Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Ultimate Finisher's Medal

Sunday, April 26th at 1:45pm I had to put Roxy down. It was the most surreal and amazing experience, and yet somehow, it was one of the sweetest moments I have ever experienced...

The tumor began bleeding Saturday night and by Sunday morning it was uncontrollable. I called my friend, Donna, who is a veterinarian and local triathlete, in hysterics. Donna is one of those people who prances right into your life, fills you with joy, and lets you know what friendship is all about. She is an admirable athlete, a spunky woman, an amazing veterinarian and absolutely adorable at 8 months pregnant. I could hate her if I didn't love her to pieces! I am not a person to ask for help and it took me hours to decide to make the call. Donna was in Bradenton and without question packed up her stuff and headed home, texting me for comfort the whole way.

I knew when I made the call it was the beginning of the end. I knew my minutes with my best friend were numbered and precious. Roxy and I went out under the tree in the front yard and sat together and "talked." Her fur was matted with blood and my clothes weren't much better. It's funny to me that in moments like that it always seems like things around you are sensationally clear. The sun is brighter, the wind is perfect, the sounds are thunderous and the colors are magnified. As we sat under the tree, Roxy let her head fall back and the breeze tugged at her ears. She leaned into me and sighed. It was a big sigh- contentment, peace, happiness, satisfaction- but it was a tired sigh. We lay under the tree just letting the memories and moments of our life together swirl around us and then, like a single body moving together, we got up and headed to the truck. It was time.

Roxy was never afraid.
She licked my hand until her last breath, reassuring me, giving of herself even in her last moments.

I feel a little lost this week. There is a warmth in my home that is missing and a bit of a struggle within to know that I am ready to travel the road without my sidekick. I seem to be floundering for something to prove my own vitality and longevity. Roxy never held a grudge, she never pointed out my flaws, and there was never a question of forgiveness. She was what I only hope I can become. I want to love my friends unconditionally and accept them even with their flaws. I want to be patient and kind and leave behind a wake of reassurance and hope. I want to explore and play, but always remember how to get home.

It is almost exactly eleven years ago that Roxy forced herself into my life and now I am on my own. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little apprehensive...

"But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind"
Job 12: 7-10

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Do these pants make my butt look big?

People are always forever telling me that I “wear a lot of hats.” I always respond to this by saying, “Ah, but the important thing is what PANTS I am wearing….” In reality, I only have two hats that I ever wear- a Brooks white visor, which keeps my crazy fly-aways in place without making me look fat-faced, or a black brooks cap, which means my hair is both unruly and unbrushed and quite possibly unwashed. My pants on the other hand, are quite numerous- in my drawer, and my closet, and my gym bag, and the floor of the bathroom, and pretty much anywhere else they come to rest. I have fat pants and skinny pants, I have colorful pants and classic black pants, I have serious business pants and ratty jeans.
Now, I realize that when people tell me that I wear a lot of hats they are referring to the many different positions or “standings” that I hold--- coaching, training, teaching, being the almighty president of the Tri club, a daughter, a wife, an Aunt, a friend, a sister, a student, a marathoner, a triathlete…… the list goes on and on and on. The hat comment always bothers me, though, because it always refers to the things that I DO. I always make the pants comment in return because it refers to my ATTITUDE while I’m doing those things, way more important in my humble opinion. You see, if I am wearing my wife hat but my grumpy pants, everyone suffers in my wake because my attitude sucks and no matter how much I DO, it all gets overshadowed by my crappy attitude while I’m doing it. If I am wearing my biker hat (well, I suppose that would be a helmet, huh?) but I forget my patient pants, then the first flat tire ruins the whole ride and suddenly I hate biking. That’s a waste of a day, right?
Today, a group of us went out to ride the Hills in Clermont, FL. If you are familiar with the area, it is renowned for its big hills. Hey! They are big for Florida, ok? So take off your holier-than-thou-those-aren’t-hills-pants for goodness sakes!!!! Anyway, within the first 5 minutes someone from the group had a flat. I should take a moment to point out that this is one of MANY reasons running is way better than biking. Normally, this would aggravate the ever loving snot out of me. I would smile and help change the tire but Oh.My.Goodness flat tires annoy me. I felt the frustration coming on and I looked around and noticed I was the only person who looked the least bit perturbed-- I suppose I snuck my bitch hat under my helmet? I took a deep breath and considered how much nicer the ride might be if I just took a second to forget myself and my agenda and my heart rate and my cadence and my speed and slipped into my patient pants. So, I did. And you know what, I didn’t hate riding today. It was pretty enjoyable! I wonder if my patient pants make my butt look nice…..

Friday, April 10, 2009

Take that!!!

It has been 9 months since I raced a race for me. I have paced some athletes to the finish line and just run a few races because it's fun to run them. But I have not stated a race goal and set out to achieve it in nearly a year. So, May 9th I will be targeting the Mayfaire 5K here in Lakeland with a goal of 21:xx.... Gulp! There. It's out on the interwebs for everyone to see. Now, I can begin to fret.

I hate racing. I hate setting a race goal because I know full-well that doing so means that there is a very, very good possibility that I could fail. And a 5K is even worse! In a marathon or half-iron distance tri you can make lots of excuses--- a bad stomach, dehydration, hitting the proverbial wall. Not so much with a 5K. A race goal is very important because it gives the runner a measure by which to determine how their training is going. It provides information about the training plan, the diet, the pacing, all sorts of stuff. Sounds useful, huh? Yet, this "useful tool" looms over me like the boogie man who used to sleep under my bed. As a kid, I would stand on the bed and literally leap through the door to the hall so his grimey, slimey fingers couldn't wrap around my ankle and pull me down. I would lie there in the darkness and think up tireless escape plans should he one day yank me into the dark cave. Just the same, my mind is whirring with ways to tweak my training or squeeze in a few more miles or even break my leg so I don't have to race (God help me, I am a sick, sick individual).

One of my athletes, Nicole, emails me periodically in an absolute panic. "I can't do this..... there's no way.... why did I sign up for this?...." I always laugh to myself and think, "Silly Nicole! Believe in the plan; just believe." But here I am with the exact same self-doubt building in my throat as the day gets closer and closer. And the reality of the situation is that it doesn't even matter what the race time turns out to be! How self-absorbed of me to think for one second that posting a time less than my stated goal will matter one teensy. little. bit (Thank you Betsy for pointing that out :P ). What matters is that I was brave enough to set the goal, that I toe the line on race morning and allow myself to measure up and see how well I am doing. What matters is that I run hard as hell and walk away knowing how I can improve. Because the truth is that failure can drive you to greatness or it can grab your ankle and pull you under, just like the boogie man.

So May 9th, I will be at the start line and I will give the boogie man the finger because gosh darn it I'm going for it! 100%.... all out.... fully knowing that I just might fail!

I guess I should admit, then, that my real goal is sub-21 minutes. Since we're being honest and fearless and all like that....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Two years ago, I was in Washington DC to run the Marine Corps Marathon. It was my second time running this particular race and my first attempt at a Boston Qualifying time. Everyone in the running world, and most people outside of it, know of the Boston Marathon and posting a qualifying time to receive entry is somewhat of a rite of passage- a point where something magical happens. At least I think...... unfortunately, I wouldn't know. You see, I was back at the Marine Corps Marathon because I had a bit of a point to prove. This had been my first marathon and it had been nothing less than a death March. What better way to prove myself as a runner than to return to the battlefield and not only conquer the beast but do well enough to qualify for the most renowned marathon?

This may be obvious, but 26.2 miles is a looooooong way. A lot of stuff happens in that distance. You experience so many emotions, see so many sights, watch people loving life and other people truly knocking on Hell's door. You see people in costume, people juggling (yes, juggling), watch mom's hug their husbands and children, see proud parents with signs. At a marathon, a LOT goes on over the course of 26.2 miles.

I had trained splendidly for this marathon. My mind was in the right place and success was a sure thing. I started out with a friend to keep each other in check on the pace and the miles were flying under our feet effortlessly. It started as a "wrinkle in my sock" about mile 9 and by mile 15 there was no putting weight on it. I started crying; I knew what was happening and it was over. I kissed Brian and pulled off at the med tent. My sock was bloodied and the sight was not pretty.

I sat there and cried while the Marine taped my poor foot. I felt like such a failure. This stupid foot! Surgery had removed the crippled joints when I was 16 and nothing had worked right since then. The frustration was pouring from me and the defeat was infecting my every thought. As I sat there, a blonde chick pulled off the course and sat next to me.
"I am so tired of running," she said.
I looked at her incredulously. "Um, what?!?!"
"I'm just tired of running. I want breakfast. I'm gonna let this bus take me back."
I should probably ask for forgiveness for the thoughts that went through my head at that moment. She was tired?!?!?!? She didn't feel like running anymore?!?!?
I looked at her and snapped, "Might think about that next time you DECIDE TO RUN 26.2 MILES!!"
I got up from the chair and started running. Not just running, like seriously running. I had lost 17 minutes sitting at that medical tent feeling sory for myself. What a waste. I stopped feeling the foot and just set my sights on the finish. I did not stop running until I crossed the line and the Marine kissed my cheek. Then, I sat and I cried.
Those last 11.2 miles are so representative of life, at least of my life. I think they are valid for anyone's life. You can make a choice. You can choose to be the chick who just gets tired and quits or you can set your sight on the prize, focus on what you can do and just do it. Everybody has bumps and setbacks. Everybody has failures and shortcomings. But I can tell you this, if you make it to the finish line knowing you did the best you could possibly do and if you did it right, that prize is so much more glorious.
My chip time for that marathon was 4:15:xx- a forgetable time. I will never forget that race, though. I think about it often, especially lately. Life is really a lot like a marathon. There are some miles that are harder than others. There are twists and turns and uphills that make every inch of you ache. Some miles fly by effortlessly and others seem to drag on to eternity. There are moments you wonder what the hell you are doing here and moments when you wouldn't ever want to be anywhere else. And inevitably, the thought crosses your mind to quit, to just stop trying. You think how easy it would be to take three steps off the course and blend in with the spectators. I can honestly say in life there are moments when I think about how easy those three steps off the course would be. How easy to just sit down and quit. But then, I remember how sweet it was to cross that finish line. When I get to the finish line in life, I want to look back and know that I lived what I believed. I want to know that I gave everything I possibly could.