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Posts Tagged ‘Marathons’

Sometimes we ask, “How does this end?”

But does it really ever end? Or are endings really new beginnings?

Here are some of my favorite “endings” that actually opened the most amazing doors to new beginnings:

The first evening of my mother’s “running away” from dementia, that helped her feel both at home and free from home, all at once.
Soiled toes after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. We thought our beaches would never be the same, but God was gracious to restore in due time, as He always does.
What sea stars do when they free themselves from their captors out of children’s beach pails and escape back to the sea, alive and free again!
The end of a rum runner schooner from 2 centuries ago…nobody has the $ to rescue it, so it just keeps eroding on a remote beach, a treasure to the few who frequent the far reaches of the peninsula, a legend to those from afar…

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The end of a virtual fantasy and the beginning of an indestructible, eternal bff-ship.
The end of life as we knew it pre-Katrina…once the grief passed, the rebuilding was mostly emotional, projected onto the current landscape should you visit NOL.
The end of David’s life, 6 weeks in a coma and no hope…but the doctors had us sign papers to authorize unorthodox treatments and I stood glued to the wall praying as they applied said treatments in the form of laughing gas and yelling at him to hang in there and stay with us….and he did, and turned 19 last month.
Hurricane Ivan’s destruction, 2004, year before Katrina – rocking my baby in my lap singing hymns as our ears popped when the winds hit 130 and we could no longer hear trees falling around us, but had to trust totally in the Lord..our kids remember that night and our faith and serve God with gratitude to this day.
The ending of a century-old era, my Cubbies losing. Oh, ye of little faith! God delivers if You sit tight and see what He has in store!
Elizabeth died some days after this 93rd birthday…but her death was the beginning of a new legacy of strength, courage and untold creativity….Just open your heart to what lies ahead.
Death of hips – yeah, finished the marathon in David’s honor, but was sidelined early in life with titanium and polyurethane shortly thereafter….pace thyself!

The end of anonymity – red flag hair day unexpectedly revealed last Sunday. God reigns in all things!

Thank You, God, for endings, which usher in brand new opportunities and beginnings. You are the Omega and the Alpha, and everything in between. You’ve got this! May we all embrace endings as we would beginnings….both bring new life and growth.

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It has taken this long through Lent to get over my hump of withdrawals. The face of my heart no longer disfigured, I can finally sing the praises of fasting from something.  “Something” being my morning coffee.

The devil has done his level best to tempt me, using all five, and, yes – even my sixth sense –  to get me to stumble. Everywhere I went there were visual and auditory reminders, catching the aroma and even the feel of my eager, needy lips puckering up to the familiar tumbler on my commute, met with green tea instead. It’s better for me, anyway, but convincing my lips and my soul of this was another story.

The usual mental wranglings went on: I can quit anytime! I don’t need it, I choose it at the control of my will. (Then came Ash Wednesday…”). I don’t need it. Bad stuff. Never liked it anyway. Did me wrong. Look at how it wrecked me. Jacked me up, yanked me down, left unsightly stains, cost me plenty, etc. Then…

Okay, I need it. Must have it. Can’t have it. Must avoid it. Panic. Find replacement (green tea). Not the same. I can do this. Not as good. But plenty of antioxidants. Tastes great, less filling. Or something like that. Yeah, it IS simpler. I know I was supposed to know that.

The ultimate devil’s insult was having to share a home with a person who continues to drink coffee. In front of me. And often. Kind of like mounting a staircase up from the water in my town:

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I drew the line at cleaning up the coffee pot for him. I’m done with it now, bubba…if you want to keep drinking the stuff and trying to throw the ol’ pet sin back in my face even though I’m over it, it’s on you. It is now your addiction, not mine, and now I know no matter how many times you brew a nice big pot, I don’t need it, don’t want it, period. (P.S. – let me know when you’re ready to give it up – I’ve got a lot of good tips on Giving Up, when you’re ready. When YOU’RE ready. I’ll be waiting for ya.)

Giving something up forced me to reflect on how something comes to be meaningful to us in the first place. And of the process of letting go, whether it be for self-centered betterment or for the purpose of submitting to a higher authority. Or both. It taught me that we are made to be flexible creatures, the ultimate goal being to evolve for the better.

It taught me to re-question some of the rites in some churches which can give the impression of being outdated, antiquated or just plain silly observances which may seem designed to keep the foolish, unenlightened sheep in line, at the hands of the system. What I noticed was that at whatever point this or that church decided to institute this or that observance, there was undoubtedly some greater purpose behind the rite, designed to draw us nearer to God. SOMEBODY meant it for good.

But it only works if our heart is genuinely inclined to evolve for the better, be it for self or other purposes. No wonder so many denominations are criticized for routines which seem hollow and rote – it is because too often, we become comfortable with rote and lose perspective of our stage of personal evolution. It is only when we are jarred awake that we suddenly realize it is time to let go and move forward (and unfortunately this often comes by way of traumatic life events which trigger the panicked prayer for God to help us after days of not speaking to Him).

Rote rites lose sight.

Most rites won’t change much, and, like God, it’s not Him that needs to change – it’s us in need of focus.

Letting go IS easier than latching on. We latch on without a care, with blissful ignorance and with joyful anticipation. If we did not latch on, we would not grow. Likewise for letting go – for only through the birth and death process of latching on and letting go, the alpha and omega, do we fully grow and draw nearer to God. Only then do we know Him better by having a closer comprehension of what it means to latch on and love, even taking for granted those days, and then to give up and grieve, as Jesus did, as God was well-pleased in His Son for doing the same.

It makes us stronger, fuller and wiser. It grants us perspective we might not otherwise have had, had we been unable or unwilling to fully let go. Giving up is a strength, not a weakness, in most cases.

I am reminded of my friend who was inspired to run a marathon this year, whom I encouraged and edified every step of his training. We ran the half-mararthon last year together, and he realized if he could do that, he could do the whole thing, so he trained all this past year and finally did it.

In talking to him afterwards as he recounted his experience, he said he realized a very critical point he never would have considered had he not challenged himself to this greater height that he always knew was within his capacity, but he feared. He said come mile 20, the bedreaded mile for most first-time marathoners, he began to feel pain. Real, sharp, unavoidable pain. He faced the decision to either keep running and face likely permanent damage/disability, or sacrifice his goal time and walk.

The pain of continuing in folly won out and forced him to walk a mile or more, until he could muster the will to safely finish running. He finished with a time that mocked his original goal, but he was able to heal and to be stronger and wiser in the overall picture of what it means to give up something. That to give up is actually to gain something greater than one is able to see from the perspective of holding on. He finished safely.

What if those who hold hard and fast to their own beliefs were to take a giant leap of faith like that, to consider the possibility that there might be greater benefits on the other side of stubborn clinging?

In my caffeine-free and post-ashes & sackcloth state, I am enjoying life immensely. This was partially captured in the craziness of my last post, and now followed by a weekend of bliss. Bliss was a good book and a tall drink at the water’s edge, a taste of our next-door neighbor’s award-winning bbq after a competition and they had too many leftovers (yowza! we let his kid borrow our boat motor & other equipment today in exchange for their good stuff), warmer temps, and plenty of scenes like the one Spanish moss-draped one below, all weekend long.

Oh, and I shouldn’t leave out the small wonder of stopping by our friendly neighborhood Piggly Wiggly yesterday on the way home to get ingredients for my infamous gumbolaya, bumping into a buggy of marked-down wines from some obscure location (Cave Junction, OR – get thee behind me, Satan! ) and finding out there actually IS a red wine out there that doesn’t betray me. On the other hand, maybe we should have more than one Lent per year. For my next trick, I will try to give up lengthy posts. 😀

Peace be with you…

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Now that the afterglow of completing my fifth half-marathon has worn off and feeling has been restored in my lower extremities, I thought I would share some observations and recommendations for those of you contemplating taking on a long-distance race. These issues seem to crop up in every race I’ve run, from the take-it-easy Turkey Trot 5K all the way up to the monster marathons.

And if you’re an *amateur like me, you don’t hang with the diehards in your local road runners club so you might never think or hear about some of these things until you’re (%*&%$#) in the middle of your first race. So after more than a decade of running behind other people in these races, here are some tips you might find helpful:

(*Disclaimer: Emphasis on amateur. I am probably omitting something critical. Experienced runners, do not laugh – you had to learn all this at one point, too!)

1.) TRAIN: This goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway. I cannot tell you how many people sign up for these races (usually children and macho businessmen who have something to prove) and mistakenly believe they don’t need to practice beforehand. There are those who don’t train and take off like jackrabbits when the pistol goes off, only to wind up on the side of the road a mile or three ahead, rubbing their cramped calves. Then there are those who think they’ve trained, but misjudge the effects of distance and time on one’s body. Get a book, research online, find a training/pacing guide and follow it for the length of race you plan to run. And don’t wait until the week before to go your longest distance – that’s the week you should be resting and/or doing short maintenance runs and mentally revving up. Even though you may be doing it for fun, it’s only fun if your body and mind are prepared.

2.) PLAN LOGISTICS AHEAD OF TIME: Something has failed me in every race, usually something very small and annoying with long-lasting negative effects. Kind of like trying to put  up with a pebble in your shoe that you don’t want to stop to remove.

*What do you need to carry? How will you carry it? Keep it simple. Just the necessities, with identifying and emergency information scrawled on the back of your race bib, at the very least. I can’t tell you how many cell phones I stooped to bend over in last week’s race, because the owners were oblivious to the phones bouncing out of pockets, falling off of clips, etc. I think the smartest arrangement that caught my eye (and just as quickly averted my eye) was a gal I first thought had undergone surgery for breast cancer. No, it was her phone tucked into her bra. Me? I like a tiny fanny pack on long races, enough to fit my phone, ID in case I keel over, my emergency inhaler (yes, running increases lung capacity, I’ve found) and my car key (singular – less is more). On short races (5 or 10Ks) I just have my iPod and keys. Period. And don’t forget the sunglasses.

(And another thang: I’m old enough that on my first long race, I packed a bigger fanny pack with my Sony Walkman and (yesindeedybob) cassette tapes, like prehistoric Madonna and Michael Jackson. That was back in the days of bag phones, kiddos, so there was no phone to carry, no GPS, no nuttin’. Whoa. Oh, and I threw in my unreliable and inaccurate pedometer. Apps in those days were handheld and manual.)

*iPod or other musical device, if you are in need of musical motivation, like most race participants…download good, positive music that you know will carry you through. I went through my playlist the day before the race, but during the race I discovered one song I should have deleted: “The Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads had an upbeat enough tempo, but the lyrics made me slow my pace a little – not the most motivational song. And by gosh, make sure whatever electronic device you carry is charged.

*Clip your nails. Toenails, that is. Admittedly disgusting topic but lemme tell ya, one nail that’s ever so slightly not completely trimmed is going to jam into your shoe with each step of the race. Try this on a 26.2, and you’ll wind up with a black toe and months of black nail. And a much slower finish time. See? I told ya these aren’t things you’d normally hear about. Keep ’em short. And ladies, thank the Lord for nail polish.

So what failed me this race? My last fanny pack broke and I waited until a quarter till closing to remember that I needed to see if the new cycle/triathlon shop in town carried any. They did, but it had a water bottle holder I didn’t need (there are plenty of drink stations along the route), making it larger than I bargained for. So I took the bottle out and used the round space to roll up my Ace bandage in case I needed it for my sometimes-annoying knee, and stored my sunglasses inside of the bandage so they wouldn’t fly out when I didn’t need them. The fanny pack worked great until I noticed after the race that the damned strap left a black smudge around my light-pink tank top. Nice.

3.) PLAN ON SOME SPONTANEITY: Anything unforeseen can lend itself to an adrenaline rush. Rain and other elements can be a good thing (pretend you’re in a movie). A song on your iPod you didn’t expect. Wear something nobody else expects. Surprise yourself. Find things along the route that give you motivation (see caption to last picture at bottom of post). Give others a pleasant or humorous distraction, like this runner:

This guy had a papoose-like cut-out baby in his backpack...

4. REMEMBER: Where you park…there is nothing worse than hobbling off after a race and forgetting which side street you eventually managed to find a space to park on, which typically is a mini-marathon-length itself away from the start and finish lines. Major drag. This year I wised up and texted my husband this info before the race, since I knew I probably wouldn’t have my wits about me till well after the race. And one’s mind is still racing long after the finish line, so all I could fathom was my car was near the corner of Whatzit and WhoHaa. Surely I raised eyebrows with the runners parking nearby when I zipped into a handicapped spot, slapped up my placard, and jumped out of the car alone in my race gear and bib prominently displayed. I knew I needed the spot because my handicapped child, who’d meet me at the finish line, would be riding home with me after the race. Judge not, y’all.

5.) DITCH THE FRAGRANCES: Okay, you offenders know who you are. You are doing no one any favors, especially us asthmatics who are already oxygen-challenged. You are clogging up the airspace. I would rather smell your body odor. Really. It makes me want to pass you at top-speed. Don’t think you are sparing or impressing anyone. One of these races I’m going to carry a mace-sized can of Lysol to neutralize you. Phewy!

6.) KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON: Please. What’s that, you’re hot and sweaty? Well, me too, After all, I might have liked to go topless, too. Sports bras are jug-jail in my book. But this is a family event, not Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Let’s have some decorum. This gentleman and I played leapfrog throughout the race…I was going to pass him in the last 2 blocks, but he had the decency to put his shirt on just as the dizzying busy-ness of the finish line first came into view 1/4 mile away straight-on…so I held back and let the nice man finish before this middle-aged whippersnapper…

Shirt Up, Dude

Ya gotta have respect for the elderly out there – none of us could say for sure if we’d have what it takes when we’re their age, to do such a thing. I admire these people tremendously!

7.) DON’T PSYCH YOURSELF OUT DURING THE RACE:  There are countless ways to do this, all to your detriment.

*Be realistic, don’t kill yourself – take time for rests/breaks, be happy with whatever time you’re making. Do not compare yourself to the internationally competitive Kenyans or out-of-towners taking the lead who are trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. If you choose someone to try to keep up with and they leave you in the dust, pick another one. Focus on the goal, not the moment. Conversely, focus on the here-and-now to get through each mile, not on how much farther you have. I know, this is contradictory. This whole thing is more mental than physical, I assure you. At one point you will need far-off goal thoughts, at the next moment you’ll need the here-and-now. Alternate accordingly. Mentally pat yourself on the back with each mile, and with each uninvited thought in between. You are doing this for fun, not practicing for the Olympics. And for Apollo’s sake, you don’t have to actually RUN the whole thing. Alternating running/walking sometimes puts you ahead of the OCD folks who insist on running the whole race, but may not pace themselves and peter out in the latter half.

*DO NOT ignore pain, or you could wind up permanently disabled and you may find yourself helping to finance your orthopaedist’s new yacht. Some pains you can run/walk through and they pass – but some you should not. Pay attention to your body, do what it tells you, baby it when necessary. Drop out if you must. There is no shame whatsoever in exercising sound judgment, wisdom and prudence.

*And lastly, pay no mind to the 70 year olds passing you with “50 States Marathon Club” on the backs of their shirts. They may be bionically altered or very close to living in a wheelchair. You can’t really compare yourself to others in most other areas in life, so don’t try to with perfect strangers during a race, of all places.

I LET them beat me in the race out of respecting my elders...yeah, that's it!

8.) DON’T PSYCH OTHERS OUT DURING THE RACE: Leave plenty of room when you pass someone – you may startle or distract them. Say only positive things and encourage your fellow racers. When you are closing in on the finish chute, don’t dart ahead of others to shave a few seconds off your time. Don’t judge other runners, even in your head – remember there may be some runners with a hidden disability, running in memory/honor of another etc. Resist the temptation to yield to adrenaline’s self-serving tendencies, and humble thyself to your fellow racers. If you must psych out others, make it something interesting to think about or look at without distracting too much.

This couple wore their favorite matching kilts for the race.

9.) BE SAFE: Keep your music low enough that you can hear what is going on around you. I can’t count on one hand how many people were so unaware in this last race, that a motorcycle policeman blaring his siren to move racers from two to one lane, crept up behind and then next to some racers deep in their own world. Be aware of your surroundings – races start early; beware of questionable characters popping out of hidden alleys. Stay in or near a pack of other racers. Stop to help an injured runner get to the curb. Move unexpected debris in the road if you come upon it. Obey the traffic guards and remain in marked race lanes. A shortcut could cost you your life if you meet up with a disoriented driver having to divert due to the race.

10.) BE COURTEOUS: Don’t darken your fellow racers’ doorsteps with these race-wreckers:

*Keep your music in your earbuds. This was a problem in last week’s race – somebody mistakenly assumed her favorite, motivating music – cuss-tainted rap at loud levels – would also be our favorite. Then she’d turn it off before every water station so she didn’t get caught – way to ruin a race, chickie.

*Don’t run/walk with your buddies more than two abreast – this is typically a problem in the first few miles of any race. Clumps of coworkers and flocks of friends can make it race-hell for those behind them. We really don’t want to have to be prisoner to your pace and have to listen to your account of the latest office gossip. Save it for the water cooler on Monday.

*Watch where you spit. I can’t believe I have to address this. That’s right, look first in the direction you’re about to spit, before you spit. Nothing like a loogey landing on your left shoulder because of a misguided mouth missile. Better yet, don’t spit at all. That’s just plain uncouth.

*Likewise, watch where you toss your cup after you leave the relief station. Get to the side, look behind you first (see above), gently toss the remaining liquid into the grass or brush, then put the cup in the provided container, if there is one. If there isn’t, toss your cup where you see the most other cups, to make it easier for the poor volunteer who has to dispose of all the used, slobbery, sweat-covered cups. Most seasoned runners have learned this the hard way (read: unexpected Gatorade shower courtesy of the careless guy ahead who did not think to heed this nugget of advice).

*Greet/thank security, volunteers & police who are stationed at every intersection and safety station. Okay, so maybe it’s not realistic to thank all of them throughout the race, and granted some of them look like they’d rather stand there in their orange vests and dream about going back to bed when they get home (you’re not the only one who arose at the crack of early to make this happen). But hey, when you can, show your appreciation for their efforts to make your race a safe and enjoyable one. It’s not easy to risk life and limb to reroute irate drivers, or manning the drink stations passing out little cups of water and such to sweaty, stinky, mostly-speechless racers.

Thank you, Officer Friendly!

11.) REST WELL AFTERWARDS: Go ahead, pamper yourself: Advil, bananas (to avert cramps), Advil, pasta or favorite replenishing food, Advil, favorite beverages, and if you share your bed with anyone, apologize in advance before you go to sleep for potential Charley-horses which could well result in a swift kick in their netherparts. And, if you can, hit the beach!

12.) THE MORNING AFTER: Put your coffee down before you sit down to drink it. You just might be sore, and basic things like sitting and standing are best done slowly and very deliberately, without a scalding beverage looming nearby. Be careful driving, especially the first time you go from the gas to the brake pedal. And keep pampering yourself. You’ve got bragging rights, now.

P.S: GO AHEAD AND HAM IT UP FOR THE CAMERAS AT THE FINISH LINE…YOU NEVER KNOW IF IT MIGHT BE YOUR LAST ONE!

Best unexpected motivator during the race: Running past the hospital where I was rushed last March for emergency surgery, moments from death. Life's short - Carpe Diem!

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very deeply…and my lungs gratefully drank in every molecule of fresh sea breeze, walking the beach. The yellow flag corresponded to the rougher-than-usual waves. It would have been nice to do some boogie boarding, but even though the air was 75, the water was less than that. Too chilly for me, but not for several brave souls, some of whom were bikini-clad snowbirds and undoubtedly from regions northward. To them, this was winter bliss.

And yesterday I saw a new sport: Beach Frisbee in the fog. This was very interesting to watch, and I’m not sure I was quite able to watch all of it, the fog was so thick. Today was much better, though – bright sunshine and a south wind brought us perfect weather -you, friend, and me – to hang out together on our beach chairs. There were enough auger shells washing up at our bare feet for both of us to make an interesting mosaic.

Hey, dear friend…and happy New Year to you. Thank you for inhaling the sweet warm winds here with me, leaving behind all the toil and chaos of the holidays, shall we? It was delightful, but like all good chaos, it is nice in some ways to return to the anchor of routine. Thus I shall go Tuesday.

Here in the deep South, every occasion signals certain food-related traditions. New Years is no different. On this first day of the year, we eat black-eyed peas for good luck, greens for wealth, and cornbread represents gold. Our next culinary tradition will involve King Cake, for Mardi Gras. More on this anon. The South is a nonstop parade of Very Important Occasions, none of which would be complete without food. Really fabulous food. Do not wonder why states in the South consistently rank highest for obesity. It is decidedly poor breeding and manners to refuse food offered. You simply must have some. And you are never sorry, it is always so, so good. I’ve figured out portion control is key, however.

And exercise. It’s okay to partake in all this good stuff and then park on the rocking chair on the front porch to wave at your neighbors going by. As long as you eventually get up and join them as soon as your food settles…because the neighbors going by are walking their dogs or biking or running or such – they are exercising in one form or another. Well, most of them. Okay, well probably not most of them, if the obesity stats are valid. Anywhoo, we still sit on the porch and wave at folks. And they wave back.

I am one of the post-meal-post-rocking chair movers, training for a half-marathon coming up very shortly (ten miles is Monday’s assignment). It is not my first, and the last one I did, I did 3 years after my first marathon. I did the marathon in honor of our child with Down syndrome, and he ran with me the last 2 blocks, crossed the finish line, and received my medal. I figured if he could run the kind of marathon he does every day battling his mental and physical health challenges, I could push myself to do some small token of what he accomplishes. Speed demon I am not:

Don't wait till life's finish line to get around to what you want out of life! Give it a shot - NOW!

The thing is, I have asthma. Shielded from all manner of athletics as a child out of my parents’ fear of asthmatic complications, I was never permitted to know exercise as a part of life. Then in 2003, while pregnant with child #3, our child’s occupational therapist prodded me one day, insisting I, too, could complete a marathon. I thought she was crazy. But she handed me a training book, cheered me on, and before I knew it, I had gone from running between our mailbox and the neighbor’s and pooping out the rest of the way, to running two mailboxes away, then three, then around the block, then around bigger circuits, until the goal was within reach.

Somewhere in the middle of that I popped out a 10# 7 oz baby, with much ease, thanks to the ongoing training (childbirth is an athletic event, I am convinced). Ironically, the more I ran, the more I found my lung capacity increased, and I relied less on my inhalers and had fewer asthma attacks. And I hatch my best ideas on my runs.

Oh, and I do not run the whole way, like those go-getters who actually run entire distances. No, I’m the tortoise plodding along at a slow jog as you pass me at a good clip. Yes, I even WALK parts of the way. Run 3 minutes, walk a minute, or whatever pace works at any particular moment. I’m also the one passing many runners at the 25 mile mark, when all their insistence on running the whole way gives way to inevitable fatigue and pain. I pace myself, and along with my trusty iPod, slow and steady wins the race. Well, um, finishes the race, anyway. Good enuf for me.

Such is the nature of achieving any goal. Believe + start small + allow yourself days to go backwards, as long as most of your days are forwards. I don’t know what your resolution might be, but whatever it is, don’t give up. And if you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for the sake of somebody else who believes in you.

Because Somebody does, whether you realize it or not.

Inhale deeply, get the most out of each life-giving instinct you have to do good, to go forward. Feel the oxygen…feel it energize and propel you forward into your destiny to make yourself and the world a better place.

Breathe with me, here at the seashore…

God, thank you for every breath, for every friend, for every opportunity – give us wisdom and motivation to do our very best…for You.

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