Monthly Archives: December 2010

26.2 Is My New Lucky Number

After running 13.1 miles in October 2009, I was feeling quite ‘all that’ about myself. I got magnets for my car and office to promote my big accomplishment, content to rest on that laurel for a very long time. After all, who in their right mind would train for 26.2 when 13.1 was hard enough?

Perusing a spring 2010 issue of Runners World magazine, I saw that Newport, RI hosted a fall marathon voted by them as one of the Top Scenic Routes in the country. When the aforementioned Mary – aka, Because Mary Says So – asked if I was on-board for the local half-marathon again, I told her that I was considering Newport for its scenic attributes. What’s more, the route followed the coastline to where Mark’s ashes were laid to rest, so it just seemed right for me to challenge myself there. Mary quickly agreed to join me, but then countered with “Let’s run the full marathon this time.”

Of course, my reaction was what everyone says: “I can’t run 26 miles!” She countered again with “You said that about running 13 and you did it, so…”

Into the summer, we worked our training plan, increasing miles incrementally; the weekend long run became ‘longer run’ as we moved towards a final training goal of 20 miles. I met Mary at her house at the end of September, joining up at her second 10 miles. It was an early fall day and much warmer than planned, so when I went into the second 10 with a friend of hers I was feeling the heat & humidity and those extra miles. Fortunately, I was running in completely uncharted territory, so the changing scenery sliding into fall colors provided free entertainment. So did running past a mid-security NYS correctional facility…20 miles done.

It was all over except the wait and the maintenance work. Keep mileage up. Eat well. Rest. No extra sugar. Get mentally fit. I remembered some thoughts Mark wrote during his advancing illness, where he compared training for a race to training for his life:

“My journey is reminding me of the marathons I have run. Marathons are extremely challenging races, physically and mentally. No matter how hard one prepares, there are times during the race that one’s pace falters, the mind loses focus, and one feels horrible.  But you keep pushing through and the negative effects pass. Right now, my pace is faltering and my mind has lost focus in the past week …I will keep pushing through, though. Bottom line, just as I successfully completed three marathons, I have confidence that I will successfully complete this journey. The stakes may be higher and the journey may be longer, but I will finish.”

Wow.

I shared this with Mary and posted it on the race’s Facebook page. To say that people weren’t moved is an understatement. I printed these words of strength & power, carefully folding the paper so it would fit in the zip-pouch in the back of my running pants. Just knowing they were there gave me a little boost.

Race day: October 17th, 2010.

We left the hotel up in Providence in the dark, and headed to the race shuttle area in Newport. I’d crossed the bridge into this familiar place with Mark and the kids many times, but never had it looked as beautiful as in the approaching dawn breaking over the Atlantic, reflecting back on the bridge lights. The tug of many emotions pulled at me, from anticipation of the event to the strong connection to him. Could I even do this? Would I lose focus and hit the wall?

Gathering at the start with runners and well-wishers, the reality of what was ahead weighed upon me. With ‘Push Thru’ marked down my shins, I stood in a crowd of a few thousand runners as the announcements were made. When the National Anthem came on, tears poured forth. I suppose it was the pent-up emotion of what was ahead of me, and what had been behind me for three years without Mark by my side.

Five hours and 14 minutes later, I crossed the finish line.

During that time, I faced coming up on ‘Mark’s place’ around mile 7. I pulled off my special shirt for him and threw it towards the water, and pushed on. I crossed the 13-mile mark where the half-marathon ended, and pushed on again. At mile 16, I felt fatigue, hunger and some lower-intestinal issues…and yet I pushed. Friends met me at mile 18 as runner support, staying by my side the remainder. When I passed the mile marker for #20, I knew that pushing on from there would test me like no other long run had ever done.

When I got to 3.1 miles left to run, I said to my running buddy, “This is going to be the hardest 5k race I will ever run.” She replied, “You already ran a bunch of them today, so just think of it as one more.”  Thus encouraged, I pushed on again marking each mile sign with a hand-slap as I ticked them off. Words don’t do justice to the feeling of crossing a marathon finish line: euphoria mixed with fatigue, pride mixed with pain, but most of all exhilaration.

I pushed thru. He would be proud of me. I am proud of me.

Within the hour, Mary and I sat beachfront, facing the Atlantic in post-marathon glow. Only 2% of the entire U.S. population will ever attempt a marathon, so we were now bona fide statistics. [It beats being a cancer statistic like her and a widow statistic like me any day!] This beach was a very familiar spot in my past life, where the kids once played in the surf as our blended family bonded. The coastline is beautiful, and you can see the Cliff Walk mansions nearby. Starting there six hours ago stirred a lot of emotion in me, as did sitting there in the warming sun enumerating our race injuries. Mostly, it was laughter thru tears, which is an emotion that Mark and I knew very well together.

I looked towards the water, and said “I can’t believe I’m sitting here and this is my life now…but it’s a good life.”

Me, somewhere along the way to 26.2.


I Are A Runner

When Mark died in the fall of 2007, we decided to honor him with a 5k race the following spring. The proceeds have gone to the American Cancer Society’s ‘Hope Club’ support center [formerly known as Gilda’s Club] for the past three years. As the chief coordinator, I was determined not only to make the race a success, but to participate as a full-fledged runner. Got a pair of running shoes, and hopped on the treadmill. Went outside once the weather improved.

Race #1 took place on 4/27/08 and I finished at 33:56. Liked it enough to do another 10 races throughout the year, hoping to crack 30 minutes. I didn’t succeed in that short-term goal…running shoes packed away once it turned cold.

Race #2 approached in 2009. I gave myself an ultimatum that if I didn’t ‘get better’ at running, our relationship was over. The week before Mark’s race, I ran another one in unseasonably warm weather…finished miserably in over 35 minutes. Sitting on the grass afterwards in tears, I wailed “I suck and fuck this running thing.”

Mark’s race day boded well for ‘runners weather’ though, which would no doubt improve everyone’s performance. The gun went off, and so did the crowd. I paid little attention to time, having convinced myself that “I suck” after all. I just enjoyed the moment and responding to other runners and walkers with shout-outs and high-fives, as we connected to our reason for being there.

Cresting the hill towards the finish line, the clock read 30:00. My mind responded, “Shit…30 minutes…where’s that other 5 minutes of running I gotta do?” Another runner unknown to me at the time sensed my confusion, and shouted, “Here’s the finish line…come on, I’ll run you thru!” I crossed at 30:30…astonished…elated…and without tears for the first time. I found my helper in the crowd, and inquired as to her connection to our humble little 5k. She replied, “My friends and I run, and I thought this would be a good cause for us. Less than a year ago, I had cancer.”

Thus began a bond and a chain of events.

In the ensuing months of 2009, Mary and I traded e-mails about cancer, running, the meaning of life, and so on. By June, I’d finally crossed a finish line in under 30. On July 4th, I ran the historic Firecracker 4 Miler thru beautiful downtown Saratoga Springs, my longest competitive race thus far. And after completing a 10k on August 1st, I started a weekly run with Mary and her fleet-footed gang, who convinced me to join them for the local half-marathon in October.

“I can’t run 13.1 miles,” was my immediate response, but Mary countered with “Then walk a bit, run a bit, and you’ll get there.” The crazy thing is that it made sense, so I started running further and further in order to be race-ready that October. Even crazier, I didn’t need to walk at all…ran the whole damn thing on 10/11/09, five years to the day that my beloved father died and three weeks shy of two years since Mark had died.

And I didn’t pack my running shoes away that winter. You never know what a runner’s high is until you go out Christmas morning, taking in the beauty of nature as you put some miles underneath your feet.

La vita è bella.


May A Reindeer Fly Up Your Butt

This is my fourth holiday season without Mark.

• It sucks that I know what presents would make him smile, but I don’t get to buy them.

• It sucks that I work retail part-time, surrounded by *smug* happy-looking couples who flaunt their hand-holding and gift-buying in my face.

• It sucks that at some point during the 24th-25th I will find myself alone, and get to remembering the time Mark gave me a set of knives because he was sick of using dull knives at my house…and then a set of pearls because he knew that I loved them.

I’m not sure the concept of holiday will ever be the same, any more than life will. But you learn to deal, so that others can deal with you. Most people don’t really want the specifics when inquiring “How were your holidays?” During Christmas 2007, my answer to that question probably sent people running to the nearest bowl of holiday libation to recover from my craziness. It hurt to smile at that point.

Now I just say “Fine.” And I smile plenty because the hurt is more like a scar than a bleeding wound.

It’s not fucking fair. But it is what it is.


27 Jennifers

I usually go by my full name unless I like you enough to allow you to call me Jenn.

Or one of the three surnames that I’ve sported over 50 years of living.

Or a laudatory nickname of your own choosing.

I’ve considered joining Madonna and Cher in going by one name, preferably ‘Queen.’

I like to read the books that were assigned to us in college. My kids say that makes me a nerd, but I am a nerd who would kick ass in more than a few ‘Jeopardy’ categories. I will never own a Kindle…I like real books with covers that can be inscribed. Horton Foote signed my copy of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’ If you ask me who he is, we have nothing to talk about.

I enjoy using obsequious and alacrity in a sentence.

I was made in Germany, but born and raised in Troy, NY from Irish and Italian stock. You pretty much have to be one or the other to have lived in Troy during the 20th century, or else I’m sure there was a surcharge. My father’s grandfather was a judge in the early 1900’s. My mother’s grandfather was a street-sweeper.

 I am neither of those, but am a similar paradox:  suburban homeowner working mom; ultra-fit hipster doofus with counter-culture interests.

I never thought I would be widowed at 48.

I never thought being told I was strong could hurt so much.

I never thought I would “Grieve not, rather find strength in what is left behind.”

I am a work-in-progress.

~867-5309


Toiling In Assclownopolis

The popularity of the term assclown can be attributed to the movie ‘Office Space.’ If you work in any kind of conventional structure, you’ve borne witness to its insidious nature time and again.

Examples of such workplace douchebaggery include, but are not limited to:

~All Staff e-mails about missing property, large print jobs in queue, and assorted daily minutiae that bolster the sender’s sense of self.

~The unwritten Smoker’s Code of goofing off every hour on the hour, but still taking official coffee breaks and lunches to pack in a few more smokes.

~‘Helpful’ co-workers who self-promote at the expense of everyone else.

~Disgusting food left in the collective fridge, leaking all over and smelling like nukuylar waste.

The Urban Dictionary – the source for all that is sane and right in a baggadouche world – defines assclown as “one, who, through the fault of his parents conception, is a skid mark in society’s collective underwear.”

This is precisely why I support government-enforced birth control as well as abortion in the case of rape, incest and just plain bad genes begatting little douchebags who grow into big assclowns. Instead of spending money on stem cell research and efforts to sustain the environment, I’d like to start a grassroots campaign towards curtailing the assclown scourge. Surely if we all tithed a few meager dollars to Project Assclown – Prevent Walking Abortions Now – offices of tomorrow will be better places. It might be too late in our time, but future generations will look back and say, “Thanks to my ancestors, I’ll never have to suffer workplace douchebaggery. America is so great.”

While occasionally cursed as an assclown magnet, I shall remain ever the optimist that this movement will succeed.

“PC load letter…what the fuck does that mean?!”


I Love The Smell of Sweat in the Morning …It Smells Like…Victory

I am a girly-girl who never played a sport. My daughter who played them once said I ran like a girl. At the end of basketball season, during the annual parents vs. players game, my hoop acumen apparently provided much mirth to the girls.

Minor retraction: I was on youth bowling teams. Hey, you’re a blue-collar kid and your uncle owns the bowling alley, you bowl. But once I was in high school, there’s no way I was associating myself with those working class bowling alley-types. I proceeded to get by in life doing as little activity as possible, maintaining a slender pre-childbearing physique due to my genetics. As long as I was thin enough for tight jeans and able to wear a bikini, life was good. It mattered little that I was left light-headed after climbing a set of stairs.

Aging into a new decade after producing two kids, my good genes expired. At 35, I got a gym membership and began the arduous work towards reclaiming my former svelte physique. Throughout my 20’s, I always liked lifting heavy things, putting them down, then picking them up again. I liked how a toned physique looked in the mirror. So it didn’t take much motivation for me to get back to training and get some lean muscle mass going for me…which is nice.

Then I went a little crazy.

But I still never thought I’d get to where I am today with this fitness gig:

  • On October 17, 2010, I completed a full 26.2 mile marathon in a little over five hours.
  • A year ago, I completed a half-marathon in 2:18.
  • Two years ago, I was still struggling to break 30 minutes on a 5k, and wondering if I should just go back to lifting those heavy things.
  • Three years ago, I was a relatively new widow. You could not have told me I would go on to complete 26.2 miles (sometimes at a very feeble trot), and feel good about it afterwards.

 

Today, I lift with a trainer, take spin classes and run in no particular order. Next year, I’d like to get more serious about cycling and consider a mini-triathlon. And I want to go hiking, kayaking and horseback riding, in no particular order. Fitness gives me energy that belies the chronology of being ‘middle-aged’…I could kick my 25-year-old self’s ass any day.

Not too shabby for an old broad.