Pinktober And Me

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, along with National Pork Month. Everything is better with bacon and nitrates, after all.

This month could easily be Life Sucks Month for me if I chose to let a single, yet significant, life-altering moment be the standard by which all other things are measured for eternity. (And beyond, just in case the joke is on me and there is an after-life, after all.)

Very shortly, it will be five years since Mark died.

I don’t want it to be that long – I want it to be perpetually one year from his passing so the finite time with him doesn’t become a fuzzy memory from my distant past. The searing pain of late 2007 has long since passed, but there will always remain a particulate of dull ache at this pinkly festive time of year that time marched on without Mark.

 Not-not-not fucking fair.

Words don’t usually fail me, but in this case they do. I guess you have to have walked in widowed shoes for a moment to get it.

 I am extremely happy with life’s current trajectory. My circle has widened in many directions and I am not unhappy. Given my all-or-nothing approach to most things, I couldn’t live a meaningful life that didn’t include challenging myself with experiences and people that make me happy.

Choosing happiness can be a high-maintenance task. Then again so am I…to which Mark always replied that I was worth it.


Run, White Girl, Run

My 2012 Footsteps Chronicle has led me thru some ups and downs. Hot conditions. More hills than I could have imagined. A surprise 3-mile climb with the sun in my face after already putting in 10 miles. A soggy 36-hour team relay where I had an amazingly great run at 9 p.m. after being in a van with 5 other runners since 8:30 a.m. – only to stub my big toe within tenths of the finish.

Each of my 8 half-marathons in 8 months across 4 states this year (so far?) has tested me. Some early disasters disappointed me until I decided that finish without injury was better than finish at any price. And we had some damn good food adventures along the way, including Turkish food under a grape arbor behind a gas station. I guess you had to be there, but it was awesome.

I ran number 8 on 10/7. I finished strong, although the PR monkey remains on my back…by  a 13 measly seconds. I waited for other running peeps to finish 26.2 miles and shared in their tears and triumphs. My decision to ‘only’ run 13.1 as many times as I could this year has worked pretty well. Except for all those hills. And that oppressive heat. And not sweating off a few pounds, the ultimate irony of all this exertion while other people are still sleeping.

I am content that I have seen two 26.2 finishes. There’s even a glimmer of a third if I can get into the legendary NYC Marathon next year in support of a charity. It will be worth longer training runs and giving up a few more toenails to say I ran NYC, knowing that I retraced Mark’s footsteps over 20 years later but did it my way.

It’s often said that we’re crazy for what we do, but it comes down to having true passion for something. For some of us, running is That Thing. It’s only a hill and we get over it.

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Little Victories

love this time of year. I am definitely a fan of weather that involves exposed toes, even those battered by running.

dislike this time of year. The days are getting shorter in noticeable increments which has a way of getting under my skin.

It’s b-aaaaa-ck…that misty crepe of a reminder that Mark was dying as each day grew shorter. I know we didn’t really comprehend that at the time. We knew he would die from this thing, but we set our mind toward living life to the fullest. Yet the disease became a malevolent presence that cast a pall over many specific Summer-to-Autumn 2007 dates which stick in my mind even five years down many roads.

As always falling back on finding the lessons in my five-year widow-before-her-time experiences, I am most recently amazed by all the new people in my life. Some are cyber-friends I picked up through my amazing web community of those who lost their life partners. Others are running friends I connected with as I finally admitted that I am indeed a runner, not just someone who runs. One is my boyfriend who finds being a one-man pit crew at least worth a free t-shirt and occasional food adventure.

I didn’t know any of these people five years ago. When the cool weather vibes threaten to derail me, these many different people are a source of levity and community that makes me appreciate the here & now rather linger too long on the what might have been.


Chasin’ the Harrier Dragon

My name is Jennifer and I have a running jones.

At the start of the year, I gave up 26.2-mile training in favor of doing as many 13.1 races as possible in 2012: easier to train for, easier to complete, easier to do more races. Instead of building towards a crescendo of a single large race in the fall, I’ve been race-ready since my first half-marathon in March.

I’ve run 5 half’s as we call ’em over 4 months across 4 states…pinch me, will ya? Number 6 is just weeks away, to be followed by a few more plus a 200-mile team relay before 2012 is officially over.

This rational thought process has allowed me to do other things besides running on my weekends like kayaking, especially now that I found someone of the male persuasion who can actually stand me on a regular basis.

Then again, I have a compulsive competitive feeling towards running, a true jones. When I’m out getting life done and spot runners enjoying what appears to be a healthy jaunt at a good clip, this oftentimes creates a crazed feeling toward pulling my car over and joining them. Of course, this is likely only to happen on days where I don’t need an extra compression layer on my bottom half, three layers of shirts on the top half, gloves, and warm headgear, as well as a protective layer of Vaseline smeared on my face. Or recent days where one might collapse into a heap of pulsating humidity.

This freakish competitive thing has me obsessing about running my best half in March, and then failing to come close ever since. I feel this imaginary monkey on my back every time I line up for the next half, only to come up at least 5 minutes short…or worse.

The problem with running multiple races of the same distance is that every one is different, based on logistics, weather and emotions. I had my best time in cool weather in Manhattan which was half hills and half flat. I also had no expectations that day, so setting an all-time PR was nothing short of amazing. I subsequently had my worst time on a coolish, but increasingly warmish, completely hillyish course, along with a few ‘Meh’ efforts where I was happy to finish in an upright position and get free race schwag.

2012 ain’t over ’til it’s over… jones-ing for a new PR keeps me looking forward.

Epic Bonk

To bonk is to suck, to achieve the total opposite of a Personal Record [PR].

That would best describe Race #2 on April 1. Perhaps it was connected to the date in question. Fools rush in only two weeks after their first half?

Perhaps starting off the race season with an all-time PR is setting up unrealistic expectations.

Perhaps it was owed to not eating a banana the night before, as it’s recommended to keep to the same pre-race food regimen.

Perhaps it was just that it was what it was.

And I’m on to May 6!

Epic Win

The opposite of fail; when something of awesomeness happens [Urban Dictionary].
The most recent awesomeness in my life took place on March 18th at the NYC Half Marathon in which the opposite of epic fail occurred.
I had set a goal of 2 hours and 30 minutes, having jumped into this three weeks before the event, only allowing for two weekends of jacking up the mileage. I figured under-estimating myself had been a good life strategy thus far, so why change thought processes now? Knowing that the race started out with 6 hilly miles before hitting the ensuing 7-mile flat stretch, I added that to my reasons for being content ‘just to finish.’ It was only mid-March after all, and I usually don’t hit double-digit training miles until June.
O, ye of little faith.
The gun went off in the semi-dawn, but it took 30 minutes for my group to make it to the actual starting line…and then we were off up into the hills of Central Park. I quickly realized that at each clock marker, I would need to subtract 30 minutes from the displayed time given my late start. Give or take a minute or two in either direction, I seemed to be holding my own at my usual performance level as I checked each clock. Didn’t even fret ‘Heartbreak Hill’ but I sure was glad to hit finally that flat and fast turf.
Proceeding at a brisk pace down thru midtown Manhattan was a surreal moment. These are sights and sounds I’ve experienced many times over, but certainly never from the vantage point of running in the middle of the street without a single cab in sight. I didn’t even stop to look behind me, focusing on that finish and something warm to drink. I rounded the corner onto 42nd Street and caught Sam’s face in the crowd. I was on the left side of the street and he was on the right, so I quickly crossed thru a bunch of runners, shared a high-5 and kept on running. It lifted my spirits to have found him amidst the cacaphony of stimuli, and I suspected I was pegging away at a decent pace.
The last turn onto the West Side Highway meant 5 miles ahead. I wasn’t sure I had what I needed to beast this thing, but every glance at the clock indicated I might make it in 2:25. I got to thinking maybe a walk was in order, but every time I slowed I would then shag ass a little harder. Tired but not spent, I pushed on past more familiar sights and more clocks. Not too shabby…maybe 2:20?
The last mile took us down into a small tunnel. I thought if I could make it back up the slight incline on the other side, I might be able to pour it on for the finish. I stopped checking clocks and thinking about finish time, and did what all race runners do at this moment: follow the ass in front and keep running. 800 yards….200 yards….13-mile marker…and then that extra tenth. I saw myself up on the big screen and waved like an idiot with the other finishers in my group. This might be the only time my finish is ever on video, so I sure made it a good one.
A really good one: 2 hours, 15 minutes, 30 seconds. Not just a 2012 PR to work my way down from, but a career PR.
And there was my runner support, with baby wipes for my crusty face, a hug and dry clothes.You really have to give it up to anyone who would kiss somene who just ran 13.1 miles.


Got Support?

Hello, dear Blog Diary, how I’ve missed you.

Out running 8 miles on my own this past weekend, I got to thinking about the unsung heroes of the running world: our athletic supporters.

I’d gotten so used to weekend long runs with Sam cycling by my side that doing it solo made me realize how much we runners depend on non-runners to tough it out. I’m one of those people who needs to be as light as possible, so having Sam hold my extra water bottle has been helpful. And it’s nice to have company besides an Ipod and the occasional “How ya doin” nod to others on the bike path, at least until it becomes hard to trot and convo at the same time.

I remembered the time Mary and I were doing my first-ever 20 miles. Her hubby Joe packed the car with extra drinks and led the way for us, providing rest stops along the muggy way. Once he was driving slowly just ahead us, which caused another driver to slow down and ask us defenseless females if everything was okay. We laughed at the idea of ‘Poor Joe’ as he’s often known being mistaken for a creeper.

It made me appreciate the people who came out for me along the way of my two marathons and one half-marathon. I know I wouldn’t have made it thru that first 26 without Jean’s chipper chatter from mile 18 to the finish line. And then there was Dave holding up an evocative sign for me half way: ‘You Will Finish.’ It was the first time anyone had done that for me, and it gave me a little push towards the second half of that grueling route.

I thought of my family coming to my rescue at my second 26 during unprecedented hot October weather, providing me with a fresh bandana, a washcloth for my face and another water bottle to help me reset myself for the miles ahead. And my daughter and her friend also came my rescue at the finish line with congratulations…and fresh clothes.

I thought back to the other races I’ve done, and how I often cried because there was no one rooting for me as I ran my way from new widow to new runner. Once in awhile, a family member or friend managed to come out for me, but most of the time it was a lonely walk back to the car with my free shirt.
My first competitive running challenge is coming up on 3/18, the NYC Half Marathon. Sam will accompany me to the start and see me off. The next time I see him will be at the finish line with dry clothes, a fresh water bottle and a big hug. His smiling face will be more tonic than any chocolate milk recovery drink could ever provide.

If that’s not a metaphor for a relationship, I don’t know what is.