Friday, November 27, 2015

Post Marthon Happenings and Ramblings

For the past four years the Seneca Valley Cross Country team hosts a Turkey Chase in Cranberry. I've done it every year. A couple weeks ago Tiff texted me asking if I was thinking about doing it. Without skipping a beat I said no because it would be four days after my marathon. Fast forward to Wednesday night and the thought was lurking in my head that I had to do it. I love that race. It's held at the Dick's Sportsplex at Graham Park, a super flat course that I know like the back of my hand from running it often. I could do it with my eyes closed. It's also a great race to actually race being that it is flat and fast. I woke up Thursday morning and felt pretty good. I was walking fine at this point and not having any trouble on stairs or standing and sitting. Kelli texted me that morning and asked if I was going to do it. I tossed back and forth about going to CrossFit or the Turkey Chase and on an impulse decision I committed to the chase. Leaving my house at 8:20 for a 9 am start I had just enough time to park, register, and jog to the start line. Luckily, at the front of the pack I saw my cousin Norah and Kelli.

Then the horn went off to start. Not even two minutes into the race my right hamstring was lit up like a Christmas tree. It had been sore after the marathon, but didn't feel injured. Now here I am, four days later, racing a 5k. I don't get the award for the sharpest crayon in the box for that day. Either way, the thoughts racing in my head we're, "you just paid $30 to do this five minutes ago, you're NOT walking." I saw Kelli just a couple steps ahead and figured I would do my best to keep up with her for as long as possible and if my hammy really starts to hurt, maybe I'll have to consider walking/dropping out even though I really didn't want to. Keep in mind Kelli is an AWESOME runner (she just ran a 3:48 marathon in Columbus!), so for me to pick her to keep up with was not a casual jog by any means. None the less, I pushed forward and was able to stay just a few steps behind her for the entire race

Doing my usual obsessing over my Garmin while running I noticed my splits were around the 7:35s/mile. My official time came out to be a  23:37.... a freaking PR. I'm not a running expert by any means, so please don't take this story as advice to ever race a 5k within a week after running a marathon. I actually wouldn't endorse this at all. My hamstring is alright and I'm walking just fine but I certainly irritated it. Now I really need to lay off it for a couple days. Special thanks to Kelli for "pacing" me for the whole race even though she didn't even know she was. I did some marathon training runs with her and I definitely credit her for my speed work getting better and faster. She always pushes me on our runs and the splits don't lie. Oh, and if you're wondering how my cousin Norah did, that little speed demon ran a 21 minute race!

Ran in my newer Brooks PureCandence sneaks. I'm afraid they may be discontinuing my beloved PureFlows! 

My Turkey Chase official times over the years:
2015 - 23:27 (7:34/mile)
2014 - 25:38 (8:16/mile)
2013 - 24:16 (7:49/mile)
2012 - couldn't find the results online

2015 Age Group Results - 6th of of 57

Now on to thoughts about last Sunday:

One of the biggest things that boggles my mind about my marathon is that I didn't listen to music once. Not for a single second. I kept my headphones tucked through the strap of my tank top so they would be ready as soon as I wanted them, but they never moved. They say the first half of the race to take it all in. Enjoy the crowds and feed support from them. Not only did I do just that but I also had Courtney with me that whole time. We had amazing conversations about life and relationships and hardships and love, etc. I have this strange feeling that even though I never got her last name somehow our paths will cross again. On to the next half of the race, it was at that 15ish mile marker that even though I had company to talk to, I somehow did not want to talk. Not because I didn't want to make conversation, or that I wasn't having fun with the girl I was running with, but because somehow my body was just saying no. I wasn't huffing and puffing at all but the headwinds were REALLY strong from mile 13-20 and I think that maybe had something to do with it. None the less, for some reason I still didn't want to put in my headphones because I was really enjoying the sights and sounds around me. I was watching and listening to other runners. The elite runners were starting to fly by on our right on their way into the finish. And somehow I was just really enjoying being in a state of just... well, being. Then once I got to mile 22 when I started having my problem the LAST thing I wanted to do was listen to music. I was fighting a different battle at that point and no song could cure it.

I had made this huge play list before the marathon that contained mostly songs that I had listened to during my solo training runs, many of which were songs that reminded me of my fiance or our wedding. Songs we both like, songs he likes, songs from movies we like, etc. There is something about music that just gives you the feels. When I first started going through this unexpected tragedy I couldn't listen to music, it was too painful. Any song that reminded me of him in the slightest bit just overwhelmed me with emotion - which at that time, I could just about relate any song in some way shape or form.  I heavily relied on Podcasts at this point: Serial, Undisclosed and Girls Gone WOD. But then as time went on I was having some of my best runs while listening to songs that I relate to him. Last week on my last training run I hit 4 miles at a 7:30 pace listening to the freaking Jersey Boys/The Four Seasons. I once ran for 60 minutes listening to Eric Church - Springsteen (our wedding song) over and over and over again the whole time. I'm fully aware telling you all this makes me sound crazy, but as you all already know anyway he's a huge part of my life. People have asked if  I would change the last six years of my life or if I could skip this hardest part of my life since everything has happened, and I wouldn't. I've gone through so many dark, dark days but there is one thing I know and that is my thoughts and my feelings. I always get the "you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to" but, talking and running and music have been the three most therapeutic things for me. And those aren't the only things. Believe me, between counseling, CrossFit and my family there, having friends constantly take me out, spending time with my biggest cheerleaders - my family, and so on that carried me through these endless days. And while my mind was still focused on this very one thing in particular for those 4 hours out on that course, I totally shocked myself being content being unplugged.

The next question I've been getting is "so, are you ready for your next?" and the answer to that is absolutely yes. I have no idea when or where it will be, but I know that OFFICIAL sub four is in me. I'm not setting out to do anything crazy, but I have found some of the best friendships through my marathon training and running friends and I can only hope I inspire them as much as they inspire me. So many people, runners and non-runners alike, have come through for me during these days, they lifted my heart and kept my spirit alive. I now know its my job to help people the same way they helped me. And, because I have to keep running. Running has truely made me a stronger person throughout all of this heartbreak. People comment on how strong I've been since that day but the truth is losing my soulmate made me hit rock bottom. While many days it took every bit of me to get out of bed and get out and run, something about totally exhausting myself while pounding the pavement at least made me feel a little bit better, even if the entire run was spent in tears.

There is a scene from the movie Southpaw that I relate many of my runs to. If you haven't seen the movie yet you absolutely must. I've watched it probably 51 times now- it just does something for me. Boxer Billy Hope loses the love of his life, his wife, in an accidental shooting after a charity event. Coping with his loss and suffering extreme emotional distress, he loses everything, including his possessions and custody of his daughter. While trying to rebuild his life, he starts working at a small gym owned by Tick Wills. Tick coaches many young boys that don't come from fortunate homes, quote, "It's my job to protect these boys." After finding out one of them is shot by their own father, Billy finds Tick alone in his gym, laying it all out on a punching bag. Punching and yelling, he hits that point of pure exhaustion and just bear hugs the bag and holds on while crying out. That's what I felt after many of my runs. You just collapse in exhaustion because you're fighting for something so bad, only to have it taken from you, and not be able to control it. Tick says, "I'm telling them (the boys)... you can control your destiny. You could control this, you could control that.... you can't control shit. I think God's trying to teach me a lesson, I just don't know what it is." And just like Billy hitting rock bottom losing the love of his life, or Tick feeling helpless over not being able to protect his boys, I think sometimes we have to hit rock bottom to see those lessons, even if they're not immediately clear. Not everything is ever going to be in our control. But, we can control the fact that we cant ever give up our faith and our will to fight, for whatever it is that we want, even if it means we need to improve ourselves. "With every ounce of my blood, with every breath in my lungs."

This thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my dark days. I'm thankful for my family, friends and loved ones who have shown me endless amounts of support and love while I've internally struggled day after day. I'm thankful because I know what its like to hit a low that all you have is your faith. I'm thankful for the past six years. I'm thankful that I won't stop fighting for what I want. I'm thankful.

"At any given point you have the ability to say this is not how the story is going to end."

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