Caren Ware's Blog

April 9, 2010

BURNED! in more ways than one.

Filed under: A Runner's Story,Uncategorized,Women Running — Caren Ware @ 4:30 am

Horrendous weekend juggling huge races.  Very little sleep.  Ended up in a five star hotel in La Quinta on the last event.  What a waste.  Alarm sounded at 3am and it was very hard to move. My hip joints hurt.  But what a gorgeous day.  Almost too hot.  Approaching  ninety degrees in this upscale town paved  among the rocks of the desert. Timing the event went well. But I was trying to do my 13 mile run after we were all packed up.  Sent the staff to lunch and took off on the run, but needed a restroom.  Got to talking to a couple in a coffee shop, wandered through a farmers market, and just didn’t feel like driving home all sweaty. It was the first flash of warm weather we had seen in California.  We were having an unusual rainy year and California was basking in green hills, white mountain tops, and blue skies.  I will run when I get back to the mountains.

It ended up being 5pm before I weaved my way up the mountain hwy to our 6,000 level at Lake Arrowhead.  I drove through fog, and the wind began to howl.  Only in California could you go from arid to arctic!  This was an unusual storm.  It was picking up fury and whipping through the tree’s threatening to snap branches.  The wind was coming from everywhere.  I grasped a beanie and gloves and sweatshirt and needed them.  The temperatures dropped as I ran and it began to snow.  The fog got heavy and you could feel it on your skin.  I could have been in the arctic.  It was that dramatic.

I picked a route that I had not run in years.  It took me into the forest and onto a dirt road.  It became eiry.  In the fog, stark images started to haunt like tomb stones in a cemetary.  The air was thick to breath.  A char smell lapped at my nose. I had  forgotten about the FIRES.  I was running through the two year old burned area and it creep into me like the aftermath of a bomb raid.  Little had changed.  Nothing had regrown. As I came onto a paved street, chimneys started drifting by one by one. Only a few houses of the 175 in this area were left standing.  I ran for miles in this surreal, altered place.  Only my cheeks and nose were exposed, but I was chillded.  I felt like I had been beemed to the bleakest of places and it slithered through my nerves. Making my heart jump, my cell phone rang in my pocket.  It was that radio dj luring voice.  I had not had a call from him in  a while.   Tried so hard to exchange encouraging words in the howling wind.  He said he would call back later.  I doubted he would.   With the voice gone, the fog felt oppressive.  I felt very vulnerable and it kicked in some fight- back in me.  Do what it takes to run through this. Do what it takes to move past the rejection you feel from the voice on the phone.  You can make it through the ghostly moments of life.

My husband, two kids, and I have SURVIVED two forest fires in this area.  Both are quite the stories.  We did not come out unscathed.  We packed up lots of valuables including a boat, and extra truck, guns, and fishing gear and stored it on our property in Lytle Creek.  Our Lake Arrowhead home made it through the fires , but the Lytle Creek property burned to the ground.  It is two heroic, frightening, sorrowful chapters in the book.  Our neighbor’s were newlyweds and he lost his life trying to hike back into our properties.  My husband made it.  He came up missing.

April 5, 2010

LA Marathon 2010

Filed under: A Runner's Story,Marathon Running,Women Running — Caren Ware @ 3:26 am

So I am here on race day.  There are so many people.  Heads and bibs and bodies.  I feel oddly stoic.  No fear.  But just wondering how I will handle these long, long miles.  This is so very foreign to the intensity of  track & field: the warming up, walking out to your sole lane on a track, with all the people perched in the stands.  Surprisingly, I feel more alone corralled tightly with all these 25,000 people than in my quiet lane on a track. There is a sadness in me that I want to ignore.  I stuff it down and it wells in my eyes.  The past six months have been so crushingly hard.  I am separated and divorcing after 25 years of marriage. I am concerned about how this will affect my beautiful and talented teenage daughter and my ‘man of character” son.  He is off to college and the “mom” years are ending.   There is the success of our business, PRIME TIME, with its full calendar. I timed so many of the races these people trained on to be ready for this marathon.  The racing event business forces me to be on the road almost every weekend and be  up starting at 3am most Saturdays and Sundays.   I am the one that makes all these bibs have data attached to them at a lot of your races….names, ages, stats.  I am the one that makes sure your chip reads and you get a time at the finish.  It is so more complicated and demanding than you think, especially when one of you wears his wife’s chip and bib or the event director sends us wrong data.  I stop and remember there are a name, and a person, and a story, and a life behind every one of these bibs.  People.  And I am one of them. That is enough to celebrate. 

       But the sadness settles in like unwanted fog.  It drearies.  None of my family are celebrating that I am running a marathon.   Instead, they have written letters of condemnation reminding me that God hates divorce.  I believe He does.  I hate it.  The letters don’t understand that I stayed committed to the commitment. That I tried the submissive wife thing and, no, everything didn’t end up rosy because I was allowing him to lead.  They did not consider that there was a very real mechanical problem.  That is was not a spiritual or relational problem.   All the pat answers and piety drove me arms length away from Christianity and the values I hold dear.  They did not heal my brokenness nor grow missing skills from my past. They made me yearn for a true God, not some expecting God of rules and regulations that ‘good people” followed. 

      Why am I writing all this personal stuff?  Because this is what comes up while I am running.  My mind rolls in and out of life and gets a chance to soak some of it in.  I have no choice as agonies and treasures surge in and out like easy going surf.  Every once in a while big wave crashes in. Big situation this past year was how touched I had been by a personal trainer. He had been a gentle place for me.  It is chapters in the book!  Despite the trouble and harm it all caused, I was thankful for him unlocking my womanhood.  It brought out girlish play in me and was so much more about the friendship and training than anything.  He worked with me long enough to recognize my guardedness and how I would flinch when touched.  He said he would like to put his fist through my dad’s face and I wondered why.

 But my comfort with him got caught on tape and I think people thought they then had a right to know why I would accept affection from another man.  Rightfully so.  We were both married at the time.  The trainer drank.  I didn’t know what that meant until I  attended AA and Al-anon meetings. Great experience of going to AA, I found a pretty messed up bunch of people I liked. I didn’t even drink. But they accepted me and they accepted they had a lot of work to do. They gave themselves permission to work at it, and seemed true in their relationships, and were getting healthy.  They had no reason to pretend.  The churched people looked great on the outside, but I questioned if they were hurting just as much or more than I.  There was little room for real problems.   I was being accused of being the biggest of pretenders.  Rightfully so.  I had come from a childhood of training in covering up, denying reality, over compensating, denying self.   I quested to grow.  Those letters didn’t understand how much it hurt that I couldn’t get better in their church.  But did the sadness on this day have much to do with all these. For this day.  Not really. I was bothered.  I had come to love and dearly respect the man that let me run some miles with him.  Now there’s a problem.

 We had to leave a vehicle on the receiving end near Santa Monica and be dropped off at the start at Dodger Stadium.  It was cold and I ditched a nice Nike jacket in the trees.  I was so thankful for the coaching.  I almost glued myself next to Mr. Marathon man like a kid does to a parent on his first day of kindergarten.  Don’t leave my sight!  Side!  Since we trained some miles together that was easy. I knew the pace.  I constantly elbowed him to frustration because my years of running on the track taught me to run  right on the shoulder of the lead runner.  Bam. Bam. Bam.  Not the typical marathon strategy to run bumping the shoulder of the other runner.  Sorry. He was being such a gentleman. Patience is a virtue.  He pumped my confidence, coached my pace, slowed down my race horse engines, and weaved me through an effortless first half.  The miles flew by, but he warned me of what could pounce at any moment on the remaining half.  I already knew.  I had run LA Marathon as a first timer in 1990.  The monkey more than crawled on my back on that first attempt.  I think it was more like 10 miles carrying an elephant.   I had not known to hydrate and feed my body that first one.

Veterans, we both knew to take in Gatorade, goo, and water.  Since I am around the running crowd I am getting feedback that so many that normally do not, bonked on this year’s LA Marathon.  Was it the  new course that had a lot of turns and some hills?  I wanted to run in under 4 hours because that sounded ‘runnerish’ and would qualify me for Boston.  It was to be 4:03 and change.  Oh, well.  I did it. 

What is it about me that rises up to the occasion and falls apart afterward.  I threw a smile for the finish line photographer than was utterly overwhelmed.  Where in this mass of humanity was I to find my ride back and my dear running buddy. Now, these weren’t mood tears.  I was in no condition to wander around and a grapefruit size lump landed in my throat.  Oh, no. I waddle my stiff muscles down the street, on to the pier, down torturous stairs, across a huge parking lot to the family reunion tent and just hoped.

And I ran smack into him.  Oh, so beautiful. I am so very glad. So fully thankful.  Salt stained his shirt. My hair was sweat caked.  All didn’t matter.  He looked and sounded like the most wonderful thing that could ever happen.  He sat back on the asphalt and we waited for our other running comrade. Whew.  He said something I hope to carry for a lifetime.  He didn’t get the Boston qualifying time he wanted.  I waited for the typical competitive runner to whip himself for not pulling it off. Instead, he complimented himself and gave himself permission to have a ‘marathon day’ meaning it was whatever his body was able to do for that day.  Mission accomplished.  Grace.  Enormous amounts of grace.  That is what I need to learn to give myself. I think the True God does. I think He invented it.

It’s not the medal around the neck.  It was the miles.  The hard hills I learned to finally climb.  The long run through city streets.  The runs I am going to share and journal.  It is about the self serve yogurt rewards and the healthy restaurant choices.  It is about learning to rest when needed and play more often.  It is about learning to be who we were meant to be.  I have cried more in the past months than any time in my life. I got to push past all that and just live for today.  And so I finished  my first marathon on my home continent. The sadness still warns me I am about to learn more about this jungle they call Los Angeles than I want to.

April 3, 2010

Off and Running

Filed under: A Runner's Story,Marathon Running,Women Running — Caren Ware @ 10:30 pm

I got an email from a man who had lost his mom to cancer and wanted to combine his love of running with helping support this non profit charity.  The charity provided opportunities for families to get love n support while dealing with the harsh realities of cancer. I, too, have lost my mom to cancer.  It is an amazing story. Heavy, wrenching, but a life revealing experience. I will put that as a chapter in the book.  

Most the races we time are cause races, but I felt something personable and touching behind this request. I took the call and made arrangements to meet so I could walk him through the steps it would take to put on a successful running race.  It takes a lot of guts to start up a first time event from scratch. I was impressed and became more impressed when I met the man that wanted to do a charitable deed for a charitable organization.  I liked him. I liked his focus. He was used to successfully getting things done.  He had run a marathon on every continent and shared that running had literally helped ground him as he made some big changes to his life.  I could use some of that re-routing I thought. I have ALWAYS wanted to run the Antarctica Marathon from the inaugural year it was introduced.  I wanted to hear about every one of his races.

We exchanged travel stories and I told him about my climbs, the trek from the Amazon across the Andes in Peru, and my yearly adventure to time  inline skate races on remote islands in the French Polynesian Islands. (More chapters in the book.) I told him about the three Tahitian boys who stepped off a plane in LAX with their inline skates slung over their shoulders. They were barefooted and had never been off their island. They spoke no English, a little French, and a lot of Tahitian.  They sat on the curb at LAX Airport for an entire day and a half holding our business card and hoping one of those commuter vans would eventually say Lake Arrowhead. They just assumed everyone in Southern California would know everyone.  That’s the way it is on there island. What an experience to show them SNOW, try to outfit them in jackets and gloves which they had never had to wear, watch them take to snowboarding like the biggest white wave of their lives , and frightfully rock climbing in Joshua tree without ropes and with their bare toes.  “Come on, the coconut tree is higher and more dangerous.  It sways in the wind, “They gestured.

I wanted to hear more and see pictures about marathons on other continents.  I wanted to hear enough to have the guts to pack up and go myself.  What hooked me was he said words could never describe the serenity and sanctity of being in the vastness of the Antarctic.  It was spiritual.  It welded a soul. There was definitely Someone grander than us. I soaked in the photos.  I knew I would just have to go.

But there was a big problem.  I was FIT.  I was in incredible condition.  I was a World Class athlete on a 400 meter track.  I hadn’t taken a long distance step in years.  I was completely intimidated to try.  I was actually afraid.  And I was tired of being alone.  Although I had  finished 5 full marathons and 3 half Ironmans in my thirties,  I had just spent the past 7 years showing adults that you can still do things at any age you set your mind to  by running Track & Field. I wanted America to embrace that sports have an eternal value despite the age.  That the same giddy nerves come up for a masters event as when I was in college running an all league meet.  That the same depth of character developed in the vigors of training.  That it took athletic poise and confidence to win, no matter what age and what level of competition.  Ageless.  And available for any of us to still do no matter what age.

My timing company had expanded to include the latest in Chip timing technology.  We had  16 key professional staff that handled making the races happen.  We had 2 trucks, 2 vans, a trailer,  tons of scaffolding, finish line materials, and loads of lap tops.  We  are esteemed as one of the best service oriented timing companies in the West and were branching to Ironkids events all over the nation.  Success.  Success. And yet, I was in trouble.  All my fast tracking through life had incredible tales, but tornados do damage.  I was stunned that I could not keep it all together. There were reasons I needed to discover.  I had spent a lifetime covering up a painful childhood and accepted dysfunction in marriage. I was floundering with a true sense of self.  I had stepped away from God.  In not dealing directly with things, I had hurt some people and was hurting.  I needed to make some changes.  I didn’t know how. So why not just RUN and let RUNNING be the process that leads to enhancing, enriching, learning, and just living.  Works for me.

I asked this guy to take me on a run. It was a patient experience.  One, I am not city savvy.  I can go on a dirt road up here and never see a car. I get to see coyotes and skunks. Cars were swerving away from me.  I couldn’t remember to look for them down side alleys.  He finally gave up and took me to a dirt road and trail. We hit the hills on a beautiful road that weaves over a canyon. I was so amazed to find tranquility between Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon. Although the view was inviting, the hill was not.  End of story. I was walking.  There was no distance strength in my legs.  I couldn’t run a hill.  That was my first training run.  6 miles.

Blog at