Category Archives: ruminations

From Mom’s Memorial

I shared this as an introduction to Mom’s memorial yesterday…

My name is Gary Mitchell Aronhalt
I am the fourth son and last child of Gilbert Mason and Ruby Aronhalt
Raymond Clark is before me
Timothy Wayne preceded him
Kenneth Lee is the first son
Carolyn Sue is their second child
Brenda Kay is their first born 

We come from Colorado, from Kentucky, from Missouri and Ohio
We come from Marysville, Midland and Sardina and Owensville and Wilmington
From Greenfield and New Berlin, Wisconsin
We come from South Vienna and Plattsburg
We come from Black Lick, Kentucky and Adrian, Michigan

We come from messy haired board games in the kitchen
And from holiday feasts in the dining room 

We come from WIZE, WTUE and WLW
We come from Reds games on the radio
On the porch on a summer evening

We come from gospel and bluegrass
From country and rock and roll
We come from George Jones and Johnny Horton and Charlie Pride and Patsy Cline
We come from Hank Williams

We come from faithfulness and devotion
From irreverence and informality
We come from solid, but slightly off

We come from unwavering

We come from strong coffee, with Coffee-Mate creamer
We come from baking and cooking and canning
We come from chili, with peanut butter sandwiches
From soup beans and corn bread
We come from biscuits and gravy 

We come from garages and bowling alleys 

We come from Fords, mostly
From Mustangs and T-Birds, from Crown Vics, LTD’s and Rangers 

We come from the Blizzard of ’78
From flashlights in the darkness

We come from broken hearts and busted dreams
We come from jokes and jabs, from teasing and being teased
We come from fighting
We come from making up
We come from a lot of laughter

We come from love

We come from perseverance and persistence
We come from difficulty
We come from hard, hard work 

We are the children of Gilbert Mason and Ruby Aronhalt
And we are who we are, because they are who they are 

Thank you so much for being here today, to celebrate the life of our Mom

bear chase 50 mile race report, part 3: lap 4

(part 1 of this rather extended race report is here, and part 2 is here.  i also plan on writing a post-race observations type blog in the coming days, too… FYI.)

lap 4

as i made my way up the trail for one last time, i was nearly overcome with emotion at the idea i was going to finish… at how bad i wanted that finish line… that it was all really happening, to me, there and then.

but, it was much too soon to get too emotional.  i had to keep moving.

my legs have never hurt like that before.  nothing’s even close.  but, i had a bit of rhythm and was moving pretty well for 38+ miles.

coming into becki’s timing station for the last time!

as i approached becki’s timing station, ben drove by shouting and yelling my name… such a boost.  and i was greeted again, one last time, by becki at her station, who gave me a kiss on the cheek as i went by and that was a boost, too.

and then? ugh.

the sun came back out.  it warmed back up again… my stomach flipped over. again.

and it all became very, very, very hard.

miles 39ish to 43ish are a blur of slow, long, nauseous difficulty.

heading out to lap 4, i knew that i had it “in the bag,” i had the time to basically walk the entire way.  but, now that i was bonking like mad, i had some moments of doubt… thinking that if i moved that slowly for the last 8 miles… it was going to get very ugly.

so, i went back to the 7-up bottle, the drink that had saved me at the aspen backcountry marathon.

slowly, slowly, sip by sip, step by step.

i came up on the second timing station, and found that becki had packed up her station and came over to talk to her friend at this station.  she didn’t quite recognize me with my bad water-style bonnet.  i was moving so slow.  she encouraged and hugged me and i kept going.  (finding out later that she texted a picture of me to my wife, with an understated note that i was “in a low spot.”)

if a picture is worth 1000 words, then this is 1000 words of sadness.

note the bandana covering. if it looks goofy, but works, it ain’t goofy.

around the pond. sip by sip. step by step.

through the woods.
around the lake.
through the field.
sip, sip, step, step.

through the field, up to mt. carbon. if you look very closely you can see someone 2/3 the way up the hill. we did this 4 times.

up mt. carbon.  i stopped for potty break at the top.  and then, lots and lots of cold water from the coolers on the golf course. over my head, all over my shirt, all over my hat.

and then the downhill run from mt. carbon… and it finally all to start to turn around.

i began to move well again.  began to pass people again. encouraging people as much as i could, but knowing that some of them weren’t going to make it… soooo tough.

across the stream for crossings 10, 11 and 12 for the day.

up to the fox hollow aid station and i saw tracy and christy hires again, as they were volunteering.  and this was another huge boost.

more watermelon (which i’d eaten at every aid station all day… sooooooo gooooood!  running an ultra sure can make things taste so very good and so very bad. weird.)

up the hill out of fox hollow, passing more people. i began to move really well, again.

up the hill out of fox hollow aid station. pic taken after race.

along morrison road.

along morrison road. pic taken after race.

when melanie and i walked the course just a few days ago, i was surprised at how loud and close the traffic felt on morrison road. but during the race, it was all narrowed down to that small visage of the trail in front of you.  unable to take in extraneous sensory perception… just the trail… wristwatch, feet shuffling… a few bites of food in my pocket… my hydration hose… everything is reduced to those necessities.

as i came out from the irrigation canal area, and back towards the road, i heard a cheer rise up from the last aid station (mile 48?).  there were no other runners around, and i knew the cheer was for me!  such a feeling.

as i got closer, i saw and heard sarah!  she’d come all the way out to that aid station and she was cheering and shouting, “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!” and i was again very nearly overcome with emotion.

the incredibly helpful aid station people (and here i must say that the crews at all stations all day were absolutely incredible.  this is an amazing race.  and the running/ ultra-running community is chock full of beautiful, gracious and helpful souls.) offered whatever i needed, but now it was just another couple of pieces of watermelon and more water splashing over my body, and sarah joined my up the trail a ways…

sarah was sharing stories of volunteering and helping people during the race.  i learned that as i was getting ready to go out for the final lap, she and ben had talked a woman out of quitting and helped her get back out there for lap 4!  never underestimate the power of #wce.

i realize now that i was pretty quiet, pretty internalized at that point, and i don’t really remember much of what i said to sarah over those moments.  but i remember appreciating her presence so much.  she left me for a bit to speak with another runner that i was passing, a runner who was walking it in on a bad leg… messed up IT band, i think, but she was going to finish and sarah was encouraging her, too.

sarah met me again at that last mile marker sign (49!) and clicked a couple of pics of me, one that i knew about and one that i didn’t (which is now my favorite image from the race).  she asked me what my goal was for that last mile… i said i was going to run it all the way in (and by “run,” i mean that slow, hideous looking little stride known as the “ultra-shuffle.”  if you’ve not seen it, i’ll demonstrate it sometime…)

the picture i knew about…

the picture i didn’t know about…

and so, i started ultra-shuffling…

up that little rise.
around the ditch.
across the bridge.
down the hill.

and here i met another runner, and said, “come on, let’s go!” and he politely declined. 🙂  he knew he was finishing and he was good to go.  nothing left to prove at all.  he cheered me on…

down the trail.
to the gravel road.

down the gravel road to the finish area. note mt. carbon in the back ground. pic take after race.

and then she saw me, but i only heard her… my wife… my beautiful, lovely, long-suffering crew-chief wife.

so close to the finish

to the paved road.
around to the boat ramp.

and then i could see her, my wife of 20 years,  jumping up and down and shouting as loud as she could… and that’s another mental snapshot, burned into my mind… seeing her cheering for me at the finish line of my first ultra-marathon… i love that woman so very much.

and carolyn was there, my dear, dear sister (friend, spiritual confidant and at times surrogate mother)  cheering, cheering!

and sarah!  cheering, shouting, yelling! (in hindsight, i have no idea how she got back down to the finish line.  i have zero recollection of seeing her pass me.  shortcut? it’s a mystery.)

across the paved parking lot.
into the finish line area.

and across the line.

done. i love that melanie, carolyn and sarah are all in this picture, too.

50 miles.
11 hours.
21 minutes.
46 seconds.

they put the medal around my neck and finally a huge hug from melanie.

a moment

team aronhalt

and looking up, i saw dave and dawn, who’d driven down from the mountains to see the finish!!! more big hugs. i hadn’t realized they were right there at the line!

and becki, too! there at the line!  aaaahhh!

and then the waves began: of relief and joy and accomplishment and pride and humility and exhaustion and love and grace and gratitude.

i had half expected a big sobbing release, but there was none of that, yet… i had moments of tears later, much later, actually.

at that line there was just something “else” that i’ve not quite experienced before.  something other.

and i’m still not exactly sure what it was.

i guess i’ll have to head out again to see if i can find it…

bear chase 50 mile race report, part 2: laps 2 & 3

see yesterday’s post for pre-race and lap 1 commentary!

lap 2
heading out of the station, i walked a good long stretch to let my full stomach settle a bit. but, as i got close to becki’s timing station, i started running again to “impress” her… a pattern that would continue all day. shameful, i know. 😉

from the get-go, my calf sleeves didn’t feel great… probably because i’d never used them before (yikes.). there’s an old adage about not trying new things race day. it’s true. one should listen to that wisdom. i took them off a few miles into lap 2 and immediately felt better.

frankly, though, much of lap 2 is a hazy blur of nausea. the sun came out, it warmed up and my stomach just flipped over. ugh. feedings became super-forced. got behind on my carbs. clouds had built up on the mountains and i was praying that they’d finish rolling in and cool things off…

at the top of mt. carbon (6.5 into the loop, 19 overall) i stopped for a potty break and splashed a bit of cold water all over myself. felt a wee bit better from that, and the downhill running to the stream crossings.

on top of mt. carbon, beginning to roll downhill

i was still nauseous, having trouble getting carbs into my system until coming up out of the water crossings (#’s 4, 5 & 6 for the day). that’s when i discovered/ remembered the candy pumpkins in my pack. lawdhammercy. they tasted so good and they were JUST what i needed. lots of carbs in a tiny package.

up the hill out of the fox hollow aid station, i was still moving pretty slowly, though, so i tried to run down that hill and felt my calves starting to seize up.

yep. not quite half way done with the day and my calves were locking up like a chick-fil-a on a sunday. awesome. (perhaps still residual effects of calf sleeves?)

near end of lap 2

so, i kept moving, walking, walking, walking. and it was only mile 22. whee.

that’s when i decided i needed to incorporate the intentional run/ walk: 2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking and eating. repeat. that picked up my pace significantly and i almost immediately felt better. also began passing people at regular intervals.

and FINALLY those clouds rolled in and it cooled off. aaahh…

skipped the walking for a while and ran most of the way in at the end of the loop… love that last mile being downhill!

was met by sarah, who came out quite a ways out to check in with me and ask how i was doing… so encouraging!!

#wce was in full effect again, as we swapped out shirts, applied sunscreen, changed shoes and socks again… and ben noticed i was getting pretty red, so he gave me an icy, wet bandana around my neck. which would make a huge difference on lap 3. food was a bit difficult to get down, but i had another pudding cup, more coconut water and we filled my bag with some more fluid nutrition.

and again, it is overwhelming to go from being sort of “alone” to being surrounded by loved ones caring for you so intensely. really powerful.

headed out for lap 3 and whined loudly about how much heavier my bag felt, but was forgiven by the graciousness of my crew. i love those people.

lap 2 time: 2:49:45
overall time: 5:17:53
overall distance: 25 miles

lap 3
before the race, i was really dreading lap 3. i’ve done “4 lap” training runs and lap 3 always sucks. it’s more than half-way, but you’ve still got a long way to go… there’s just something about that space between 1/2 way and 3/4 that’s just terrible.

furthermore, i was heading into the unknown… into that range of miles, that place i’ve never been.

but, coming out of the aid station, i was feeling great! i had some good mojo working from the end of lap 2 and so lap 3 wasn’t seeming so bad. furthermore, it was still pretty cloudy, with the sun coming and going…

i walked quite a ways out of the aid station again, letting food settle, getting stuff situated and organized. started running again to impress becki at the bridge/ u-turn, and i felt pretty good.

i soon discovered that i could take the cold, wet bandana and turn it into a badwater-style sun covering, bringing some relief to my burning neck and ears. amazing.

and so, i kept moving and moving and moving, so very surprised to find myself feeling so great.

and then, i started passing people… lots of people. 50k people. 50 mile people. it was so energizing to be moving so well as i approached and passed the 30 mile mark. i was eating and drinking well, with no nausea. this was a real high-point of the race for me.

don’t get me wrong, i was tired, and was really beginning to hurt, but i was moving.

towards the end of the lap, darker clouds rolled in and it even spit some rain.

me. so. happy. i was praying for it to stay that way.

in some ways, this lap was uneventful.

#wce base camp for the day!

in other ways, it was monumental.

rolled into the aid station, with sarah coming out to help and encourage again. that’s one of my favorite memories of the day… sarah’s ongoing presence and encouragement…

a cool wind had picked up and it was blustery and spitting rain.

i just wanted to get out as fast as i could, because i was feeling so great. changed shoes and socks again. swapped out shirts again (so i could finish in team orange colors! boo yah.) food tasted amazing (another pudding cup! i do believe i could run an entire race fueled entirely by pudding… and candy pumpkins… and gummy worms… with a 7up chaser… )

as i was ready to head out, i had a long, strong embrace with my dear friend ben, because he had to leave and wouldn’t be there for the finish. this was another powerful mental snapshot for me, and another highlight of the day. he told me how proud he was and how confident he was of my finish… it felt so good. affections. sigh.

as i ran out of the aid station, i screamed “ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH!!!!”

lap 3 time: 3:09:36
overall time: 8:12:10
overall distance: 37.5 miles

bear chase 50 mile race report, part 1: pre-race and lap 1

yesterday (10.14.12) melanie and i walked the entire 12.5 mile bear chase race course. and that was my first real, extended activity i’ve had since the day of the race (i’ve worked out/ walked regularly, but nothing more than an hour or so). i wanted for her to experience that course, that place, since it now means so much to me. a couple of observations welled up from taking time to move all the way around again:

one, driving up to that place again for the first time, i was very moved/ excited/ happy/ proud/ weirded out. just driving up. i had not been back out that way since the race.

a second observation is that, inevitably, each of the individual laps are blurring into a consolidated memory mass of 50 miles, so that now, the 12.5 mile course almost feels like it is 50 miles in and of itself. it’s a bit strange. i still have plenty of very distinct memories of each lap, though, too, so things stand out. but, that little loop is now a place where time and distance and memory bend and flex for me.

anyway. more observations from yesterday will be incorporated into the report itself. here’s part 1 of my race report. pre-race and lap 1.

pre-race kitchen. sporting colors for team orrange!

slept quite well, which was something of a surprise. up early, oatmeal for breakfast and final packing. ben (crew) and jack (1/2 marathon) arrived at the house and we carpooled over. runners to the runner shuttles and ben straight to the park, as they allowed crew access, but no race drop off. a bit strange, but it worked well. super smooth and organized. this is a very well run race. can’t say enough about how great everyone was all day long.

got in line for the port-o-lets, and shortly thereafter a volunteer shouted out that 50 mile races had priority in line (boo yah!) so that went well.

last pic before heading out!

i was nervous for this race, but not like other races. in previous races this summer, i was nervous because of a sense of competition with friends. for this, i was nervous simply for the scale, for the great unknown of miles 27 and up, and for how much i suspected it was going to hurt.

at the starting line there was a mini-reunion with tracy and christie hires (hooray!) as they were running the half and then volunteering. we also saw #wce member becki lynn as she was working the event with the timing company.

but soon, the countdown was on for the start. i took my place at the back of the line, saw our neighbor jake and wished him luck, too. cinched up my straps on my pack, shook out my legs and it was go time!

lap 1
before the race, i’d sent a tweet to several ultra-runners to ask their advice for my first ultra. duncan callahan (2 time leadville winner and all around ultra phenom) replied: “be conservative early. finish strong. be tough.”

and so, i listened. i went out super easy, and watched the pack (100 or so were running the 50 miler) run away. i’m pretty sure at one point i was actually dead last, which was fine with me. i knew it was going to be a long, long day and i just had to run my race. my goal was to finish lap 1 feeling as if i’d not really done anything.

early on lap 1. feeling amazing.

the beginning of races are funny… i distinctly remember having the feeling about half a mile in that there was no way i was going to be able to do this… legs felt terrible, etc, etc. but, then i loosened up and settled into a rhythm and was fine. just 49.5 to go. 🙂

the first part of the course bobs in and out of the trees along bear creek and i have a strong memory of popping out at one point and seeing the brilliant full moon setting over lookout mountain. i stared and stared, burning a mental snapshot into my mind of that glorious image…

after just shy of a mile, the course hooks back downstream and i saw becki again, as i passed her timing station, and was excited to hear that i’d see her on each lap! it’s amazing the little boost one gets from seeing a friendly face and familiar voice. sigh. affections.

sunrise on mt. carbon. thanks fellow runner who snapped this pic!

i stopped at one point around mile 2.5(?) or so and pulled my phone out to actually take a picture of the rising sun on mt. carbon… absolutely gorgeous morning. breathtaking.

about 30 minutes in, i began my feedings. my plan (according to the wisdom of scott jurek) was to take in a few carbs every 15 minutes, all day. that plan went well for lap 1.

at mile 4.5 or so, i was shocked to see a herd of antelope go FLYING by me, in the form of the leaders of the 50k race. flying, i tell you. the leaders ended up passing me again on lap 3, too, and they CRUSHED the 50k course record, averaging 6 min/ mile or so for 31 miles. good for them. i was trying to keep my pace at less than half of that…

i did open up my stride a wee bit on the downhill side of mt. carbon, because it just felt soooo good to run fast and free a bit, but i reigned it in shortly thereafter, because i still had 43 miles to go.

stream crossing #3 of 12 for the day…

splashed through the 3 stream crossings and had my picture snapped by course photogs. sometimes, runner pics are embarrassing. but, my feet felt pretty good on the back half, even wet. the stream crossings weren’t going to be much of an issue.

in trying to honor duncan callahan’s advice, i also had to reign it in a bit near the end of loop 1. it took some discipline to remember how long the day was going to be…

the start/ finish line was the only place that runners were allowed to be “crewed” by friends/ family. so, the #wce (melanie, my sister carolyn, ben, sarah, anne & jack) set up camp and were prepared for my aid stops for the rest of the day.

ben & sarah meeting me at end of lap 1. photo by anne.

so, as i rolled in right before the start/ finish line #wce was in full effect. ben and sarah came out, asked what i needed and ben shot off to get it ready, as our camp was just the other side of the line. (by the way, it’s a really great idea to have an ultra-runner on your crew for your first ultra, because they just KNOW). anne was at the line with her camera to capture shots of jack, who would be along very shortly, too.

i was right on schedule. i had a cup of pudding (soooooo gooooood. bill cosby was right about jello pudding. dang.) and some coconut water. it’s kind of overwhelming to have so many people scrambling to take care of you.

the #wce is amazing.

changed out shoes and socks, put on calf-sleeves, refilled my bag and i was on my way out for lap 2.

lap 1 time: 2:28:08
total distance: 12.5 miles

still a bit occupied / beginning to process completing 50 miles

last week was tied up with preparations for jesse blasdel’s ordination.

this week has been tied up with preparations for preaching at platt park church (formerly pathways wash park and you should totally stop by if you’re looking for a faith community!), and so i’ve continued to postpone writing up my bear chase race report.

but, the delay in writing is also due to the fact that i’m having a hard time processing what happened.  it’s all just so big and strange.

top of mt. carbon, lap 2

this milestone is really important to me, and there really aren’t that many people in my day to day life who care to hear about it, or could even begin to relate… or would want to try and understand.  therefore, most people don’t know how to respond.

and that can make their responses pretty funny.  my favorite so far, upon hearing that it took over 11 hours: “i couldn’t even watch TV for that long…”

others respond with a real tinge of something like personal offense: “what’s wrong with you?!”

and people not knowing how to respond also just makes it kind of embarrassing, and so i’ve not talked a lot about it.  and since i’m an external processor, that’s made it a bit hard.

i do know that i’m simultaneously super proud of the accomplishment and completely humbled by it.  and that’s a strange mix.

one thing that was awesome was the outpouring of love and support via social media that day and the days following.  very overwhelming.

anyway, sunday night’s the night that i plan to start writing out the story of the day, as it unfolded. and that’ll be great timing because melanie and i are going to walk the entire course together sunday afternoon!

my sister, carolyn, captured this long, slow exhale just after the finish… communicates a lot.

bear chase race 50 miler thoughts: part 1

on saturday, before the race, my lovely wife melanie and i took a drive through the mountains to see the fall colors with my amazing sister, carolyn.  carolyn had flown in to visit, to run the baby bear 10k with melanie, and to be awesome and supportive for me during my race.

while we were out there, in those glorious mountains, carolyn said something about how they’re just sooo big.  i responded that pictures always, always fail to capture the scale.  and it’s true, you know…  pictures just can’t capture it all. like this one:

and so, yesterday was the race. i completed 50 miles in 11:21:46.

melanie asked me this morning how i was doing, not physically, but how i was feeling about it all.  and i responded that it just kind of doesn’t seem real, like it didn’t really happen… and today, i’ve struggled to put together thoughts about it all.  i sort of had a private moment or two in my office today where i nearly wept…

i intend to write an actual “race report” kind of post soon, but for now it just feels so big, like those mountains. it feels as if the scale of such an experience just can’t quite be captured in a post, or pictures, or stories.  it’s just something that someone has to experience.  that’s the only way to really know.


so… yeah.


in less than a week i’m going to run 50 miles at the bear chase race out in lakewood. four 12.5 mile loops, starting at 6:30 am and finishing sometime before the 12 hour cut-off.

and by “run” 50 miles i mean “run / jog / trot / walk / shuffle / stumble / crawl / whimper / cry / laugh / pray / keep moving forward” in varying degrees and capacities for 50 miles.

heading out of last aid station at the aspen backcountry marathon. photo courtesy of ross odegaard.

i had originally signed up for the 50k (31 miles) but that distance (and the time it would take to complete it down here in town) is so very near to what i experienced at the aspen backcountry marathon (which was MORE than a marathon), it seemed a shame to not set my sights higher.

i wanted to be able to write something witty and insightful about why i’m doing this, what’s driving me, what i hope to learn and experience…

but frankly, i’m a little freaked out.  it’s intimidatingly far, and i just freaked myself out further by looking up towns that are 50 miles apart… like colorado springs and highlands ranch, or cincinnati and dayton.

and it’s going to take a long time. yesterday, as i got ready for church i thought, “this time next week, i’ll be a little way into lap 1.”

then, later in the day, after church, i thought, “this time next week, i’ll be part way through lap 2.”

then, much, much later in the day, after lunch and running an errand and watching a bit of the broncos game and working around the house cleaning the gutters for a few hours i thought, “this time next week, i’ll have about an hour to go before i finish.”

so, maybe the wit and insight will appear after the experience.  i don’t know.

until then, i’ve got several days of wigging out to do…

thanks for reading,