Thursday, September 26, 2013

Take Care of Yourself

ChAoS in MOtiOn
Take Care of Yourself

            I really didn’t think I was ready to write this piece yet, but all week, the words keep rolling around in my head and won’t leave; I will accept that it is just time to write this piece. 
            In one of my earlier pieces I mentioned that I run with a hanky.  Technically they are handkerchiefs, and there is not just one, but several of them and they all were my Mother’s.  My mom came from a softer generation that carried these pretty pieces of cloth in their purses for those tears or sniffle needs.  Very unlike me rummaging for a McDonalds napkin in my overflowing purse filled with tiny tractors, a sippee cup, rocks, half-melted tootsie rolls stuck to pennies and play keys that make noises at inopportune times, like during a sermon.  It didn’t occur to me until writing this that maybe I should just put these handkerchiefs in my purse like she did, but I’ve never needed them like I need them when I run.
            This December will mark ten years since Mom’s death.  She died far too young at 67 years old, and two weeks after I learned I was pregnant with our oldest child.  She had spent most of the last 5 years of her life coupled to an oxygen tank, the result of a lifetime of “not smoking.” See, she “didn’t smoke.” I mean she did, but only as much as one can smoke in the bathroom, in a house with seven people and only one bathroom. One. So she did, but never in front of hardly anyone, especially her family.  So to see her succumb so severely and quickly to emphysema was especially difficult.  I would not wish what Mom had to endure in those last years on anyone. She would struggle to breathe, become anxious because she couldn’t breath, thus increasing her need to breath and the cycle was horrible to watch.  We talked frankly in the end about her beginning days of smoking and I remember her saying, “We didn’t know.  It was just the thing to do. We just didn’t know…” her voice trailing off. 
            There may have been other things she said to me in the end, but what I remember as her last spoken words to me were, “Take care of yourself.” And I told her I would. She said again, “Take care of yourself” with a look I will never forget. If you can imagine a look that combined love, regret, hope, wisdom and more love, that was what I saw in her eyes.  I understood her wishes for me: health.
            Like a lost relationship, we don’t really grasp the desire for good health until it starts to slip away from us.  Sometimes it is a permanent slip, but other times if we are lucky, that which slips is just a wakeup call to us, reminding us that all relationships, even that one with our body, needs nurturing.             
            After Mom died I ended up with all of her pretty delicate handkerchiefs.  I also started running a few years after she died. She was my Mom, and she told me to take care of myself, so I listened.  The delicacy of the hankies and the harsh physicality of running is quite contrasting.  But she is with me when I run, usually tucked in by my heart. And it is not lost on me that I am remembering my Mom by using something I wipe snot and sweat upon. But if you had known my Mom, she would have found the humor in that fact.  When I run, I sometimes hear her, usually when I really need it, when the negative voice in my head is telling me to just bag it and quit.  I hear her when I’m asking myself questions about life or parenting.   I feel her in that mile when an eagle has flown in front of me 3 times while I’m lost in my thoughts of missing her.  And I always hear her in that last push to the finish line, the biggest fan screaming “GO DIANI GO DIANI GO!”
            In less than two weeks I will toe the line of my first marathon and I can only hope I’ve made her proud with her wish for me to take care of myself.            She will be with me for the entire 26.2 miles that day, tucked by my heart.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What to Expect when you are expecting a marathon.

ChAoS in MOtiOn
What to expect when you are expecting a marathon.

            Recently I had plenty of time to think during my long run.  Four hours and 34 minutes, to be exact.  This run was the pinnacle of this entire training debacle, and the mileage needed was 20.  The process will be a taper from this point.  As I began the run, I began to realize that this journey paralleled another I have been blessed to have in my life: pregnancy and birth.
            It starts very similarly: “Honey, I think I should run a marathon.” It is reminiscent to “Honey, I think we should start a family. Everyone is doing it, and everyone is talking about what an awesome experience is, that I won’t regret it.”  The response is almost identical, a drawn out “Uh…” combined with a deer in the headlights look.   “No, Honey, I realize it will never be a good time for this, but maybe now is the least worst time. But I can’t do this alone. We both have to be willing to give to make this work.  I can’t do this by myself.”  In the end, his response was similar, “I love you, and I want to give this to you.”
            My excitement is overwhelming! I blast my marathon registration all over Facebook like an alien ultrasound picture. “Look what is happening in October!” Everyone responds joyously and congratulates me! “So happy for you!!” “Hooray!”  “How exciting!” I wallow in the glow of this pending journey.  I start envisioning the finish and how I’m sure there will be butterflies, rainbows and unicorns…and joy!
I have so much to do to prepare!  Week by week I need to know what is going on, and what to expect.  I need to revaluate my clothing, and my gear. There is the playlist to be made for that day. Whose vocals do I want to carry me through this experience?  This is uncharted territory, so I’m reading and gleaning all the advice from those who have gone before me.  It all starts slowly, and there are some aches and pains and nausea.  And then I hear the horror stories of the broken hips, the puking, and the stress fractures.  I learn Pheidippides, the Greek dude who ran the original 26.2 miles DIED!! I consider backing out, but that is ridiculous. The wheel is in motion and I must forge onward.
            “Honey!!! I’m gaining weight!!!” I blubber to my husband. “No one told me about the weight gain!!”  I realize those thighs of mine, the ones that have been “thick” since I was 5 years old are not going to get any smaller. My arms become bigger, more defined, but bigger, and we all know that muscle is heavy.  And I am hungry.  I’m really hungry.  And then there is the irritation… “Why is he eating all the ice cream? He isn’t going through what I’m going through?”
            Oh, and the joy of exhaustion sets in.  Why does no one warn me about the exhaustion?  And the stiffness, and the inability to get off the floor from a sitting position because it hurts.  I learn to elevate limbs and use compression socks and take warm baths to soothe my aching body that is performing great demands.
            Eventually I start to see the positive in the changes my body is going through.  The process is working.  I am seeing results.  I begin to get excited.  “This is really going to happen!! I’m going to do this!”  That crucial week arrives. The one that marks the point when, even though things may not roll out as exactly as planned, everything should work out.  The end is within sight.
            Game day will arrive. Bags will be packed, clothing laid out, sustenance gathered and the plan established with all participating.  Who will be where, and what words I will need cheered to me are clarified.  It’s the day we’ve been waiting for to arrive.  I think it is safe to say at some point, probably around mile 23, I will see my Honey and scream “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!! YOU AGREED TO THIS!!!!” 
And here is where the journey diverges.  In the end, no one can knock me out and finish the marathon for me.  In the end, it will be entirely up to me.  It will be entirely my will to push through the pain and the doubt and silence the little voice that is telling me, “You can’t do this.”   However, that doesn’t mean I won’t possibly be wishing for someone to just knock me out…

Friday, September 6, 2013


ChAoS in MOtiOn

It is amazing how the right words, at the right time can change a perspective.  At the Bill Jansen Road Race this past June, a group of us were standing talking pre-race.  Mostly we were discussing how unfair some brackets were, like the 30-39 women’s bracket.   A 30 year old woman with no children who still gets to take naps and sleeps through the night, who has never had one or 3 c-sections, and can party until 2 and show up at 7 to run is not the same as a 39 year old Mom with 3 children, who has gone through pregnancy and then surgery 3 times, has slept in the “H” position with her husband and toddler 6 of the last 7 nights and hasn’t had a nap since Monika and Bill were current news are not the same thing.
As we were chatting, I had mentioned I had already done 3 miles prior to the 10k we were waiting for, because my training schedule called for 9 miles that day.  A woman asks me, “So you’re a runner?”  I uhmed, and ahhhed…. and hesitated, and “well” and “uh…” and finally a fellow Mom runner called me out on my behavior exclaiming, “Diane! If you are training for a marathon I THINK you are a runner!!” Thank you Kalyn for the call out. After so many years of running and racing, I still have struggled with labeling myself “A runner.”
Labeling individuals is something I consciously try shy away from.  Johnny Cash felt a good song was a good song regardless of the genre.  I try to view people the same way. People are people.   In avoiding slapping a label on their forehead, I am making a conscious effort to get to know the true individual, not the individual others have presented to me. 
Labeling myself has also been a task I have purposely avoided.  I am ever changing.  Obviously there are some labels I would wear as tattoos: Wife, Mother, Daughter, and sister.  They are certain and unchanging.  But life itself is ever changing, as is the book we are all writing with our lives, everyday.  I resemble the 20 year old version of myself, but in a way that sisters resemble each other.  One can tell they are related, but they are different.  Because I am still learning about myself, I hesitate to label myself; I more than one thing, I am many, but not a runner! No way!
            Runners are sinewy. They are long and lean and have abs that I could wash jeans upon.  They eat bark and grains I can’t pronounce.  They measure weekly miles by numbers I measure highway speeds.  They run, think about running, talk about running, eat so they can run, don’t drink so they run, and sleep so they can get up to run some more.  They are disciplined and type A. They love the checkable tasks a training schedule brings.
Me? I’m a mom who runs. I run because I like to cook with butter, and like beer with my chicken wings. I run to keep at bay the alien who lives in my face that explodes out on that school morning when for the fourth day in a row we can only find 3 shoes, none of which match and the cat has puked 3 times since last night on the white carpet, and the toddler and his feet are why I even know there is cat puke in the house.  I run because so far the children can’t catch me. 
            That night I laid in my bed and looked at the race “bling” I have hanging on the wall. It is a colorful and ever growing lot.  Every one of those medals was a symbol of someone’s desire to train for and finish a race, someone who put in the miles and had set a goal to finish, and someone who was a runner.  I accepted I am that someone. I am a runner.

Valley City: A runner's perspective

ChAoS in MOtiOn
Valley City: A runner’s perspective.

            First off, I need to clarify something. We are not leaving Valley City. While it is true the Good Doctor took a different position with Sanford Health in Fargo, we have no desire to move.  We have many reasons to stay in Valley City, but I want to address why Valley is perfect for an active person.
            For anyone who chooses to be active in Valley City, they will have no choice but to become a stronger athlete than if they trained like a flat-lander of the Red River Valley.  It may come as a surprise to you, but the town lies in a valley. Therefore, chances are that no matter which direction you head in your run or walk, you will be moving away from the river in an uphill direction!  Traveling by car in town does not give one a true appreciation of how hilly is this community.  Do you know that little incline when you turn north of Main Street by Tri W G is loathed by many of us runners? I bet you’ve never noticed it in your car, but you will now.  If you should decide to train for one of the races in Fargo, and I urge you to do so, the elevation changes (aka railroad underpasses) will be a cakewalk compared to the Hill Top Hill, or any part of 12th St.   I will admit there are runs that I silently curse the hills, and beg for just one mile of flat road, but I am grateful that I don’t really have a choice to avoid hills and the strength that training on them creates.
            In some ways, active people are entrusting themselves to the community for safety when we hit the roads to walk or bike.  When I am out running, I have realized that I am usually no further than a couple blocks from a home of someone I know.  This is a huge comfort to me. I know that I if I roll my ankle, not once but twice on a run, like I may or may not have done, I’m within in hobbling distance to someone who can give me a ride to my car.  I know I would be able to get a drink of water or rest on their step.  I usually see at least one law enforcement officer and a couple drivers who I know while running.  This leads me to believe if I was ever abducted by aliens or eaten by a Mountain Lion, someone would have remembered seeing me run, and would know a good last location to look for me. And then would hopefully recover my GPS watch and upload the data, so I at least got credit for the run.
            When I started pounding the pavement after we moved here, I quickly realized that geographically speaking, Valley City is small.  It takes a lot of weaving back and forth to log 6, 8 or 10 miles in town.  There is a great upside to this however, and that is the fact you are never very far from a bathroom.  Runners know the importance of bathrooms and it didn’t take long to realize I was never really far from relief!  I love that it is a small enough town I can pop into my Church to get a drink of water, say “hi” to a friend and continue on my run.  It is the kind of community where I can drop a sweatshirt on a friend’s mailbox because I’m too warm and I know it will be there when I return for it.  It has the kind of drivers (well, about 99.5% of drivers) who realize I’m not trying to play “chicken” while on the River Road or the Kathryn Road and pull over while they pass, giving me a wave and smile.
            While all along I have thought Valley City is a great place to train, yesterday cemented my belief.  To say the heat and humidity we have been having is unbearable is an understatement.  My predicament is my current marathon training schedule gives no exceptions for weather.  I missed my long run over the weekend so it was imperative I log some miles yesterday, though every fiber of my being wanted to lie in air conditioning with some iced tea.
            I headed out about 10am and it was already over 85.  In running terms that means it was going to feel like 105 while running.  I ran into town 3 miles, then back home.  I was walking up my driveway, with my eyes burning from sweat because I picked the wrong day to forget my hanky. Yup, I said hanky.  I hear a car horn beep at me and turn to see a red pickup I didn’t recognize driving up my drive.  A slightly older gentleman rolled down his window and handed me a bottle of ice-cold water! He told me he had seen me running and went to get some water and was going to bring me home if I needed.  He had been worried when he didn’t see me, and was glad to see I had made it home.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  I thanked him and told him “Bless you!”  And so while every community has its issues, for me Valley City is the ideal place to live and train.  And to the red pickup man, THANK YOU!!