when i shared my personal half-marathon anti-training program last week, i was truly uncertain of how sunday’s event would turn out for me. i’m sure i wasn’t alone in my skepticism, although i knew maintaining a positive mental state was crucial to my success. my goal was to at least match my previous two finish times of around 2:05. knowing that many have achieved a personal best on this course, i set a stretch goal of shaving a minute or two off this year. here’s the blow-by-blow.
i absolutely could not sleep the night before. i headed to bed at 10pm, planning to get up at 5am to eat breakfast so i’d have plenty of time to digest, and then maybe lay back down for awhile before getting up and dressed. in the end i was so nervous and excited that i laid there awake until 2am then dozed for a couple of hours, waking on my own a few minutes before my alarm. lee sweetly pep-talked and check-listed me, then went back to bed to wait for graham to wake. i left with a good luck kiss and the promise of seeing my favorite boys at the finish line.
grateful for the 7 minute drive to the stadium rather than the 47 minute drive across the metro i had for my previous races, i arrived in plenty of time, but the parking lot was already packed. i boarded the race buses (the only way to the starting line) at 6:30 and waited while the other runners trickled on. i killed the time eavesdropping on others’ loud and giddy conversations while making sure my running app was set up to the right distance goal, the right music, and connected to my bluetooth headphones. we pulled out at 7:00 and were at the top of the course by 7:15. the full marathon was well under way, but the half didn’t start for another 45 minutes, so after a visit to the water station and the porta-john, i still had half an hour to kill. (a far cry from last year’s hectic start!)
the chilly wind chased everyone back onto the shelter of the buses until the last minute, so i chatted with the other runners and played around with the nike app. i decided to use the facebook linking feature to get “cheers” from my friends. i didn’t know what to expect from this function, but this seemed like a good time to try it out. i also made the mistake of browsing my running log while i waited. i was astonished to see that i had overestimated my training runs by more than 50% (both in number of runs and in distance)! not a good time to realize that i was less conditioned than i thought! i shook it off, turned on some motivating music, and headed outside to warm up.
i still had not seen any familiar faces by the time the gun went off, but i positioned myself in the middle of the pack and tried to get into a groove. the cheers from facebook started coming in almost immediately, and it was the most delightful surprise. every so often the music would fade slightly and give way to applause and whistles and hoorays. what a great idea for real-time support! the social aspect of the nike app is the reason i chose it over the myriad of other fitness apps or a separate gps device, so i was happy to find another fun feature executed well.
the first four miles flew by, my pace half a minute faster than my norm. i cautioned myself to take it easy, but i didn’t feel as if i was running any faster than usual. around mile 5 i came up on two girls from church, and ran with them for a bit before one outpaced me and the other dropped behind me. it can certainly be motivating to have a running partner, but i actually prefer the solitude and my music when racing. it’s enough to be surrounded by fellow runners without feeling tied to any one person.
the reported 531 ft elevation drop in the first three quarters of the course had me studying up on downhill running and worrying about my quads, but the grade was not nearly as steep as i imagined. in fact, it seemed more like rolling terrain with a few easy uphill sections as well. i carried on, glad i had injected some great new songs into my trusty playlist, and diligently sucking down energy gels at my predetermined intervals whether i felt like i was slumping or not.
seven miles were gone before i knew it. i was still maintaining an 8:40 mile, and was amazed that neither my lungs nor legs felt overtaxed. they don’t call it the “fast half” for nothing! if i continued at this pace, i would finish in under two hours!! i tried not to get sucked into chasing the sparkly goal of a sub 2:00 time, but my secret ambition had been stirred up. i wanted it.
at mile 8 i got a surprise hug as an old family friend fell into step beside me. i had been hoping to see mike, and so i was thrilled to run a mile or so with him before he steadily moved ahead of me (the big hill at mile 9 got me). i was running a nine-minute mile by then, and every mile after that was 10-15 seconds slower than the previous one. but tenacity was on my side, and i knew i could still make my secret goal as long as i didn’t “bonk” horribly.
by the time i reached mile 11, i was tired enough that two more miles may as well have been twenty in my mind. i felt my phone buzz and looked down to see an encouraging text from my friend candice, who had estimated that i would be in the home stretch by now. it was just what i needed to rally. i fortified my mental resolve, chanted “mind over body” to myself a few times, and mustered all my determination and grit.
this is the point in each race that i find my thoughts focused on my mom. she was the one with the most optimism, the most confidence, the most belief in the final mile. we were all in the race together, from the minute she was diagnosed, but it’s a lot easier to be positive and hopeful and energetic and ready to fight at the start of a battle. it’s when you’ve been beaten down repeatedly and your body and soul are weary that your bravery and perseverance are tested. she led the way with faith and a clear sense of purpose even when her troops were feeling worn-down and discouraged.
i carried this motivation with me for the last two miles, even though i ran them at a pitiful pace compared to the first eleven. as i ran into the stadium i heard “triiiish!” and my childhood friend (and now neighbor), amy, ran up and gave me a quick hug as i passed. perfect. i picked it up for the final lap around the track, not about to let my far-fetched wish slip through my fingers. as i crossed the finish line, i saw mike standing on the other side, arms outstretched toward me in a victorious whoop!
i found my boys, who had a series of mishaps on the way to the race, but made it just in time to see me run in the last quarter mile. (lee recounted his adventures with, “i nearly pulled a hamstring trying to hurry into the stadium with graham. it would be pretty bad if i injured myself walking from the parking lot.”)
on facebook i reported that i came in at 1:58 because i thought my chip time might match my app time of 1:58:55, but my official time was 1:59:05. either way, i cut six minutes off my previous times and beat the two-hour mark! we celebrated by driving directly to our church down the street, just in time for the service, and going out to eat afterward with my dad and micky. i recouped with a long shower and good nap that afternoon, and felt fantastic the next day. (although the first few trips up the stairs took longer than usual. 😉 )
i’m not sure if my triumphant race results can be attributed to good luck, willpower, genetics, prayer, or just a healthy lifestyle and daily cross-training with an energetic toddler in a two-story house, but i’ll take it! i’d like to say that i’ll actually train next year and try to see if i can attain another PR, but ya know, it’s not really my style.
on sunday, i’ll run my third half-marathon to celebrate my mom’s birthday (st. patti’s day 😉 ). for the past two years, i have participated in the strides of march around lake stanley draper in okc, and this year i finally get to do the A2A race in my childhood hometown. my dad and i have twice run the A2A 5k in honor of my mom, but i’ve always wanted to try the longer distance that winds down through the arbuckle foothills. with our relocation to ardmore, the timing seemed perfect. i’m ready for another installment in this particular thread of my story.
my first half-marathon went splendidly. in fact, it went so well in spite of my minimal preparation, early pregnancy, and little rest the day/night before, that i fear it made me a bit dismissive of my physical limitations. my second half-marathon fell five months after my son’s birth, and even though i knew i had not properly trained, i made the mistake of blindly trusting my body’s resilience without considering the science behind athletic performance. let’s just say that i didn’t finish strong.
i have been blessed with consistent health and energy for most of my life, and i naively underestimated aging and hormones in my expectations. i’ve also had a hard time considering myself a “real runner,” and so it didn’t occur to me to to learn about fueling strategy or sport-specific gear. i was so uninformed as a runner that i didn’t even know there is a term for what happened to me at the end of last year’s race. what i described as my body giving up is what seasoned runners call “bonking.” even most rookie racers know about the dreaded bonk.
it is quite uncharacteristic of me to neglect extensive research on anything i do, so i decided to remedy that by preparing for this year’s physical event with a very trisha-istic training plan: READ! i looked at articles on everything from when to eat before and during a race and what it really means to carbo-load, to why a woman’s hormones affect energy expenditure and how breastfeeding impacts glycogen stores. i listened to podcasts from experts and watched videos by professionals. i ordered anti-blister socks and a high-tech running top after reading tons of amazon reviews.
what i haven’t done is run a lot.
now, before you scold me for continuing to foolishly register for races without conditioning with an intentional running schedule, let me defend myself with the lamest excuse ever — i hate long runs. i know, it seems silly. but i can hardly tolerate the prolonged jog when all i can think about is my growing to-do list and how i’m bored and burning up time. race-day atmosphere is completely different with the excitement and adrenaline and companionship of other runners to keep me interested. i also hate running several days a week. my personality craves variety, and i rarely want to run more than once per week. (i have more excuses that involve baby and busyness and barometric pressure, but i’ll spare you those.)
so, no judging. i’m the one that’s putting my burning lungs and legs on the line ;). and for those who’d like to reassure me that it’s okay to walk for a bit if needed, let me introduce you to my competitive side. my brain will undoubtedly equate walking with quitting. (for me, for ME! all you half-marathon walk-run warriors are champs, seriously–13.1 is no joke.)
but the challenge of this new march tradition is something that is an essential component for me. yes, i appreciate the motivation to be active and the sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie of other racers, but the real reason i stretch myself is to pay tribute to the heroic courage and perseverance of my mother throughout her battle with cancer. maybe that is partially why i commit to long-distance running even though i know it will be a bit of a struggle. an event that
inspires me to push through the discomfort and dig deep for more strength and endurance is the most fitting way i can think of to honor my mother’s enormous stamina and fortitude through her own exhausting challenge.
so that brings us to this year’s half-marathon. i wanted to preface 2014’s race with some relevant context and reflect on how my approach toward half-marathoning has evolved, because my one word for this year is all about revealing the story that connects the pieces of my life.
i don’t often encounter an opportunity to quote the rolling stones and c.s. lewis at the same time, but the stones’ lyrics have been running through my head for the last few months and lewis always has a way of injecting Truth into my perspective.
i recently arrived at the revelation that almost all of my moments of misery in recent years have stemmed from the same source: a desire for something i can’t have. i’m not talking about wishing for material things or a more adventurous life or exceptional talents–while those feelings do arise from time to time, they never stick around long enough to make me discontent. i either decide to work for those wants, or determine they’re not worth sacrificing what i already have.
no, what i’m referring to is a longing for something that is an absolute, definite impossibility. i want a future that will never be. one in which my child(ren) and my mom have the kind of special relationship i had with my mother’s mother. one where i can seek my mom’s advice on everything from fashion and decor to parenting and leadership. a future where she and dad grow old together, and live out the dreams and plans they began building in their teens.
when we lost mom, i assumed that i would go through life missing her and occasionally (or frequently) feeling sad that she was taken from us way too soon. eventually i reached the point where i could accept and acknowledge those emotions as they came and continue to function “normally.” but this mindset of allowing (not suppressing) those moments started to seep out at the edges. all of a sudden, i had given myself permission to entertain extended bouts of gloominess from dwelling on the unfairness of being stripped of “what could have (should have) been.”
recognizing this (and facing it) has been transformational in both my daily mood and long-term healing process. now i see that this attitude of regret has been holding me back from embracing my actual future. not that i won’t still have moments that beg for her presence and stir up thoughts of what-if, but i’m done craning my neck to wistfully lookey-loo at the alternate reality i wish were true. i want to look backward with deep gratitude for the treasured memories and forward with anticipation and appreciation for the good things that continue to come our way. because good things are happening.
on new year’s eve, my father married a wonderful woman in a special and celebratory event. for many reasons i don’t have time to enumerate here, it seems evident that God brought them together. loosening my grip on the what-if mentality has allowed me to see that this new relationship is absolutely the right step for my dad, and our family. when they sealed their vows with a kiss at midnight, the happiness i felt was full, genuine, and free of the reserved and awkward and melancholy feelings i had been battling for months. (okay, it was a little awkward to see my father kiss another woman, but, ya know, baby steps.)
now, you’ll probably never convince me that the version of the future without my mom could ever be as ideal as the version with her in it, but given the available options, i want to choose to celebrate the best possible revision of our story. i can see God rewriting the pages into something joyful and restorative.
…but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.
a whole week of the new year swept past me while i was distracted with a wedding, family, and a sick baby 😦 , but i’ve known my one word for the coming 12 months since the end of november. as usual, it just became clear without much thought. this will only be the third year that i’ve participated with the one word 365 community, but i’ve been pleased–and a little surprised–at how my previous focus words truly became an inspiring guide that didn’t fade (much) over the course of the year.
In 2012, share helped me restore the participatory part of me that withdrew when mom died. and last year’s word, grace, proved to be more useful than i could have known. when i predicted i would need to “adapt to what will surely be a year of rapid changes and unexpected detours,” i was thinking of my newly acquired role of mommy. i had no idea how many unexpected changes i was in for.
this year, i want to start connecting the detached phases of my life and pick a single word that will steer me toward reflection on the whole.
my one word for 2014 is STORY.
at first i was unsure about choosing a word that is not a verb. a motivating word should imply action, no? but this word was so insistent on being my one word for 2014 that i could not refuse.
we all know that a story is made up of many plot developments, big and small. some seem insignificant, but turn out to be pivotal. some seem monumental, but quickly fade into irrelevance. and some are exactly what they seem. but they are each an irreplaceable part of the narrative. without any one moment or event, the story would be…a different story.
if i can view each day–and whatever it brings–as a part of a greater storyline, i think it will color my response to whatever i encounter. fleeting frustrations can be easily excused when i can see that they are nothing in the grand scheme. small pleasures might be more meaningful if i view them in light of the story they are building. big setbacks will become mere hurdles along the scenic path, and i won’t have to hold so tightly to the glorious good times as they glide further into the past, because they are still an integral part of the whole plot.
as i write all this out, i am realizing that i’ve heard the advice to “look at the big picture” a zillion times before, and this all sounds very derivative. but in my mind, this idea of story is different. even if i can’t quite explain the subtle shift in my brain, i know that this approach is more than just a measure to help me not sweat the small stuff or prioritize the important things in life. it’s about crafting a legacy.
it’s also about more than my personal story–it’s about how the panels on my storyboard intersect with those of my family, friends, and anyone else i interact with. it’s about how my days appear in The Story God has been writing since the beginning of time. right now i need the daily reminder that i’m not just drifting; i want the gentle nudge to be more observant.
my hope is that filtering everything through this lens will challenge me to live my life with purpose and perspective, and make me a better contributor to the narrative. 2014 is the year i think broader, in an effort to affect in each small decision. it’s time to really recognize the story i am living.
photo via http://jakebova.files.wordpress.com
yesterday the Hollywood Housewife hosted a second (annual) Instagram event to capture a single day in snapshots. One Day is about stopping to notice all the small moments that don’t typically get attention. fantastic idea. i truly treasure memories caught in photos, videos, journals, and stories (i think it is so important to record and preserve personal and family histories), so obviously i was totally on board.
the day was an exercise in being present and aware of your own context, but also a fascinating glimpse into the hidden lives of others. in browsing the thousands of photos that were posted throughout the day, common threads between storylines were clear, but so was the vast variety of fun and frustrations a day can bring.
you would think the internet would already be at capacity when it comes to “what i had for breakfast” status updates. but somehow, among the all duties and diversions posted, this project prompted people share the mundane with more of a why than a what. instead of becoming just a tiresome tracking device for every tedious movement, it was more like a collection of the scenes that characterize daily life in this season. because we all know how quickly things can change.
often my life feels like a neverending “groundhog day” cycle. i’m sure i’m not the only one who felt like a sampling of my day would just be a parade of cooking and cleaning and feeding and errands (or for some, emails and meetings and reports and phone calls). but when i stepped back and viewed my hamster wheel through the camera lens, i was pleasantly surprised to discover how un-boring my e’ery day, e’ery day activities really are.
the best thing this project gave me is a refreshed outlook on the routines in my life that i tend to dread, but should really savor. most days, the evening hours find me just gritting my teeth and counting down the chores left until i can fall into bed. but family meals and bedtime rituals and the untidy aftermath of the day are all indications of a full and fortunate life.
it will be fun to look back on today and remember surprises happen every day, too.
as i brushed my teeth i kept thinking about the moments i had failed to snap: the baby petting (smacking) the dogs, the leftover (umpteenth) moving box in the office that i attempted to unpack, the before shot of the messy (very) kitchen…
and also the moments that are part of a typical day that just didn’t happen: trips to the store, a visit from grandpa, responding to emails…
but this wasn’t meant to be comprehensive. that’s not what a “snapshot” is.
i can say that yesterday’s experiment has affected my attention to detail throughout today, too. hopefully i can continue to be intentional about noticing the bits and pieces that make up my unique narrative. thanks for the motivation, laura!