Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tour of Chicago, Marathon Style

Part 2

Marathon training for this third attempt was to start in mid-June.  Meanwhile I kept myself in okay shape - attending some spin classes, getting some runs in, some treadmill work, some walks. I started joining a group on Monday nights for a bike ride, and soon felt confident and ready to turn in my cage pedals for clips.

We headed to the beach for vacation and I brought my bike along, excited to get to run on the beach and bike wherever we went.  I was going to swim in the inter coastal waterway behind our rented condo, and I was going to fully enjoy integrating healthy living with vacation.  It was a great start to marathon training!

On our first full day, I was stupidly clipped in on the bike and took a solid tumble.  I was too inexperienced to be clipped in while using the bike as a mode of transportation in a busy resort area.  I hit my knee hard, resulting in some nasty road rash and a great deal of pain and swelling.  And that was that: My healthy vacation ended in one stupid decision.  I couldn't bike or run due to the pain (and fear of more being wrong than just superficial wounds) and I couldn't swim thanks to open wounds and the threat of flesh eating bacteria in the waters at that time.

Awesome.

It took several weeks for my knee to heal, and by then my mojo had completely tanked. We were in the hot dog days of summer, school had resumed, and running became a chore.

Why is the default setting for most humans laziness?  You really can't deny that it is.  People who aren't lazy can't conceive of laziness, but they are a minority.  Laziness brings you no joy or satisfaction.  It is not inspirational.  It's not fun. It's just easy.  And in being so easy, it's hard to overcome.

So while I waited for my knee to heal, I allowed lazy to creep back in.  I went to Y classes and worked out, so I wasn't a complete slug, but I sure as heck did not follow my marathon training plan. Every once in a while I'd take my iPad to the Y and do a long run on the treadmill while watching Netflix, but for someone who once recorded every darn step in 3 different logs, I couldn't even tell you for certain how far those long runs were or how long they took me.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Jenny and she said, "So are you still doing Chicago?"  Chuck and I laughed and said, "Well, we're GOING to Chicago and we hear there is a race there..." and Chuck confessed my sin of no real training.  The three other people with us - avid runners and triathletes, looked a little stunned. Jenny said, "Well, if anyone can pull it off, it's you."

At home Chuck told me with the flight and room paid for, we might as well head to my favorite city, attend the expo and grab a couple of coffees on Sunday and watch the race.  I said, "Well hell, my race entry is paid for, I might as well join in on the fun, enjoy the excitement of the start, and run something ... I'd have course support and crowd excitement - something is better than nothing!"

I had a fever Sunday night that finally erupted into a nasty bug of some sort on Tuesday, something that normally would have sent me over the edge before a marathon, but I wasn't really doing the marathon, so I just didn't care. The lowest point of the week of illness was Friday, once we were in the city.  I could hardly breathe, I was sad I wasn't a part of all of the marathon hoopla and I just felt lousy all around.  In the evening I rallied and enjoyed an evening at a blues club and woke up Saturday feeling much better.

Chuck and I studied the map and came up with two plans.  1) I would stop at 13.1, which was still in the city.  2) I would stop at 16.5, which was the last time I'd be in the city proper until mile 25.  We were both pretty confident I could do 13.1 and I could push for 16, but 26.2 was never really in the cards. I figured I'd use it as well-supported training for the running season coming up.   We treated Saturday as if I really WERE doing the marathon the next day - eating and drinking properly, going to bed early, setting out our gear and my banana :).  You know.  Just in case.

Sunday was beautiful and the first day I woke up not coughing. Hmm.  I got dressed and was mildly nervous.  We walked the 2 miles to the starting line and I got into my corral.  I texted Chuck: I am in with the 4:30s, LOL.  

I set my Garmin for a generous walk/run.

By mile 4 I knew I was going to finish.

At mile 13.1 I saw Chuck.  My Garmin read 13.47.  His Garmin activity tracker read 8 miles.  I thought to myself, "Bull!  I am not going to go through all of this only to have 5 more miles for the day than he has! [I had forgotten we both had earned 2 miles on the walk to the start]"  I told him I could do the distance already done again, but it would be mostly walking.  He told me to go for it.  And so I did.

I walked pretty fast but it was still walking.  I was going to use the middle miles to walk some and the later miles to make up time but my tender born-again-virgin feet said no way.  I would attempt to run - I would WANT to run - but it was like running on sharp tacks or hot coals.  I was horrified and fascinated by what I imagined were blisters the size of flying saucers ever-growing on my non-calloused, undertrained feet.  Yikes.

I took my gels (which made me want to throw up - I told Chuck if the race didn't get me, my ancient gels surely would).  I had some candy corn and a baby Snickers.  I gulped down water at every stop and stood in line for a potty. I took in the sights and signs.  I felt like a marathon "cheater" which was kind of weird when at the same time people around and behind me had friends and family cheering them on telling them how proud of them they were.  We were at the same pace or I was ahead.  How was I "cheating" while they were "winning"?  (I later came to the conclusion that what I had denied myself was the training - not just to be able to finish well, but to relish the fact that the marathon itself was the reward of training. The sense of cheating came from the fact that I knew those around me HAD logged the early morning runs and the long miles and I had not - I was gaining the same experience without really earning it.)

There were church ladies along the way with signs that made me cry - in a good way.  The first was when I decided I would finish - suddenly a sign appeared that said, "You are anointed to finish".  Now normally that would have made me roll my eyes - I really don't think God is going around playing eenie-meenie-minie-mo about who was going to finish and who wasn't, and I won the playground game.  But that sign spoke to me in a way that I can't articulate - it somehow confirmed to me that it wasn't stupid to try.

Then second - my favorite - was one I saw them with with about 10 miles to go.  It read: "One day you won't be able to do this.  Today is not that day."

I Run 4 David.  I hadn't even told him I was going to Chicago, because I didn't want to let him down when I didn't finish.  But I kept him with me throughout the race, because it is my honor to run because he cannot.  He was on that sign.  Chuck's mom was on that sign.  My friend Jenny, who died just over a year ago and who also loved this race, was on that sign.

One mile to go, 800km to go, 400km to go, that awesome downturn into the finish and yeah, I did it.

It was the easiest of all 8 marathons, believe it or not, and not just because I didn't really run it in the true sense of the word.  But I skipped the nerves.  I skipped the fretting. I knew I could bail out at any moment - that I was expected to bail out at any moment - so each mile was an accomplishment rather than the whittling down of 26.2 daunting miles.  It was a long, long time on the course (50 minutes slower than my previous slowest, 2 hours and 11 minutes slower than my fastest).  I did not enjoy the feeling of "cheating" (for lack of a better term) so I wouldn't do that to myself again, if I ever decide to do one again, which I seriously doubt at this point.  I had fun.  It was honestly fun.  It was a day-long therapy session of being alone, reassessing who I was and what I wanted, marveling at the fact that at 42 and with no training and a lot of misuse, my body took up the challenge and carried me through, and that it deserved better than I'd been treating it.  The volunteers were as enthusiastic and helpful to us "back of the packers" as I am sure they were to the front- and mid-packers.  I said many prayers of thanks for my Chuck, who waited patiently for hours and hours while his silly wife trudged slowly along the course.

So now what - I don't know.  I do know that the person who started the race is not the person who finished the race.  I know now that I really do love to run.  That I really AM a runner, not just someone who runs.  You just don't spend that much time on a race course and leave it wanting more unless it is something that has been woven into you as part of your permanent tapestry.

The Elusive Number 8

Part 1

I know no one reads this anymore (and few did to start with ) but this is the place I've carved out to record my thoughts within the framework of running, and with my 8th, and most likely last, marathon behind me ... this is where I will put those thoughts.

Marathon #8 was first supposed to be NYC 2012.  I didn't get in through the general lottery, but I was chosen to race on behalf of two charities.  One was a charity in honor of Tug McGraw, to raise money in support of victims of brain tumors.  The other was a children's cancer charity, based out of New York.  After careful review of both charities' financials and GuideStar reviews, I chose the children's cancer charity.  It was a hard choice as they are both worthy organizations. I still shake my head at the thought that one of those charities would mean so much more to us within weeks of that choice.

On June 15th, our world was turned upside down.  Chuck's mother, another mother to me and my kids' beloved Nan, was rushed to the hospital with what would ultimately be revealed as a brain tumor -stage IV lung cancer which had metastasized to her brain.  The days, months and weeks which followed were both terrifying and uplifting, as she fought her way back to absolute normal in record time.  But though she was back to being herself, she had a new battle to fight: that dreaded beast, cancer.

In those early months, I was actively advocating her care - a task I embraced fully, grateful to have a way to help in what otherwise felt like a very helpless time. Attending procedures, appointments and the like meant that running took a natural - and appropriate - back seat to all that was going on.  I didn't have the time and honestly, I didn't have the heart.

Chuck and I looked to a November weekend away with particular dread, not knowing what our future held. I finally made the decision to give my charity spot to another runner, absorbing the cost entry fee I had already paid.  When Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the race, that fee was returned to me, something I have mixed feelings about.  I was happy to have $250 back, but sad for all of my friends who had trained only to have their day taken away.

My mother-in-law's improvement was exponential, and our lives began to stabilize.  The beast that is cancer has now taken an unwelcome residence in our family, and is always on our minds.  But normalcy in some ways has returned, and I was ready to resume running.

As written here, I chose Disney as marathon number 8, take 2.  I signed up, made a training schedule and ... nothing.  By now my own laziness had taken over.  Weight was creeping on.  "Tomorrow" was always more than a day away.  October, November, December ... nothing. I.did.nothing.  Finally one night we decided I just wouldn't do it.  I felt immense relief.  Never again!  Seven marathons was plenty, I said.  I did a stupid untrained epic Gasparilla weekend stunt (9.3 and 3.1 miles one day, 13.1 the next) and hated every minute of it.  I was pretty sure running was a thing of my past at this point.

I am very competitive, but often misuse that competitive spirit.  The Chicago Marathon announced that it, too, was going to a lottery system.  My interest was piqued.  I could try - why not?  And I loved that marathon, and it would motivate me, and this time I would really really really truly do it. If I got in, that is.

So I put in my application and awaited the day.  I refreshed my browser over and over again until there it was ... my entry status had turned green.  I was in!

With my recent history of signing up for races and not training for or completing them, I told very few people I was in.  I was excited - I GOT IN! but I knew I needed to keep my trap shut because in the past 2 years, my intent to action ratio was not skewed in my favor.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2nd day of Marathon VIII Training

1st day was a rest day, LOL.

Today we did 8x400s.  A 1 mile warm-up, and the rest went like this:


24:12.90.498:32
34:20.70.508:39
44:23.50.508:51
54:29.40.508:54

I just did a quick search and that's about 50 seconds off my "peak" 800 time.  Sadly, I think that's okay.  I really thought I'd be closer to 5:00 at this point, so I was kinda happy to see the teens and twenties on my Garmin.

And that's all I have to say about that :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Little Engine That Could

The Little Engine That Could was one of my favorite books as a kid; perhaps one of the first I was able to read myself.  It helps when there are a lot of repetitive words.

I feel like that little blue engine - heading up the mountain pulling a heavy load.  This isn't metaphoric: That heavy load is my behind.  Yuck.

My scale has been fickle, finally petering out some time last week.  I finally remembered to bring 4 AA batteries upstairs and ugh, the weigh-in wasn't pretty, but it was super motivational.  Like, I want to get my jaw wired shut motivational.

I am about as fat as I was in 2002.  Chuck said I am not but he is a lying liar who lies.  Blue LED lights do not lie.  Too-tight running shorts do not lie.  People asking you when you are due do not lie.  Just kidding, that hasn't happened to me yet, but I feel it coming.

There is a story I tell about the first time I lost a lot of weight.  Life kinda sucked big time at the time.  We were poor, poor, poor.  Our children were young and rambunctious and tiring.  Chuck worked a LOT of hours.  Our house was on the market but not selling.  And I was fat.

I never complained about being poor or spending a lot of hours with 4 kids 5 and under, or about the fact that I was doing the parenting thing on my own mostly while Chuck built a new career.  I didn't complain (much) about our money pit of a house and the gazillion showings of it while chasing  toddlers only to get feedback that felt like stabbing criticism of my housekeeping skills (and no offers).  I didn't complain about the fact that our sieve of a house couldn't contain A/C and was always always hot. I didn't complain about sharing a car and feeling stranded at home just about every day. I understood that's just where I was in life and that we were a team working toward a better tomorrow and that I just needed to suck it up.  But what I did complain about, incessantly and obsessively, was that I was fat.

One day I snapped.  Chuck came home to find me on the floor sprawled out under our ceiling fan, crying.  I was hot, tired, discouraged, bored, frustrated, alone, friendless, unmotivated, unhappy and FAT.

He literally sat me down like I was 5 years old and said something to the effect of: "Listen, I am working on making a better life for us [which he was - and did - and I never implied otherwise, but this is part of the story...].  I want to sell the house as badly as you do but I cannot make that happen.  We have a lot of little kids and we can't do anything about that.  But being fat?  That you CAN do something about.  So fix it and stop complaining."

And then he took money we did not have and signed us up at the Y.  And that was that.  A lot of problems solved: Kids in kid care, my fat ass on the treadmill, and free A/C!  I lost 60 pounds, gained a hobby, made lots of great friends, and lived happily ever after.

Life really is cyclical.  Fast forward a decade or so, and financially we are fine.  The kids are teens (and no, I do not long for their toddler years but let's face it - this isn't easy either!).  We have two cars and soon will have three.  A nice, insulated house which we do not intend to sell any time soon and I have acquired a better set of housekeeping skills (plus a house keeper) so I'd be all set for showings even if it were.  And I am fat.

So Chuck sat me down and said, "You are beautiful and healthy looking, and yes overweight.  Stop complaining and do something about it.  Every day, I want you to take an hour out of your day and run to the guard shack and back.  And I want you to be proud of yourself that you can do that, that you can run 4 miles like that *snap*.  And then the weight will go away.  But you need to do that, and stop complaining [except he said the other word for complaining]."

Once again, he was just what I needed.  So last night, I puttered and putzed and frittered away time until I gathered up my 10 million little comfort items I needed to run and ... I ran.

I came home to his cheerful smiling face and he said, "SEE!  4 miles is nothing to you, and you did it.  Just keep doing that, and you'll be back to your old self before you know it!"

(I love that man.)

My response?  "I forgot fat girls chafe."

As I climbed the stairs to my shower, sweaty, stinging (from the chafing), and red faced I realized I really was starting over and it was okay.  And I will be back to my old self before I know it.  I just needed him to remind me, encourage me, and push me up that mountain.

4 miles last night, 3 miles this morning... I am getting there.  Pulling the load up the mountain.

Tonight I am joining a new swim class/team - I am pretty excited about that.  I told Jenny I'd join her for a tri in September so I should probably be sure I still remember how to swim.  I know I remember how to float with a beer in my hand as I have practiced that already this summer, but swimming face down, beerless, while moving forward might need some reviewing.





Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Building Back Base

Chuck and I spent a few weeks mulling over marathons I could run.  I desperately need a marathon.  I need the focus.  I need to lose weight.  I need to get up early in the morning and be super, achingly, blessedly tired at night and do it all over again.

I need to be Running Kathryn again.

I have been blogging for - what? - 9 years?  I started blogging when I decided to run the WDW Marathon in 2005.  That is also when I started feeling like a "real runner", having only run a handful of 5ks before (maybe a few 10ks, I don't remember...)

I had a 3 year old
I had a 6 year old
I had two 8 year olds

Now it's 9 years later, and I have run

31 5ks
6 10ks
6 15ks
2 8ks
27 half marathons
and 7 marathons

I have a 12 year old
a 15 year old
and two high school seniors...

They have grown, I grew, and then.... in 2012, I stopped growing.

I just stopped.

2012 kicked my ass.  It was a painful year personally and it was harder still for people I love dearly.  It turned me inside out in ways I can't explain and don't understand.  The calendar flipped and "unlucky" '13 appeared and I hoped with it, better luck.  Not right away................

but then as happens, it wasn't a switch, but an easing.  Not a blinding sudden swath of light but a gradual reveal of the sun, and I felt my life re-illuminated and joyful again.  They say you have an internal "setting" of happiness and mine is usually pretty darn happy, and I welcome that pendulum swing back to happiness again.

Meanwhile, my habits had been replaced.  I had found joy and comfort in food and late nights, in late mornings and skipped workouts.  And though I was (am) happy, I am missing that important part of me that made me who I was and gave me depth and strength and fortitude.  Chuck sensed it, too, and at least one part of every recent day had been spent determining from where that next inspiration would come.  We looked at them all: The Flying Pig, P.F. Chang's, NYC, New Orleans, Atlanta, God-forsaken Miami (I strongly dislike Miami), Jacksonville, San Diego ... you name it, we researched it, read about it, checked our schedules against it.  We tossed out this one for one reason, that one for another  - until he came into the kitchen a couple of nights ago and said, "There's only one - go ahead and sign up for it."

Disney.

9 years later I am back where I started, almost from the beginning.  I cannot run 3 miles consecutively at this point - a depressing fact when I have spent the past 7 or 8 years being "half marathon trained" at nearly every moment.  I am myself impressed at my PRs and even race-pace averages of recent years.  I have a long way to go to build back to where I have been, but I am excited to do it.  The night I signed up I dreamed about training plans and training calendars and running again.  I am not exaggerating - my subconscious immediately grasped the magnitude of this decision and started processing it in a happy, positive way.

This morning I got up at 5:19am and then kissed my best friend goodbye, who woke up enough to encourage me to "Go build that base".  He who has only run 2 half marathons in his life (and hated every minute), still is my very best cheerleader who understands completely that training won't start until August, yet until then my job is to "build that base".  I think this is what makes this hobby of mine so rewarding: Though he does not run by my side, he is with me for every mile, and a part of every run.  It has become OUR hobby - he as a spectator not just to me, but to my friends and the runners of our community.  It has become a part of our tapestry, not because it is about me, but it is about us being a team together.  Sacrifice and pride and teamwork from both directions, which rounds out who we are not just as individuals but as a couple.  And as that team, we are a better set of parents.  Which in turn makes us a better family.  Today, when I went the extra mile (literally), I realized - this is part of my "work" to our family - we all take joy in the sport that is running and we all benefit in our own ways, but it is my job  to work hard so it is a joyful family activity.  The last mile, which was an extra mile, was about me doing my husband's bidding to "build that base".  When we picked this 8th but oh-so-important marathon I realized how important it was because my children exclaimed, "Oh good!  So we can go!" ....This sport and hobby has become an important part of US.  And though I most definitely benefit on the front lines, my family benefits as well, which will bring me inspiration when the excitement fades and the prescribed mileage seems daunting.

So here we are, full circle.

Let the fun begin.




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Boston

As runners we are taught - or we learn - to be mindful of our surroundings.  As I was running today I heard the jingle of dog tags and I was on alert as I always am: Is the dog on a leash?  Running toward or away from me?  What is my escape plan?

Not only do we learn to be alert for loose dogs, but a myriad of possible dangers.  Strangers on our paths, stray pinecones, or even lack of fuel or water all have the potential to do us harm.  In an abundance of caution, we learn to be prepared for any hazard, and we try our best to avoid them.  We carry water, wear headlamps, consider mace or pepper spray, and keep one headphone tucked in our tops, so we have an "ear out" to hear.

The exception is the race, where we are at our most vulnerable only because we feel most protected.  At a race, our needs are cheerfully met: Waterstops fend off dehydration, medical tents hold volunteers with Tylenol and bandaids, well-heeled dogs sit at their masters' feet, leashed and calm.  Streets are mostly swept and runners look out for each other, kicking debris out of the way of those behind them, encouraging those who aren't doing well, alert to help if a fellow runner needs it.  The race is where we as a running community come together, to test our training, to celebrate the hours spent in the dark dodging shadows and pinecones, and to receive the reward of our hard work.

Then there is This Race, where we send our very best.  Like children at the master's knee, we who have never been hear from those who have about the Wellesley girls, Heartbreak Hill, the Boylston Street finish.  The elite of the world toe this line, followed by the elite of our small worlds - our very best who train for the elusive BQ, who have the fortitude to run - hard - for three and a half hours, to earn that coveted spot.  Patriot's Day Monday, even if we don't officially celebrate, is a secret little holiday in the heart of every runner.

I waited in line at the porta-potty at one of my first half marathons.  When it was my turn, the runner who was exiting held the door for me.  I remember this because it was so different than the world of disrespect and disregard I think I'd become accustomed to.  That small but significant gesture helped me realize that the running community was a gentleman's community - that to be a part of it I needed to be kind, considerate, caring and helpful. Since that odd moment when a stranger held a plastic, stinky door for me, I have realized that first impression has not been wrong.  The running community includes some of the very best people I have ever had the luck to know and run alongside.

So like many runners, I wake up this morning still stunned by this attack on not just Bostonians, not just Americans, not just international citizens, but us.  Our people.  The fastest of us, or if not, the most charitable of us, who run 26.2 miles to raise money for a cause that means something to them.  The community that includes not just runners but those who support runners, the Chucks of the world who chase down spectator spots and carry our bags with our Cliff bars and spare pairs of shorts and a jacket so we are comfortable on our many miles.  I know these people - maybe not personally - but I know what they are made of and how they felt and how this moment, circled on the calendar and anticipated for months - has now been marred with horror and fear.

And I understand that unspoken sadness, that this moment, that they fought so hard for and earned, has been snatched away and replaced with sadness for those who have lost so much.  I can imagine the inside out fatigue - the exhausted body and the exhausted heart and soul.  I can imagine the mix of grief and relief for those who escaped, those who finished before the 4 hour mark and those who hadn't yet finished.

You would think by now we would have lost our innocence.  You would think by now we would be numb to these events, as frequently as they seem to happen these days. I think it is to our credit that we are not jaded by evil and that evil surprises and shocks and hurts us every time.  What does not surprise us is the number of people who ran toward the danger. Those who have been to races, especially major ones, will know that many trained medical personnel, including nurses and doctors, volunteer their time and expertise to runners.  When they signed up to volunteer, none could know what would be asked of them beyond the usual runner ailments and conditions.  As we watch the video over and over again it is unmistakable - once again, the heroes run toward the danger, not away.  Remarkable - and yet, not really.  It is what we have the great fortune to expect from America's finest - our public servants who run to protect and to serve and to heal and to comfort.

There will be so much to process is the next days, weeks, months and years.  There will be an impact throughout the running community, but not the way you think.  The running community will be who they are - defiant, resilient, quietly kind and strong in the face of those who try to harm us.  We will rally behind our injured and stricken, and be even more enthusiastic with our appreciation for the men and women who protect us while we run.  We will continue to kick pinecones out of each other's path and hold portalet doors and offer words of encouragement to our fellow competitors.  We will raise money and raise spirits and close out even more races at capacity to prove we won't be deterred.

There has been talk about how to secure 26 miles of future events.  I feel comfortable speaking for most marathoners when I say: We don't want that.  That's not who we are.  We run for freedom and from restrictions.  We run knowing there are dangers, and it is worth it.  We don't want to run within the confines of pat downs and metal detectors.  Individually, we've been warned that running causes harm, hurts you, breaks you down... yet we run anyway, understanding that it does just the opposite. Now, together, we can say the same - running will never harm us, hurt us, or break us down.  And in our collectively defiant voice, once again, we defeat the enemy.


Friday, March 01, 2013

March Forth

There are some rumblings on Facebook about running every day in March.  I haven't officially joined a challenge, but I like the idea.  Like tonight, when I realized I was going to ruin the whole idea in the first day.  I realized at 6:45 that though I had done a lower body workout earlier at the Y, I hadn't actually RUN.

So, I strapped on my Garmin and off I went!  I originally was just going to do our neighborhood loop of 1.8 miles and call it good.  Then I decided if I was going to strap on the Garmin, put on the shoes, get sweaty, etc. I might as well go ahead and do something of substance, so I went out 2 miles so I was forced to do four.  That's probably the idea behind the "run once a day" concept;  more often than not you are going to run a little further than a block once you get going.  It's just a matter of getting motivated to get started 90% of the time!

I am still slower than I like to be, but I know I have to put in the mileage to get better.  I wish I'd brought music tonight; I got a little bored.

Today I read something along the lines of whining about running is like whining about too much money.  I need to remember that I am blessed to have the choice and I need to remember to honor that blessing by making that choice more often than not.  Preferably with music along for the ride.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tap! Tap! Is this thing on...?

I have spent considerable time reading through this old blog of mine in the past few days.

The sub headline I wrote for this blog so many years ago says this:


My hope is that it will inspire me to perservere now, and be a reference for me to know what to tweak for future running endeavors.

Well, it's done its job.

I don't even know what to say, how to summarize my feelings, except to say this:  I miss her.  Her - the writer of this blog from two and a half years ago.  I miss her enthusiasm, her spirit, her commitment, her dedication, her unwavering enthusiasm for her new-found sport.

Blogging, blogging about running, blogging about myself running - on balance, this seems like a somewhat egotistical endeavor.  Who cares?  Perhaps that's why I stopped.  That, and life got in the way.  And things changed.  I changed.  So I no longer visited this little cozy overstuffed chair my little corner of the internet.

But now I find that this blog about me running has served a purpose, to me anyway. As I read back through the pages of this online journal I realize I have captured the very essence of my life within the framework of my hobby.  The platform is the sport, but it showcases so much more.  It's a blog about friendships, and spirituality, and soul-searching.  It is about family, and marriage, and sacrifice and substance.  It is an observation of the world and relationships through the unlikely porthole of distance running.  In between posts about repeats and long runs - even within posts about repeats and long runs - are posts about friendship, nature, family, pain, fear, illness, stress, love, kindness, inspiration, parenting ... you name it.

So where am I now?  I am a little adrift.  It's been a hard year which I have made even more difficult for myself by stuffing down and cutting off the things that made me healthy and happy.  I have sacrificed health - mental and physical - prioritizing often the wrong things over the right ones, all in an attempt to survive or move on past some setbacks.  I have used a sense of false martyrdom to excuse my lack of dedication to things I know to be right and good.  When you are healthy - physically and mentally - you can contribute so much more to the world than when you allow yourself to be robbed of the things that make you whole and wholesome.

Last weekend I ran in the Gasparilla Distance Classic.  In the last two years, I have run the Mich Ultra challenge, which consists of 4 races: 15k and 5k on Saturday, and the half-marathon and 8k on Sunday.  I mainly did this to get the Mich Ultra swag, being the Mich Ultra poster child that I am.  This year I was smart enough to acknowledge that 18 miles on a single day was not within my capabilities, but arrogant enough to think that 25.5 miles in 2 days was.  Thus, I ran the Beck Light Challenge, which is three of the four races (the 8k is not included).  On Saturday, I ran the 12.4 miles of races beautifully - not too fast, but not too slow, and feeling like a champ afterward.

On Sunday - notsomuch.  Lack of preparation and training showed up and kicked me swiftly and soundly in the butt at mile 4.  I did what I haven't in years mid-race, and texted Chuck.  "Not going well.  Only at 4" I wrote at 6:58, about 45 minutes or more into the race. Exactly one hour later: "Barely at 9.  Yikes".

At mile 9, I looked at the clock:  1:59:45.  And I burst into tears.  At just under the two hour mark I should be finishing, or at least a hell of a lot closer to the 12 mile mark than the 9!  The most upsetting realization?  I had done this to myself!  There were no excuses.  I am not, nor was I, injured or ill.  I was not sidelined by anything more than my own laziness and lack of dedication.  I wanted to race, but I didn't want to do the work to lead to a good, solid race and feeling good about my performance.  I wanted the glory, but didn't put in any of the guts.

So, that moment sucked, but it was a pivotal moment, and pivotal moments change lives.  Pivotal moments are called that because it causes you to make a sharp turn and change direction.  Pivotal moments are often painful or difficult because pain motivates like no other.  Pain has a positive purpose if you let it.

Somewhere in that painful haze of defeat plus the actual physical pain from running 13.1 miles seriously undertrained, I found myself navigating here, to my little corner of the world, where I had happily chattered about running and deer potties, and girlfriends and races. I was shocked to see my last entry was November 2010.  It was a little like returning to a house or a store that you had once loved, only to find it quiet and abandoned, unloved and forgotten.  Then I debated:  Do I continue to let it sit, untouched?  Torch it?  Or bring it back to life and start making new memories and new friends and new goals and new experiences?

Obviously I chose the latter.

It's not often you get to resurrect something you loved.  Life doesn't hand you too many second chances.  I am two and half years older now - officially in my 40s.  Not even just 40, but 41.  My race roll call on the side of this blog doesn't even list my 7th marathon.  My children are teens or nearly teens.  My marriage is practically old enough to enlist.  I own a company now.  I have directed four 5ks.  I have accomplished much while I have been away, but I have also lost a part of myself, a part I really enjoyed and was proud of. Journaling in this way was an essential part of staying healthy and focused and keep my love of running - and writing - alive.  The new year was supposed to begin on January 1, 2013.  For me, the new year started at 7:59 am on February 24, 2013 at mile marker 9.

And like I used to say when I was ready for something I had trained hard for and couldn't wait to tackle:

BRING IT