So these days I look forward to runs because I’m not in training. I can run whatever I want and mostly I choose to run 3 miles because it’s fast, easy and enough to make me feel like I did something. Today it was 25 degrees so I layered up probably just shy of too many layers but it was ok. I headed out knowing they were running the Frosty Half Marathon which goes right past the end of my neighborhood on two sides. I wasn’t sure I’d see the beginning or any runners at all since it was past 8 o’clock. When I got to the end of my street one of the race volunteers laughed and told me to join the race and run in the other direction. I giggled and told her I would be first….yeah for about 5 minutes until they caught up to me! So down the road I go and there are cop cars with their lights on which tells me they haven’t started yet. BONUS! I’ll see the beginning of the race and maybe i’ll stop to cheer. When I see the first runner I decide I’m not stopping to cheer…. I”m running right through the crowd of runners cheering and hollering and giving high 5’s to everyone and that is exactly what I did! It was so much fun! Everyone smiled and gave me a high 5 back and I like to think I helped start their race off on the right foot. The penalty for screaming and running and high fiving is that I lost my breath control for most of the rest of the way home, but it was worth it! I wish I had my Frosty Half hat on today because then it would have at least told them that I was a fellow Frosty alum but no one cares anyway so it’s all good fun. I can’t help myself when it comes to being excited and animated. I’m not very grown up for my age but I wouldn’t change a thing. My son tells me that I need to tone it down at his wrestling matches too. I’m not real good at being quiet but why should I be? I’m animated and loud and sarcastic and funny and that’s what I like best about me. I’ve passed the time where I care what people think of me. I’m past trying to make other people happy all the time. I’ve learned to love life, people and the moments in life, like today, that become something you hold on to. If you get the chance, run through a pack of runners in a race cheering. It’s a refreshing and somewhat exhilarating experience that shakes out the ordinary in a day.
I had the usual disagreement with myself this morning that I have every off season. My brain said do more and go for 5-6 miles but I interrupted myself and reminded me that it’s off season. Off season is meant for rest from mostly running and more of stuff like my bike and swimming and weight training. I wanted to keep one day where my miles are up but what heppens when I don’t? Nothing, that’s what. I’ve had a week away from VT and that hellacious hill and still my legs are flipping me off when I head out on the most flat 3 mile course comparedly. My legs are pissed at me! As I headed out to beat the rain that’s coming in I just kept telling myself that 3 was good and the standard 3 miles is what it’s pretty much what my runs are going to be for at least a couple of weeks. It’s funny how during training I complain about the long runs and sometimes even dread them and when I have the opportunity to keep it light, I’m arguing with myself about keeping it low because all I want to do is put up some digits. It seems as though I’m never happy. I never want to rest, sit still or keep it light. When I do I’m beating myself up to try harder and not get lazy and I’m always pushing myself. In a way I do like being my own motivator. Mike & Mike actually talked about that today detailing how some players in the NFL think it’s the coaches job to motivate them. I couldn’t disagree more. I think when a player / runner / athlete needs it, that a “coach” should step in and give them a pep talk but for the most part, that player /runner /athlete’s job is to motivate themselves. I never look to anyone to motivate me except the old me. The fat lazy depressed person who tried to take my cookies and make me quit. The girl that’s always behind me as a reminder from where I came and where I do NOT want to go back to. Whatever makes you go is fine. You should be self motivated and never being happy with where you’re at is ok as long as you aren’t doing so much that you make yourself sick or injure yourself. I may never be happy but I belive I have the right mix for me to keep striving for more. Be the best me I can be and enjoy it along the way until the day where I decide that it’s time to stop, if I get to that point. I may never be perfectly satisfied & happy with what I’m doing, but I’m happy where I am. The point it that I’m happy never being happy because being unhappy with where I’m at is what motivates me to do more, be more, strive for more and THAT makes me very happy!
I ran Falmouth again this year. This is the second time I’ve run this one. I don’t run it for the medal because they don’t give medals usually as I learned the hard way last year. Come to find out they give medals at this race every 5 years. This year was the 45th running of this bucket list race so guess what I got! Yep a medal! It’s beautiful and so worth the 7 mile struggle over hills in the heat.
ANYWAY… Today was many things. It was definitely all about the bling and the experience. As those of you who know me well understand, I love me a good medal! The race itself is always a hot one which makes it harder than other races. IT took us 25 or so minutes to actually walk from where we hit the main drag TO the starting line because in this race they do a pulse start which just means we set of in groups of like 50 at a time then they wait a minute and send the next group. It spaces us out and helps keep things moving. Even this small detail is just one of the many things that make this my all time favorite race ever! I wasn’t sure my race would be a good one because of the time of month it was. I’m always slow just before the blessed event so I was expecting it to be hard, but went into it just wanting to have fun at the very least. That I did achieve with no problem whatsoever. I wanted to beat my 1:18:15 time from last year and amazingly I did!!! I finished unofficially at 1:15:51! I believe 100% that that accomplishment is directly attributed to all the core workouts I have been doing. It definitely paid off because the hills were a bitch, especially the one at the very end that made 7.1 miles feel like 13.1. Over the 7 .1 miles I was perpetually stuck in a large group of runners the entire way so it was nearly impossible to run swiftly when you’re crowded in. I was grateful that that I couldn’t “take off” because it forced me to run a better more controlled race. Probably why I finished two minutes faster than last year. The feeling of struggling for 7 hilly hot miles seems to fade away as you give that last and final ounce of energy to push up that last horrible hill. When you crest it you can see the gigantic American flag that is hoisted above the finish line by a crane just a hundred yards below. You somehow find strength as people are cheering and shouting and you see the Jumbotron with the life finish line stream for those waiting for their loved ones to cross. The air is electric with excitement and you run to that beautiful painted word on the street “FINISH” that sits under the banner just above that signals the end of your 7 mile journey marked by a stomp on the timing mat to seal your race time. You can’t explain how it feels, you have to experience it yourself.
The Falmouth Road Race organizers, volunteers & medics are outstanding! They should get their own medal for the perfected work of making this race such a smooth well oiled event! I’m not kidding you, it is so well organized, you don’t have to search for porto o potties because there are literally about a hundred in the waiting area. Medics were visible with clearly marked signs at several points along the way ready to help those who needed it,. The police rode bikes along the route to ensure things moved along nicely. The people of Falmouth and friends / family of runners literally just line the streets cheering for you, soaking you with their hoses, giving you oranges and ice and 5 bands set up along the route and played music for us as we passed. There weren’t just a few… there were people that in some places were several rows deep just watching us come through. Some gave high fives (the little kids are my favorites to high five. They are wonderful cheerers!) Many blasted the radio, some had cow bells and others had horns. There were so many this year, more than last I thought. Any time I thought I might do some walking beyond just stopping for water I just couldn’t do it because the excitement of being there was compelling. I just cannot say enough good things about this wonderful race.
When you use the word Chaos mostly you think of confusion and craziness that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The gathering spot after the race can only be described as chaos. I’ve never seen or experienced organized chaos until I ran Falmouth. So many people all in the same spot but it’s oddly and strangely organized. From the pick up letters at the back of the field where families go to meet runners to the guys handing out the Yasso bars by the way, is by far the best at the end of a hard race! The band and the tent volunteers handing out post race goodies somehow swiftly corral all those people through with no waiting line. The whole race was start to finish amazing and something that you should do if you want to see how a good race is run. I can’t wait for next year!!
One of my favorite parts of my experience lies outside the race itself. I run this race with my friend Barbara and we stay with our friends Gary and Gail who live in Falmouth. Staying with friends who give you a ride to the busses and fight the crowd to pick you up from the finish line, who feed you and give you a place to lay your head for free absolutely makes the experience just that much better. Running this race with my friend, even though we don’t run together, is the BEST! knowing that I’m sharing something amazing with her is special. Taking selfies and pictures throughout our days there are memories that I cherish. Having someone to share what will become a tall tale that I tell my grandchildren later in life is one of those things that money can’t buy! I really love my running friend(s). This part of the experience and not having to worry about crowded restaurants, overbooked hotels, driving to the start or finding parking or worrying about my belongings while I’m racing turns what could be a crazy stressful weekend into a wonderful weekend of memories instead!
There’s just something peaceful about morning running. Maybe it’s the quiet of the day or the darkness that hasn’t quite conceded to the bright glow of the majestic day ahead. There are not many cars around nor other runners where I am or even people walking dogs. It’s just quiet almost to the point that I can hear my thoughts out loud. I love that first breath in of fresh crisp air that purges my lungs of night air and fills my soul with brightness. It calls me to it, envelops me and makes me its own for 30 minutes of bliss. I can see the glow of a dawning day in the windows of my neighbors and see those who have started their day. I can smell those ambitious enough to cook something that appeals to my palette as I run on an empty stomach thinking about the pancakes and eggs I’ll make when I return. As dawn lights my way, revealing my form I realize this is the best run that I’ve had in many days. I enjoyed it a lot and am happy I didn’t wait until tonight to go. When I run in the morning I have no worries, no problems, no distractions. My phone isn’t ringing, I’m not tied to the internet and I’m not trying to organize anything. It’s just me, in the dark blending in with what remains of the night. Free as a bird and not weighted down by life at this very moment.
Today as I make my way through my neighborhood wondering who knows I’m passing by, my mind is on my race on Sunday. I’m running The Falmouth Road Race and thinking about how the race will go and whether it will be my race. It may not be. Because of the time of the month it may have to just be fun. I’m not expecting it to be a stellar race because I just don’t do well a few days before I get my period. 2-4 days prior, my legs are heavy, it’s hard for me to breathe and it’s just a struggle. Even if it’s a struggle, I’d like to beat last years 1:18. I’m much stronger this year in my core than last year which will be helpful. Nonetheless, if I go into it not expecting too much and not trying to be faster than last year I think it will be fine. Slow it down and I’ll have more fun. My friend who runs this race with me might like company for the entire 7 miles rather than being dumped at the starting line like I usually do. I well know how not fun running alone is so that might be the way to go I think. It’s all about the fun and the experience.
So there are things along this journey to being fitter that are kind of like milestones for me. One is pulling on clothes that I like in a size that makes me smile. Another is when your friends or co-workers tell you that you look good which is always nice. One of my favorite all time motivational smile-infusing happiness-creating things that have happened to me is when my kids tell me nice things without trying to make me feel good. Let me explain what I mean by that.
I know that I look good. Good compared to my old self and the healthiest that I’ve ever been. Good is relative I realize because I understand that I am not shaped like Barbie or the tall and skinnies of the world and that is just fine with me. I am happy with the 161 average weight that I seem to hover over these days because I’m muscular and in fact also shorter at 5′ 4″ tall. This means that I tend to grow out instead of up or evenly distributing my ever fluctuating weight because that’s the law of physics. I will never be Jessica Rabbit or have Heidi Klum’s legs sadly. I’m me and I know my boundaries and I’m fine with them. My job is managing all of that within the confines of the fitness routine I put in and keeping it all in check to stay between 150-165 roughly. I am always striving to get to the bottom of that range but truthfully I don’t care if I never see the big one-five-oh again. I work out and I work out pretty regularly, by choice and sometimes twice a day. It’s a little bit of an addiction and definitely a habit for sure. Something I’m just always working on like Mr. Holland’s Opus, just not ever done. I want to live to the crazy age of 96 so this is a good path to help me get there.
Now nothing and I mean nothing means more to me in this world than my kids. It is super important that they are proud of me and want to be with me and talk to me and hug me and hopefully always like my kisses! I hope they always tell me about their days be it good or crappy. I would die if I couldn’t be with and around them. They are just awesome! So, in the flow of two conversations recently, one with each son (19 and 17 respectively), we were discussing super skinny something or other and I said to one son that if whatever the statement were, was true I’d be super skinny. His answer melted me to pause my thought and compose my fast melting self. He said “You are super skinny Mom.” and he kept moving on with his thoughts about whatever it was that we were talking about. He wasn’t looking for accolades or a hug or even a response. It was his honest opinion. PAUSE: my son thinks I’m super skinny! woo hoo! On another day not long thereafter I was talking to the other son about something weight related (not necessarily mine) and whatever I said it prompted him to say “well it’s harder to get any smaller than you Mom, you work out all the time.” and he too proceeded to add to the conversation as if he had just said “the sky is blue”.
There it was again from a different source. From the one who wouldn’t sugar coat something to make you feel good (that’s his father in him). They both simply had said what they believed to be true which was like getting the best race bling ever! For those of you who do not know I am a medal whore. I Race for the prize because why should I not be rewarded for running for 2+ hours right? As I reflected on these thoughts that my sons had about me, it occurred to me that I have reached a personal milestone in my healthy lifestyle endeavor in this life. I have achieved the admiration of my kids who are proud of me for all this crazy hard work that I do. It’s become so much a part of who I now am that they don’t question it as being Mom’s new workout habit but more like part of what their Mom does. Some mom’s garden (I do that too) and some Moms do crafts and some Moms drive trucks. My kid’s Mom cooks great meals, sings new words to old songs, runs in the rain, would do anything for her kids to be happy and she also does fitness and that’s cool to them. I couldn’t have gotten two better compliments in the world than those two matter of fact statements made in passing by my sons.
Well, that was longer than expected but sometimes they are. Remember that there are those moments that tell you that you’ve arrived that you have to cherish and lock away for the days where you feel like you aren’t doing anything right. They are the moments that motivate us and push us to strive for more every day.
So my friends and I finished the “Run The Year” challenge yesterday. We did all the miles on our own mostly although cumulatively we did some together in race miles and some fun miles too. The last 12 miles we did as a group and it was just great! It was 3 easy miles at breathing pace so we could talk and laugh and just make the most of something fun that we did together. When we finished we took a picture with our medals and felt accomplished and good about ourselves as individuals and as a new group of friends who most definitely will do other things together. We went to dinner, laughed and shared stories and future goals and had ourselves a little celebration of ourselves.
I really like running with friends and feel like I could do so much more with them than I could alone. One of us is a super athlete having run marathons, triathlons, iron man races, brave unique races and just some crazy things. She makes me feel bold and is the reason I consider running something further than a half marathon. Another of us used to smoke like a chimney and has come back from ill health to someone who reminds me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to do. The last of our quartet is someone who makes reminds me that no one can take my cookies away from me and that I deserve to do anything I want to do because this is my life. You see my friends, although they may not know it, are the glue and strength in my everyday life. Each day I know them I realize how fun life can be and how much I have needed friends. These ladies are my special friends and my crazy friends and my supportive friends. They make me strong, make me laugh, keep me realistic but brave and are the piece to my puzzle that has been missing. I love my girls because I am a better person because I know them.
We are the Bad Ass B’s!
Today I was slow. I ran a 12:11 first mile and slow similar miles for 2 & 3. I wasn’t out of breath but I talked and talked and talked. I spent 36 minutes running and could have run another 3 but I stopped. Today was not about me or training or about my race. It wasn’t about time or fitness or bragging rights. Today I ran with my daughter who is at one of the lowest points in her life struggling with weight. I have been there and I know that struggle. I know the demons that close in at night when there is nothing to do but wait it out until daylight when your responsibilities keep your mind busy until you do it all over again. She asked me to help her and how does one say no to someone reaching out for help? I wish someone had been there to help me instead of me clawing my way out all alone. So I put a plan together for her and I got up at 4:45 and we got out the door just after 5am. Together we started and I did most of the talking which consisted mainly of running basics and only concentrating on one step at a time and finishing because today that’s all that mattered. I talked about things to keep in mind about good form and safe running and running for self satisfaction. I think I threw up every running thing I’ve learned as we ran. I just kept talking so she could mainly stay quiet and concentrate on not puking LOL. We stopped and sipped Powerade every mile so she could take a breather and much to her surprise she made it all 3 miles! You see when you’re alone and struggling the desire to stop outweighs the desire to power through it especially when you’re fighting extra weight and a bulging disc in your back all you want is a reason or an excuse to stop so there is no guilt. It’s really hard. Period.
So today was all about a memory for me. It was about being there when someone needed help to encourage them and show them the way. It was like reaching out my hand to help Fat Brenna and tell her that everything will be ok. It felt wonderful to be there for a first all while hoping it wasn’t the last. It made me feel good and made all the normal thoughts about pace and time and form and things that needed me to do them back at home go away leaving only a sole purpose and that was to be inspiring to someone. It filled me with sunshine on a dreary cloudy day and that is something that you can’t buy. May you have days where it’s all about you because you need those days but may you also have days where it’s all about someone else because that is like community service for your soul.