Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Voices in my head

ChAoS in MOtiOn
The Voices in my Head.

            While at the Twin Cities Marathon Expo, the night before the race, I wandered by the Fargo Marathon booth and registered for a free Mini (half) marathon registration.  The following Tuesday, I learned I had won the free registration! It was probably rigged, since while chit chatting with them I hid my true colors and feigned excitement of the Bison’s win earlier that day… Nonetheless, I had to decide whether or not I would run a half marathon (that’s 13.1 miles) 13 days after running 26.51.
            I thought, “What the heck, this should be half as hard, and mentally way easier than the full!”  I opted for going in on “rested legs” (I didn’t run in 13 days) and “well nourished” (I ate everything in sight for 13 days) for this run.  By the 12th day post marathon, this idea of running a half seemed better in theory, especially since my belly was sore from laughing non-stop for 2 hours at the VCSU Rendezvous the night before the run.
            Saturday morning my fabulous hubby got up before the sun to drive me over to Fargo for the run.  If the Twin Cities Marathon is the most beautiful urban course, the Fargo Mini would be the most boring urban course. 13.1 miles of cul-de-sacs, big homes, bigger home, homes being built, concrete trucks in the middle of the street, homes that were just down right ridiculously big, and mud.  Hoping against hope that my memory of this route previously run was somehow mistaken, I was mentally prepared to rock this race.  I brought along my running partner, Wonder Woman who is only audible to me, inside my head.  She had been telling me all week that this will be a no- brainer. That I had this. That a new Personal Record was just waiting for me to take it.  She had me built up! The weather was cool, but would be fine, if the wind didn’t blow (like it always does in Fargo. Always.) I toed the line with my brother, wished him luck, and set my sights on a new PR.
            Miles 1-8 were awesome, right on pace. Previous nights rain mixed with the dirty roads made for what felt like running on slime, but I was managing.  I was focused, trying to pick off runners in front of me.  I kept busy looking for my spectators who were freezing but willing to stand out in the cold to cheer on my brother and me.  Wonder Woman just kept encouraging me. “You got this! You go girl! Easy, Smooth, Light!”  I felt great!
            Then mile 9 hit.  I had crossed paths with my brother who was a half hour ahead of me, and I’d have sworn I had already done that cul-de-sac 3 times already. Wonder Woman took a left turn and headed for Starbucks, not to be heard from again.    And then SHE showed up.  Negative Nelly appeared and perched comfortably in my head for the remainder of the race.  “This stinks. Just quit. You’re out of reach of your PR. WHY didn’t you stay in bed this morning? It is freezing out here!! Oh great, the next 3 miles into a headwind?  Where ARE we? Now really, does someone need THAT big of a house?”  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t silence her.  I was getting so frustrated with myself because I have done this long enough to know that at this point, I needed to get out of my head and think about ANYTHING else than what was rolling around in my brain.  At this point, it is almost entirely a mental fight, not a physical one.    And for the life of me I couldn’t shush her.   I had feeble moments of success when Alicia told me I was a Girl on Fire, and Eminem told me to Lose Myself. But even with Florence and her Machine telling me to Shake It Out, I couldn’t string together more than a couple minutes of quieting her nagging. 
            In the end, I finished with my 3rd fastest time, and got my hockey puck.  Not a finisher’s medal, but a puck.  Negative Nelly had a lot to say about that too…  And now after a few days I’ve given myself a break; I was still in recovery from the full marathon and I didn’t just run this race, but raced it. It wasn’t the time, wind or cold that was most annoying, it was the negative voice I couldn’t silence. What does your voice nag you about? The one thing you need to know is Nelly is a compulsive liar.  What she says is not true, and don’t believe her.  Sometimes it is really hard to ignore her.  But usually with the help of some good friends by your side, like I had at the Marathon, and even more so in life, she usually isn’t allowed to say much.   If all else fails, look in the mirror and tell Wonder Woman to finish her coffee already and that you need her.   She’s there. Trust me.
            *Disclaimer: The voices are metaphorical. I do not really hear voices. Yet.  If I should start to hear voices, don’t worry, I know a good doctor who will get me the help I need.   

Parenting and Training

Over the last couple months, between watching friends finish their IronMan race, and doing my own marathon, I have been amazed at the number of people who are “older” who are completing these races.  I’m talking in their 50”s, 60’s, and 70’s.  Maybe it is because it isn’t until your kids have moved away to college and you’ve changed the locks that only then do you have time to concentrate on yourself.  Whatever the reason, I have a theory that with age and especially parenthood comes the toughness required to be an athlete.
Pain may deter some from running.  The reality is you are already prepared.  Plantar fasciitis of the heel pales to stepping on a Lego, in the dark. IT band syndrome is nothing compared to a little person deciding to grow sideways inside your belly for the greater part of a year, using your bladder as her personal trampoline.  Knee pain would feel like Swedish massage compared to the inevitable tantrum head butt by a 3 year old that always connects with cross hair accuracy with the bridge of your nose.  Parenting can hurt. Running hurts less.
Some may be deterred by their lack of stamina.  If you have survived a snowday with subzero temperature in February, at home with several kids and have heard “Mommy” no less than 3,534 times, you’ve got stamina.  If you have at least one sick child and your only goal of the day is keeping the toddler from playing with “The bucket” and you succeed, you’ve nailed stamina.  You need no more stamina than what is required to endure a 35 minute trip from Jamestown to Valley City, with a 3 year old screaming at the top of her lungs, because she doesn’t like the Johnny Cash CD you are playing, and not crack to her tantrum.  Parenting IS stamina. 
Being afraid of being too tired from running may be a fear.  Tired is having a baby who eats every 2 hours…for 8 months. Tired is having a dog with diarrhea every hour through the night… for two nights.  Running 3 miles is not tired. In fact the irony is it is pretty energizing.  Tired is burning the candle at both ends to just allow yourself an hour of “me time” which usually only coincides with the clock striking past 11pm. 
Plain old fear can prevent some from starting to be active.  Fear is sending your child down the hallway to a surgical suite, hoping and praying the hands you just gave him to are skillful and competent.  Fear is a 5 minute shower, knowing the 2 year old and dog are unattended in the house.  Fear is looking around the yard and only counting 2 heads instead of 3; your gut clenches and your heart drops to your feet and after screaming relentlessly you find the youngest inside the car blissfully flipping every switch and knob, saying “I dwive!” 
Some may claim they don’t have the patience to train and they may get bored.  You have all the patience you need if you have stood over an 8 year old trying to paint his pinewood derby car, with paint dripping and pooling, and resisted the urge to just do it yourself.  You are ready to train if you have painfully sat through your child reading the longest children’s book known to man, “One fish Two fish” and didn’t say “Let’s finish it another time.” 
I know that I could never have completed a marathon in my twenties.  Parenting in itself should be its own endurance sport.  It is through parenting that I have really come to know strength, because parenting sure ain’t for sissies.  The reality is once you become a parent, you don’t have the luxury of quitting.  Your home becomes command central for an army of little people, who will try to test you to your breaking point.  General McArthur had nothing on my 6 year old the days the wrong skirt is dirty. She could break the best Delta Force or Seal Team member. They’d give up information to just make the screaming STOP.  But I’m thankful to God for them. They gave me the greatest gift, which is parenthood, and all that comes along with it. And the opportunity to discover strengths I never knew I possessed. 

her skirt was dirty=flailing back-bending tantrum

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What the Twin Cities Marathon Taught me

ChAoS in MOtiOn
What the Twin Cities Marathon taught me.

            This past weekend, I DID IT!!! My running partners, Rebecca and Tracy, and I completed the 26.51miles (who says a marathon has to be 26.2 miles??) in 5 hours, 22 minutes and 13 seconds! I can honestly say that it was the fifth best day of my life, after my marriage and birth of my children.  The weather was perfect, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous, the crowds were energizing, and the experience was amazing.  I will share what I learned in doing this race, in no particular order.
            I will never, ever take for granted the free parking that exists in most of North Dakota. Ever. 
A gigantic American flag draped between two fire trucks does not indicate a finish line.  A “Finish” sign does.
“The wall” cannot go on forever. Eventually it will end, or you will find a way around it, over it, under it or a door will appear.  
When you start to doubt yourself, you just usually have to look to your sides. Your friends will be there. And will sing you a verse or two.
If you don’t know why they are handing out spoonfuls of Vaseline on the course, you don’t need it.
It is possible for a human to run a full marathon in a Chewbacca suit.  Or was it a suit???
This race is absolutely deserving of the title of “Most beautiful urban course in America.”
There will come a point that you may wish for your feet to just go numb, because then you will no longer feel the pain.
By focusing on someone else, purposefully and prayerfully for a mile, the mile whips by quickly, as does another and another.
If all you consume after a marathon is a Dixie cup of broth and a couple bags of chips, a pot of king crab will sadly leave you looking for another pot of crab, and a Big Mac, and maybe a Whopper.
A 9 year old boy waking up out of a dead sleep before 7am to say “Good Luck Mommy” goes a long long way.
Age means diddly-squat.  It is just a number. The oldest male runner was 85 and the oldest female was 71.  There were numerous runners in their sixties and seventies participating, and running sub-4 hour times! (That is good!)
Minnehaha Falls could use an aerial spraying of Febreeze, or a gigantic tree air freshener.
Adversity can inspire.  I started to tear up as I came up along side a man with an unusual running gait.  Unusual until I read his shirt that read “Stroke-0, Me-1.”           
Forward IS a pace.  It makes sense in a race or in life.
Just because a hotel shows a picture of a hot tub on its website, a hot tub you are salivating to get into after running 26.51 miles, doesn’t mean there will actually be a hot tub in the hotel. Or a bathtub.  
Trust the process.  It works.
It is important to prepare yourself that things will get mentally hard.  However, when you think it may get tough may not actually be when it happens. It may happen sooner.
Enjoy the moment and breathe in “the now.” You are doing this. YOU.
Embrace the pain.  Once you embrace it, and realize it can’t get any worse, you can let it go and you can focus on something else.
Your angels are watching over you. Thanks for the sprinkles when I was overheating Mom.
You may be someone’s inspiration or hero without even realizing it.
Take it bit by bit going uphill and enjoy the downhill.
A shuttle bus of marathoners smells as good as a 14 year old boys hockey bag.
Upon waking the next morning, the way you feel horizontally may not be the way you feel vertically.
Finishing a marathon is pretty much like having a baby. You start to forget about the pain, your friends start asking you about “another,” you think about how fun it would be to do again, and your husband will give you a deer in the headlight look and then sigh and roll his eyes.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Women of ChAos

ChAoS in MOtiOn

The Women of ChAoS

            About a year ago, while running with my friend Jamie, I said out of the blue, “That’s it! I’m going to do it!!” She looked at me a little confused and asked “Do what?” I explained that during my last few runs I had this growing idea of starting an “online support group” for women runners I knew. From that point, Chaos in Motion, a Facebook support group for the running inflicted was created. 
            The women of Chaos are a very diverse group. Some of us are mothers, but not all.  There exists brand new runners, runners in training, runners that used to run in high school or college and are now just getting back into it and we even have our token IronWoman.  They are friends, and friends of friends.  My goal of this group was to share ideas, support, advice, knowledge and encouragement.  A year ago I never realized how important these women would be in this marathon journey!
            A while back, a friend posted a picture to the site that read, “Girls compete with each other, Women empower one another.” Our group completely embodies this statement.  We all bring different reasons and different stories to why we each run. However, no matter the reason, the unconditional love and support that these women bring is endless. Many have struggled this year with injuries with some severe enough to require them to give up running for many weeks.  Through the MRIs , X-rays, diagnoses and prognoses, we were there for each other. We celebrated the “Clear to runs” and grieved the “6 more weeks of no running.”  We piled on the well wishes and “Go get ems!!” to each of the women who prepared for their 5ks or halves or IronMan races.  We celebrated the finishes, and the accomplishments along the way, whether it was finally running nonstop for 30 minutes, or exercising for 15 hours straight.
            One of these women, Rebecca, probably doesn’t realize I would not be running a marathon without her in my life.  I met Rebecca in June of ’06 at a function welcoming the incoming Medical Residents.  She looked tired, a bit irritated, and I decided that night we would be friends.  Her exhaustion was completely understandable since she had given birth about 6 days before her husband was to start residency, where he would be working no less than 80 hours a week.   Probably one of those plans that looked better in theory… In our first year of residency she ran Dam to Dam, a 20k in Des Moines and I thought that was a pretty amazing feat.  She was a runner, one of those people who mystified and intrigued me.
            She was my lifeline during these 3 years.  Both of our husbands were spending more time at the hospital than at home, and thankfully we had each other, just a couple blocks away.  Many mornings started with a text: “Coffee and bagel?” and then we would decide who would run for bagels and who would watch the children. The children that started in the beginning as 2, and would climb to 4 by the time we left residency.   Our friendship was the kind that we could sit in silence, watching our kids destroy the living room, and feel safe and understood.  She is the kind of friend that tells you what you need to hear, though sometimes you may not want to hear it.  She is the Type A, all-about- the- process of training personality to my Type B, can’t find the process, lets just race personality.    
The end of residency would take her to southern Minnesota, and me to North Dakota.  In the years since residency the four kids have grown to six and our husbands are still busy, and there are still mornings we virtually have coffee and a bagel, via picture text.  She has gone on to do Dam to Dam several more times and I became one of those mystifying runners as well.
In the last year we had thrown around the marathon idea. “Some day we’ll have to do that.” Someday when the kids are older, someday when our hubby’s schedules slow down… Then Boston happened.  Instead of being scared off by the Boston Marathon bombings, Rebecca let the ridiculous act of bombing people who run 26 miles for fun empower her to sign up for her first marathon.  I shortly followed her lead.  We have trained for this race together. She marking off each run on her training calendar, me asking her what we needed to run because I can’t find my training calendar. 
The week of our 18 mile long run, Rebecca had done her miles on Friday. Saturday morning I set out to do mine. Things were fine until mile 6. I had run 3 away from my house and 3 back. About the time I hit my driveway something went horribly screwy in my right knee. It HURT. I mean worse than Pitocin induced contractions hurt.  I hobbled to my house and tried to stretch while I bawled. There was something about this run, because my training had been so hit and miss and shoddy, it was crucial in my mind to complete. I reasoned if I completed this run, I would be able to do the marathon, if I didn’t I would withdraw.  All I kept thinking was Rebecca did it. Rebecca did it yesterday. She had never raced more than 12.4 miles and she did it, I can do it.  She had no idea that her run the previous day allowed me to muscle through the pain, though it wasn’t pretty or fast, and complete the 18 miles. 
Sunday I will gather at the start line with Rebecca and Tracy, another Chaos Woman, who has kept me laughing throughout this process.  I am positive we will not be the fastest group, but we will probably be the one laughing and dancing the most.  We each bring our individual reasons for doing this marathon with the common goal to just cross the finish line. So to all you Women of Chaos, and you know who you are, my most heartfelt thanks for your love, wisdom and encouragement through this journey! Mile 26 is for you all!