Before that, though, my day was frantic if normal. I even made time to go to the new makeup store with a friend. I’m having difficulty being productive in between schlepping Colby everywhere (school ->basketball->orchestra->home->bed), so filling up 30 in-between minutes looking at sweet smelling false promises was a welcome activity. I bought some body oil and detangler and new foundation. I left in time.
Colby was totally ready to roll when I picked him up at practice.
I dropped him off at orchestra practice, which just happens to be where I work. I let him know that I was going to the gym first and to meet me in my office when he was done.
At the gym, I ran for the first time in a few weeks. It was slow and visceral and I was so so happy to get sweaty. Then my phone rang, and I answered it even though I NEVER answer unfamiliar numbers. Never. Colby didn’t have practice. He had been waiting at the school for an hour. I turned off the treadmill and wrestled with my keys and earbuds while checking my email because he said “Mom. I sent you an email…”. It read something like: “mom, I’m hungry, come get me before the janitor kicks me out”.
I made it from the gym to my office in three minutes to find all the lights off and no sign of my kid.
Seven awful minutes and three bathroom checks later, I found him, but not before I had to tell a group of co-workers that I lost my kid and had they maybe seen him anywhere.
This must be my lucky week though, because not only did I find him in one physical and spiritual piece, he told me “mom – don’t sweat it”.
I tried to give them an out all week long. Really, I did. But at 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I threw us, a bunch of food, and multiple changes of dry clothes in the car. Matt drove, Colby slept and I stretched and annoyed Matt with endless attempts at meaningless conversation. We left in the rain, driving toward more rain, and arrived promptly . . . ahead of schedule. I should have recognized our punctuality to be indicative of something great, but I didn’t. The boys waited, I paced. I ate a cookie. I slopped Body Glide all over my toes so that they were slipping all around in my socks every time I got back out of the car to use the bathroom, again.
I’ll give you the short version: It was rainy. I ran 13.1 miles, alternating between conversation bombing (a personal flaw I’ve decided to turn into a skill) people around me and turning my attention inward. I ran and enjoyed the (foggy) ocean view. I took deep, restorative breaths of ocean air. I ran and took mental notes on amazing landscaping. I ran and prayed what Anne Lamott coined the “Help, help, help” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you” prayers, with a new ‘help’ and a new ‘thank you’ every mile. I ate my new favorite Honey Stinger gels at miles 4 and 8. It was truly awe-some. I ran without an ipod, iphone, or a watch. I came in about two minutes under my goal time to shave about 7 minutes off my half time from last spring.
I don’t know what happened.
Because I lost so much training time I had planned out a walk/run schedule, but when I got to my first walk time I felt good, so I kept running. And so on and so forth. I had been holding a finish time of 2:30 in my head all summer long, and last week during a training melt-down (during which I almost dropped out) I decided to let that time go and be happy with a finish. Once I realized that I was on target for a possible 2:30 finish though, I reformulated that plan.
I held back early on just because I wanted to finish and finish strong (read: not vomiting and not in the medical tent). About halfway through I made a deal that I would turn it on a bit after mile 10. And I did. After the last clock I knew it was going to be close, but I stayed strong and steady. Coming into the chute I saw the clock counting up 2:28 . . . and I put the hammer down (does anyone know what that saying actually means? I don’t but it seems appropriate, so it’s staying). I crossed the line AT 2:30, but as of last night my official time was 2:28:42. Air punch karate kick.
While I was wiping myself down in the backseat of the car (windows were fogged, no worries people) Matt asked the perennial “why the hell does anyone actually want to do this”. And I’m not sure I have the answer, but I have my answer. I do this because in a world where so much is dependent upon everyone else and so many people are dependent upon me, this is the one thing that really, truly is all me. My training or lack of, my perspective, my juju (good or bad). All of it.
And as much as I need to be in control, it was awfully nice to let go and let my training, my body, and some benevolent higher power take over.
Before I re-started my running life, I wondered why it was that so many of my new co-workers were either marathoners or some other form of endurance sport competitors. While training for my first race, though, I realized that that marathon (or for me, 5k or 1/2 marathon) was the perfect metaphor for the teacher life. I pluck along each summer reading a teacher book here, writing a curriculum unit there. If I’m especially ambitious I take a class or two. I run, swim, and kayak. I cart Colby from camp to camp and force him to go to the beach with me. We eat late because we are busy fitting everything in. The last couple of weeks in August, I taper. Everything slows down. I’m still doing the things I usually do, but more purposefully, much more slowly. Everything I do is aimed toward the general goal of beginning the school year with a reserve of energy, patience, good will and good habits.
This school year, finally, the starting gun was less intimidating. Like a smart athlete, I had goals that I worked toward all summer long (organization and routines) and I have been able to see my, um, training, pay off. I’m waxing poetic about this because I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and so far, proud of the results. I tend to be one of those “fuck it I do the best I can” people, which really isn’t as effective as I think it is. I’m all for cutting yourself a break, but I needed to cultivate an attitude with more push and less couch. This has not been easy. However, if I can sustain this pace throughout the year … awesome things will happen.
Really though, I’m nervous about the 1/2 coming up at the end of the month. I’ve struggled with a weird left tibia shin splint since the week before my last 1/2, and my training has been on and off. I’ve integrated more yoga and bike riding into my training and I shelled out an obscene amount of money for a pair of new (ohsodreamy) running shoes. I’m trying to build strength and endurance without killing myself, because I reallyreallyreally want to break 2:30 this time. And now, my knees really, really hurt. So I’m going for one good bike ride per week.
Which brings me to the constant playing of Queen in my head. Because really? I want to ride my bicycle. I ride this gorgeous 7-mile loop right from my house and when I’m done? I can still walk! My knees don’t creak every time I attempt to lift my leg to say, walk to the bathroom. I pass four horse farms, ride up and down challenging hills, and observe the subtle seasonal changes. I have no plans to abandon my running life, but . . . I want to ride my (purple $20 yard sale little girl’s mountain) bicycle. The only thing better than riding that 7 mile loop on my yard sale bicycle would be riding the same loop on an actual road bike. In a pair of bike shorts with some, uh, strategic padding.
I want to go back out again right now, but I won’t. Thunder is rumbling, and I have a long run tomorrow, homework and housework today. And the looming presence of the Sugarloaf Marathon next Spring? I’ll keep the tab open on my computer, but will wait and see how the Maine Marathon 1/2 ends. Hmmm.
Aren’t you glad I didn’t say ‘Summer’s Eve’. Bahahaha. I’m seriously the funniest person I know.
But seriously. It seems that this year, as summer ends, I am looking forward to the comfort of a schedule while mourning the loss my of mid-morning runs and watching of the Nate Birkus show.
I’m less reluctant to return to school this year, not just because I have the worlds best colleagues, but because I finally have enough years behind me to relax. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still as anxious as ever, I just don’t feel like throwing up at the thought of the 8:05 bell. Weird. It’s just that now I realize that I can’t prepare for it all, but I’m pretty damned prepared. It’s a good feeling that I don’t get that often. So I’m enjoying it.
We’ve wrapped up this last weekend of summer quite nicely. Actually, it’s been all kinds of awesome. Let’s work backwards. As I sit by the fire, enjoying the contrasting warmth from the hearth and chill from the window, Matt is off grocery shopping. I’ve been clipping away at syllabi and lesson plans and rubrics and so forth for the last few days, and he’s really stepped up to help out. Grateful I am. We’ve been home all day, alternately puttering, working and sitting by the fireplace with the dogs. I saw an old and dear friend at Mass this morning, and was so glad that I pried my fuzzy, post-champagne head out of bed to go. And really, I’m always happy to go. There is something about walking into that beautiful building with a squirmy tween who can’t stand for me to put my arm around him and leaving with him leaning on my shoulder. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.
But the champagne head, that came from last night. One of my baby cousins married her sweetheart and hosted the most family-friendly and FUN reception at a local bowling alley. The bride and groom are family people, certainly demonstrated by their choice to put family (namely: kiddos) first on their special day. We had such fun visiting with family and friends and remarking on the very interesting ways in which our family trees intersect . . . I’m not sure how things went down after Matt took us through the McD’s drive-through, but I woke up at 3 a.m. to find both dogs in bed with us, both of them wearing glow stick necklaces leftover from the wedding. I guess he got bored after I fell asleep. I earned my sleep, too, because I worked straight through yesterday. The only breaks I took were to ride (10 miles! Matt tried to take me off road, which wasn’t my cup of tea. I swore. I almost fell multiple times. I threw my bike. We went back to the trail shortly after) and run (2 miles. no exclamation point). Colby was with my parents, so I had the luxury of being in a quiet house and knowing that my kiddo was being spoiled silly. This led to extreme productivity. Again, weird.
In short, this has been the most fucking fantastic weekend I’ve had in a long, long time. I will need to hold this day in my pocket like a worry stone, and every time another weekend or day or moment takes a shit turn, I’ll remember that they all won’t be that way. Most, but definitely not all.
I have a busy evening of baking and cooking and tea drinking ahead of me. Off to see friends tomorrow and am so excited I may barely be able to sleep.
Well. As Matt put it in a text to his father, “Heather finished the race and didn’t die!”. I’m still a little stunned that I ran 13.1 frickin miles. For many reasons, my training did not go as planned. I lost training time to injuries, sickness, and life. OH, and excuses. When I was actually running the race route, I surprised myself. As pleased as I was for those moments where I was in my sweet spot, when I exited a porta-john at mile 8 with locked up knees I realized that there was a real reason for training plans. I finished and honestly, I am just so proud of myself and my body and my brother for almost literally pulling me through to the finish line.
I could go on and on . . . so I will.
Here’s the breakdown:
Pre-Race: We traveled from Maine to Virginia with little incident. This surprised me more than anything, because I was more anxious about the whole-family traveling dynamic than I was about the race itself. We drove from Bangor to Portland, flew from Portland to BWI, drove a rental car from BWI to my brother’s house in Quantico, VA. We were tired and dirty, but when we pulled up to see my niece and nephew waving from their door I thought I could have run from Maineto see them. We had plenty of late night Rock Band and snuggles and a shared bag of Goldfish crackers.
We spent Saturday drinking coffee, playing babies and baseball, meeting up with my best college friend who drove down from D.C. and spent dinner with another family whose father was running the 1/2 on Sunday. As soon as this guy found out that I was having trouble with shin splints he went to his house and brought back a foam roller for me to use. That and a pair of compression sleeves may have totally saved me (and my legs).
I got to bed early and fell asleep before I could finish reading my magazine! Me, the neurotic, anxious mommy! Fell asleep and slept through the night!
Race Day: I rolled out of bed at 4 and found coffee already made. This was a pleasant surprise, and I never figured out who had the foresight to set the coffee maker the night before. I couldn’t find the oatmeal, so I made a bowl of instant Cream of Wheat. I ended up with a solid breakfast of this, two cups of coffee with almond milk, a banana, a glass of water and a glass of Gatorade. I hadn’t eaten great the day before, so I hoped this would do the trick. I settled in with this little guy for some pre-race puppy and coffee time.
I planned on reading, but he was too cute not to play with. I was so homesick for my own puppies, who I found out later were having adventures of their own (read: porcupines).
Bud, Matt, Colby and I hit the road at a respectable 6:20ish (only a half hour or so past when we were supposed to leave) and made it to the parking lot in Fredricksburg just in time.
Still? No nerves. It was beautiful, all bright blue sky and cool gentle breezes.
My uncharacteristic calm left abruptly as we approached the finish line. The town crier, a special part of this race, came over the PA I knew it was almost go time. I noticed some sort of recumbent bikes going past us and asked Bud about them. He told me that they started first. They were injured veterans. The band began playing the National Anthem. Now here were the water works. I had spent so much time bitching about my inadequate training and injuries and etc. I had forgotten that it was such a blessing to have the ability and physiology to run this race. I had been so calm because I had convinced myself that this race, the 13.1 miles were nothing, no problem or celebration. Just a run. I was wrong, and it all hit me on the way to the tall green box of relief. The line to the porta-johns were long, but Bud had a plan that got us to empty ones pronto. Then, the gun went off and we entered the throng of people, eventually passing the start line and trying to find an open spot to begin running.
Miles 1-4: My legs were tight and scared. I was feeling guilty that my very fast brother was running with his very slow sister when he could be killing it out there.We stopped at every water station and the course was incredibly well supported. There was a Marine at every turn, handing out high-fives, smiles, and encouragement. We ran through a shady, slightly hilly, and beautiful residential neighborhood in Fredricksburg. The houses ranged from swanky estates to carefully preserved historical artifacts. I was so busy looking around (and talking, sorry Bud!) that I didn’t even really think about what I was doing.
Miles 5-9: The sweet spot. I don’t remember much of this, probably because I was talking so much. While this was an indicator that I wasn’t running at full capacity, I knew that I had a tough section coming up and I wanted to preserve as much of myself as I could for the truly tough section. I do remember feeling like I was clipping along, and wishing I had a Garmin to see what my pace was. I passed people! I smiled! I threw my arms up in celebration when I ran passed the course photographers. This, my dears, was a bit of bragging a bit too early.
Miles 10-12: Hospital Hill. This really, really sucked. I actually nailed the first half of the hill. I figured that’s what God gave me these short little legs and huge ass for: to climb hills. I was showing off. The course evened out for a bit, and I tried to recover for the next section of the hill without losing too much time. The rest of it just.sucked. I had to walk three or so minutes at the top of that hill, and that really pissed me off. I had been dizzy for a few spells earlier in the race, but I have unbelievably low blood pressure. I figured as long as I hydrated well I would be set. At the top of this hill though, I thought I was going down. I was either going to pass out, vomit, or both.
Miles 12ish-Finish: I didn’t want to tell my brother because I didn’t want him to lose any more time. I was having visions of his co-workers making fun of him at work for finishing so slowly, and I was the cause of it. Finally I said “Bud. I have to stop. I’m going to puke”. And he said “No. Keep running”. That was the way it went. When I was swearing, one long, deep, guttural *&%#$##, he gave me everything he had. “You’ve got this”, “This is nothing”, and my favorite “You could run five more miles if you wanted to”. Somehow, I made it to the home stretch. I was really hurting, fighting back waves of nausea and blinking away those blasted eye floaters you get when you are ready to hit the floor. I finally glanced Matt’s bright green t-shirt on the side of the road and Colby and the kids ran out to greet us. Imagine my surprise when Colby announced that he was going to run the rest of the way in with us! I wasn’t particularly impressed when he showered me with such truth nuggets as “Hey Mom! I’m running on 1/2 a cup of coffee and four donuts!” or “Hey Mom! Look! You’re running and I’m walking”. I crossed the finish line flanked by my brother and my son. Those boys carried me home.
I then devoured a handful of sweet, juicy and delicious orange slices. I’m not sure I have ever tasted anything so wonderful. Did I mention it was hot? And that I had so much crusted salt on my face that I had actual salt boogers under my nose. Alas, I was feeling too sick to cash in my free beer ticket from my bib. Maybe that’s my next goal. Finish, but feel well enough to drink a beer immediately after.
Eventually I got my beer, and a steak and a pile of the cheesiest and gooiest mashed potatoes. We capped off our weekend with lots of family time, and as I walked my nephew to his bus my heart broke in the same exact spot it always does when I leave him and his sister. I know that the next time I see them he may not be content to play zombie babies with us. His sister may not say, at every turn, “Tia Heather, when you are done (insert activity), then can we go play babies?”. Luckily, I take enough pictures so I can blackmail them into playing with me at any turn.
Life is good, people. Over the last few weeks I’ve recovered from an injury, read books (for fun), kicked my training in the arse (5 weeks out!), run a 5k with Colby and my friend Jane, visited with an old and dear friend, and ate a sit-down meal with Matt. Lots of fun and not-so-fun work stuff in between.
But now, it is April vacation. No other vacation compares to this, because we are close enough to see the end of the year AND no major holidays impede the pace of all things vacation. I could break into song at any moment.
Our morning began like most Saturday mornings around here do. Colby woke up early, and since he is grounded from the Wii, he spent the morning undertaking a tv watching marathon. Matt woke me up with what I’m sure was a hug, but more resembled a bear mauling a woman who was obviously not meant for mornings. Hanging from his neck, I whine-mumbled “Do I have to go to work today?”. The bastard told me yes. I opened my eyes enough to confirm that it was, in fact, too light out for it to be a work day. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.
But I had to get up. It was a big day. WE were going to the bank to open a (cue dramatic music) JOINT CHECKING ACCOUNT. I made a big deal of it. But not enough of a big deal to put on real pants. As we left I told Colby “we might as well be getting married” and asked him if he wanted to take a picture. He didn’t want to. He rolled his eyes back toward the television. We left in separate cars so Matt could get right to work after.
As I drove down Essex I got lost in a day-dream (should I change careers? should I have a baby? will I have any luck running at home instead of at the gym? what should my wedding colors be? maybe today’s blog title will be titled “da-dum-da-dum” and then the first line will be “PSYCH”! would that piss people off?) and consequently missed my turn. I called Matt. No answer. He must already be there since the closest branch of our credit union is FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE. I went the long way, hoping had the good sense to stay put. I finally arrived and scoped out the parking lot. I didn’t see the car (which I refuse to drive) anywhere. I called again. I called again. I called Colby to see if Matt’s phone was at home. He didn’t answer. I felt a teeny-tiny pin prick in my Saturday morning balloon.
Assuming (ass out of you, ass out of me, I know) Matt was heading toward the Hampden branch, I hopped on 95 and was on the phone with my dear friend Angie before I merged. “He is an IDIOT!” I yelled into the phone. That poor girl. Just trying to enjoy her morning. Her husband piped up and yelled that the Hampden branch was closed on Saturday. What the fuck. Another call beeped in, and I heard Matt’s conciliatory voice as I turned onto the closest exit. “Where are you?” He asked. “Where the FUCK are YOU?” I yelled. Mad props to this guy, because I wouldn’t have responded as well to my words or tone. Because we both assumed incorrectly. I kept up the snark for 90 seconds or so before we hung up.
He called later to check in. I was out running, having a good run at that. We talked over the minutia that partners call to talk about in the middle of the day. While we were discussing where to put the treadmill I interrupted “I’m sorry I yelled at you”. It may be disconcerting to have slips in communication skills, but I’m so thankful we are at a point where we can acknowledge that while we, as individuals, are works-in-progress, we are a singular work-in-progress together.
Ahhh. It’s been a productive morning, though. I had a little drive (haha) and did some cleaning. I can hear the laundry drying. I ran with turkeys (literally! pics later) and ran two hills I usually walk. After I’m clean and smell better, I’m off with my boy to find a place to drink cocoa and do homework. Happy Saturday, friends.