Adopting An Attitude of Gratitude

I will be honest. I have struggled to write about Marine Corps Marathon.

Why?

Because I’m not proud of my finish. I’m not happy with my time. I’m not thrilled with how I felt.

 

I’ve been grappling with it. I’ve been wrestling with the feelings of disappointment. It’s not easy. But I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and it’s going to be okay. I am competitive – but only with myself. Thousands of people crossed the line before me – but I wanted to cross the line before my own best time, and in under 4 hours.

So where did I end up? 4:48:11.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. About what happened. About what went wrong.

And here is the conclusion I have come to: A finish line is a finish line, and I need to be grateful that I was able to cross it.

It may not have been the time I hoped for. It may not have been the race I worked so hard for. But I finished. And not everyone can say that they run 26.2 miles for fun. Not everyone can say they run 26.2 miles at all.  I need to adopt the attitude of gratitude that this season and that racing should be all about.

The day started at 5 a.m. Last year I got to the Pentagon and Runner’s Village really early and sat and froze for about 2 hours. So this year I figured I’d arrive a little later, so I didn’t have so long to wait.

Here lies my first issue. I arrived at the Metro station at 5:45, stood on the platform while waiting for the train to arrive, and hear an announcement that went something like this: “There may be delays on the blue line, as a train has hit a deer. They are working to clear the tracks.”

Shortly after, the train arrived, and by around 6:10 I was at the Pentagon walking toward the safety check point. There were a lot of people there already. I mean, a lot. Last year I walked right in. This year, the experience was different.

Maybe it was because of the delays at the metro stations – but thousands of people arrived at nearly the same time. And we stood. For 2 hours. In the rain, waiting to get through security.

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The race starts at 7:55 a.m. with the sounding of the Howitzer. At 7:55 myself and those thousands of other people were still standing in line waiting to get in to runner’s village.

It was stressful. Stressed is not a great way to start a race.

Once they finally started moving people through faster, I walked in, dropped my stuff at bag check, used the porta potty, and found the starting line. At 8:20 a.m.

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From the first running steps I could tell that both physically and mentally I wasn’t feeling quite right. Both the stress of missing the official start, and walking around Washington D.C. for miles the previous days had taken quite a bit out of me. Not to mention the fact that when you start late, and not in a pace group, you start with whoever is around you – which includes some really fast folks, and some slower folks.

The first 5 – 7 miles of my race where a lot of weaving in and out of crowds of people, and those that stopped to walk in the middle of the course. I am grateful that at least the rain let up.

By the time I got out of Rock Creek Park and in to Georgetown my race was over. There wasn’t even a way to make up the lost time. And I still wasn’t feeling my best.

And that’s when I decided to just enjoy my surroundings and take some pictures. Each step still felt agonizing. My innards still felt off. I think part of it was the effects of stress. But I am grateful I got to take in the beautiful sights of Washington D.C. There’s no better way to see it than on foot.

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MCM truly is a beautiful race. The sun may not have been shining (either literally or figuratively), but the support of the Marines, and the number of participants, and just the general area makes this race worth it. At around 31,000 people, this is the largest race I have ever run.

I wore my Ryu shirt this year, and got many compliments, and had one gentleman ask me about it at the finish line. Ryu – the Dragon – means strength. I definitely needed strength to get through this race. The design of this shirt, the beautiful flowers and the dragon, always inspires. I know that’s a weird thing – but certain shirts or clothing always make me feel different or better at races. I am grateful for the opportunity to wear amazing tech gear.

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And of course, the Wear Blue Mile makes it amazing as well. I stopped to take pictures this year. And nearly cried. The support of the family members, the photo signs of the fallen – it still gives me pause even today. The fact that I can run, the fact that I am still here – this is a reason to be grateful.

In the end, I crossed the line. I finished. Upright and smiling – mostly just happy to be done and incredibly tired, but still smiling.

I am grateful to have crossed that line by Iwo Jima Memorial once again. I am grateful to have been there. And I am grateful for the fact that I had more family there this year, and for the continued support of the people in my life.

And of course for the continued support of my husband.

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Was it the race I wanted? Was it the race I trained to run? Not exactly. I’ve come to terms with the bad – I’m focusing on the good. That is one huge thing I learned this time around.

With more focus, more training, and different circumstances, I know I can make my goals. Even the bad races have something to teach us. And for that I am grateful as well.

I will continue to try to continue in my attitude of gratitude, no matter what.

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It’s the Little Things

Some days the only way to get through is to focus on the little things.

Every morning, I curl up on my couch with my breakfast and an cup of coffee. The house is usually quiet, the husband still asleep. The sound of cars flying by outside the window, people on their way to the jobs or to drop the kids off. Sometimes, the sun shines through my windows, some days are cloudy.

This small, simple day starting activity brings me peace in the mornings. Calm before the storm.

There are usually other little things through out the day. Today it was a cup of coffee from Biggby on my way in to work. A note in my mail box at work on a blue post-it. Really good left overs for lunch. A hard workout at the gym, leaving me feeling sore already after. Making a kick-ass dinner from whatever I could scrape together from the pantry and fridge.

Not all of these things seem all that important. Yeah, I had another cup of coffee. So I went to the gym, not unusual for a Thursday. But look at them individually and you’ll find all of the things that bring me joy.

Peace, coffee, friends/colleagues (one and the same where I work), home made food, endorphin-inducing exercise, and cooking. Little things, part of a bigger picture.

Sometimes it’s easy to let life squish you. Splat like a bug. To let it over take you and make you feel stressed or angry or sad.

I used to be a sad person working at a job I hated, and letting that make me feel miserable. Every. Single. Day. I’ve been told more than once that I am a different person now.

I try to choose joy. Life is always going to be hard. Not everything is going to go right. But when the world tries to squish you – try to focus on the little things, and let them bring the happiness back into your life.

Words, Words, Words

Via theawkwardyeti.com

Via theawkwardyeti.com

Maybe it’s just today. Maybe it’s that I’m tired. But I have been staring at this page for about half an hour now. Words come and go. But none of them seem to mean much. Nothing that I think I have to say seems particularly interesting today.

The weather was lovely. Don’t we always fall back on weather as small talk when we’ve not much to say?

It’s not a lie. It was nice. Peculiar for a Fall day in October in Michigan. I got to walk the dog. He seemed to particularly enjoy it. Trotting along, sniffing whatever he pleased.

I did a hurricane circuit. Sprints, sprints, more sprints, and some exercises in between.

And then a track workout this evening. Making up for Nope yesterday.

When I worked at the factory and was feeling uninspired, one of the quality engineers used to tell me that I didn’t have enough angst in my life to write. He was wrong. That place and that job caused me plenty of angst.

It was just his way of teasing. And that was the time when I wrote the least. So clearly angst doesn’t lead to words or ideas. Not in this case.

Anyway. Someday soon I will have good words for you again. Something flowery. Something well written. But tonight is not that night.

Tonight I leave you with this attempt. There are words here. Though they be but few.

A day of Nope.

It’s not often that I get the opportunity to spend half of my day at home. Between work, chores, errands and working out, around 80% of my time is spent elsewhere.

I’m okay with this. I’m good at being busy. I’m good at getting stuff done. Checking things off the list is one of my specialties. Very rarely do I just sit.

But today I sat.

I did not run. I did not go to the gym. I did go to work. But afterward I did nothing.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw on our huddle chart that someone had talked about taking care of yourself. I was not there that morning, but it did start me thinking.

I am self sacrificing to a T. I will do almost anything for anyone (within reason). This is one of my greatest attributes, and also one of my greatest flaws. It means that I often put myself aside. I’m not saying this to brag, but stating it as fact. I know it is one of the best and worst things about me. I don’t often say no.

It’s easy to take care of others. It’s not so easy to take care of one’s self.

So today I reveled in it – the opportunity to just be. To sit on the couch. To read a book. To not answer e-mails. To not be so connected with the internet world.

Tomorrow I will be back to the usual running around. To the cleaning, and shopping, and running, and doing.

But today was a much needed day of “nope.”

22 Miles of Fun

Or maybe it wasn’t all that fun. In any case, today’s 22 mile run was brought to you by perseverance.

It was a gray, dreary day. I got misted on for the first couple of miles. This is the first time I have ever done this long of a run, outside of a race, alone. Things are going to be so different training on my own now that I can’t really do long runs with the group. It was different, but not so bad. Three hours and almost 30 minutes is a long time to think about life. And I think that it adds to the mental toughness bit of running a marathon, too.

The things I actually remember:

Oh Look, caterpillars. Black and brown fuzzy ones. I remember naming them last year when running Grand Rapids Marathon. There were lots on the sidewalks then. There were fewer today.

It sucks to live on top of a hill. Especially when your strategy to complete a run is to do loops or out and back routes from your house. You always have to finish each segment up hill.

I can push the pace faster.

Okay, I can’t push the pace faster.

Am I ever going to make my time goal? If I can’t even do this now, how can I do it in a few weeks?

I can do this. I can run 9:00 miles. I can run 8:50 minute miles.

I’m ready to be done training. I just have to get through this run. This is it. I can do this.

Just keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other. Just go. Pace doesn’t matter. Just finish it.

— — —

There’s a lot of Self Talk that goes in to a run that long. And a lot of singing and dancing and looking like a dork while running.

I’m glad to be done with the long miles, to be honest.

Just three weeks remain between me and the Marine Corps Marathon. And despite the fact that for at least part of this run I did not feel confident, I decided after today that I can get there. It might hurt (likely), it might kill me (not likely), but I am sure as heck going to try to make my goal.

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Lit. Heroes – Stepping Up On My Soap Box

A non-running related post. Because it’s something that I think is important.

When I was first looking for a job after my husband and I moved down here, I got involved in a volunteer program through the local library called Literacy Heroes. Volunteers were trained on active reading, and connecting kids to books that were being read to them. The coordinator for the program contacted local schools and organizations and sent us out in to the community to do something so simple, yet so vital – read to children.

Often these were kids who were struggling in school, who had no desire to read on their own, or who had never really been connected to a book.

Growing up I used to love to be read to. My mother would sit with my brother and I every night and read us stories. Often we would pick the same books, which I’m sure would just drive her crazy since we had dozens to choose from. I remember being curled up in the corner of my brother’s room, me on one side of our mother, and brother on the other side, listening to her read “The Cat in the Hat” or “Boom Chicka Boom Boom” or “Little Bear”. I can’t imagine not having that experience. Not having someone there to read to us. Or eventually, not wanting to read.

But that is the life of some of the kids we worked with.

I digress. The reason I am expounding upon this is this: Today, as I finally opened an e-mail account that I don’t often open, I received a message that the library was no longer able to sustain this program. That the training and tracking and finding volunteer opportunities were now outside of the realm of what the library can afford.

We live in a society where we fund prisons and wars. We throw money into politics and business.

But we don’t place value on education. Or if we do, we’ve got a funny way of showing it. We gut programs that could help others. Take funding away from music and art. We test and we test and we test, but we take creativity from the classroom.

We begin to ignore those who fall behind.

Literacy Heroes was one of those programs that focused on the ones who fall through the cracks. It focused on making reading fun and bringing books to life. It gave attention to those who often get none. To hear that it’s gone is most definitely a blow. It’s a shame to see opportunities like this disappear.

Maybe some day we will realize what is important – what is worth putting money in to.

For now I will step down off my soap box, and be grateful that I was able to be a part of this program while it existed. I got to spend time with children who sometimes just wanted someone to pay attention to them, and I got to do so while reading really awesome and fun books to them.

Fennvalley Vine Wine’d 5k

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I am not a sprinter, and I think 5k races are too short. No time to warm up, it’s just an all out run run run for 3 miles.

That being said, I enjoyed the race I ran today, despite thinking, at about mile 1.5, that I hate 5k’s.

It was a cold, windy day that felt more like November than October 3rd. It’s almost like we went from August to November weather wise. At the very least, the rain held off.

This was a trail run – another thing I am not usually is a trail runner. Give me a good solid surface beneath my feet any day and I’m a happy kid. Trails can be a nice change of pace, but they are also a challenge.

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I got to start the run with my dad – also not a trail runner…or usually a runner at all. In fact, his statement to me at the beginning was “this is probably the only 3 miles I’ll run this year.” Though he does have nearly 5,000 miles on his bike.

We started uphill, and the comment made a mile .04 after running up it was, “Are we done yet?” I think he wanted to steal a bike.

We wound through the vineyard, full of beautiful, ripe grapes, and through the surrounding fields and forest. The scenery was lovely at least, though some sunshine would have been appreciated.

I finished in 26:39 (according to my watch, I can’t find the official results posted anywhere right now). Which was good enough for a 3rd place age group finish. I’ve never placed in my age group anywhere. I’m a pretty solid middle of the pack person. Most in my age group are more competitive than me. So it was a treat to see that 3 next to my name.

And then of course, the wine came after. How can you not drink wine after a run called the Vine Wine’d?! So we did.

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This is a race that I would love to do again next year. Maybe it will be less windy next time around.