Gifts: They’ve been given as surprises, remedies, offerings, “think-nothing-of-its”, unintentional helpmates, and quick fixes. They’ve shown up the past month more than usual and it’s not my birthday. First, I haven’t written about the gifts during and from the No Business. As we left our house, I asked Terry, “Did you pick up my running shoes from the stoop? I didn’t see them.” He said, “Yes, I’m looking at two pair.” When we got there, Terry unloaded the vehicle and realized, we didn’t have my running shoes. We had the old pair with busted out toes, an in case of an emergency pair, and his shoes. But not my shoes. Total panic. He said that he would drive back & meet my dad to get the shoes. Oh no, I didn’t want anyone driving around that much and then trying to crew me the next day. I had a flash! The Hoka representative was there at the runner check-in, and they were sponsoring the race. If they had my shoes…
She said that many runners were having alarms. No bivvy, no headlamp, but shoes….they did have my size! “Put them under the tent after the race,” she said. Hugs and happy dancing. I borrowed those shoes and gave them back as instructed.
During the run, I covered nearly 40 miles and got the messages I needed for my novel. This book has been in progress for over a year, since I began a major rewrite. So, I’ve been cranking out the ending since I got back from the No Business, nearly a month now, and I’m dreaming about the characters and places. Part of my next book, Ripe for the Pickin’, takes place out in Big South Fork territory, and the run couldn’t have been more perfect for giving me exactly what I needed to finish it. This book is a sequel to my favorite book that I’ve written, Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel.
I also ran with Coasty, a physician and a fun trail partner, during the run, and he gave me a great pep talk about a book. I’m ready to head toward that one. I hadn’t thought about it until he suggested the idea, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Something different.
My mom brought this plumeria flower to me and it stayed lovely and fragrant through the day
A couple of weeks after the run, I returned to a place that has been pivotal for inspiration during my writing—Mound Bottom and Mace Bluff at Harpeth River State Park. I had planned a field trip for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville. Growing up, I was fortunate to attend many field trips through school to places all over middle Tennessee, from the Hermitage to Shiloh and many places in between. I’ve noticed that schools don’t take field trips anymore so I’ve tried to take my children and youth I work with to historical locations. In all of the field trips I took, I never learned about Mound Bottom and Mace Bluff, though I lived there from ages 10-20. The State of TN didn’t purchase the land until more recently, so I couldn’t have visited as a young girl.
Thankfully, you can sign up for a visit. Mound Bottom is gated and only available for tours with a guide. We were fortunate to have Aaron Deter-Wolf as our guide. He is the TN State Archaeologist in Prehistory and the co-author of Mastodons to Mississippians: Adventures in Nashville’s Deep Past (Vanderbilt University Press, 2021). When I asked about his book, he gave me a copy. I read it within two days and was fascinated by all that I learned about middle Tennessee history that I didn’t know.
I felt everything coming together so that I could finally finish this book—a book that readers have been asking for me to deliver. Last year, I thought that I had it, but Rita, my hardest editor, said, “No, this is not it.” I had to rewrite almost the whole book. It has been over seven years since Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel, and I will be thrilled when readers know if there’s a treasure or not on the Ballard farm.
Rita has read the latest draft and given her approval—“this is it,” she said. She is happy, and I am relieved.
what I wrote about the No Business after the race on my social media:
STARSTRUCK—Ohhhh, I love Big South Fork even more. I will see it again. I’m smitten. I was before, but now I’m fully in love. I’ve been bit & will be going back to the No Business 100.
The course is beautiful—creek crossings, gorgeous rock formations, bear shit dotted trails, mossy stones, slippery roots, small waterfalls, fall flowers blooming red, yellow, white, pale purple mushroom, bright orange spongy fungi, fern fronds to hold birds…
I loved the conversations with other runners. I was impressed by people who have completed it multiple times. I was equally impressed with learning that this was the third & fourth attempt of some runners to actually complete the course, & I understood just how challenging the course & timing are in combination. The No Business follows mostly single track trails, riddled (filled to the brim on some stretches) with the usual obstacles of the forest. I saw several people fall and catch some air, and all sprang back up and kept going. “Fall seven times; stand up eight.”—motto of all trail travelers & an ancient Chinese proverb.
I did manage to stay upright, & I made it just over 39 miles, completing the Blue Heron loop, & then I made the decision to Drop. It was dark on the trail. I couldn’t eat and didn’t want to be unwise traveling through the night unable to eat. Earlier in the day, the 80 degree heat & 89% humidity got me all of the sudden, & I vomited a few times. After that, I felt good & continued for a few hours, but my throat and mouth were chaffed from the vomit. When I tried to eat, everything set my mouth & throat on fire.
My legs & feet, the rest of my body, felt great when I dropped. I wanted to be smart. Maybe my head overthought it, but eventually I was bound to run out of energy if I didn’t eat & kept going.
The next day, Terry & I went out on a difficult hike, pummeled more elevation, & I could eat. I recounted the run & started to plan for next year. I evaluated what I can do better & how I can better prepare my mind for the aid stations of this specific course.
I have been sad the past couple of days because I just wanted to continue the journey. I’m not a collector of medals or buckles. I’m a collector of stories from the trail, & I was so looking forward to all of those during the night of the No Business. I’ve been sad that I have to wait until next year to try again, but I will.
I looked into the stars at the top of Blue Heron before going down into the Cracks in the Rocks. The sun had set a reddish pink as we climbed the hill there & tiny piercings of stars shown on the other side of the sky when I turned to look backward at one of the “tops” & I had an answer that I was seeking. I felt satisfied that I would be returning.