Our Life As Runners

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Breaking yourself down

Last year I set out on a journey with 11 other people to run across the state of Florida.  I met some amazing people and as you know one of them changed my life.  This year we set out on a completely different journey on that very same path and those people would be there for us in different ways.  This year, we decided to take those 180 miles and conquer them with just 4 people and one fearless driver.  Its Monday and I still can’t wrap my mind around the entire experience and I think it will be some time before I can fully grasp what happened.  No story would be the same on this experience so keep in mind this is just my take on this.

Friday morning at 8am began the first steps into 180miles.  The first 60 miles or so always seem to be the easiest.  You have that can do attitude and everyone is still full of energy, legs are fresh and you are ready to keep moving forward.  It was around nightfall that the things became to unravel.  Somewhere along my 19.27 mile leg I was alone on the levee without my team to cheer me on and it was then that I began to question my own strength.  I had become very nauseated and the pain in my IT band was pulsating.  I kept thinking that if I could just make it to the next set of blinking lights that I would be almost there.  My Garmin became my enemy at that point because it wasn’t clicking off miles as quickly as I wanted it to.  I turned up my music so I didn’t become fixated on the Garmin or the sounds of gators croaking in the distance.  All I recall was Mark and Kara waiting for me in the distance and it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.  The nausea had hit so hard at that point that I just collapsed in Mark’s arms with my eyes full of tears.  I remember apologizing for going so slow on that last mile and for getting sick.  Seems silly to apologize, but you take so much pride in your team and their efforts that you want to go full force for them at every moment.

I wanted so badly to sleep, but at that point it didn’t even matter anymore.  Mark was pounding out the entire levee practically on his own and I knew the levee can shake even the strongest of people.  I am sure he will tell you his take on the whole experience eventually !!!!  We all started to worry about him taking a bit longer to run 20 miles, so seeing his flashing lights in the distance was a huge relief.  Maybe it was that smile that I saw, that gave me the bigger sense of relief.  I knew he was hurting and broken down, so all I could keep saying was “im here and im proud of you!”  It was late, it was cold and holy shit was it windy.  The night would only get more interesting.

At about 330am our former team mates showed up with hot chocolate and support signs.  The screams of encouragement were more than anyone could ever ask for. It was like finally being found on a deserted island.  They had been there before though and they knew exactly what we needed.  At that hour our spirits needed it because at that point every bit of us were at the point of despair.  It’s hard to keep everyone positive at that point in the journey and showing your teammates anything other than positivity can be detrimental.  Amy, Melissa and Mistee gave us the boost we needed at the perfect time.

At this point I was 35.27 miles on my portion.  I got out for my final leg and was shivering uncontrollably.  I was groggy and still nauseated at this point and almost worried I would fall over either from the wind or my body just telling me it was time to wave the white flag.  I ran 9miles and had to exchange a little earlier because at some point we all make a judgement on whether something is going to cause an injury.  I will puke and run anytime, but the pulsing pain in my left leg told me that I still had a 50mile race to train for and run in May. I gave up a few of my miles to mend my leg in the car and the most painful blister on the bottom of my foot, but I would make up that mileage later on when I could get myself together.  We changed our strategy at that point and decided it would be best if we just started exchanging our runners at every exchange point.  Our bodies were too tired at this point to keep pressing on for miles above 10, so it just was a smart move at this point to finish out strong and keep the teams behind us off our heels.   As we pulled over at this point, there was a familiar car behind us who came out to give us hugs of encouragement.  Thank you Sherry for being our next saving grace.  She also knew what we were going through at this point, because she was there too one short year ago.

I got out of the car for 6 more miles and my legs yelled back, but I yelled louder.  I yelled at myself and said just get to the next stop light (we were thankfully back in civilization at this point) or the next street sign.  I only came around the bend to realize I had to run one of the toughest bridges.  I muscled to my team and let them know “I got this!”  One foot in front of the other, I made it to the other side of that beast unscathed.  It was then I heard the honks and screams of two amazing friends who made it out again to support us AGAIN and bring coffee.  Who can ask for more??!!!

At this point we could see the finish line on the other side of the water.  Just little 3 milers left to get there and it seemed so challenging.  From someone who runs 60-70miles a week, this has got to tell you how broken we were at this point.  Mark had the last leg to the finish and the team decided we would run it in together at the last portion.  I decided after all this I would run the last tough bridge alone with Mark.  One mile left!  I got dropped off, while the rest of the team parked and met us.  I saw that yellow shirt coming towards me and a big smile on his face.  I said, “hey you want to finish this race and run this bridge with me?”  Not going to lie, but it was really emotional as we crossed over that bridge together both in a lot of pain.  We saw the blown up FINISH line at the bottom and our team waiting to join hands to cross together.  We screamed all the way to the finish line and as my foot crossed all I could yell was “Holy shit we did it!!!”  28hours 17mins and 41secs later and we had beat the cold, the wind, the pain, the nausea, the trots, the exhaustion, the hunger and the voices of defeat.  I’m proud of being the only team of 4 out there and doing it all in one vehicle and one amazing driver.  We roughed it the whole way and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  We toughed it out despite all odds.  We are champions!!

I’m proud of all my team mates for overcoming their own personal battles and thankful for each foot step they took forward.  It was not about who ran better or who ran harder, it was about finishing it as a team and being there for one another.  Each of them would have their own story, but I know for me it broke me down and built me back up into someone stronger than I was Friday morning.  I’m grateful for my best friend for taking on this adventure with us and being a constant voice of encouragement and positivity.  With this I say….ON TO THE NEXT!!!

s4sfinish

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Running thru the mud

Ive not been good about writing the last couple of weeks and when I looked back at my last post I was disappointed at the the lack of substance in it.  The truth is, life continues to throw curve balls at me and I’m unsure on how to process it all and share it with you.  As readers, I am sure you don’t want to hear about most of it and would rather be inspired by my next adventure.  So, I’m in the search for my own inspiration in order to get myself focused again.  The truth is, Ive just been getting my training runs done and that’s all I can say about them.  I am fortunate enough at this point that I have the drive to lace up every single day, despite the desperate need to go to bed when the girls are down for the night. 

I try to find the inspiration through music, through quotes and through amazing Ultra runners who have conquered way more.  The reality is that no matter how much I engulf myself in stories and lyrics, the choice is mine on whether I allow the negativity around me to win.  So every single day I lace up, its one more sweet victory for me.  You didn’t win this time or last time or tomorrow…I WON!  It doesn’t matter if the run wasn’t life changing and I need to get over the fact that not every run is going to give me that.  I’m getting out there when I feel the most defeated and that alone is a victory in itself. 

4 weeks in…

Seems crazy that we are in week 4 of 16 of Ultra training already.  The new program has provided new challenges both mentally and physically, but I gladly embrace it.  In fact, I don’t recall ever feeling this challenged.  Mentally Ive been able to break through some walls, but feeling new aches and pains have been the biggest battle.  Each new pain scares me and it becomes a battle of taking an extra rest day or not.  How much pain is too much?  WWDD (what would Dean do)?  Dean would run himself into to the ground and has. 

With every stride, Ive told myself that somewhere out there someone is battling a whole lot more or someone is training that much harder.  I think of Zeke and how this little boy has been through so much in just 3 years and he just keeps pressing on.  I think of his family and how they just don’t give up ever.  I think of how far Ive come in the last year.  I think how running has changed me and allowed me to find myself.  I’m a lot tougher than I ever have been and with that alone I take one extra stride.  Every single training day I cross off on the calendar is just one day closer to a new and better me. 

I AM

I am a runner

I wonder if I will be able to get to the light at the end of this ever challenging tunnel

I hear the voices of encouragement but they are overpowered by my own voice of doubt

I see the finish line of personal victory

I want inner peace and so is a life well lived

I am a runner

I pretend that I have all the pieces to fit that puzzle back together

I feel the unconditional love of you and me

I worry all the time and at times unnecessarily

I laugh all the time when I’m with you and at the innocence of my children playing,because in the end I am reminded that life just cant be taken that seriously

I cry when I feel out control

I am a runner

I understand challenges will only make me a stronger person, mother, friend, daughter and girlfriend

I say things more freely now because you gave me that comfort to do so

I dream of standing on my own two feet

I try harder everyday to be positive despite the negative

I hope my love shines through always

I am a runner

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Running into the unknown

Recovering, tapering and tattoo healing have now become the most dreaded words in my world.  There are probably a million things worse in the world, but to me running is the one thing that I have control over.  When everything seems to busting at the seams, running gives me that inner peace.  Mark got us matching hoodies for Christmas and it just so happens that the quote on the back of mine is, “Running is about finding your inner peace, and so is a life well lived.  Run with your heart.” 

Running has allowed me to stop and smell the roses.  I am more aware of the smells in the air (someones laundry drying, freshly cut grass, the smell after the rain), a beautiful sunset, extraordinary thunderstorms, the beauty of a full moon…everything that gets lost in the hustle of everyday life.  All things we are all guilty of taking for granted.  Running gives me that peace, tranquility and strength to handle the next thing that comes my way.  I’m sure now that I may have been born an ultra-marathoner. 

Ultra-marathon is something completely unknown to me, but its the ultimate goal and another way to push the envelope further.  How do you do it ya ask?  Well, I take most of my inspiration from Dean Karnazes, “How to run an ultramarathon ? Puff out your chest, put one foot in front of the other, and don’t stop till you cross the finish line.” I’m not sure what I’m getting myself into, but it will be a learning experience every step of the way.  I’m excited and terrified to train and take on new distances, but most of all I’m excited over the person I will be on the other side of this all.  “Hold me fast cause I’m a hopeless wanderer.” 

Of course running isn’t all glamorous and sometimes while mid way through an arduous training run or race, I do contemplate stopping.  This is where the running with the heart thing comes in.  On November 5,2011, I lost my aunt to ovarian cancer.  It was after this that I changed my whole mind set about struggle in general.  I may not be the best at it lately, but the reminder is most certainly there daily.  I began running for those who couldn’t and eventually I started running for complete strangers whose stories I have come across.  People believed in what I did and that’s when my mini fundraiser “Run With Heart” was born.  The best part of the whole thing was meeting this beautiful little boy and his family that I had heard about months prior and being able to contribute to others in their fight for a cure.

I met the Dutchers in August during their trip to Disney for Make A Wish.  I can not adequately put into words what this experience gave me and I will continue to cherish it for the rest of my life.  The strength of his family and the strength of this child who was fighting for his life, is most certainly the most moving thing you could possible witness.  They shared their story with me from the time little Zeke was diagnosed and while I could see the tears surfacing as they relived those moments, I could also see how much faith, optimism and gratitude they had about everything surrounding them.  While everyone else would be falling a part, it was fascinating to see a family that was finding their way to rebuild.  Its even more amazing how many times Kim has been there for me in my times of struggle.  Thank you Dutchers!!!  You changed my life!  

If you would like to contribute to “Run With Heart,” please visit my sponsors webpage and order a bracelet.  Proceeds benefit causes like TeamZeke, TeamToni.org and Team in Training.  http://www.reelfishdeals.com/addie.html

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Aside

Etching it in Stone (well…my foot)

The idea of getting a tattoo never really interested me.  In fact, I will admit I never really understood why someone would want something on their body FOREVER!! Our interests in life change so quickly, so I never thought something would move me enough to commit to it in that way.  I mean I have 9 piercings and those I can always take out.  In fact, out of all my piercings I only keep my belly ring in these days.

As you all know by now, training for the marathon was a definite bucket list item.  Last year, I completed my first marathon and even then I didn’t think I needed a tattoo to symbolize that accomplishment.  I had the memory and the medal and at the time I figured that was enough.  This year was a lot different though.  Running over the last year was my salvation as it has been in the past, but this year it was even more than that.  As I mentioned in my previous post, there were so many obstacles in the way of me training and I overcame them all no matter how challenging it became.  In fact, I stomped through them all even if it meant taking the girls for a 13 mile training run in the stroller, running in the late night hours or crying through an entire run.  This years experience showed me the strength of the human spirit, even if now I don’t believe it myself at times.

Through my journey this time, I thought that a medal and the memory may not be enough to encompass the entire experience and the importance of the life lesson.  I needed that tattoo!  Who would have thought right?  The tattoo was more than running and it may not seem that way to the people that see it, but it doesn’t matter because I know everything it symbolizes.  I realize that choosing to put it on my foot keeps it hidden most of the time, but in all honesty its for me to see and serve as a reminder.  A reminder when I feel defeated and bruised.

So, whats on my foot?  A Reebok, because it was the very first shoe I trained and ran my first marathon in.  Twentysixpointtwo, because well that is obvious.  BQ, because I managed to surpass all my goals this year and earn a Boston qualification.  Mickey Ears, because it was where I earned my BQ.  That is all the simple stuff, but as you know now it means a whole lot more.  Will I get another one? Well, I guess when I complete my first Ultra Marathon I shall see what that experience gives me.  I am almost certain that one will tear me down and build me back up.  Stay tuned on that journey…January 28th is the first day of Ultra training!!!Image

My life in 39.3

Well, I do apologize for not taking the time this week to update everyone on the Goofy Challenge.  Ive taken the last few days to gather my thoughts and come back to reality.  I think I’m ready now to let everyone in to my life changing experience.

When I started training for the Goofy Challenge months ago, I never even had Boston in my sights.  In fact, last year I told myself that Boston would be a goal when I was 50years old so I could easily attain the 4 hour requirement.  Each day I trained with one goal in mind, just beat your time last year.  I mean in the back of my mind, I had some dreams about crushing some goals but I wanted to remain realistic.  I did not want to live in disappoint of not being able to follow through.  I think everyone else believed in my ability to do something bigger, but I didnt want the pressure in believing something like that would even be possible.  As every month went by the 3:35 Boston requirement began flashing in my head repeatedly.

As weeks went by and training became harder because of my situation at home, it began to add fuel to my fire.  Believe me I had plenty of reasons not to train hard and probably more reasons to quit.  I will not lie when I thought to myself that possibly this route would be a lot easier, but two little girls running to me after a long run asking, “mommy how was your run?” kept me going.  I would not let them see me wave the white flag just because there was a bit of struggle surrounding everyone and everything around me.  Mark made me accountable daily and I made him sign up for this journey with me, so I could not let him down.  On my more challenging days, he was always the one encouraging me to push harder and keep my head in the game.  I am thankful he was with me daily, even if it just was an encouraging text from 2 hours away.

So, after 18months of scheduled training and 3 months of maintenance runs we were finally at the starting line of our biggest challenge to date.  Our OCD prep for this race was no different.  Everything was laid out perfectly the night before and our meals were set.  Rituals you ask? Well, we alternate between complete silence and busting out some serious dance moves.  I remember telling Mark at the start, “please hold back a little and save gas for tomorrow!!!”  He said he would, but I knew deep inside he was completely full of shit. When he gave me one last kiss and we crossed the starting line, he was gone like the speed of light and all I managed to see were Goofy ears bouncing around in the distance.

I told myself I would keep it comfortable and surprisingly I found that pace to be a 7:20.  I worried slightly I went out too fast to kill it on the full the next day, but I figured if I was gonna challenge my mind and body to the max this weekend would have to be that time.  Everything seemed perfect for another possible PR (beating my 1:38:28 from the Rock N Roll), but pain in both feet set in and my stomach started to cramp.  I pressed through the pain in my feet and reminded myself that Dean Karnazes always invites the pain in and asks “is that all you got.”  Mind over matter…except when it comes to runners trots!!!  I had to take two “breaks” along the last 4 miles and honestly at this point in my running, I really just have no filter when it comes to anything.  I ended my half marathon at a 1:41.  The fact that I stopped for pictures with characters and took two unscheduled potty breaks, that really wasn’t too shabby.  As I crossed the finish line and looked for Mark (the highlight is always our post race “I’m proud of you” hug), I had some stranger ask about my “pit stops.”  Some girl walking along side of us said “ewww that’s really so gross!”  I looked over at her and said, “you are just not legit unless your are pooping!”

So here we are day two and about to conquer what we have been training for this whole time.  To say we were nervous is a complete understatement.  Today, we were running late and there weren’t very many dance moves to be had.  We spent most of the car ride in complete silence and we ended up having to run to the starting line.  We crossed the starting line hand in hand and wished each other luck and just like that we both set out to conquer our own goals.

At about mile 7 the pain in my feet set in again and it became a continuous battle to block the pain out and press on.  One thing about me is that when I choose a pace, I usually commit to it no matter what.  Today was no different, pain and all.  At this pace and mile after mile I was closing in on a Boston qualification.  I tried not to get comfortable with the fact I had it on lock, because if you are a runner you know ANYTHING can happen.  At mile 20, if became hard to hold back tears from excitement that I was now busting through the “wall,” but I held it together because I needed to stay focused.  With 400 yards left to go, tears streamed down uncontrollably as I glanced at the 3:31 on the clock.  I did it!!  Everything that tried to stop me a long this journey was now being smashed by a Boston qualification and a 50 minute PR.  As soon as I saw Mark at the Goofy tent waiting for me to get our Challenge medals, I knew nothing would compare to this moment and the feeling of accomplishment.  I cried in his arms, which felt like an eternity, but it was the only place I wanted to be.  Time stood still for those few moments and I would not trade that feeling for anything in the world.  We had done it and absolutely beaten every goal we had set for ourselves and more.

I would like to thank Mistee, Melissa and Amy for coming out to the race and being the best cheerleaders ever.  I couldn’t have gotten that boost of energy during those moments of pain without the 3 of you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!  Also, thank you to everyone who sent words of encouragement and followed along all weekend long.  I’m still having a hard time believing it all happened and sadly it happened so quickly.  Luckily, we have a full plate ahead of us and we have plenty to train for.  Thank you Mark for everything, you are my best part every single day!  powerteam