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The Race to Kinvara

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The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

“You look wild and free when you’re running.

The worry goes away and is replaced by an intense look.

You can’t run and worry at the same time.”

~ my running buddy

 

Confident. Happy. At peace. In last place out of nine relay teams from around the world I set out on my 8 mile leg feeling relaxed and uninhibited especially because no one was around to see me fly. Like a little kid I threw my arms out and airplane glided down the the narrow road through the green Irish countryside.  I didn’t care that my team was in last place or that the natives from Doolin were watching me in wonder as I glided down the street. For a brief moment I was free from the past ten months and the divorce that continued to haunt me. Bent but not broken I ran through the Irish countryside feeling utterly at ease.

As I crested the hill I was privy to a panoramic view of the Ireland’s western coast. While the ocean itself was a veritable site to be seen I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the rolling hills of limestone rock that comprised the Burren landscape of County Clare. Relaxed, happy and strong- I ran. How did I get here again? How did I arrive at this bittersweet moment in the middle of the Irish countryside feeling melancholy for memories past, thankful for this once in a lifetime opportunity, hopeful for the future and feeling stronger every run? How? Running. Running gave me this opportunity. Running changed my life. Running brought me to Ireland.

For the past ten months I have felt raw, vulnerable and exposed. I have spent far too much time in a protective stance gripping my arms to elbows worried that the world can see my divorce painted all my naked body. Healing. Evolving. Growing. These things take time. It’s a two steps forward-one step back dance that unfortunately doesn’t magically resolve itself after one blog post about hope and healing. I have felt better, then worse. Confident, then fearful. Illustriously happy and then dreadfully tearful and terrified. I’ve been in mourning over the loss of my past life and overwhelmed at the notion of rewriting a future that had once been so clearly etched in stone.

So how do you move on from something so life changing?

You peel yourself out of bed and you do what you’ve always done: you run. You run because it is the only thing left in your life that feels normal. Your run has the power to set you free. Your run lets you forget your troubles while also giving you ample opportunity to process painful memories. Your morning run forces you to move forward and move on, to push yourself to new limits and to simply believe in yourself.

You run because running can take you places, if you let it.

This year running took me to Ireland.

 

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The Race to Kinvara

You read that right- running AND Saucony took me to Ireland this summer!  Saucony corporate randomly selected over 70 lucky running retail employees across the world like myself to compete in a relay race across Ireland. Upon arriving in Ireland we were divided into 9 teams of 8 runners (7 running retail associates and one Saucony representative). The 9 teams were comprised of the following: 4 KICK-ASS USA teams, 1 German team, 2 Canadian teams, 1 team from France that was stacked with sickeningly fast men, and 1 team from UK/Ireland.

The trip may have been quick, but it was jam packed full of amazing experiences and fun that will last a lifetime. Most of the runners arrived on  Wednesday morning in Dublin. There we were showered with gift bags from Saucony with custom made Kinvaras for the event, 2 singlets, 2 pairs of shorts, socks, a hat, a pullover, and a rain jacket (all products are displayed in the images on this page). Saucony spared no expense with this event. EVERYTHING was taken care of. The hotel, the food, the internet, transportation to/from events, the flight, the massage therapists at the end of each day, the open bar… yep- 100% on Saucony. In fact I spent the majority of the trip feeling like I did not deserve this amazing opportunity while also wanting to soak up every ounce of Ireland possible!

We were given the day on Wednesday to explore Dublin, rest, run and/or get to know each other. In all reality I hopped on a plane to spend 72 hours in a foreign country with complete strangers. But we weren’t really strangers because we are all runners. And what do runners like to talk about? SHOESSSSSS!!!  I witnessed many heated debates over which version of the Kinvara was the BEST version. Definitely the Kinvara 3!!… NO-NO-NO- THE FOUR! ….THE THREE!… THE FOUR!!! You simply have to love runners and their gusto for their beloved shoes. Making friends in this new crowd was pretty darn easy. We were all runners being treated to a once in a lifetime experience!! Yup, we were a happy bunch!

Thursday and Friday were spent racing across the country. We spent the vast majority of the day Thursday in the van covering over 70 miles of terrain between our teammates (from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm) as we ran from Dublin to Kilkenny. On Friday we traveled to the Cliffs of Moher and raced 40 miles up the Western coast of Ireland to Kinvara. Between the water-gun fights, some sort of cookie/brownie magical combination, chocolate covered wafers a plenty, a stop at the Barak Obama Freedom Pitstop Plaza and a few near death experiences with our van driver (Sorry! I didn’t see that speed bump- again) we had a blast in the bus and on the road!!

In lieu of a traditional description of the event I will leave you with some of the pictures from the trip. There is no doubt in my mind that these pics don’t do the priceless nature of this event justice. Regardless, enjoy!

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Remember the day when Jon Pierce, my tech rep, showed up at the running store with music blaring and a bucket of beer while shouting, “YOU’RE GOING TO IRELAND”? Do you remember when I replied, “THAT’S JUST MEAN JON. WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT!” …. Because it’s true Kass. 🙂 oops! THANK YOU JON!!

 

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TEAM USA WHITE!! It was a bitter battle for 8th place, but we prevailed!! I love all of my awesome teammates from the RSG group- TJ, Dave, Kelly, Rob, Connor and Trey from Saucony!! Thanks for the awesome memories. I’m still thankful (and a little surprised) that we survived the bus ride.

 

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I LOVE IRELAND!

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I turned 32 in Ireland. A room full of nearly 100 people sang Happy Birthday to me. Not a bad way to kick off another year! THANK YOU EVERYONE!!

 

 

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10 hilly miles out of Dublin deserves a birthday Bulmers and some post race massage action at the finish.

 

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I may have not crashed a wedding like some other runners I know…cough cough…. but I was still pret-ty tired on Friday morning. Rice cake for breakfast thank you very much. #whathappensinIrelandstaysinIreland….

 

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ATTENTION CUSTOMERS: It’s NOT pronounced Sauce-a-knee or SUH-COH-KNEE. nope!! It’s SAW-CAH-KNEE. SAUCONY! SAUCONY! SAUCONY! THANK YOU SAUCONY!!!

 

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Every team was assigned a “moto”, a motorcycle who rode next to them for their entire leg. Above is Rob (a CRAZY FAST runner from Garry Gribbles Running Spot) accompanied by our very own moto as he made up about 20 minutes for Team USA White on day 2.

 

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Who doesn’t like a good donkey selfie?

 

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From left to right: TJ from NJ, Kelly from TX, Connor from VA, Rob from KS, Dave from Indy, myself and Trey. Kelly- did you ever find the rock in the shape of TX?

 

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RTK 2016 Team Photo Kinvara

The whole crew in Kinvara! THANK YOU SAUCONY!

 

On Friday morning I waited in the transition zone a ball of nerves. My mind was abuzz with worrisome thoughts. Would I go fast enough for my team? What if the hills chewed me up and I couldn’t go any faster?? Even though I’m fairly anxious I always feel like the best version of myself while running; the real me who I wish everyone could see. My anxious adult self concerned with paying bills and and the future washes to the wayside leaving ample opportunity for other selves to rise to the surface, feel the warm sunlight on my face and the breeze rush across my skin. This is it; this is my happy place. As I see TJ, my relay teammate round the bend my heart leaps, adrenaline surges through my veins and My rowdy runner self shouts out, “Let’s rip it, roll it and punch it!!!” before I head out on my final miles across the Irish countryside. My child-like self throws her arms out to the side, lets her eyes close for a split second and pretends she is flying. And then my competitive runner self settles into the final miles as my pace hastens and drops to mid-to-low 7’s, this was a race after all. I negative split the 8 miles with a final mile of 7:08. I turned the bend to spot Connor, my upbeat teammate who was all ready to run me into transition. I leaned full tilt and pushed the pace. It took Connor a second to realize that I was half-stepping him into a full gallop. Laughing as we crossed into the transition zone I handed the snap bracelet to Trey and set him off on his own journey.

Running lets me be so many things all at once- but not stressed- no, never. It forces me to stay in the moment and believe in myself even when the times get tough. With each step running encourages me to continue beyond what I once thought possible for my body and soul. Every day running helps me find my strong. Through the good and the bad- this is why I run.

You can’t be stuck if you’re moving forward.

Find your strong.

Run.

Never stop running.

~ The Lone Runner/Kass

 

**Thank you to Saucony for putting on such an amazing event that reminds us why we run in the first place: to make friends, feel happy, believe in ourselves and be stronger with every run. Much love to you and your team.

Thank you to my teammates, my roommate- Hil- and the entire crew for the AMAZING memories!**

 

3 Responses

  1. Welcome back! I’ve missed you.

  2. mukrunner262

    Thanks for sharing…your race recap, your memories and your pain. It will get better. Pain has a terrible bite to it at the beginning, the middle and the end. But there is an end. What pain sometimes doesn’t realize is that it is its own worse enemy at times. Pain makes us stronger or at least it numbs us a bit to the next painful moment. That’s what we runner ascribe to…to either grow stronger or to not feel it as much on our next hard workout. For at the end of the run how do we know if we ran at all without the pain.

    YOU are strong. Thank the pain.

    MR262

  3. Hi, good post! Thanks and good luck…

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