Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Achieve": My first marathon

(All of these pictures are from my parents--thank you so much for being there for me & capturing my special day on film!! ♥)

On October 16, I ran my first marathon.

To say it was a long road to get here would be an understatement :)

...But then again, “It was everything I hoped & dreamed it might be” would also be an understatement.

I do apologize that it’s taken me so long (you know, about a month ;) to write up the recap, but, honestly... it’s taken a while to process ... really, life changing events are prone to do that. And I wanted to give my story justice.

Before I really delve into my story though, I’d like to say this:

Thank you.

Thank you with everything I am. ... While this was an intensely personal journey, it was not one I took on by myself. Over the past few months I have been surrounded and uplifted in a way that I could have never imagined. My network (including Jon, my parents, my in-laws, my sisters ♥, my coworkers, my MiT friends, my best friends from high school and college, and you my wonderful blog friends... most of whom I have never met) made this experience for me. My network believed in me with unwavering faith. My network cheered me on and hugged me on the bad days, and celebrated with me over the good. My network held me accountable to myself.

...As you read this, please know that even if I do not mention you by name, my heart has kept a record of all the grace and love you have extended to me. ...I am humbled and overwhelmed by the precious care my soul has received, and your support means more to me than I could ever put into words. ♥

I trained with MiT for 5 months and hundreds of miles, but the journey really started long before that. At the end of last year I was dealing (not particularly well) with not so wonderful things. After months of walking in the darkness, I knew I needed a change ... and out of that desperation came the courage to make a huge change-- a huge commitment. I signed up to run a marathon. (You can read more about the beginning of the journey here.)

The personal growth I experienced during this time was absolutely phenomenal.

And while I knew, logically, that completing the marathon was just the proverbial “icing on the cake”, I had a real scare when I sprained my ankle a mere 8 days before the marathon. I prayed, I panicked, and I went to the doctor. ... and (thank God) got the “all clear” to run. The rest of the week was spent resting, icing, and attempting to mentally prepare myself for “the big day”.

The morning of the marathon started very early for me... Somewhere around 4 am. I rolled promptly out of bed (no need to kid myself, I was wide awake!) and began the morning routine I had perfected through many weekend long runs. Dress; (feed cats); coffee & peanut butter toast for breakfast; pack up fuel belt (gatorade in bottles, phone, salt & fig newtons in the pocket); lube feet & put on running shoes ... metal pep-talks continuously through the process ;)

Soon, Jon & I were in the car, picking up my running buddy Tracey & heading downtown.

I am so glad I had Tracey with me :) She helped calm my nerves and get me pumped up on the drive over. Furthermore, when we ran into some horrific traffic downtown (Bah. Seriously. We sat on the “off ramp” for over 20 minutes before we finally got out of the car and walked to the hotel.), she kept me upbeat and positive. ...I don’t know what I would have done without her at this point. Really, I don’t.

MiT had booked a ballroom in a hotel close to the starting line, and I was really looking forward to relaxing with my everyone (including my “running girls” that I had been training with in the morning, who were NOT running the Columbus marathon...) and using a real bathroom before being shuttled over to the starting line. ..Well, basically, between the traffic we got stuck in and the shuttle leaving early, we missed meeting up with the group.

...At this point I think I said “I’m so glad we’re together” about every other breath. Truth is, if I had been by myself, I probably would have sat down & cried. We used the hotel bathrooms (which were out of tp, but thankfully not paper towels ... I’m sure that was *awesome* for the septic system, haha) and headed over to the starting line.

The amount of people there was completely overwhelming (our corral was really crowded!), and again, I was SO happy to be with a friend.

Before we knew it, we were off! ...I think we smiled the entire first 10 miles :) It was a gorgeous day (deliciously crisp & cool; with clouds but no rain), and it just felt so good to be out and moving. We ran joyfully through the streets, chatting, singing along with the bands (and, maybe even dancing a little bit ;), complimenting creative race signs & drawing an almost supernatural strength from the crowds.

When I saw Jon at mile 5, I was practically skipping :) Feeling strong and loving every second! I was *doing * it!! ... Holy moly this was actually happening! ... I was running a (bleep)ing marathon!! (Heh. Sometimes only strong word can express the magnitude of a situation :) When I saw my girls (Dana, Heather & Stacy) at mile 10, I gave each of them a big, sweaty hug.

Unfortunately, it was a little after we passed the girls that I got a reality check. We hadn’t been running for more than 5 minutes after that that we saw a runner down; a man, passed out cold in the middle of the street with blood dripping down his temple. I’m not sure when it happened, but people were mobilizing to get him help—running toward him, calling in help on cell phones. ... It was an extremely sobering moment. After we passed I told Tracey (voice quavering), “That was definitely something I never wanted to see.” ...She agreed.

Needless to say, we were a bit more quiet and reflective after that. ...And actually, at mile 14 things started to get a little rough for me. ...I think, honestly, that after the extreme high of the beginning of the race followed by such a frightening & sad “crash back into reality” I was a little worn out. ...This was the part where I needed to start digging deep.

Mile 15 was a good one though, as I got to see both Jon, and my friend Kaitie. I hugged them both & let them know how much it meant to me to have them there – I really needed “my people” at mile 15 ♥

Unfortunately, once I passed mile 15, I entered into what was the hardest part of the race for me. ...Which I was definitely not expecting. In preparation for my marathon, I read numerous race re-caps from other bloggers... all of which seemed to indicate that mile 17 was the turning point. ...Fellow MiTer’s told me time and again, ”your marathon starts at mile 20.” ... As you could guess, I was a little discouraged when I started experiencing some (significant) pain.

... Because I know I would curious, I’ll tell you that while I’m still not sure what on earth the problem was, I was having issues with my bladder (sorry... lovely, right?! If anyone ever tells you that running is a glamorous sport, they are seriously deluded.). ...At first, I thought maybe it was (um) “lady cramps”... but I soon determined that was not the case. Tracey and I trained with a 4:1 run:walk Galloway method ... and the starting & stopping began to cause me some problems. ...By the time the pain got down to a manageable level, it was time to walk again... and the jarring when we started back up was Bad. News.

I think (now that I look back) I’d had hints of this problem during some of my other long runs... but never anything like this. (Full disclosure: there were multiple points during these miles where I doubted my ability to finish.... luckily, I didn’t give in to those thoughts.)

... I visited every single porta-potty between miles 15 and 20, and just generally felt miserable... but we pressed on.

Thank God for mile 20.

Although I wasn’t ready to speak it out loud (for fear of it not coming true), I just had this feeling in my heart that if I could make it to mile 20, I could finish. Mile 20 was not only for significant for the mile-marker... but because my parents were there. ...And, for heaven’s sake, I think that no matter how old I get, seeing my mommy when I don’t feel good just seems to make everything better.

Also, to see & hug my father was a needed boost, too. I talked a little bit here about how we have bonded over a mutual love of exercise, and I knew from the beginning of this journey—without him even having to say anything—how proud of me he was. ... And that means a lot :)

Anyway... after a lengthy mile 20 stop (to refuel with gatorade, water, powerbar chewies & plenty of hugs), we were off again to the next bathroom on the final leg of our journey.

As my co-worker (and experienced marathoner) Larry told me, “...there comes a point in the marathon where you start making deals with yourself. ... Anything it takes to get to the finish.” ... And there was quite a bit of deal-making in those last 6 miles. ...I remember it hurt and I was just getting awfully tired at that point, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. ...I blasted “You & I” again and again, and pretended my Uncle Joe was running with me through the OSU campus (which was disappointingly desolate). ... I visualized how it was going to feel to finally cross that finish line. ...I prayed.

...And somewhere around mile 21, the pain lessened (perhaps as a result of this elusive runner’s high I’ve heard of?) ... And (wonder of wonders!) I picked up the pace. It wasn’t pretty, but I cruised along relatively happily until mile 23—where I got a pep talk from Larry (aforementioned co-worker and marathoner – he completed the half-marathon that day!) ... And then it was a 5k “home stretch”.

(Hellooo... evidence of my amazing recovery post-mile 20.)

I don’t remember too much from those last few miles (I must have been ‘in the zone’), but a few memories do shine out through the fog. I remember saying “thank you” to the off-duty officers who were directing traffic... I remember having a conversation with an older gentleman who told me gleefully that “this was HIS first marathon, too!” ... I remember passing a group of people & hearing a man cheer, “Go, Amy!”, and thinking (a) gosh that sounds like Dan (a gentleman in our MiT running group who was especially kind & reassuring to me on my first day with them) and (b) I bet it’s not him – I must be hallucinating {Sigh. Later I found out that it was indeed Dan, and then I felt like a jerk for not turning around to recognize him & talk to him. Drat. Note to self: Next time, always turn around.}

Finally, I found myself on Front Street... the final street before the turn onto Nationwide Blvd & the finish. Here’s where I really started to pick it up. ...First, I heard my mom cheering for me... then I saw my dad with his camera, and then I saw the girls. Dana, Stacy and Heather hopped right out onto the course with me and ran with me those final feet before the turn. I remember running like crazy then, and Dana saying, ”It’s just like home, Amy.” (Awww. ...For the record, I would have cried right then, if I had any extra energy to do so.)

Then I was on Nationwide (which seemed a LOT longer than I was hoping it would be!), and then.... with a chip time of 5:43:59 I crossed the finish line and completed my first marathon.

From there, I navigated through the chute, got my medal & space blanket, almost cried when the photographer said, “You should be so proud... I’m proud of you”... and found Jon. Where, understandably, I lost it :) “Hey... how are you?” He asked through the fence, smiling. “{Sniffle, hic} I’m {hic, hic} so glad {sniff} it’s over!” I sobbed. ...And then I pulled myself together and made it to the reunion area, where I got to hug Jon, my parents & Tracey.

Me, Amanda & Tracey, MiT friends :)

In conclusion: I would definitely rank this among the best days of my life. It was worth everything. ... And it taught me that I am worth it, as well.

The million dollar question is, of course: would I ever do another one?


And it can only be answered with a resounding "Yes!"

Thanks again for going on this journey with me. ... I look forward to keeping you updated as my story (as Amy, and as a runner) continues to unfold.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My weekend ...

Late on Sunday afternoon, I got my Gahanna Run in.

And it was glorious.

Although it wasn't my best run (by far... Oy. I had planned on running 6 miles and started feeling crummy after 2, so I stopped and walked for another 1.5 miles and called it "good"), I was in one of my favorite places, so it was still a great run.

I spent so much time growing up on these streets. ...I ran this route multiple times between Cross Country & Track season in high school. I'vs walked these neighborhoods multiple times with my mother, and one especially memorable rainy time with Jon.

Coming back feels like coming home. And as I remember my past here, I draw strength for my future.

(PS: Marathon post coming TOMORROW!! Stay tuned...)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Good List Fridays, 11.11.11

First and foremost, a heartfelt thank you to all the incredible men and women who have served and continue to serve our country and protect our freedoms, our rights and our lives. My words will never be enough, but I am forever grateful.

Good morning & Happy Friday, friends! I hope you have all been having a wonderful week :)

This week has positively flown by for me, and I am looking forward to a busy weekend (really! looking forward to it!): filled with shopping with Laurie & my mom, yard work (must admit, that one I'm not looking forward to as much ;), and hopefully sneaking in a Sunday afternoon run (side note: I've been trying to get in a "Gahanna Run" since before I sprained my ankle my marathon ... and it hasn't happened yet. ...So, here's hoping! ...And if I get a chance to do that this weekend, I'll totally "take you along with me" :)

We are entering the time of year where it seems like time defies all convention and picks up speed. ...There is always something to do and someone to see....And somehow, even when we cannot get it all done, it's "all good". ... The holiday season is beautiful and magical like that ♥ ...I actually have some more "Holiday thoughts" to share with you in the coming be on the look-out.

...And I'm chugging along happily through the 'time warp'. Last weekend I hit up a holiday bazaar to get a jump-start on my Christmas shopping, and a good friend and I are discussing a post-Thanksgiving "Thanksgiving Dinner Party" that I am really looking forward to (hello, dinner parties are my love language!) ... I am hoping (and will be working to set things in motion!) to open my house to friends and family multiple times during this season of love. ... Shorter days and cooler temperatures mean cozy fires, warm homecooked meals, snuggly blankets & gathering in.

"It's all good."

And fittingly, now it's time for a "Good Friday post", to reign in all the other miscellaneous goodness that has impacted my life over the past weeks.

Good List:

(Sneak Peek from my marathon re-cap, coming soon!)

1. Jon. Great husband... great friend :)

2. Answered prayers ♥

3. Wisdom from valued friends & mentors

4. New boots (Yeahhh, baby!)

5. I don't want to brag, but our weather here has been stunning lately. Crisp & breezy, with breathtaking red-orange trees agains dark skies. This is what I live for each year. ... Makes the accompanying yard work totally worth it ;)

Ignoring the traffic, isn't this a gorgeous fall sky? ..Love this.

6. I've got to be honest: as much as I love the fall-like weather that's come in the past week, I am *really* struggling with the time change. It's nice to go to work in the light, but it's awfully hard to come home and stay motivated when it's dark. Still, I am embracing the ebb & flow of the seasons, and giving myself grace as I adjust to the change. A good thing about the time change? Gorgeous night runs.

Do you see the tail wrapped around him & the paw over the eyes?! I die...

7. The kitties. They never fail to make my life more exciting. ... Also, Baron voluntarily sat in my lap last week. Miracles occur every day, folks.

8. California wine.

9. I'm going to be a tease and not reveal anything yet ... but I am *really* excited for next year. It's going to be a really great one for our family.

(Okay, okay... I won't be totally cruel. Because I think this sounds suggestive, and I field enough of these questions I will tell you, I am not expecting a baby, although we will be welcoming another one into our extended family... and I couldn't be more thrilled about that!! ... This statement envelops that and... something else...)

10. "Our truest dreams are when we are in dreams awake." - Thoreau

Your Turn: Are you getting excited about the holidays like I am? How's the Fall weather in your neck of the woods? ... What's one "good thing" from your week?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Travel Diaries, Day 6: Final day in San Francisco

Welcome to my 2011 CA Vacation mini-series. ...Jon & I spent a week in San Francisco & Wine Country during September, and slowly but surely it is my pleasure to relive the memories & share our stories with you, one post at a time!

Friday was our last day in California, and so, understandably, when the alarm chirped bright and early, I sprang out of bed, ready to seize the last day and soak up every last minute!(East to West time change is glorious, people. ...I was up & at 'em bright and early each morning, and by the time lunchtime rolled around each day, we all ready had a good amount of "touring" under our belts. ... Of course, on the flip-side, we were pretty much done for by 8 pm every night....)

I began my day with a little "Today Show" on the treadmill, and then joined Jon for a leisurely hotel breakfast. From there, our first destination of the day was Telegraph Hill, and Coit Tower.

I am convinced that when you are in San Francisco, the journey is just as vivacious as the destination. ...We wound our way through the city and up the hills (Jon's comment to me: (huff, puff) "Now I know why you brought me to to California. ...You wanted to kill me & get a new husband... Happy anniversary to you, too!" (huff, puff) Once I could catch my breath, I laughed and assured him that this was most definitely NOT the case ;) ... pausing at an overlook at the end of Telegraph Hill to take pictures in a small park and ogle the view.

::Gorgeous ♥::

Once our heart rate came down a little, we proceeded to the top of the hill :)

Coit Tower is awesome not only for the spectacular, panoramic views of the city, but for the amazing murals inside the building. When you enter the tower, you find yourself in a circular room: floor to ceiling art. The colorful display showcases the city's rich history. (Here is a link to some pictures!) ...We wandered around inside the tower for quite a while!

Our walk back to Pier 39 was equally lovely ♥

(Aren't these some of the coolest plants you've ever seen?)

The remainder of the day was pretty mellow. We grabbed lunch (clam chowder in bread bowls) at the Eagle Cafe, and the proceeded to the Aquarium, where we spent a couple hours scared awed by the huge fish. (As I told Jon, they're gorgeous... but if I was in that tank, I'd be flipping the heck out ;)

The aquarium had several tanks that you walked through (like a tunnel), and having massive sharks and sparkly little schools of fish swimming over top of you was really something else!

After the aquarium, we relaxed in the sunshine on the dock, reminiscing about our favorite parts of the trip. We had a great time watching the sea lions sun themselves... It was fun to see how graceful they were in the water... and how awkward & un-weildy they are on land! (Also, if you zoom in on the picture, I'm pretty certain the big gray guy in the middle is smiling!)

Dinner that night was, in a word, stellar. We dined at the Fog Harbor Fish House, and had a breathtaking view of the sunset on the water. We sipped wine (erm, I sipped wine... Jon sampled the local micro-brew ;), and lingered over lemony calamari (appetizer), ahi tuna (her) and fish & chips (him -- side note: Jon's favorite thing to order at a restaurant, second only to perhaps steak, is fish & chips. ... I'm pretty sure he's a fish & chips connoisseur...Heh.) It was one of those nights were we didn't do a lot of talking; we just quietly enjoyed each others' company :) I just remember thinking to myself, "How lucky I am to be here right now... with my very best friend... experiencing all this." I know that years from now we will look back on this vacation & remember how special it was.

Our night ended with a moonlit stroll back to the hotel, with a bag of hot donuts in hand. (Seriously, friends, I could not leave SF without eating those glorious mini-donuts one last time ;) We scheduled a taxi pick-up for the next morning, and then headed upstairs for coffee, donuts, and some packing (we had an *eaaarrrllly* flight out the next morning-- taxi pick up was at 5:15 am!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
...And thus concludes my CA 2011 vacation recaps.

I'm ready to go back now, please :)

In all seriousness, though, it was an amazing time. I feel so blessed that Jon & I had the opportunity to celebrate our anniversary in wine country. I don't know what our future holds... and I hope it will grace us with many more beautiful adventures like this one-- but this trip in particular will be forever imprinted on my heart... and I'll always remember the fall of 2011, when I left part of my heart in San Francisco California.

Your Turn: What places do you want to visit in your lifetime? Have you gotten a chance to check any of them off your list yet?