Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweet Sleep

For the last couple of weeks, I have been totally sucked in by books. Sometimes for weeks I can't find anything that draws my interest much. And then I'll have a good long period of time when I hit the jackpot, and all I want to DO is read, read, read. (The Hunger Games) (Icy Sparks)

Because I have hit upon a couple of good books, I have been staying up a little later than normal to read. Okay, much later than normal. Fine. 2 hours later than usual. Which means that I get out of bed feeling like my body is still asleep. (It probably is.) And then I feel cranky until 5:00p.m., and choose to be silent all day, instead of saying the really cranky things I'm thinking.

Anyway--last night, I finally felt the full effects of all my missing sleep. As I read, my eyes began to cross. The letters on the page started to swim around, and I knew that if I didn't put the book down and close my eyes, I'd fall asleep with it in my hands. So I decided to go to sleep....and was still thinking about the book when I fell asleep, but fell into the deepest sleep I've had for a very long time.

When I woke up, feeling oddly....good....I realized that I hadn't heard my alarm go off. I had a moment of panic before I realized that I still had about 20 minutes to get Reed breakfast, lunch made, and out the door for school.

Then I realized that I had slept nine hours. No wonder I felt so good! Not necessarily jumping around with joy, but I felt happy, able to face the morning. We know this is NOT my typical morning feeling. My mom gave me a book once entitled Joy in the Morning, and handed it to me with a smile, saying, "Isn't that title funny?" Yes. Yes, that is hilarious. Joy? In the morning? Sure.

And I'm sure my happy mood has nothing to do with the fact that I recently acquired more sleep-stealers--Catching Fire and The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Well....a cookbook won't keep me awake. But it will provide me with some food to munch on while I read.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Quotables: It's been a while!

Yesterday, while I made dinner, the boys sat at the table asking each other What's Your Favorite questions. I listened quietly, not wanting to interrupt and make them shy or change their answers. I overheard:

Jaxon asks Reed, "What's your favorite birthday present?"
Reed answers, "Um, I really want a toot bag! Then I can make toot sounds." (It took me a second to realize that he was talking about a whoopie cushion, and then I was just trying not to let him see me laughing. I was facing away from him with the hugest smile on my face.

Reed asks Jaxon, "Who's your favorite dad?"
Jaxon answers, "Phillip."
Reed laughs and says to me, "Phillip! Hahahah...."
And then Jaxon says matter-of-factly, "Cuz that's the dad we're 'upposed to have!"

Reed asks Jaxon, "What's your favorite rock 'n roll guy?"
Jaxon answers, "Mmmmm.....Jimi Hendrix." Except he says Hendwix, which is so cute I can hardly stand it, and I go into the pantry to laugh quietly.

Savanna is constantly making up songs. Right now, she is at the table, eating cereal and singing, "One-ee-two....one-ee-two...."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Next (drumroll, please)

I've relaxed on the couch since the marathon. I was pleased to find that after day three, I really wasn't sore anymore! Then I went for a run a week after, just a little 2-mile run, and let me tell you....it was ugly. I felt SO uncoordinated, SO stiff, SO slow, and just really out of it in general. And then I was very, very sore the next day. Like painful-sore. So I have rested some more, not all that unwillingly!

But I have decided I need another goal to keep me running/working out/not sitting on the couch all the time doing nothing but eating Halloween candy way before Halloween.

I found my next goal:

Some runners have the mistaken belief that the 5K is an “easy” race because of its relatively short distance. If you have run a 5K at the best pace you can you know that statement is very far from the truth. Performing well at the 5K distance requires a mix of speed, speed endurance, strength, running economy and mental toughness that can only be obtained through a well structured training program.

[from runningplanet.com]

I feel like I have a pretty good grip on the endurance thing. But speed endurance? Speed itself? Oh, no, speed is not my forte. So I'd like to get faster, and that is what I will be trying to do when I run a 5K in January. (Am I obnoxious yet? This running stuff/goal-setting stuff is addictive!) We did the 5K all the time in cross-country, and sadly, my very best time was something like 32 minutes. (3.2 miles....this is a ten-minute-mile pace) I'd be really happy, though, to get to that pace again, as I ran the marathon at an average pace of a 16-minute mile! Don't get me wrong--I'm proud of what I did. I just want to become a little faster now. And I am SO ready to have shorter training runs. No more 4-hour Saturday mornings for me.

Oh, and in case my glaring status on Facebook wasn't enough, do note that I posted on my photography blog today. It's here.

By the way: Have I mentioned how much I have loved all your sweet comments on my marathon post? You fill my heart to bursting....:)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Had to say:

You think I made you guys cry? Well, your comments had me in (happy) tears. What a blessing it is to have friends like you, to have support from you, and to have shared this experience with all of you. I am overcome by gratitude.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your sweet words.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Of Angels and Accomplishment: The Marathon Post

October 2nd, Friday night, I was pretty wired. I worked very hard to calm myself (oxymoron) and kept telling myself, "This will be worth it....this will be worth it...." I kept quietly chanting to myself, "To see if I can....to say I did." Refreshing my motivation and reminding myself that I was prepared as possible.

I didn't expect to get much sleep, especially because I was looking forward to my sister's arrival, but I surprised myself by sleeping from 11:30p.m. to ONE MINUTE (!) before my alarm was supposed to go off--4:19a.m.
I woke up with that horrible squirmy feeling in my stomach, but also felt a little thrill of excitement as I put on my running clothes, pulled my hair into a ponytail, and took deep breaths.

Phill just kept smiling at me, totally happy and calm--as he always does in situations where he knows I will end up happy, no matter how nervou
s I begin. :) In the car I ate a banana, some Myoplex (BLEH....), and a lot of Gatorade. There was so many cars on the road, which I found somewhat comforting--so many people doing the same thing that morning.

When Phill dropped me off at the park (where all the buses waited for us to board and be driven to the start line), and I stepped out into the October morning, I was immediately shivering from cold and nerves. I needed safety pins to pin my bib number onto my shirt (accidentally threw away the ones provided), and felt much more worried about it than I needed to be. Somehow (it was no coincidence), I bumped into another lady who also needed to find some safety pins, and we stuck
together in our mini-predicament. She told me that this was her second marathon, that she had two kids, and that she would be happy to stick by me 'til the start.

Dear Ellie,

You were an angel. I'm glad I didn't slow you down, and I'm so glad you were there that morning. Because of your calming presence, I was able to relax my shivering-nervous muscles
and thrill at the start of the race. A thousand times: thank you.

At the start line were bonfires, which was heavenly--it was 39 degrees. The cold penetrated my thin shirt and my anticipation made me shiver uncontrollably until I finally found a good spot next to one of the fires. People of all shapes and sorts sat around, lit up beautifully by the glow of the flames. People talked and laughed, ate, slept, stretched, listened to music. There was a general spirit of friendship and helpfulness. In spite of my little anxieties, I felt very safe and sure.

The start of the race was a sea of moving people, as far as my eyes could see. The air seemed electric--my limbs were frozen by cold, but
I was on fire; I had finally started! Finally, finally, finally! was all I could think.

That first mile flew by....it was unreal how fast it went. And the next, and the next, and really, the first 6 miles were surreal. I was thankful that my legs didn't un-freeze until mile 9, when there happened to be an aid station being manned by several people in my ward. (The great Eagle project of one of the young men we love.) I
almost cried with joy and said, "People I know!" Note: You readers will be proud to hear that I drank two cups of water or one cup water/one cup Gatorade at every aid station. I was masterfully hydrated.

I have to say that the volunteers are so wonderful. They make the experience even more enjoyable (yes, running 26.2 miles is enjoyable....on many levels....) and they were nothing short of encouraging and kind.

As I ran, the pesky flu (or whatever it is) that had plagued me the two weeks before showed no mercy. I coughed and coughed for the first 20 miles, until I really didn't have enough breat
h to cough anymore. You can imagine that my lower abs were quite sore.

For three miles--mile 11 to mile 14, I'd guess--I talked to an old man who said this was his twelfth marathon. He said he didn't start 'til his late forties, and that when he first started, it was with a pair of deck shoes. "Then I bought some new shoes and thought, 'This is like running on a cloud!' If I could do a marathon in deck shoes, I can do lots more in these shoes!"

Dear Mike,

You were personable and funny and sweet and strengthening. I liked your stories. You amaze me.

At mile 17, my enthusiasm began to be a little slow in coming. I could
feel that my body was tired, and I felt a little overwhelmed at the prospect of 9 more miles. But I was still excited, still happy, and still very much mentally in the game. My right calf was cramping a bit, and the balls of my feet were sore, but I knew I could keep going for quite some time, provided I distracted myself well enough.

Distraction arrived in the form of Cathy from Payson, a mother of seven and grandmother to (?), who was doing this marathon for the third time. She was walking, she was tired, and she looked somewhat despondent. I decided to talk to her because she looked like she needed some co
mpany as badly as I did.

We talked for five miles. 17 to 22. She told me about her struggles with a couple of her children, and her pride in the good choices that they were now making. She shared events from her life that closed the gap in our ages. We quickly bonded over those long five miles, and we kept each other going.

Dear Cathy,
You are a wonderful woman. I am so happy to have made your acquaintance, especially in the setting of the St. George Marathon. You distracted me and made it easier for me to keep going. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Arrive mile 22. We were just about to town, and I parted ways with Cathy to use up a little of the second wind I had. (Second wind....more like fifth, really.) At about mile 23, I was o
vercome by the enormity of what I was doing, what I had left to do, and by the pain. I simply sobbed while I ran. (It sounded really hilarious....a little like a barking seal, but a barking seal that's sort of under some anesthesia.) Every part of my legs, arms, abs, and upper back was sore, cramping, or burning. My lower lip began to tremble, a funny little thing that seems to happen to me after mile 17 or so.

Enter Melanie.

"Hi, sweetie! What's your na

"Okay. Rachel, we can do this. I know you're tired. But we can do this, okay?"


"We're going to do this!"




And she hands me a fresh bottle of water from her husband's water belt--he was walking alongside her, simply there to help her. It was her third marathon. Her dad biked next to us, relaxed and chatty, a cheerful distraction. Two very tired girls ran alongside us, and soon she recruited their motivation, too.

"What's your name, honey? We'll get through this."

Melanie, you were yet another earthly angel on that run. You make me want to run it again, just so that I can help people who are doing it for the first time. Thank you. Thank you.

She asked me questions, questions that helped her get a sense of what would motivate me most, and questions that took my mind off my pain. I told her that my husband was in the Army, wai
ting in uniform with other uniformed Army men at the finish line, and that I was very ready for him to catch me. Quietly I realized that for the last half of the marathon, I really had been running to Phill.

Melanie's father listened to us with a quiet smile, and then rode off slowly towards the finish line, which by this time was about 2 miles away.

Then, at mile 25, my weary eyes caught sight of her old dad on his bike, riding towards me, with a uniformed man jogging behind. A uniformed man with his arms in the air and a gigantic grin on his face.

I fell to pieces. I sobbed "Phill! Oh my goodness!" over and over, and he was quickly at my side, saying, "You're almost there, sweetheart! Only a little more! You're doing so great. I'm so proud of you." And I continued to cry the weirdest-sounding cry of my life. (I recall crying, "But it's so uuuggglllyyy...."--I was referring to most everything in general; my form, my crying, the way my body felt.) I tried to walk instead of run--thinking that a rest was good--but my legs just gave out beneath me. Lucky Phill was there to catch me and tell me that I needed to keep running, or my legs would cramp--because they were so used to this motion. He whispered sweet nothings to me all the way to the last turn, then did something that I will never forget and for which I will never stop feeling utmost love and gratitude.

"Okay, love. I'm going to go wait at the finish line. You've got this."

And he sprinted to the finish line to let me, his wife, finish the marathon with every bit of personal victory intact. No one next to me, holding my hand or pulling me along. Just me, just my finish.

Phill....I love you. Deeply.

I was surprised that there were still people there to cheer, besides my sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and kindred spirit Jenn--but there were enough people that the cheering filled my ears and seemed to elevate me to another plane altogether. I was floating....floating and sobbing and smiling and laughing. Phill stood with his arms open wide and I jumped (well, at that point it was a pretty weak jump...) into his arms and finally, finally let my muscles stop moving.
(Oddly hard to do.)

My clock time said 7:06:00. My official (chip) time was 6:58:21. I have felt somewhat sheepish and self-critical for the last several days over how long it took me to finish--but I'm telling you....I feel very proud of myself now (finally, almost a week later)!

I ran for almost seven hours! I finished! I did exactly what I set out to do! I trained for months, waking up early, which we know is something I hate and always struggle with....I worked my training around schedules: my own, my children, Phill's. I have come to the realizat
ion that the marathon was really the reward for what was as big an accomplishment--the preparation.

I keep whispering to myself the words that were on my medal, reminding myself that I have the strength to do something difficult, complete with preparation and follow-through.

Finisher. I am a Finisher.

To see if I can--
I can--to say I did--I did.
photo-credit: Eric Hanson
thank you for coming! Thank you for supporting me, and thank you for making it easy for Abby to help me out. Thank you for taking the photos. I am so happy to have a record of this great event! Also, thank you for walking me to the bathroom six times on Saturday when my legs were like lead.
Abby, thank you for coming. Thank you for listening to me talk down my nerves on the phone several times before the actual marathon. Thank you for driving in the night with your husband and babies to simply be with my family. Thank you for the meals you made, the pampering you gave me, and the love and attention you showed my babies. Jenn, thank you for coming. Thank you for taking care of my babies while I ran. Thank you for crying when I was done and had no tears left myself. Thank you for helping me get comfortable afterwards. Thank you for keeping my sister, brother-in-law, and husband company and entertaining my children and nieces for seven hours Saturday morning.

To my other family, friends, blog-readers: Thank you for every supportive comment, every kind gesture, every prayer, every thought sent my way. I am forever grateful for your support and encouragement. You make it fun. You lift me up.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reasons Why

This morning, I woke up with what felt like little springy coils in my stomach. I had 3 different dreams about the marathon, none of them overly negative, but none of them overly positive, either. I woke up after each one, telling those coils to stop bouncing and lay still.

I am as prepared as I can be. I have worked hard over the last 4 months, and I have been diligent and consistent. I have strengthened my body, lengthened my endurance, and solidified my resolve to accomplish this goal that I have had for such a very long time.

And yet, I'm still nervous. Because I have never run a marathon before, there's this big unknown looming in front of me, and I'll let you in on a little secret: the unknown is most scary to me. (I know that's not really a secret, and I know I'm not alone!) I like to plan, to prepare, to feel like I know what's coming--as often as possible. I enjoy happy surprises, but in general, prefer to know what's on the horizon.

My mother knows this; has always known this, as any good mother of any daughter would, I suppose. From the time I was little, she would "prep" me.

A random doctor appointment--

"Rae, we're going to the doctor. No shots today, but he will probably need to look in your ears, and have you say 'Ah' while he looks at your throat. Nothing will hurt; this is an appointment to show the doctor how healthy you are."

First day of high school--

"Honey, I know you're nervous. But I promise that tomorrow you will feel less nervous, and the day after that, even less, and so on and so forth. If you can get through this day, you will be just fine. I love you."

When I asked her what labor was like--

"What can I tell you about labor? Hm, let's see....well, it is the most pain I ever felt, and it will likely be the most pain you will ever feel. But you can do it. And the Lord will bear you up throughout. And it is worth it."

I have trained myself to "prep" for things that cause me anxiety, and so has Phill. "It's okay, Rae. You've prepared for this. You'll do great. I'll take you to the bus at 4:45....you'll get to the start line and have some time to rest or go to the bathroom or drink a gatorade or talk to the other runners....the race is at 6:45. You can do this!"

I visualize myself going through the event, fully functional, fully present. I see myself as I am: with my Nervous Nellie ways, but able to calm myself enough to feel the Spirit when I pray for help and peace. I see myself overcoming the hardest parts; this is where it is all a mystery. I know what my training felt like, but I do not know what this marathon will feel like....so I tell myself, "Whatever it is, I am ready."

And I read this, and remind myself that this will be a wonderful morning for me, a happy achievement, something to be proud of and most of all--a four-month process of hard work, growth, and conditioning. (Both emotional and physical.)

I also summon my motivation, reminding myself why I am doing this. There are many, many reasons why I am doing this, but today, one particular reason is on my mind.

Did I tell you much more about my cross-country coach? He was well-meaning, but a little insensitive at times. (Is that coach code? I don't know. Phill is the most sensitive, kind coach I know. He kind of defies the coach stereotype.)

Did I tell you about the day I walked into his classroom (he taught math), gawky 15-year-old, approached his desk, and said,

"So I heard that some of the guys on the team are doing the London marathon."
Him-"Yeah! It's going to be great."
"Do you think I could do that? I mean, not now....but....do you think I could do that?"
And here I need to break in and say--I was testing him. It's not really fair, my thinking in that moment, but I was testing him. I wanted to know if he thought I was capable of what the fast runners did. I wanted to know if he had my potential in mind, or if he had decided that he had already gotten all he could out of me. Most of all, I think I wanted him to challenge me, just so that I could prove him wrong; measure up. His answer?
"Well....no, I mean....you're still growing. You're pretty small-boned. I don't know if your body would handle it well."
Translate: You are a 92-pound 10th-grader. If you are asking me if you can run a marathon right now, I am most certainly going to answer NO, because your parents will sue me if you run a marathon right now with your still-growing not-so-solid body.
But what did I hear?
You cannot run a marathon.
And the seed was planted.

The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't. Not that I am super gung-ho or really into proving everyone wrong....I just don't like being told no when what I want to hear is yes. And some little sad part of me believed him that day in his classroom. I believed for a little bit that I didn't deserve the same as those boys who ran the marathon that year. That because I was slow, or small, or whiny, that I had less right to challenge myself and improve.

How ridiculous! How absolutely ridiculous! What less right have I to be tired, exhausted, overjoyed, full of accomplishment and triumph, for finishing a marathon in over 6 hours than the woman who finishes it in little over 2 hours? A goal is a goal is a goal....and when I finally cross that finish line tomorrow morning, I will be happy because I will have tamed that part of myself that believed I was less. That part that said, "Oh, you're not good enough.....just fade away." I am not going to let my fear stop me from doing my very best tomorrow. I may or may not have that coach's voice in mind, "....well, no" as I make it through mile 5, 10, 15, 20....but it will motivate me.

Perhaps he knew what he was doing. Maybe he knew that discouraging me would turn into the opposite later on. Maybe he knew me much better than I realized. Maybe he really liked me, and I was too insecure to let myself be liked.

In any case....thank you, Coach Edwards. In large part because of you, I will be running 26.2 miles tomorrow morning. It will be an honor to prove you (and my most insecure self) wrong. :D

My List of Reasons Why
To get healthy & strong
Because someone once said I couldn't
To build endurance
To be an example to my family
To run a distance/race Phill has never YET run (yes, there are some competitive bones in my body)
To see if I can
To say I did