One week!!

Wow!  It’s almost here!!  I’m solidly in the taper now, having fully embraced it to the extent that I fear I’m getting fat and lazy.  I am being extra cautious about each run, not giving them hard efforts, and babying my legs & knees.  Legs still hurt, but maybe this is just a side effect of turning 50.   Anyway,  physically the taper is helping.  Mentally, not so much.

I’m more than a little antsy, not sleeping well, and when I do sleep I have really strange dreams.  The other night I dreamed that I got to the starting village and the race director wouldn’t let me run because my legs weren’t tan enough.  I woke up in a full sweat thinking I was going to have to go to the tanning bed.  It was a few minutes before I realized it was a dream.  Of course, looking at my pale legs makes me think the dream could have some validity.

Anyway, my thoughts have been unfocused and scattered for the last week, and I seem to be holding on to my last thread of sanity.   I’m keeping it together, but only just.

Remember when we were kids and the Christmas season came upon us?  Remember the excitement, the anticipation, the giddiness that grew in you as the day drew near?  That’s me this week.  I am excited to the point of giddiness.  I have my suitcase packed and ready to ship tomorrow, race gear packed in my carry-on, NYC folder with race registration and expo info, Gary’s map with subway info for race day, flight itinerary, hotel info, and Wicked tickets tucked safely in my computer bag.  Sixth row orchestra Wicked tickets.  Yes, I am definitely excited.

My blog was selected by the New York Road Runners to be a social media reporter for the race, so I’ll be blogging every day while I am there.  Be sure to become a follower and subscribe to the RSS feed so that you can be there with me, if only in spirit.  I mentioned in my last post that this will be a prayer run for me, and I’ve already had several requests for various miles.  If you would like to be included, you can put your prayer and mile request in the comments here, or inbox me on Facebook or Daily mile, or send me an e-mail or text.  I would love to have as many of you with me running next Sunday as possible.

For those of you who have promised to be prayer warriors for me, here are my specific requests.
*Legs to be strong and pain free for the duration of the race.
*Good weather. Mainly no snow or rain, I can live with the cooler temps.
*My stomach content would stay put for the entire length of the race.  TMI, I know, but a sincere request nonetheless.
*I haven’t set a time goal other than to finish, so pray that I will finish strong.  I would like to finish ahead of the sweep bus, but I don’t want to be greedy.  

My sister sent me this scripture reference last week, and I found it most appropriate for this week.  I praise God that He does know my heart and intercedes for me in my weakness.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27

Let’s do this.  


Sunrise, Moonset, and Prayer Runs

I am not a morning person.  Just ask my husband, the obnoxiously happy morning person who bounces around my house each morning.  However, as I have gotten older, I have learned the value of rising early for a variety of reasons.  I have recently realized that never once have I regretted the decision to rise early and run, but I have often regretted the impulse to push the sleep button and get 15 more minutes.

This morning, my man had leave town by 6:30 for work, so we rose at 5 and headed to Starbucks where I fixed his favorite breakfast of oatmeal and Chai tea.  Yes, I’m a good wife like that.   Got to take care of my man.  We finished by 6:15, he headed to work, and I headed back home.  That’s when I got my reward.  As I headed east on the Evelyn Gandy Parkway, the sky became the color of sherbert, strawberry pink near the horizon, a strip of creamy vanilla, then a vast expanse of blueberry rose above it.  Set right in the center of the blueberry was last night’s moon.  Just a sliver at the bottom was illuminated, but enough light from the sun lit the outline, so you could see the entire moon.  But, God wasn’t through yet.  Low hanging clouds began moving toward me and suddenly I was at the center of an IMAX movie.  It was absolutely breathtaking and I laughed out loud.  Then, I thanked Him for the show.  Ever the diligent photographer, I dug around for my camera and tripod, and realized that, of course, it was in the studio, not my car.  No matter.  I have the picture burned on my mind.

Sometimes, God allows us these glimpses of Heaven.  I have been privileged to witness many such moments.  Some were huge (the humpback whale that surfaced 5 feet from me in Kona last year, then slowly drifted away before diving out of sight), some were life changing (watching my husband walk our oldest daughter down the aisle to marry the love of her life), and some have been very simple, like this morning’s sunrise/moonset.  They have all impacted me, though, and made me very aware of the blessings of my life.  I am so humbly grateful.

As I count down the days until the NYC marathon (12), and make my final preparations, I thought I would share one of them with you.  I often pray when I run, in fact, it’s not often that I don’t pray when I run.  One of the greatest joys of my life has been becoming a prayer warrior for my family and friends.  I often get messages or calls from people asking me for prayer in a specific area of their lives because they know that when I say I am going to pray for them, I do.  I have decided to carry a prayer list with me at the marathon, and pray over family and friends at each mile.  That way, it will feel like they are right there with me, sharing the joy and effort of the moment.  If you have a specific prayer request, or would just like me to lift you up as I run on November 6, please let me know.  You may have a certain mile that you would like me to pray (the only mile I have completely reserved already is Mile 22), so claim that mile and tell me what you would like me to pray for.  I would love to have as many different people running with me that day as possible, so don’t be shy.  You can put your request in the comments section here, on Facebook, Daily Mile, or send me a private message via Facebook, Daily Mile, text, or e-mail.  I’ll be making the list over the next week.

I thought the following verse was appropriate this morning.

From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.  Psalm 50:2

Finishing Last

Ask any slow runner what their biggest fear is and you’ll get the same answer 99% of the time:  finishing the race last. No one wants to be the last one to cross the finish line, just a step ahead of the clean up crew.  And yet, someone always is.

Occasionally, when I have told someone (usually not a runner) that I am running the New York City marathon, they have responded with, “Awesome, I hope you win.”  I only laughed the first time someone said that, I’ve become more tactful as it has been repeated more often.  I explain that I am not trying to win this race.  Indeed, the winners will most likely be on their return flights home by the time I finish.  They will certainly be showered, changed, and having their dinner.  My goal is much simpler.  I just want to finish.  Ahead of the sweep bus, if possible, but other than that, just finish.  I do usually laugh at the lack of comprehension on their faces.  They simply can’t imagine training so hard and so long for something that I have no hope of winning.

I ran my first half marathon in January of 2010 in Jackson, MS.  As a lifelong Mississippi native, I know that our January’s are typically cool and mild.  Not so January, 2010.  The race started at 19 degrees and it began snowing about halfway through.  I am not a cold weather girl, and I was miserable.  But, something amazing happened to me that day.  I finished my first half marathon.  My time was laughable, many full marathoners finished before me, but I was hooked.  I knew that this was a journey worth taking.

As a back of the packer, I would like to share a few things I’ve come to realize about finishing last.  I will probably never win a first place medal in a race.  Or, second for that matter.  Well, unless I’m the only one running in my age group.  I love my finisher’s medals and am designing a showcase for them even now.  When I look at them, they make me smile and remember that day, that race.  The feeling of accomplishment that finishing brought.  The fun things I saw along the way, the beauty of many feet taking the same journey as mine, yet running a completely different race.  

It will take me hours to finish the NYC marathon.  More hours than some of you sleep at night.  But, can you think of a better way to see, really see, New York?  I can’t.

I fell in love with New York City many years ago on my very first visit.  I was a runner then, and I would get up really early, while the city was still asleep and it was still dark outside, lace up my shoes and head to Central Park.  I still remember how I felt as I plodded along, looking at places I had seen on TV or in the movies, took in the silent stillness of the park, admired the changing of the leaves, and gasped aloud at the skyline of the city as it rises above the park.  There was no fear, only deep appreciation.  On that same visit, I tried to get my sister to walk from Battery Park back to Manhattan after we had taken our girls to see Ground Zero and the majestic Statue of Liberty.  She made it to Soho, then she demanded we find a subway station.  I can’t wait to run some of that same journey and see New York as it is meant to be seen.

Slow runners really enjoy the journey.  We plan to continue running a long, long time.  Most often we are older runners who have realized that this journey we call life is one to be savored.  Slow sips that linger on the tongue and fill our senses to overflowing.

Now, don’t misunderstand.  Winning races is an art form.  I love to watch fast runners as they push toward their goals.   It’s what music would look like if we could see it.  Amazing.  I just know that I’ll never be one of them, and that’s perfectly fine with me.  I will probably work on my speed next year.  I’m not averse to winning.  But, I’m more intent on experiencing the journey and continuing to run for life.  And for me, that means running slowly.

So, an race day, I’ll begin at the back of the pack and end at the back of the pack.  The good thing about a race this size is that there probably will be finishers behind me.  Whether or not they are, though, no matter.  I’m doing this one for me.

Survive or Thrive?

My heart and mind have been filled with all things NYC lately.  I am so excited that words fail me.  I know – that’s HUGE!  Everything seems to revolve around whether or not it will help me or hurt me at the marathon.  I find myself covering my face when I’m around someone sneezing.  I was already a little on the  weird side when it came to hand washing, now I think I’ve crossed over into full blown obsession .

I saw this on the ING NYC Marathon Facebook page today and felt like it might hit a little close to home for me.  Seems all I eat, sleep, breath, talk about, write about, even dream about is the NYC marathon.  Can you tell this is a big event in my life?  My first marathon, in the city I fell in love with on my very first visit.  I’ll try not to bore you, but I can’t make any promises.

I was listening to the radio today and heard a segment by one of the DJ’s who is a young mother.  She was talking about thriving versus surviving and the chaos that is her life right now with three young children and a full time career.  It made me reflect on my life and whether I am surviving or thriving.  I was already in a reflective mood.  One of my daughter’s high school friends passed away last night, and I was remembering him as the young man I knew as I prayed for his family.  So heartbreaking.  But, it should make us all stop and think.  Are we thriving or surviving?  Are we living life as we were meant to, or are we just treading along, waiting for something to happen?

A couple of years ago, my husband and I sat down and re-evaluated our lives.  Our businesses, our time together, our retirement dreams.  We came to the conclusion that something had to give.  We were surviving, not thriving.  My photography business was keeping me too busy, without enough profit.  Our plans to travel were not coming to fruition, as there was never enough time.  So, we made some decisions.  One of them was that I would cut back at the studio, discontinue weddings, and become more of a partner in our inspection service.  This was easier said than done, but two years down the road, I think I have been successful in readjusting my priorities.  And, I recently noticed a huge difference.  I LOVE photography again!  I didn’t even realize that I had stopped loving it until I came up for air.  I look forward to every session now, and am filled with enthusiasm and joy during each meeting with clients.  My creativity and energy levels are up.  I’m thriving again, not just surviving.

We aren’t promised tomorrow.  We may not even make it through today.  How are you spending your time?  Are you filled with envy over someone else’s life while you fold clothes and wash dirty dishes?  Know that each season of our lives is meant to be lived to the fullest.  There are lessons to be learned every day; some easy, some very, very hard.  Live every moment.  Learn something each day.  We are meant to thrive, not just survive.  That may require you to make some adjustments in your life, some you may not really like.  But, I can tell you from experience that every time I’ve stepped out on faith, God has provided the way.

Running is one of the reasons I’m thriving.  I feel better at 50 than I did at 30, and I don’t think that happened by accident.  Running gives me focus, energy, drive, and creativity.  I look forward to most runs (even the really long ones) because something new happens every time.  I love to run in new places, old places, historic places, woodsy places.  I mostly run alone, but enjoy the occasional run with my man, and recently rediscovered the joy of running with a dog.

I still can’t believe that in 18 days, I will be running one of the most iconic marathons in the world as my very first marathon.  In a city that I love.  Now that’s thriving!

The Last Long Run

Today was my last long training run until NYC.  25.75 miles!  Went out to do 25, but once again, my stellar math skills failed me.  Gary says it’s the Garmins’ fault, so let’s go with that.

If I had to sum up today’s run in one word it would be this: amazing.  After ten months of training, to get to this point and be able to finish almost 26 miles and be upright and smiling is nothing short of miraculous.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was hard, but I’ll get to that later.

The morning started really early at 4:15 am.  I actually got up before the alarm went off.  I had been dreaming about running.  I decided to quit dreaming and just get it done.  I was a little anxious about this one, the last long run I did was supposed to be 23, but ended at 21 due to a very painful right knee.  But, I’ve been babying it and taking it easy the last couple of weeks, so it was time to put it to the test.  It has a race to run in three weeks.

I have to pause here and mention my man.  He also rolled out at 4:15, put on his clothes, loaded up his bike, and met me at the start.  If you have ever run Longleaf Trace in the wee hours, you know how dark it is at 5:15 am.  He knew I was a little nervous about running Jackson Road to the Gateway in the dark by myself, so he rode along beside me and lit the path with his headlight.  He stayed with me the first eight miles, loading back up when dawn lit the horizon.    He forgot his gloves, so his hands froze the entire way.  Lord, I love that man.  None of this would have been possible without him.  He gets uncomfortable when I brag about him, so I’ll stop at that.

The first 8 miles were in the dark, so I didn’t use my Ipod.  The only sounds we heard were the hum of Gary’s bike tires, the steady plop, plop of my feet, and the water swishing around in my camelback.  Time for prayer and thanksgiving.  Pure heaven.

After Gary left, I popped my earbud in and started listening to an audiobook.  I’m afraid my inner nerd is showing, but I love to listen to books when I run.  Over the last ten months, Harry Potter and his gang have run with me in seven deliciously long books, as well as all the maids in “The Help”.  Jay Gasby, Daisy Buchanan, and Nick Carraway ran at the beach with me, and Andy Stanley and the late Adrian Rogers have spoken the Word in my ear on too many runs to count.   Today, though, I just wasn’t into it.  So, after a few miles, I switched to my music playlist.

I’m a very emotional person, and momentous occasions usually bring me to tears.  Happy tears, but tears none the less.  I won’t share all the thoughts and prayers I had on this run, but I don’t mind admitting that on more than one occasion tears ran down my face and my hands were lifted to Heaven.  If you were one of the many cyclists who passed the strange woman in a zebra print skirt, zebra arm warmers and white knee socks with her hands lifted high, I’m sorry if I wigged you out.

I used this run as a race warm-up, wearing the clothes and gear I intend to wear race-day, with a few exceptions.  I’m glad I did, I was able to see the adjustments I need to make.  I walked a 5 minute warm-up, then ran/walked :30/:30’s.  That is my race plan, and I think it’s going to work.

At mile 18, my legs started gently reminding me that they are fifty, after all, and I seem to be asking a lot of them lately.  I ignored and pressed on.  By mile 20, they were screaming obscenities at me and threatening to drown out the uplifting voices of Jonah 33 and Jeremy Riddle, but I dug deep and pressed on.  By mile 21, they were calling me truly awful things, so I walked the last four miles.  They quietened down, but still grumbled among themselves.  They are much happier after an ice bath, two Advil, and a bag of frozen blueberries on my right knee.  Still grouchy, but they seem to be forgiving me somewhat.

In an earlier post, I mentioned some of the lessons this training has taught me and I knew I would be adding to it.  Here are a few more:

…I’ve learned how to eat while running, a skill I thought I would NEVER master.  The trick:  Jelly Bellies and gummies.  I ingest approximately 100 calories every 30 minutes.  Still a little queasy at the end, but much, much better.
…Tape up the toes that blister easily so you won’t lose your toenails.  I know… duh, right?
…I’m finally okay with being slow.  Okay, that’s a lie, but I’m working on it.
…It’s impossible to train for a marathon without a support crew.  I’m humbly thankful for mine.