Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moving Forward in the NYC Marathon

Running moves you forward. Sometimes, I look around and it feels like my life is standing still. Relationships, work, routines. And so I run, to have something, at least one thing, moving forward.
Running the NYC marathon was a long time in the making. As a 3-time lottery reject, I finally gained guaranteed entry into the 2012 race. Superstorm Sandy devastated my hometown of Long Beach Island, NJ, so I was disappointed about the cancellation of the marathon but completely understood and approved of the decision. 2013 it would be.  And then I ran a marathon in Wales in July with a torn calf muscle and had to defer my NYC entry to 2014.
Arriving on Staten Island took many years.  But through the long wait and the cold winds, I smiled. I was here. I had no time goal for the day -- I just wanted to soak it all in and enjoy the entire experience.
Getting blown sideways across the bridges, I giggled. Hearing the millions of amazing spectators, I marveled. Seeing the firefighters and police officers cheering us on, I waved and said thank YOU. Listening to the bands playing, the choirs singing, the "Welcome to Brooklyn!" cheers, the "You can do this! Way to go! Keep going!" encouragement from every volunteer, I smiled.
I grimaced, too. When my stomach felt upset from miles 15-20, and my right hamstring was really cranky from mile 17ish on, I fought the discomfort. I adjusted my running. I slowed down. A good friend once said, "If you're not having fun, you're running too fast -- slow down!" and I did, because my only goal was to enjoy the day.
I found friends at mile 17 and snapped a pic with them after big hugs. I kept my eyes wide open and my mindset positive as my body hurt. I made my way into Central Park and decided I loved the downhill of mile 25 more than anything else. I loved the final stretch up Central Park South. I loved the turn back into the park and loved all those people lining the final quarter mile. I loved seeing my family in the grandstands, and I loved crossing that finish line.
It was a tough running day, but one of my favorite marathons. The volunteers make that race incredible. The 26.2 miles of party that is the NYC marathon is truly an experience like no other.
Running moves us forward. We gain through each run. We grow. We learn.  And the NYC marathon is a run that will leave its mark on all of us in the form of a smile with each recollection.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Great West

For miles and miles and miles, all I see is mountains and boulders, grasslands and sky.  It is enormous.  It is vast.  I can't even comprehend how much land and sky and space is out there.  I am in awe.  I breathe it in.  I ground myself.  I dig my feet into the earth and turn my face to the sun and soak in the grandeur of our land.  This is a moment that opens me. 

I am but a small grain of sand in the landscape of our world.  One speck.  And I feel it here.

I have emotions, I have goals, I have worries, I have cares.  So often, one of these, or many, are my world.  They consume me.  They mark me.  They prevent me from seeing beyond my speck.  In those moments, my little grain of sand is a big as the land I soak in now.

I am standing, with my feet in the earth, listening to the tumble of the stream over the rocky bed, feeling the cool breeze as it whispers across my face.  My worries are carried into that stream.  My cares become songs in that breeze.  My emotions are warmed by the sun, and my little speck joins the vast landscape before me.

I am part of this.  I am a single grain, and I am woven into this great land, and I am part of it.  It is bigger than me, and I am part of it.  This land is in me.  It is me.  It is my breath, my heartbeat.

For miles and miles and miles all I see is open land.  It is vast, it is enormous.  It is bigger than I'll ever be, and I breathe it in.  I dig my feet into the earth, and it grounds me.  I breathe it in, and it warms me.  And as I stand in this moment, my hearbeat joins the pulse of this land. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wales Marathon -- Activity Wales Events Long Course Weekend

Every summer I take a trip to a place I've never been and try to run a race there. This year, I chose Wales. My dad's ancestors were from Merthyr Tydfil and I'd always wanted to see this country. I found the Wales Marathon -- part of an iron distance long course weekend -- and set my plans.

And then my right calf put a wrinkle in it. Tightness and the threat of a tear or other serious injury led to reduced mileage and lots of therapies. And then I rolled my right ankle and the doc thought I may have an avulsion fracture. More treatments including ART and Graston, lots of kinesio tape and compression socks, and babying my right leg kept me moving, although I knew I would head to Wales minimally prepared for this 26.2.

Travel was smooth, and after a night in Merthyr, we arrived in the seaside walled old town of Tenby. It was GORGEOUS.  The colors of the houses and businesses, the old stone walls, the clear blue sky, the flowers everywhere, and the sea.  Just beautiful!

Knowing how hot the temps were and how hilly and tough everyone said this course would be fueled my prerace nerves.  I was undertrained for this race, for sure, due to my calf and ankle injuries, but honestly the forecasted temps of about 80* would've crippled me even if I was prepared for the hills. So, although several people asked if I thought of dropping to the half -- and apparently many other runners did just that -- I knew I'd regret that after the race. My sister, who wasn’t able to make the trip, reminded me this isn't about how long it takes, it's about the experience.

I made my way to the start and began to feel better. This is normal - nerves get me until I start to run. Even though the sun was in full force and the temps were already warm, I was ready to go. Bottle filled with nuun, calf sleeves and visor on, and a pin with the American and Welsh flags on my bib from my parents, I crossed the starting line of the Wales Marathon and began my adventure.

Starting in Tudor Square, the first few miles wound all thru town. Tons of people cheered us on as we worked our way along the Esplanade/waterfront, thru the narrow streets, and along the old stone town wall.
I waved to my parents and made my way out of town toward the first true hill -- the climb up to the ridgeway.

I kept the pace slow and easy and as the climb began, around mile 3, I noticed people were walking the incline.  As I thought, "Huh, people are walking already," someone near me said the same thing aloud.  But just ahead, I realized why:  the incline was super steep.  Everyone around me was walking, and I quickly realized I'd have to, too. And that was the way the rest of the course would go -- run when you have the flat or slight downhills, power walk the steep inclines.

Along the ridgeway, we travelled through shady overhung tree areas and open sky, hot paths. The land and scenery was truly beautiful, but just as I said that to someone near me, he replied, "just wait until the second half. It's even more beautiful." 

I kept an easy pace through the first 10 miles. Drank my water+nuun, took my gels, and tried desperately to shoo the little waspy bee things away. They were all over the ridgeway -- and I know I swallowed a little fly at one point -- but as annoying as they were, they didn't sting me, and they didn't ruin the day.

As we approached mile 11-12, I could hear the drums to my left in the town of Pembroke. This was where we would meet up with the half marathoners who were just starting their race. On a cooler, easier course, I'd have come through the half in under two hours and seen this HM start, but at miles 11-12 I knew my pace wouldn't get me there in time today. We followed a strange cut through a fence at about mile 12 and down a dark alley where most of us were commenting how tough it would be to be in this single-track section if we were in the lead pack. 

I should also mention Nicky and Garrett at this point. Nicky is a local Tenby guy who used to be very strong and athletic, but has become wheelchair-bound due to a neurological disease. He dreamt of completing an iron-distance event, and his buddy Garrett, a local Tenby fireman, took on the task of helping him get there. They completed the 2.4 mi swim Friday, the 112 mi bike Saturday, and here they were doing the marathon on Sunday. I ran much of the race right around them, and it was amazing to hear and see all the support and cheers they got. Awesome.

As I came thru the aid station just before mile 13, I stopped to say "Well Done" to Nicky and Garrett and observe how Garrett took good care of Nicky at the stops - adjusting his sunglasses, instructing the volunteers on how to help Nicky drink (Garrett had a stash of straws under Nicky's seat and he handed one to the volunteer who would help Nicky drink as Garrett took in his own fuels). It was an incredibly hot and difficult course for those of us on our own, and I marveled at what these two friends were accomplishing together.

There was a steep hill up to mile 13, past the castle and into town, so I was forced to walk --
but it soon leveled out and it was a nice boost to run through the town's crowds. I noted that my first half took about 2:15, much slower than any other half I've run, but I was ok with it.

The heat and the course were due to get even tougher in the second half of my day.

Through the rest of the race, I'd continue to chat with the runners around me --
Heather: an older woman who has a twin sister (she's not into exercise at all) and holds both British and American passports.
      Kevin, who was running for a British charity.
     The tall guy (I'm not sure I ever got his name) who's sister "came to America, married a Yank, and stayed," and who had driven the east coast of the USA.
     And there were the long course guys who were teasing me about my bright green compression socks.  :)

People weren't kidding when they said the second half was the tougher half of the course. The hills were nonstop, and even the downhill and flat sections became tough to run because my legs and energy were so beat up. I was soaked, worked, and tiring, but I kept moving forward. As tough as the run was, I never stopped taking in all that I saw. The locals were enthusiastically supporting us the whole day -- offering sprays from their water sprinklers and hoses, and drinks of water from their kitchen cups. Runners all around me shared the cups with each other and handed them back to the owners to refill for the next group. The support was incredible.

One of my favorite parts of the day were the constant cheers by the volunteers and spectators. The cheers were always the same, and done in such a positive, cheerful voice: 
     "Well Done!"
     "Keep Going!"
Everyone was truly fantastic.

Throughout the day we ran along huge fields of sheep and horses and cows. The sky was a clear blue and the views were amazing. Rolling hills, pastures of flowers, lots of wide open land, and cute little villages.

Right around mile 19 or so we ran along the top of a cliff overlooking the water and, as I was warned, "It'll take your breath away -- whatever breath you have left."  It sure did. The sandy beach and sparkling blue water set against green pastured cliffsides was like nothing I'd ever seen, and something I felt certain I'd never see during a marathon again. I stopped for a moment and soaked it all in.  This view, this whole day's experience, was what I'd looked forward to. It didn't matter about losing minutes at the water stop before the half or here at this cliff, or stopping to walk up a hill when I was chatting with a fellow runner. This was proving to be an incredible (although super tough) experience.


Just past the cliff overlooking the beach, we headed up the huge climbs of Manorbier.  I was told this would be the steepest climb, and it was. And it lasted probably a mile and a half.  This section was mainly wooded -- like we were climbing through a forest path -- so it was shaded quite a bit, which helped. Not a single person around me was running, though, and it's this part of the course that slowed my overall time quite a bit.

Soon enough, we were through the climb and running through a town and the ridgeway again, and just like that I only had 3 miles to go. There had been only one moment earlier on the day, despite drinking and fueling a lot, that I felt woozy, and I'd stopped for a moment at the top of a climb to get my wits about me under the shade of a tree. By mile 23, however, the only problem I had -- besides my legs being toast and my energy lacking -- was that my left ear was clogged again. Couldn't hear out of it, which has happened before. My back also started hurting late in these miles. BUT, as we made our way down off the ridgeway and to the final climb into town, none of that mattered. I was almost at the finish.

That final climb up into town was our last super steep incline and as soon as we made it to the top we were passing the B&B where I was staying. As I started running again for my final push to the finish line, I dropped my handheld onto the patio of the B&B and rounded the corner.  One more turn to go, and the last of the run would be downhill and through the finish chute.

Just around that last corner, I saw my dad. He high-fived me as I said, "That was really hard. That was REALLY hard."  He smiled, said he'd see me at the finish, and I pushed on.

Entering the chute, all I kept thinking was, "I did it!"  I made it to the red-carpet finish. It was incredible to run through the crowds, on the bright red carpet, and feel the energy of the day. I saw my mom on my right, soaked up the unbelievable atmosphere of the finish chute, and crossed the line.
5:08. My slowest marathon by far.
I didn't care.

They put the medal around my neck, I heard more "Well Done's," and got my picture snapped. I was spent. I anticipated this race taking me about 5 hours, and that's what it did. And it was interesting to learn that even the winners had a tough day. The winning time was 3:09.

But it was amazing.

I made my way all the way down the hill to the beach, stripped off my shoes, and walked right into the icy water of this bay off the Atlantic Ocean. Instant ice bath. My mom handed me a slushie and I sat there.
It took several achingly cold minutes of dunking my head under and splashing my face to cool my body temperature down, and I soaked it all in...  The incredibly tough course, the hot hot heat, the full sun. The cheery volunteers and spectators. The views, the scenery.

And despite the impossible climb back up the hill from the beach to our B&B, I loved it.  All of it. 

 It was the toughest, most beautiful marathon ever.

Thanks, Wales.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Did you miss me?

My nephew is awesome. He gave me this yesterday and hugged me forever. 
He doesn't even know how much I needed that!

It's been a while.

Personal life stuff got complicated and all the ups and downs were too much to put into words. Still are a bit, but at some point you just have to say I'm tired of thinking about my own stuff, ya know!?

SO here's a winter/spring catch up --

I was running great.

Had a relaxing week in the Keys -- where, since I could run, I did NOT get on my mom's bike and break an elbow again. Whew.

Went to some Flyers games and Phillies games.

This school year has been the toughest yet. Coworker and administration frustrations, and nothing being done about it. Grr.

Got into Wales Marathon training, and BUGGER! My right calf got all pissy. I've had to take some time off, get work done, and do some medicinal return to running. SO far so good, but I'm not sure I'll get enough of a return to run the full in Wales. We'll see how things go as I get some mileage back. On a related note, I think I deal with "calf heart attacks"... google it. One chiro didn't really give any credibility to that possibility, but he also doesn't spend a ton of time with his patients. A new guy I went to thinks these chronic calf issues seems to stem from a weak butt. Or something like that. So now I'm strengthening my butt and hips.

I've got another house project started. Two actually. Cleaning out my massive closets, and redoing my dining room. Every time I try to load pics here something gets wonky, so I'm not promising you'll see before and afters...

Warmer weather is here, the sun is shining longer, and I was down at the beach and took my first outside shower of the year.

SO even when some things are still a difficult struggle in my life, there's a little bit of good there, too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I need some.  My heart's hurting a little right now, I haven't been treating my body well and that needs some healing, and I need some for some hurting friends, too. 

Also, my foot, where I got the small chunk taken out and biopsied, is still healing...  it's been about two months, and the (sorry -- gross word ahead) scab just fell off today.  It still has a bit to go, but at least it's healing. 

A little healing done.  A bit of healing needed. 

Send some positive vibes my way if you've got any to spare ~ with today's rain washing away my sunshine, I feel like I need some extras right now.  Thanks :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring is Coming!

Yesterday morning, I awoke to this: 
It proceeded to snow all day.  It was a wet, heavy snow that blew around like we were living in a snowglobe, but it never really settled onto the roads.  I actually looked forward to running in the snow after work -- but of course, by the time I got home the snow (and even the drizzly rain it became) ended.

And then, as if by magic, it seemed like spring arrived overnight.  I woke up in the early hours of the day, too warm, and opened my bedroom window.

When I got out of bed just a bit later, the sun was shining and the crisp air was refreshing.  I did an easy run around town and then headed to my nephew's basketball game.  And while dropping my other nephew off back at home, we marveled at the spring flowers that popped out overnight.
I stretched out on my deck chair all afternoon -- face in the sun, napping.  Exactly what I needed today.  I'm so ready for days like today to be the norm, not a pleasant diversion from the cold and grey.   Come on, SPRING!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday Randoms

Randoms -- simply because I feel like my life has been busy and scattered lately... 

*I've been helping two friends through some serious relationship troubles, and although it's been a while since I went through the most serious breakup of my adult life, I can so easily recall how broken and awful I felt -- and I think that's making me want to help these friends even when it compromises my well-being at times. 

*I went shopping yesterday and got a new pair of jeans and a couple tops.  Nothing exciting, but I didn't pass out from the anxiety of clothes shopping, so it was a successful trip.

*I got my hair done last weekend and I'm HATING the color job she did.  She used a different color/method to keep my baby greys hidden longer, but it looks to light and red to me.  Yuck. 

*I stil have a pointsettia from Christmastime in my house.  Time to toss it?

*My running, though somewhat uninspired these days, has been solid recently.  That's a good thing. 

*I'm super excited that I took a personal day for this coming Monday.  It's going to be 60*!