So my last Half Marathon is now done. It was a very hilly race in cooler weather that bordered on raw by the end of the race. I was happy that the nasty rain held out pretty much until I was finished. Deep down inside I was a little disappointed that I had to walk a few times. Well, it was more like wanted to walk most of those times except for a few times getting up another hill. I hate it when I walk because it makes me feel so damn defeated but as I tell everyone I know, no one…I mean NO ONE in the world cares if you walk. There were lots of walkers yesterday and walkers in places where I didn’t really understand why they were walking at that very spot. I always feel a little like I don’t deserve the finishers medal when I walk. I know I still finished 13.1 miles but I didn’t run the entire thing and I certainly didn’t treat it like a race and push myself anywhere except to the finish line. I was disappointed but disappointments are only temporary. My wonderful son was waiting in the stinging cold rain for me with a giant bear hug at the finish line. That was my actual reward for running yesterday’s race. I always look for my kids if they come to the race because it’s like a huge surge of adrenaline that kicks in when I round the corner. I can’t wait to get to them and hug them. All I think about the last 2 miles is the kid who came to my race. So far that has only been James and it’s kind of nice to have him volunteer to come with me and sit around for 2+ hours while I run. My hips and knees and legs were not in the greatest shape when I finished. My right knee especially must have had some serious internal swelling because it was killing me. The backs of my legs ached especially on the long drive home 7 hours later from spending the post race day with my son John at URI. Driving was more and more awful as the hour home went on. I couldn’t wait to put my feet up for the night. I am disappointed that the new tights that I bought specifically for leg, joint and muscle support didn’t work. It could have been the hills and I suppose that today had I not worn them I could feel a whole lot worse, but yesterday I was disappointed in the $75 investment that didn’t make a difference when I needed it to. Live and learn I suppose. Maybe I need to do a long flat run to see how I feel but I feel like I shouldn’t have felt so bad after this race because I had my tights. Maybe I’m just old. Today I’m over it because disappointments are temporary as long as you use them to improve yourself and your situation. Overall yesterday was a success in that I finished and I’m proud of myself for finishing. I certainly am happy that I only have one more race to go next Sunday but I’m nervous because the hill I’m about to face is 10x any hill I took on yesterday and it’s 4 miles long straight up in the predicted cold weather. Only time will tell how it will go and only a good attitude will see me through. I’ve got at least one of those under control, the rest I’ll take as it comes. Bring on VT and the best race that I can do.
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!
On Saturday I did my long run. It was 8 miles for some undetermined reason that popped in my head. I have a 7 mile race in two weeks so if I was truly “in training” mode I would have just run 5 but I wanted to keep my miles up for long runs above 7. Maybe it’s random or maybe I’m stepping into a better, more experienced runner. I’m going with the first answer because well, you’re always hardest on yourself. So I invited my wingman to ride while I ran and he agreed. I like it when he goes because he talks to me, encourages me, holds my water and keys and food should I need any or all of those things. We run 4 and with every mile I feel better.
Mile 1 for me always feels like a challenge as I prime my joints and warm up into the pace I’ll hold onto most of the run. At 4 we decided to hit the local convenience store for more fluids. Wingman can drink all my hydration in an innocent gulp and we were a little low because of it. So at four miles he told me to wait while he biked the less than quarter mile to get our replenishment. I walked that way to keep moving and then we walked back to our stopping point. We fueled and then set off but no sooner had we embarked on our return journey it began raining. At first it was light rain then heavier and by the time we were a mile into the 4 mile return trip, it was down-pouring on us. I am accustomed to running in the rain as I’ve done it many times and in many different types of rain from Forest Gump “big ol’ fat rain” to driving rain to torrential downpours. I in fact like rain running because it makes me feel strong and tough and cool actually…cool like temperature cool but the other kind as well. As we moved along my wingman started off complaining about being wet and his pants and underwear getting wet and water in his eyes. Not long into the rain, which didn’t continue in the downpour way for long, he began to realize that it was kind of fun getting wet. When did kids forget the fun in getting wet? Remember jumping in puddles and standing with your face to the sky and your tongue hanging out catching rain drops? I do. Every time it rains and I get caught in it, it makes me smile. James came round and was laughing and woo-hooing all the way home and it made me laugh inside to see him having a good time with his soggy pants and shoes. He even took off his shirt that was weighing him down and said that we should do this more often…. Yes Buddy we should. We all should! There’s just something peaceful about being in the rain that if you can get your mind there, is calming and happy and joyous especially when shared with someone.
Day 4 in the backwoods of VA and it finally arrived. My threshold for when I start to miss my family. I love it here because it’s serene and beautiful and it’s the only time i will spend with my parents and sister perhaps for another year. Life is busy and I come as often as I can but it’s starting to feel like a lifetime between visits now that my dad is getting older. I knew it would eventually show up, tugging at my heart at some point making me homesick for the things that keep me busy, drive me crazy and helped prompt me to come down in the first place. I love my life and all the craziness it brings but sometimes I just want to get away from it so I can’t do it. So I have to do nothing but sit and reflect on it. Maybe it’s God’s way of giving me perspective and appreciation for those things so that I don’t become bitter or obsessive in a bad way. Maybe I needed a break, in fact I know I did. My son’s Eagle project is making me mad and I’m too involved. Time to step away Brenna. Maybe I came because my father has been diagnosed with the onset of Dementia and I want to spend some time with all his quirky annoying habits while he remembers me. Maybe I just miss my mother and my sister. Either way I’m here again and happy to be so. I’m enjoying it but home is now calling. Four days in and now I’m waking up in the middle of the night texting them that I miss them and lying awake wishing I could hug them. I especially miss my sons, James in particular because I can’t talk to him or text him so there’s just nothing there. He’s away with the Scouts and they aren’t allowed electronics during their trips so it’s like going cold turkey with him and I’m not a fan. I think about all of them on my peaceful runs every morning, hoping they have happy days and good experiences. I talk to my daughter and husband every day which is comforting. I started off thinking about my life during my morning runs on these quiet roads but now in just these few days it’s drifted to thoughts of my wonderful family and about how much I love and now miss each of them. Well, I suppose if I didn’t think about them or miss them that would be a different problem that would need solving. Perhaps I could work that out on the road too as I have worked so many things through out there. I feel like I can solve anything by just throwing my running shoes on and heading out for a nice long run. They weren’t kidding when they came up with the slogan that running is cheaper than therapy! The great road is wise and strong and comforting for me and as I have many times I will step out there seeking it’s solace to self medicate through running. As much as I like the peaceful roads of VA I will be happy to once again to be on the rural roads of Mass. I love running no matter where I am.
There is something different about running in the fresh country air of southern Virginia that fuels the soul and mind. It’s the same air but not at the same time. It’s quiet and peaceful and perfect for digging deep into one’s mind and thinking through the stuff that we don’t have time to weed through daily. You can see the sun rising on the horizon that you would swear you could just reach out and touch it’s so close. At the early morning hours as I tread on the pavement the residents are getting their days started and the Amish folks already have their day well under way with their business and farming. I wave at everyone because here, everyone here waves at me. I’m recognized as my mother’s daughter now, the one that runs since everyone knows my parents and each other and everyone talks about and to everyone else. Here you definitely run with a stick as I found out today passing the three amigo mutts. One decided to run just behind me a bit letting me know who’s territory it was. I also run with Mace but this really didn’t warrant radical action even though I did think about breaking it out for a second. A simple shout back letting him know that I could eliminate him if I wanted to with a firm voice did the trick just fine. There are sections of my route that are a little creepy and lacking life but they are not very big and I’m past them before I finish thinking about being nervous running there alone. Virginia, as many places, has a lot of poor sections. Houses in disrepair or falling over and even abandoned. It’s like a scene from a picture of America long ago when everyone struggled and family values were something different than the waning and changing ones of today. It’s a reminder to me about how fortunate I am to have all that I do. It’s easy to get caught up in daily life and complain about what we don’t have to which I am no saint. The house needs paint, the roof needs repair, the floor needs to be finished and about a hundred other things that aren’t good enough the way they are. When I come here, all that goes away because I am among people who struggle much more than I do. When I come here I am sure to remember to thank God daily for the life he has provided to me and the family that I have. As I run here, I miss home not for the things I have but for the people in my life. Their absence makes me so happy that I can miss them so much. When I am here I look forward to the Blueberry bread that my father makes. It’s so good and he feels so happy when I ask him to make it for me. I’m happy that he can still make it at 86 years old and I ask him to make it on purpose. Partly because he’s been diagnosed with Dimentia and the days of his memory and coordination and lucidity are getting shorter and that makes me sad. So while he is still all together I do what I can to make him feel useful and happy, besides it gives me a reason to go running here so I can eat it! So good! Time is in slow motion here and the days are really long with little to do. Running although the same as it is at home mechanically just seems to last longer here as if the air were gelled and thick to move through. You’re just forced to look around and take it all in. Runs are always happy and pass by in the nicest fashion setting the day up so it can be nothing but good. There just is nothing else like running to fill your soul like the back ass sticks of Virginia!
Today was my first run at home since Virginia. There is one thing I have realized and that is that Home Runs are so noisy. What I heard before I left was white noise that to my brain, having lived in this house 15 years and running for 5 of those, was assumed environmental output like the birds in Virginia. I live parallel to the highway and for the first time since I moved in it was incredibly loud. Not only was it loud but it was bothersome. Part of why I run in the morning is that it is or was peaceful and quiet. It’s nothing of the sort! In fact, the highway noise is so loud that I could hear it every step of my 3 miles which travels away from the highway for 1.25 before rounding back around to my house. I have been oblivious to it because it’s always the same and always there but now it seems so damn loud. I wonder if it will go back to normal and I will once again be oblivious to it. That would be nice but chances are that every time I step outside the front door I’ll think about how it never bothered me before and now it does. Blame it all on my parents I say. It’s their fault for moving there in the first place and making me travel there to see them forcing me to run there because well, I have to run. It isn’t that I want to run….I HAVE to run because it’s now part of me and that is good.
Note to self: always have someone to blame!
Note to you: HAPPY RUNNING!