Pulling the rip cord.

This past weekend we drove back to New Orleans so that I could run the Mardi Gras Marathon. Several things were working against me in the idea of running this particular race, so I was a little surprised that I actually ran anything! In early December I started getting a dull ache in my left calf/shin when I ran. I cut back a little and it seemed to progress and by the end of December I had runs – albeit very short runs – with shooting pain down my left leg. Overall this resulted in me cutting back significantly for about 3 weeks of my overall training for the marathon. I went for a massage and things started to feel better so I picked up training where I had left off and decided that it might be worthwhile to keep on trucking. The remainder of the training went well so it seemed like the marathon was a good idea. Then the weather turned lousy. Well, lousy for running a marathon at least. It looked like it was going to be good, but then it warmed up. On Sunday morning, the starting temp was in the low 50s – but it was going to be in the low to mid 60s by the time the finish came. Ick. On Saturday I had emailed back and forth with ATL about what to do. He suggested going out at marathon goal pace and seeing how I felt at the 1/2. If I felt good – then go for it, if not, then pull off and nothing lost. It sounded like a great plan. I had asked about just ‘racing’ the 1/2, but he felt that would be almost as hard on my body running the whole so it wouldn’t really be productive. The race started and I went out for the first mile in 6:39 – too fast. But it felt good. Really good. I didn’t realize it was too fast until I saw the clock at the marker and realized where I was at. My marathon goal pace was 6:52 – so I was definitely ahead. I slowed down a little and then kept on target. I missed the second mile marker, but I think I was somewhere around 6:50 or so. I slowed down a little for water through the 4th mile I think – I’m guessing because my time was around 7:00 for that mile. Then 6:57, ~ 6:58 for the next two miles – and then my memory on my watch filled up so I don’t have the remainder of my splits! At about mile 10 I was feeling warm and thought about the fact that it would be somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees warmer by the time I finished and I had 16 more miles to run at this pace. I pretty much decided then and there that I was going to pull the rip cord and bail at the 1/2. I have never not finished a race before so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about cutting it short. When it came time to turn off for the 1/2 or keep going for the whole, I felt very comfortable turning off. I thought I would have regretted it, but I didn’t. I was actually very happy with the decision. I crossed the line in 1:30:28 and felt really good. I had very comfortably run a 1:30 1/2 marathon and knew that I would be able to recover and get into some 5 and 10k training this spring – which was something I’d wanted to do since the fall. There were some great runs on Sunday in spite of the weather and the weather also put the kabosh on a few plans – but it was a fun day and I enjoyed seeing friends out there along the way. I’ve had several emails from friends attempting to ‘console’ me on my decision which I’ve very much appreciated – but I don’t feel like I need consolation at all. I’m not at all disappointed. I had a plan and stuck with it – and I’m very happy with how it all turned out!

Austin Marathon

There is no question in my mind that I would definitely like to run the Austin Marathon again next year. This year I spectated and it was bittersweet. I was happy to be out there watching and really enjoyed seeing the elites run, but it was tough to watch on a perfect day for running a marathon. One of our women’s group gals was running her first marathon and her parents were in town from Indiana so I went to the start to meet up with them and walk them through the course map a little with suggestions on how to watch and how to get there. It was great to see Alissa before the start and I probably was a little too pushy about she and her running partner taking off their fleece coats before they started, but they said that they appreciated that after the race and that they were pretty warm pretty early on. We watched the start and saw all of the runners cross the start line – pretty impressive with 12,000 people running by! We then moved over to the bridge at 1st and waited for the elites to pass by. It was pretty exciting watching the Hanson Brooks team tear by pretty early on as well as Desiree Ficker and a few other local notables like Chris Kimbrough (who was running, but I didn’t note whether she was wearing a bib or not, but she wasn’t timed). I saw a few folks that I run with here which was also nice. I really enjoyed being out and cheering people on. A few people around me thought I was pretty nuts by saying ‘Looking good.’, ‘Nice job.’, ‘Looking strong.’ etc… but then I don’t think any of them had run a marathon before and having done so I was calling out the things that I found encouraging when I’m running. We quickly moved over to the bottom of the street where they turned onto Cesar Chavez and caught Alissa again – which was a surprise for her! Her parents then decided to head north to watch from mile 14 and then mile 21. I decided to stay downtown with Michele and Angela and we walked to Starbucks for coffee before heading to the finish to catch the elite men’s finish. It was an exciting finish for the top 3 men who finished within 5 seconds of each other. The woman who won ran 2:44 I believe and was from the UK. She looked very strong and solid at the finish. I didn’t catch the second or third place women coming across as I ducked into St. Mary’s Cathedral for mass at 9:45 and came out to find Michele and Angela in the same spot as when I went in. G and the kids came downtown to meet us and we all went over to Jamba Juice before returning to the line to spectate and watch for Alissa to finish. Her parents called and we met up with them about 20 minutes before Alissa finished so we were all there cheering her on as she came down the final stretch. She finished in just under 5 hours and looked great afterward! It was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day and I loved watching and being a spectator this year. Next year, however, I will be on that course running. No ifs, ands, or buts.

You go girl!

In my women’s group at the Church I’ve had the privilege of meeting an incredible group of women. They are all fantastic and everyone brings so many gifts to our team – its beautiful. One of our sweet women is running her the AT&T Austin Marathon this weekend as her first marathon. We discovered our common interest in running on our renewal weekend as we sat next to each other for the entire weekend. Since October, she has asked questions about training for a marathon and I’ve tried to do my best to encourage her and have, now and then, offered unsolicited suggestions here and there for her to consider. I’m always wary about doing that because I don’t want to come across as obnoxious but sometimes I’ll think – ‘Oh, that might be a good thing for her to think about.’ Its been a really nice way to connect with her. She’s a lovely woman and used to be a competitive swimmer for USC. She also happens to be 25 years old, incredibly bright and very beautiful both inside and out. She’s here in Austin at UT working toward her PhD in Psychology. Over the last few days we’ve shared several emails back and forth as she gets ready for her big day on Sunday. I’m so excited for her and am going to be there with her before she starts, cheering for her on the course, and be there for her at the finish. She’s been very diligent and dedicated in her training, but is worried because she doesn’t know what to expect. I’ve been trying to do my best to remind her that the work is done and that she did good work. I also am trying to remind her to just relax and enjoy the experience – and that its just another run. Reminding myself before races that its just another run is always helpful (though probably why I don’t do particularly well – tee hee!) for me to get into a relaxed head space. Relaxing in your head helps you relax in your body which is also very helpful. Its been a very fun thing to be part of her experience and I was honored when she said that she would like to pray together before the race. I had offered to come to the start and see her before she started if she wanted and she immediately wrote back and said she’d love that and asked if we could pray together. I know I’m going to cry when I see her start and on the course and when she finishes. She’s going to do great! You go girl!!!

Um-hum.

When did ‘Um-hum’ become the alternative to saying ‘You are welcome.’? Its kind of become a pet peeve, but if you say thank you to someone it would be nice for them to say ‘You are welcome’ instead of ‘Um-hum’. This happens all the time in stores etc… these days and it drives me nuts. Are we so busy that we don’t have time for the words or do people just not care anymore? Sadly… I worry that its the latter.

"I like drinking from corn."

Yesterday afternoon ‘I’ and I went to Daily Juice for an afternoon smoothie. It was a beautiful day and we both were looking for a good healthy snack. On the way to pick up ‘E’ from school (we had picked him up earlier – or at least tried – but he decided he wasn’t ready to leave and wanted to stay and play some more so we left and came back), ‘I’ was in the back seat drinking her smoothie. She read something off the cup that said something like: “This cup is made from corn and is 100% compostable.” To which she noted. “I like drinking from corn.”

Big tests and small tests

I’ve had many people who have known me for years – and some who have only known me for months – comment on the fact that I seem much happier these days. Those who have known me for years have said that they have never seen me so happy. I do feel happier, more settled and content than I have in all my life, but I never really thought that I didn’t really seem that way to people. I attribute this happiness to a newfound peace that I have due to my spiritual renewal. Things have definitely been good in other areas of my life, but I definitely believe that the spiritual side of my life is responsible for the sense of peace that I have. That sense of peace and happiness often leaves me wondering how I will feel about my faith when tested. I think its a natural feeling – though one I don’t like to dwell on except to remind myself of the tools that I have added to my spiritual toolbox to be able to deal with things that may come my way. I look around me at those I have come to know in our Church and wonder how they deal with difficult issues. This has recently become a public matter for one of the Deacons in our Church. About a year ago, the wife of one of the Deacons at our Church was diagnosed with cancer. It was fairly advanced and, while she underwent much treatment, the prognosis was not good. He stayed both focused on his work and committed to his wife (not necessarily in that order). Sadly, this past fall she passed away and the entire Church mourned her loss. Since that time, the Deacon has shared with us his pain, grief, sorrow – and also his hope in a few homilies he has given. He has show great courage and strength in his ability to stand in front of everyone and be so open with us all. He has also reminded us our ‘humanness’ and that even those of great faith can question and feel angry with God now and then. Its been a very healthy thing – though also very difficult – for him to do and very healthy for all of us to hear. I saw him the other day before meeting with my women’s group and asked him how he is doing. Its still very much a day to day situation for him. I also thanked him for his courage and shared with him how inspiring it has been. This is perhaps one of the most difficult ways that one’s faith could be tested. While he admits the humanness of his feelings, he has also noted how his faith has carried him this far in his journey through grief. Recently, I had my own very small and insignificant test as compared to our Deacon’s challenges – but it was something that gave me insight as to how I have grown recently. Last May I filed for an annulment for my first marriage as G and I would very much like to be married in the Catholic Church. Our Pastor has done a wonderful job in helping us through this process. I received a letter at the end of May advising that I would hear more in a few months. In mid-November I received a letter advising that special consideration was being given to the Diocese to oversee the case because of the location of my ex-husband, my witnesses, the marriage etc… I was told in the letter I would hear back in about a month. After watching the mail very closely for the past couple of months and seeing nothing, I decided to contact the Diocese directly and see if I could get a status update. The contact there advised that the case was going to have to be transferred to the Diocese of Toronto. I shed some tears at fearing that I would have to start all over again and that the nine months of waiting until now would be for nothing. Later that day I spoke with a woman at the Diocese of Toronto who informed me that my case would essentially need to be started from scratch within their Diocese and that their estimated time to completion is about 24 months. So, by the time all is said and done it would have taken almost three years to see the process through completely. I was extremely disappointed and spent most of the day on Monday in tears. I was frustrated and disappointed – and even a little angry at why it had taken 9 months to determine that the case could not be processed here in Austin. What amazed me was how well I handled the whole situation. I managed to stay focused on the fact that everything was still moving forward and that this was an element beyond my control for the most part – so there was little that worrying about it would do. I looked at the upside of the lesson of patience that I was being taught and reminded myself that it was my own choices and decisions in life that led me to this point so I’d better just accept what was happening and keep moving forward. I promise you that this would NOT have been the case a year ago. I would have likely lost it with people I spoke with on the phone – especially the woman at the Diocese in Toronto that I first spoke with who seemed to have little to no regard for the disappointment I was feeling and the fact that this whole process can be very difficult emotionally. Instead of indicating that she understood, she spent more time quoting canonical law to me which really meant nothing to me since it didn’t change the situation one bit. Oddly, I’ve found myself defending the situation to Catholics who express frustration with the rules of their faith and feel that its things like this that are driving people away from the Church. I never thought I would be defending the annulment process and why its important to people who have grown up Catholic! So even while experiencing this bit of recent frustration that could have left me feeling annoyed and distanced from the Catholic Church, I have continued to feel that everything just seems a little easier. I feel myself smiling more and bigger smiles. Its a small test of faith – but a test nonetheless.