Sunday, November 25, 2012

My kids remind me to choose joy.

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Yea, I hit the jackpot. Okay, to be fair in the comments I disclosed the ulterior motive. On Tuesday, I explained to the kids the plan for the next few days as my kids really like to know the plan. We’d have a sleepover at Aunt Emily’s, they’d watch the Macy’s parade and look for mommy and daddy with their balloon, and we’d have dinner. We’d head home, and the weekend would be filled with cleaning the house so we could get all the Christmas decorations out!

Wednesday at 6:45am after they showed me a clean playroom and living room (which was pretty impressive), the shrieks began begging for Christmas decorations. Kids, this was not the plan. I did manage to get them off to school and then head to my sister-in-law’s, but it was not an easy task.

Thursday night, we drove 2 hours home arriving with two sleeping kiddos. As we attempted to transfer them to their beds, we were met with yawn-filled but somehow still urgent, “can we get the Christmas decorations out now???” Sigh. No. Go to sleep.

Finally, it was Friday morning. I have done no shopping or list making. My inbox is taunting with me sales of every kind. The to-do list grows by the minute. And the house is a disaster. Everything needs a good deep clean and de-cluttering to make room for Christmas. But, you can imagine what the kids did when they awoke.

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Holy moly, 51 likes? See, ya’all get it. It was good to know I was not alone. After one measly cup of coffee, I relented. The kids had already ran around getting every fall decoration down to pack away and were practically vibrating by the basement door waiting for someone to accompany them for boxes.

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From Fall to Christmas….

And then something happened.

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They stared into each bin with such wonder and amazement. With every item we unwrapped, the squeals, the oohs and the aahs, just got louder. It was like Christmas morning! The joy and excitement filled the air. You couldn’t help but breathe it in! With just a few bins worth of stuff unpacked onto the kitchen table, they ran off to put on a Christmas play with the Christmas stuffed animals.

And there I stood. Christmas had vomited all over my kitchen. The rest of the house was still a mess with nowhere to put up any of the decorations. Our power outage survival center still took over my dining room with water jugs, flashlights, and candles spread all over. The kitchen was littered with bags yet to be unpacked from the last few weeks of travel along with scraps of to-do lists I kept trying to make but somehow couldn’t even finish making the list, let alone accomplish the items on it.

That morning, I was overwhelmed. I was feeling the weight of the season on my chest. Stress and anxiety growing. So much to do. If I wanted the season to go well, it all needed to get done right now. This weekend. Get it all done before Advent starts so we don’t miss out. I was tired of being *that* mom, the one scrambling to come up with Advent calendar activities each morning, the one who arrived at Christmas Eve realizing all the things we’d forgotten to do. I didn’t want to go through another holiday season spending my days trying to get it all done, all the while missing it all.

After we got out those bins, after my little tornados tore through with their bouncing and squealing, I was still overwhelmed. But now, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.  I was overwhelmed by gratitude for the opportunity to see Christmas every year through their eyes. I was overwhelmed by their joy over a simple box of decorations we get out every. single. year. They didn’t care if the house was a mess or if they had the perfect place for the decorations to go. They felt Christmas coming, bubbling up inside of them. The joy, the wonder, the excitement, the anticipation. And they couldn’t wait to share it! They put on one heck of a Christmas play with all those Christmas stuffed animals.

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It was with that in mind that I accepted a last minute invite to go see a local tree lighting. I left physical therapy exhausted both from my workout and from the last few days of holiday fun. I checked my phone and found a text. The tree lighting stated in just 45 minutes. It would take me 25 minutes to get home and 25 minutes to get there. I was sweaty and gross. I called the husband who sounded exhausted and reluctantly said he’d go if I really wanted. Nah, I got this. Get those kids dressed, fed, and in the car and I’ll be home in 20!

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We rushed. We got there. We forgot coats. We stood in crazy lines with wiggly kids. We saw Santa. We took pictures. We waited in the rain with tired kids to ride a horse-drawn carriage whose battery-powered Christmas lights died shortly before it was our turn. And it was wonderful. 

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I could have chosen my to-do lists, fatigue, and stress instead. There was plenty of reasons for me to decline the invite and head home for an early bedtime. But I’m so glad I chose the childlike joy of Christmas instead.

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And so were they. Those joy-filled tired little boys both slept the whole night through. That was the first time they have ever done that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

She DID it! (And so did I…) Philadelphia Half Marathon 2012

A number of people thought I was a little crazy for attempting another half marathon just one week after the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, including my physical therapist… though he understood and supported the endeavor!

I have to say that under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have seemed crazy. I wasn’t planning on running a race pace for either race. It was more like training run pace. When I was training for the marathon-I-didn’t-run, my mileage was 13+ miles every weekend! In fact, I think it went a little something like 12, 14, 12, 16, 13, 18, 13, 20, 13 for my weekend runs until I had to stop training. BUT, I’m not in that shape now and this was not normal circumstances. This was after nearly 7 months of injury, physical therapy, and sporadic mileage.

So maybe it was a little crazy… but there was NO way I was going to miss my sister’s first half marathon!

My sister was there telling me how crazy I was when I ran my first ever half marathon… but she made signs, cheered, and watched her son and mine get really muddy while they waited to see my run by!

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My sister was there for my second half handing me fuel when I ran by… (she may kill me for these pictures, but they are hysterical!!)

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I wasn’t going to miss this for her.

She started with a 5k, not long after quitting smoking! It took us 2 tries (not to any fault of hers! The first 5k was only 2 miles long due to a volunteer directing runners to the finish early!), but she got it done in July 2011.

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After a few more 5ks and inspiring some friends of her own to run, she started to think maybe I wasn’t so crazy. She started to think maybe she could do this crazy half marathon thing. It still seemed too big. It was really, really scary. But on New Year’s Day she decided, this was her goal. She would run a half marathon in 2013.

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I helped her pick a plan, a race, and assembled a half marathon training survival kit for her! She trained. She juggled a busy work schedule, being a mom, and everything else. She pushed herself. She ran an 11k race when she thought she could only do the 8k option. She stepped out of her comfort zone. She joined a running/training group. She started thinking about how to fuel her body for the run and how to care for it so it could do what she was asking it to do. Hard to believe that before this all started she was a smoker. Not now!

And just days before the race, her son got a stomach bug. She was up in the middle of the night with a sick kid, terrified of getting it herself. But she got through it, and finally we headed to the Expo on Saturday!

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We got our bibs, saw a friend, and came home with super cute sweatshirts for our little “Future Runners” who were home with Mema! (Thanks Mema for taking care of the kids so I could support Jen! And thanks Aunt Kristie for my kids’ shirts!)

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Race morning came early. Poor Jaxon, my nephew, was up throwing up in the middle of the night, but that wouldn’t stop Jen today! After some coffee and oatmeal, we were out the door just a little late. We hit traffic and ended up missing the running club photo which was a bummer, but we hit a hotel bathroom on the way to the start to avoid porta-potties and made it to the start with plenty of time.

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(Thanks to Paula’s husband Dave for these pictures!)

We found Kristie! Kristie is who got me started down this crazy running path and was a great support to Jen on it, too. She is the Nutrition Coach for USA PhillyFit, the group Jen joined. She hadn’t planned on it, but she ended up running most of the race with us!

The race was great. It was chilly at the start, and Jen was full of nerves. Once we got started it got a little bit better. Right around mile 2, I stopped off for a porta-potty with a long-ish line. I was so glad that Kristie was running with us so that she could stick by Jen, and I didn’t have to worry! It took me about 2.5 miles of way-faster-than-I-should-have-been running to catch up with them, but I did. Jen was still feeling good. Her pace was good. Running through the city was awesome. At one point she said, “I hesitate to say this, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I am actually having fun!!!” It was great to hear, and it was so much fun!

We saw an old friend from our days working at summer camp spectating which was a nice surprise. Jen said she hadn’t seen her in more than 10 years, how crazy! I offered that she could go back and catch up, but she declined. Go figure – hehe.

The crowds were amazing. The sights were awesome. Running down South Street, Jen remarked that she had never imagined herself running down South Street! I drank half a beer offered to me by the Drexel fraternity boys which made everyone laugh! The miles just kept ticking along. Water, gu, run some more. Every so often she would just exclaim, “this is so coo! I’m doing it!” She needed a porta-potty stop but all the lines were so long. Finally, we ran past a Cosi restaurant and I urged her to run in and use the bathroom. It cost her a few minutes as we had just past it, but it was worth it!

We said goodbye to Kristie at mile 9 to finish her own race as she was nursing a sore shin. We came up on miles 8-10 which are the only real hills of the race. They aren’t anything crazy, but they are late enough in the race and they are long enough that you definitely feel them. The downhills were pretty harsh too, so it was not much of a relief.

This is where she dug in. It was hard, but she kept pushing. She can do hard things too. I offered that at this point that if she was going to walk, an uphill would be an okay place. It wouldn’t affect her pace much as we weren’t able run that much faster than people who were walking. But she did not walk. She ran the ENTIRE race. She was a rockstar.

By mile 10, I was feeling it. My few fast miles early on trying to catch up after my potty stop had taxed my legs, and I really felt those hills. My plantar fascia kept cramping on the down hills (I haven’t felt pain there for weeks now so I was worried.) My glutes and hamstrings were screaming. But Jen was going strong, hurting yes, but pushing forward. At mile 11, it was time to pick up the pace and she did. She held back just a little and at the mile 12 marker, she gave it all she had. It felt like such a loooong mile, and with the way the course turns you don’t see the finish line until you are right there. But she kept picking up the pace, and I kept weaving in and out of people to stay by her side. Once she saw that finish line, girl.took.OFF! I sprinted around people to keep up with her, and finally with her last push I knew I couldn’t get by her side but finished right behind her (same exact finish time).

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She did it. She ran a half marathon. If you had asked her a year ago about running one, she would have laughed at you. If you had asked her two years ago about running at all, she would have laughed at you. But she did it. She finished 2:45:15. If you take out the minutes she lost with the bathroom stop, she met her goal of running at a sub 12:30 pace. And she looked and felt amazing pretty much the entire time, but she also pushed hard. It was pretty much the perfect first race!

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After a little bit of recovery, she said and I will continue to quote this, “to be completely honest, I would totally do that again!” SUCCESS! Even the next morning with muscle soreness fully setting in, she was saying that she couldn’t wait to recover to do it all over again. I am thrilled for her. I love that she got to experience the satisfaction of doing something so hard and so scary that she never thought she could. I love that she’s found a love for running and pushing herself. I love that she made this commitment to HERSELF, not her job, son, or family. It was all about her. The journey, the growth, and the accomplishment are all hers!

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The Philadelphia Marathon’s theme this year was “Redefine Possible” and it could not have been more fitting, and it was most certainly one of the “best times” of her life! I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next, and I look forward to running many more miles by her side. Congratulations again, Jennifer Lee!

As for me? I finished my 5th half marathon. Well technically, it was my 6th, but I don’t really count the one where I drank beer the entire time (even though it was so much fun). I didn’t have stomach troubles like last weekend. I felt pretty good the whole thing until the last few miles when my legs were d.e.a.d. But that’s to be expected with inconsistent training and two back-to-back half marathons. My left lower back, hip, IT band, and foot are all giving me a little trouble since the race. I had physical therapy on Monday, and on Friday I’ll go back for a new gait analysis and to really look at where I am. I have gotten a lot stronger in a lot of areas, but some are still not strong enough while other areas are showing a need for strengthening. So it’s time to reassess and refocus. I am grateful for the miles I ran and the race experiences, but I am ready to get back to low mileage, more strengthening, and building a base without the pressure of a race coming up.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What I Learned from the 2012 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

I ran my first post-injury, post-marathon-cancelling, post-lots-of-months-of-physical-therapy half marathon Saturday night!

And…. I finished!

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It was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

Wonderful: I got to spend time with a fabulous lady and her family, and I got to be there when she crossed the finish line (okay actually I was waiting on the other side of the drink line because they don’t let you back through once you finish, but STILL!). I am so proud of her, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of her first 13.1.

Horrible: My race. But I learned a lot, and I am so grateful for the experience.

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I learned that…

*wearing clothing known to chafe is way worse than wearing new clothing on race day that might chafe. (yep, I’m a super genius. I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be that big of a deal… it was.)

*medical tables (at least at this race, thank GOD!) will hand you gobs of Vaseline-like-substance to slather on angry, chafing parts.

*wearing a costume is totally worth it. totally. love the cheers, love the excitement, love the silliness.

*running at 10pm makes my stomach angry.

*running a half marathon while trying not to vomit is not easy, nor is it fun.

*even when it sucks, I am so thankful for the run. Seriously so thankful.

*I really can do hard things.

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I knew I was way undertrained for this race. Injury rehabilitation, an unexpected sprained ankle (are they ever expected?), illness, and then a hurricane made this training cycle craaaazy. I went into the race with low expectations. I expected a hard race with a decent amount of pain, and I hoped to avoid setting a new personal worst (which I honestly thought wouldn’t be that hard).

New Personal Worst: 2:48:16 (for reference, previous PW was 2:46:48. PR is 2:16:54)

Miles 1-3: Start was crowded and slow. Legs started out like lead but loosened up. Chafing got bad fast (idiot!). Around mile 2.5 grabbed my first Vaseline from med table. It worked. I was thrilled. Things were looking up. (5K average pace 11:22)

Miles 4-6: Another stop for more Vaseline. Took my first gel, and my stomach flipped out – cramping and indigestion. Bathroom stop shortly before the 6 mile mark. (10K average pace 12:05)

Miles 7-10: Misery sets in fully. One more stop for Vaseline, grabbed Biofreeze for my left hip and glute that weren’t happy. Put off a second Gu, but eventually took it. Made stomach worse. Dry heaving on side of course. Bathroom stop. Walking to avoid puking. Total disaster. (15k average pace 12:54)

Miles 11-13.1: Gave up on Gu and Nuun. Dug in and decided to run the last 3 miles. I knew I was close to that personal worst and that I might be able to squeeze in right under it. I ran as hard as I could with how I was feeling. Even as I watched the time slip by at each mile and knew I wasn’t going to make it in time, I chose to keep running. I gave it everything I had, tried not to puke on anyone, and I finished.

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In the end, I am so thankful for every mile I ran. I am thankful that while it was an awful race it was not because of injury. My legs were tight and I was undertrained, but without all the stomach nonsense (not to mention the chafing!) I would have had a totally different race. I am thankful for the experience of running through Disney, the magic of running past the Tree of Life, the absolutely awe-inspiring view of Expedition Everest underneath a beautiful cloudless sky filled with stars, and the smile that involuntarily spread across my face running through the Osborne Family Christmas lights despite wanting to throw up. I am thankful for every joyous miserable mile I ran.

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Coast to Coast Medal earned for running a Disneyland and Disney World race in the same calendar year along with my Wine and Dine Half Marathon Medal. I ran the Tinker Bell half marathon in Disneyland in January for a PR and the Wine and Dine for a PW.

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Enjoying a hard-earned Guinness (looking frightful!) in “Ireland” at the Epcot Wine and Food Festival around 3am. *yawn*

I am proud of myself. I worked hard for that personal worst. I had no expectations for this race. I could have given up. I could have walked the rest of it. I had plenty of excuses. I was covered in Vaseline, dealing with the normal pain of running your first 13 mile race in months, and unable to keep my fuel down. I stopped twice at the bathroom, 3 times at medical tables, and multiple times on the side of the road trying not to throw up. At first, I held on to hopes of avoiding a personal worst. When that slipped by, I could have given up. Instead, I gave those last 3 miles everything I had because that’s what you do. It’s a race. You give it everything you’ve got even if it’s all going wrong. It was really awful, and I was fighting back tears. At one point I realized that even if I was home in my bed, I felt sick enough that I’d still be miserable and crying. But I ran instead. I can do hard things.

My body recovered nicely. My calves were sore the next day or so. My hip/glute/IT Band were a little tight. But two days later I was back working my butt off in physical therapy as if I hadn’t just ran 13 miles. And now, I am gearing up to run another 13 with my sister on Sunday. I cannot WAIT to cross the finish line with her in Philadelphia, and I am looking forward to a bright and early start time along with a hopefully much happier stomach… oh yea and capris that definitely do not chafe.

It’s been a long road back from giving up on my first marathon… but I’m well on my way.