Friday, September 11, 2015

What We Carry

God bless the families of the victims of 9/11/2001.  May God continue to comfort them and hold them closely as America vows to never forget those who lost their lives that day.

As I signed onto this page today, I could not believe that the last time I posted a note was on February 10th.  Back in June, I started a post about my experience crewing and pacing my brother, Jack, during the Western States 100.  I never finished it and there is no way I could do that experience justice now.  It was awesome and one I won't ever forget.  I was actually on the plane back to Cincinnati and it was as fresh in my mind as it could have possibly been.  I had free wifi (thanks to my husband's American Express business card) and 4 plus hours of uninterrupted time.  Or so I thought on the uninterrupted part.  I quickly realized writing would be a difficult undertaking based on my "seat mates".  The lady on the left was  very unaware of personal space invasions and the gal on my right was apparently terrified of flying.  There was simply no way to get lost in thought and let the words flow.

I've missed writing very much.  I wish I made time for it, but I don't.  I've been fortunate enough in the past two years to remain injury free, which allowed me to spend the early morning hours running.  At least that was the case up until 4 weeks ago.  I decided to train for, and race, the Air Force Marathon.  It  is on September 19th… eight days from today and my Lucy's 9th birthday.  I figured summer training would be doable with more time in the mornings to train.  Before I signed up, I checked with Lucy to make sure that she was ok with mom being gone all morning on her birthday.  I told her I wanted to run a marathon and I wanted to, once again, try for a BQ.  She was on board, and soccer schedule permitting, assured me she would be waiting for me at the finish line.  I signed up and personalized my bib with, "Happy Birthday, Lucy!"  I was sure that all would come together that day.

Training did not go as planned.  I did get the scheduled miles and workouts in.  I used a personalized Jack Daniels training plan that had specific workouts tailored for my goal time.  I decided not to "self coach" this time around.  I researched and read a lot about Jack Daniels as a coach and the success of his training plans and decided to give it a try.  I really liked the plan and will do it again someday.  One of the huge pieces missing for this training cycle was any kind of mental edge.  In truth, I trained tired much of the time.  Summer bed times were often quite late and morning runs, early in order to beat the heat.  The combination did not do anything to enhance the training experience or my mindset.  As the weeks went by, my enthusiasm for training was spiraling.  I was doing something 6 days a week that was not only difficult, but I wasn't rested doing it.  And although moods and attitudes during training can and do wax and wane, this was different.  By week 14, I was on the verge of scrapping the race altogether.  I just didn't think I could get myself mentally where I needed to be to race through 26.2 miles on a course that wasn't my favorite.  But I also didn't want to walk away from all the training when physically, my body was adapting well and I where I needed to be.  On August 16th, I set out for a 19 mile long run with Jen and Kim.  I had gone to bed after midnight the night before (or I should say, the day of) and was up at 4:30 to fuel for the 6 am start time.  To say I wanted nothing to do with 19 miles that morning was an understatement.  While running, I confided in Kim and Jen about my thoughts of just not doing the race.  We weren't close enough for nerves to be a factor.  I wasn't scared.  I was exhausted.  I told them I didn't think I had the ability to race the distance mentally.  If that were the case, it didn't matter how well prepared I was physically.  Anyone who runs marathons knows that a mental edge is critical on race day.  It's just too far to go to not be mentally on task.  I thought with the school year starting, earlier bedtimes would help me get more sleep and perhaps I could tweak my training and do one of the three other local marathons this fall.  I hadn't decided that, I was just tossing it around.

My last run was August 19th.  That morning, I set out to do a 9 mile speed workout with Jen, Erin and Greg.  After a two mile warm up, we began our interval miles.  Somewhere around mile 5, I noticed an ache in my lower back on the right side.  I didn't think too much of it.  Strange aches and weird pain that means nothing is par for the course in distance running.  By mile 7, it was really sore.  At mile 8 we started our first cool down mile and I knew that I needed to be done at my car even though we had one more cool down mile to go.  I let the gang know and headed home.  Again, I figured it was something dumb and for whatever reason, I was just having an off day.  After getting home and sitting for about 10 minutes at the computer, I got up and started to head to the kitchen.  The pain in my lower back upon trying to walk was now, severe.  I had never experienced anything like it.  I still couldn't imagine anything was too wrong since I had been fine, literally, 2 hours prior and ran fine for the the first few miles.  Injuries usually give warning and I had none.

After nearly two plus weeks of rest from running, increasing discomfort, difficulty walking, an X-ray, and an MRI, I finally had an answer.  I have a sacral stress fracture on the right side.  This was thought to be brought on by a fall down my steps in MAY, where I bruised my tailbone, and then the beginning of marathon training before it healed.  The stress of the training on an already weakened area was likely too much, causing the fracture.  The treatment?  4-6 weeks on crutches and NO lower body exercise.  AT ALL.  No bike, no elliptical, no swimming.  No lower body strength training of any kind.  And no weight bearing on the right leg.

No Air Force Marathon.  The hand was forced.

I am doing surprisingly well with this injury and I don't know why.  What is bothering me most is not the no running, but the no weight bearing in a family of 6.  It's practically impossible and as much as I am trying to adhere to this, there have been times this week when I have ditched the crutches.   However, I am staying true to the no lower body exercise or workouts.  The pain is considerably better, though I feel a little dull ache when I don't use my crutches.  Absolutely nothing like it was.  Both my mom and my brother have graciously provided meals for my family in addition to John doing some cooking.  We are getting along ok and before I know it, I'll be back.  This is the most severe injury I've had, with the least amount of going stir crazy.  I can only attribute this as a very clear sign that I was mentally fried and needed time off from running.  Running is part of my life and what I do and although I will start again in a very de-conditioned state, without a doubt, I will run well again.  It is not something I will ever give up willingly and something I find worth doing as long as God wills me healthy enough to do it.

It is through running that life's burdens are eased a bit.  Just this year alone, three of my running friends suffered difficult losses.  All three were cancer.  Two were sudden and quick and one was a nine year battle.  On some of the most difficult days for Jen, Greg and Suttan, they showed up to run with the group or with someone.  They did not show up because they were training or because they didn't want to miss a workout.  They did not show up to be at the top of the Garmin Leader board (where we are connected and see each others workouts and mileage).  They showed up to have their heavy hearts lightened through encouragement and listening ears. They showed up to be reassured that they and their loved ones were being lifted up in prayer.   And they showed up for each other… to be a friend in the midst of their own rough stuff.  That's how it is with running.  We go through life carrying loads, or crosses as I see them.  Some are light, some are heavy, but we all carry them.   No one has a problem free life.  Running eases that weight, if only for 30 minutes or an hour or 3 hours.  It provides an escape and an outlet.  There is seldom a group run that laughter isn't part of.  I never have a solo run that prayer isn't part of.  Either way, I always come home feeling lighter and better equipped to handle what the day brings.  I know they do too.

As my wonderful friends get ready for their big races (Suttan and Sarah, Air Force Marathon, Kim, Air Force half marathon, Jen, Berlin Marathon (yes, GERMANY), Erin and Greg, Ironman Louisville), I can only say I have nothing but respect and admiration for what they have trained through… work, kids, illness and death.  May the only thing they carry on race day be the combination of a strong mental edge and pure joy in their hearts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What I Want My Kids to Know About Depression and Suicide

I imagine the title of this post throws a big curve in what was expected.  After all, I haven't posted since November 14th, the week before the JFK 50.  The post I was working on for the race got put into "drafts" and now seems dumb to post.  In a nutshell, the race went very well.  Sondra and I finished in our goal time with 10 minutes to spare and her calf was a non issue during the race.  It really was a terrific event and a great way to start my training sabbatical.  I have had a couple of months of downtime, running occasionally, with no huge training goal in sight.  My timing could not be more perfect either.  The season of my life that has arrived is one that requires my fullest attention right here at home.  When I am training for a race, that piece of my brain is not available for my family.  In other words, right now, life requires all hands on deck, particularly in the raising of teenagers.

What has driven me to sit and purge my thoughts and my experience is the recent suicide of a young man in my son, Will's, class.  This hits close to home for a few reasons:  first, the boy is 16 and a sophomore.  I have a 16 year old sophomore.  Secondly, I have lived this with my husband nearly 20 years ago, when his 20 year old brother took his own life.  Third, and this affects me least of all but affects Will to a degree, the young man was Will's chemistry lab partner.  He was someone my son came in contact with and worked with daily, though they didn't hang out socially.  There is sure to be a void in that classroom for Will.  A stark reality he will face in chemistry… a classmate that no longer exists in the physical sense.  How in the world does a man-child process this type of thing?  I have no idea.  I'm a rookie at raising 16 year old boys.

I never physically laid eyes on Grant.  I heard Will talk about him a few times, always in the context of school and class, never in a mean way.  But you don't have to know someone to feel the effects of his or her death.  All I have to do is think of his parents, his siblings, his family.  All I have to do is remember the ripple effect the devastation of my young brother-in-law's death and how it still touches the family today.  All I have to do is think that this could happen in my very own home to one of my children and it's enough to send surges of fear and grief throughout my whole body.  On Thursday, I will accompany my son to Grant's visitation and I will stare at a 16 year old boy in a casket while standing next to MY 16 year old boy.  I will greet his mom and dad and I will be at a loss for words.  They fail me thinking about it.  I hope I don't hear whispers of how good he looks, when the truth is that no16 year old child looks good in a casket.

I have thought of little else since I got news of this.  I have said a few things to Will, who is very typical in his responses for his age.  He's private about his feelings.  That's the thing that sucks about boys.  At least with my daughters, there is no guesswork involved in what they are feeling.  Sometimes it is over the top.  I'll take it over the quiet thinker, the one who buries things deeply.   How do you reach that kid so that if there is ever a desperate moment in his life, something you said can be recalled and be helpful, if not lifesaving?  That is the million dollar question.  But one thing is for certain.  Suicide and all its ugliness and all it encompasses MUST be discussed in my home with all of my children.  It has affected our family and now has creeped into the surrounding world of my eldest.   And I plan to sit them down and talk about it with all of them, ages 8-16.

And this is what I want to say:

Dad and I want you to know how much we love you.  We want you to know that each one of you holds a place in our hearts untouchable to anyone else.  We want to talk about what happened to Grant and to Uncle Jay and what happens to many other desperate young people who feel that life is not worth living.  Depression is the root cause of many suicides.  Unfortunately, depression has a stigma and therefore, many people bury their hurt and don't tell anyone and don't feel like they can.  It makes me very angry that a biochemical disorder would have a stigma attached.  Depressed people cannot help that they suffer from depression any more than the person with cancer can help that they have cancer.  There are things that can help, from therapy to medications and many things in between.  Depression is not a character flaw.  If it were, there would not be a medication to help with it, just like there is not a medication to help someone's tendency to be an asshole (maybe I won't use that word…), a character flaw.

We want you to know that if you EVER feel like you may be suffering from depression, which you may not even recognize as such, or if you ever feel like you are walking around sad all the time, or like no one cares about you and that life is just too hard and not really worth it, you come to us.  We are your parents and we will NEVER attach a stigma to that kind of emotion and we will NEVER judge you or think you are weak.  You will never be told to "get over it" or "suck it up".  You will never hear those words from us.  Our job as your parents is to walk with you through pain and hardship and get you what you need to ease it.  In fact, the bravest, boldest, most courageous thing you can do is tell us, or someone who you think can help you.  Tell a friend, tell a teacher.  Just please, I beg you, tell someone.  Likewise, if a friend or one of your siblings or someone you know ever comes to you and confides in you, PLEASE tell them you care.  Encourage them to talk to their parents or to a teacher.  Listen to them and hear what they are saying and try to grasp their pain or struggle.  And if you are afraid they won't tell anyone, then you tell someone for them.  You could be saving a life.  I wonder that if Grant had ever looked at anyone and confided in them his struggle, if he may have been able to be helped.  Be a friend and NEVER laugh or make fun of someone who is suffering emotionally.  Never laugh or make fun of anyone… period.  Growing up is hard and kids make it really hard on one another.  Fitting in is the most important thing in the world and to think you don't fit in or that no one likes you is devastating.  To a person prone to depression, it could be life-threathening.  And you may never know because people hide things through smiles very easily.  Even when they are deep in pain. To my knowledge, Grant was not the victim of being made fun of or anything like that.  In fact, I believe he was well-liked by his peers… a very outwardly positive person.  You just never know, therefore ALWAYS choose kindness.

You are loved beyond comprehension, not just by us, but by your grandparents, aunts, uncles and tons of cousins.  You life matters immeasurably and this family cannot imagine not having you in it, or not having the generations that will follow because you exist.  Suicide devastates families and generations to come.  It alters the plans God has for a person's life.  It crushes parents and siblings beyond words.  The beautiful thing is, THERE IS HELP and at all costs, we will get it for you should any of you ever need it.

Those are the words I want my children to hear.  If you are the parent of a child who frequently tells your sad, depressed child to get over it or suck it up, shame on you (sad and whiny are two totally separate things.  Whiny is most definitely annoying).  Shame on the stigma you attach to what may be a debilitating disease on your child's part.  You are what makes it hard for society to freely talk about this struggle that is more common than you may know.  I am the last person to tell anyone how to parent.  But this subject makes me crazy mad.  Yes, we still live in a macho world, where boys are permitted only "appropriate" emotion.  The irony of this is that boys, or at least my boys and many of my friends' boys, are very sensitive and really internalize things.  My boys are far more "fragile" than my girls, who yell and scream and then get over it.  But even they have picked up on what is allowed and not allowed in a "boy's world".  Now Will may kill me for this, but many years ago, we were watching a Spongebob episode called "Where's Gary?"  Gary the snail had run away and Spongebob was sick over it.  He searched high and low for that little snail and coupled with the sad music and Spongebob's heartache, it was more than Will could handle.  I looked over and tears were spilling out of that little boy's eyes.  He was really embarrassed that I saw him and got defensive.  But I told him it was ok to feel sad… that he was so kind to have felt Spongebob's pain.  Talk about a sensitive and empathetic person!  And don't make fun of him… he was like 6 or 7.

I was at a doctor's appointment yesterday.  My doctor's son goes to the same school as Will and we were talking about the tragedy.  Without hesitation, he told me his eldest son, a junior in college,  suffered from depression and confided in he and his wife, who got him some help.  With the help of medication, his son is doing exceptionally well.   It made a huge difference.  I wanted to hug him for telling me this information as plain as day, with nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.  Then again, as a physician, he understands disease pathophysiology so why would he be ashamed or embarrassed?   If his son is sensitive about who knows this information, well he was sensitive to that fact too as he knows I do not know his son or would I know him if I bumped into him on the street.

This is what I want my kids to know about depression and suicide.

Praying for God's healing comfort for all the families in pain from suicide's devastation, especially the most recent ones.

Friday, November 14, 2014

One Week

One week from tomorrow is THE race.  I've checked both and Accuweather and they are pretty in sync with their forecasts.  Looks like we have a chance of rain (40-50%) and roughly 45 degrees as the high.  I can live with that, especially because the week looks relatively dry, which will be HUGE for the trail portion of the race.  It is also nice that the trail segment is first and won't have all day to get soggy and muddy before we run on it.  I will take it!

I guess I'm tapering.  After tomorrow's run, weekly mileage will be at 28 miles (two weeks in a row of getting my spot near the top taken on Garmin Connect weekly mileage… UGH!).   Next week, I'll do 2 or three very short easy runs to keep the legs loose and just stay generally active without overtiring my legs.  There is a fine line between overdoing it and turning into a slug where I've had so much rest, things don't want to get moving on race day.  That's not good.  So I try to find the happy medium.  Meanwhile, Sondra is resting and trying to keep her shin splints (developed late in training) in check.  She's been really smart this week and I imagine will be next week too.  I do keep telling her that training is done and there is no benefit to be had by pushing on that leg.  At this point, all either of us can do is screw it up!

I am expecting a good race.  I am not nervous, although usually race expos can change that.  I don't think my goal is overly aggressive and think that strategy will have more to do with reaching it than anything else.  Fifty miles is a long way to go and to reach the goal that I know I am physically capable of, I need to plan how to execute each portion of the race.  Of course I will plan on wiggle room since I don't know at which point in the race I will encounter some rough patches (inevitable in a 50 miler.  Not an "if", but a "when").  The last time I ran JFK is was around mile 34.  I remember Jack telling me that the 30s are the toughest miles.  You aren't quite close to being done, but you're now running much further than any of your training runs.  You're body rebels a bit and you just have to plow through it.  Having that insider knowledge was huge when I hit that point because the unknown can be scary and make me think I can't.  That was when I discovered the beauty of electrolyte tablets in an ultra marathon.  I got to the point where food was unappealing, Gatorade tasted bad and it was hard to eat so much.  The E-tabs were great to get all I was losing replaced and ease up some of the odd leg cramping I was having.

Maria is my crew.  John is staying home since Emma has to take the HSPT for high school.  I wanted her to be in her own bed and have a good breakfast before she goes.   I love my in-laws and all, but they are indeed, grandparents.  If the girl requests straight sugar for breakfast, then straight sugar it is!  And my girl would.  So I'd like her to have brain food and something conducive to focus and concentration and not give her that inevitable crash midway through.  She's top of my prayer list until noon while I run.  I think that is when the test ends.

John will get to track the race through the really cool "Live Tracker" capability that Garmin has.  I registered him by email and as soon as I start my Garmin when Live Tracker is initiated, he will get an email invitation to "View Kate Rewwer's live activity".  I practiced it a couple of times and he was able to track some runs of mine.  He said it updates about every minute so he will really get to see exactly how I'm doing and where I am on the course.  It'll give him an average pace, which of course will vary dramatically from trail to road.  The other nice thing is that he won't drive Maria crazy with texts questioning how it's going.  The only issue will be if my battery dies before the race is over.  Tracking will stop and he will have to wait it out.  The last time I ran JFK, I got to mile 41 and the battery died.  I don't know how long my battery life is, but if it is only 8 hours, it will die before I finish.  My goal is a sub 10 hour race.  Greg and Sarah have also been added and I won't add anyone unless they WANT to track it.  I don't want to assume that people want to sit at their computers and watch a slow blue dot crawl all day long.  Me?  I kind of like that sort of thing.  With a 50 miler, you can actually do a lot and then come back and be sure that the blue dot hasn't gotten very far and know you have not missed much :)  So mom, let me know if you want to track me!   Oh yes, and I won't be adding people I don't know, creepy, weird people, murderers, kidnappers, etc…

I've done the calculating, of course, and my average pace needs to be below 11:57 overall.  Now that sounds way doable, right?  Well of course you have to add in the trail portion, the aid station stops for fuel and shoe changes, bathroom stops (which are a few during 50 miles where you are eating and drinking a lot) and average all that in.  I also have to consider those "rough patches" where I only may be able to walk for a bit until my legs come around.  So run pace isn't that generous for the distance with all that factored in.  Nevertheless, I'm feeling ready for it.

Finally, if you are the praying type, please offer up a prayer or two for my brother, Joe (the one doing Burning River next summer).  He has been incapacitated this week due to a compressed disc.  He was found on exam to have an old fracture in his back (WHOA!) and is currently flat on his back on Flexerall and Vicodin.  From what I understand, he should really be back to normal soon.  I don't know what it will do to his current base building for BR.  He's been doing really well and been very consistent with his running and has been keeping me updated.  He has some army buddies who have agreed to crew and pace for him, making this very real for him.  His plan is to get some longer walks in when he is back on his feet and I know he has PLENTY of time still to be ready, even with this setback.  BUT… prayers always make things better.  That's a fact.

See you after the race!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

I will not wear a watch in the next marathon I decide to race.  I will also likely never run with a pace group.

Yesterday I ran the Monumental marathon as a "training run" (and a hopeful Boston qualifier) for JFK 50.  I did not get my BQ time goal, but it was a great run.  The weather, minus a few miles of a headwind, was really perfect for marathon running.  I like cold weather running the best and this was the coldest it has been so far this fall.  Greg also ran the full marathon and Suttan ran the half.  It was nice to have company to hang out with prior to the start.  The very gracious staff of the Indianapolis Westin hotel allowed runners to take over their lobby and use their bathrooms prior to the start.  The starting line was right outside the hotel, so no freezing and shivering for 15-20 minutes in line at the start.  It was great!

I decided a while ago not to wear my Garmin, but as I got dressed that morning, I decided I could not forgo the watch.  I mean, how would I review my splits afterward?  How would I obsess over good miles vs. bad?  How would my friends in my GarminConnect group do the same over my run (HAHAHA… you all KNOW it's true!)?  So I put it on.  Literally 5 minutes before the start I felt the nerves as I powered up my satellite.  And then I got this feeling that was overwhelming.  I would not wear it.  Period.  I took it off, powered it off and zipped it into the back pocket of my running tights.  Not quite sure where that overwhelming absolute sense of "PUT IT AWAY AND FORGET ABOUT IT" came from, but it was the best decision I have ever made in regard to racing a marathon.  I would run this race based on how I was feeling and I would not let my splits begin to freak me out or mess with my head.  This, after all, wasn't my race.  I actually had to keep saying that out loud to remind myself of it.  My plan was to start with the 3:50 pace group since on the website a few mornings earlier, there was no 3:45 pacer.  I would start out a few seconds behind pace and then begin to take seconds off after mile 5 or 6.  I have never done that before in a race.  Usually race nerves and a poor sense of pacing have me starting out a bit faster than one should for a race that long.  Greg and I lined up together.  I guess tiny Suttan got lost in the crowd of giant people (compared to her :).  I then spotted the guy holding the 3:50 sign and right behind him, someone holding 3:45!!  Surely that was a sign from God that this would be the day.  I was certain he fell from Heaven just a few minutes prior.  Well maybe he did and then needed to be quickly reassigned when he was only halfway through the job, because our lovely 3:45 pacer DROPPED from the race just after mile 14!!!

Here is how it went down… I settled into a nice pace after mile 1 as I let the 3:45 pace group catch up.  I had crossed the mat maybe 30 seconds before they did and figured I could pull ahead at mile 24 or so (HAAA!).  As always, it was taking my body some time to warm up.  In other words, I didn't feel my best, but I refused to let it rattle me.  For every complaint that popped up, I pushed it away, knowing I would feel better once a few miles were behind me.  I do the same thing on my Wednesday speed runs… start out thinking there is no way I will be able to hang at pace that day, but always do just fine.  So all those reminders were really helping keep my head in check.  Sure enough at around the 10k mark or even mile 7, I was feeling quite comfortable and at ease.  The wind was at our backs at that point.  I knew all the prayers that I had said and that my friends had and were saying (thank you, Sarah!) were absolutely making a difference.  I was running along with the pace team, really feeling good and confident.  This was the such a new and delightful marathon "racing" experience for me.  The knowledge that it was a training run was huge.  It kept me super relaxed.  I had no fear or worry of disappointing anyone and really felt this run belonged just to me.  I had no watch to look at a million times that would trip me up if I saw a number too fast or too slow.  I just figured I'd let this guy do the work and I would tag along.

After we crossed the halfway mat, the pacer said he was going to take off his sweatshirt.  Another girl running with the group and I continued on.  I figured she was also pacing the group since she seemed to converse with the pacer for much of the first half and also stayed right beside him.  I told her I'd stick to her like glue and she replied, "Well I'm relying on him!", and pointed behind us to the pacer.  She then told me she was trying to qualify for Boston with a 3:45 and had really trained hard and had missed it by 5 minutes in her last marathon.  I'm told her that I knew a thing or two about that and we began to talk about racing and all that fun stuff.  The other factor not mentioned is that she also did not have on a Garmin… just a watch with time.  We kept running, but she soon began to worry we were running too fast since the pacer seemed so far back.  She did NOT want to get too far ahead at this point and wanted to pace very carefully.  Smart girl.  We even commented that we both felt awesome at the pace we were running… it seemed almost slow!  But we knew we had to let the pacer catch up so we walked, yes, WALKED up a small incline.  We soon discovered when we looked back that he was GONE.  We knew he did not pass us and we knew he was not behind us.  We also did not realize how far behind we were at that point.  This was a very good thing for me.  I had no clue I was nearly 10 seconds off overall pace at that point.  I wasn't paying attention to the time clocks at all since that would require some mental math and figuring out stuff.  Well no wonder I felt pretty good!  I had slowed just enough to fool me into thinking I was more than ready to nail my time and that it might actually be easy.

I crossed the 30k mat pretty sure I was still on pace.  It was not until after the race that John told me my split at the 30k was an 8:46.  For me, however, it wouldn't have mattered if it were an 8:36 or an 8:46 at that point.  At mile 21, the infamous wall jumped in front of me.  It was the dramatic and immediate feeling that I was out of gas and out of fuel… glycogen depleted.  This didn't rattle me either, though.  Running this race at the pace I did was a bargain without the traditional 3 day carb load.  I discovered that it matters a lot for me.  Since running a mid 8 pace for that long truly is a race for me, I was using up my stores faster than I could replace them.  I did one 26.2 mile training run at a slower pace several weeks ago and I never got depleted.  Sore and achy, of course!  But not glycogen depleted, therefore despite the annoying discomfort of running that far, I could hang on to my pace.  This time, I couldn't.  I definitely tried to run hard through the crash, but I couldn't run hard.  I probably dropped a minute off my pace per mile from that point on.  It wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't as horrible as it normally is for me because I was still very happy.  I know this is part of marathoning.  I know it isn't recommended to run back to back 20 milers two weeks out or do a 10 mile tempo run 1 week out.  I also know a 3 day carb load is recommended and although I did rest a lot this past week, sleep was not a luxury.  So I was so ok with it all and still gave it my physical all to the very end.  Even without our fearless pacer dropping out, I would not have hit a 3:45.

I am not so sure about my friend though.  When she discovered we were way off pace and when the 3:50 pacer passed us, she absolutely crumbled.  Her mental state crashed and her body followed.  I never saw her again after mile 21.  I felt horrible for her.  I knew exactly how she felt but I also knew nothing I said to her would matter at that moment.  So I just shut up and ran on.  But not before I told her marathons are a dime a dozen and she would get her time.  Although she was angry at the pacer, I felt it best not to mention that the pacer is not responsible for a runner's racing success.  You are bargaining that the pacer, who is human, WILL have a good day.  Well the marathon is a fickle bitch, as my husband likes to say.  No one is immune from a bad race day.  Not even a pacer.  So every racer has to have a back up plan to run his own race when a pacer has a bad day.

I crossed the mat in 3:54:45… 10 minutes off my goal time.  Suttan was waiting at the finish for me after running an awesome half.  Greg was on target to cross soon and came in at 4:04:04… an incredible PR for him.  The cool thing is that he didn't train specifically for a marathon.  He ran one 20 miler with me 2 weeks ago and much of his racing success yesterday has to do with his half ironman training, which he built an awesome aerobic engine by cycling mixed with running.  He also expected nothing from himself, which helped tremendously.

Yesterday's race was a huge victory for me.  I have never raced a marathon feeling that strong mentally, especially when I've fallen off pace.  I did keep it a race and did plow hard through the final miles, though it wasn't enough.  I think that is why I cannot fathom running my second back to back today.  I am so sore and my right knee is bothering me.  With my real race only 3 weeks away, I can only screw things up by too much at this point.  It is a shame to miss the Mason half on such a gorgeous morning, but I know it is for the best.  When my alarm went off and I tried to go down my steps and needed the banister this morning, I knew it wouldn't be wise to even attempt it.  It has been a long time since that has happened after a long "training run".  I need to recover a bit.

I'd like to thank all those who sent up prayers for a good race for me.  On all saints day, there was certainly a whole host of heavenly saints keeping me mentally on target, no doubt in preparation for the next time I train for that goal.  You know, the one I have said many times over I am not doing anymore?  Yeah, that one.  I ran the best I was able yesterday, no doubt about that.  For that, I am really, REALLY grateful and happy for that awesome training run.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The double life of a runner and mom

Happy almost Halloween to everyone!  I both dread and look forward to the mounds of candy my kids will be collecting and trying to hide from me.  I am counting on an abundance of Twix, 100 grands, Almond Joys and Snickers to keep me fueled until the big race on November 22nd.  I am referring, of course, to the JFK 50 mile race in Maryland that I will be running with Sondra.

Training has been really, really good.  I can hardly believe the race is just about three weeks away.  As part of my training, I am running the Indianapolis Marathon on Saturday and running the Mason half marathon on Sunday.  These back to back long runs are supposed to be nice and slow and easy.  But I plan to make Monumental a hard training run.  I think my body can take the pace and much as I told myself I would not really taper, I really have this week.  By hard training run pace, I mean around an 8:35 avg.  Or more like an 8:25 since everyone knows marathons are never really 26.2, but much, MUCH farther (at least after running that long it seems like one step past the 26.2 is running forever!).  The one thing I haven't really done this week is carb load as recommended.  I have my reasons.  Once I carb load, it mentally becomes a RACE.  It is now an attempt at a BQ and not just a hard training run.  If you've followed this blog, you really know that doesn't work for me.  I know it doesn't make sense.  I know it isn't logical.  But again, I can't change that part of my mind anymore than I can change my eye color.  If it is a workout…and a hard one at that… I may be able to pull off that pace for that distance.  I also have to understand not carb loading could ultimately be my downfall. It is a risk I'm willing to take given the number of times I've carb loaded and fallen short.  Don't get me wrong… I don't think I can run on empty.  I'm eating carbs and will absolutely have a hearty, carbohydrate laden breakfast on Saturday, I'm just not doing the traditional make yourself sick type of carb loading.  This is going to drive my running friends nuts since Suttan told me, she'd really like this off her back…or in other words, "Get you damn BQ already so we can stop hearing about it!!!"  Ok, no she didn't say that.  But it was funny how she worded it in regard to this particular marathon.  I know that they would all like to see me achieve this long time goal.  They are super sweet like that.  I do, however, have to remind them (and myself) that this race is not my goal.   My goal was, and still is, a PR in the 50 mile distance.  Some years magical things happen and everything clicks and every race is wonderful.  Some years everything is bad, injury happens and/or all races are bad ones.  I have had an injury free and pretty strong training cycle.  I feel good and am hopeful Saturday will be a good day.  But if it isn't, that is very ok and there will be no upset or tears (maybe from Suttan, but not from me :).  I still get a medal and I still get one heck of a nice long training run in.  My race has still yet to come and that is where I am determined to stay focused (as I sit here antsy and semi-tapered from lack of running this week…).

My non-running life has been quite a ride.  If it were not for the loving arms of God, I'm telling you, I'd be in a corner sucking my thumb and rocking.  We moved at the beginning of October and our other house is on the market.  This alone makes for some busy days of trying to settle in our new house and trying to maintain the other one to sell.  My mind is so cluttered with tasks that, well, I forgot to pay the water bill at our "old" house and when I went over there to spruce up the other day, I discovered the water had actually been shut off.  Oh shit!  So down I go to pay the utility bill and request my water be turned back on.  Of course, there is a line behind me and I get those sympathetic looks of "Sure, lady… whatever…" as I explain that I really just did forget.  Always a fun and embarrassing way to start the day.

What has really occupied head space over the last couple of weeks, is my sweet 11 year old, Jack.  Well over a year ago, I wrote about Jack, who has ADHD.  I think I discussed how we were trying to go the wall keeping him unmedicated and making changes in his diet as well as putting him through an intense program geared to help him (and us) be successful with attention and focus.  Let me tell you… we have hit the wall, plowed through it, climbed over it and have discovered that Jack's attention deficit is not only severe, but he also has a significant learning disability.

Before I go on, I realize that to some, I may be violating Jack's privacy.  First of all, if you know Jack, he is so good with it, very honest and frank about his struggles and very ok with who he is.  Secondly, to me, this is no different than revealing Jack had a physical disease like cancer (thank God he is very healthy).  A learning disability is a biological disorder, not a character weakness and there is nothing to be embarrassed about when your child is struggling.  I say make some noise and enlist as much help as you can.  This is how God created Jack's brain.  God doesn't make mistakes… never, ever.  This is a lesson I am learning and has put me on my knees more in past two weeks than I can ever remember.

In the past two years, I have prayed often for school to become "easy" for him.  It has not.  Instead, it has become more challenging every year.  When Jack would have a test, I'd go to the adoration chapel, kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and pray for a good grade, or at the very least, his BEST.  Often times his best that day was a D… minus.  So I'd say, "Maybe you misunderstood my request this morning, Lord.  But he is much smarter than a D-."  And so it went, over and over and over.  I knew that although I did not quite understand what God's purpose in all this was, I held on to the knowledge that there is purpose in every struggle we have.  What I did neglect is what has become so evident, so overwhelmingly glorious this past week.

God heard every prayer and saw every tear I quietly and not so quietly shed for my boy.  In his infinite mercy, he has protected Jack's emotional and psychological being.  Jack had a psychological evaluation with all of his testing.  It was concluded that Jack is a happy child with an average self esteem.  Jack gets along with everyone.  He is loving and playful.  He loves the bullied and the bullies alike (in fact, he is oblivious to any kind of friction amongst the kids in his class).  He never complains about his teachers, though I have… very often and sometimes not so fairly.  He rolls with the changes, despite the day to day challenge of sitting for 6-7 hours in a traditional classroom and struggling to understand for YEARS and despite being in a classroom full of pretty smart kids who like to compare grades.  In the critical years of adolescence, the ones where fitting in and not being different are so very, very important to kids, the ones that drained and are draining my two older kids and their mom, Jack is HAPPY!  This is the work of a loving God answering the prayers of a mother.  As I sat in quiet prayer this morning, I felt this is what God was saying to me.  He let me know he heard me and he did answer.  Perhaps not in the way I had asked, but maybe even better. God has most certainly given Jack challenges.  But I am certain God knows these things will strengthen him and make him a better person.  It is John and my responsibly to find the right help and guide him so that he can succeed at this.  But God has also protected this child's self confidence and emotional well being as evidenced by what a happy and easy going kid he is.

We continue to walk an unknown road in our quest to help him succeed academically (isn't all of life an unknown road?).  There are some pretty intimidating decisions to be made and I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't extremely anxious over all of it.  I equate this feeling to spinning headfirst, eyes closed into the unknown.  It is very unsettling… UNTIL I remember WHO will catch me, who will protect me and who will guide me (and John, though he seems to have an innate sense that things will be good.  God perhaps?).

And then I am certain that Jack will be just fine.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


This post is for my brother, Joe, who needs something to read.  Or some "inspiration", as he puts it.  He is beginning the wild journey of ultra marathon training and is going for the big one out of the gate.  He has set his sights on running the Burning River 100 in 2015.  He's kind of starting at ground zero.  In fact, I think he's starting underground.  Yikes!  Actually, to his credit, he isn't starting, he did that over a month ago.  He's continuing and I believe he is absolutely going to pull it off.

First, however, he has to stop smoking.  Seriously, Joe.  Exactly how much do you think your poor lungs can take when you are asking so much of them and then pouring poison into them simultaneously?  If you want your body to perform, you have to take care of it.  It can only do so much. And it can do A-MAZING things, but only with consistent and constant care.  You are a smart man.  You know that.  So quit it already.  If you already quit, that's awesome and sorry for the public thrashing.  Also, no more McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Skyline, etc…  Well, occasionally is fine, but not all the time.  And Mt. Dew, if you are still drinking that nastiness… yuck.  You can have it during the race, but knock it off from now until then.  Instead, eat well, brother.  LOTS of omega 3s because they help a lot with inflammation of all those soft tissues that take a beating during training, which will be an absolute with all those impending back to back long runs.  If you don't know what foods have them, here are a few… eggs, flax seeds, walnuts, pasteur raised meats (grass fed stuff), beans (especially kidney!), salmon.   And the list goes on.  You can now even buy omega 3 enriched organic milk.  And don't say it's too expensive if you are still smoking.  Don't even do that with me.  So there is a crash course in running nutrition.  A basic stripped down version, as there is an overwhelming amount of information out there.  This WILL be a big factor in your success or failure at attempting this.  Make no mistake, what you eat matters!

Now, back to this post.  The title is actually the title of a song that Joe sent me a couple of weeks ago.  It's on his running playlist and it is normally not my style of music, but it's really a good song with a catchy tune.  But it's the message that Pete Townshend, the singer, is trying to get across that has been unbelievably inspirational to me these past few weeks.  So thank you, Joe, for sending it.

Anyone who has ever trained hard to run a race knows the term "dig deep".  It means to search within for a source of strength that can carry us to the finish.  It is especially important to do this toward the end of a race or work out when physical energy seems all but gone.  For some it is the memory of a loved one that provides strength.  There are thousands of reasons people find that mysterious, untapped source at the end of a race or hard training session.  It is very personal and different for each of us.  A very powerful image for me is that of Christ carrying his cross up Calvary Mountain.  If you have seen The Passion, you remember him falling and using every last bit of strength to get up.  His inspiration for continuing on to his death, was us.  His inspiration to get to the top for the finish, was our salvation.  Although no shiny medal or race t-shirt awaited him.  He knew the ultimate prize, which far surpassed any post race chocolate milk and massage.  I have revisited that image countless times in my head during different training cycles and even races (especially Burning River last year) and what a difference it makes!  It slaps me back to the reality of how whatever it is I am doing at the moment pales in comparison.  It gives me strength and cause to continue.

But one doesn't have to be training or racing to have the need to dig deep.  Life in general requires that quite often.  I am training to run the JFK 50 with one of my running group friends.  This will be her first ultra distance event and she is going to be awesome.  I'm not just saying that either.  Seriously, I am beginning to think of all my excuses of why she beat me come race day in November.  Sondra is an incredible runner.  The annoying kind who seems to require no effort when doing 12 mile pace runs.  She has brought me to a new and different level of running fitness… even after all these years of training for marathons and ultras.  This is different.  This has been an awesome combination of a new kind of strength training (tabata… look it up.  Holy cow!), nutrition and running workouts that I both dread and love.  I am probably close to my peak running fitness.  It is wonderful.

It is also absolutely exhausting.  Yes, I choose to do this.  No one is making me.  But DAMN, it's hard. Maybe that is the appeal.  I am also moving and trying to raise kids, two of which are teenagers.  Digging deep has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  I have my two "littles", 8 and 11 year olds, who also need mom in a different way (funny how my "little" kids are not really so little anymore.  I used to think 8 and 11 year olds were big kids… WAHHHH!).  Then there are my 15 and 13 year olds, who are awesome.  They are truly wonderful people who will one day make incredible adults.  At least I keep telling myself that :)  But I'm finding they are stupid.  Teenagers are just stupid and you cannot tell them anything.  They make stupid choices, do stupid things (like make their mom cry and keep her up at night worrying about stuff and forget that she is tired and training a lot and trying to friggin move!).  They are also self centered and darn me for forgetting the world revolves around their schedules.  And before I continue on, I have to stop and say, MOM… I am SOOOO sorry for my once stupid teenage self!

Yes, these days, digging deep has many meanings.  In training, I dig deep to hang for a hard workout or finish up a very long run.  In mothering, I dig deep to find God's voice guiding my words and my actions as they relate to my children.  My own words are not good words.  They are actually cuss words.  So I need God in a way I never have to help me mother these very stupid children and turn them into smart adults.  I need Him to also give me the words to soothe a wounded 13 year old girl, who's confidence and self esteem are shaken from careless and mean words of her peers, also stupid teenagers.  I also need to dig deep to get myself out of my own self-centeredness when it comes to complaining about day to day life.  Complaining about how stressful moving is (how blest we are!), complaining about my kids (how healthy are beautiful they are!), complaining about training exhaustion (how uninjured and running strong I am!).

Yes, God has given me a beautiful, full life.  It's a shame that some days I have to dig deep to thank Him.

Here is the song I am referring to.  I hope you can access it here.  It's never easy to copy and paste from youtube on here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The time has come!

It's been awhile since I've sat down to do this.  I've thought about sitting down to write so often, but one of two things always happens… first, I get interrupted or second, distracted.  It is the second reason that I sit down to write (type) this post.  Here is the nutshell version:

I am so damn tired of living in a distracted and moody state that I have decided to rid myself of any type of social media for good.  Not just temporarily.  Not just for now.  For good.

Now the typical, drawn out, genetically predisposed "Corey" version:

For starters, this is not a "lesson".  I am not writing to voice my arrogance or for neediness for others to agree with me.  I am not writing so people fluff me with complements or learn any sort of life lesson from me.  I am overloaded with articles and blogs like that daily and I've resorted to rolling my eyes.  See what I mean by my nutshell version?  I am writing because it brings me joy.  A joy I have for so long gone without because I'm too busy with things that fill my head with garbage and bust my good moods (BTW, B… your post yesterday was awesome and brought me extreme joy and as always, Aleisa's do too :).

I have been toying with leaving social media (Facebook) for a long time.  I know that it is a big time waster and can be overly addicting for me.  I will acknowledge what my sister pointed out yesterday…it keeps my very large extended family connected in a way we never were before.  I'm closer to my cousins now more than I ever was and I get to see pictures of my growing nieces and nephews often.  There are posts and pictures that make me laugh daily.  I can wish someone a happy birthday and when Nora was alive, I knew when something went wrong by her mother's prayer requests.  I don't watch the news or read the paper so it was through FB that I learned of Pope Francis's family tragedy yesterday and added him, and them, to my prayers today.  These are all wonderful ways to use Facebook and social media in general and why I struggle to come to the decision to exit this virtual world.  Also, I think my kids are damn cute and I think all 400 plus of my "friends" need to see them!

But then there is the dark side of Facebook for ME.

When I look at my attitude about others and life in general, there has been a definite shift over the last 6 years.  Oh it has been subtle, but it is large scale.  I was born an optimistic and happy person.  Ask my parents… I was a delightful and happy child (miserably bad teen) and grew into a generally happy adult.  But when I step back and evaluate a day in my life now, I see a cynical and negative outlook that I can only attribute to adopting from how I see others lives displayed through social media.  It isn't THEIR fault.  It's mine.  Let's face it, people put their best selves forward in public.  And when I KNOW it's fake, it enrages me.  But WHY?  Why the heck should I care what hat someone else decides to wear for the whole world to see?  I don't know.  I really don't.  But I do.

That is not all though.  There are people I like a lot, or I should say did like, before FB.  Now it's all I can do to shake my head and mutter "asshole" when they post their political or religious (or lack their of in this case) views by copying and pasting them on the homepage.  These things are posted as gospel or proof of their point when they come from sources like Huffington Post or Buzzfeed.  So I leave my computer in a rotten mood and pissed off at the poor misguided soul who posted.  And who, by the way, lives across the country and could give a rats ass.  So who loses?  Him?  Nope.  I do and so does my family.  People will say, "Well there is an unfriend button!"  What??  Wait a minute.  No, I am not going to go through my friends list "unfriending" people.  Just the word "unfriend" is wrong and mean.   It is the opposite of how we are supposed to live, right?  If you happen to friend someone who is obscene and rude or extra stupid, just block their posts.  It's quite easy really.  Seriously, I'd have like 10 friends if I "unfriended" everyone who annoyed me.  The exceptions are Pope Francis and Fr. Robert Jack (he's cynical and cracks me up and super spot on) and my Uncle Buzz.  There are a few others too, but I can't remember  (uh, anyone who corners me and asks :)  The rest of y'all?  Annoying.

The bad is outweighing the good in my case and I thank God for the wisdom to help me see this.  Though my faith has grown by leaps and bounds through the years, my soul is (and always will be) in need of some desperate work.  And no doubt, the devil is hard at work in this case and is very sly… making me think I NEED to keep up on current events in the lives of my family (HELLO?? Telephone call, anyone?) and friends.  That is the lure used to keep me chained to social media, which in turn also allows me to also see things that make me angry and unkind or tempt me to make fun of people who are just dumb on Facebook.  God certainly did not create me to be that person.  I no longer want to spend lunches with friends, long runs or precious alone time with my husband talking about the stupidity or what I think is the sad or fake lives of others.  So screw you, Satan.  Game over.

I think I will make it in my new caveman world of simple texts and phone calls.  I will admit that it will be really hard for me to do this as I love to scroll down the FB homepage and take a peek at the lives (real or fake) of others.  And if I have a super cute picture of my kids, I'll text it to one of my sisters to post their GORGEOUS nieces and nephews.

PS… John, totally hitting that grocery store now like I said I was…