Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Very First Time...

Wow! What a day!

On January 24th I embarked on this crazy adventure called "running". I committed to joining Team in Training to run a marathon and raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. On May 31st, I will be running the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon - the pinnacle of this training.

Today, as a practice run, I ran the Famous Potato Half Marathon. I thought it would be just another Saturday training run, just done with lots of other folks. I didn't think it would be that big a deal.

It was.

I woke up at 4:30 AM for a race that started at 8:00 AM. Why so early? Well, ya gotta make doubly sure you have all your gear, get a shower to wake up, have some breakfast (Nutrigrain Eggo Waffles with Adams Peanut Butter is my pre-run breakfast of choice), catch up with the friends for a ride, then be at the park at 6:30 for the bus ride to Lucky Peak. Cold, windy Lucky Peak. Of course, there's the necessary pre-race bathroom break, where you stand in line for a porta potty freezing your underdressed butt off with the other hundreds of underdressed runners. Our goose bumps had goose bumps!!! The hardest part was surrendering my jacket to head to the starting line.

As I approached the starting line, I noticed a new friend, Thomas, standing nearby! What a great surprise! He had read my Facebook post about the starting time and place, and came out to take pictures. It totally made my day to have a supporter at the starting line!

So, my friends and I are standing in the middle of a mass of people... and finally, the starting gun goes off. And we're OFF! Sort of... well... when a sea of people all start moving at about the same time, there's a lot of start... stop... run... walk... But soon enough, the crowd starts to spread out, and we're really off!

Throughout my training I've been running long runs as intervals, so I have my watch set to five minute run then one minute walk intervals. During my walk intervals I see people pass me, when I run, I pass them back. Sort of a see-saw effect. Some (actually many) just keep getting further ahead, but hey, I'm out there, and I'm running!

The miles go by fairly quickly. There are water stops at every two miles, so we're kept well hydrated. I have my fuel belt with my gel "candies" and my Crystal Light with extra electrolytes, so I'm set.

My friend, Jenn, was running the intervals with me, and we find we're making pretty good time with our "system". My goal was to average 12 minute miles throughout the race, and we're ahead of that pace. After about eight miles though, I really start looking forward to those walk intervals!!!

At mile ten is the Team in Training water stop! WOO HOO!!! My TNT friends are there with water, hugs and cheers. As I leave them it hits me, I'm almost finished with my very first half marathon!

The last couple miles seem to go on forever... and ever...

Finally, Jenn and I hear the cheers at the finish line. As we come around the bend, I get that adrenaline rush and go for the sprint. Stretching it out... opening it up... full on sprint... I see the timing clock. As I run through, I see my friend Jacob with his camera phone held high.

I register the clock: 2:35.

Official time from start line: two hours and 33 minutes for my very first half marathon!!!

I'm done! I stop running... and there's my daughter Kayte, at the finish line, supporting her mom. What a sight! Then I see Team in Training coaches Mike and Louise and give them a big, sweaty hug.

Holy Crap! I did it!!! I ran an official half marathon!

I didn't expect it to be so exciting, because we'd run 20 miles on our last training run, but that was a much slower, easier run. I was told to take this one easy, which I guess I sorta did, but didn't. Our long training runs averaged about 13+ minute miles, because we took bathroom breaks, took it easy, walked a bit more... this, my first event, was an average 11.6 minute mile! About a minute and a half faster than my normal long runs!

Yep... I'm feeling pretty good about that!

After a bit of food and catching up with friends, Kayte and I head over to join the Team in Training folks as they cheer in the rest of the TNT half marathoners and the TNT full marathoners. Eventually Kayte heads home and I stick around to cheer in the friends I've made over the past four months.

Four months.

I've gone from 0 to 20 in four months. In four months I trained for a full marathon and ran a half marathon.

In two weeks I will be running my TNT event, the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon! It struck me as I finished this half, that "Damn! In two weeks I've got to do twice this run!" It's a daunting thought! Can I do it? Yes! I can!!! I've trained for it, I've prepared for it... I can do it! It ain't gonna be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

I, whose idea of exercise has been a leisurely bike ride, hike or backpacking trip, am now officially A Runner!!!

What a fabulous feeling!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Goodbye Dad

May 10, 2009

My dad went to his peace on May 10, 2009.

My sister in law called me at 7:27 AM and said he had passed about 10 minutes prior. 7:17 AM... 9:17 AM Georgia time. I have no idea why it matters, but it does.

My dad lived on this earth for 73 years, 5 months and 15 days. Not long enough, but I know, longer than many.

It hurts... but not as badly as watching him deteriorate and become a shell of his former self.

I think I'll just dwell on his former self...

My friend Carol, who has been a best friend since we were 13 (and through us, our parents became life-long best friends) made me laugh tonight. I posted a status update on facebook about appreciating those I love and who love me and her response was "Stripes and solids... I wonder who's running the table?" reminding me of how our fathers loved to play pool together during their summer camp trips. It made me smile and it made me think.

I have a handwoven basket in my living room. On the handle, in faded black ink it says, "Kyle Troop 50". This basket is the only memento of my father's childhood and time prior to college. My father's childhood pictures and mementos were destroyed in a fire years ago - all except this one basket. My parents gave me this basket about 10 years ago, because they had no place to keep it, and knew I would treasure it. I do.

I look at it often and think about how little I really know about my father's early years. I know he grew up in the mountains of New Hampshire. I know he went to Bible College on a basketball scholarship. I know he played basketball in an exhibition game against THE ORIGINAL HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS! (I always thought that was the ULTIMATE in cool!) I know his nickname in college was "Snake" because of his ability to weave in and out of the defense...

I know my father proudly served his country for 22 years in the Air Force, and inspired four of the seven of us to follow his footsteps.

I know my father was just that... a father... and a wonderful one at that. He "biologically" fathered three, and was the father to seven total. In my father's mind, it didn't matter "bio" or not... we were all his kids, and he would kick our butts equally when needed. We never knew the difference, it's only in looking back at how he loved us all equally that I realize the beauty in that fatherly love.

I have such beautiful memories... mostly random, very few really "deep". The best memories are those that epitomize the kind of man he was. My dad was a fishing fanatic, a hunting enthusiast, a pool player, a beer drinker (although never, ever did I ever see him even slightly drunk!), and a helper of anyone in need.

I learned how to put my heart out there from my father. I learned to give without expectation of return from my father. After my mother died, my father "hired" two different ladies to help care for us kids (on a bartender's salary with a small military pension) who were going through tough times or were in abusive situations and needed a safe haven. He was a friend to anyone who needed one, and expected nothing in return. If anything, that's what I admire most about him.

I could go on and on... but the specifics really don't matter. What matters is that I was blessed... and I do mean TRULY blessed, by being the daughter of an imperfect, yet loving and caring man. A man who, no matter what screwups I made in my life, loved me 100%. If I ever felt he was disappointed in me, that was my own problem, because he never made me feel that.

My children, and my brothers and sisters children, were blessed to have an awesome Grandpa. Whether it was basketball, fishing, wrestling, or just grabbing on to the biggest dang nose ever, they had that fun with Grandpa. He loved his grandkids beyond belief. Toward the end, when he reacted to little else, he would light up at the sight of his grandchildren. When no one could get him to eat more than two bites of anything, he ate an entire hot fudge sundae fed to him by his granddaughter... my daughter... smiling and enjoying every bite.

Goodbye Dad... thank you for 44+ wonderful years of love. On behalf of all your kids and grandkids, thank you for the years of joy we had with you. Goodbye is hard, but the alternative of the past months is much harder. You deserve this time of peace, and of rest...

I love you so much, Dad!!! I miss you!!! I'll miss you forever!!! Thank you so much!!! I love you... I love you... I love you!!! Oh God, I love you so much!