Tuesday, December 21, 2010

sometimes


"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life" 
-Mumford & Sons 


Sometimes a run is just a run. 
Sometimes it needs to be completed as training for a race or to reach a goal. 
Sometimes a run is time away from something...
or time with something, someone, myself.
Sometimes a run is long, enduring and easy,
 sometimes it's hard.  
Sometimes it's full of laughter and conversation.
Sometimes it's silent.

And, sometimes, like my last one, it's a short, fast,
 heavy breathing, heart-pumping,
 cold air stinging warm lungs and skin, 
nose-running, tear-inducing,
 all-out effort 
to pound away all of those things
 that need to be released in order to feel like
 I am
 gliding
 again.  

Yeah, that was a good run.

Happiest of Holidays to you and all those you love.  
May you have many miles ahead of you into 2011 and beyond!  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dirty Birds • Dirty Moments • Dirty Thoughts

"At the drive-in
in the old man's Ford
behind the bushes
until I'm screamin' for more
Down the basement
lock the cellar door
And baby
talk dirty to me"
-Poison

PCS has the best t-shirts, but this one is my favorite so far...

In my world, dirty is good.  One of my earliest memories is, as a 3-year-old, playing in a pile of dirt in our new yard, making a new friend who wandered over to see what I was all about.  I am forever grateful that I had parents who encouraged us to run out the door, barefoot, into the yard, woods and ponds, to dig and explore.  I am who I am because of those experiences, and I often tell my own children (who are growing up differently than I did) that coming home dirty is a sign of a good day.  Today was one of them.

In a conversation the other day about racing, I observed that there is a moment in every race that I wonder, "WHY am I doing this?"  Surprising even myself, I paused for a moment and quickly scanned back over as many recent races as I could.  Yup.  It pretty much happens every time, and I can usually remember exactly where I was when the thought popped up.  It only happens for a second or two and the other moments far outlast this tiny one, but it still happens.  

Today, during the Dirty Bird 15K Trail Race, I had the moment after I saw 3 people stumble and fall during the first 1/4 mile of the run (maybe even during the first 1/8).  We were still crowded on the narrow trail and they all fell victim to the rocks that were partially hidden under a blanket of leaves, waiting, like giant nesting turtles, to snap an ankle.  My own trip came much later, it was a soft fall, and it was a root, not a rock, that grabbed me.  After seeing others with bloody knees at the finish, I consider myself lucky!!

Looking back over the run, my report doesn't read like a story that unfolds over the course.  Instead, it is a series of moments that occurred like a connect-the-dots picture...draw the lines in between them, and it all becomes clear:

•road-tripping solo from Long Island to PA just to run in the woods • seeing the sunrise that came up behind me, the huge orange sphere peeking through the New York City skyline as I drove away • hearing the awesome race volunteers, especially the guy who saw the NY plate on my car and asked me with a tilted head, if I just drove this morning to do this?? Oh, and the woman who was cheering us on at the start, yelling, "TRAIL RUNNERS ARE THE COOLEST PEOPLE!" • feeling the hippie trail runner energy that was especially present today • seeing my favorite slogan of the day, on a female runner's hat: "I don't chase after boys, I pass them." • smelling the chimney smoke • hearing the distant, popping gunshots of hunters • running into the short but sweet reprieve from the rocky trail into a grove of pine trees, tall and thin, reaching for the sky, smelling like Christmas, their needles pillowing the earth • being inspired by the speed and agility of the strongest runners • saying a prayer of gratitude to the person who introduced me to this blend of insanity and joy, in a way, bringing me home.  I hope you received it • finishing strong • tasting the salty, creamy, warm soup as my body cooled off, I peeled off the dirty layers and headed home •

Dirty Shoes




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reflections


"It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken, 
Perhaps they're better left unsung. 
I don't know, don't really care 
Let there be songs to fill the air. 

Ripple in still water, 
When there is no pebble tossed, 
Nor wind to blow. 

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, 
If your cup is full may it be again, 
Let it be known there is a fountain, 
That was not made by the hands of men. 

There is a road, no simple highway, 
Between the dawn and the dark of night, 
And if you go no one may follow, 
That path is for your steps alone."

-The Grateful Dead

I woke up this morning thinking about the descent of the holiday season.  I have 2 races planned over this Thanksgiving weekend.  One, my local neighborhood 8K Turkey Trot, and another, a road trip to a 15K trail run in PA.  I am psyched for both.  I have never been a fan of Thanksgiving, for many reasons. Yet, there is still something about this time of year which helps me center and reflect on my life.  

Today, it began with going over to my other blog and reading my writing here about last year's Turkey Trot.  It remains one of my most favorite blog posts.  In reflecting back over this year, I realized my gratitude list is enormous.  I struggled to sum it up into one idea, but I finally got it.  Today, it is the people in my life for which I am most grateful: The people who love me, laugh with me, cry with me, ride with me, sweat with me...the people who hold my hand, who challenge me, whose footsteps fall in rhythm with mine during a run...the people whose writings inspire me and who have found something of value in mine...the people who hold the mirror...the people who stand by my side when I am stuck in the hallways of my life, one door closed behind me and the new one yet to open...the people who are standing behind that new door, I do not even know they exist, yet they open it with a huge smile and say, "welcome in"...the people, especially my children, who make me pause, every day, and think, "I am the luckiest girl on earth."


Late last night, I was encouraged to get out of the cozy comfort of my bed and step out on my balcony to look at the moon.  Its light was reflecting off of my neighborhood, the masts of the sailboats across the street and the bare branches at the tops of the trees.  As I looked up, I was reminded that, no matter where our feet are planted on this earth, or what phase it is in, we all look up at the same moon...connected.

Oh yeah, and don't forget to kick butt in all of your Turkey Trots.  Happy, Happy.







Saturday, November 13, 2010

Caumsett

"i thank You God for this most amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes"
 - e. e. cummings




A few of my meters have been running close to empty, but my connection to nature was the one that needed to be filled the most. I knew that, once it was, all the others would rise up as well.

So, I decided to take a drive to Caumsett State Park here on Long Island for a run. The Goddesses must have known how important this was to me, because they shined down the most gorgeous, warm, November day.

I prefer to run unencumbered, with the least bit of gear possible, but I was going by myself and was planning to be out there for hours, so I brought a light pack.  Once I decided this, I grabbed my son's small digital camera to take along, "just in case."  For a long stretch of time, that camera did stay in the pack and I actually did run, but I was also able to photograph a run like I have never done before and it was just magical.  This is just a sample...

I eventually got a little turned around (okay, lost) in the single-track sections, so I pretty much stayed on the main trail.



Hmmm...little green orb...


Right after this, a beautiful buck jumped out of the brush in front of me. He was probably the biggest one I have ever seen, with a good set of antlers and a huge white tail.  He jumped into the marshland and we made eye contact before bounding off.  Completely startled, I think I stopped breathing for a few seconds.    

Beach sand.


End of the beach trail.


Cactus on Long Island








By now, I am off all trails entirely, thanks, in part, to the nice guy I met early in my run, who was also taking photos and encouraged me to venture in and enjoy the way the light was playing off the leaves.  


Perspective.




Stopped here to sit and meditate.  The leaves were falling like snow.  






I had a nice reintroduction to reality.  During the last mile back to the parking lot, I caught up with the guy from early in my run and 2 others who were on mountain bikes.  As I ran past, I heard them (loudly) say they were due for a tequila party.  Being a fan myself, I said, "Hey, can I come?" "Yes!" they all yelled in unison, "You seem like our kind of girl!"  Nice.  


Oh, yeah, and it's exactly 4 months to 40.  








Thursday, November 11, 2010

Playing the Lottery

"Hey, you never know."

In my life, I am currently playing 2 lotteries (well, 2 that involve numbers, anyway).  #637160 is my entry number for the NYC Half-Marathon in March and #673422 is my entry number for the 2011 NYC Full next November.  It will be 2-3 months before I know if get a spot in either.

I am trying to come to terms with this whole process.  Obviously, it has to be done, but I am not a big fan.  While there's that part of me that believes we end up with the experiences we are meant to have, I still want the opportunity to run.  Please??  I know I can get involved with a charity as I did last year, but, it would also be nice to know that I am just "in."

After giving my inner control-freak a hug and telling her it's all going to be okay,  I choose to put the energy forward that I WILL get in and then just let it go...surrendering it to the Goddesses, who are (literally) always on my side.


On the same day I was pondering all this lottery nonsense, I received an email from Pretzel City Sports (a group that puts on wacky, fun and challenging trail races in PA), advertising their Thanksgiving weekend "Dirty Bird" 15K trail run.  In big bold letters, it reads, "NO ENTRY LIMIT!!"  I had to smile at the irony.

I haven't even signed up yet, but I'll make the drive to be at that trail race and, next year, I might be running through the concrete jungle.  As much as I love to do one, I love to do the other more.  As much as I appreciate the low-key trail run, I get intoxicated on the energy of the city.  As much as I embrace the the changing terrain and scenery of the trails, I enjoy the consistency of the pavement and running in the shadows of skyscrapers.  It's the yin and the yang, the fire and the water, the balance, and I just love, love, love that I get to experience it all, even if I have to take some chances to get there.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inspiration

"Here I am,  just waiting on this storm to pass me by.  And that's the sound of sunshine coming down, and that's the sound of sunshine coming down..." -Michael Franti & Spearhead 




I'll say it: I haven't been running.  At all.  It's been a tough month, but I am not going to waste words on excuses.  I am a little different than many runners in that, by teaching my Spin classes, I still get that "fix" of endorphins and, believe me, I can hammer out a ton of emotional stuff on that bike.  But, I miss my runs.  I miss the flow and the gentle stride I now call my own.  I miss hearing my own breathing.  I miss cool, fresh, air hitting my lungs. I miss being in my own space and that, if the needed tears come, no one has to see them.

As I'm sitting here, procrastinating preparing to teach a class, I look out at the gorgeous fall day developing on the other side of my window and I say, "I just need some inspiration, and I'm going to stay here and wait until it shows up.  Once it does, I'll be out there again."

And then I laugh.  Silly girl.  You know better than that.  When I really think about it, inspiration has been all around me, but I have chosen not to see it.  It was here in the energy of the NYC Marathon this weekend.  It was here in the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes that welled as I read an email from a friend, completely high after he completed it, his first.  It was here Sunday when my son sat on my lap on the sidelines of his flag football game, his 7 year-old body shivering from the cold and a tough elbow he took that threw him to the ground.  Yet, when the offense was called up, he ran right out to be with his team.  It was here yesterday in an an ultrarunning promo video posted on Facebook, set to one of my all-time favorite motivating songs.  It was here in a conversation with a new friend last night when I babbled on and on about the joys of running, especially the minimalist movement and doing it barefoot.  It was here in the eyes of my students, who do not want to do one more Tabata drill (ever), but they do it anyway.  It is here in a sunny, fall day, in the scent of fallen leaves, exactly like they smelled in the woods where I grew up.  You get the idea.  It is perpetually present...inside, outside and everywhere.  We just have to choose it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Layers

"The only baggage you can bring is all that you can't leave behind" -U2


It's marathon weekend here in and around NYC.  It's all over the news, and friends and family and famous faces are running.  I did it last year, for my first 26.2, and it will forever remain etched in my consciousness and my heart as one of those days that somehow defines me.  Admittedly, I am a little jealous, but I'm also glad I have not been on a training schedule these last few weeks.  

It's supposed to be cold tomorrow morning and I also don't envy those waiting on Staten Island for the start.  However, I know they will be layered up in all of their "throwaway clothes" that will be shed as soon as they get moving and their bodies heat up.  

I often choose my own throwaway clothes as symbolic, metaphors for things I am ready to discard along my journey...issues that have clung to me from phases in my life or relationships, like heavy, wet laundry.  I remember a particularly satisfying toss of my final layer on the Verrazano Bridge last year, high above The Narrows.  

Last night, I went out with a few good girl friends.  It was Jen's birthday and we talked about aging.  Most of the women are into their 50s, one is in her 40s and then there is me, about to cross that bridge.  I made the statement that my impending birthday has changed the way I am thinking and making decisions.  Simply put, there are things I refuse to take into my next year, things I simply refuse to carry with me any longer, layers I am removing and discarding along the curb, still being careful to toss them far enough so no one else trips up on them and stumbles.  


Friday, October 29, 2010

In the Hallway




"I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible." — John Steinbeck 



I had to make an incredibly tough and painful decision this week...a decision whose outcome I knew was right for me but also a decision that would alter my future forever.  I needed to end a serious relationship and face all those feelings I had been avoiding for way too long.  Sometimes just running is not the answer, sometimes we have to simply stop and draw on all the strength we learn from running to face the not-so-great times in our lives.


As someone said to me this week, "Well, when one door shuts, another opens, but it sure is hell standing in that hallway."  So, in the hallway, I stand.  I am learning that just standing can be okay.  Eventually, I'll move, but I need my comfort zone right now.  This is the time for it.  It feels very much like my last marathon, during the few short walk breaks I took:  "I just need to walk for a minute...my legs need to reset...I need to make sure I get a gel and water down."  And man, did it hurt running after that walk, but, eventually, the rhythm returned, pace crept back up and the miles ticked by once again.  

This blog started with a goal for running 40 miles for my 40th birthday.  The race I was going to do it in (supported) closed out before I could register.  An alternate possibility is the same day my son in making First Communion.  With those doors closed as well, I'm not sure if and when the next will open or when I will be ready to exit the hallway anyway.  Maybe my 40 miles will not be consecutive.  Maybe I will run 10 a day for 4 days in a row or 20 for 2 days in a row.  I don't know.  But, what I do know that this goal was never meant to be a stressor in my life, and I refuse to let it. The goal is also about the journey, not just running the miles. 


On my other blog, I once described my comfort zone as "soft, safe, sound, with no surprises lurking around the corner. In fact, there are no corners, just rounded edges, like mountains of pillows. It is reliable, never changes and never catches me off guard. Everything there just flows, in a very unchallenging, complacent way."  While I may just hang out here a little while, I'm not going to bring in any pillows.  I have too much to do.  


First and foremost, I already cracked one door open and signed up for a bucket-list race, giving myself a birthday present.  The Big Sur Marathon (yes, as in California) is May 1st and I have been eyeing it for some time.  I took a leap of faith (upon seeing that it was 86% full and currently closed) that I'd come up with the money, time, babysitters, and something to overcome my fear of flying, to jet out across the country to run.  I have family in Monterey and have been there twice, but not in 17 years.  I remember once sitting in Salinas, feeling a close kinship with author John Steinbeck. He was born there, but made Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY his adult hometown, which is where I grew up.  In that moment, surrounded by all that beauty, I got it.  So, I registered and know, if I put the energy forward, I will get there.  The "hows" don't even need to be discussed.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Carl Hart Fall Duathlon

"Our human tendency is to notice and appreciate things only when we are at risk of losing them, or have already lost them. Think about it: Love. Health. Strength. Freedom of movement. Relationships. Job. Peace...Why do we do this?" -Kristin Armstrong


I love the blog that Kristin Armstrong writes for Runner's World.  As usual, her post this week really resonated with me.  While I think the above quote is a great reminder, it was the following one that kind of hooked into my brain and stayed there all week: "Today was one of those times where the sweetness of this statement overrides all else: 
 I run because I can."

I was looking at some race calendars on-line and saw this duathon listed, happening in 2 days, and I thought, "why not?"  I had done the spring version of it once before (my only other multisport race...that story here).  A younger version of myself would have conjured up a multitude of reasons not to go (all fear-based), but Kristin's statement kept playing over in my mind.  Why would I go do a duathlon when I have not been out on a road bike in a year and 1/2?  Why would I try to sprint 2 short runs broken up by a windy bike leg, when I am just coming off marathon training?  Why would I give up a Sunday Morning sleep-in?  Because I can.  Simple.  No other reason.  Because I have a healthy, fit, strong body.  Because I can.

It's the same reason why I drove an hour by myself, blasting P!nk (new and old) and Eminem (old) on repeat, marveling at the sunrise.  It's the same reason why I posted the second fastest female bike split (by 17 seconds), beat my PR by 3 minutes, won my age group and came in 4th female overall.  It's the same reason why I stayed for the awards, cheering for all the other age groupers, even the girl who passed me on the last run to take my overall podium spot (after all, she did yell, "GO GIRL" when I flew past her on the bike, and was also really cool when she caught me back on that run).   It's the same reason I love doing this stuff.  Because I can. And for this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Oh, and, thanks so much the the guys at Port Washington Cyclery, who did a very last minute tune-up on my very neglected, dusty road bike.  It's too old and probably not the best fit for me anymore, but they helped make the ride as smooth and awesome as it could be...  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thinking Big.

"A question from your friend the Universe:
Just how much time do you spend thinking really, really BIG?
Good, very good! 
Because that's exactly how much of it you're going to get."
-Mike Dooley


Okay, so I am one of those girls who has a "vision board."  Actually, I have 2.  I have one that I change, and one that I made just for this year.  On the one that I change, I often hang information about upcoming races or races/goals I hope to achieve in the future.  I firmly believe in this process because it has concretely worked for me all my life, even as a child.  Yet, I still have those moments in which I hold myself back and don't dream big.  I continue to question the "whys" around this, and it's an ongoing process.  

After last week's marathon, I recovered beautifully.  I was tired and drained and hungry all week, but my legs were fine.  FINE.  They were just a little sore the first day and almost 100% the second.  I was teaching Spin at about 90% on the third.  It was on this third day that someone asked me how my legs were feeling and, when I told him, his response was: "Then you really didn't race that race."  WTF???  There were moments that I almost died out there, almost walked off the course in grand dramatic fashion, throwing up my arms and swearing aloud to never run again.  For F-sakes, I took 38 minutes off of my only other marathon time.  I ran this faster than I ever thought I'd run a marathon.  I was SORE that first night.  Again, WTF???  He explained that he was not trying to minimize my accomplishment (which he genuinely thought was great), but trying to help me see that I have more to give, that my potential is much greater than what I think it is, that if I really put everything I had out there, I would be going down the stairs on my ass.  Even as I write this, I'm not 100% sure how I feel about these comments, but it did get me thinking.  Even before our conversation, I had been searching out races, already planning for the next one.  I was ready to go again, ready to break 4 hours.  NOW.  "You should go do Philadelphia in 6 weeks."  I looked it up. Obviously, it's already sold out.  But, if it wasn't, I'd be going.  I know this 100%.  

I also know I have that sub-4 hour marathon in me.  I know I'll have to work for it and stick to a more regimented training program and actually do speedwork, blah, blah, blah.  But, if I want it, I know I can get it.  Then, I started thinking bigger: "Well, turning 40 next year moves me up an age group and changes my Boston qualifying time..."  I initially laughed at this thought ("Me? Slow Me? Thinking Boston?") but stopped myself VERY quickly.  Louder than that voice of doubt was (finally) the voice that said: "You know, it might take a while, maybe even another age group jump, but you can do it."  

So, up on my vision board it went, and there it will stay until it happens.  

Oh, and one more thing.  I spent the entire day today cheering on my sons' football and baseball (doubleheader) endeavors.  It was a gorgeous fall day and I am an unbelievably grateful mom...I have 2 gifted and amazing kids.  After everything was over and we were in the car, my 11-year old noticed the new charm necklace I am wearing from Jessica's Gifts (thanks to the blogging community for sharing her products), commemorating my 2 marathons.  After studying them in silence for a second, he looked up at me and simply said, "I am really proud of you, Mom.  Really."  If that's not inspiration, I really don't know what is.  



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hamptons Marathon: You Can Keep That Parachute



If you have taken the time to read this little blog, you know I had a dream a while ago about setting a half-marathon PR.  In the beginning of the dream, I was running with a training parachute strapped to my waist, which I eventually removed, gave to a gas station attendant to hold for me, and went on to set a PR.  I know the parachute was symbolic of all the things...people and beliefs...that hold me back in my life, both in running and other ways.  These last few weeks have been a painful process of unhooking them, getting re-centered and moving forward.  I am not entirely there yet, but I proved to myself during my second marathon that, when I just listen to myself, not anyone else telling me what I "should" or "should not" do, I can be (even more) awesome.

My first marathon time, last year at NYC, was 4:44, slower that I hoped.  I had so much "noise" in my head around that race, so much advice, and such a sharp learning curve (I had only run my first half 6 months earlier) that I think I lost confidence in what I knew.  I thought I was eating properly, but did not, and was a mess during the middle miles, having to walk much more than I planned.  All that said, it is still one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I ran yesterday's marathon in 4:06.  Yes, easier in both course and logistics than NYC but, that is still a huge PR.  And, I did it because I listened to no one else but myself. Of course I read the training programs and other sources of information and pulled bits of advice that I thought would help me, but I turned down the volume on all that "noise." This was all mine.  I knew my training runs had gotten quicker (probably faster than all the "experts" would advise), but I did them how they felt right to me.  I worked my training schedule around my spin classes and while I never really ran "enough," I ran enough.  I went with my instincts as far as nutrition and it worked.  I listened to my body during the race and compensated for what it needed.  Other than sore legs, I felt fantastic at the finish.  I had no one telling me what to do during the run, to slow down or to speed up.  I ran from start line to finish line with Jen, but I still ran the race I wanted and needed to run.  That gas station attendant from my dream can keep that damn parachute.  Thanks, but, I don't want it back.  My race report follows, and is written just for me, but you can take a peek if you want:

Friday, 10/1, 6:30 pm.  I am walking into a local restaurant that Jen and I both know serves good pasta.  We have both completed all of our work and other business for the day.  Our children have completed a string of activities and are finally settled into their respective homes for the weekend.  We are finally settling in to non-mom mode.  I take the first deep breath I have taken in a long time.  Besides my children, I am leaving behind a soggy basement that was flooded due to the huge rain storm that came up the east coast and a relationship that is in a really bad place.  I have not had a good week.  This restaurant has recently changed ownership and does not yet have a liquor license.  We half joke with the waiter that we need a glass of wine, order our dinners and talk about our plans.  Our race is 2 hours away and we are heading out tonight to pick up out packets so we don't have to rush to do it in the morning.  We have to get there by 9:30 pm.  Our waiter brings our regular drinks and, with them, 2 huge paper cups filled with red wine.  He looks at us, winks, says "shhhhh," and walks away.  We crack up, look at each other say, "What the hell, red wine is healthy," and drink away.  We think we are probably the only 2 women who go out for a pre-marathon meal and have free wine handed to us.  But, that pretty much sums up who we are.  Half-way through the meal, my wine is half-gone, Jen's a little more, and the waiter appears with 2 more cups.  Self-control kicks in, however, and those are left on the table (except for the little bit that Jen smuggled into the car).

Saturday, 10/2, 8:00 am.  We are standing in the start line for the race.  We could not have asked for better marathon weather.  It's picture-perfect.  It's Jen's first and my second marathon.  We made our packet pick-up the night before with 10 minutes to spare.  I had an okay night's sleep.  My thoughts were racing and I was very emotional and reflective over the place my life is in right now.  But all that is channelled as the gun goes off and we start to run.  We stay at a good pace for the first mile, but then, as they continue to fly by, I notice we are getting faster, which makes me nervous.  I am thinking (and sometimes saying) that we need to slow down.  But we just felt soooo good and smooth.  At times, it was effortless. Our pace just kind of happened.

Mile 6: This is where the half-marathon and full marathon runners split off.  The majority of the racers are doing the half, so the crowd is about to disappear and it's about to get very quiet.  We've been running near 2 guys who are in their triathlon team uniforms and they quickly earn the nickname "tri-guys" in my head.  I have spent many hours spectating at various triathlons and never, ever tire of watching the men race.  They, hands-down, have the best bodies ever.  These 2 are no exception, and, when I see them turn right to continue down the marathon course, I am admittedly happy.  Hey, I'll take motivation no matter how I can get it!

Miles 8-10: I begin to wonder why I do this.  The time ahead seems insurmountable.  I notice little twinges in my body...my left arch, my right calf.

Miles 11-13:  Suck. We turn down a very open, very long straightaway in the middle of open marshlands.  It is the first "turnaround" section of the course, so other runners are coming towards us.  I enjoy this new perspective and get a high-five from someone I know.  We finally hit the turnaround, head back down the straightaway and it is suddenly very windy.  It stays that way.  It is not fun.  It seems like it never ends.

Mile 13.1:  I question how I am ever going to do what I just did all over again.  That last stretch of road took a lot out of me.  I have been keeping up with my gels and water and just try to push the doubts aside.  I think we are going to pay for a too-fast first 1/2.  We make it there in 1:58.  It's a half-marathon PR for both of us.

Mile 16:  I know this is where my family is going to be and that energy pulled me through the last 3 miles.  I see my Mom and Dad and my sister and her 2 daughters.  I am so grateful they are there.  They are holding signs and screaming and waving and it is so SO awesome.

my beautiful nieces

coming up to 16

Miles 17-19:  Just like in NYC, this is where my wall hits.  My stomach is not growling and I don't feel like I am going to pass out like I did last time, but I just don't want to run anymore...ever.  I continue to take in nutrition and we begin to walk the water stops to make sure we hydrate well.  My thoughts are all over the place and I strangely begin to become jealous (like, angry jealous) of runners who are walking.  This has never happened before.  We left tri-guys behind a while ago, there are only 1 or 2 runners in sight, and it's very very quiet.  We hit a stretch of dirt road in the woods and both of us seem to be feeling slightly better, our breath calmer, our foot strikes lighter.

Mile 20: I have never been so happy to see a mile marker.  It feels like it took forever.  In my mind, it is as if something miraculous is going to happen at 20, like the goddess Nike herself is going to come down and carry me the rest of the way.  Not so much.  However, the wall is definitely behind me.  Mentally, I am back in the game.  I tell Jen that we now just have to put them in the bank, one by one.  

Miles 23-25: Another turnaround and it seems like the 25 mile sign is never going to arrive.  Jen keeps saying she just wants to finish. We pass the same person who gave me the high five earlier and he is singing "Nasty Girl" by Nitty aloud, a song I love to use in Spin class that always gets me moving and is just dirty enough to make me smile.  Today it makes me laugh and feel lighter, and I just keep reminding myself to put one foot in front of the other....over and over and over again.  I don't know it now, but later I find out that Jen has resorted to downright praying and is trying to remember the "serenity prayer." Today, this is hilarious to me, for many reasons.  Finally, the 25 mile marker appears.

Miles 25-26.2: First tears spring up as I pass 25 and someone yells, "one more mile to go." Jen is clearly suffering.  Her breathing is really shallow and hard and she seems on the verge of tears.  I keep reminding her to breathe, to calm down and that she is about to finish her first marathon.  But that last mile seems soooo long.  We round a corner to the last 1/4 mile and Jen yells "WHERE IS IT..WHERE IS THE DAMN LINE??"   We finally see the finishing chute with rows of spectators screaming and yelling.  I see that my family also made it there.  I am high.  I am yelling with everyone else, feeling so good, completely over the moon.  I cannot believe how great I ran this race.

approaching the finish
4:06:11: Jen and I cross the line together, receive our blankets and medals and give each other a big hug.  I am just overwhelmed with a flood of emotion.  As my legs seize up, it all starts to pour out of me, as if my muscles want to squeeze it out until there is nothing left, no sadness, doubt, fear, or pain. Jen is clearly in trouble. She feels dizzy and nauseous and I just try to support her as best as I can.  I know how strong she is and how deep she dug for those last few miles and how proud I am to have run this race with her. After some food and water and photos and chatting with family and friends, we start to walk/hobble back to the car.  It feels so good to take my running shoes off (Nike Frees by the way) and walk in the cool grass.  It's sweet and soft and, at this moment, it's the little things that make all the difference.  

DONE

sole sisters

me and the beautiful Bella

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My First Giveaway (re)Post

Ok, so I said my next post would be about the marathon, but I came across a cute "giveaway" on another blog and wanted to share.  I am not new to blogging, but new to this running/blogging thing, and am not yet sure how I feel about giveaways.  Still, I think these charms are a great way to commemorate your races and/or you running journey.  See Jessica's Gifts giveaway here at "Racing With Babes'" blog.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reiki Wednesday: I am good.

“Suffering, once accepted, loses its edge, for the terror of it lessens, and what remains is generally far more manageable than we had imagined.”
 -Lesley Hazelton

Artwork by my youngest son...timely reminder.
As I type, it is less than 3 days until my marathon.  I am jittery.  There are things going on in my non-running life that are bringing up many emotions.  If I am being an honest writer, I must say that things are not great.  My journey appears to be shifting, again.  I find it no coincidence that I am taking on this challenge, this week, at this time in my life.  It's been almost a year since I ran NYC, my first marathon.  I now know what those last 6 miles feel like.  I know why the tears came at mile 23 and why a different type of tears came at mile 26.  I know what it felt like to cross that finish line with someone I love very much yelling at me:  "Take it all in! You will never have a first marathon again! This is your day!"  I also know he won't even be at this race.  

If I am being an honest writer, I am fearing those last 6 miles.  I don't want to hurt.  I don't want to suffer.  I know there will be tears and I pray they come from joy and not from pain.  I know I will cross the finish line with Jen (or by myself...if I can't keep up with her), who has been an amazing friend this past year.  I hope I can be the one yelling at her as she finishes her first and erases all of her own doubts.  This reminds me of one of the best marathon essays I have read, written by Dean Karnazes.  You can read it here at his blog.

In hopes to pull me out of some of my emotional turmoil, Terri sent me a Facebook note by Pema Chodron called Dakini's Bliss, that I shared with my Reiki group today.  It resonated with me on all levels, emotionally, spiritually and physically...perfect for the upcoming race:

"So that's what I learned: take an interest in your pain and your fear. Move closer, lean in, get curious; even for a moment, experience the feelings without labels, beyond being good or bad. Welcome them. Invite them. Do anything that helps melt the resistance. 

Then the next time you lose heart and you can't bear to experience what you are feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. That's basically the instruction that Dzigar Kongtrül gave me. And now I pass it on to you. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves." 

It's my belief that it will all evolve as it's meant to, and it's my intention that my next post be an up-beat, joyous, Hamptons Marathon race report.  Oh, and it's also my hope that someone will be holding my all-time, favorite marathon sign: "Your feet (or legs) hurt because you are kicking so much ass."  Yeah.  That would be good.  




Sunday, September 26, 2010

MOO! I'll take that PR.

"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.  Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul." ~Samuel Ullman


A one second PR counts, right?  It's been 10 years since I ran the Great Cow Harbor 10K, and it has remained one of my favorite races. A few weeks ago, I opened the newspaper and saw it listed.  I have been so focused on marathon training that I forgot it was coming up.  I thought, "why am I not doing this race?" My schedule is clear, I am tapering, I signed up.  It's held in a waterfront town and draws elite runners, giving it the feel of importance mixed with small-town charm.  Ryan Hall holds the course record. 

Because this blog is one part running and one part birthday, I find it fitting that I came back exactly 10 years after my original run.  Back then, I was just about to turn 30, with my oldest son "spectating" from a backpack on his dad's back. Ironically, I do not know my exact time from that year.  I have an idea, but it is the one year that is not archived anywhere on-line.  I know I ran it faster this year, but don't know by how much.

It was a good run, but I made the most basic mistake in a run of this distance...I went out too fast.  On a hot day, hilly course, tired legs from teaching extra Spinning classes and peak marathon training, I ran a 7:30 first mile.  Oops. For some, this works.  For me, it's just too fast to start.  As I looked at my watch, the mental game began.  I tried to talk myself down, but as soon as I hit the first hill, I knew it was going to be a tough push.  I slowed, I took in the atmosphere and the view from the hills above town.  I thought about everyone else running and how they all have a story of how they arrived at the start.  I ran under every hose that the kind spectators had spraying across the pavement.  I was thankful it was not marathon day.  I let all hopes of a 10K PR drift away, settling in to just enjoy the experience.  I mostly thought about how my life has changed over the past 10 years...how some things are so different, but how some things are also exactly the same.  I walked the last hill.  Then, coming down the awesome downhill to the finish, I realized that, if I pushed, I may get that PR after all.  So, I pushed. Crossing through the finish, I knew it was close but, in the end, it did not really matter.  I am stronger than I was 10 years ago and that's the real prize.  After I got home, a friend sent me a text with my time.  Surprised they were posted already, I double-checked.  Sure enough, I was one second faster than my best 10K time.  One second.  Okay, I'll take it.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reiki Wednesday: Balancing Turtles

"Just for today, I will give thanks for my many blessings."
-Dr. Usui



After teaching 2 Spin classes this morning, I left the gym, looked at my watch and had 45 minutes to get home, walk the dog, shower and lead a Reiki circle at my healing studio.  Talk about shifting gears. Thankfully, the gym and studio are only about a 5-10 minute drive from home.  Thankfully, my first class was overfilled so I enlisted Jen (my friend and running partner) to ride the instructor bike for me, giving my extremely tired legs a break.  As I've said before, peak marathon training and teaching my classes (9 in 5 days this week), plus a Warrior Dash thrown in, does not always make for a healthy mix.  Any good instructor should be able to teach effectively off the bike, and I do hop on and off often.  However, it's hard not to get caught up in the energy and ride harder than I planned.  If I don't even have a bike, this is not an option.  Thankfully.  

Going to my healing studio is a refuge.  The women who joined me today are all very special and I felt blessed to be in their company, sharing with them.  The energy was strong and deep and heavy....

I thought about balance, it being the equinox, and all.  I thought about harvest time and if I am reaping the benefits of all the little seeds that I intentionally planted throughout the year.  In some ways, yes.  In some ways, no.  But, today was not about judgement.  It was about awareness, about looking at my life as if it was playing out on a movie screen: My training hasn't been 100%, but I am running strong.  I plan for this, my second, marathon to be stronger than my first.  I am faster than I have ever been.  I intend to put up a 10K PR on Saturday morning.  I have done good work here.  In other areas of my life, I see room for improvement, to continue on the never-ending journey to non-attachment, to trust...to trust in those around me, but, most importantly, to trust that I am EXACTLY where I need to be in my life.  And through this reflection today, I did find a balance point, if only for a little while.  In my soul, it feels exactly like it does when you are running and everything falls into perfect alignment...from your foot-strike, to your joints, to your breath, to your heartbeat.  You know that flow: sheer bliss.  

Because I am running the 10K race on Saturday, I have decided to make tomorrow my last "long" run before marathon day on October 2nd.  It will probably be around 10 miles...we'll see.  

In preparation for this final week of pre-marathon running, I decided to pull one of my animal medicine cards to see what energy would be running along with me...not for the race, just for training.  I did this before my last trail half-marathon and it worked beautifully (Raven=Magic).  I keep them in my medicine bag, which is a brilliant idea suggested to me by a friend.  I think everyone should have one.  In it, you simply keep things that make you happy or feel good about yourself.  In times of doubt or sadness or whatever, go through your bag.  It will lift your spirit.

my medicine bag
Anyway, of all cards, I pull......the Turtle.  LOL!  The ultimate running archetype, from one of the most famous fables ever.  The Native American symbolism is Mother Earth. 


Some of the messages: "Use the water and earth energies, which represent Turtle's two homes, to flow harmoniously, to place your feet firmly on the ground in a power stance...Bigger, stronger and faster are not always the best ways to get to a goal.  When you arrive, you may be asked where you've been and you may not be able to remember...This is a reminder of the ally you have in Mother Earth.  It does not matter what situation you have created: ask for her assistance and abundance will follow."  Perfect for my last 10 miles, perfect for my taper, just perfect.