St. Paddy’s Day 10K Race

st. paddy's day run 2014

Today, I ran my first race in 17 months.  My last race was the 2012 Portland Marathon.  Yeah.  It’s been awhile.

Closed-off streets and on-ramps made getting to the race start line difficult.  However, we made it in time.  Jonathon pinned on my bib, and with a kiss for luck, I was on my way.

I ran a St. Paddy’s Day 10K in Tacoma.  Me and a bunch of other crazy folks dressed in green, tutus, wigs and sparkles gathered at the start line. Some folks rocked shamrock socks.  Some had jaunty, glittery green tams.  Babies in strollers and dogs on leashes joined us, too.  The overcast day started out dry and in the 40s.

This Irish-themed race encompassed three different runs – a 5k, 10k and a half marathon.  I knew I wanted to do more than a 5k but less than a half marathon.  I opted for the 10k.  I’ve never raced this distance before today, so whatever I would get would be a PR.

I took time to get in line to use the portapotties.  I saw no one I knew.  I chatted up the couple in line behind me, an older guy with a full grizzly white beard and his spouse, a shorter gal with long brown hair sporting glasses and a cane.

“Boy, there are a lot more people here than last year, ” he said.  “This race has really grown.”

Locals.  They knew the scoop.  The man addressed me.

“There’s Super Sonics guy,” he said.  He nodded at a tall guy with a sign saying “Bring ’em back!”.  The Super Sonics used to be Seattle’s professional basketball team.  They relocated to Oklahoma in 2008.  Good luck, buddy. That ship sailed.

“I wonder where Gumby is?” he asked.  I guess there’s a guy who wears a full Gumby costume each year.  Gumby didn’t show today.  Perhaps Pokey fell ill.

The course started out flat, then quickly turned steeply downhill.  I remembered this was an out-and-back race.  That “back” would hurt in the last mile.  We ran along Tacoma’s scenic industrial waterfront.  Big ships and gray water.

I really ran my own race.  I didn’t compete with anyone else.  I didn’t let anyone else’s competitive nature get to me.  I guess it helped that there were no mile markers until the 5k turnaround.  Then after that…nothing until the 10k turnaround.  Long before I reached the turnaround, I spotted a 10k runner going past me on the right.  He flew. His feet had wings. Cheers erupted from the lumbering horde.  Then another, and another came into view.  They looked like they were built for speed.  Their legs churned the damp air and they cruised along.  I thought to myself, Great!  I’m almost to the turnaround, too.

But I wasn’t.  It took me another 15 minutes at least to get there.  I couldn’t see anything past the runners in front of me.  When I finally reached the turnaround, it seemed anticlimactic:  just a few orange cones to run around to get to the opposite side of the street.

Then, a little head of me, I saw my start line friend.  He labored along, a little hunched, ahead of me.  I sped up a little to catch him.  Deep in his music, he didn’t notice me. I gently tapped his arm.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Ain’t dead yet!” he replied.  I had to grin.  Isn’t that the truth?

“How about you?” His voice held genuine concern.  I’d told him I hurt my back and this was my first race since then.

“I’m fine, ” I said.  And it was true.  I felt good.

We figured we should see the 4 mile marker soon.  It loomed up suddenly.  Great!  Just over 2 miles to go.  This race actually came to 6.2 miles, as a 5k is 3.1 miles.  But who’s counting?  I passed my friend and kept going.

Another hill, back up the overpass we floated down.  Then another smaller one.  I had to walk a few of those hills.  But not the whole time.  I paced myself. Then, the last steep hill to the finish.  Brutal!

I could see the finish line.  Hurrah!  I sprinted to it, smiling for the cameras.  Why not?  I didn’t get queasy.  I didn’t trip or bonk.  I made it. I felt good.

Once back home, I stalked the results page until my time posted:  1:03:12, averaging 10:12 minute miles.  I’m happy with that. I came in 22/51 in my age division, 298 out of 547 overall.  So, smack in the middle of my (very large) division  and a little past the middle of the overall 10k racers.  At least I didn’t come in last.  Not that I would have minded.

I found what I hoped to find, a reservoir of confidence in myself.  I thought it had all dried up over the last year. I figured the frustration and pain of a long-standing, persistent injury and not finishing my one and only marathon sapped it.  But it turns out a remnant remained. And I found it.  Thanks be to God.

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Running to Win

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person get the prize?  So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT)

Yesterday morning’s pre-service prayer time focused on this verse.  The man leading the time talked about running the race to win.  He said people who race are in it to win it.  They compete for a prize.  They struggle and strain to beat the other participants.

Hmm.  Has he ever raced?  I mean no disrespect, yet…I never race to win.  I know, toeing the starting line, that I am not the fastest.  I am not the strongest (usually).  I am a short person with short legs.  I do not have a 44″ inseam.

But winning is not the reason I race. Placing is nice; done that a couple of times.  I race for the joy of it.  Being outside, among the trees and with other runners, is such a life analogy.  We’re going the same way.  We’re pushing ourselves to do our best. Trying to avoid puddles, potholes, blisters, stray dogs and any flying bird poop.  There’ s a camaraderie you won’t find in any other solo activity.

If you’re in a long race like a half marathon or a marathon, people crowd the sidelines.  They’re awed at what you can do.  Some have done it themselves and some only dream about running a long distance.  Or maybe they have nightmares about it.  Whatever, they’re there.  They cheer for strangers and have goofy signs that say “Run like you stole it” and “Donuts at the finish”.  Most have family or friends in the race.  They stand there in the cold and rain yelling encouragement.

I also race to improve my own time, to get a PR.  I won’t catch the wiry gal who looks like a long-limbed Russian transplant.  She’s poetry in motion, legs churning purposefully, strides measuring the course easily.  I might even get beaten by the old guy in an ankle brace.  Hey, it’s happened!  I must press on at my pace.  I need to take my thoughts captive and believe it can be done.  I need to drink water when the aid stations turn up!  But just say no to gummy bears.

What I come back to is…did I run well?  Did I do my best?  Did I finish the race?  This Scripture feels more to my liking:  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful (2 Timothy 4:7).

Isn’t that what life is all about?  Life for most of is no 100-yard dash.  We’re in it for the long haul and we can’t see where it ends.  Like running a 5k or longer, we can’t see the finish.  Maybe the finish line is right back where we started and our life will be a series of out-and-backs.  Maybe it will be a gigantic loop.  Maybe it’s a point-to-point race. We simply don’t know where or when our human life-race ends. No matter.  Have we done well?  Did we keep the faith?

The Year 2012 in Review

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

A lot happened this year.

What?  You want details?

Here are a few statistics:

The world did not end on December 21, 2012.  Already, things are looking up.

I worked out 300 times.  Yes, I keep track.  It keeps me accountable.

Zac is a teenager now. He’s also taller than me.

I read the Bible through in a year, along with Zac.  I set it up so we could read it online or on our phones.  YouVersion, though mobile and versatile, has some quirks.  Sometimes it simply won’t load.  Instead of keeping with the day you missed, it automatically goes to the next calendar day.  My chronological plan showed that I had completed the plan…at 88%.  What?!  I went back through, month by month, and discovered at least 2 dozen days I  hadn’t read.  Marvelous.  I had some serious catching up to do.

What did I get out of reading the Bible through this year?  I really saw that what God plans to do, gets done.  It might not fit into our timetable (think of Ezra and the Israelites rebuilding Jerusalem, getting thwarted for years), but it happens. ” His will be done” seemed to be the theme, especially as I read all the catch-up chapters.  It really jumped out at me.

I grew an inch.  Not really.

I ran 895 miles in 2012.  Should I try to squeeze in the last 5 miles to make it an even 900?  Vote now!

It’s funny to think that I ran most of those miles in Washington, but also in Oregon, Michigan and Hawaii.  What a great year for traveling!

Ruby lost 4 teeth.

What I learned from the marathon:  Looking back on my calendar, I post the total mileage of every day I run.  And I can see, up through April of this year, I didn’t run much.  My leg hurt.  I lacked motivation and battled discouragement.  Some weeks, I only ran once.  Training for the marathon motivated me, galvanized me for something greater.  Even then, I can see I still didn’t put in the mileage necessary to finish the marathon.  Sure, I can blame vacations and trips out-of-town.  But in the end, it boils down to the fact that I simply did not run enough.  My leg still hurt.  I never had that mental/spiritual/physical breakthrough you need to believe and achieve the 26.2 mile distance.  In the end, you cannot force that.  It either happens or it doesn’t.  If I attempt it again, I’ll not be so easy on myself and I will make sure I am injury-free before even starting  to train.

One of the great highlights this year was taking the Biblical Foundations of Freedom in Christ class at my sister-in-law’s house.  It changed my life.  I dealt with my old bitterness and unforgiveness, rejection and all of that ilk.  Am I perfect now?  No.  Is there more stuff?  Sure.  But my quality of life is so much better now than it was last year. I am more aware of seeing the best in people, not looking at them through my filter of rejection.  I am not carrying around all that extra emotional baggage.  Hallelujah!

Jonathon’s research topic for his dissertation got approved.

Did I find my happy weight?  Yes.  It’s a bit higher than I originally thought. I have no desire to be super skinny.  I want to be strong and healthy.  I need to fuel my body for success.  I need to eat because I’m hungry, not out of an emotional need.  I forbid myself no food, though I may eat less of it.  Am I at that magical weight all the time?  No.  But I know what to do to get and stay there.

Dear readers, thank you so much for reading this past year.  Your loyalty encourages me.  It’s been a tough one – Jonathon out of work for half of it, bonking at the marathon, the loss of the amazing Nellie Isham – but also rewarding as we keep pressing on in this life.  Relationships with family and friends were strengthened.  We’re becoming more a part of this community and our church.  This is where we belong and we look forward to this great adventure in 2013.  His will be done!

Hung Up on Hamstrings

 

 

Welcome to November!

I realized today that I need to deal with the hamstring injury in my right leg.  I’ve been trying to baby it and stretch it and pray for it and on and on. It’s like a phantom pain.  Sometimes I can locate the exact source.  Other days it’s impossible to pinpoint. It never gets all the way better.  The first couple miles of running will be okay.  Then miles 3-6 will hurt pretty badly.  Then it’s better but my left foot takes a beating.

I read up on it a little.  It could be that maybe I didn’t warm up enough and that’s what strained it.  But since I distinctly remember hurting it after jumping on bubble wrap and falling down, I didn’t think that was it.  You really can’t recapture your childhood.  Trust me.

I mentioned the strain to my kettlebells instructor yesterday and she said those injuries take a long time to heal.  Other people in the class weighed in.  One asked if I’d been to the chiropractor.  Yes, several times.  Another wondered aloud if I ran heavy on my right leg.  Huh?  Not even sure what to say to that…Another asked if I’d done a massage – deep tissue type.  No.  But what a great idea.  One of the gals in the class said her left leg had the same issue from playing soccer.  She would get a massage at the beginning of soccer season and it took care of it.  Hmm.

Today I ran outside, paying close attention to my leg.  Shelton in November is far different from Shelton in July.  I put aside my dislike of getting rained on and headed out.  And, surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad.  Temps hovered in the mid-forties. The trees, formerly gloriously crowned with gold and red leaves, were now stripped bare.  The rain poured down sometimes.  The wind picked up, 20-30 mph gusts, and blew the wet stuff under the visor of my baseball cap.  Drops landed in my eyes.  My feet got wet.  Debris stuck to my legs.  But it was fun!  Maybe, just maybe, I can train outside after all.  I know all my long, early morning (read:  dark) treadmill runs did not help me for the marathon.  And I know this injury has changed my running gait.  I seem to be rolling my right foot a bit and curling my toes inside my shoe.  Hard to analyze too much when you’re in mid-stride, but that’s what I’ve noticed.

Just as a sidenote, is this what Jacob’s hip injury from wrestling the angel was like?  Or maybe Paul’s thorn in the flesh?  If so, arrgh!  I’ve tried meditating on ‘Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me ‘ (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT). And I feel like He has, in so many ways.  Learning to keep running even when it hurts a bit teaches me that pain passes and I can lean on His arms when my human weakness is showing.  A friend of mine pointed out to me that I had several interruptions to my marathon training – Hawaii trip, a funeral and sundry other things.  But I kept at it. Maybe that counts for something after all.

I truly love running long distances. I feel like it clears me out and helps me gain perspective.  I’m not willing to give that up yet.  I want to run for a long, long time.  I want to run long enough to embarrass my children, if that’ s possible.

I’ve got work to do.

The Challenge

I realize I haven’t written much about running lately.  Truth is, all that training and then *not* finishing the marathon was very not fun.  Or not very fun.  Either/or.  Debate the grammar amongst yourselves.

I kinda got disillusioned.  Oh, I still love running.  But it was harder and harder to get up in the morning – especially with no goal attached to training.  And then Daylight Savings Time ended and it was so very dark.  Not to mention rainy.  Lots and lots of rain fell after our summer of sun and dryness.  We seemed to reach the floodwatch stage in our county in a matter of days.

I don’t like to run in the rain. I don’t like to get my feet soggy wet.  I don’t like rain dripping on my face either.  Call me a weenie.  It’s alright.

I did most of my running post-marathon on the treadmill.  It’s okay.  It’s a necessity when I have to squeeze it in before going somewhere else.  But it doesn’t help my right leg and the view doesn’t change much.

I’ve been thinking of staying way scaled back on running for the season.  I want it to get fun again.  I don’t want to push myself so hard because it’s the right thing to do.  I’m not sure when or if I’ll race again.  I don’t have it in me right now, at all.  I want to recapture that joy of running for its own sake.  Meantime, I’m going heavier on the kettlebells.  I imagine my instructor will hold me to it!

I’ve been here before.  I need to regroup and play.  I need to get sweaty for the pure exhilaration.

So, this week Runners World posted a challenge.  They want people to sign up to run at least a one mile every day between now and New Year’s Day.  Hmm…I’m thinking about it.  It sounds – dare I say it? – fun.  It sounds sorta medicinal, too, this way:  Run one mile and call me in the morning.  Could I do it every day?  Would I do it in the rain?  Would I do it on a plane?

Any new challenges in your world?  What will you tackle next?  What’s getting you excited these days?

P.S.  As the year winds down, I haven’t forgotten about my gluten-free week.  It’s coming, promise!

The Importance of Pants

(You want to know where her shirt is?  I dunno. It’s not me, FYI.)

Yesterday, I discovered something.  Pants matter.  Pants are important.

Oho, I know this! you say, being a regular pants-wearer yourself. No, you really don’t.

I packed the special pants for the marathon.  Yep.  I pulled on my black stretchy pants and they seemed fine.  They *were* fine.  Jonathon liked them.  I even wore them forwards. I purchased them specifically for the marathon:  compression pants.  They’re supposed to keep your legs from getting tired as quickly since your muscles don’t get jostled around as much.  I was stoked about that.  I felt like maybe, just maybe, I could fly. I would be Supergirl! Or Superwoman, if that floats your boat.

And I did, for about 12-13 miles.  I cruised along, enjoying the scene. But then the wheels fell off, as you well know.

Turns out I didn’t wear the right pants.  I have 3 (three) pairs of black athletic pants.  Some are shorter, one is longer.  The longest pair has no pocket.  Which totally explains why I couldn’t find a back pocket on the durned pants marathon morning.  It wasn’t there.  Never was!

I put on the real pants yesterday before I went running.  These had ribbing on them, going around the leg.  These felt…different.  Wait a minute!  These are the pants I should’ve worn on October 7!  Not those other poser pants. They’re good and all, but not magical.

Gah.

So now you know.  It was all the fault of the pants. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Marathon Aftermath

I heard from someone today who has run several marathons and couldn’t finish his first one either. He had to quit at mile 18.  Huzzah!  I am not alone. His goal is to run a  marathon in every state.  Amazing.

Feeling physically a bit icky today with a low fever and low energy to match.  The nice weather and my mom’s visit really cheered me, however.  My mom told me I must be an anomaly; nobody else in the family does what I do, exercise-wise. She tried not to imply that I was some sort of freak.

The kids missed us while we were gone.  Ruby drew a darling card with notes for each of us.  She apologized to me for every bad thing she’d ever done on one side of the card.  The other side, to her daddy, she simply said she didn’t  get to see him very much. And so no apologies necessary for him.

Zac brought our luggage in and submitted to hugs from me.  He answered my questions with single-word answers, after which he slouched back to the computer.

Everyone  is doing fine as I slowly start to feel like myself again.  Really wanted to do something physical today but the ol’ bod wasn’t into it.  I feel young on the inside even if my body doesn’t agree. I’m not good at resting, but I’m learning the necessity of it.

Hope my running shoes don’t get lonely.