Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter: Quarantine Edition

I cried this morning. More than once.

I woke up with my alarm and felt grumpy.  It didn't feel like Easter. 

I walked into the kitchen and saw my younger girls in the sunroom under their blanket fort they created last night.  The smallest was excited to check out her Easter basket and found bubbles, markers, candy, and hand soap. 

I don't know if you've heard, but we're in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic situation, y'all. Pickings are slim and even when bunnies order things two weeks in advance to avoid an actual visit to the store, basket fillers are delayed. 

I pulled out a bowl and whisked the muffin mix and dropped measured spoonfuls on the tin.  I felt something a lot like grief gnawing at my insides.  A mixture of pain and sadness and wistful thinking and feeling a little sorry for myself. 

It felt like someone had died and I was taken by surprise how strong my feelings were.  I put the muffins in the oven and set the timer.  I fixed a cup of coffee and scrolled social media and saw a lot of posts about Easter and the happy sentiments weren't helping my mood.  

Once the muffins were done, I went to take a shower and tried to get myself together.  It occurred to me that I was more sad about missing things other than our risen Savior.  I'm such a brat.  I brushed my teeth and finally the big sobs came out.  I was finally able to identify my feelings:


Loss of familiar.  Loss of routine.  Loss of connections with family and friends.  Loss of expectations.  Loss of certainty.  Loss of projects.  Loss of some hopes and dreams and plans.  Loss of connections and making memories.  Loss of motivation.  Loss of direction.  Loss of an anticipated trip.  Possible loss of of a camp season.  Loss of things I wanted to do.   

We "went" to church and I was so sad to not be in the building with our church family.  We were asked to dress up for church this morning for our online service, but I just couldn't do it today.  I wanted a family photo in front of the photo drop in the church lobby.  I wanted the routine of sitting on our friends' couch and discussing all the big and small and hard and regular things with them.  I wanted to hear the cackling laughter of our girls with their friends.  I wanted to pack my bags so I could drive to my parents' house like we do each Easter.  I wanted to visit with my family and not in parked cars six feet away from each other in the Kohl's parking lot like we had to do yesterday.  

Up until this pandemic, I recognize that I've been pretty fortunate to have never really endured an unexpected trial that lasted more than a short while.  I've attended funerals.  I've dealt with the loss of relationships.  I've moved, changed jobs, and worried about paying bills.  But I never expected to give up my freedom to go into stores or travel, to avoid getting together with family and friends, nor worry about being able to find toilet paper and bread.  I'm a middle-class American who has a steady job, goes to church, votes in elections, doesn't litter, follows the rules, exercises, and tries to be the best person I can be each day.  This is not what I signed up for!   

Everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss. 

My life is not the same right now--but isn't that the message of Easter?  Dying to our old selves and finding new purpose in Christ?  Recognizing the things that we chase and spend our time on are nothing compared to our freedom in His forgiveness and mercy?  The things we work to provide ourselves with comfort and security can be taken away in an instant?  We have created this wonderfully meaningless life and have been forced by this pandemic to examine what brings us happiness and contentment.  It should always be Jesus, but maybe this time is His way of reminding me of how distracted I've become in certain areas of my life?  Perhaps this time is painful because we're stripping away a lot of stuff that we thought made our lives sparkly and it's reminding us that joy starts with Him?  It's hard to lose tangible objects and ideas and plans, but it's even harder to peel the layers of junk we've accumulated in our souls all these years.  It is especially difficult when some areas have been covered up so many times we don't actually remember what was there to begin with--and we might not like it when we finally uncover the truth.

Lead me, lead me to the cross. 

Now, before someone begins to attack, please know that I'm well aware how blessed we are--we are healthy, fine, and able to support ourselves.  We have food, we have toilet paper, and we are safe.  We are doing our part to flatten the curve, and I want to protect our most vulnerable as much as you do.  But there's always a cost, and there are big feelings involved in a national crisis. 

Let's give everyone (including ourselves) a little extra grace and love these days, ok? 


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Hope and joy have left the building.

I didn't realize how bad it was getting. 

That's the way it starts--a thought here and a reaction there.

You don't even realize the darkness has once again made its home next to you all cozy on the couch like a bad relationship.

Shake your head, clear your brain, suit up for the next thing, wear a smile, keep going, and be brave.

Just don't talk about it. 

Get busy, work out, positive thoughts, responsibilities, distractions distractions distractions.

I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine.

I'm not fine. 

At some point it moves beyond my thoughts and starts making its physical symptoms known.

Sensations, pains, aches.

Fatigue, soreness, grumpy.

Is this normal?

What does Google say? (never a good idea)

And when it finally circles back to the thoughts, they are sinister.

Fear, sadness, anger, loneliness.

Go ahead and kick me while I'm down. 

It crawls over your whole body like a weighted blanket.

Keep moving, be responsible, do all the things because they're counting on you to show up, and you're not a quitter and you can't let anyone down.

Failure is not an option.

The body aches and shadows come and come and come until its like you're on the outside in the cold night looking in at your life and you're no longer allowed to participate.

Ebb and flow have turned themselves into an expanse of gray and somehow the waves keep pounding.

There are no tears no matter how much you need them.

Stop dreaming.  Start mourning.  Stop wishing.  This is the new normal. 

Hope and joy have left the building. 


Recognize the feelings from 16 years ago and remember how bad that was for everyone. 
It's time to bring it into the light. 

Call the doctor.  Fill the prescription.  Again. 
I can't fix this.
It feels like failure. 
It feels like relief. 

If this feels like your life, please find someone to help you.  Call your doctor.  Call a friend.  Call a counselor.  Call your minister.  It's ok to be afraid.  It's ok to be embarrassed.  
It's not ok to stay this way. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

48.6 is the new 40: Post-marathon blues

I wasn't expecting to feel more anxious in the weeks following the marathon. New aches and pains, constantly feeling like I was about to cry, unable to explain the heaviness I felt inside.  I didn't want to talk about it with anyone--not my husband, not my friends, not even my mom.  I was afraid to open my mouth for fear that all of the terrible thoughts would come pouring out in a big, snotty mess.  Apparently, it's quite normal for people to experience post-marathon blues.  I just didn't expect it to hit me quite as hard as it did.

The week after our trip, it started creeping back in to my thoughts.  Why was I having weird pains all over my body?  Why did I suddenly stop trusting my body?  Was this body, the same one that was capable of running a huge challenge only weeks prior, suddenly going to betray me?

Health anxiety is real issue for me, and I was assaulted by my thoughts on an hourly basis.  I didn't like being alone in my thoughts.  The head is quick to tell you things that are not true, make you feel things that are not real, and will make you want to shut the world out. When my health anxiety rears its ugly head, it starts attacking my physical and spiritual well-being.  I begin doubting the things that I believe.  I have a hard time putting my trust in anybody, including Jesus. 

Training and planning for Dopey had provided me with a huge distraction and a positive place to work through my weekly worries.  I had dedicated a ton of time and mental energy towards that goal.  Now I was left with a lot of mental empty space, no huge goals, and my mind always chooses to bring in the anxiety dump truck and fill it with terrible thoughts.

I lost the ability to hope.  I refused to let myself plan ahead and dream for fear that I wouldn't be there to finish the goal or experience it.  I refused to let myself get excited about the future.

It made me want to not run.  I certainly didn't want to get out there and worry constantly about dying on the road.  I didn't want to push myself so hard that I couldn't come back.  I began to understand how people with agoraphobia felt--I didn't want to get outside and run, I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts.

It's a hard thing feeling the need to run--one of the things that usually helps me curb all of my anxiety--yet being afraid of doing the very thing you need to do.

So, I ran. 

After two weeks of rest, I got out there and ran regular short runs in the mornings.  I registered for a half marathon at the end of April.  I've got my eyes on one in the fall.  I kept putting one foot in front of the other--because my mantra in all of this, just like the marathon, is just keep going.

Mental issues are hard to talk about--especially in Christian circles.  The church has a hard time with this subject, and some are quick to judge and encourage you to "just have faith" and "pray on it"--but sometimes our minds require extra support.  We would never tell a diabetic person to have faith and pray on it, and deny them insulin.  I have faith that my God can move any mountain He sees fit, but I also think He gives us a brain and science and medication and some common sense.

Over the years I've found strength in prayer and my faith--but also in medication, safe people, and exercise.  There were seasons in which medication was a necessary part of my daily routine, and this season following the marathon has reminded me that health and wellness is always a moving target.  There is no shame in that, and as much as I don't want to air my dirty laundry to the world and risk you viewing me as an unstable crazy person, it's worth it if someone else is reading this and thinking "me, too."

to be continued

Saturday, February 1, 2020

48.6 is the new 40: Marathon of a post about the marathon

The morning of the marathon, I woke up with pain in both of my legs right around my Achilles and a very sore inner right knee.  I have gotten used to random pain in my knee after the Charlotte marathon, but Achilles pain was something brand new.  As I hobbled to the bathroom a little after 2am, I found that I could walk on it, and I could feel it working its way out.  

I was in a weird mental state--dreading the race before me and also feeling relieved that I would be done with it by lunchtime. There was a part of me that just didn't want to do it.  26 miles is a LONG way and I knew it was going to take everything I had left to run that--and more.  I reasoned that I could run as long as I could and if I needed to walk then I would have enough time that the Balloon Ladies wouldn't catch me.  I also knew that I would be running this race alone, so I was mentally preparing myself for enduring a very, very long run.   

I had decided that this race was going to be in honor of my husband and I wrote his name on my left hand.  I'm a left-handed girl, so writing his name neatly in Sharpie using my right hand was not easy for me.  My husband and I are opposites in so many ways, but we've learned that we balance each other other in our strengths and weaknesses.  He is my right hand guy--I can always count on him. I was so proud he was running his first marathon today as well as completing the Dopey. 

On my other hand I wrote Isaiah 40:31--one of my favorite verses by one of my favorite writers. 

but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.

I think about this verse a lot.  My hope has to come from the Lord because my body will fail (even though I'm doing everything I can to chase that away until I'm a very, very, very old lady).  Discouragement is easy to find, but I want to run and soar in my life with renewed strength.  I know that the hardest parts of my life have taught me to lift my head and wait to see what God is doing in all of the madness.  He has never left me, and He has never let me down--even when things did not work out the way I expected them to. 

I selected a different tank to wear because of the chafing--I wanted one with bigger arm holes and the lightest one I brought because we had begun receiving warnings about race conditions and the heat.  As the days progressed, the warnings became a little more specific in regards to making sure we were properly hydrated, not trying to run a PR, slowing down the pace, etc.  We knew the day was going to be hot--and even though we were starting at 5am, the temperatures were going to rise throughout the event.  

I applied plenty of Vaseline to my underarms and knew I would need to keep an eye on the chafing.  I also wore a running belt (I normally do not do this, but I needed something to hold a lot of fuel) and filled it with gels and some Sports Beans for the course.  There was going to be some fuel on the course, but I did not want to hit the wall with nothing to eat.  There was also going to be about 12 miles on the highways before we hit the first park, so I needed to be prepared.  I brought water and I drank a small Gatorade before leaving the room.  I brought some coffee from the room and a croissant and a banana to eat on the bus.  

The mood on the bus was not quite as perky as the other days.  Everyone seemed a little more focused on the task ahead of us.  When they dropped us off at the starting area, it appeared that security was very thorough in checking bags and gear and there were even more people running today.  They were checking pretty much every bag, belt, and purse coming through the gates. 

We met my uncle and my cousin, Allison, who was joining us for the marathon and then went over to the porta potties and self-care medical area.  I applied some Biofreeze to my knee and my Achilles tendons and it immediately washed off the words on my hands.  Awesome.  After that, we began making our way to the corrals.  It was an insane amount of people and most people were sitting, stretching, or in their own little worlds.  The announcers were still giving very specific heat-safety advice--even adding things like slowing down your pace by a minute or two, symptoms of heat-related illness, etc.  They were taking it very seriously.  

The race was supposed to start at 5am, but they made an announcement that the roads were still not clear and they needed to delay the start of the race.  This caused some grumbles in the corrals because we had all prepped our bodies (i.e. fuel, bathroom, mental games) to start at 5am, but we just stood there a little longer.  Finally, they announced the roads were clear and the race was ready to start.  

In the previous races, it took about 20 minutes or more for the wave of people to start in each corral.  We had been told that 20,000 people were registered for this race and it takes a while to move that many people.  This time, we could tell they were hustling to get us started and we were running about 5-10 minutes after the start of the race.  Our foursome wished each other luck and took off.  

Dan and I found each other pretty quickly and it was decided that we were going to run the same intervals for the entire race--4 minutes run and 1 minute walk.  I had not anticipated running this race with anyone from our group, so it was a change in my mental strategy.  I really thought I was facing the next 5-6 hours on my own.  It was a relief to know I would have someone to talk to and someone to keep an eye on me in the event things turned south.  I was also surprised he wanted to keep my pace for the duration.  Dan is life-long runner and can run much faster than me--but he was also recovering from a recent knee surgery.  I knew that he needed to find a pace that would work for him so I wasn't expecting him to hang back with me for the entire race because I was planning on slow and steady.  But, I was glad to have someone there with me, so we went with it. 

The first 12 miles were straight grinding on the highway.  There was not a lot to look at and my Achilles were aching as of mile 2 when I switched from run to walk to run.  I could also feel some blisters forming on the sides of my toes and feet.  It was really warm and humid already, and I made a point to grab sports drink at every single water stop and walk through them.  

Dan kept an eye on our pace and we were hovering around 12:30 at this point which was much slower than usual, but good for the conditions.  He and I remained pretty faithful to our intervals for the first half of the race with the exception of a large incline just outside of the Magic Kingdom (when you run under the river overpass).  It was a relief when we finally made it inside and down Main Street (cue the tears again).

I knew that I was going to have to use the restroom pretty soon, and I announced my plan to Dan that I wanted to stop at the first porta potties right outside of the park.  I had stopped there the day before and they were relatively clean and very little wait because a lot of people stopped in the park bathrooms.  We quickly took care of business and then hit the roads again to Animal Kingdom.  I normally have to use the restroom twice during a marathon, but that was my only stop until I got back to the resort from dehydration.

It was somewhere along this section that we started feeling a little icky.  The heat was rising and there was nothing to see except for long stretches of highway between some of the resorts.  We occasionally took a longer walk break, but for the most part we continued along the road.  We passed some animals and decided to pass on taking a photo with an opossum (it's not like it's a rare species in my neck of the woods).  We ran into Animal Kingdom and I noticed the parrots were flying overhead.  The change of scenery was nice and we opted not to ride Everest mid-race (however there were many others hopping on in front of us).

After running out of the park, we once again ran down the highway.  I started to feel my hands getting a little tingly and I knew I needed some electrolytes quickly.  I could also feel a stinging sensation in my belly button (hello there chafing).  We had already passed people in stretchers being taken off the course in ambulances, so we were careful to not get to that point.  We were determined to finish this marathon!

Somewhere along this time we passed my cousin, Allison, who was killing it about about 2-3 miles ahead of us--and she had only run 12 miles in training prior to the marathon!  We walked through the hydration tables and made sure we were grabbing enough to replenish the gallons of sweat we were dripping with and headed on towards Blizzard Beach.

Cute Allison

In the past, there was a section of the marathon that went through the ESPN center and people hated it with an intensity.  This year runDisney changed the course and everyone was looking forward to running through Blizzard Beach.  I was sadly disappointed when we spent most of Blizzard Beach running through the parking lot in the sweltering heat.  The "run" around the parking lot turned into more walking and we found it a little cruel that we were running through a water park and unable to take a dip in the pools.  This was about the only time in the race that the grumpy set in--and probably the closest I came to hitting the "wall"--but I never got to that point.  I kept readjusting my attitude because I wanted to finish what I had started.

"Snow" at Blizzard Beach
After Blizzard Beach it was back out on the highway to make our way towards Hollywood Studios.  This was about the time Dan and I realized it hurt to run and it hurt worse to walk and then start running again and at the end of each walking interval I would ask, "Walk or run slow?" and most of the time Dan responded "Run slow" and I would groan and get running.  It was just miles of hot highway with very little shade.  We were given another banana at the next fuel stop which sort of turned my stomach, but I knew I needed it.  A little further down the road the volunteers passed out cold sponges and we gladly wrung them out on our heads and I stuffed mind in the back of my sports bra just to get some cool on my body. 

We eventually made our way past a medical tent and I immediately found the Biofreeze and slathered it all over my knees and legs.  I applied more Vaseline to my underarms, and then we kept going.  That was the whole idea of this event--just keep going.

We made our way to Hollywood and they were passing out bags of ice and Hershey Kisses just prior to the park.  I put the bag of ice in the back of my pants for my back (refreshing!) and killed those chocolate kisses--they were so yummy (and I was beyond hungry because chocolate is normally not something I crave).  Dan and I ran down that stretch of road in Hollywood and I felt myself catching a little second wind--we were so close to the finish line!  I also saw a lot of green tents with the PhotoPass people and I told Dan to glam it up every time we passed so we would look our best for these final miles.  Let me tell you, we were straight up model happy for those photographers--and it made me giggle each time we passed a tent (meanwhile dying a little more with each mile).
So glam


 We made it through the Boardwalk area and it was full of cheering people and a lot of smells from lunch.  That was not the best smell to troubled runners' tummies, but we just kept running.  When we finally saw the outline of the World Showcase, relief started hitting me--we were going to finish!  Dan and I agreed that we were not going to puke, pee, poop, or pass out before the finish line!  I didn't care what happened at this point--we were dragging ourselves to the end!

We were SO excited to finally cross that finish line!  I had not planned on running this with anyone--but I certainly don't think I could have finished if Dan had not been right by my side the entire event.  Knowing that we were in it to finish and also there to keep an eye on each other gave me reason to keep moving all 26.2 miles towards the end.

We immediately headed over and grabbed some towels, our marathon medal, and a pair of 2020 Marathon Mickey ears and made our way to the Challenge Medals tent.  The staff checked our bibs and our photos to ensure it was really us, and then we were cleared to collect the Goofy medal for completing the half and full marathons and then the Dopey medal for completing the entire challenge.  My eyes misted when I lowered my head to receive the medal--all the miles, sweat, tears, and fears had come to this moment.  I could barely squeak out a thank you to the volunteer, and we made our way out to the area where runners could meet their families and friends.  Dan's family had come to meet him at the finish line and he wanted to see Allison to congratulate her on her first marathon finish, so we gave each other a final farewell and went our separate ways.

I checked my phone and saw that Chris was going to finish a lot later than expected for some reason, so I walked towards the bus back to our resort.  After I sat down on the bus, I saw a text indicating that runDisney had made the decision to cut 2 miles off of the race course towards the end because of the extreme heat (a humid 84 degrees).  Chris was with a group of runners who were the last ones to get through Blizzard Beach only to be greeted by thousands of walkers (sounds like The Walking Dead) who were at the back of the pack.  Chris spent the rest of the race walking because there was no way he could get around them.  This is after he turned his ankle on mile 2 and STILL FINISHED ALL 26.2 MILES OF THE MARATHON.

What a beast. 

Six medals
Chris made his way back to the resort, and after we cleaned up (aching, chafing, and blisters, OH MY!!!) and grabbed a snack, we met back up with our family in Animal Kingdom.  We rode a few rides and then headed over to Magic Kingdom to meet Dan and his family for fireworks, dinner, and a photo with all the runners.

Erin, Dan, me, Chris, and Allison
2020 Disney Marathon Weekend

 I love these people. 

to be continued...

Friday, January 24, 2020

48.6 is the new 40: 13.1 (and why I think the Magic Kingdom is a little like your first moments in Heaven)

On the morning of the half marathon, I woke up ready to roll.  Today was the first day it felt a little more "real" because this distance was going to take a little longer and we were inching closer to the marathon the next day.

I knew that today's race was going to be ran in honor of the Fab Five and The Squad, which are comprised of my biological girls, some that I claim as my children, and some of their most favorite people on the planet.  The Fab Five is the name we affectionately call my girls and their BFFs they met at our church (and whose parents are some of my favorite grownups on the planet), and the Squad is a group of friends from camp who have become quite a large group.

These kids give me hope for the next generation, and I hope they remember that sometimes life (like a long race) gets really hard.  It's going to get scary and loud and sometimes you're not going to know up from down. You're going to get tired.  You're going to want to cry.  You're going to wonder what in the world you've done and how you're going to get out of it.  Sometimes it'll be incredible, and sometimes it will feel really horrible.

So when you're ready to quit?  

Just. keep. going.

Run hard after Jesus.
Do the work.
And surround yourself with good, good friends.

It makes everything better.
The Fab-best Five I know


Also Squad aka Cute People

My sister was also running this event, but she did not want to wait for the end of the bus time like Chris and I had gotten into the habit of doing. runDisney gives you about an hour window to board buses at their resorts to get to the start line in order to make it to the corrals before the race.  Chris and I had been waiting until almost the end of the time window and had no issues getting right on a bus, but we let her know where we had been meeting Dan (by the big purple Joffrey's coffee truck) and agreed to see her there.

I had also brought down a resort room coffee and a couple of gels for the ride.  This was the first event they were going to offer on-course fuel (Sports Beans) around mile 8 or 9, but I knew I would need a little more in my system before the banana and food box at the end.

Once we arrived at the start area, we were sad to discover there was not, in fact, a purple truck selling coffee for pre-race consumption (Dan was the most sad about this).  It was another long wait until we finally made our way to the start of the corrals.  We headed in a different direction this morning and there were way more people for the half-marathon.  Erin decided she wanted to start in her corral, so we wished her luck and the 3 Dopeys made our way to our corral.

People were filling in several lanes of a road waiting in the corrals for the start. 
You can also see the rows of porta potties on the left for pre-race needs. 

We got started and were separated pretty quickly into the race.  I wasn't quite sure where everyone was and I just kept running my intervals.  I felt great--it was a little warmer and muggy, but overcast and a little misty at times, and luckily everything was staying in place (unlike the day before).  I have actually come to enjoy a half marathon.  It's not an unbearable distance or time, and it was fun because today was the first day the course went beyond Epcot.

For this race, we started again outside of Epcot and made our way down the highway towards the Magic Kingdom (about mile 5 or 6), and then back towards Epcot to the finish line.

But the run down Main Street, U.S.A. is hands down the best moment in the race.  

If you're not familiar with Disney, it is the road leading to the iconic Disney castle.  During the race it is lined with so many cheering fans and the sound is overwhelming.  I cry every. single. time. I hit that part of the race (or watch it on YouTube, or even talk about it) because I am convinced that it is a hint of what it will be like when we get to Heaven one day.  The streets will be lined with those who have gone on before us--urging us onward in our trials.  It's going to be filled with people hollering our names like a bunch of lunatics and jumping up and down when they see someone they know--all looking at the glorious throne (in this case, the castle) ahead.

It is almost an indescribable feeling and it gets me in all the right places.

I really felt like this was my best race in regards to easy pacing and very little fatigue. It's a fairly flat course with just a few overpasses, and I remember smiling with contentment as I made my way back to Epcot.  I'm not going to say that it was the "runners high"--but it was a good feeling after all of my aches and pain and worry heading into this event.

One unfortunate side effect of this race included some nasty chaffing on my left underarm--about a quarter-sized hot spot.  I ran for a little while with my elbows up and out to ease the pain and scanned for a medical tent.  runDisney events always have some medical tents and self-care areas in which they pass out things like Vaseline, Biofreeze, and Tylenol (and have volunteers and medical staff on hand for more serious needs)--so I grabbed a swab of Vaseline at the next one, thanked the volunteers, and was pretty good to go for the rest of the race.

I had set a goal of finishing this race in 2:45-3:00 hours due to crowds, fatigue, and potty breaks and was able to finish it in 2:41 (with only one porta potty break right after the Magic Kingdom). 

My sister, Erin

My uncle, Dan

My husband, Chris. Stud.

And myself (and other random people)

After the race, Chris and I showered and went to meet my parents and girls in Epcot.  We ate lunch and then I spent some time with the girls.  Chris decided he wanted to rest before his first marathon ever the next day. Olivia and I headed over to the Magic Kingdom for a little bit for a little one-on-one time.  Chris came back a few hours later and we ate dinner with O before heading back to the resort for bed while the big two hung out a little bit longer with my parents.  We had an earlier wake up the next morning as we were supposed to be on the bus between 2:30-3:00am.

I laid out my clothes for the final event and felt a weird mix of relief and exhaustion.  I was so ready to get this final race behind me, but also sad in a way to say goodbye to this crazy challenge that had pushed me so hard for so long.

to be continued...

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

48.6 is the new 40: 10K (and why we never, ever wear new things on race day)

The morning of the 10K I was feeling pretty good.  We had the girls with us, so we quietly got ready and headed out.  This race was in honor of my friend, Jennifer, who had lovingly trained ALL the Dopey miles with me since announcing this was a goal of mine.  She and I bonded a few years ago when we worked together on a bus after I finished the Princess half--we spent that ride talking about running, faith, and music.  She's a good friend and y'all should hear her sing!  Girl has got some pipes!

We headed down to the buses, loaded quickly, and rode to the same starting area.  I brought a cup of coffee from my room and a gel for the start of the course.  We had packed some oatmeal from home, but I could not bring myself to eat anything that early.  I usually run 5 miles on my weekly runs before breakfast, so 6.1 wasn't too scary.  They also give you a banana and a box of food after every race, so I knew I could get something in my system before hanger struck.

We met my uncle in the same area we saw him the day before and waited again for about an hour before making our way to the starting corrals. The race energy was good and people were so excited to get going.  We noticed there were less families today, but still a lot of large groups in costumes and matching shirts.  The announcers shared inspiring stories and tried to get everyone to sing along to some classic songs and warm up.  There was a chill in the air, but not as cold as the day before.

I was glad I had decided at the last minute to wear my new pants instead of the capris because they had pockets.  I have learned that I prefer to carry hydration with me when running and I do not care for heavy belts or things around my waist because they tend to hurt my back--so my best running pants have deep side pockets in which I can stash my water bottle and my phone.

I usually wear Athleta's All In 7/8 pants (or shorts) when I'm at home.  The hold everything together and everything in the pockets.  I wash them immediately following a workout and they are ready for the next run. However, at Disney I didn't have immediate access to a washer and dryer, so I needed several pairs of pants and shorts (the weather forecast finally decided it was going to be really hot for the half and the full).  There was not time to purchase these items and have them shipped from Athleta, so I did the next best thing and ordered similar ones from Amazon.

I had purchased and ran in the exact brand and style before, so I didn't worry too much about trying them beforehand.  I knew I was breaking one of the cardinal rules of running (do not wear anything new on race day), but I really had bigger things to worry about in the week before we headed to Disney.  Additionally, it had been REALLY warm in our area with temperatures in the 70s and 80s, so I was able to try out the new running shorts, just not the pants.  This was a more important detail to make sure we were covered on because Chub Rub is a hard reality in my life.  I am not built like your traditional long, lean, and tall runner--I'm short with extra meat in my lower half, so I can't wear light and breezy running short shorts.  I needed to make sure the shorts would not allow my thighs to assault each other mid-run.

And, I rationalized, it was 6 miles--I knew I could endure whatever it was for that distance. 

We started running, and once again everyone sort of spread out in the first mile.  This course was my favorite because you entered Epcot pretty quickly from the back roads, ran through the boardwalk and past all of the beautiful resorts, ran back into Epcot, and then behind for the finish line.  It was a lot more to look at and less time on the highway.  The Boardwalk smelled like bacon and breakfast, there was a cool breeze, and it was a pretty morning.

Unfortunately, I realized about a mile into the race that I was starting to sweat due to the increased heat and humidity, but I wasn't nervous until I felt like my pants were starting to slide down a little.  I had used a porta potty prior to this race, so I wondered if perhaps everything had not been situated correctly when I tried to simultaneously hover and take care of business and get dressed again in a dark stinky box.  I pulled them up again and again towards my belly button, but they kept sliding down.  When I tucked my water bottle back into my pocket, I realized the weight of the bottle was pulling my pants down (and my underwear as well because compression).

I yanked as hard as I could and finally realized that I would need to hold my water bottle instead of running with it in my pockets. It is not preferred, but again, I knew six miles compared to the half and full marathon was not going to be a long run, so I just went with it.

So, here's me running along holding my Dasani in the pants that betrayed me.  

No big deal.

I completed most of this race on my own, but I was happy to find myself running into my uncle right around mile 6, so he and I crossed the finish line at the same time (still holding my bottle). 

PS--he's 65 years old and recovering from knee surgery a few months ago. 

Cute Christacular
I had set a goal of 1:30 due to slow running and maybe walking, and I was able to finish the race in 1:14.  While the walkers were still really covering the course, we found that each race became a little less "fun" run and a little more hustle.  However, there is nothing quite like a runDisney experience, so everything was a little over the top.

Once again we collected our medals and boarded the buses to meet my parents and the girls.  It is hard to balance a race-cation and mom-guilt.  I spent the rest of the afternoon with the girls in Hollywood Studios because they were geeking out over Galaxy's Edge, and then went back to the resort (and my sister and brother-in-law brought back Olivia because it was an early bedtime for the 6 year old) while the older girls enjoyed Fantasmic! and staying out late with my parents.  It was awesome having my family and kids there, but it was hard feeling like my time and attention were split during this trip.

That evening before bed we once again set out our attire for the half marathon the next day. Things were starting to get real because tomorrow's race was going to be a much longer distance than the two days prior, and leading up to the marathon on the fourth day.

to be continued...

Monday, January 20, 2020

48.6 is the new 40: 5K

The whole reason I started running was because I held my friend's hand on the day before she died.  I knew that I had a capable body (even when my brain tells me otherwise).  So it only made sense to dedicate the very first race to Jill--because she was the reason I ran a 5K all those years ago. 

I wrote her name on my hand and Chris and I walked to the lobby of our resort to catch the bus.  There was a lot of nervous chatter on the bus at 3:20am.  People were munching on bananas and bagels and excitement was in the air.  We arrived outside of Epcot and began walking towards the starting area.  We met my uncle, Dan, who was also running and stood around for about an hour before heading to the corrals.  

Each runner has the opportunity to submit a proof of time prior to the races in order to place yourself in an appropriate starting place--elite runners were placed in the very front in the A corral and the rest of us were positioned according to our estimated finish time.  Chris, Dan, and I started in the same corral for all 4 races.  It's really fun to have someone to talk to as you're waiting for over an hour for the race to start--and then almost an additional half hour for the waves of people to cross the start line.  

There were tons of people all around for this event--a lot of families and people who were ready to have a good time.  There was music and a lot of announcements from the stage as we waited for the National Anthem and the fireworks to start the race.  They interviewed people from the corrals and we heard some inspiring stories.  

As we inched our way towards the starting line, I could feel the anxiety starting to creep in again.  I was nervous for my twitchy knee.  I was nervous for my twitchy back.  I was concerned about the chest pains I was feeling.  I just wanted to run to see how my body was going to handle the event--I knew that if I could run this relatively pain-free that I would be ok.  

Finally, we were in the group in the start position and we were off!  Disney races are incredibly crowded and this event was full of people with plans to walk.  Race etiquette is stressed before each race, but I'm not sure if anyone reads the information because people were walking all the way across the road at the beginning of the race.  Luckily, the road widened almost immediately and runners were able to make their way around the walkers.  

The 5K was an easy course--about a mile on the roads outside of Epcot, a run through Epcot's World Showcase, and then back behind Epcot again to the finish line.   I spent a lot of mile 2 thanking God for a friend like Jill, for the ability to run and move, and just trying to be present as much as possible.

It was a fairly quick race, the temperature was cool, and I was happy to cross the finish line.  My body felt pretty good considering I had not run in several days.  My husband and I went back and forth with our intervals and finished within a minute of each other.  My goal had been to finish in less than 45 minutes due to crowds, and we both finished in 39 minutes.  While the 5K is not timed for regular participants, as Dopey Challenge participants we had to prove our time in each race (and some had limitations).  We were given our medals and made our way back to the buses.  

Once we got back to the resort, we showered and packed our bags because we were switching resorts.  Chris and I flew down a few days early and my parents were bringing our girls that night for the remainder of the trip.  We dropped our bags off with guest services and went to Animal Kingdom to meet my uncle and other family members who were already there.  

After a day in the park, we got back to our new room and waited for our girls to arrive.  Our new room at the resort was a suite and that allowed us to have a different sleeping space from the girls (and a separate bathroom).  We went ahead and turned down their beds and laid our gear out for the next morning.  It was going to be cool again and I finally decided to wear pants and a tank instead of capris.  The pants were a new pair that I had not run in before (but I had another pair in the same style and brand that worked), but I really wanted to wear them to avoid being cold before the race.  I had also brought another pair of shoes to alternate for the races, but I decided to wear the same pair again since I was feeling pretty good.    

Our girls arrived around 8:30pm and we got them settled and everyone into bed.  It was great that Chris and I had spent the day out of the room because we were tired from our early wakeup call and it was a little easier to get to sleep.  Our girls were also trying to get a boarding group the next morning in Hollywood Studios, so it was easy to convince everyone to get some sleep.  

Before we knew it, our alarm went off and it was time for the 10K. 

to be continued...

Saturday, January 18, 2020

48.6 is the New 40: Health Anxiety & Expo

Yetta's face matched the fear I felt before the start of this race event.

On the morning of our departure for our big trip, I woke up with a serious case of anxiety and experienced a full-blown panic attack.  I was crying, nervous, sweaty, and convinced that we had made a terrible decision in participating in this race event.  Normally I'm so excited about flying to Disney, but I was shaking in fear and dread.  I had weird aches and pains during the weeks of my taper before the race, and was pretty sure that I had every serious disease known to man and that I was going to literally kill myself if I ran the race. 

I'm a mom of 3.  This is stupid.  
Why did I agree to do this?  
What if this is the last thing I ever do? 

I got out of the shower and cried to Chris who let me say all of the things that were plaguing my mind.  He's been married to me long enough to know I just need to get it out of my system and that usually I'm just fine and do not need to actually visit the hospital.  I've been battling health anxiety as a product of postpartum depression since Molly was an infant.  I automatically assume that regular aches and pains are actually symptoms of more serious conditions.  I have managed these symptoms with prayer, medication, and exercise, but it's something I carry with me all of the time.  Some seasons of my life are easier than others, but when I enter into seasons of stress I find it rears its ugly little head and the weight is sometimes overwhelming.  One of my worst fears is that I will never get to see my girls grow up, and my mind has a way of reminding me that I'm merely mortal.  I usually run to get a lot of this out of my head, but tapering before a big race means cutting back on weekly mileage which equals the crazy tends to rise.  

I finally got myself together and got off to work.  I dropped off the girls at their schools and then made my way to work.  As I was stepping out of my car, I felt it:  a painful twinge in my lower back.  

Oh no.  
Oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no. 

If you know me personally, you know my lower back has issues that tend to put me out of commission for a few days.  It will flare out of nowhere and it's extremely painful--to the point that I'm unable to stand or walk without a visit to the chiropractor, lots of Motrin, and ice packs.  I straightened up slowly and found that it was not so bad, but I knew any quick turns or bends and I was going to be out of the race. This was the last thing I needed on the morning of departure.  

I spent the morning putting some fires out at work and then left at lunch so we could drive to RDU.  We got out for a bathroom break at the local mall and I found my whole back was tight.  I was nervous it was going to get worse, but tried not to worry about it.  We boarded our plane and were told that it was only a half-full flight.  We were flying Southwest, so we were excited to have a little extra room to spread out.  However, not everyone liked that idea and I found myself wedged between my husband and a gentleman who had very little concept of personal space as he promptly fell asleep with open mouth breathing and snores for the duration of the flight.  

We arrived in Orlando and I could still feel the pressure in my back adding to all of the other issues that seemed to have arisen, and it was like I had a little black cloud following me on the trip.  I was seriously dreading the task in front of me and my nerves were getting the best of me.  I felt close to tears on a numerous occasions and had a hard time keeping it together.  We took the shuttle to our resort and went to bed because we were trying to wake up early enough to get a boarding group for the new Star Wars ride in Hollywood Studios, Rise of the Resistance (side note:  100% worth the wait and effort to get on this ride if you are remotely interested). 

We checked into Hollywood Studios and then went to the runDisney Expo while waiting for our boarding group to be called.  This expo is where you pick up your bibs and race swag, as well as have an opportunity to see a variety of vendors and sponsors.  I also saw Jeff Galloway, the man who created the interval method I follow for running. It's a huge room full of people and a really expensive place to find race gear, but I wanted to get a pair of recovery shoes at the Oofos booth.  We picked up a pair and made our way back to the resort to drop off our materials and then spent the rest of the day in Hollywood Studios.  We also had a chance to catch up with one of my hometown friends who is a cast member.    

I still had some back issues and was feeling really low about the whole event, and I mentioned to my husband that I wish I had a heating pad for my back.  He remembered that I had packed some hot hands and suggested putting them in the back of my pants to see if they would help--and they did! I spent the whole day with them tucked in and the heat really helped work some of the tightness out.  We spent the entire day on our feet and it helped when bedtime rolled around.  

Before we hit the sheets, I laid out all of my racing attire for the next morning.  It was going to be cooler temperatures, and I knew that 3:00am was going to come quickly and I didn't want to have to think about anything before we caught the bus at 3:30am to the race.  While the race itself didn't start until 5:30am, we had to arrive by 4am to allow time to go through bag check and meet my uncle who was also running the series.  

I tossed and turned all night long and woke up several times for fear that I would oversleep and be out of the challenge.  I felt like I had reached an all new low in my dread for the race.  I knew it was just a 5K and that I run more than that during my morning runs, but I was so afraid my body was going to give out of me.  I had chest pains, low back issues, and a pesky knee that wanted to join the party.  I received a few texts of encouragement from friends, and I prayed a lot as I prepared myself to leave the room.  

I had decided that I wanted to pick out someone for each race and I was going to write their names on my hand each morning--so when I wanted to quit, I would have someone in mind to keep me going.  I already knew who I wanted to write for the 5K.

to be continued...      

Thursday, January 2, 2020

48.6 is the new 40: Dopey Challenge Race Goals

Heading into a race I usually have an idea of what time I can finish.  For example, I know that on a good race day, I can probably run a half-marathon in just under 2.5 hours (and, again, I remind you that I am NOT a fast runner so don't come at me with your speedy times).  I do my best to train to fidelity because I'm a rule-follower and list-checker and I like knowing that I've done what I could to prepare for race day.  It also just gives me a general idea of what to expect.

I take into consideration things like the adrenaline at the beginning of the race which makes you want to run too fast, how well I've slept the night before, and if I've had an opportunity to use the restroom (it's not ladylike to discuss, but necessary).  Whenever I run a distance for the first time, my goal is always just to finish.  I do not keep up with pace, I do not look at my splits, and I really have no idea what my time is until I'm done.  My fancy watch lets me know when to run and walk and how many miles I've covered.  To have to keep up with all the other numbers is math and I'd rather not think that hard while I'm running. 

If I'm running a familiar distance, then I do consider things like time beforehand--but, it's more of a matter of when I can expect to be done so I can carry on with my day.  And in this situation, I have a castle and rides and Storm Troopers to see post-race.  Also, runDisney events are extremely crowded and a lot of people go into them planning to walk the entire distance for a variety of reasons. The first few miles are congested nightmares and there are times you cannot even run because it's so full (especially if you begin in a later corral).  It took me an extra 6-8 minutes to get through the first two miles when I ran the Princess Half.  Dopeys are normally pushed back a corral or two for the half and full marathons since they anticipate our fatigue, so I'm not sure what corrals I'll start in for the 5K and 10K.  The further back you go, the more crowded it becomes (and more walkers).  Additionally, these races start at 5:30am and 5am (marathon) which means we have to board buses around 3am or so 4 days in row.       

Now, because this is an endurance event, I've gone back and forth in regards to planning for each race.  Should I just plan to run slow and steady each race in order to save something for the marathon?  Maybe it would be best to walk one of the smaller races?  Maybe I should plan to run half of the half and walk the rest? 

There are also characters along the course, but I do not have plans to stop to take pictures with any of them with the exception of Ashoka Tano from Clone Wars.  She's sort of a big deal at our house:

 Totally not expecting her to be out there, but she is featured on the Star Wars 5K medal so maybe...

Other than that, I'm not planning on stopping unless it's something fun and crazy that can't be missed.  Some people also plan to ride Everest while running the marathon through Animal Kingdom--I don't have plans to do that due to time and fear that the ride will breakdown and I'll be disqualified.  I've got 7 hours to run this race and while I don't anticipate needing that time, you just never know.  I've paid too much money and ran too many training miles and cannot deal with that level of anxiety on the last day of the event. 

Other things to consider--it's going to be warm in the mornings (60s according to the forecast) and warmer on course during the marathon (70s to 80s).  There is also a strong possibility of rain.  I need to consider taking my time in the heat and humidity, making sure I'm fully hydrated (more potty breaks), and remaining aware of my body because my goal is NOT to visit an Orlando hospital.  And I've got a knee that wants to pretend like it's hurt. 

This could be an Enneagram 6's worst nightmare--but I'm choosing to remember that we are great at thinking through all the worst case scenarios and making plans to face them.  

All of that being written, here are my goals for each race:

5K:  Easy, slow running to shake everything out.  Hopefully less than 45 minutes due to crowds.

10K:  Easy, slow running or maybe walking part of it.  Hoping for less than 1.5 hours due to crowds and walking

Half-marathon:  Even-paced running, expecting some walking to avoid burnout.  Hoping for no more than 2:45-3:00 due to crowds and fatigue and a potty break or two. I have a feeling this will be the hardest day of all. 

Marathon:  Just. Cross. The. Finish. Line.  Honestly, I don't even know.  I'm hoping for 5:30ish, with crowds, fatigue, walking, running, and maybe crawling.  I anticipate at least 2-3 potty breaks because I plan to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  But, I also want to soak it all in and run without stress and pain. 

to be continued...   

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

48.6 is the new 40: Introduction

About two years ago I realized that I was getting ready to turn 40 in May 2019.

Up until this point, milestone birthdays had not really bothered me too much.  I enjoyed my 30s and was not quite ready to give them up.  I was starting to show some age, but overall I was feeling pretty good about myself.  However, the idea of turning the big 4-0 really started to rub me the wrong way.

I have been running regularly-ish for several years now and completed a handful of 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and a full marathon. I am never going to be the fastest person on the road, but slow and steady gets it done.  I ran my first race in 2011.  I lost my dear friend, Jill, to ALS in 2010 and after watching her weekly physical decline and seeing her the day before she passed away--I knew the ability to move and run was a gift that I was not going to take for granted.  Pain during a run was nothing compared to what I watched her endure.

2011:  Laura and I post-race at my very first 5K
Beaufort, NC
I'm also going to say this:  I'm the least athletic adult you know.  I am not lean, mean, nor fast.  I do not enjoy running, sweating, or pain.  I have never set out to beat anyone at a race event.  I want to eat french fries and watch television inside with air-conditioning.  Chris used to make fun of me when I started running because he could walk faster than I could jog.  I started using the Couch to 5K method and it was a struggle the entire distance.

I still do not enjoy running--but I enjoy the benefits of running. Running helps me clear my mind of anxiety.  Running helps me feel like I've accomplished something in the mornings before most people greet the day.  Running helps me remember that I can do hard things one step at a time.  And races are truly the most happy environments next to heaven.  Runners are happy.  Runners encourage each other.  Runners will cheer you on when you feel like you can't take another step.  Races give me hope for humanity--a bunch a strangers coming together and getting it DONE.  

That's a sermon for another post.     

I swore up and down that I would never run another half marathon after running the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in 2017.  The course was extremely crowded and I was running it with my (under-trained) husband which took much longer than expected.  It also cost a lot of money and training time.  However, after running the New Bern Bridge Run a few times, I realized that half-marathons weren't as bad with less people and money invested.

After I ran the Bridge Run in 2018, I started to wonder if perhaps I could run a little bit further.  I am highly motivated by achieving personal goals and I started thinking about the big, bad marathon distance and considering if I could even handle it.

And then, I saw it: The Dopey Challenge 
Cue the scary music

If you are not familiar with runDisney's Dopey Challenge--it is a 4 day race event in which you run a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half-marathon on Saturday, and then complete the series on Sunday with a full marathon with a course that goes through all of the Disney parks for a grand total of 48.6 miles.  Also, for those of you motivated by medals and t-shirts, you earn SIX! for completing the challenge.  One for each race, one for completing the Goofy Challenge (which is the half and full marathon), and one for completing the entire challenge.  

I started to consider the amount of training it would involve--but surprisingly it didn't appear to be much more than regular marathon training.  However, it did involve several simulation weekends in which you run several days in a row.  I also considered the amount of wear and tear and how it might destroy my body.  Would it be safe?  Could my hips, knees, and joints hold up to the training?  

After talking with my husband, it was decided that I would train for a regular marathon in the fall of 2018 and then consider if I could handle the Dopey. I began training in May for the Charlotte marathon.  NC summers are no joke, and training was brutal.  I ended up in the hospital for what was eventually considered a vitamin deficiency/electrolyte imbalance.  It made my body mimic several life-threatening issues and diseases (numbness and tingling on the left side of my body, chest pains, dizziness), and I endured several scary tests run to rule out a lot of scary things.  It was a wake-up call that I wasn't getting any younger.  I could sit around and feel sorry for myself that I was getting older, or I could enjoy the life I had right this minute and take control of my health and wellness.   

I chose health and wellness.  

After training for and surviving the Charlotte marathon (hello there, rolling hills and muscle groups I have never used before), I knew I was ready to take on the Dopey Challenge as part of my 40th year.  This gave me a little over a year to prepare for the challenge using the Galloway method.  His method includes intervals of run/walk (I use 4 minute run, 1 minute walk), which involves two short runs (3-5 miles each) during the week, a longer run on weekends, and several simulation runs in which one runs 3-4 days in a row.  In preparation for this event I've run over a thousand miles and I'm on my 5th pair of running shoes.  

Finally, in the spring of 2019 it was time to register for the Dopey race.  To my delight, my husband decided to sign up for the Challenge (and I'm happy to say he has trained for it this time), as well as one of my uncles.  My sister decided to run the half marathon, and my cousin decided to run the full marathon.  It's going to be a family affair!

The serious Dopey training once again began in the summer months.  I was much smarter this summer and made sure I was serious about hydration and fueling to avoid another hospital stay.  I have a faithful running partner, Jennifer, and she agreed to take on the mileage with me in preparation for the race-she's one of those people who enjoys tackling extremely long runs.  We endured hot and humid summer runs, beautiful fall runs, and cold and freezing winter morning runs.  We solved a lot of problems, avoided road kill, and she encouraged me when I hit the wall during our longest runs to just keep going.  I battled back issues and busy schedules.  Weeks passed and we got to the very last weeks of training over the holidays.

During the training taper, I've battled pre-race anxieties.  Is that knee sensation an injury from Charlotte or am I headed into this race with a training injury?  Did my husband give me a cold or a sinus infection?  What on earth am I going to wear for 4 days of running with a low of 62 and a high of 80?  How impossible is it to find running shorts in December for short girls with no thigh gap (hello there, chub rub)?  I need to pack!  Do I have enough running fuel?  Am I keeping hydrated?  Have I run enough miles?

Will I be able to do this?  

to be continued...

Easter: Quarantine Edition

I cried this morning. More than once. I woke up with my alarm and felt grumpy.  It didn't feel like Easter.  I walked into the kitc...