The Story of the Marathon—Finishing

Mile 23 marker laughed at me. I could hear that dumb sign laughing at me, so I turned my music up louder. Stayin’ Alive met I will Survive and I chuckled and breathed in deep. The Play List saves and then it doesn’t. The day I trained for 20 miles was the longest run of my life. I planned out the hours. First, I’ll listen to music. Then I’ll listen to a podcast. Then I’ll go back to music, and so on and so on. I remember getting to 15 miles in that training run, and I was just plain tired of listening to anything. Just as I was yanking out my ear buds, I saw a guy on a bike getting close to me. I didn’t pay much attention until he slowed down and rode right with my running pace. It was my friend Dave from the runners club. I laughed as I breathed out and told him how much further. He asked me about my nutrition and reminded me to eat a gel at that point. I got one out and started to chew on it. He kept talking and talking. I released him from having to ride with me, but I think he knew that I was struggling. He encouraged me to do some stride outs to fix my gait, and I did and it helped. I hadn’t realized how tight I was. I finished that 20 miles feeling pretty good thanks to help from a fellow runner. Sometimes you just need some help.

I shook my head and was blinking back to the present. I was passing a medical tent, and there were two runners inside injured with medical people helping them. The agony on their faces was tough to take and not at all about a foot or a calf of which each was holding. I felt their agony of being so close, and it sunk down deep into me that their race was over. And then I saw mile marker 24 and I realized…..my race was not over. I glanced down at my watch; adrenaline shot through me. My tired legs began to find some rhythm; I began to feel everything and nothing all at the same time.

The race path turned left and then left and then we were back in the city; the side lines began to crowd up and the race path began to narrow. I became aware of how soaked I was from four hours of sweating and working and rubbing and struggling and chafing. I had to shake that off….just a little further. The crowds cheered and the words they produced collectively invigorates.

And there it was—mile 25. My heart jumped….one more mile! The sobered, pain aware part of me reminded me of the .2 miles that I had left off in my excited heart-jump. The inside mind conversations that I have are one of my favorite parts about running long distances. Suddenly I knew, I had a lot left in this body. I could go farther. Farther than 1.2 more miles. But how far? I didn’t know….but I knew at that point I conserve a lot on the unknown possibility of running out.

I began to stretch out my stride. I ripped out my ear buds and shoved them in my little pouch. I breathed in and out. My arms stretched out. My feet and legs hesitated at first, but then they too found their rhythm in my breathing. My feet pounded the ground. I couldn’t feel them. I just ran. It felt so good to run. What a funny thing to think on that last mile! It feels good to run!

And then it was there and I could see it and I couldn’t believe it and then I was through that finish line and trying to wrap my head around it.

But my feet were slowing down, and tears were running down my face. And everyone was telling me great job, you did it! A race worker held my arm gently to stop me and put my medal around my neck. I was holding it and crying and grinning like a fool. And we all were ushered inside and someone took my photo. I called my family who were at a rodeo in Uvalde and cried and yelled that I did it. They were all so excited. And then someone handed me an ice cream sandwich and I ate it. I went in the T-shirt line and received my finisher shirt. Someone handed me a chocolate milk and I drank it. I felt happy and stiff and automatic and unreal all at once.

I kept moving until I found my sister in law. She had been in the medical tent. She had not had a good race, but she was dealing with it. She was happy for me. I had exceeded my own expectations for my time. We hugged and cried together. And then we picked up her shirt. After cleaning up, we had a big meal together before heading home. It was a great end to a long training and a long race.

When’s your next one? I hear a lot and I even heard it that day. But I wouldn’t even think about it. I let myself just bask in that finish line. I mean, you know what it meant to cross it, right?

But you also know it wasn’t really about the finish line.

All the way on the drive home, I squinted hard into all that training, all that sweating, and all that planning….trying to find the moment I learned the most, or I accomplished the most or I was humbled the most. And its like I couldn’t describe a piece of this experience without all the other pieces, and I wouldn’t trade one for the other. I learned so much…about me, about limits, from the road, from podcasts, about running, about life, from other runners, about breathing, and so many more things.

The first marathoner (in the history books) died at the end of his race having delivered the message he needed to give. So, let’s go on a race, shall we? A race to give the message we are meant to give. I assure you…every piece will be worth something in the end.

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The Story of the Marathon Part 2

So, I guess I’m still at the 10K mark right? You’ll have to forgive the delay. Blame it on rodeo. Seriously. We are in the State Finals right now. Serious business. Here’s the map so you can get my drift.

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The 10K sign was welcomed, and I found myself in rhythm with the road. I was watching my running watch pretty close, and I was happy with my pace. I relaxed into the run, and I began to observe first the surroundings and the atmosphere. It was a nice view as we ran out of the downtown area and into the city. It was humid and the coolness was dissipating.

At this point I started to notice the other runners around me. There was a younger lady a little in front of me who was keeping a nice pace. There was a purple haired gal to the left of me. I saw the packages of nutrition gels on the ground in front of me. I noticed the middle aged guy who was keeping my pace with me. I smiled. We were all in this together.

Suddenly there were signs and workers pointing to the signs of the course separation between the half-marathoners and the wholes. “We are the Champions” began playing in my ear buds from my carefully crafted race list. I waved to the halves and turned right with the wholes. I felt a little pride that I was moving on from that race distance to this new goal. I felt strong as I pulled out an energy gel to take in. I was glad for the advice my new friends in the Runner’s Club had given me about nutrition. I didn’t want to become depleted of electrolytes, and gels and water seem to work well for me.

When I reached the half marathon distance, I remembered my very first Half-Marathon Race a few years ago and how accomplished I had felt when I ran the Tyler Rose Half Marathon in memory of my mom. I thought about the year I ran the half marathon in Dallas and how sick I was that day and how my ankle was badly bruised and taped up. I had a good time that day even though I had to use my inhaler to get through.

Half way there rang through my mind, and I was excited and energized by how my muscles were performing. Then I reached the 14 mile mark, and I remembered my 14 mile training run. I had started in the park and run 7 miles with the runner’s club, grateful for the conversation with new friends. The last 7 I had looped around the park and our downtown in the cold wet, and I was slow and sluggish and feeling like I didn’t fit in marathon training. And yet, somehow I had continued to train through the sluggish, through sickness, through rain and ice, through kids’ schedules, and on and on.

I heard my name, “C’mon Katie! Let’s go Katie! You’re doing great!” a crowd member cheered to me. I looked down and saw my name on my bib. I looked back up grinning like a fool and found tears coming to my eyes. Wow. Encouragement. Never underestimate the power. Or the power of the moment you need it and don’t even know.

And then I was beside them. I had seen her earlier, the runner with the jogging stroller. But, I hadn’t looked on or really seen her. And all of a sudden, we were running together. She kept one hand on the stroller and reached down to adjust the sunshade on the man in the stroller. He looked like he had maybe cerebral palsy or something similar. At this point we are at the 15 mile marker, and I marveled at her strength. He looked tired too, and he pushed his neck over to look at me. His eyes met mine, and he smiled big. It was the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and the most encouragement I’ve ever received. Tears fell down my cheeks and it took me a moment to feel them. I was overwhelmed by gratefulness. I was still running, and I said thank you to the lady pushing my new friend. She gave me a thumbs up and said, “We are all going to cross that finish line, right?” I nodded.

I flashed back at my attempt 15 years ago to run a mile with a jogging stroller with a baby in it. How weak I was. How easily I gave up. How lazy I was.

I wondered but I knew in my heart how she was doing it. Determination, commitment, discipline, love. It’s all you need.


To be continued….

States of Delirium

…If you are trying to stay awake to write a policy paper, you should do a head stand or two. Don’t do three. And certainly don’t ask someone in the room if your legs are straight. They might try to straighten them for you, and then you’ll fall over out of your perfect udyabanda and crack your fingers together. Then you’ll yell at this person, “Not my fingers! The only thing I need right now is these fingers to type this blasted paper!”

…One of my favorite people likes to use these three dots a lot so I’m using them at the beginning of the sentence to throw you. Another of my friends hates the … Sorry Amy.

…One of my sister-in-laws wants me to blog about waiting. I will, but you are going to have to wait for it. 🙂 Wait for it!

…Coffee is not working for me anymore. I think I need a Red Bull. Do you have a Red Bull? Did you want a Red Bull? Actually my dog Tater just came in and blew her breath on me. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. That helps.

…If anyone wants to weave a rug, there is enough dog hair in my hallway to get the job done. Don’t judge. I ain’t cleaning until this paper is done. And that’s final.

…We had a cart wheel contest with some friends the other day, and I have to tell you that I didn’t win. I’m still a little mad about it. I would have won the head stand contest if we had one.

…Lydia assigned us seats in the kitchen apparently. There are names taped to each chair. This is actually helpful when you aren’t sleeping much. Just follow the signs. Oh, speaking of Lydia, that girl is going to be some kind of organizer. She actually took some big dice and cast lots on who was going to have the greatest morning and the greatest night. Then she hung the results up on a chart. The next morning I stumbled into the kitchen and started making coffee. She ran in and said, “MOM!!! Are you having the greatest morning???” I blinked hard. “Um, what?” “You’re on the list to be the one to have the greatest morning!” I chuckled and then started laughing. “Sure, I guess so. If it’s on the list, then I am.” Her smile is so great.

…One summer a million years ago before these kids and this husband and this job and way the heck before this dad-burn policy paper, I spent in California doing camps for kids. One weekend we were off we went to San Francisco. The group was going to Alcatraz, a friend of mine named Tiffany and I decided to branch out on our own. We walked for hours trying to find the houses you saw at the beginning of that show Full House. No luck, Chuck. So, we went to China Town and had lunch. It was yummy and very authentic. I was sad when they didn’t bring me a fortune cookie. Tiffany and I made a new friend there who lived around the corner and he asked what we needed. I told him I really needed a fortune cookie, so he said, “Follow me.” We did. Yeah. I think we just didn’t care after we couldn’t find those houses. He led us down some streets. Don’t try this at home kids. We found ourselves in an old San Fran alley complete with the fire escapes and laundry. Loved it. He left us. We knocked on the door he pointed us to, and an older Chinese lady who clearly did not speak English beckoned us to enter. Her daughter came out and we told her we wanted fortune cookies but we thought we were probably in the wrong place. She turned around and went in the back of her shop. The older lady smiled nicely at us. I didn’t know what to do so I just smiled. The other lady came out with the biggest bag of fortune cookies that I have ever seen. We laughed and told her we just wanted one each. Her smile faded, and she said no. We bought the bag. We ate fortune cookies the rest of the summer. It was awesome. Our fortunes changed every single day. You never know.

…And now….back to the paper!!!

Kid’s Writing Corner: Dot vs. T-Rex

Dot vs. T-Rex: A Dinosaur Encounter

by Anna (11 yrs)

I woke up to the sounds: BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Along with a few screams, I looked out the window, and there was a huge carnivorous beast in my back yard! Just then, it turned around and headed straight for our house! I screamed as a giant foot crashed straight through the wall and into my bedroom!

My dog, Dot, clamped onto the dinosaur’s scaly foot; the T-Rex shook and shook its foot, but Dot wouldn’t let go! Then Dot started climbing up the leg, and the T-Rex let out an enormous “ROAR!” It tried to pull Dot off, but its arms were too short!

Dot climbed up still further until she reached the T-Rex’s big, fat stomach. She bit down hard. The T-Rex let out another roar and fell with a huge BOOM!

Then the T-Rex yelled, “I just wanted a sandwich!” Dot cocked her head and ran out the hole in the house to her private cache. She came running back with a huge bunch of turkey sandwiches. From then on Dot and the T-Rex sat in the backyard eating sandwiches together.

The End

A Canyon Caravan Part 2

Making the List

“Ouch!” I said as I put the aloe on my shoulders. “You need to be more careful, Mom,” my 9-year-old, Anna, says to me. I was studying the list too hard and noticed a green smudge of aloe on it. I’m sure I’m missing something. Our trip was getting close. I was getting nervous. Kids, clothes, dog hair, bags were everywhere. Calls back and forth were rampant between families with questions like: what kind of shoes are you hiking in? How much snack food are you packing? What is it like in the first campground?

The doorbell rings. Dogs bark loudly. Kids run. I yell, “Don’t let the dogs out!!!” “It’s just boxes, Mom,” says the 7-year-old. “How do boxes ring the doorbell?” asks the 4-year-old. We laugh and all lug the two boxes inside. I’m excited because I know what is inside. “This is our gear, kids! Wa-hoo!” I say. The 2-year-old is jumping even though she doesn’t know what gear means. The others wait for me to open the boxes trying on their own with their little finger nails scratching at the tape on the sides. I slice open the box top, and see the tent brand peek out beneath bubble wrap.

“Poppy paper, poppy paper!!!! Woo-hoo!” the little ones run off with the bubble wrap. “Here is the tent,” I say as I hoist it out. “It sleeps six, Mom, that’s good!” says the 7 year-old. I peer at the tent bag wondering how we and all our things will fit inside for 10 days. I feel excitement welling.

Escape! Adventure! These are some friends of mine. I love them. I pull out the sleeping bags for the kids. They are reaching for them. “There’s a pocket for my little puppy!” says the 4-year-old. They each whisk away their bags to play with. I hear them “playing camping” with their stuffed animals. “We need a fire,” I hear faintly whispered. This is the last of it I was waiting for, I think. We are ready.

A few days before our departure, I am weary of preparation and just want to get the show on the road. Bags are stacked by the back door, and food covering the counter. My folder of reservations are in my car bag. Kids are just as ready to be on the road as adults. My eyes feel gritty as I make myself go down the list again. The list looked something like this:

Camping List

  • Tent
  • mini-broom/dustpan for tent dirt
  • Plastic Tarp for under tent
  • Rug/old towel/plastic to put at tent entrance
  • Lantern for tent
  • Sleeping Bag (you will want a fairly warm one)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow
  • Small Backpack for hikes
  • Refillable water bottles
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Sturdy, comfortable shoes for hiking
  • Flip-flops for around the camp and shower
  • Hat
  • Rain Jacket
  • Camping chairs
  • Toiletries: tooth-brush/paste, travel size shampoo/cond/soap, shower caddy, hairbrush, hair-ties, razor, DEODORANT
  • Towels
  • Medications…make sure you bring some Advil
  • Sun block
  • Mosquito spray
  • Camera
  • T-shirt, shorts
  • Underwear, socks
  • Hiking Pants??
  •  Jacket and/or a sweatshirt
  • Warm pajamas for everyone (esp kids)
  • Jeans

 For the Car:

  • Snacks
  • Cooler (drinks, sandwich stuff for lunch on the road)
  • movies/books/music/books on tape
  • DSI
  • chargers
  • blankets
  • Change of clothes for little ones
  • Towel for spills
  • Plastic bag for trash and other mishaps
  • Cell phone/maps
  • Park info

My husband peers over my shoulder at the list too. “That should be all, right?” I ask him. He laughs, squeezes my shoulders, and says, “I hope so.” “I think we need to add a few things to this list like good attitudes and flexibility. I’m thinking we should make everyone wear a rubber band on their wrists to remind them to be flexible like we had to do on my first mission trip to Belize,” I’m smirking as I talk. He nods with twinkling eyes.  “I’m getting off work early Thursday, and we can load in the afternoon and be gone by evening,” he tells me. Girls swarm with excitement and hugs for their daddy. I revel in their delight. Thursday. It’s coming!!!!!

To be continued…

A Brave Girl

Her hands move slowly down the mane, gently whispering words just for the horse to hear. Her hands are so small compared to the horse’s head. She is working the brush through tangles. I can sense her love.

I hurry her, and then I regret it.

Why is she so brave? She groans as she lifts the saddle independently. I only help with the cinch. The wind blows through the barn and I see the similarity of horse mane and girl hair.

 I watch in awe as her horse bends down to allow her to get the halter off and the bit inside it’s mouth. “All ready,” she says as she swings her leg over the animal. The horse has been waiting for this moment, and the girl speaks easy words to her.

What does it mean when your children are braver than you?

They go together in one motion, and I see the muscles and the movement. My daughter at ease in a walk, in a trot, in a lope. At a run I see the rush of adrenaline in her face, the excitement in the horse’s eyes. I observe her natural seat, her easy hands, and her respect. She’s fallen before. She knows the power of this horse.

The wind blows my hair now. I’m brave too, I think giving myself a pat. Hmmm. Am I brave? Am I ready to face pain or endure danger? Am I courageous? I know the gut answer. I’ve fallen before. I know what it means to risk a bit. Do I have fear or respect for this life, this faith, this journey I am on?

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” John 12:23-26

Bird Breath

A Blog for the Other Dog:

I was holding someone’s backpack, a granola bar wrapper, keys, phone, and one pink boot. It was all a bit awkward to hold, but I was trying to maintain a clean car (Ha!). Tater waited for me patiently behind the gate with a slow pant and even slower wagging tail. The last girl swung the gate too wide. “I got it for you, Mama!” she said proudly. Faster than I could pull the gate to, our other dog streaked by. She ran so fast out the gate that all I saw was a little black and white fur. Ugh, I thought as I made my way to drop all the things I was holding inside the door.

Dot.

She’s our other dog. We got her for the girls for Christmas a few years ago. She’s a young and energetic Jack Russell Terrier. A real go-getter.

We have found a whole list of other names we could have chosen based on her daily activities. Here’s a few: Hunter, Spot, Chewy, Greedy, Hungry, Food-addict, Varmint-killer, Toad-alicious, Mole-er. Don’t fret. Tater was a mean mole catcher in her hey-day, and sometimes she will give it a go. Mostly, she’s content to let Dot do the hunting for both of them. Dot has caught a lot of moles, but her life dream seems to be catching a squirrel. It hasn’t happened yet. Those squirrels have a lot of fun with her though. During toad season, she just can’t help herself. Yes, there is poison on them. Dot seems to think a little asthmatic breathing is worth a toad meal.

Dot also has some other endearing behaviors. She never barks at the door when she wants inside. She just leans her whole side against the sliding glass door and looks pleadingly at you. Also, she rips all the stuffing out of any dog bed you give her. Just learn from my mistakes, okay? Don’t give her anything with stuffing. She can sleep just fine in her crate with a blanket. A blanket with no filling.

Ah, but she will patiently let Daughter #3 lead her around on a leash for a very long time. Plus, when she cuddles, she leans her whole weight on you. If you scratch her back, she doesn’t move her leg like normal dogs. She points her nose up to the sky. We just ask her now which way is North when we plan on giving her a good scratch. Sometimes she growls in pleasure while scratching her back on the underside of the coffee table.

I walk out into the driveway and scan the road. No Dot to be seen. I call for her for a while, and then I go in to check on kids. I know my children eat at school, but this is not apparent when they arrive home. They like their snack.

I go back out and call Dot again. This time I see her running home with a  large, twitching black bird in her jaws. I open the gate reluctantly. I know she is bringing it to me. She comes right at me. I can’t help but let out a little-girl scream and jump. Wimpy, right? Now all the girls are outside, and Dot is prancing around the yard with her victim. Finally she drops it and lays down beside it. She looks at me with triumph in her eyes. She is confused that no one seems very happy. We gather around her in a semi-circle. The bird’s eyes are moving around. The girls are sad.

“Alright,” I said with no plan whatsoever. I mention something to the kids about how this dog’s breed is a hunting breed and this is all part of her natural instincts. I know they are wishing she would just finish it. I move a little closer and Dot takes the bird off and completes her mission. My girls are sad for the bird. I’m not saying it out loud, but I am a little impressed with my dog. I mean, that was a big black bird!

I text a photo to my husband saying, “Look what your dog caught.”

He answers, “Cool! Now she is going to be really focused.”

What???? I think. No, now she is going to have bird breath.

“Okay, folks, I’m going to make dinner,” I say and go inside.  I put the taco soup together, and I peek outside. The kids are swinging and playing, bird forgotten for now.

Then I look around the entire yard and spot some white fur in the corner of the yard chewing on something black….maybe not forgotten by everyone. 🙂 Ew.