Monday, December 27, 2010

...but she was on her way.

Christmas night, long after friends had gone home, dishes were put away and the kids were tucked into bed, I decided to open my Christmas gifts alone. Certainly I opened gifts from the kids earlier in the day – as they were anxious to see my reaction. Caroline couldn’t wait – she gave me a toy puppy that does back flips and barks. Yes, she insists it was for me! Ryan really couldn’t care less about my reaction – since he was buried in his new iPod Touch. His gift however, came with a lot of thought. It was a world coin collection from EPCOT. I assume he thought since I love to travel and I could always use more money - this was an ideal gift. Spot on!

But I decided that I would open the couple of remaining gifts alone. Funny how in previous years I would look forward to unwrapping these gifts – but not so much this year. For many reasons I suppose; but I truly do feel like I’ve already received so many gifts this year –none that could ever be wrapped or fit under a tree. But there was a box for me, and it was wrapped and it did fit under my tree. I really had no idea what it was – just that it was from one of my dearest friends.

And inside the box was a wood frame, with this beautiful and familiar quote:

“She wasn’t where she had been. She wasn’t where she was going…but she was on her way.”

I felt that familiar lump in my throat and once again the tears began to spill. My friend had read this quote a few months ago – and texted it to me. She said it reminded her of me. And I loved that.

It’s a loaded quote for sure. And I am certain anyone can apply it to some aspect of their life. I even feel like this with running and tri training. But I am sure my friend wasn’t thinking about running when she first read this. I know I wasn’t.

A quick Google search by another dear friend revealed a lengthier version of this quote:

“She wasn’t where she had been. She wasn’t where she was going…but she was on her way. And on her way she enjoyed food that wasn’t fast, friendships that held, hearts glowing, hearts breaking, smiles that caught tears, paths trudged and alleys skipped. And on her way she no longer looked for the answers, but held close the two things she knew for sure. One, if a day carried strength in the morning, peace in the evening, and a little joy in between, it was a good one…and two, you can live completely without complete understanding." ~ Jodi Hills

As I held the frame in one hand, and read the full quote online – my smile started to catch the tears.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Never Settle. Plain and Simple.

I love runners. (Okay, maybe not all runners!) Perhaps safer to say, I love the positive outlook of most runners.*

I recently read this quote from Nelson Mandela:

“There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
This quote has danced around in my head for the past couple of days, but the essence of this message has been stirring inside me for some time now:
Never Settle

Runners live this message! At least they do on the track. And in a race. And on long runs. And while cross training. (Is there time for anything else?) I rarely hear a runner mumble “That’s good enough,” “that’s fine” or “what else could I do?” Nope. That’s because most runners know they are always capable of becoming better.

I am not suggesting that every runner I know is looking to get faster – but they are usually setting a goal of one kind or another. My friend Kay is close to her goal of running a marathon in every state! Roxanne is training for her first marathon and Kim is contemplating which will be her first. Laura completed her first Half Ironman, while Heather, Ann and I have half-joked (I think) about training for one in 2012. I am sure Rebecca will join us – sans the training!! (In the meantime, I have a more modest goal of finishing a half marathon in under 2:30 – and staying clear of ambulances!) And I know for a fact that this same ambition and passion spills over into the day to day lives of all of these runners.

Perhaps that’s what I love about runners – their passion. In my opinion, passion is what makes getting up in the morning worthwhile! Passion ignites ambition, discovers joy and ultimately lets you live the life you deserve to be living. Why would you want to settle for anything less?

Now grab your sneakers and go hug a runner! (one of the nice ones!)

*Anymore disclaimers and I can become a member of the IBM legal team!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How Not Finishing Will Make Me a Better Runner

When to call it quits? This is a question most type A’s probably never ponder. And neither do runners. So just imagine how type A runners are reacting to this question!!* Quitting just isn’t an option!

But sometimes quitting is the smartest option. And sometimes it’s out of our hands. I learned this the hard way around mile 12ish this past weekend at the Women’s Half Marathon in Tampa. After dropping to the ground (as I am told), I was far beyond the ability to make a reasonable decision – and my body took over.

I knew I was feeling crappy somewhere around mile 6 or 7. But I struggled with that whole “mind over matter” issue. I was running along the pier and loved the feeling of the breeze hitting my face. But that still wasn’t enough to get me out of a funk. And I have to say that is unusual! A happy thought, a pretty view – these things usually set my mind back on track, even if my legs and feet are screaming. I started thinking - perhaps I took off too fast? maybe it was too hot? maybe the lack of sleep is kicking in? I recall setting a goal – if I can get to mile 7 (more than half way there!) I can play a song off my iPod. Well that was a lousy reward!! Music never irritated me so much!! Nothing was working! And my poor running partner and coach!!. I am surprised she didn’t just trip me and put me out of the race at that point! I wasn’t exactly the most pleasant person to run along side! (To her credit, she remained cheerful and supportive!!)

I would love to write about the remaining miles and what thoughts went through my head - but truthfully, it’s all pretty blurry. I can only recall flashes of moments. I was so thirsty, but all the fluid was swishing away inside me. At one point I believe I took a cup of Gatorade and poured it on my head. And I recall needing the assistance of both my coach and a good friend to help me walk/run straight. And I recall a few odd looks and offers to help. It sounds oddly reminiscent of some Thursday nights in college, but this was a Sunday morning amongst runners!

The thing is, somewhere around mile 10 or 11 – despite being a complete mess, stupidity took over. I refused to stop. I kept worrying about how bad it would look to DNF (Did Not Finish) during a half marathon! I was expecting to reach a PR (Personal Record)! So while my judgment was left somewhere on the course, ego stuck with me. So here I am – apparently looking completely delirious, and I am worried people will think I am weak if I don’t get to the finish. I wonder what the runners thought when they saw me on the ground puking with a couple of IVs in my arm. My arm and ego took a bit of a bruising there.

Lying in the emergency room with more bags of fluid being pumped into me, I started remembering all the people that stopped to help me. My goodness – Kay was massaging my cramping calves; Lea held my head and I promised not to throw up in her direction; Kath and Rebecca waited around till I got into the ambulance; I remember seeing and hearing Paula and countless others. All of these women had times they wanted to beat. They had their own races to run. But they stopped and helped me. I still have trouble accepting this – the outpouring of help and concern goes beyond anything I’ve experienced. I oscillate between feeling the overwhelming love – and feeling overwhelming guilt for impacting their races.

And so this is why I write this…. If I am going to impact anyone else’s race – I want it to be positive. Here are some things I’ve learned:

1. If you feel dizzy – stop. Sounds obvious, but I bet more than one of you have continued racing even though you felt a bit off.

2. Hydrate. Not just the night before or the morning of the race. I am actually told that you should begin on Wednesday!!

2A. Eat. I actually forgot that a lot of our hydration comes from the food we eat! And many of us overlook this simple act. With everything going on, I will often look at the clock around 2 PM and think, oh – I haven’t had breakfast! But then get on a conference call for another hour!

3. Fill out the back of your race bib! Seriously. I couldn’t remember anything when the EMTs were asking for my address, phone number, etc. Thankfully my sweaty bib had some info on it! (An ID bracelet is even better)

4. Run with a friend. In fact – run with several friends!! There is nothing better than having someone watch your back.

5. Recover. I am writing this one as I reminder to myself! As Jane, a true life coach explained, “Your organs were seriously compromised. You were on the verge of renal failure and possible coma. This isn’t a typical race recovery.” So if you suffer anything outside the typical race soreness – take it seriously. In fact – take all recovery seriously. You’ve got many more races to run!

6. Oh one more – run with a cell phone! I usually don’t, but will try to now. Several of us wish we had ours on hand Sunday. They didn’t do much good sitting in the car or hotel room.

So – as a type A runner, it’s my duty to find the lesson in this. Why did this happen to me? And why this race? (Did I mention this was the first race I ran completely – and I was on pace to finish nearly 30 mins ahead of my PR???) Well – I think this was nature’s reminder that I need to have a little more balance in my life. I probably can’t go full throttle in every direction. So I will listen to my body – and not ignore the warning signs. Stopping is not the same as quitting. This was also a reminder that I know some of the most supportive, loving women in the world! (As if I needed a reminder for this!)

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year – and I am sure you do too!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

*And for the record, runner is defined by anyone who has put on running shoes and set a goal.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Head, gut and heart align on the trail

A year ago this time life was very different. I had completed the Chicago Marathon and was fired up to do two more in the next six months. Ha! Despite a carefully planned running schedule – known as the Swedish Fish Plan – none of it came to fruition. My running scaled back and I ended up not even training for the Disney Half. It seemed life just got in the way.

Jump ahead one year – and today I feel like I have enough going on to fill two lives! And that is exactly why I can’t let my running take a back seat!

For the past few months I have been training for the Women’s Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s next Sunday. But factor in children, work and travel and I haven’t created the perfect recipe for training. But I’ve noticed on the days that I run, I can cope with life so much better. So last week in Ireland – I made a point to pack my running gear and make a modest run around Monaghan. The hills were hillier, the air was definitely chillier, the scenery was breathtaking – and by the end, my frozen cheeks were sore from smiling! It’s hard not to be happy after an experience like that.

No doubt - running is free therapy. (Some days it’s even like free drugs! You walk away like you’ve taken a happy pill!) In fact, I am learning the harder I run, the better the therapy. And a pleasant side effect is I actually become a better runner.

Today’s therapy bill might have been quite high – had it not been for running. Around mile 10 – after literally moaning or groaning in pain – clarity took over. Things that worried me seemed to slip away. It’s like I dropped them on the trail somewhere – and I surely was not going back to look for them! Running doesn’t solve my problems; it just gives me the clear head to handle them. And in some cases, like today, a good hard run helps my head, gut and heart align. And once again, my cheeks were sore from smiling. And that’s something I couldn’t imagine happening in a therapist’s office!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Tri-ed: Olympic Athlete I am Not

I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday. I won’t lie. I thought it was hard. It was really, really hard. But getting to the starting line was almost as difficult as crossing the finish line. And I wondered – as I rode along the bike course alone – should I have even attempted this?

A bit of background – an Olympic distance triathlon is approximately shy of a mile swim (I can never really tell!), about 24 miles on the bike and about 6 miles running. In my case – all were slightly over. Call me an overachiever – but I always swim way too far away from the course, I missed my turn at the bike loop and I ran off the trail in the wrong direction for about 5 minutes on the run! This is all completely and sadly true.

But even without the mistakes, I think the distances are challenging And my eight-week training program was interrupted by life: multiple trips – both me and my husband (which means challenges in sticking to a schedule); holiday get-aways; and the stuff you don’t want to miss (class plays, birthdays and baseball games). It seems there has been lots of life this summer. I might have gotten a solid three weeks of training in – and the rest was DWYC (do what you can!). There is a reason you don’t see DWYC training groups marketed all over the country – the return rate would be 0%. Participants would routinely pass out on the course in the 93+ degree Florida heat - and vow to never do this again!

So, with my DWYC training under my belt – I registered for the tri just minutes before the deadline. And then an unexpected change in plans left me in search of a sitter for Sunday morning. Did I mention I needed someone at 5 AM? I considered just passing on this race, but one of my trusty teammates would not let me even consider that! So thankful for that push – err, gentle nudge – and for the good -hearted sitter who arrived at 5 on the dot!

But still –even with everything falling into place – I found myself on the bike course wondering if I should even be among this group of fit athletes. At least I assumed they were fit – I didn’t really see many of them as they were so far ahead of me! Doubt crept in – as it can easily do - and I started to come up with good reasons why it would be okay to drop out. I hadn’t done the right training. I have too much on my plate (coincidentally – I eat too much on my plate!) I wasn’t ready for this distance. I was quickly able to come up with dozens of excuses!

And then I started thinking about why I even wanted to train for this ridiculous event – and wondered would I trash my long-term goal of completing a Half Ironman? And I came up with several really good reasons to continue. (They better be good -- because when you come in near last – no one would blame you for walking away quietly!)

• Nothing helps me deal better with life than a hard run, a good swim, a long bike ride and a goal. (okay – maybe a glass of wine, too!)

• Because teams/coaches push you to be better. I would never push myself as hard if there wasn’t a group of people around me. This is what made my lonely bike portion of the tri so weak. My teammates and fellow racers absolutely inspire me and motivate me.

• And finally – the support I get from my training group is worth every drop of sweat I have lost on the trail.

On mile 3 of the run, I was on a dirt trail in the woods. I had just passed a group of people who were loading their bikes onto their cars to go home. I still had 3 more miles to run and my legs were starting to cramp. Anthony –one of my teammates who completed his first triathlon the day before – and his wife, Emily were sitting on a log, ready to cheer me on! Everyone else on my team had passed already – but they waited for me! That alone was inspiring. But as my legs began to seriously cramp, and it seemed that I would need to walk the remainder – they both started walking with me! Then, as I was ready to run again – they ran along side me! By mile 4, Coach Jane joined us on her bike leading the way. And a half mile later, Coach Lea joined us, too.

Jane broke into a game of “Name that Tune” which quickly lead to a group sing-along of 80s TV theme songs! (And I learned that belting out a tune actually makes me run faster!) No doubt, any campers who saw us would have had a good laugh. As we were approaching the finish line – Lea encouraged me to pick up the pace – and crossed the finish line with me – while Jane, Emily, Anthony, Rebecca, (her Dad), Laura and Heather cheered me on. Now – I heard there were many spectators and music at the finish line. But the music was long gone – and so were those spectators. But thankfully – our team came equipped with our own entertainment – Jane’s sing-along and the best cheering section you could ask for!

At tonight’s swim training – Coach Lea asked if I would do another Olympic distance tri. Enthusiastically yes!!! Life won’t get easier, the commitments won’t go away and we will always have too much on our plates – but knowing the support I have from this group – someday there will be a Half Ironman race on my calendar! (Just hope our cheering section brings blankets and coffee – that will be a very very long day!)