Monday, December 23, 2013

2013. Mind. Blown.

I have to be candid in telling you all that despite all the fun things I'm about to talk about, overall 2013 was a rough year. My husband and I experienced surprising and devastating heartbreak on more than one occasion, and it was hard. Hard isn't the correct word to encapsulate what parts of this year felt like - more like heartbreaking and crushing and devastating. 

In the first six months of the year it felt like the blows just kept coming, and there were times when I wasn't sure I could handle it.  But if running has taught me nothing else it's taught me that I am stronger than I think I am.  When it gets hard - that's when you push the most. Even if the hard stuff is emotional rather than physical, the same rules apply.

I've dealt with the perils of 2013 in the way I deal with everything - head down, gutting it out, and keeping myself so distracted that there was rarely time to focus on what was getting me down.  I traveled all over Michigan for work (twice to Crystal Mountain, Spring Lake, Frankenmuth, a week in Detroit, Traverse City), as well as Denver, Washington, DC (six times!), Pittsburgh, West Virginia (four times), Toronto, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Chicago, Indianapolis and Norfolk, VA.  Later this week we head to California for a week's vacation to San Francisco, Monterey and finally to Pasadena to watch my husband's Michigan State Spartans play in the 100th Rose Bowl. 

Relaxing in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Along with (and often on) those trips I fit in a marathon, three half marathons, one ten-miler, two 10ks and five 5ks.  I even combined one of the 5ks and 10ks when I "Did the Double" in Indianapolis. I ran fewer races overall than last year, but I was able to remain largely uninjured for the first time ever during marathon training. While I did not reach my personal marathon goal I did take over five minutes off my marathon PR in the Marine Corps Marathon.

Post MCM
Perhaps it's cliche (and only symbolic really), but I'm looking at 2014 as a chance for a new start. It's a time to push past the adversity of 2013 and move forward.  Life is always going to throw us curve balls, and it's how we deal with them and who shares our journey that keeps us going. Here's to 2014 - I'm looking forward to making memories with you my friends!    

Look at 2014 - here we come!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Run or Drink Wine? That's a Stupid Question.

The answer is obvious - both. I love getting Runner's World this time of year with their tips on how to eat and drink in a smart way over the holidays. While I can appreciate the intent, let's be honest - I run so I can eat and drink whatever the f*$k I want during the holidays. Another glass of wine? Please. Another cookie? Don't mind if I do. In January I'll be back to eating like a normal human, but come on, it's Christmas. We socialize a lot, and I want to enjoy it. That's what marathon training is for - and that starts in 2014.

After a gathering at our house last weekend I was amused when I was taking out the recycling. It does not look like this is the home of a runner. 

Yes, yes the recycling bin does contain several empty beer growlers, multiple bottles of wine, an empty Jack Daniels bottle and lots and lots of cheese (Brie, cream cheese, bleu cheese). Now granted - there were dozens of people at our house, and I certainly didn't do all of this damage by myself. But I certainly did enough damage (and had the headache the next day to prove it).

So back to my original question - yes, I will do both. I will both run and enjoy the holiday season in excess. Life is short AND drink the wine.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

If You Pay Close Attention, Life Doesn't Suck.

Screenwriter Joss Wheden once said: "Very occasionally, if you pay really close attention, life doesn't suck.” 

Lately I've been trying pay close attention, and I'm having a hard time focusing.  At any given time I have about ten million things I'm working on. I am an excellent multi-tasker, but sometimes that leads me to be less attentive to certain projects. Running is an excellent way to help me focus and quiet my mind when there is so much running through it. Unfortunately the last few months even that hasn't helped me deal with the clutter racing through my brain.

Generally I love Christmas, and I'm easily in the Christmas spirit. This Christmas season, however, is a hard one.  I never imagined that we'd have another Christmas without a child, and it's been difficult to wrap my head around.  Despite the abundance of blessings we DO have I've been in a funk. Earlier this year around Mother's Day I wrote a blog that helped remind myself that we have so many things for which to be thankful. We're healthy, and we have wonderful family and friends. Our life without a child has been and continues to be a great adventure. Yet this Christmas I am a little heartbroken. And by a little I mean a lot.

A good friend continues to remind me that life is long, and in the scheme of it this wait is short. One day we will look back and forget the agony of waiting and only remember the joy of our family. My head knows she is absolutely right. It's taking my heart a little longer to catch up.

It takes a daily, conscious effort to be grateful. Some days are easier than others to push myself out of a feeling of thanklessness, and I have to force myself to focus on our life and appreciate the beauty it contains. It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it.

I originally wrote this blog a few weeks ago when I was in the midst of a giant pity party. Then I had a couple of things that smacked me in the face. When Nelson Mandela died I reflected on this amazing person who had dealt with unimaginable things in his life, and yet he had, by all accounts, a positive outlook on life. Then I thought about Alex Scott, the founder of Alex's Lemonade Stand. She was sick for most of her short life, and yet she was always looking at how she could make a difference in the life of others. Alex passed away nine years ago, and yet she and her family are still making a difference to so many people. 

This holiday season is about me working to be cognizant of the blessings of the season and to be inspired by those around me. That means appreciating the things I love - family, friends, my pets, running, and traveling. It turns out life really doesn't suck. 

Our photo from this year's Christmas card - so much to be thankful for.      

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bah Humbug, Winter.

This time of year it becomes particularly hard to maintain the motivation to run outside in Michigan. Take tonight, for example. It's currently dark and 23 degrees with a brisk wind. I considered going for a run. Then I thought nah I'll do yoga instead. Then I picked the best of three options - a grilled cheese made with a ton of Gouda and a few glasses of wine. This is what you drive me to Michigan winters.

Last weekend I decided to run the Scrooge Scramble 5k in Old Town, Lansing.  I ran the inaugural race for years ago, and it was relatively quiet.  This year I pulled into Old Town about 20 minutes before the race thinking I had a ton of time. There were people everywhere which is fantastic...unless you need to find a place to park. I managed to find a parking spot and ran to pick up my packet and then ran to put my new knit hat (so much better than another t-shirt) in my car.

It was a ridiculously cold morning, but that's why I have an absurd amount of Under Armour cold gear. The race is an out and back on the Lansing River Trail where I do a lot of my distance training.  I started out extremely fast and ended up lagging a bit at the finish. I still finished in a respectable 26:27 - still 27 seconds off my PR but not too shabby given the cold and my lack of speed work.

All smiles at the start
All focus at the finish

Saturday was also the 7th Annual Dickens Village in Old Town where the neighborhood is transformed with people dressed as Dickens characters and tons of family friendly activities. I headed back to Old Town after I showered (and warmed up) to browse at October Moon and Grace and buy a Christmas gift for my niece at Katalyst Gallery.  I love Old Town, and with all of the traffic on Saturday it felt like I was in a different city. And I dug it.

I'll be taking it easy the next few weeks before I start taking 2014 by storm with races (including the New York City Marathon!) and excessive speed work. This upcoming year is the year I will break 26 minutes in the 5k. I'm going to allow myself to be a Scrooge just for a few weeks until I push myself through the ice and snow again. Bah Humbug, Michigan winter.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Running for Turkey (again)

Thanksgiving is all about being thankful. Well it's mostly about being thankful and partly about being gluttonous. I have found there is no better way to start Thanksgiving morning than with a solid Turkey Trot. I have run the one in Lansing several times and the Detroit Turkey Trot once. This past week my husband and I ran the second annual Morgantown Running Turkey Trot.

Morgantown, West Virginia is my adopted hometown. While I didn't grow up there I did attend college and law school at West Virginia University, and my parents there now. Going back there always feels like going home. It's my happy place.  I was fortunate this year to join my entire family (including all three of my siblings and their spouses and children) at my parents' house for the holiday. It's not too often that we're all in the same place, and I was counting my blessings.

On Thursday morning  my husband and I headed to the WVU track for the start of the race. It was much colder than last year - temps in the 20s - but we were ready to go.  The cold didn't appear to deter participants, and we started out on Morgantown's best course.  Morgantown is an EXTREMELY hilly city, and I love running the hills in that town. This course, however, is perfect for those who aren't as enthusiastic about the hills. There is a solid mile down hill from the WVU Coliseum to Star City, WV on Monongalia Boulevard. The last two miles are on the flat Mon River Trail. For a hilly city, it's probably the flattest course that can be mapped. 

Me rocking the mock (with the Coliseum in the background)
Pre-race with the hubs. He loves it when I do this.

My husband broke 30 minutes for the first time during a 5k, and I couldn't be more proud. It was a tough run (maybe because we split a bottle of wine the night before), but he gutted it out. The race finishes at the Seneca Center, home to Morgantown Running. There were a lot of spectators at the finish, and it was a great way to kick off the long holiday weekend.

After gorging myself on turkey and related Thanksgiving delights the following morning I ran my favorite three mile loop around WVU's Evansdale campus. As opposed to the turkey trot course it's one of the hilliest loops I can find, and it felt amazing. It felt so good, in fact, that I ran the first (and steepest hill) twice. 

Despite my best intentions I only ran twice during my time at home. I did, however, spend quality time with friends and family. This week it's back to my regular running schedule. I've got some of my mom's delicious banana nut bread to run off.