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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Everybody looks good at the starting line

The title of this post is from one of my favorite artists, Paul Thorn.  If you've never experienced him and you like jazzy blues, you need to check him out.  Anyway, that title says a mouthful doesn't it?  Whether it's the starting line of a marriage, a new job, an exercise or diet program, or anything else, we all look great standing there at the beginning.  We jump in with enthusiasm, and make it look easy.  No fights with our spouse, the job is amazing, we lose weight/get fit quickly, and life is good.  But, time wears on and life intervenes.  We slow down, start to realize our spouse isn't as perfect as we thought, or begin to dread the work week.  Inevitably, we start to stumble and fall.

We're at the starting line of a new year.  We have a new start, a clean slate, one we can fill with whatever we feel is the most important in our lives.  Look back over the last year and think about the things you started, but didn't finish.  Is this your year to make your health a priority?  To do something for yourself that your future self will thank you for?  I hope it is.

2011 brought the completion of some major goals for me.  I started well, and thankfully, this year, I finished well, also.  The lessons learned this year will stay with me forever.  I know that running(and walking) will be a part of my life as long as God allows it, because I feel better than I ever have.  I know that running isn't just about the future rewards it brings, but about learning to live in and enjoy today.  It makes me smile to know that I feel better at 50 than I felt at 30, and I'm encouraged to see if I can feel even better at 60.

I did my last run of the year this morning.  It was my first long run since the marathon, since I realized this week that my next race (Seaside Half Marathon) is in 10 weeks.  YIKES!  So, I got in gear and laid out my training schedule for the upcoming months.  The run felt amazing, it was beautiful weather and a perfect day for running.  I belong to an online running group called Daily Mile which keeps me connected to other runners and keeps up with my analytics for me.  According to DM, I ran a total of 532 miles in 2011.  I hope I top that in 2012.  Since I've been keeping my stats on DM in December of 2009, I've run a total of 1,558 miles.  Yay!  I'm pretty pleased with those stats.  Some runs were better than others, obviously, but I think that's the whole point.  That I learned to run even when I didn't really want to.  That I make running a permanent part of my life.  That I realize that running now will make my 60 year old and 70 year old self smile.  I got a massage the other day while I was on vacation, and she commented on my knotty muscles.  I told her, "Yeah, but you should see my heart."  I think it's in pretty amazing shape for an old broad with a dicey gene pool.

 We're at the starting line of a new year.  Check the mirror, fluff your hair, make sure you look good.  Then, check back in about three months and make sure you're still on target.  I know you can do it, cause, friend, if I can, anyone can.  

Now, ready, set, go!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Run like Phoebe

I admit it.  I'm a closet Friends fanatic.  I've watched all the episodes at least ten times each, and I still DVR the reruns to play in the background when I'm cleaning or working at something that doesn't require my entire concentration.  The jokes are still funny, the characters are warm and familiar, they keep me company and feel like friends.  Whew!  I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest!

One of my favorite episodes is "The One Where Phoebe Runs."  Phoebe and Rachel have a falling out because on their run together, Phoebe didn't run in a way that Rachel considered "normal" and it embarrassed her.  Phoebe said that she runs like she did when she was a child, because it was fun, and she liked to run so fast she thought her legs would fall off.   She ran with wild abandon, arms flailing, not worrying about form or speed, just running for the simple joy of it.

One of my RW Quotes of the Day this week said in part that while visualizing our success that we should think of a runner we want to emulate and imagine ourselves running like him/her.  I know of a lot of elite runners and non professional runners I would like to emulate, but I think I'll be most successful running like Phoebe.  I think I probably already do.  ;)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Finishing Well

As this year draws to a close, finishing things has been on my mind.  Finishing up year end work, getting caught up on projects I've put on the back burner, cleaning out the old to make room for the new, working on personal and professional goals for 2012.  Not finishing things has always been one of my pet peeves, I hate to have unfinished projects lying around or leave books unread.  You would think, then, that all my projects would be finished in a timely manner, wrapped up with neat bows and presented to the world.  But, life has a way of intervening.  I'm sure you know what I mean.

I always have a book on my bedside table, sometimes more than one.  I've been reading a lot of escapism over the last few weeks, but one nonfiction book caught my eye in the bookstore the other day and I bought it and began reading.  The name of is it "Nearing Home," and it is written by the 93 year old Billy Graham.  It has gotten me thinking about life and death, and the legacy we all leave behind.  And, as so often happens, when God plants seeds in my mind, everything around me makes me reflect on it more.

I mentioned last week that while Gary and I were in Savannah, we walked through Bonaventure Cemetery.  Of course, "The Book" (as Savannahians refer to the "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil") was the impetus for the journey.  Even though the Bird Girl statue has been removed to a local museum in order to keep sightseers from disturbing nearby gravesites, I wanted to explore the cemetery anyway.  I said before that I'm not introspective enough to understand my fascination with old cemeteries, but I love the history, the serenity, and the reminders we find there. The knowledge that life is finite, there is a beginning and an end, and all that remains of us here when are called home is the legacy we choose to leave behind.

Gary has eagle eyes, and he discovered a treasure among the headstones that I want to share with you here.  He spotted this statue of a woman running, not a marble statue or a drawing on a headstone, but a very life-like bronzed statue mounted on a marble podium.

We made our way over to it and read this inscription: Humble. Brave. Determined. Deep in her Faith. Julie served her fellow man regardless of race, walk, or worth. Julie was her family's rock. She's sorely missed. Dearly cherished.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears for this woman that I never knew.  We walked to the back of the monument and learned that she was, at one time, Savannah's fastest female marathoner, and had run several marathons, including one at age 55, two years before her death.  Now, I don't know Julie, her family, or any of her story, but her epitaph stands as a testament to the fact that she touched many lives, while remaining true to herself and reaching for the stars.  I don't know that it gets much better than that.

I decided a few years ago that for the next half of my life, my goal is to please God.  My desire is to leave a legacy of such faith that the future generations that I touch will be able to grab hold of it as though it were a physical thing.  I pray for the people in my life fervently, interceding for them as needed, loving them, learning to accept them as they are, and praying that they will be the men and women that God would have them to be.  I want them to be able to feel my faith when I'm long gone from this world and be reminded that faith and hope are living, breathing things.

3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.  John 17:3-5

This is the beginning of a beautiful prayer that Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples, and for me.  We are all "nearing home".  The time frame that we have here on earth is uncertain.  As I near home, I want to make sure that I'm finishing well, accomplishing the work that God gave me to do.  

As I reflect on that, I think about how I'm going to accomplish finishing well. I look back over this year and I think it kind of sums up how I want to spend the remainder of my years.  I want to dream big, reach for the stars, and step outside my comfort zone.  I've never been a huge risk taker (although I've been known to eat raw cookie dough and swim right after I eat), but I want to take more risks.  Life isn't a spectator sport, it requires participation.   I intend to participate.  To reach out to others and drag them into the deep end with me.  I want to see more sunrises. I know that you know I'm NOT a morning person, but I've never once regretted getting up before dawn and going for a run.  NOT ONCE!  But, I've regretted many, many times hitting the snooze button and missing my morning run.  Not the exercise so much, as the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with the completion of a goal, and the reward I'm usually given in the form of a beautiful sunrise, the stillness of the early morning, a glimpse of a night creature , or sometimes just a venti soy au lait from Starbucks.   

2011 was a great start for me on the road to finishing well.  I read a Peanuts cartoon the other day that said, "My grandfather said that once you're over the hill, you begin to pick up speed."  At least it's all downhill from here.  Hey, maybe that will make me run faster! ;)  

The measure of a life is not in its duration, but its donation.  Corrie Ten Boom

Friday, December 23, 2011

Well, seven million calories later, our Savannah interlude is over.  The good news is I enjoyed every single bite, the bad news is, we only walked/ran off about half of what we ate.  Oh, well.  A new year is dawning, and Savannah was just the breath I needed to wrap my mind around a few life decisions.

For what it's worth, the pedicurist didn't run screaming into the street, and I don't think she quit after I left. I went with the "don't ask, don't tell" approach.  The only comments she made were, "So, are you a runner?" and "You runners are really tough on your feet, huh?"  I'm thankful someone was finally able to tell by looking at me that I'm a runner.  Even if it was because of the sad state of my feet.
Happy Feet!  You can't tell, but they're extra happy cause they're at Starbucks, and yes, I wore my spa shoes to keep the polish intact!

  We particularly enjoyed our anniversary meal at The Olde Pink House restaurant.  In 31 years of anniversary meals, eaten in such exotic locales as Tahiti, Maui, and Kona, I think this was the absolute best food I've eaten.  That's saying a LOT.  And, the evening was complete with the horse and carriage ride back to the Gastonian.  Cindy, our guide, was full of juicy, gossipy tidbits about Savannah, and Felix, our steed, was well behaved, even though we were his last job of the evening and he was quite ready to hit the hay.  Absolutely perfect day.
Cindy and Felix outside the Gastonian

Thankful for so many things, one of which was I didn't have to walk back to the hotel in heels after eating that HUGE meal!

We drove to Columbus, Georgia the next day to begin our journey home.  Love this artsy little town.  Great running trail built along the Chatahoochee River that stretches for about 22 miles.  This town needs my further attention on another trip.  Couldn't do it justice in the short stay we were there.
Eagle and Phenix Mill at dawn

The Chatahoochee River trail on our pre-dawn run

Hope your Christmas is filled with family, love, and joy.  Celebrate the season with some time alone with God to thank Him for His amazing gift, and enjoy the day!

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”” Luke 2:11-14 NIV

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thanking God

I love that each passing year finds me liking my man more & more.  He's aging very nicely.  Thirty-one years ago today, he made the best decision of his life, and I didn't do so bad myself.  :)  Love our anniversary trips, they always breathe new life into me, recharge me for the days ahead, and remind me what a lucky woman I am.

 Today started with a nice run in Forsyth Park, another delicious breakfast here at the Gastonian, and I'm about to head to the spa for a hot stone massage and a pedicure.  It will be my first pedicure since losing my first toenail to marathon training and I'm trying to decide how I'm going to play it.  Should I pretend my feet are completely normal & not missing 2 toenails and covered with the remains of many, many blisters?  Or, should I apologize in advance & pray she doesn't run screaming into the street and get hit by a trolley tour bus?  Either way, there's a nice tip in her day, so I hope she makes it through.  I figured I would get my first pedicure out of town, so at least my regular pedicurist would be spared the horror.  This lady will never see me again, although she'll probably never  be able to forget me, and may decide to change her vocation afterward.

A couple of home tours and a dress up evening at The Olde Pink House restaurant will round out our day, so I'm really looking forward to it.  We spent yesterday walking and touring Forts Jackson and Pulaski, Tybee Island, climbing lighthouses, and exploring Bonaventure Cemetery.  Yes, I'm a little strange, had you not realized that by now?  I love old, historic cemeteries.  Without too much introspection, I think it's because I love history and cemeteries are filled with stories and reminders.  I'll have a post later about one of the things we found there.  It was a really nice adventure and I'm glad I took my eagle eyed husband along, as he spots things I would easily overlook.

This day always makes me think of one of my favorite verses:

 4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Anniversaries and other stuff

I feel like I haven't sat down to write in ages, and in truth it has been more than a couple of weeks.  The weeks since the marathon have been filled to overflowing with work, and it seems that I'm just now emerging from under it. I feel like a drowning woman who has finally been able to fight her way to an air pocket, and I think that means there are probably a few major changes headed my way in 2012.  We'll cross that bridge in a few weeks, for now I'm just going to enjoy Christmas.

I love this season.  It's the celebration of my Savior's birth, and although we've done everything possible as a society to obscure that fact, it's still the reason for the season.  Gary and I were married during this season, on the 20th of December, thirty-one years ago.  And, as crazy as getting married five days before Christmas was, it makes this season even more special to me.

Last year, we celebrated thirty years with two weeks in Kona, Hawaii, or, as I frequently think of it, our future home.  ;)  This year, we tried to plan a little more simply, and after much thought, we decided on beautiful Savannah, Georgia.  We've never been, and it's been on my bucket list forever.  Seems I'm checking off bucket list items at an alarming rate this year, good thing my list is very long.

We headed to Savannah on Friday, and decided to take a very scenic route, through Apalachicola, Florida.  If you have a map, you'll see that Apalachicola is really not the most efficient way to get here, but we weren't in a hurry, so that's the way we chose.  We spent a very nice evening at "The Hole In the Wall" eating some delicious seafood, rose early and drove to St George Island after breakfast for a mind cleansing beach walk.  Then, we hit the road for the rest of the trip with only stops for bathrooms, gas, and Starbucks.

 St George Island, Florida

We chose the beautiful Gastonian Inn Bed and Breakfast here in Savannah, and I'm not disappointed in the least.  Gary & I try to stay in bed and breakfast when we travel, so we've stayed in more than our share.    I think this one tops our list so far.

On the riverwalk at sunset yesterday
So, we're in Savannah for a few days, we ran the riverfront and historic district the morning, then walked around, took a trolley tour, and are currently winding down some before we decide the evening's agenda. We're pretty pooped, so we may just stay in tonight.  The inn offers afternoon tea, then evening dessert and cordials, and, as we've sampled quite a lot of the city's gastronomical delights today, we may just call it a night.

Looking forward to a few days off with my man and a new city to run in and explore.  What's not to love?  By the way, the photos are courtesy of my NEW IPHONE!!!!!  Santa came early, and I have to say, as phones go, this one's the BOMB!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Looking Ahead

I'm a big goal setter.  I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from fixing a prize on the horizon, then methodically working my way to it and achieving it.  That trait has served me well in life, taught me how to overcome adversity, persevere, and keep on going when I really want to quit.  It got me across the finish line of the NYC marathon.  The great thing about that particular goal is that it is one I set for myself at least 15 years ago.  It took me that long to get there.  That accomplishment taught me one of the most valuable things I've ever learned.  Don't ever lose sight of the dream and never stop believing that it's achievable. And, remember that God's timeline is different from mine, but His timing is always perfect.

I try to set realistic goals for my life each year.  I look back at what has worked to get me closer to my goal and what hasn't worked.  I don't usually do this in January with all the other New Year's resolvers.  I typically do it on my birthday each year.  But, my past birthday, I was close to the end of my marathon training, so I put off my goal setting until after the marathon.  I've taken some time off to let my knee heal, and now I'm ready to get back to it.

So, along those lines, I'm setting a few new goals.

1- Be more faithful in my Bible study.
2- Do more speed and hill work.
3- Be faithful to my weekly yoga class.
4- Incorporate one additional day of strength training each week (especially upper body).
5- Sign up and train for at least one 5k and one 10k that are close to home.
6- Run more trails.
7- Lose that pesky 20 pounds that make running a lot less fun than it used to be.
8- Be more social in my running and try to run with someone at least twice a month.
9- Embrace the people in my life and put them first more often.  

I'm sure that I will add to this list, but it's a start.

Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sanity runs and unanswered prayers

You know, life is tough. Not always, but often enough. My life is so filled with blessings that I would never complain that my life is tough. But, I have people in my life who are struggling and it's tough to see. Friends struggling with cancer, loss of a spouse to death or divorce, infidelity, having to start life over at middle age. As a complete control freak and certified (or certifiable, depending on who you ask) know it all, the hardest part for me is that I don't have answers. Sometimes, there aren't answers. It's a matter of learning to live with the problem, not "fixing" it.

So, this morning started with a sanity run for me. It wasn't long, I still haven't been cleared by the doctor with my knee. And, it certainly wasn't fast, but it did blow out some cobwebs, a much needed release. And some truths presented themselves, as they so often do when it's just me & God running.

I listened to a podcast by Andy Stanley last week about having faith when God is silent. You know the time I mean: when you've prayed diligently for something for such a long time and there seems to be no response. I think it's one of the hardest things we face as Christians, not just in relation to our faith, but also when we present our faith to non-belivers. How to explain that sometimes, often times, God's answer is "No", or "Wait, the time isn't right yet."  I've had prayers like that. Some I've prayed for so long I don't even remember when I started praying them. Some I've finally had answered, others I'm still waiting on.

So, what to do? How do you keep on? Andy Stanley reminded us in his message that even some of Jesus's very favorite people were told no. Remember Mary, Martha, & Lazarus? Lazarus was sick and his sisters sent word to Jesus who wasn't far away to come heal him. They had faith that Jesus could heal him and would come, but Jesus didn't go. He waited until Lazurus died and had been dead for some days before making the journey. Why? For us. So that we could see His glory in bringing Lazurus back to like.

What does that have to do with me, with you, with our unanswered prayers? It's a reminder that God's strength is glorified through our weakness. When we struggle with something for such a long time, we have to learn to depend on God.

 Sometimes, God's answer to our fervently whispered prayers will be no. Remember Paul & his thorn in the flesh? God never removed it, whatever it was. But, He used Paul mightily. If not for Paul, I wouldn't be the faith filled woman that I am. Even with his "thorn", he went on to lead centuries of people to Christ.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

God has different timetables for each of our lives. We have to learn to wait for His answer. How is that good news? Hopefully, knowing that pain comes to everyone's lives and knowing that it's not necessarily caused by something you did, or your lack of faith, will give you hope. It is, without a doubt, a time in your life when God is growing you. Helping you to become more patient, more loving, more dependent on Him and therefore, more faithful. How long will it last? I don't know, but I do know that He'll give you the grace you need to get through it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Morning people

I am not a morning person.  This is no secret to those of you who know me.  I like to ease into morning, preferably at Starbucks, gently working my way into the crazy, hectic day.   I'm also not much of a gym rat.  I prefer the wide open outdoors, where I can get my prayer time on and gently ease my way into the day.  So, when my husband and I joined a local gym last month in order to utilize their spin classes, I had some reservations.  When I found out the class that works into our schedule best is at 5:30 a.m., I was filled with something approaching dread.

However, good sport that I am, I put my game face on, laid my spin clothes out the night before, and set the alarm for 4:30.  We went a few times before the marathon, and those seemed to be okay.  I'm giving my legs a break until I can get to my ortho doctor to get checked out to begin half marathon training, so spin is a great alternative to running.  Good workout, stretches out my legs, really works on what ails me.  So, this week we got up on Monday morning and headed to spin.  I brought back a lovely sinus infection from New York, so Monday was not my best effort.  I just did an easy spin, while Gary pedaled to Natchez & back.  That's the great thing about a spin class, you can go at your own speed.

This morning rolled around and I woke up grouchy.  That's not terribly unusual, but I was a little grouchier than normal.  I'm feeling better, so I decided if I'm going to get out of my comfy bed that early, I'm going to at least get a good workout.  And I did.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I probably hit 7 a couple of times.

My complaint is this.  5:30 is early.  Too early for dark rooms, loud music, disco lights, and obnoxiously happy people who sing along to all the songs off key.  I'm just saying.  It's one thing to get up at 4:30 in the morning and go out for a glorious run where you get to hear the birds and night creatures, then be amazed by the beauty of a sunrise.  Sweaty men in bandanna skull caps and bike shorts really aren't a great start to my day.  Although, they do make me laugh.  So, there is that.

For now, though, I'll keep on getting up three mornings a week at that obscenely early hour.  I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for it.  And, I'll admit, I do feel great and I'm glad my workout is done and I'm ready for my day by 7:30.  We'll see how it goes.  ;)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The view from the back of the pack

It's been almost a week, I'm walking normally again, and the last glow of finishing has faded from my cheeks.  It was a back to reality type of week, I hit the ground running mid-week to make up for time away from the studio at this busy, busy time.  But, I couldn't resist one last post about the race.  I wanted you to know how it feels to run at the back of the pack.  I had a bird's eye view from there, so I'll fill you in.
The view from Staten Island before the race

Starting in the third wave of a 47,000+ racing field allows you to know that you're among friends.  The third wavers are mostly running enthusiasts who race to enjoy the experience, not to set land speed records.  The race announcer noticed the difference immediately as we crowded together at the bottom of the Verrazano Narrows bridge.  He commented that we were definitely the rowdiest group to start.  There was lots of laughter, shouts of joy, singing, even dancing around with glee.  We sang along with "God Bless America," even the runner beside me who spoke little English and asked me twice what the song was.  She hummed along and raised her hands just as the rest of us did.  There were lots of older runners, groups of women run/walking together, a husband and wife team dressed alike in running bras and skirts (yes, really), fun costumes, and joy abundant.  Off we went.

I mentioned in the previous post how much I liked Brooklyn, and I just want to re-emphasize that here.  It was still early enough that thousands of people lined the streets.  Kids, parents, grandparents, maintenance workers, all manner of people were out, shouting for us, calling our names, high fiving us, encouraging us. Many brought signs to encourage, some for specific runners, others for general encouragement.  One of my favorites was "Black toenails are sexy", held aloft by an NYPD fireman.  Made me laugh.  And, for those of you who are keeping count, I lost my third toenail after the race.  No matter, it was worth it.  Brooklyn was amazing.  I would run that section of the race over again tomorrow if I could.

On into Queens, and then that wicked, wicked bridge.  I won't whine about it, but it did take the wind out of my sails.  I was really looking forward to rounding into Manhattan onto First Avenue, I had heard stories about the solid wall of people who would be there to give us fresh legs with their yells.  Alas, I had not counted on it being so late in the race, and many of the merry makers had left their posts to get on with their days.  There were still a fair number there, and that was when I realized one of the benefits to being a back of the packer.  The people who were left cheering knew that we were the ones who would struggle to the finish line, and their encouragement became very personal.  I had not put my name on my shirt as many racers did, because my name is not pronounced the way it is spelled and I didn't want to hear people yelling for "Jane" the entire race.  (It's spelled Jayne, pronounced Janie,  not a big deal, but it is my name, after all.)  However, I began to wish that I had put it on my shirt, anyway.  The encouragers yelled to me, some of the bands sang for me and yelled encouragement into their mikes, and made me feel like they were truly rooting for me.  And, the fun thing about this race is that they really were.  One guy even hugged me!

Through Manhattan, into the Bronx, then that long, seemingly endless 5k through Central Park, out onto Central Park South, then across the finish line.  I've read comments posted by some of the earlier finishers that there was a lot of congestion at the chute leading away from the finish.  Another advantage to being a back of the packer is that there was no congestion by the time I got there.

I share this back of the pack experience because I want anyone who has a desire to run to realize there's no shame in being there.  Do I wish I was faster?  Of course.  But,  another advantage to my race was that I remember every single step, each mile, many of the faces.  It was a fantastic, bucket list experience that I wouldn't change in any way.  AND, when you run at the back of the pack, there's no lines at the port-a-lets!  ;)
Central Park Monday after the race

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This one is for the old broads!

You know how you when you look forward to something for so long, prepare for it, work for it, bleed for it; then it gets there and it's kind of a letdown?  Well, today was not like that all!  This was everything I dreamed it would be (except the time, which I'll get to later).  I finished the New York City marathon today and it was a beautiful thing.

The day started obscenely early, as I had to be on the bus in front of the NYC Library at 6 am.  My man got up with me & walked me there.  We passed a fake Rolex vendor just outside our hotel & he asked me if I was on the track team.  I said no, and he wanted to know why I was dressed like I was.  I told him I was running the marathon & he said, "I hope you win.!"  I laughed and said, "Me, too!"

If you can't be fast, be fashionable

Arrived at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island with 45,000 of my closest friends and headed to the starting village.  This was probably the hardest part of the entire day.  I got there at 6:30 & didn't start racing til almost 11.  Tough wait.  Soon enough, though we were herded into Corrals (is there anything more aptly named?), and headed up to the starting line.  I was in Wave 3, the last wave, and after "God Bless America" was sung, the starting cannon boomed, and we were off to Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York."  We crossed the Verazano-Narrows Bridge and headed into Brooklyn for the next 13 miles.  Now, let me say that when I saw we were running 13 miles through Brooklyn, I wasn't all that excited.  But, oh my gosh, did those Brooklynites change my mind.  The crowd support was amazing, they had prepared wonderful signs, I've never high fived that many people, and the entertainment was superb.  There were tons of great bands, including steel drums, bagpipes, hard rock, soft rock, jazz, even a Lady Gaga wannabe.  All awesome, but my favorite of the entire race was at Emmanuel Baptist Church, where they had the entire choir on the steps singing for us.  The only neighborhood that was very quiet was the Williamsburg Hasidic Jew community.  But, having done my homework, I already expected that.  And there was some cheering, just not by any of the men.  My man met me between Miles 3 & 4, and did a pretty great job of documenting the race with my camera.  He deserves a medal for his race around all five boroughs.   He navigated the subway and raced from one point to the next.     He met me approximately every 4 miles, although we somehow missed each other on mile 19.  He met me as I entered Central Park & encouraged me and helped me pick my pace back up a little.  He wished he could run it for me, and by that point I kind of did, too.  He's already asleep, by the way.  He's more tired than I am.
Still smiling.
On into Queens, and then the Queensboro Bridge.  May I just say this is a Wicked Witch of a bridge.  I had done great until then,  maintaining my pace, running my :30/:30's, and then there it was.  My knee began screaming in earnest and I slowed down to a walk.  I picked up the pace some on 1st Ave, but still had to walk a good bit.  Or limp, I guess I should say.  This was the only disappointment of the race, my knee giving me the bum's rush.  But, it was okay.  I really, really enjoyed sightseeing as I ran and embracing my inner tourist.  I don't think I ever stopped smiling.
The limp had started

I was a little afraid my emotions would overtake me, but there were only a couple occasions where I teared up.  The first was at Mile 9 (I think) when I saw the Asics jumbo tron, and as I ran past, the messages from my family and friends appeared.  I didn't realize it at first, until I saw the one signed "Bratchild", which has been Kaitlyn's nickname since she was a kid.  Read the message & she had included a picture of her, Misty, and Carlos and it was like all my kids were here with me.  It was definitely one of the high lights of the race.  Also had wonderful messages from Connie P, and several other friends.  Didn't get to read them all, had to keep moving.  Thanks, guys.   You were all running this race with me, my prayer list included all of you.  

Let me say,  I felt the power of my prayer warriors throughout the day. You kept my stomach contents intact, my legs moving forward, and the sore throat I woke up with completely at bay.  Thank you so very, very much.  I could not have done this without you lifting me up.  

On into the Bronx for my other, somewhat surprising favorite band today.  A group of young men were rapping and it was very personal by that time, as I was in the back of the pack and running by myself.  They encouraged  sang to me and got my feet moving again.  

Finally got back to Central Park and there was my man, taking all the junk I no longer wanted, and walking with me the last three miles.  I can't even describe how much that meant.  On mile 25, I dug very, very deep and picked the pace way up.  My legs didn't like it, but hopefully they'll forgive me in a few days.  Ran the last 200 meters or so and crossed the finish line upright and smiling.  Actually,  I was laughing.  Got my medal, and then came the tears.  Couldn't find Gary and walked around for nearly an hour looking for him.  Yeah, my legs kind of hate me right now.  But, we found each other and started the trek back to the Belvedere.  That was the longest ten blocks of the day.
100 meters to go

After a cold bath, then a hot one, a Venti coffee from Starbucks, a warm salty pretzel, and a bottle of Gatorade recover, I'm icing my knee and basking in the glow.   You never forget your first time, and the great thing about this one is that it didn't matter what my time was, it was still a PR for me.  :)  I don't know what my final time was, and don't really care.  It wasn't the time I wanted, but I'm okay with it, considering how much my knee bothered me.  

The final teary moment came when I opened my Facebook page and saw how many of you were tracking me, praying for me, rooting me on from Mississippi (and other states).  I was completely bowled over by the messages and comments I received.  You guys are absolutely amazing.  Thank you.  

I saw a LOT of real heros on the course today, and Gary made pictures of a lot of them, which I'm sharing below.  One of my favorites was the man I passed about mile six who was a quadruple amputee. Yes, that's right, missing all four limbs.  He had double prosthetics and was moving from side to side on the course, high fiving the supporters.  Really took my breath away.  Here are some of the other true heros of the day.

The wheelchair frontrunners.  I think the winner was under 1 1/2 hours.  
This man ran the entire race bent over.  He was never able to stand upright. And I think he beat me!
This guy did 26.2 in full gear
Female frontrunners

Thanks, New York, for a true bucket list experience.  It was second to none!!  And if I see the fake Rolex dealer tomorrow, I can't wait to tell him that I did win, after all.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Marathon Eve

As promised, I did take some pictures last night. I always regret not bringing my D3, and this trip is no exception.   Hopefully, though,  the images will convey some of the excitement that's in the air here in NYC this weekend.  
My first glimpse of the finish line
Delegations from around the world at the parade

The honor guard

Meb Keflezighi is the first honorary finisher, click the link, he has a great story

The evening ended with an amazing fireworks show over the Park

 This morning dawned bright and beautiful, and after our coffee, we headed back to the Park.  There really is nothing quite like Central Park on a crisp fall morning.

New York Road Runners sponsored their first Dash to the Finish Line 5k to give runners and their friends and families a chance to run the last 3.1 miles of the famed marathon course and cross that famous finish line.  We arrived at the perfect time to document the finish.
Looking forward to seeing this banner tomorrow

The men's 5k winner was from Great Britain

A New Yorker was the first female finisher

Got to love a US Champ!

There were lots of fun costumes, including many from the runners' native countries.  Where do you think these guys are from?  

Love this - that's the true spirit of  running, finishing together , faces full joy.  

The true heroes of the race - the thousands of volunteers!  These guys work harder than the athletes in bitter cold; before the crack of dawn;  long, long hours.  In a race of this magnitude, it wouldn't come off nearly as smoothly without them.  Thanks to all who volunteer!

I think I'm finally ready for tomorrow.  Bib number is pinned to shirt, clothes laid out, UPS bag packed, Garmin & phones charging.  Have 2 alarms set and am calling for a 4:30 wake-up call, so hopefully the bad dreams from last night have been taken care of.   After much ado, we finally have Gary's phone loaded with the Track My Runner app so he can follow me and he has his subway card ready & his route planned out.  My nerves have calmed and now I'm just excited.
See you at the Finish Line!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Let's get this party started!!

It's here!!  Marathon weekend has FINALLY arrived!  We landed in NYC at 9:30 this morning, headed uptown to our hotel, checked in and hit Starbucks.  We left New Orleans way before the sun came up, so we arrived in severe coffee withdrawal.  Got our coffee on, then to Times Square for lunch at Gary's favorite restaurant, Bubba Gump's.  You've got to admit, you've thought "Run, Forrest, Run" at least once about me, right?  So it was appropriate, as well as delicious.  Then on to the Jacob Javitz Convention center for the marathon Expo.  Breezed through the registration line, got my bib number and goodie bag, then out into the massive expo to locate the Social Media center and touch base with our coordinator.

The Expo is fabulous!  The vendors have pulled out all the stops.  Lots of great presenters and info. If you get a chance, stop by.  It's free and open to the public and you may find something that inspires and motivates you.  A word of warning.  Have you ever been to Macy's (or any large department store) on Black Friday?  Those shoppers have nothing on these guys.  It's packed, and the atmosphere is electric and frenzied.  Put your smile on, wear comfortable shoes, and plow on in.  For a schedule of Expo events, click here:

After a short rest in our hotel room, we headed down to Central Park, where opening festivities were about to get underway. Grand stand seating was available, and soon representatives from all the nations participating lined up for a parade.  Entertainment, some presentations to the late Fred Lebow and Grete Waitz, as well as 1994 & 1995 men's champion German Silva rounded out the parade.  The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks show over Central Park.  I did make pictures, but intrepid photographer and social media reporter that I am, I forgot my card reader at home, so I'll have to post them on tomorrow's blog post. We're done for the evening, it's been a very long day.

I have to confess, my first view of the finish line was quite a moment for me.  My emotions are right at the surface, so I'm sure that won't be the last time I tear up.  I'll try to keep the cheese factor low on these posts, but I'm not making any promises.  I dreamed last night that I missed the bus to the start, but made it down to Staten Island to discover they had moved the starting line.  Made it to the new starting line just as the race began, only to realize I had lost my bib number.  You don't have to be Freud to understand that race anxiety has settled in. I'm working on dialing it back, if you're on my prayer warrior team (you know who you are), add that to your list.  I've gotten so many messages, e-mails, comments and texts from friends, old and new from all around the country that I am truly humbled.  Thank you guys, for remembering me & sharing this exciting event with me.

Stay tuned - more to come!  Now, where is that bib number?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dreaming Big

A friend asked me yesterday why I chose NYC as my first marathon.  There are so many reasons, but the decision goes back many years to when I started running.  I was a young mom, looking to increase my fitness, and I was on the treadmill in my bedroom on the first Sunday in November before I went to church.  New York City Marathon coverage was on the morning news show.  I was captivated.  Soon, I began running in earnest, with the goal of NYC always in the back of my mind.  I visited New York for the first time a few years later, and a bucket list item was made.

If you're a woman, you know how dreams go.  We may have dreams for ourselves, but they take second (or third) place to our families' needs and dreams.  Raising kids, taking care of elderly parents, working full time, running a business (or 2) - all those things take over our dreams, push them onto the back burner.

About four years ago, I became an empty nester.  My parents still needed me, but our daughters were making their own ways, cutting those apron strings, and not needing my full attention all the time.  NYC raised it's lovely head and beckoned.  This time, I followed.  I started training slowly, working out with a trainer, and slowly building my mileage base.  In 2010, I ran three half marathons, always with NYC in the back of my mind.  I know that if I only run one full marathon, I want it to be in the Big Apple.

So, here I am.  On the eve of a bucket list item that I've dreamed about for more years than I can even remember.  I can't remember the last time I've been this excited about something.  Reaching out to grab a dream is a scary, exciting, mountain top high.

I'm inspired by so many things.  People who overcome adversity to reach their dreams, big and small, always remind me how blessed I am.  I heard a story on KLOVE today about a high school track team member who had to petition the school board to run with her classmates.  Seems she has to bring a companion with her to run, her seeing eye dog.  She's blind.  One of the things she said was, "When you’re blind and you’re running there is an element of fear that you’re going to fall flat on your face."  Wow.  Can you imagine running in the dark?  I can't.  I was inspired, but I was also humbled.  This young woman has learned something that it took me many years to learn.  She knows that the only limits we can't overcome are the ones we allow to defeat us.  The only thing that keeps us from running farther or faster is the belief that we can't.  

So, reach for your dreams.  Don't let your fears, adversity, or the day to day things that life throws at you stop you from accomplishing all that God expects of you and wants for you.  He is our seeing eye dog.  The One who runs with us in the dark.  And, dream big.