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 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 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.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Identity Crisis

"The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear"- U2

"Are You a Warrior?"  Says the t-shirt I received at the Warrior Dash today.  Appropriately, for about a week or so, I have been thinking about all of the "titles" I wear, and how they wear on me...

Are You a Reiki Master staying true to your spiritual journey?  Yes, and the journey is ongoing...

Are You a Spinning© Instructor? Yes.  It is my comfort zone. It is how my body loves to work.

Are You a Marathoner? Yes, will be again in 2 weeks.

Can You do Both of the above at the same time?  Ouch. Reality check.

Are You a Mother? Yes, forever. Especially when I am "recovering" from a 20-miler at the baseball/football fields, grocery store, cooking dinner, doing dishes and lugging loads of laundry up and down the stairs.

Are You a Girlfriend? Today, yes. 

Are You Insane for doing the Warrior Dash 2 weeks before your marathon?  Ah.  The die-hards out there will probably say, "yes" for risking a whole host of potential injuries.  But, the risk was worth the reward.  I scaled walls, submerged myself in waist-high frigid, muddy water, navigated slippery, rocky trails, dove head-first onto an adult slip-and-slide, leapt over fire and crawled through more cold, muddy water under barbed wire to finish with mud (even) in my teeth.  Not even a question: sooo worth it.

Are You an Ultrarunner? Not yet.

Can You Do it All? Um? In the moment, day-to-day...yes.  If I get snared in the above spiderweb of  If I think about it too much, that familiar feeling of being completely overwhelmed surfaces, and I want to hide. 

Are You Living? Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  I have spent too much time in my life watching other people "do," and wanting to take part.  I now flirt with the edges of my comfort zones and, as much as possible, take the challenges that push me beyond. 
Are You a Warrior? I think our individual definitions of this are so unique and personal to our experiences.  Today, I wear the shirt proudly.  

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Run Mapped on 9.11.10

"Never Forget."

photo: Rachelle Eldridge ©2010

I went for a run on Wednesday, 9/12/2001.  I did not know what else to do.   I was not the runner I am now, nor was I training for a race, but I went out for a run.  I was a full-time stay-at-home mom for my 2.5 year-old son.  My now ex-husband had gotten home from Midtown Manhattan late the night before.  I had spent that day fielding frantic phone calls from family and friends, looking up at an eerily silent clear blue sky, watching my innocent son play in the yard, completely unaware.  I wondered, worried, questioned and was so so sad.  

I did that 4-mile loop because I needed to do something.  I needed to stay away from the TV and find some clarity.  This was almost impossible, with the indescribable smell, almost like an electrical fire, hovering in the air and the plume of smoke still visible over the bay. I briefly wondered if I should be breathing the air, but I really didn't care.  Ours and nearby towns lost an impossible amount of people...fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.  It was a numbing blur for a long time.  

Today, 9 years later, I ran a 20-miler with Jen, my fearless running partner for this upcoming marathon, who jokingly blames me for "putting her through this."  I dedicated this run to all of those who were, and continue to be, affected by this anniversary.  It was tough at times, but I just kept remembering.  After it was over, laying on the grass, looking up at a clear blue NY sky exactly like it was 9 years ago, I said a prayer of gratitude for my ability to run, to continue to put my feet on the earth, to still be living this life, that may look different from what I thought it would be in my 40th year, but it is amazing in so many ways. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

PR of My Dreams

"Be careful what you wear to bed at night, 
you'll never know who you'll meet in your dreams." -Unknown

I set a half-marathon PR in a dream I had last night.  I often dream about teaching my Spinning classes, but rarely about running.  This one went like this:  I was running a half, but I had one of those training parachutes strapped to my waist, slowing me down. As it got windier, the red and white striped nylon was lifting into the air and up over my head, making it almost impossible to move forward.  I had the thought: "Okay, time to take this stupid thing off!"  So, I did.  I folded it up neatly and stopped at a nearby gas station, handing it to the clerk inside to hold on to for me so I could come back and get it when I was done.  I went back to my run, looked down at my feet, and I was doing it completely barefoot.  This did not surprise me.  I acknowledged that my feet were holding up fine and continued the race.  Almost immediately, two orange cones appeared to my right and a group of girls ran in between them to cheers and congrats.  Someone yelled, "Finish line!" and steered me to the cones.  I crossed through and immediately stopped, completely shocked.  "This CAN NOT be the finish line already,"  I stated adamantly. "There is no way I just ran a half." "Yes sweetie, this really is the finish," was the reply.  I just felt too good.  I looked at the timing clock and it read 1:49:18.  I acknowledged that, while it's a PR, this time was possible, and I actually had run the distance.  I thought, "Man, if it wasn't for the parachute and stopping at the gas station, imagine what my time would have been..."  

I won't bore you with my own self-analysis.  Let's just say I got the messages (loud and clear) intended for me in this one.  And, I'll take the feeling of that PR no matter how I got it!  Oh yeah, and, in the same night, that dream was followed up by another one in which I was hanging out with an anonymous ultrarunner, showing him the fish tattoo running down my leg that Scott Jurek (an uber-famous ultrarunner) had done on me "in his spare time."  This one just makes me laugh.

Happy Dreaming....hope all your PRs come true!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Life is Cool

"When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream." -Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

I had a 20-miler scheduled for this weekend and, because of Hurricane Earl coming up the East Coast, plans were up in the air.  By postponing my weekend getaway for a day, I was able to do the run with 4 guys who were also doing their long training run.  I know them all in different ways and, while most of them have taken my Spinning classes, I had never run with them.  Actually, I had never run with a group of men.  Admittedly, I was a little worried that bringing a girl into the group would change their dynamic.  At the same time, they know me and my style and I had been invited, so I figured it wouldn't be all that bad.  I felt a little bit like Jane Goodall, dropping in to observe this strange species up close: The 40-something Male Runner. 

Eh.  Much like the non-hurricane that swept past us, my observations were mostly uneventful:

1. They like their gadgets and supplements.
2. They are more concerned about their nipples than any woman I know, except for the breastfeeding ones.
3. Yes, they, in unison, crane their necks to check out any and all female runners passing by.  But, they do the same thing with expensive sports cars and bikes.
4. They talk about their kids, work, financial "stuff," who lives in the giant homes we ran past, and all of the above.

All joking aside, I was a lucky girl to run with them, they are great, and it was my strongest 20 ever.  I really enjoyed staying in the back, not having to plan or think about the route, discovering new roads and being challenged to run the ones I usually avoid.  After getting home, having a recovery drink and taking a cold water bath, I rushed to head out to Montauk, to meet Tim, who had been there all week.  On a gorgeous Saturday, Labor Day Weekend, this was sure to be a 3-hour drive and really interesting for my legs.

I hit the deli on the way out of town, conveniently, as my appetite kicked back in.  The young guy brought my sandwich to the counter, looked down at everything else that I had piled up there, and said, "All this too?"  "Yup," I replied.  At that moment, my body must have started settling in a bit, because I let out an audible sigh. "You ok?" he asked me.  A bit embarrassed, I smiled and said, "Yeah.  I just ran 20 miles, which is what this is all about," gesturing to the picnic on the counter.  His eyes widened, "You OK?" he asked again. "You JUST ran 20 miles...WHY?"  I laughed, "Marathon training, have to do it."  We chatted a few more minutes about running and, then, he said the golden words: "You're about my age, right?"  "What?"  I thought I misunderstood.  I'd been coming to this deli off and on for 12 years, and he had seen me through 2 pregnancies. "You're about the same age as me, right?"  I smiled and shook my head no.  "What, you're about"  Again, I smiled and shook my head.  With more caution in his voice, he finally asked, "How old are you?"  I admired his courage.  "I'll be 40 next year."  "Wow, you'd never know," he replied.  "And THAT, my dear, is WHY I run."  This is not really true, but it sounded good in the moment!  Now, my experience with my male running friends may have been limited, but I do know a bit about men, and I am not totally naive.  However, on this day, I chose to believe that my deli friend was sincere and, if my legs would have allowed me to, I would have hurdled the counter and hugged him.  

The drive was, in fact, long and I listened to The Alchemist on audiobook for about half of it, until my mind started to wander with my own thoughts of universal truths.  That's when I realized I still had my running brain turned on.  Even though I was driving, I was assessing each incline that was rolling out before me, calculating how much energy it would take to get to the top.  I laughed at myself.  Cool.

All of my driving time allowed me to reflect on the end of this very intense summer and come up with a list of things I also think are really cool right now:

1. The guys for letting me tag along on their long run.
2. My friend, Terri, who, riding her bike past me at mile 19, had no idea how long I had been out there, but stuck out her hand, gave me a high-five and shouted, "You Go, Jen!"
3. I'm turning 40 in 6 months, but not necessarily looking it.
4. My pink Zensah compression socks.
5. That I tossed my hand-held water bottle around mile 15, forgot to stop back for it, but it was still there a day and a half later.  
6. That, in the same time I spent running in the morning, I drove from one end of Long Island to the other. 
7. The ocean the way it looked before and after the storm.


8.  My 11 year-old son telling an exhausted me, "Mom, I had a really great summer."

9.  That last lobster roll at Duryea's, eating it with my greatly recovered legs (see #4) dangling out the back of Tim's car, a hint of fall in the wind, talking "life."

10. That there is so much fear and hype before a storm, which is often not as bad as predicted and, it can leave, in it's cleansing wake, the most gorgeous day ever.