here in honor of Holli and in support of my run in September.
3)  Share this post and, if you knew Holli, perhaps share a memory of two also.

**If I already told you that I would send you a shirt, no need to order one as I will have one sent to you.**