Half Marathon – Full Belief

When I started this blog, I had these grand ideas of writing and posting something at least every other day.  Then, it was going to be once a week.  Well…it’s been over a month and I am now just getting my act together to make another post happen.

I’ve had a great deal of time to think about and reflect on the half marathon I completed in October.  I’m still more than a little impressed with the fact that I managed to complete the whole thing.  Let me tell you folks, completing this challenge was more a mental effort than a physical one.

Trust me, you don’t just get up one morning and decide “I’m going to run 13.1 miles today” and expect your legs (lungs, back, hips, and shoulders) to get you through that whole thing.  There is a ridiculous amount of physical preparation that needs to happen.  I was running, on average, 3-4 days per week and doing strength training on the off days.  You learn (very quickly) what foods you can eat the day before (and day of) a long run…and which ones will revolt against you.  There is a fair amount of discipline that comes into play in order to properly prepare yourself for physical demands of such a lengthy run.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really enjoy my running time.  It is the one time that I truly have to myself on any regular basis.  Just me, my thoughts, the road, Pandora, and the lady on Map My Run updating me on my splits every mile.  This time is a great opportunity for me to sort through the discord that has seemingly enveloped my life over the last year.  Problem is, when I let myself get drawn in to the general suckitude that (a) others have created in my world or (b) is a result of a generally shitty situation, I find myself having a more and more difficult time getting through a run.  There is a (very) fine line between using the hurt and anger you feel to fuel your run and allowing it to drag you down.

There was a period of time when running was not what I needed it to be.  My family and I had been dealt a huge blow with the death of my niece, Fiona, in May.  (Click here to read the post that tells the whole story…I just don’t have it in me tonight to retell it.)  After I regrouped and began dedicating my running to Fi, I was able to get back at it and truly prep for the half.

In an effort to keep myself mentally in the game for this run, I made sure that I had little pieces of Fi’s spirit with me for the race.  I wore the number 19 on my bib (advantages to knowing the organizers of the race), and Carole placed Fi’s hat from the hospital in my hydration pack.  I also wore a t-shirt with the letter E on it…for Fi’s brother or sister – due to arrive in April.

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A few minutes before the race, I went through my pre-race routine of going to the bathroom (for the 10th time), adjusting my shoelaces (for the 7th time), getting my phone in my arm band, checking Map My Run to make sure it’s ready to go, turning on Pandora, taking my phone out of my arm band to get the apps where I need them to be and it’s easier to do when the phone isn’t on my arm, making sure Pandora is on my Aerosmith (70’s/80’s rock) station, getting Map My Run ready (again), putting the phone back in the arm band, arm band on the arm, and ear buds in the ears.

I got to the starting line and my family gathered on the sidewalk.  After a prayer from my church’s Senior Minister and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, I began the 13.1 mile trek with Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” playing in my ears.  And trying to remind myself that, while the first 2 miles always suck, it gets better from there.

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Carole posted this on her Facebook page as I started the race: “So proud of this lady! She is carrying my heart and the memory of Fi. I pray she makes herself known on the course. Keep running ladybird!!!!!!!!”

Sure enough, I was about 2 miles in when I first began to feel the twinges in my lower back that had been aggravating me for the couple of weeks prior to the half.  I instantly began questioning whether or not I would be able to finish the route.  At that moment Carole, drove by me – honking and cheering as I plodded along.

A mile later, still questioning my ability to make it through, I looked to the top of the hill and saw Carole waiting for me.  Knowing me and where I get my motivation, she very intentionally placed herself at the top of that hill…knowing that I wouldn’t walk up the hill with her standing there watching.

That was the first time during that race that I really began to get out of my own head.  It was the first time I really believed that I would complete the course and not have to be picked up by the sweep car…my biggest fear.

At about the 6th mile, I could feel myself really beginning to lose some of my energy and I needed a little push.  I rounded a corner and came to a nice level section of the course.  At that moment, I could feel a little hand at the top of my back, right between my shoulders, gently pushing me along.  The pressure was coming right from the area in my hydration pack where Fi’s hat was safely tucked away.  That got me through the next four miles or so.

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Somewhere around mile 11 “Sweet Child of Mine” came through my headphones…again.  Now, I spend a great deal of time listening to Pandora.  NEVER have I had a time when I have heard the same song in a 3-hour span.  NEVER.  I looked up, smiled and said “OK, Fi.  I know you’re here.  Thank you.”

I pushed through the final 2 miles and rounded the corner to my family waiting for me at the finish line.  In fact, Johnny (my 3-year-old) ran the last little bit with me.

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I had three goals when I set out to run my first half marathon:
1 – Complete it in less than 2 hours and 45 minutes

2 – Keep my average pace under 13 minutes/mile

3 – Don’t get picked up by the sweep car
My final time was 2:49 and change, but my average pace was 12:55/mile – under 13!  Two out of three ain’t bad!

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When I learned that Fiona was going to be born an angel baby, I was crushed, hurt, and broken hearted.  I never could have imagined how heavy my heart would be still today.  I mean, it’s not like I was the one who had carried her for nearly 9 months.  It wasn’t me getting a room ready for her arrival.

I’m still angry that she’s not here.  I still don’t understand why she’s not physically here.  I’m still without the right words to comfort my sister and her husband.  I still don’t know how to comfort Danny, my 7-year-old, when he is missing the cousin he never got to meet.

I do, however, know that her spirit is here with us.  I firmly believe that she makes herself known at the moment when we need her to be here.  I know, without a doubt, that Fiona Michelle gave me the mental and emotional strength I needed to complete the toughest physical challenges of my life.

#halfbefore36 #ihofmr

Aspire

About a year or so ago, my sisters (Carole, Sarah and Krissie) introduced me to Beyoncé.

No…not this Beyoncé

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This one:

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Beyoncé (the-giant-metal-chicken) was a gift from Jenny Lawson (aka “The Bloggess”) to her husband, Victor.  Well, maybe “gift” isn’t exactly the right word.  Beyoncé is more of a response to very strict instructions from Victor to not “bring any more goddam towels” into their house.

Confused?  I was too…until I read this.  (Don’t want to click over and read the whole entry?  Silly.  You should.  Still don’t want to?  Here’s the short version.  Jenny’s going shopping with Laura.  Victor tells Jenny not to buy any more towels.  She doesn’t.  Instead, Jenny buys a giant metal chicken.  I know.  It’s not that funny when I tell the story.  That’s why you should read Jenny’s version.  I told you so.  And you’re welcome.)

Naturally, reading this blog entry lead me to (after about 8-10 months) purchase and read Jenny’s first book “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened”.  It’s not that I didn’t want to read the book, it’s just that…well…parenting.  And wifing (whatever that is).  And working.  And adulting.  You know…acutally being responsible doesn’t always allow for leisure reading.

At any rate, I finally read the book this summer while camping with my family.  It was a rainy day and we had decided to head to bed early since trying to get a campfire going in the rain is next to impossible.  So here I am, in a tent, lying on an air mattress, next to my husband, with our kids a few short feet away.

I am laughing hysterically…and silently.  Have you ever tried to laugh silently so you don’t wake your kids?  Ever tried it on an air mattress?  My poor husband didn’t know what hit him every time the mattress would start shaking uncontrollably.  I couldn’t believe I could read something that was (a) true and (b) so utterly hysterical!

Jenny Lawson writes about the struggles she’s dealt with in her life.  Everything from living with a taxidermist father to the loss of a pregnancy to her struggles with anxiety and depression.  The way she writes, however, is what appeals to me.  She writes her truth in a relatable, true and downright snarky way.  She shows that, although life hands out a shit deal every now and then, we can’t take ourselves and our situations too seriously.

Jenny recently came out with a second book, “Furiously Happy”.  It is at the top of the “List of things to read as soon as I have 37 seconds to remember to purchase it”.  I know that at least two of my sisters have already read it so I thank them in advance for their lack of spoilers.   (In fact, the lucky ladies got to MEET the Bloggess herself in Boston on Saturday! From left: Krissie, Jenny “The Bloggess” Lawson, Carole)

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I bring Jenny Lawson to your attention because you need to get to know her blog…like yesterday.  Also, and more importantly, because she is someone I aspire to be.  My whole family is reading this saying “you want to be a nationally-known blogger with two best-selling books?  Since when?”  Not that those things wouldn’t be pretty cool, but, no.  Not where I’m going with that.

As I said, Jenny is true to herself and how she feels.  She makes no apologies for the way she feels about anything.  She openly, honestly and, somewhat, sarcastically shares her story with anyone who wants (or needs) to read it.  I have all the respect in the world for anyone willing to expose their soul in such a way.  That’s what I aspire to be.

Raw truth, vulnerability, honesty and a skilled pen (or, more likely, computer keyboard) are incredibly hard to come by.  So, imagine my surprise when another writer reached out and spoke to me.  Ok…not just me.  She posted a little something on Facebook.  I, and about 15,000 other people, liked and “liked” what she had to say.  She wrote about the way our daily 5-minute interactions with people can create a perception that is completely opposite from what our lives are really like.

“Scars”, written by Genevieve V. Georget, spoke to me in a way that nothing had before.  I read and re-read that post and realized that I could have written much of it myself.  As I read her subsequent blog entries, I can’t help but feel like she’s in my head.  Gen has been dealt a hand that is scarily similar to mine in many ways.

Like Jenny, Genevieve is true to herself and lays herself on the line for all to read.  She has a much more soft-spoken way of doing it, but the vulnerability is still there.  She talks about love, life, and the loss of both.  She is true and honest and real. I want to be able to get to that point in my own life…that point where I can, shamelessly, leave it all on the table.

Genevieve…you need to check out her writings as well.  I wish I had the words to describe just how intense and impressive they are.  I don’t have them.  In fact…I think she stole them.  No wonder I can’t find them!

How is it possible that these two women, whom I have never met (but would love to!), have managed to speak to me on such a deep level?  I’m sure that there is a reason for it.  For now, I’m not going to focus on how or why it’s happening.  I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the ride that their words are taking me on.  We’ll see where it goes from there….

On a side note, as I was prepping for this entry, I was scrolling through Genevieve’s Facebook page.  Imagine my surprise when I ran across this:

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Seriously, Gen.  Get out of my head!

Jenny, meet Gen.  Gen, meet Jenny.  I want to be a fly on the wall when you two meet in person.