Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Maya Journey: The Inner Wild

Maya Journey: The Inner Wild

Well it' been a while since I last felt the ability to share my thoughts and it has been a hard fought fight to get to where I am today. I think about what it felt like after returning home from Maya's burial and I am so thankful I made it past those first few months and it may take a while to look at those winter months the same way again.

But with the help and gentle inspiration from God, time, and loved ones, "in the depth of winter I found that within me lay an invincible summer."(Albert Camus)

So...I started to run.

I bought a treadmill and demolished a pair of sneakers I had for a decade and invested in shin splint tape and stretchy pants...because sometimes, when you are a man(wo) you wear stretchy pants in your's for fun.

And sometimes you wear your stretchy pants in your room while you run your demons out until you collapse on your bed, because you are convinced that YOU are still in there...somewhere.

My sister-in-law Diana, aware of my new love of running (a.k.a I got over my fear of letting go of the handles on the treadmill), asked me if I would like to join her in a Ragnar race. My usual and immediate response to things Diana says with the word "race" in it was an emphatic "No...huh uh, no way."  And then, I started thinking.....maybe!? And theeeeeen...I said Yes! There have been more than a few times I have gone with a good feeling as a propellant for action and this most certainly, defying logic, was one of them.

I told a friend I had signed up to run a 200 mile relay race and she said "Wow! Are you a runner?" to which I responded... "nope."

With maybe 5 weeks ahead of us, we began training. I looked pretty much awful 6 days a week...the good kind though, from a crazy amount of sweat and a decent amount of tears. I read constantly about running tips, how to lace shoes, how to run hills, the length of your stride, how to breathe, how to lean, I downloaded apps, I wore compression socks, I duct taped blisters, I high-fived myself and danced in the shower and I tried extra hard to listen to the voice that said "You can do this." Aaaaand I only had like 5 mental break on to victory!

Finally it was Race Day. Our team got to the hotel late Thursday night and Friday morning we were all up and in the van with our gear at 4;45am. I had figured that just signing up for the thing was going to earn a pat on the back from myself and any mileage I put on my shoes was more than everyone on the couch. I imagined that was why I felt good about putting my name on the roster.
It had been an exquisitely tough year and I thought doing this run would be a symbolic exclamation as we near Maya's first birthday in a few weeks.

I told Maya at her funeral that she would probably see us cry and be sad and that it was OK and that it would bring us closer to God. Well, no doubt Maya has seen me on some hard times since she graduated from her earthly body.  I have spent a good amount of time trying to will her photograph to snuggle on my shoulder. Maya's passing has hurt abominably.


So I pulled out a sharpee and scrawled "Mighty like Maya" on my arm, tucked a small laminated picture of my baby girl into my pocket and turned up the music.

If this song just played over and over I would be alright. They pretty much summed it up.

The Ragnar is a relay race with 200ish miles split up between 12 team members, with each person running 3 legs of the race starting for us at 5:15 am and ending the following afternoon. 

My first leg of the race was absolutely gorgeous.  The sun was shining and I was running down an open farm road in Amish country Pennsylvania waving at buggies and giant farm machinery as they passed by.  The view was joyous and I could not help but run with a giant smile on my face. Seriously...running...who knew?! I even finished my leg before our van got to the next exchange point! Normally as you finish your leg you pass the "baton" (slap bracelet) to the next runner on your team who charges off continuing the race. It was really fun having my team show up with excitement that I had gone faster than expected.

(Sometimes your van is posing with horses...which is what we were doing when we lost our runner earlier in the day)- Diana, Me, Sarena, Karl and Liz...(David not shown here as he is running around somewhere)

My second leg was in the late afternoon in the woods with rolling hills and streams. Most of my run was in solitude and I still felt so free and happy. It had been a while since I felt so joyful.  Diana and my team taught me to let gravity pull me down the hills and to not put on the brakes, so I was running full blast down the hills hoping I didn't spaz out and trip because I would have been pretty bummed to leave my face on the pavement. Flailing downhill really helped my pace. That could be the title of my running book "Yer Gonna Wanna Flail More." Coming around the last bend I saw the next exchange point in an open field and waved as the teams started cheering, then another runner came up from behind me. Before I go on, one thing teams count is how many runners they pass and these are tallied as "kills."   A couple decades ago I was a pretty competitive person, an athlete even, and at that moment, that person woke up and before I became a dash mark on someone else's van, I started SPRINTING! Then she started sprinting!!! It was epicly awesome and I WON!!!  And by "I won" I mean I beat one runner to one exchange point...but I WON!!!! Can we all just take a minute to think about how awesome I am?!......It's OK if you need more time.

(Sarena, Diana and I sporting our Ragnar Tats!)

My third and final leg began shortly after sunrise on Saturday morning.  Karl started our van off at around 2:30 in the morning followed by the other die-hards of the van: David, Sarena, and Diana. I think that this leg was the hardest generally for our van with the lack of sleep and these were also longer in distance and in the dark. Serious respect to my teammates. Also did I mention it was raining?! I wish I had more pictures to share of the craziness.  Karl ran on a trail in the middle of the night and was unrecognizable among all the blinking vested runners and beat us to the exchange, thankfully David was waiting and ready to go for his leg. Sarena also donned the headlamp and safety vest and charged through the rain and the night.  Diana took the rain gear to a whole new level and punched arm holes in a garbage was very derelicte! Liz was cheering everyone on while nursing what was probably a stress fracture in her foot. Finally it was my turn, Diana slapped the bracelet on my wrist and whispered "Maya said this is going to be a hard leg" and handed me Maya's picture. She was right. Although the scenery was gorgeous and peaceful, with not-so-gentle rolling hills through the woods, every time my feet hit the ground it sent shock waves of pain up my legs. I could feel my positive attitude whither. I started to get down on myself and I practiced apologies to my team for going so slow. And then...I stopped doing that and I reminded myself that I am super awesome and I kept running.

So what really happened? I learned a lot. When we woke up freezing after two hours of sleep and started preparing ourselves for the last leg, my father in law sent a video message to Diana and I that I was not expecting. He said "This is what it is all about, THIS is what you were dreaming of the whole time you were preparing to get ready to go to this, This is YOUR time as you are getting ready to do THIS leg and I'm glad it's you." I was reminded that I AM strong and that I can do this, and by "this" I mean life. For several months I have felt like life has been dragging me along on my face. I gave birth to my long awaited beautiful daughter and for five months I counted her breaths until she took her last. I didn't feel so strong after that. My last run of the race taught me to be more proud of the statement "and I kept running" than "I won."

I am so proud of myself for signing up for that craziness. I am thankful for the new and dear friendships I have made, and for my crazy team mates who cheered me on in the rain when I so needed it.

I am also so grateful for a God who takes time to teach and lift me up when I feel broken.

So...I am going to keep running, and I'm taking Maya with me.

"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!" (Joseph Smith D&C 128:22)

Much love, and more next time.


  1. Oh beautifully put. Thank you for running, thank you for sharing. Love you.

  2. Hi. I'm crying in a public bathroom stall. Thank you thank you thank you and all my love and admiration.

  3. Gil, I am so happy that you found a way to get through. I am so happy for you achieving something I couldn't do in a million years. You guys are always in my heart. Miss you and love you!

  4. I don't run, but I'll ride my bike behind you!

  5. Beautiful, poetic, funny, and soul-touching. Thank you for sharing, you dynamic, young, strong lady. Heavenly Father knows us so personally, he knows what people and earthly tools we need, and when we need them.

  6. Gillian, you are so amazing. I'm so grateful that you've had this experience to help you feel strong, and I'm so grateful that you wrote about it so that I can share your joy! Love you so much, friend.