Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To Boston With Love

    Before moving to Massachusetts in 2010 I had heard of the Boston Marathon but probably only knew it by name. I had no idea of its storied history or the fact that there were qualifying times. I grew up in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri and the only time I ran, just to run, was for soccer preseason conditioning. I thought running from my high school to the Truman Home was a ridiculous distance. As it turns out, it was only about 2 miles total.

When I arrived in Massachusetts I was searching for myself and looking to get fit and lose weight.

    It wasn't until 2012 that enough was enough. I started running that January and I volunteered at the Boston Marathon for the first time in April. I was still really struggling to run a few miles and here I was surrounded by thousands of people taking on one of the most prestigious 26.2 mile races of all time. 
  By this point I had done some research and learned all about the Boston Marathon. I knew that most of the athletes there could run an entire marathon at a pace much faster then my then-current 5k personal best. Gulp. I don't know why but I expected everyone to look like an Olympic athlete there. Don't get me wrong, thousands of the athletes there do look super human. I was amazed though to see how many of them looked just like me. I was also very surprised that most everyone was unassuming. I was so in awe of all of them and everyone was so kind and appreciative. I had people thanking me in various languages. I spoke to so many people and told them I had just started running and everyone told me that if I wanted to run a marathon, I could. That if I wanted to qualify for Boston, that I could. They had done it and so could I. It was absolutely invigorating. I had just been introduced to one of the best attributes of the running community, encouragement. 

    I left Hopkinton that day with a tiny nugget of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could run a marathon someday. 

    With the spirit of Boston, the love and guidance of the online running community, and the encouragement from one of my main running inspirations (Jamie I love you!) I became a marathoner 10 months later. 
    I became a marathoner in what I can only assume are some of the worst ever marathon conditions. I was determined to earn that title, even in snow, sleet, rain, freezing cold, and high winds. I finished that race with Jamie at my side. 

In April 2013 I again volunteered at the Boston Marathon. The day before I had ran the B.A.A. 5k and been able to run the historic "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" and sprint to the finish line. (All while pretending that I was in the homestretch of completing my own Boston Marathon. It was glorious.)
    That year I felt like part of the running community a bit more. I worked up by the speedy folks in Corral 1. I was again amazed by the kindness, generosity, and appreciation from the athletes. In 2013 I really soaked it in. I think I was even MORE in awe of everyone, now knowing first hand how difficult a marathon is. 
    I choose to remember the good of that day. I will hold on to the memories of strangers helping one another. I will remember high fiving, hugging, and shaking hands with hundreds of people as they lined up to start their race. I'll remember all the smiles, the nervous laughter, and the looks of determination. I'll remember how so many of them spoke of this being their dream come true. Awful things transpired last year, but I believe we fought back with some of our greatest tools: Love, kindness, generosity, selflessness, and encouragement. 

    Since that day, I've ran many miles thinking of those lost, injured, and otherwise affected by the bombings. Somedays I would just start crying mid-run and have no idea how to turn off the waterworks. I will never understand the bad in the world, but I will try to be some of the good in the world. 

    Last autumn I ran my second 26.2 in Maine, the Mount Desert Island Marathon. It had been 6 months since the Boston Marathon and we all stood at the start line in silence, remembering. From the back of the startline we heard a bagpiper and slowly, without instruction, the sea of brightly colored runners parted and he made his way through us. We were all overcome with emotion. Jamie and I could barely look at each other because we would sob even harder. 

We both went on to have a great day and a fantastic race. Thanks again to Isaac our amazing pacer. He had ran Boston in 2013 and we actually talked about it some during this race.
    I always knew that I would return to volunteer in 2014. Some of my family and friends worried for me, but I needed to be there. The Boston Marathon has been a big part of my life. It changed me. It made me believe that I could do something that I NEVER imagined. It's even made me hope to one day be able to run in it. I wanted to once again be there and help others as they lived their dreams. 

    So yesterday Joe and I woke up at 4am and headed into Hopkinton. Some things were different this year. We had to park elsewhere and go through security checkpoints. Every way you turned you saw law enforcement. It took much longer to travel in and get to our team meet up spot. Eventually we had our credentials and job assignments though.
    This year we were in the corral staging area. Due to increased security we had to check for bibs or credentials of everyone passing through. I cannot even begin to imagine how many times I said the word "BIBS" or the phrase,"Keep your bibs visible at all times." My vocal cords are sore today. My eyes were constantly scanning the crowds. I was working alongside law enforcement and they would shout out to me if they hadn't seen someones bib and I'd chase them down and ask them to please show me. I know it must have been annoying to the runners but most everyone was a good sport. 

    I can't count how many people said,"Thank you for volunteering." I probably high fived a thousand people yesterday. A few people randomly hugged me and said,"Thank you." It was incredible. I was able to see a few of you there too! My friend Sara and I embraced and I basically lifted the tiny thing off the ground. Moments later my friend Ali appeared in my path and we hugged also. It was great to see a hometown girl ready to rock the race. My friend Bill yelled out to me and we high fived. (He live tweeted and here's a story on it.) A few of you yelled out "Carpe Diem Crystal" and hugged me. I cannot begin to explain what that meant to me. 

    The women in uniform that worked near me were absolutely AMAZING!! It was freakin' awesome to have them near me, standing courageous and strong. They made me feel safe and they were both hilarious. They stuck to protocol and didn't mess around. The house we were in front of was incredible. They talked to us and offered us water and such. One of the residents spoke of how the marathon has evolved over the years. She couldn't believe how much law enforcement was present and the security measures that were in place. I couldn't help but smile as I thought about all the different areas we were from and how we were all brought together by the race. It's the spirit of running and its the spirit of the marathon.

I was often teary eyed as I would read the athletes shirts.
 "I've come back to finish"
"Canada Stands with Boston"-with maple leaves everywhere
"Japan Runs For Boston" -also written in Japanese on the shirt
"Detroit is Boston Strong"

"I've waited a year to cross the finish"
"This is our city. Boston Strong."

"I love the NY Yankees but I am Boston Strong."
"I won't back down."

    Since we'll be moving to Alaska in about 6 weeks, I won't be able to volunteer at the Boston Marathon for awhile. I will cherish all these memories though. I will continue to be inspired by those that run it and those of us that hope to someday qualify. Thank you Boston for helping to mold me into a runner and a better person. I have been at the start line and I have been to the finish line, someday I will run all the miles in between. My body may move to Alaska but my heart will always be in Boston. Thanks for everything.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marathon Training Update

Hi friends!

As you may or may not know I am about 2.5 weeks out from marathon #3. I am thrilled to be running the River Towns Marathon with Team CJ. I absolutely cannot believe how rapidly this race is approaching. I am a bit overwhelmed but insanely excited to see my friends (and meet new ones) in Pennsylvania.

Training has been rough to say the least. Our winter here was so harsh that I found myself running on a treadmill more than I care to admit. I pushed through though and logged mile after mile. Things were going as well as could be expected. Then about 3.5 weeks ago my right shin started screaming at me. I ended up taking a week completely off from running. Thankfully, I was able to bike without pain and logged some serious mileage. The second week I slowly started adding some running back in. I felt like I was walking a fine line. I didn't want to overdo it but mentally needed to be back to running mileage. It's been a process. It hasn't been helped by the fact that my left shin began acting up some once I returned to running. Yep, fun times.

I'm nowhere near where I would like to be for race day. I really wanted to kick butt at this marathon but I'm trying to keep my expectations realistic. I've had a lot of setbacks and I don't feel close to top form. If my legs continue to allow me to run than I think it will mentally help me. I am just fearful of the (running) fitness I lost by biking instead of running.

Last week I logged 44 miles of running and 36 miles of biking. This included a 16 mile run that I really didn't think was possible beforehand. I was seriously in tears the morning of. Running is hard. Somehow though, after a few prayers, I started running and continued running for 16 miles. Was it my best performance? No. Did it feel more difficult than my previous long run? Yes. I was thrilled when I saw that I kept a 9:12 pace though. I was just running an easy, manageable pace. So that inspired a little hope in my soul.

As I've mentioned on other social media outlets, I'm just mentally and emotionally all out of sorts. In 6ish weeks I'm heading westward for Alaska. I'm struggling with the thought of leaving my family of friends on the east coast and being further from our families in Missouri. Military life is hard.  The stress of moving has been quite burdensome. I have felt completely drained almost every day for weeks. Hence the lack of blog posts.Whereas I usually dread taper madness, I fully welcome it this time. I have so many things I have postponed doing because of lack of time and energy. So if anyone wants to come help me sort through stuff...let me know.

Yesterday I was able to sleep in and then lounge in the morning. I have a to-do list that is ever growing but I needed a couple hours of peace. I finally pumped myself up enough to get outside for my 10 mile tempo run. Oh and I had to wear leggings and a long sleeve top since winter never wants to leave.

My plan called for a 1 mile warmup, 10 miles at goal marathon pace, and a 1 mile cool down. Since I have no idea what my adjusted goal marathon pace is, I decided to just stick with my A goal pace. My warm up mile was achy. My head was a hot mess. I started seeing snap shots in my head of all the good times I've had here on the east coast. Which made me very happy and sad all at once. The sun was shining and I tried to give praise and list off things that I am thankful for. It helped to put me in a more positive mood. I kept hearing my Garmin beep as I ticked off another mile. It was very windy at times but I kept pushing onward. When I hit my 9th mile I was feeling depleted of energy. Note to self: Eat more. Eat better. I told myself that I could do it. That I only had to run 2 more at a decent pace and then I could slow it down. So that's what I did. Tears practically forming as I envisioned crossing the finish line of the marathon in a few weeks. I completed the run and found out I had ran a bit faster than intended. Oh well, it felt good.

May 3rd is not far away. Yikes. I can't believe it. I hope my legs can carry me the 26.2 miles once again.

When the race is over I'm going to start thinking about the various states I can log some miles in during our trip out west. I may have a little plan to run at least a mile in every state we drive through (that I have not yet ran in).

Oh and don't forget that we'll be volunteering at the start of the Boston Marathon again this year. Send thoughts and prayers for everyone running, volunteering, and spectating. It's going to be a beautiful day.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Cost of Being Stubborn

    Give me a moment while I dust this off. I love all the other forms of social media but I believe they have led to me neglecting my actual blog. Oops. 

    I'll give you a brief rundown. Marathon training was going epically awesome. I was knocking each run out in the face! Seriously, I was gaining momentum and confidence. My 9 mile tempo run (11 miles including the warm up and cool down) on Thursday, March 20th went flawlessly. I was riding high.

    The next morning my right shin/leg was achy though. Not a normal ache. I decided to take an unscheduled rest day. On Saturday it hadn't improved much but I thought maybe I was just being a baby so I ran my 10 miler. It went 'eh'. It was crazy windy that day with gusts up to 50+ miles per hour. I totally woman'd up though and got it done. I stretched, iced, soaked in epsom salt, and elevated it when I could. After work, and standing on my feet all day, I came home and the area in question was sore to the touch and going up/down stairs was slightly painful. Not good.

    I had plans that Sunday to meet up with Jessica for a run and I still wasn't willing to accept defeat. (i.e. I am stubborn and sometimes I make poor choices because of that.) So I went on a nice and easy 8 mile run with her. It hurt and I probably should not have run but it was a beautiful day. That, my friends, is the last time I ran. After that run my shin was terribly achy and sore. Even 1 or 2 strides made me practically yelp out in pain.

    The good news is that biking feels perfectly fine. Yay!! So this past week I have logged about 98 miles on my road bike. I also spent a little more time on strength training than I normally would. I'm hoping these efforts will allow my fitness level to stay up.

    As of today I'm just under 5 weeks out from marathon day. I don't know what this injury means for my race day. I do know that this is usually the point in training where running has lost it's luster to me. It usually becomes a job right about now. I mentally have to rally for a lot of my workouts. This week though made me focused and absolutely determined to make each workout really count. Although I've emotionally been up and down, I have busted my butt to keep my body as well tuned as possible. It's been a tremendous learning experience for me. I have an even deeper appreciation for those of you that have dealt with serious injuries and made comebacks. I tip my hat to you.

    This morning it was heavily raining and, without thinking, I ran out to my car. As I hopped in I realized that I had just ran those 10ish strides without pain. I was so happy that I ran back to the front door and hollered for Joe to look outside. As he did I ran back out to the driveway did a little circle and came back over to him smiling. He said,"So I'm guessing your leg is feeling better." Why yes. Yes it is.

    I hope that I'll be clocking some running miles this week. I just don't know how many yet. Keep sending positive thoughts and/or prayers my way. Your kind words and personal stories have strengthened me.
Thumbs up, Buttercup. 
    Have you dealt with an injury or setback while training for a race? Tell me about it. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


    You know how when you're deeply involved in a book and you excitedly turn page after page. After awhile you begin to realize that you're nearing the end and you wonder how everything is going to resolve. How will all the characters you love (or hate) and their situations be finalized with only those last 20 pages?!

    You find yourself trying to read slower to drag it out. As much as you want to know how it ends, you also don't want for it to be over. So you savor each sentence and brace yourself. Then sometimes, even though it appeared you still had 20 pages, there were really only 8 left in the actual story. The book ends abruptly and you're left turning page after page hoping for an epilogue at least. 

    This is the best way for me to describe my current state of mind. I feel as though I'm trying to slow my life down. I want to move on to our next adventure in Alaska, but I don't want for our time on Cape Cod to end. I'm trying to savor each moment. Each bit of laughter exchanged with friends. Each mile I'm able to run and enjoy here. I'm trying to take it all in and commit these feelings and moments to memory. 

    Whereas Missouri is where I am from, where my family is, and is where I will always call "home"..... this place has become my home. I have a life here that I never expected or imagined. I feel that I've changed a great deal in the last few years. I've met some of the most wonderful people a person could dream of. I've met strangers that have become friends, and that are now family. I've met people that have inspired me, changed me, and believed in me in ways I didn't/don't feel worthy. Due to their confidence in me, it has made me strive for goals that I never would have previously. I've also been exceptionally blessed to have so many of my older friendships continue to flourish. They have been instrumental in my life and encouraging me to continually make positive changes and choices. 

    I have to remind myself that all these people, experiences, and changes that I am so thankful for, may have never come to pass if we never moved to begin with. I'm sure I'd still lead an equally awesome life but if I had never moved, I never would have met my best friends Janell and Jamie. I never would have spent countless days lounging around various beaches, being awestruck by the vastness of this world. I wouldn't have been able to have friends from back home come visit and explore my new cities with me. I wouldn't have been a part of a community theater group in North Carolina and met some of the coolest, most creative people ever. I wouldn't have danced on rooftops of buildings during a tropical storm and felt absolute freedom. I wouldn't have driven thousands of miles and through dozens of states enjoying the countryside. I may not have ever discovered my love of mountain biking. I may not have (GASP) ever given a thought to running. I wouldn't have started this blog. Therefore, there are many, many of you that I would unfortunately never even know of. What a shame that would be. I wouldn't have been able to visit all the numerous historical sites; walked the lands, touched the bricks, viewed the glory of it with my own eyes. I wouldn't have eaten a Philly Cheesesteak at 2am while wondering past the Liberty Bell. I wouldn't have eaten an entire New York cheesecake in NYC (Oh yea, that happened. A shameful and yet impressive occasion). I may have even went on living my life continuing to hate sushi. Seriously, that is no way to live. 

    So as the end of my Cape Cod book draws to a close, I will relish each moment. It's difficult to not worry about what the future holds. I can only wish and pray that more wonderful people and experiences await me elsewhere. I hope that a few years from now I'm looking back and giving thanks for all my Alaska friends and adventures. 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Race in New Hampshire- CHECK

In honor of my RL (real life, because I'm cool and abbreviate things) Friendiversary with many folks and Marathoniversary for myself-I signed up for the Half at the Hamptons. This would also give Jamie and me another state of racing together. Woot! 

Long ago we all were a-Twitter (instead of abuzz, because we're all social media obsessed)
and discussing which race to run. This race was mentioned and when 
Speedy Sara said," AND EVERYBODY WILL WIN!" I was sold. 

So after an awful week of Joe being ill, having more bad weather, and a deer colliding 
with my car-I was ready to get out of Cape Cod. [insert Vampire Weekend's song "Walcott"]

Of course we had to get stuck in a bridge backup which resembled that of a summer back up. UGH. 
In the time it took us to drive from my house to across the bridge, I could have ran a half marathon. 

Alas, we made it to New Hampshire but not before Jamie posted this now infamous photo from mile 1 of the course. 

That is so much larger than a "puddle".

Online we all debated on who hated life more. 

Once in NH we spent quality time with our friends.
At least we were mostly interacting with one another....online.
We met up for dinner, banned our phones, and enjoyed a lovely meal. Although Isaac's Linguini Meatballs were the most entertaining. *wink wink-inside joke*

Everyone made fun of me and how much food I consume. 
Then after dinner I had to stop at the store to get more food. I may indeed have a problem.
I was feeling totally unprepared for a race, especially a half marathon. It's just been months since I actually 'raced' and my mind wasn't ready for it. I decided to just figure out my strategy on the fly. 

Joe dropped us off at the hotel for packet pickup. I had already spotted Isaac bouncing around in the snow. If you think that I am energetic and peppy, you HAVE to meet Isaac. I don't know how anyone could be grumpy while in his presence. I spotted my Instagram friend Sarah and stalked her a little. I just wanted to say hello in RL for once. 

We gathered our things and found a cozy spot along the wall to hang out. I told Isaac there was no need to look for 'my people' because they would flock to me. Which was hilarious because moments later Sara and Eric arrived. These two always have me laughing. 

My friend Tasha (and her husband Josh) dropped in to say hello. I was thrilled to give her a hug once again since I never get to see her.

Soon after Andy (Eric's twin brother) and kids arrived to be our cheer squad. Then another online friend Raquel found us too. She has officially been welcomed into our group of awesomeness. Which is good for us, but she potentially doesn't know what she got herself into. 

I should really look in a mirror before races. I'm a mess. Oh well. 
It was time to head to the start and I realized I didn't really stretch at all. Oh well, there was a lake or two on the course and an abundance of ice so I figured I'd be taking it slow. 

I said goodbye to my friends one by one as they placed themselves into their proper pace areas. I found my spot by Instagram Sarah and said goodbye to Jamie and Mike that would be taking it easy since she is coming back from injury. 

Soon we were off and I was thinking,"I guess it's time to run thirteen miles. La-dee-frickin'da."

I knew I was running quicker than I intended but it felt good and I figured I should bank a few seconds for the fording of the puddle. So I ran and tried to flip my 'race switch' on. 
I got a little anxiety when I knew the puddle would be approaching soon. As I looked up ahead though no one seemed to be struggling. Either they were all totally badass or the puddle was gone. I turned the corner and there was some slush and tiny puddles but that was it. SCORE!

This perked me up and I ran joyously and without a worry. I was, in fact, so happy and oblivious that I didn't notice a sheet of ice and did a bit of twerking. I recovered though and kept running. I did notice that a resident was coming out with rock salt. I was definitely not the only person that almost fell. 

After that I paid more attention to where I was running and less attention to my pace. I decided I just wanted to maintain a strong pace. If I wanted to know where I was mileage wise I would allow myself a quick peek at the lower right side of my watch, but that was all. 

My head was a hot mess but my body felt properly trained. It was a bizarre state to be in. My breathing was even and my body felt like it was keeping a steady, fast pace. 
My mind though, was playing games with me.

"Apparently people don't really talk when they are running at this pace. I have NO ONE to talk to."
"I'm bored."
"Stupid ice and puddles."
"Let's run a half marathon for fun they said. Everyone will PR they said."
"Is that man ever going to stop coughing and spitting?!"
"I bet I *think* I'm running fast but in actuality I'm running slow."
"Doesn't anyone want to by my friend?! You in the Newtons, take out your headphones."
"I'm hot and it's only like 40 degrees."
"Nope, he really isn't going to stop coughing and spitting."
"Hi JOE! Why are you at mile 7 and not mile 8?!? You have ruined my game plan."

I did rather enjoy the spectators in lawn chairs, smoking cigars, on top of a 10 foot snow bank. 
After mile 7-8 I had remembered Amber saying it was downhill or flat. It was a relatively flat course overall though. Mentally the small hills seemed difficult. I kept reflecting on MDI and how these should feel like nothing. They didn't. 

I had an unfortunate interaction at the final water stop. I made eye contact with a volunteer and said "you in green vest" and when I went to grab the cup he had a death grip and the water spilled completely out. So I grabbed another cup 3 people down. A runner man said,"Hey I was gonna take that cup." and so I handed him mine, which he accidentally dropped, and kept running (while speaking profanity). I then ran back a few feet to grab a cup for myself because I needed it. I probably lost 15 seconds on this ordeal. My already terrible mental game that I was pushing against the entire race hit an all time low. I knew I had time to make up and zeroed in on the random runner mans shirt in the distance. Then about a half mile later I had to pass the guy. I wanted to say something to him but I took the high road. He said nothing to me and I purposely made eye contact...he diverted his eyes. 
I tried dude. I tried.

I dangled a carrot in front of me and told myself that Isaac would be running back for me at any second. I couldn't slow down now because I needed to finish strong. My mind wandered a bit to my friends that were running Hyannis. I hoped they were all doing well. 

My eyes were constantly scanning, looking for Isaac's bright yellow Boston Marathon shirt. Finally, with about a mile or more to go I spotted him and cried out to him like a wounded warrior. He cheerfully ran my way and I said,"Get me to the finish!"

I think Sara described him best,"... a super caffeine charged, bouncy, pumped up race pacer on crack."

You would have never guessed that he had just ran a 1:25:51 half marathon. Plus, I was the second person he had ran back for. I hate him in the best possible way. He smiled and asked me how I was and I may have answered in normal language or I may have spoken caveman to him,"ugh. tired. empty. done. uhhhhhh."

He encouraged me to pick up the pace and said I just needed to make it to the blue lights. 
Clearly he didn't know that the blue lights were 5 million miles away. I had no clue how my body was still progressing forward. I focused on listening to his foot steps and trying to mimic them. I also noticed the graphic on his back honoring those lost and injured during last years Boston Marathon. 
(He later told me he had it added on himself.) My 'suffering' was nothing. Through his kindness and the thoughts of others, my body kept going. Soon we approached the blue lights and I only had to go the .1 to the finish. Isaac veered right and kept pacing me from behind the spectators, all the while still yelling for me to speed up. I heard Andy and his kids but I couldn't even turn my head, I had to focus on just getting to the finish. 

I finished, grabbed my medal, a water, and felt toasted. Isaac magically appeared and made sure I was doing okay. I think my lack of words may have worried him a little. He led me back to Andy and the kids and then ran off in search of Jamie and Mike. I was so thankful Andy had come to spectate. I got to see/hear them several times and it was SUCH a moral booster. 

(.19 my Garmin had longer) 7:22 pace 

Official Time: 1:47:07

There was much celebrating after. 
Including my obligatory Jump Photo. 

I love running. I love my friends. I love my husband. 
So basically this was an awesome weekend. We all won because we have each other. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Inspire Me

I've been in a bit of a rut the last few weeks. 
There's been a lot going on and I'm trying to adapt to it all. 
The house is cluttered. My thoughts feel scattered. 

I've opened up this same page several times hoping that words and inspiration would strike.
Nope. Nothing. 
I feel this responsibility to post only encouraging and positive things. 
It's not that I've felt negative or despondent, just not as spirited as usual. 
I've been so thankful to hear how all of you are doing in your training or recovery from injury. 
You, my friends, have kept me smiling and pushing hard in my training. 
Some of you are injured and working hard to get back out there. 
Others of you are training for your first race in a new distance. 
There are also many that are pushing hard for a PR.
I hope you know how much your strength and determination inspire me daily. 

We all have a lot on our plates. Many of you are juggling so many things that I seriously have no idea how you do it. (Do y'all have extra hours in your day?!?) I think the inspiration here can be found in one another. Maybe I haven't felt like myself, but I've still been knocking out training runs. Perhaps you've had a long work day, got the kids into bed late, been exhausted, and yet still got in a workout. Possibly you've been laid up in bed or on the couch and pushed yourself to do PT work that was difficult.

To ourselves, these day to day happenings may just feel like checking something off our list(s). 
However, by sharing these daily accomplishments we all have been fueled, encouraged, inspired, and motivated by one another. The human connection at it's finest. 

Yesterday we had a blizzard here. Snow was falling incredibly fast and winds were whipping it everywhere. This morning I woke up to sunshine and snow covered trees. It was so gorgeous that I was staring out the window like a child, anxious to get outside and play (run) in the winter wonderland. 

After running so many treadmill miles this past week it felt incredibly freeing to be outside.
I wasn't just running the miles. I was enjoying every single minute; every single step.
I ended up adding on an extra mile just because of the happiness I was feeling.

Thank you for inspiring me and keeping me going.
I can only hope that my posts, our conversations, our texts, 
or our internet exchanges have helped to inspire you too. 

Thanks for your support and kindness. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When I Hated Running

    Let's take a step back. Let's rewind to early 2008. Let me introduce you to my first glimpse at running. Even though I ran several races during that time period I was never a runner at heart. I don't even really consider myself as being a runner at that point in my life. That came many years later in 2012. However, we're looking back at 2008 now. 

    Joe and I had just relocated to our first station, Oak Island, North Carolina. Before this move I had lived in the same Missouri town for my entire life, 24 years. Soon after our move we met up with some of Joe's co-workers, and a spouse, for a game night. That night I was introduced to Janell and Aaron, people that would become our family. I asked Joe a million questions about the people we were about to meet. I remember him saying, "Aaron is a country boy that grew up on the side of a mountain and his wife is a nurse." 

    We all were fast friends. That night Janell mentioned how she was thinking of running a 10k in a few months. She had already ran a road race and assured me I could easily train for it also if I wanted. I had never thought about running just to run. I played soccer growing up and that was basically my extent of running. Her smile was contagious and her enthusiasm drew me in.

One of our first ever photos. This was before phones had decent cameras
and before I even had a Facebook. Whhhattt?!
    So since I desperately needed a friend and she was going to train for the race I figured WHY NOT? It would give us something to do and bond over. I was in. 

    I knew nothing about running. The idea that I should be consistent in running or have a training plan was a foreign concept. Running shoes? You mean I should wear a particular shoe? I wore cotton all the time. I had never even heard the term "moisture wicking". If we wanted to figure out a distance than we would drive it in our cars. 'PACE' was not a word in my vocabulary.

    If Janell called me (because Janell didn't know what texting was then. ha!) and asked if I wanted to run, we met up and ran. When I say 'we ran' I basically mean that she ran and I slowly shuffled behind her. She would be so happy and bounce down the road ahead of me. Then she'd notice she'd dropped me like a bad habit and circle the half mile or so back to me. I would curse her in my head. I would wheeze. I would stop and walk every 5 mailboxes. She would chatter on about various things, smiling, and easily match my pace. I'd huff and puff and contemplate throwing myself into oncoming traffic.

   A couple months later (and probably severely under-trained) I lined up for the point-to-point race. There was a 10k and 5k option. I remember wishing I had chosen the 5k. We were all standing around in a giant cluster. The police and race officials would briefly close down the bridge- which was the 1st stretch of the race- so we could run. Until then, we were gathered off to the side. I felt like I was going to throw up everywhere. My goal was just to finish. No strategy at all. I had no idea what kind of pace I kept. They had water stops. I'd never even ran with water or known I should fuel up beforehand in a certain way. I just knew there was a start and a finish and I had to try not to die in between. 

    In the last few minutes leading up to the start I distinctly remember staring at this little, old lady. She reminded me of my own grandmother. She was around 5 feet tall, a bit plump, and was wearing old school compression socks. (She was ahead of her time in knowing the benefits of these for runners.) I remember being very worried for her. It was hot and sunny out that day. I wondered if she'd accidentally got off on the wrong trolley stop and was supposed to be at the 5k start. Before I had a chance to walk over and verify that she was in the correct location it was time for the race to start. 

Janell said she would stay with me for the first bit because she knew how nervous I was. I am so thankful.
Here we are crossing the Oak Island Bridge:
Cotton top, cotton shorts, and I'm pretty sure I'm wearing Nike Shox. 
    It's been so long since this race that I don't remember much. I just know that I tried not to walk. We had ran sections of the course for most of our 'training' so I was extremely familiar with the area. (I maybe ran 2x a week for the few months leading up to this.) I knew that as we ran on the road towards the lighthouse that it was much further away than it appeared. Each step felt like you were almost there but the lighthouse would still be miles away. Once you finally did pass the lighthouse you only had about the .2 miles to go.

 I just stared at the lighthouse and tried to remember which huge beach houses I needed to pass before I was realistically close to the lighthouse. I felt miserable. I was overheating. I told myself I was never going to run this far again. I wondered how I had convinced myself that this was a good idea. I seriously contemplated just walking the remainder of the race. This was dumb. How did Janell find enjoyment in this?! 

    Finally I passed the beach house that meant I was almost to the lighthouse. Oh sweet victory. I felt like I had been wondering the desert for days. My face and chest felt sunburned. I was almost to the finish though. 

    Then I saw her. NO, not Janell. That chick had already long since finished. I looked ahead of me and spotted my Grandmothers doppelganger. Yes, you read that right. She was AHEAD of me. 

    Suddenly I cared nothing about how hot I was, how stupid this was, or how tired I felt. There was no flipping way that little old lady was going to beat me. So I pressed on the gas and kicked myself into gear. I stared down her tan compression socks and willed my body to move faster. As we rounded the guard gate into the last stretch I was on her heels. Then, as I noticed the race officials pulling down the finishers shoot because clearly there were only a few of us left on the course, I passed her. I sprinted to the finish line as my friends cheered for me as if I were the winner of the race. 

    I crossed the finish line and then fell to the ground having an asthma attack. Joe and Janell assisted me. Then a little bit later we took a few photos. 
Joe actually really enjoyed running back then.
He even got 2nd in his age group division.

We did it!

My official time: 1:13:30 - 11:50/mile

   Later I'll tell you all about another race I ran back in those days. I may not have been a runner in my heart or mind, but these experiences would someday lead me to become one. These memories fuel me to push harder now. When I'm racing and I set my sights on a runner in front of me, I always think of that little old lady that almost bested me. Oh how I admire her.