Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2008 Silver Comet Half Marathon Race Report

Don't be fooled by the title.

One of those words in there is a misnomer.

This is my 3rd year running the Silver Comet Half Marathon. I really like this race simply because in the past I have done very well at it. In fact, my 2 fastest half marathon times are from this race: 1:41xx and 1:36xx. I even placed both years top 3 in my age group. This race is also the perfect marathon tune up. The past 2 years I have trained through this race; meaning, no taper-- just raced it as my last hard run before my marathon taper.

Well this year going into this race was a little different. First off my fall marathon is 2 weeks later this year than the previous 2 years. Second, if you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have complained off and on since last January about various calf problems. And if you have been reading then you also probably know that I have not had what I would call a successful race since November of 2007. Though, in retrospect, I will admit that Ga ING marathon was a pretty good effort considering I was coming off an injury--or rather still had an injury.

My training hasn't been great. Sure, I've put in a lot of miles and effort-- but duration doesn't always mean "hard effort". To perform well in a race you definitely need to put in a hard effort in training. So while I have put in a lot of time and miles hardly any of it was under a 8 min pace for the past month.

The reason I have purposely avoided a hard effort in training is that when I push the pace my legs give me issue and I can't recover fast enough to continue to train. However, if I go slow I can put in the miles--lots of miles. But as soon as I dip below that comfortable forever pace of 8:30 Bam! I start having problems. Distance is not an issue for me but speed**, apparently is. And well, to race you kinda need the speed part. It is the key component of running fast.

**I feel compelled to add that this is relative. I am by no means an elite runner by any standards. I am just talking about being faster than I was.**

Despite all this I had been cautiously optimistic that since I was "taking it easy" in training that I could put up a good race. A PR of sub 1:36 wasn't likely but it wasn't out of the question either--at least that is what I told myself. In September I had done 2 12 mile training runs that came in under a 7:30 avg pace. I figured my speed** was still there. The question was more could my legs handle it? That was the unknown for me and recent experiences told me: Not likely. Still though, ever the optimist, I didn't dwell too much on the odds. . .

My training had been going okay. I was, if nothing, being consistent and cautious. I was working through my injury: icing, massaging, stretching-- babying it. However, I was, I admit, definitely pushing the envelope with the mileage this month.

I've run a long run ( 2 21 milers, a 23.5 miles and 25.3 miler)and a medium length run of 13-17 miles every week. The first week of October I jumped up to 58 miles with only 4 days of running. The next week I ran 65 miles. The following week I ran 72 miles and was on my way to 53 miles for last week as a cut back week. I ran 10 miles at marathon pace on Monday. I ran a 21 miler on Tuesday (50 seconds slower than goal marathon pace). On Wednesday I ran close to tempo pace for 6 miles. Thursday and Friday were to be easy days.

On Thursday my house of cards came crumbling down on me. On my 3 mile "easy" run my calf completely locked up on me. I hobbled my way through it for a 9:21 avg pace after having gone out at least 2 minutes faster. After wards my calf was swollen, tight and tender to the touch. I babied the heck out of it and stayed off it Friday. I hoped and prayed over it.

Fast forward to this past Saturday: race day.

I woke up and everything felt good. I could still feel some residual knots in my calf but it was softer, better--still melon firm but not rock hard. So yeah, better. I went in with the optimistic attitude of "you never know" --really thinking it was all going to workout for me.

I drove to the start and parked at the middle school as I have done the past 2 years. This gives me the opportunity for a .8 mile warm up. I started out slow, easy pace. About 4 minutes in my calf started to tighten up.
Uh-oh, not good.
I slowed the pace and even walked a bit. The tightness turned to that familiar ache and reached down and was griping my arch. Nope, definitely not good. But! (I thought,optimistically still consoling myself.) This happens frequently when I start out. Most times the muscle relaxes if I keep the pace easy enough and I can later push the pace. This is how I have done all of my long runs. By the 3rd or 4th mile almost always the tightness/pain is gone and I can run a faster clip. For 20 more miles I should add. Certainly, other issues arise: hip pain, IT band tightness etc. But I consider those an aspect of the distance and they are not debilitating like the calf issue. Meaning, I can run through those at whatever pace. With the calf issue I cannot maintain my pace. Often times I am even forced to walk because the tightness doesn't allow my muscle to flex. It is immobilizing. Again, though. If I go slow enough I can usually work through it. . .

I got to the start area and still had about 15 minutes to warm up. I went behind the building to this open grassy area and did strides and then stretched. Basically running back and forth; really giving my legs a good warm up.

I lined up for the race in my usual spot--about 10 feet back and off to the left side. After a bit of a wait the horn went and we were off. I purposely held back. I didn't have a watch since I have yet again broke the strap of my Garmin but I was keeping the tightness at bay. I knew I wasn't going too fast. Other than my leg I felt very comfy and strong. At the mile split a 7:20 pace was called. That was pretty much perfect since last year I ran an average 7:23 pace. Definitely not out too fast.

Even still I could feel the muscle getting tight and the cramp coming on. So I slowed down. This was hard because while I was definitely capable of holding, even pushing the pace I knew I couldn't. So I got passed a good bit. I just looked down at the ground. Because of this I missed the 2 mile split call.

The tightness was getting worse and was now really hurting. So I pulled back a bit more. I heard the 3 mile split but can't remember exactly. It was 22 something. Either :36 or 46. I really can't remember. However slowing down had helped and while my leg wasn't exactly comfortable and loose it was starting to feel better. I took that to mean I was past the worst of it and could open up my pace. I started to push without issue. I felt really happy and felt like I was running how I should be running. I focused on not thinking about the pain and started picking people off. Anyone who runs a race knows that is the best feeling in the world. Being cautious and mindful of my calf though I would run up on a group and feel out their pace before passing--certain that I could maintain before pulling past them.

I missed the 4 mile split but sometime around then the pain and tightness came back full on. I still tried to maintain the pace I was running --since I just passed all those people-- but I could feel myself compensating my stride. It is hard to explain and it may not have even looked like how it felt. But it felt like I was pulling around a stiff leg and leaning to the right. My left foot was even hitting my right calf at times. I tried to focus on running from the hip, imagining my legs were like the hands on a clock--like how Ryan Hall's look--even and smooth-- and fast. I looked down and bitterly observed the runners' in front of me. Their calves. They looked loose, soft, not permanently flexed and stiff like mine felt. I hated them and their perfect calves.

And then my left foot went numb. My heart sank. It was South Carolina all over again. And then I wasn't running. I walked for a second and then stepped off and stretched. Someone in front of me was doing the same. I felt a teeny tiny bit better that someone else was struggling.

I got back on the course and tried to run. I couldn't. So I walked.

I walked past a kid calling splits. I asked him what mile this was, thinking--knowing--it was 5 but really wasn't sure. He said "I don't know, but you're at 36:50."

For a split second I felt optimistic realizing I wasn't really off pace for a PR or even, at the least, finishing close to last year's pace. All this, of course, assuming I could pull it together. I mean, energy wise I felt great. Warmed up and ready to race. I started running again and was instantly reminded of the vice that was holding me back: my left calf muscle. I asked a guy who passed me if this was mile 5 and he confirmed that it was.

And, just like that, I was done.

And just like that I quit. I stepped off the course and watched as people passed me. A few optimistically called out to "hang in there" and "that I could do it". and yes, I knew I could do it but I wasn't about to hang in there for 8 miles of pain and discomfort and possible permanent injury.

So when there was a break in the crowd I crossed and headed back the way I had come. Again a few people called out to me "Not to do it!" and I just ignored them, not making eye contact. I walked down to the trail opening as runner after runner passed me and asked the police officer blocking traffic how I could get back to the start. I explained, that I was quitting: I was injured.

He told me to wait right there. I did as told and when he had a moment he called a ride for me. He told me it was going to be a bit and offered to let me sit in his patrol car since it was cold. I told him I was fine and that it was humiliating enough to have quit the race that I didn't need people thinking I was also getting arrested. He laughed and said that I would get cold and change my mind and the offer was still open. Of course, right then I vowed to not change my mind no matter how cold I got. I am so stubborn and dumb.

And he was right.

About 2 minutes later I was cold! But it wasn't bad. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself as I watched the throngs of runners with perfect calf muscles pass me. I thought about Steph and her attitude. Her always positive attitude and how she cheered everyone on during the South Carolina Half despite her tummy woes and decided that being sad and negative really wasn't doing me any good. So, I got over it. Quitting-- it just didn't matter in the large scheme.

I cheered for people as they went by and tried my best to be encouraging. Admittedly I am not a natural like Steph. And I guess I wasn't doing all that great of a job being positive because Lauren passed me and asked if I "was okay?" And another lady stopped and gave me her jacket (I had on a skirt and short sleeves--way under dressed compared to most but dressed fine for one who planned on racing. Le sigh.). She told me to leave it on the post for her. I am glad people were still nice to me even though I felt a bit of a pariah for being a quitter.

A few minutes later I got to see the leader coming on the return.
I was glad I got to see that. He looked amazing! Wish I could run like that!
And, he had a almost a 5 minute lead on the these guys:
I was hoping to see the lead girls come by but my ride showed up. And oh boy, does the universe has a sense of humor when it comes to me.
I had to ride in a police car anyway.

I know some of you might be surprised (others, relieved--Mom, Dad) but this was my first time riding in the back of police car--having never been arrested. It was kinda exciting! And I was surprised by how little space there was! And that it was really clean. The officer giving me the ride laughed at me taking pictures of myself and offered to take one of me.
I told him I got one but I would love it if he would hand cuff me and pretend to arrest me and take that picture. I guess the answer was no since all he did was laugh and the handcuffs never came out.

He was really nice and drove me back to my car. I hurried and drove over to the finish hoping to see the leaders finish but I missed the overall winner. I got there just in time to see the girl leader finish. Unfortunately though not in time to get her picture.

I commiserated briefly with others who were there but were injured and couldn't race. Birds of a feather, you know. . .

I left because I was really cold and couldn't stay to watch for others to finish since I was driving to Bainbridge after the race. Details of that trip will be in another post --so don't ask (Lala).

As a recap, of course, I am sad that I didn't finish the race. This is my first ever DNF. Quitting really is hard! In theory it sounds like the easy way out but when you are committed and passionate about something stepping away from it is just about the hardest thing in the world to do. I've often wondered what would make me quit a race; since I see myself as a person that pushes herself through just about anything. Generally, I view "just finishing" as an accomplishment and is always one of my race goals. In the past I have always been happy that I fought my way through pain, sickness, and misery to just finish when a race wasn't going my way. Quitting, really wasn't ever an option for me.

However, I can also say with absolute confidence that Saturday I would have still been sad if I had finished. Finishing the race would have gained me nothing but making my injury worse and probably force me to drop out of the Atlanta Marathon. And to me that was a more devastating choice. So yes. I quit. I quit one race in hopes that I can still run another--maybe even, dare I think it, race the marathon on Thanksgiving.

So. . . I am taking a full week off from running and hoping that gives my calf enough time to heal and recover and I can resume training for the marathon. I know that doesn't sound like a lot of time but the way I see it I haven't taken more than 3 days off from running since I had the flu 4 years ago and even then that was only 5 days. I've run through every single injury I've ever had--even sprained ankles. Some I've even raced through. So for me I think 7 days of not running is a huge step in the recovery direction.

That said, I do plan on cross training-- weights, swimming, cycling, yoga etc. I just can't imagine not exercising everyday. That would make me depressed. And, I should add, in the past 7 years--since Carmella was born--I don't think I've ever gone more than one day of not doing some form of exercise. So I just can't even fathom. Call me addicted, I don't care. Exercise is just what I do. Like shower or brush my teeth.

However, I am a bit lost on how to resume my training next week and if you have suggestions or experience I would like to hear it. I've toyed with a few different ideas:
Jump back into a high mileage week (60-80 miles)--as was my plan for this week and next--and just continue to a 2 week taper and pretend this week just didn't happen.
Or . .
Resume my base running mileage of 40-50 miles per week and then do a one week taper.
Or. . .
Do a reverse taper and build mileage back up so that race week is a peak mileage week.

Thoughts? Opinions?

As always thanks for listening and of course, congrats to all those that ran, raced and/or Pr'd the Silver Comet last weekend!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stay Tuned !

Oh no!
Why is Nat in the back of a police car?
Why is Nat wearing this silly hat?

Who cares, but boy doesn't she look smart in glasses?

Hi there dear readers that I love!

I have had a busy and crawzeey weekend and promise to write up my boring blog posts about it as soon as I get a chance. Right now I need to crawl my way out from under the mountain of laundry that has a accumulated from neglect and have to go teach an art lesson on Charles Schulz to Beau's class this morning.

But till then I leave you this picture:


If only my Aunt Boo was Obama's running mate this whole deciding who to vote for would not at all be a problem. Seriously. Obama needs Boo on his team. Heck, I think McCain could use her too.

Wait a minute.

What am I thinking?

Boo for President!

I hope they have a write in option on the ballot.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ms. Nat Goes to Washington Wearing a Violet* Hat

I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. --Voltaire

Anyone lived in a pretty how town (with up so floating many bells down) . . .--E.E. Cummings

In this country there is a town. A town that leans more red than blue. And in this more red than blue town there is a street that is political sign waving red. The street is one mile long and has multi million dollar wide lawn house after multi million dollar wide lawn house. And on this affluent red street lives the mayor of the town that leans more red than blue. And the mayor, of course, is red, like most of his neighbors--even the one across the street that, as rumor has it, is a little bit of a crooked city council man.

As you drive down the red street with the beautiful big houses and pass red sign after red sign you come to the widest lawn of all. The house on this lawn is modest by comparison even though once upon a time all the wide lawns on the street use to be this house's front, back and side lawns. That's right, even the mayor's and that crooked city council man's house used to be owned by the modest house with the widest lawn of all.

The thing that is different about this house, the one with the widest lawn, is that this house has a little blue sign in front of it.

Or rather it did.

The person who lives in the house with the widest lawn kept finding her little blue sign taken down and tossed in the bushes.

So she went and bought more blue signs and put them up.

After all, the other houses got to put up their red signs, shouldn't she get to put up her blue sign?

This is America right?

One would think.

But not on a red street. I guess blue just isn't done.

To discourage the blue sign stealing the person who thought blue devised a sign protection plan.

First it was grease on the sign to discourage touching the sign.

This did not discourage the sign taking down. The sign trashing and tossing in the bushes continued.

Next in the sign line of dense was push pins.

But the wily sign vandals just rearranged the push pins and stuck them a la voodoo doll like in the blue sign's namesake.

So the lady who thought blue went and bought more blue signs and pinned some to her magnolia trees, her fence and mailbox. She bought little tiny American flags and balloons with American flags on them and tied them on the blue signs.

And the signs were left alone.

For awhile.

Then the mayor had his annual mayor's ball.

A pig roast.

Oh dear, ironies abound!

And the next morning the blue sign carnage was severe. Even the balloons and flags were destroyed.

But all the little red signs remained perfectly intact. Especially those in the front of the mayor's yard and that rumored crooked city council man's lawn.

Isn't that a heart warming story? Doesn't it make you proud to be an American?

I am in that small percentage of undecided voters. This of course upsets my friends and my family members who are decided-- regardless which side of the fence they sit on. Most were decided a long time ago because they vote party lines. And admittedly, I do tend to lean one way but, well, I am just so upset by both choices that I'm seriously afraid to lean either way. I am teetering on a violet line and it is seriously hard for me to choose. Neither choice seems the right choice-- but each for very different reasons.

Truthfully, I am a little sick about all of it.

But what troubles me most is that if I even so much as mention to a friend or family member that I might be thinking about the candidate that is NOT of their choosing, well then I get a 'talking' to like I am some idiot who can not form her own intelligent opinion.

Just so you know, I take great offense at being told how to think--even if I might agree with you. It is one of the very reasons that I do not attend church. I prefer to stay away from the cult like thinking. It makes me very uncomfortable. I want to form my own thoughts, opinions and because of this I also try very hard to be respectful of others thoughts, opinions--even if I disagree.

The bottom line is I absolutely do not want to be told what to think or more specifically how to vote. We can still be friends (or enemies) even if I think differently from you.

It has just gotten too hostile and I refuse to be berated for something that I understand is one of my rights as a US citizen. That is why this is a democracy, right? We have a choice. We get to choose!

Even if we disagree with it.

When I do decide who I am going to vote for (I still have a few weeks to nail down my choice!)I am definitely not telling anyone. So don't ask. It isn't any of your business and my reasons for my choice probably will not mean that I was at all 100% behind the candidate anyway so we still won't agree. Heck, I'll be lucky if I can find 60% that I agree on with the candidate.

So please, let this post serve as a reminder that while you may not agree with other people's choice of presidential candidate you should still be respectful of their right to choose. Leave people's signs and bumper stickers alone. It is just an opinion and you know what they say about opinions . . .

Be grateful that you live in a country that allows you to have choices.

That's all. Tomorrow this blog will return to its regularly scheduled frivolity.

*note: red and blue make purple but I hate the color purple. No offense meant to Alice Walker though.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I can't take it anymore.

Every morning.


Every day I devote way too much of my time searching for socks.

Socks for Beau.

Socks for Carmella.

Socks for Ryan.

Socks for me.

I find socks. But inevitably they aren't same style, color, or size. I've even tried only buying just white socks but not all white socks are the same. But in pinch it will work. But some days, seriously, I can't even find 2 white socks to put together.

Worst is my Asics Hera socks. I love, love, these socks. They cost $8 a pair and I must have bought at least 10 pairs over of the past year. $80 in socks. Can you imagine? There is a right sock and a left sock. Even labeled as such for arch compression. It is so maddening. Some weeks I can only find left Hera socks. Other weeks it is only right socks. Never mind actually having the same color Hera socks. . . (Hmmm, possibly what is wrong with my feet is from running with two left socks, or right. The compression might be that powerful. . .)

We buy socks at least monthly. Always in packs of 10, or at the very least, packs of 3 for fancy designer socks (read for Carmella). My mother in law is always giving the kids socks.

We should have a sock surplus!

But yet, I can never find any.

Every day I make an exhausting search for socks.

If I am ever late you can bet it was because I was sock searching.

Please, for the love of Pete what is happening to all the freaking socks?

Is there a secret sock vortex? Yet another great mystery of the universe sitting somewhere off to the left of that 10th planet? Is that where all the socks go?

Okay. I will concede this:

We have a dog.

Her name is Lola.

She is not a show dog.

She is a husky. They are, a little weird.

Most dogs do stuff like chew on your shoes, your furniture, the molding, a rug etc.

Our dog?

She has a sock fetish.

Clean, dirty, mine, Ryan, the kids? Doesn't matter she eats all socks. I've even caught her stealing them out of the laundry basket. She swallows them whole. I know this because I often find vomited whole socks--always greenish, putrid yellow in color. I throw those out.

But really, she can't be eating that many socks. Can she?

For Christmas?

We want socks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Time To Think About Getting Your Turkey On . . .

Here is my yearly post about encouraging everyone I know to sign up for the Atlanta Half marathon on Thanksgiving. You know I love this race and think if I can do it so can you!

Let me sell you on it my fellow Atlantans:

#10. It is pretty much downhill for the first 6 or 7 miles (yes, then the next 6 are uphill but whatever. Think of it as a lifting and shaping your ass into fine perfection). There is a Starbucks at the midway point. Mmmm, pumpkin spice latte . . .

#9. You get to see Buckhead in day light and wait, never mind. Disregard #9.

#9. You get to start in the dark and see the sun come up on Atlanta. I at least think this part is pretty cool. Running into the light, so to speak.

#8. You get a t-shirt with the exact same design they have had forever--that phoenix/seraphin thingy-- so everyone will know exactly which race you did from a mile away. And they will think you are cool. At least that must be the reason why I still see people wearing the shirts from 10+ years ago.

#7. You will, without a doubt, see at least one person that you have not seen in forever at some point during this race--though it might be at the expo.

#6. Next year the Peachtree will seem so easy and you will be able to drink beer and get a PR.

#5. They give you candy bars at the finish. Oh, and a gay little medal that you should definitely wear to Thanksgiving dinner. I think I might wear all of mine (they have only been doing the medal for the half for 3 or 4 years). Hmm, maybe I'll even wear them during the race. Jingle jangle.

#4. You get to run under the Olympic rings and on part of the Olympic course (90% if you do the full). And you should know, that this is the only American Olympic marathon course that still has a race on it. See how special that is?

#3. You will not be the one making the turkey that day. And if that isn't reason enough, I don't know what is.

#2. Beer, for breakfast. (Every does post race celebrate with beer right?)

#1. You will definitely "earn" your turkey but really what we are talking about is some sweet potato casserole, some mashed potatoes, some dressing--and gravy mmm gravy, some warm pecan pie--with ice cream and some pumpkin pie--with real whip cream-- and lots of yummy wine and Oktoberfest beer and best of all you don't gain a single pound because you burned off 1300 calories running up and down some cute little hills in downtown Atlanta. So see, what I am talking about, really is looking cute, wait, smoking hot, definitely not pudgy-- at the Christmas parties. Your New Year Resolution will be to run more, not diet.

So me? I am all signed up for the full! I have decided the lure of sleeping in my own bed, and driving down to the start/finish beats out traveling (and the costs involved)for a fall marathon elsewhere. Not to mention I don't have to get up at 4 am and leave by 5am since MARTA will not be involved (it is for the half though). I bet I can probably sleep until 5 am which is only an hour earlier than I regularly get up. No biggie.

No, it probably won't be a PR for me but whatever. I really don't care. I am done shelling out money to go do some race and stressing about it going poorly because I spent xxx dollars. This way I only have to spend $60 and I still get to run a marathon --even if it is hard one. But best of all. Afterwards? I get to come home, sit in my shower and then drive around the corner to Lala's and have a big fat delicious dinner that I didn't have to prepare. And the kids don't have to go school until the following Monday so I get a long weekend to relax and recover from the tin man shuffle. Now if the weather will just cooperate this year and I don't get bronchitis. . .

I have been training. My feet/calves continue to be an issue but I am practicing active recovery and rehabbing and icing and massaging the heck out of them. And I think they are slowly getting better. I am optimistic I can run the line between injury and healing. As a result though I have let the speed slide and chosen to focus on building up the mileage. So while I am not fast these days I am in it for the long haul.

Since the half iron man I have just been piling on the running miles. LAst month I only ran 140 miles. I am already past that this month (month prior though I ran 200+).

I ran 58 miles (4 days of running, 1 double) and 21+ miler the 6 days after the race in addition to swimming and cycling.

Last Thursday I managed to pull out a crazy double with 23.5 miles in the morning (3 hours 34 minutes) and then a 3.5 miler recovery run in the evening to hit 28 miles for the day. I finished the week out Saturday at 65 miles (6 days running, 1 double)with a 14.4 miler-- so I am even getting that dreaded mid length run in there too. I did swim and bike once each last week too.

This week I punished myself with yoga on Sunday. I was so freaking sore from twisting myself all pretzel Monday morning (I am still sore from it!) that I did not want to run but I forced myself to do 7 miles. I had to switch my long run this week to today because of commitments I have Wednesday and Thursday and because I need to do it early next week too since I have the Silver Comet half marathon next Saturday and again, commitments at the end of the week. I really wasn't feeling it today but my body loosened up after a few miles and I surprised myself and did 25.3 miles today in 3 hours and 45 minutes. Admittedly, I was a bit slower with the overall pace than last week's 23.5 miler but it was hotter today and last week I ran hard, maybe too hard.

It has been brought to my attention that I might be running my long runs too fast. Really, I am just doing what I can. These routes are quite hilly (by design) and I start out very slow and conservatively with an average 9:30+ pace for the first 5 miles. I let all the stiffness ease itself out of me and then I just start feeling good so I just naturally pick it up. In the middle miles I test out hard/fast paces. Then I reel it in a bit and then run the last mile or two as hard as I can comfortably manage. Today I finished running with 7:30 pace and felt fine. I am glad that I am having the energy to kick it at the end of these mega runs. It is making me hopeful for what is sure to be a bit of a death march in that last uphill 10k on Thanksgiving and so it will be nice if I can keep it together and finish running strong. Sigh, that is the hope. . .

Anyway, that is what I am up to these days. Lots of running, not much of it fast and a little bit of cycling and some swimming too. Well, in addition to all the mom, wife and business stuff. You know; same old, same old.

PS. Go sign up!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Matters: I Think I Still Don't Get It

First things first.

Two years ago, after Evan died, I wrote this post and said I really like to stay away from the serious, the sad and the negative. At the time I couldn't but since then, clearly, I have found a way to go back to being my silly, self-involved self. I am comfortable being that person.

I know it is the easy way out. It mostly involves not thinking about much other than yourself and your immediate dramas. And it isn't that I don't think about such things I just don't see the point in giving them much forum. It is a coping mechanism. And sure, it probably prevents me from being a better a person but most times I don't care. Part of the reason I try not to think about such things is because I get bogged down on the inequities of life. I start asking why why why and making un-startling revelations that it just isn't fair.

I am not 5, I am 37 and you would think, that by this point I would get that life just isn't fair. But I don't. I still just don't get it. And so when I think about such things I just feel like I am stupid and I feel completely overwhelmed by the sadness and I just don't know how to deal with that. So my solution has been to not think about it.

Brilliant. I know.

Especially since it doesn't work.

And that brings me to number two. . . . my point, this post.

I am going to leave names out but I have this in my head and I just need to talk about it. I am not looking for an answer but I need to spill it out of my head so my heart will stop feeling like it is going to burst from sadness and guilt. So I will wind around and go on at length and maybe have no point after all. I know, not unlike many of my posts but this time you get a warning; so read at your own risk.

And here comes all the words that hopefully somewhat express the thoughts in my head and then maybe I can be a bit unburdened by it. The "it" being these uncomfortable emotions that I don't like to have. I know that isn't fair, me passing it on to you; so there is your second warning to stop reading.

On Thursday morning Carmella handed me an invitation to a birthday party for a boy in her class. A boy that I like. A good boy. A really smart, probably even gifted boy. But as I read the invitation I got annoyed.

The party is for this Saturday. Today. I was annoyed for the late notice. I query Carmella about when she received the invitation.

Yesterday she says (Wednesday).

3 days notice for a party? Who does that, I think? Do they not want people to come-- or are we on the "B" list, I wonder.

Then I am further annoyed that it is from 4 to 6 pm. Not a good time. We like to do family stuff on Saturday evenings. Not to mention we already have a birthday party the kids are attending on Saturday from 12-2. I hate double booking the parties. And Beau isn't invited to this one. That means that if Carmella goes I will have to figure out a way to entertain him, explain to him why he was left out and has to get over himself. Which normally doing that wouldn't be such a big deal but Beau knows this boy. He has played with this boy before but wasn't invited because Beau is a kindergartner. I don't think the boy's mom even knows who Beau is. So why would she invite him? I know all that but explaining it to Beau. Ugh.

Carmella, of course, wants to go. I of course want to do other things with my Saturday evening. And then I forget about the party and don't call to RSVP one way or another on Thursday. Which, I should add is my absolute biggest pet peeve. I HATE when people do not RSVP to my parties so I always make an effort to respond as soon as I know. That way I am not a hypocrite and can continue to be annoyed with those that do not respond to my invitations for their rudeness.

On Friday, yesterday, Carmella had a play date with a girl from her class. Two other little girls came over as well and Beau had a friend over too. My house was complete chaos with 6 kids and again I forget to RSVP. In fact, to be honest, I had completely forgotten about the party anyway. Well, forgot until the little girl's mom from Carmella's class comes to pick up her daughter at 5:30.

I suddenly remembered the invitation and I asked the mom if her daughter will be attending the party. Before she answers I say I only got the invitation Thursday morning and that I am unhappy with the time. The mom agrees with me that the time isn't good, that she got the invitation on Wednesday and tells me that the little boy is moving in the next week or two anyway but that her daughter is going to the party.

I give her a puzzled look and her answer to my confused look is that after the girls' teacher had called her on Sunday and told her about the little boy's sister and, well, she just felt her daughter should go.

Huh? The sister? What happened to the sister?

She died. On the little boy's birthday last week.

Oh my God.

I feel instantly ill hearing this shocking news.

And then it starts to come back to me.

Two years ago I met the little boy's mother while waiting to pick Carmella up from kindergarten. I saw her frequently in the afternoons that fall. I don't remember who started the conversation but we would often chat while we waited for our kindergartners to be released. She was pregnant at the time with her third child. We would talk about that--my best friend was pregnant at the same time and you know women. If you've been pregnant you can always empathize. It is an easy ice breaker. She also had a three year old like I did. A girl though. During our little conversations she mentioned to me that her daughter had had brain cancer. A bombshell that took my breath away. But she was better, in remission, she told me. Of course I was sad to hear of her daughter's illness but was happy, relieved that she was recovered and the mom and I could go on exchanging small talk without the burden of despair hanging over us and me fumbling for the sensitive, understanding thing to say.

I am not good at being sensitive. And when put in the situation where I need apply sensitivity I pretty much feel like I fail the test every time. In my defense though, I do try. I do always try to make an effort as I tend to think that ignoring it and saying nothing lacks compassion more than saying the wrong thing. At least that is how I lean.

Anyway, my point is that the mother and I were just passing acquaintances and we always said hi but never went beyond that. Every time I see her though I do still have that passing thought of how devastating it must to have been for her to have had to deal with her child being sick with cancer. She seemed, to me, to be a very positive and upbeat person in spite of all that she had been through.I think that says great things about the character of her person. I admired her for this. I knew that she was just a better person than I am. And well, I always instantly like people who I think are better than me. Which, right. That does mean I happen to like almost everybody.

But of course, because I am me and living my self involved life, I had forgotten my admiration when I received the birthday invitation. Funny the stuff we forget when inconvenienced.

My heart breaks to hear that the little girl (yes I know her name), who was now 5, had died from the cancer. It had come back. And I am heartbroken for the little boy in Carmella's class to not only have lost his little sister but on his eighth birthday no less.

Then the mother of the little girl who is playing at my house tells me that all this happened right around the birth of their fourth child-- who came prematurely. In fact, she tells me the day they brought the baby home is the day the daughter went into the hospital.

I was at first confused since I hadn't known the mom was pregnant again and thought for a minute that I was thinking of someone else. But upon clarification I realize that it is indeed the same woman I was thinking of and my mind was just dizzy with heartbreak for this poor family: selling a house, moving, a birthday, a premature birth, and worst of all the loss of a child. All at the same time.

I know me, and I know most people, and most people would be completely overwhelmed at just one of those incidents on that list. All of them, on at least one level--if not multiple levels, are life altering.

But all of them happening at once?

How does one even begin to cope?

To deal?

Talk about the inequities of life. . .

Talk about things not being fair. . .

Talk about sadness, despair, heartbreak. Devastation.

I just don't even know what to think. It has all been swirling in my head, sitting heavily on my heart and making feel a little bit like throwing up trying to sort it all out.

And of course, my worry, my guilt is that I did not RSVP. I am sure, without a doubt that this family doesn't care. But I feel terrible at myself. And now I don't know what to do, and it just seems so absurd. Without a doubt I know that Carmella should go to this party. That isn't the question and was always the answer even before knowing what I now know. That is what is most important. Without a doubt the little boy should get to have the best possible birthday with all of his friends. Every kid should.

But, you know, I haven't RSVP and well, that is just rude. I go back and forth with this.

On the one hand I think I will just skip the party and send a gift on Monday. But then I think what if everyone else thought like me and no one goes to this little boy's party. That would be terrible for him.

So I think I am just going to call. Apologize for not calling sooner and see if it will be okay if Carmella can come. That is the right thing to do. Isn't it? The little boy having his friends at the party is the thing that matters most, right?

.. some things don't matter much. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person's heart--now, that matters. The whole problem with people is ... they know what matters, but they don't choose it... The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters. from The Secret Life of Bees

Way too often I am wondering about what is the right thing to do. Most times I realize too late what is the right thing. I too often let other things-- things that don't matter-- cloud my judgement. I feel like I need to have this quote from the book The Secret Life of Bees taped on my left arm as a permanent cheat sheet so I won't forget-- cause damn it-- I just keep forgetting. It really shouldn't be that hard in just knowing what matters and choosing the right thing. It just shouldn't.

So I messed up. Again.

Boy, I am really messing up a lot lately.

Thanks for listening.

And please say your prayers for this family. They are good people. Better than me definitely, and probably better than you.

*******Just wanted to say that Carmella did go to the party. Ryan dropped her off but I went early to pick her up and had the chance to personally extended myself to the mom. I think, we had a very nice talk. I know it doesn't change anything for her, for her family--me saying anything, us being there-- but I do hope, at the very least, that the party helped make the darkness a little less dark for them yesterday. And I am glad to have been a part of that brightness.

Again, thanks for listening, reading . . .

I will say that doing the thing that matters most might seem hard at first but after you do it, you find it really was the easiest thing in the world to do. ************

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Multi-cultural 101

More on Yom Kippur . . .

Carmella tells me that tomorrow a boy in her class--Ben-- will not be at school. It is because of that holiday, she explains.

Yom Kippur, I ask?


Mom, she asks, is 25 hours like a whole day?

Yes. One day plus one hour.

Oh my God. That is so hard, she says. I am glad we are not Irish.

I correct her: Do you mean Jewish?

Right, Jewish . . . Irish. Jewish. Whatever. So they don't eat and they have to pray like this: mimes prayer and does some mumbling, looks very solemn

Something like that, I guess. I really don't know, I tell her. I am not Jewish. I've never been to synagogue. . .

So this praying and not eating holiday? Is it like a contest?

Sometimes you just don't have an answer but I can't wait until she asks about Hanukkah and I tell her they don't do Christmas. I think it will be almost as good as the time I told her she was going to lose all her baby teeth or even better, that time I told her she too would get old.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Forgive me this trespass

Carmella is a girl with a calendar. She ticks off the days. She just came and asked me, "What is Yom Kippur?"

Jewish day of atonement, I tell her.

Blank look ensues.

I tell her Jews observe the day by not eating for 25 hours and spend the day in prayer.

Are we Jewish? She asks, brown eyes like a dinner plate.

No, I tell her. We are not Jewish.

Oh thank you Jesus, she says.

Putting My Nose Back in Joint

. . .being so mad that I start crying
no pay off for all my trying
to do it right to never fail
wishing for some fairy tale

nobody said it would be fair
they warned you before you went out there
there’s always a chance to get restarted
to a new world new life
scarred but smarter

but when my life it turns all around
jobs and things to do that I’ve found
I think how foolish I must have looked
to think I could be down for good

nobody said it would be fair
but in the end I think it is
karma justice
whatever you call it
it’s really there – keep looking for it

nobody said it would be fair
they warned you before you went out there
there’s always a chance to get restarted
to a new world
new life
scarred but smarter

Scarred But Smarter by Drivin' N' Cryin'

I have gotten over myself.

Sometimes I just forget things.

Like what is important.

Sorry. . .

I forget that 19 years ago as I lay in my hospital bed recovering from the surgery that had repaired my broken pelvis. Dr. Sabrin, my orthopedist, told me the surgery had been a success. He proudly told me that I would be able to have children, though there might be complications, he qualified. And that I would definitely walk, and again he qualified "though probably with a limp." As an afterthought he added, you might have to use a cane, but optimistically added, "probably not."

He yammered on about how gymnastics was definitely out forever--too much impact, he concluded. And went on to talk about other stuff I probably couldn't do but being of short attention span and doped up on tons of morphine I wasn't listening anyway. Quite honestly, I really hadn't been too worried about any of it; it wasn't like I had been great gymnast and at 18 I certainly didn't have babies on my mind but I think now, wouldn't he be surprised that not only do I not walk with a limp or need a cane but that I run marathons.

I forget that a little over 10 years ago I couldn't even run a mile in its entirety.

I forget that after a month of "running" 6 days a week for nearly an hour I finally ran 6 straight miles without stopping.

It took me an hour.

And I forget, how after the first I time I ran 6 miles, I thought I might die afterwards.

I forget how I ran for months in an old pair of my mom's running shoes and had horrible shin splints that made it so I could only walk some days.

I forget about how I went out one day in August when I was between shifts at 3 Dollar Cafe to run 4 miles. It was 98 degrees and I got chills and threw up and barely made it back to my apartment.

I forget that I was too dumb to know I was close to having a heat stroke and went to work anyway.

I forget that 10 years ago this November, 6 months after I started running, I toed the line of my first race ever: The Atlanta Half Marathon. I forget that I wore cotton spandex Capri's and a cotton sports bra and a cotton long sleeve t-shirt. I forget that the longest I had ever run before that day was a little over 7 miles.

I forget that a month before I had sprained my ankle and had to quit running for two straight weeks.

I forget that in the 4th mile of the half marathon, in the middle of Buckhead, that I tripped and fell flat on my face. Road rash and everything. Two men scooped me up a second before I got trampled.

I forget that I didn't use any of the aid stations as I wasn't entirely sure that I was allowed. And I forget that it would be another 7 years before I knew anything about Gu, Cliff Shots, or Gatorade.

I forget that I made it to mile 11 before I needed to walk. I do remember that it took me a little over 2 hours to complete the race but I forget how I was just so happy to have finished and was excited to do it again next year.

I forget that for many years the only race I did was the Atlanta Half marathon and that I "trained" all year for it. And by trained I mean I ran 30 miles every week. Some weeks it took me 4 days, some days it took me 7 days but I ran 30 miles every week. No more, no less. And definitely no speed work.

I forget so many things that have led me to be the runner I am today and I think along the way I forget to reflect and be grateful. So I apologize if this is all so boring, this jog down a road already taken but lately I think it would serve me well to remember.

To remember how hard it was to run right after I had Carmella because I forget that I didn't run at all for 5 straight months because of complications from my pregnancy.

I forget that I gained nearly 60lbs and how much it hurt--mentally and physically-to have that much extra unnecessary weight on my frame.

I forget just how hard it was to start back running 3 weeks after I had Carmella. I forget how much my knees hurt and how every single run was painful and that a lot of times I cried because I thought I would never be fit again.

I forget that I ran the Possum Trot, my first ever 10k and that it took me over an hour and how a man made fun of me because I was doing the walk/run shuffle during the race.

I forget that I kept at it because I had faith that somehow I might lose the weight and look like myself and most importantly I might get my fitness back.

I forget that I was hopeful but really, I didn't know if I could do it.

I forget that while it was hard for me in the beginning that I have been really lucky these past 5 years. I won't say it has been easy but compared to ten years ago the last 5 have been easy and I have been lucky to be able to train and push myself. So I just want to apologize for my negativity about my efforts at the South Carolina half iron man. I also want to say to those starting out that it is always the hardest in the beginning and we have all been there--though some of us forget. It is important to remember that like anything; the more you do it, the easier it gets. Sometimes it just takes awhile. But truly, being consistent and patient, those are the keys.

I forget about the patient part too often. I get ahead of myself. I have too many visions of grandeur. I forget about the struggle, the failures, the just getting there part that is always on the "road to success".

And I do think it is fair to have high expectations and to continue to dream big and challenge yourself but I think it is important to keep firmly right in your line of sight exactly where it is you started from so you never quit being grateful.

And I think, I stopped being grateful--or at least maybe it seemed that way and I deeply apologize.

Because above all else, I am truly grateful and feel really lucky that I have the ability to run, to bike, to swim--- that I am actually physically able to do it.

And that, well that is what is paramount.

And that, that is what I need to remember.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Band War

Steph invited the kids and I to join her and her girls at the Lassiter Battle of the Band.
Steph has a thing for marching bands. She was in the band in high school. I wasn't. I am not musical. At all. I did once have a boyfriend my senior year of high school that played sax in the marching band. But really, other than that, I don't remember much about my high school marching band. But that might also be because I didn't attend many football games. Spectating has just never been my thing. I get easily bored. I prefer to do, not sit.

And speaking of not sitting, this morning I did my long run. It went off well--21.5 miles and no severe foot pain! Just the regular long run pains. I was actually happy to have them.

I thought. This? This is normal.

So I am relieved I got it in and I am over the hump and able to move on with training for (some) fall marathon without a nagging or permanent injury. And, I actually had my highest running mileage week since last April, gosh, maybe even March. Partly, of course, this is due to the race last Sunday but overall this week I managed 58 miles running (4 days total), 121 miles cycling (4 days total), and 3.5 miles swimming (3 days). I am planning on dropping the bike mileage and replacing it with more running. As much as I don't want to do it I think higher running volume is what is going to get me faster. I hope at least. It has worked before. 50 mpw just seems to be keeping me the same. Gonna have to make another go at those 70 mile weeks. Ugh. It is gonna hurt. I just know it.

Oops. Sorry. Digression. This post is about the band wars. . .

So anyway, after I finished my run I asked the kids if they wanted to go see a battle of the bands. It surprised me that Beau knew I was referring to marching bands as he started marching and pretending to play the drums. Carmella wasn't so sure she wanted to go but Beau talked her into going to "the band war"-- as he called it.

Like Beau, I was thinking it was going to be a bit more intense. You know like a Bring It On sort of thing but instead of cheer off's there would be march off's. But no. It was all very organized and pedestrian. Maybe march off's happen in the finals. We still have our wrist bands and can go back any time we want today.

But we will probably not since I am already tired from having to walk up and down the bleachers. I am all marched out, to say the least.
Steph sat all the way at the top of the bleachers. Sure the view was great but it wasn't easy going back down.

Anyone who has ever run a marathon understands exactly what I am saying about going down stairs afterwards (up really isn't a problem for me).

Can you say Tin man?

I've posted this before but it cracks me up so much that it bears re-posting just in case anyone missed it last time: