Monday, October 16, 2017

5 days to go....MCM #3

                     In five days I will attempt to run my third Marine Corps Marathon, my 8th official marathon. The MCM is a very emotional race for me. I cry like a baby during and even after the race and it's not about the patriotism, soldiers, flags and such, as one might assume. While running the MCM, above any other race, one experiences so many bittersweet emotions in those long hours. At any given moment one can catch themselves running besides mothers who have lost their child in war, injured vets with missing limbs, cancer survivors, elderly runners, disabled athletes, and the list goes on and on.  Yet, my tears are not, as some may think, tears of sadness, they are primarily tears of pure outpouring joy. The whole race is a celebration of so many things, yet, to each one of the 30,000 runners its significance uniquely individualized. To me, it's a celebration of humanity, peace, freedom and most importantly, life. Running any race, in its simplest form, is just a metaphor for every one of life's obstacles. In crossing that finish line one reaffirms that hard work, dedication, sacrifice and belief in one's dreams will always lead us in the right direction and what better race to run than one in which one can literally see humanity rising even after unimaginable loss and pain. It's going to be amazing. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The plus size athlete... (mike drop)

              Funny how you may be THE least competitive person on the planet, but IF you, (1) don't look like an athlete and,  (2) run races, such as marathons, you will forever come face to face with people's predictable, yet, extremely annoying and ruffled reactions to the incompatibility of these two facts in their own world. The reason I mention competition above is because the reaction I most often get is similar to what I'd probably get had I had chosen to challenge them competitively, a mix of offense and muted anger. Yet, I never think of my sport as one in which I need to compare myself with others, yet, the reaction I get points otherwise. Second, and even more importantly, I very much know that anyone can really do what I do if they set their minds to it, therefore, I know I don't put out competitive vibes out there. 

             As a human being who is fascinated by human reactions and thought patterns and who is also very aware of even the slightest change in reactions in others around me, I find it fascinating, frustrating and also extremely disturbing to subtly witness discomfort from others upon knowing about my little hobby. Which is why I will very rarely be heard talk about running with non-runners. Even among some runners I may be apprehensive talking about running. If I feel even the slightest bit of tension coming off them I move away.   

             Running has become like an old, comfortable shoe to me. Over the years I have made this sport is mine, all mine. I guess all runners find a way to make the sport speak through them. One benefit to reaching this level of familiarity with anything is that odd responses, or subtle words of discouragement no longer rattle me, instead, they both amuse me and they fire me up to do even more. In all seriousness, to me, running is much bigger than bragging rights, or impressing others. Those emotions did at one point exist in my head, yet, they have since been replaced with less extravagant and much more personal reasons. Running has become a form of life prayer, it's my happy place, it's my life skills coach, my giver of hope in humanity and through it I see the world with more love, more compassion and more understanding.  

                So come to me with your unsolicited comments on pace and speed or your subdued, yet, purposely hurtful questions, such as, "Did you walk it?". I am ready now. Know that these reactions do not hurt me, instead, they allow me to see you for who you are. At 44, my focus in the sport is razor sharp and my goals are fanned daily deep in my heart. Bring it....
  
                

Monday, October 9, 2017

Running Goals


         Ever since I started running again in 2013 I have been become real good at setting realistic goals for myself in terms of running. After completing an 8K race in 2013 I set my goals to the half marathon and soon, I had signed up for a 50K in West Virginia. Granted, moving from a half marathon distance to a 50K distance with a crazy elevation is a bit odd, it worked for me. I then went on to running 7 marathons and even qualifying as a Marathon Maniac. 

        But where are my goals now? It all depends on what happens in my next 3 races. I have the Marine Corps in two weeks, the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in December and my first 50 miler in March. My short term goals are obviously to finish all three races. Speed is not really part of my goals for these coming months, but I would like to work on time at some point in the future. I can't work on my speed goals now for to work on speed it would require me working on my eating habits and while training for marathons and a 50 miler it would be tough to simultaneously work on my weight and restricting calories and such. Yet, I would like to move off running after March 2018 and focus primarily on weight training, some running and mainly focusing on the quality of my food intake. 

         But I do have another goal brewing and it's the one of going back to the West Virginia Trilogy in the fall of 2018 and beating my time from the last time I did a 50K there. Now, THAT would be a worthwhile goal. When I first ran it I did it within second of the cutoff go 10 hours. It has rained that day and I had fallen several times and the back of my thigh was in extreme pain, but I finished. The RD of the race later wrote me a hand-written note and said he's hope to see me the next year and I have never gone back to get my vengeance on that mountain. So as this dream of going back to the crazy mountains brews I dream of finding new exciting adventures far and wide. When I go to Tennessee in March to run my 50 miler that would be the first time I would leave my little family and be away from them for so long, three days! This trip is like getting my toes wet and seeing how it goes, trying out something new. I have a strong feeling I am going to love it. 
             
             But I cannot even allow myself to think that far ahead yet. First, the marathons this fall, then the race in March and then, ever so slowly open the door to the possibility of going back to the mountains to beat my time. Hills are not my favorite thing either. Yet, exploring new aspects of my running is what makes running worth while. What are your running goals?




 


 

          

Monday, October 2, 2017

How to live in a time of great loss

             Today the news announced that a lone gunman shot into a crowd of 30,000 people and took 60 innocent lives and injured over 500. When things like this happen we are all reminded just how easily we could lose the ones we love. In an instant, in a push of a trigger, the landscape of our lives can change forever. Life is so fleeting, so unstable, nothing is guaranteed. Tonight, 60 families are reeling and mourning a senseless loss, while over 500 more families pray and wait in anguish to hear even a shred of good news about their injured loved ones. 


          I have experienced deep loss before in my life. A very cherished friend took his life a long time ago. Although it's been 10 years now, not a day goes by without me thinking of him. His life left a legacy of love and care so deep in my soul that I carry his memory with me in all my meaningful moments. Every amazing moment, every joyous feeling is dedicated to him and his memory. Yet, although I have experienced loss, I am still blown away by how people pick up the pieces and live productive lives after a senseless and violent loss of a loved one. 

          One thing is certain though, one day, whether it is many years from now or tomorrow, we will all have to say goodbye to a loved one. That very idea grips me with fear some sleepless nights. To think that one day I will no longer hold, hear and talk to any one of my dear loved ones seems unfair and unjust. Yet, that is the nature of life, we come, we live and we go. Yet, its this very fear of loss that propels me to fight the good fight now, take on challenges, push hard to find my limits, be kind, do good, make smart choices and carry on. We all want to give up on our hopes for humanity right now, to scream in anger to the heavens, to wallow in the sadness and sink into feelings of despair  Yet, the minute we do that we stop living and they win. Never mind who "they" are, what's important is that we never give up living. 

               Life is a gift. I heard a few weeks ago an interview with Don Miguel Ruiz, Author of The Four Agreements, in which he says your very presence here on earth is proof that God exists. That is such a simple, yet, powerful idea. Life is the ultimate gift, the gift of God. We owe it to ourselves and the ones we love to roll-up our sleeves and live it the best way we can, and do it in the name of all those we've lost too soon. 

             Tomorrow, I will run before work as I do every week on Tuesdays and at that very moment in which I stop struggling to catch my breath and begin to feel the power in my legs I will dedicate my feeling of strength and invincibility to those lost today to senseless violence. At work, I plan on typing letters to representatives about gun control, donate to PR relief and try my best to be as present as I can be to my colleagues, my friends, my family and even to total strangers. There is a Buddhist meditation I heard about through Tara Brach, founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C., in which you wish every living being you come across happiness and joy. I will be practicing this all week long trying to get my center back. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Closer to that finish line

             Yesterday I called MainStay Suites in Alcoa, Tennessee and reserved 3 days for my 50-miler race in March of 2018. This was just one step closer to getting this dream to come true. Next, reserve a plane ticket, but I am waiting for the price to be right. 
              There is a lot one has to do physically to get ready for any race, yet, getting ones mind to go along these crazy distances also takes a lot of work, it's half the battle. To prepare for this I have been doing a lot of visualizing, trying to picture myself at that finish line and getting ready for the high level of discomfort and maybe even pain that I would have to go through. I have been reading about running long distances and also watching Youtube videos after Youtube videos created by people who have successfully completed the distance and have some valuable advice to give. Each one of these activities prepares me mentally and the more work I do on this end, the more I feel I am getting emotionally ready to tackle the distance. Whether or not I complete the distance will remain a mystery until that day, but I am surely going to do my best now to get all my ducks in order. No rock will be left unturned, giving this my all. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Running as refuge


           Getting ready for a long run requires a lot of calculations. First, you get all the variables, how fast you think you can run, how many miles, when is sunrise, how many of those miles will begin at the gym on the treadmill and how many on the trails, and which trails, when am I needed back at home, the temperature tomorrow. I am very much looking forward to my 18 miler in the morning. Four and half hours of me time....heaven. 

            Yet, planning all this is tough enough with all other activities that come with being a mom to a 12 and a 10-year-old. Four our of 5 weekdays we have some form of evening event after work. Then, on top of that add on my current severe downs that I have been experiencing lately. I am not sure if my downs are due to hormonal changes in my aging body or just maybe tiredness from work, maybe, just maybe it's the news of all these natural disasters and the sadness that come with that news.  No matter what it is, it has been very tough dealing with these downs and luckily running helps get me back on track... somewhat. 

             It's not only the act of running and the exercise and the exhaustion that helps me get back on track either. Running gives me a sense of self-dependence that I desperately need right now. Trust and lack thereof has been a huge issue this year, on so many levels. Erratic behavior in others has made me withdraw and increased my need to depend only on myself more and more.  I could definitively say at this point I feel most at peace when I am alone. I am aware that I am taking a sabbatical from a lot but for now I am quite comfortable here. Not sure if running is helping or hindering me, but at this moment I am going to follow only my comfort level, like I would a compass. Currently, my personal sense of personal comfort is the only barometer in which I blindly trust. This is huge. For someone like myself who has spent an enormous chunk of her adult life being there for others, right now, I am unable to do be that person, yet, for the first time, I am allowing myself not to feel guilty, which feels very nice to not have that pressure....deep in me I must know my limits well and I know that right now, I just simply can only bear to carry myself and those immediately in my care. 

               Therefore, Sundays are reset days. On Sundays I let out my adventurous self out and for 3 to 5 hours I get to only take care of my own needs and not have to negotiate levels of care for anyone but me. Like a mom caring for an infant, on my long runs I baby myself. If tired, I take a GU, if thirsty I drink, if chafing, I apply vaseline and so on. Running is my refuge for now, more than ever, and despite my occasional stints with my downs I am able to stay on top of it thanks to the deep level of self-sufficiency and strength this sport gives me every time I lace up my sneakers. I am feeling so lucky to have a trusty tool that can help me save my own life and sanity, day after day.