Hello From Down Here

Life lately has been hard. By “lately” I mean the last four months and by “hard” I mean impossible. I know that impossible is an exaggeration but I don’t care. Go ahead and give me the shiny crown I deserve for being a drama queen!

af4_certified_drama_queen

I can’t help but play the comparison game. This time last year I was a bad ass. Yeah, I said it. I was weeks out from the Twin Cities Marathon following the best training cycle of my life. I was feeling confident at my job. They even named me employee of the month. A silly thing to to hang my hat on, but it meant so much to me. I didn’t have the answers to everything, but I felt confident that I could face whatever life threw at me.

Today I feel the opposite: whatever life throws at me, I feel certain I can’t handle. I’m floundering in my new job. My running is stinky poo-poo. Odds and ends that pop up at home are paralyzing. (The car isn’t starting right, light bulbs way out of the reach of my ladder have gone out, the garage door isn’t working right, I still can’t find the source of the mysterious smell, and on and on and on.) I find myself saying out loud on a regular basis, “I need to get my life together.”

I read these words back and think about what I’d say to someone in my shoes.

  • Attitude is everything.
  • These are small issues – no big deal.
  • You got this girl!
  • This too shall pass.

But I’ve got my hands over my ears and ICAN’THEARYOU!

cant-hear

It’s not that I don’t want things to be different. I do, very much so. But I recognize that what I’m facing requires time and patience. Ugh, patience. That basically means doing nothing. So that’s what I’m doing.

I try to remember that the only way through is through. These words have helped me carry on in tough times. The translation: there is no stopping, there is no going back, I just have to trudge along through the struggle. Sure, maybe it also means time and patience, but it’s a reminder that by doing nothing I’m still doing something. I’m trying to get to the other side.

Life is kind of a zig zag, right?

zigzag

Oh Lordy, I hope my life doesn’t zig zag this much!

Maybe I shouldn’t think about last year because it’s done and over. It was temporary. It’s upsetting to think about the face that I’m not up that high any more. But it’s some kind of comfort to realize that I didn’t always suck at life the way that I am sucking now. I once had it together. And I also realize that while I’m lower than I’ve been in a long time, it’s been worse before. I think about the year that my parents got divorced and my grandfather died and my best friend became my worst enemy. I remember it fondly as “the year I got crapped on.” I’m not down that low. When I look at the graph, I see that lows are followed by highs. The year after “the year I got crapped on” was better. This will get better, too. Eventually. I hope. Anytime now would be good. I’m waiting.

I don’t want pity. I don’t want platitudes. But I would love to hear about the year you got crapped on! Miserly loves company, or something.

Race Recap: Air Force Half Marathon

Believe it or not, but I sprang out of bed at 5 am on Saturday! Okay, maybe I didn’t exactly spring out of bed, but I was eager to get the day started regardless of how slow I was actually moving. (Did you miss what I did the day before? You can read about it here.)

Jennifer and I took no time at all getting ready the morning of the Air Force Half Marathon. We left our hotel in the wee early hours. We knew there would be traffic and I had big concerns about the weather. All week they had been predicting thunderstorms and in the night we could hear the rumbles of thunder. Our biggest motivation, however,  for the early arrival time was to join with local Wear Blue runners for a Circle of Remembrance.

The lines at security.

The lines at security.

I was shocked to see the throngs of people streaming into Wright Patterson AFB prior to the start of the race. We were told at the pasta dinner that they race was sold out and 15,000 people were participating. All day long I remarked at the long lines and the huge crowds. I had no idea that this race was such a draw! We had to park way out in the grass (but it was very well marked and organized), and walk waaaaaay around to the other side of the Air Force Museum. Before entering the official race area, we had to walk through metal detectors. That was quick, but the line to get up there was looooong. I was being my usual anxious self, but Jennifer’s cool demeanor was contagious. As long as she was calm, I was semi-calm.

We made our way to the meeting point for the Circle of Remembrance, but no one donning blue was in sight. It was fun to soak in the atmosphere and talk to a few other runners, but I think we were both disappointed that the Wear Blue meet-up never materialized. Eventually we had to head back to the car. (We had arrived so early that we opted to leave our bibs and accessories in the car and make a trip back.) Thankfully, the rain and storms never materialized, so if nothing else, the time we spent outside before the race was completely dry!

Can you feel the humidity dripping off the photo?

Can you feel the humidity dripping off the photo?

We easily got our goodies from the car and hauled ass back through the parking lot, back beyond the crowds, back through security. We happened to walk along the finisher’s chute as the 10k winner came sprinting down. He was lightning fast! (Timing was in our favor again – we would have missed that moment if we hadn’t gone back to the car!)

I debated going to the bathroom. I needed to go, but the lines were long. We decided to find a spot to line up in when the race suddenly started. Our serendipitous timing worked out again – we just happened to be standing at the start when the race started!

On the course!

I was crowded. Wall to wall, elbow to elbow type of crowded. I don’t know if it’s because we started so far back. (Like behind the 16 minute/mile pacer far back.) Perhaps it’s just that the road was narrow. It stayed tight for a good three miles. I felt ready to run faster, but I know that starting slow was for the best. Even Jennifer remarked that it was to our benefit not to start out too fast.

I was immediately soaked with sweat. There was no rain but, oh boy, there was humidity! I took little sips of Nuun from my handheld, cursed the heat, and kept right on running. The race took us along a beautiful golf course, under a few shady trees, and next to some cute houses. I heard another runner saying that this is where he does his regular weekly runs. Lucky!

A few of the residents stood or sat on their lawns and waved at the participants. It had a very homey, neighborhood feel and I immediately wanted to move right in! One family was giving out pieces of bacon. I think they were popular with most runners!

That bling bling! Worth the struggles on the course.

That bling bling! Worth the struggles on the course.

Around mile five, I started to feel sick to my stomach. I hadn’t had any major tummy trouble during training. In fact, I don’t think I had any. I’m still not sure what it was that upset me. It could have been the timing of breakfast. I normally eat pretty close to running, but today we had a lot of time waiting before we ran. I ended up eating way early and then again close to the start. It also could have been a hydration/salt issue. I dealt with this last year and found that taking salt packets helped keep these symptoms at bay. Despite my salting and hydrating, it felt like breakfast might make a return appearance.

By mile 8, I couldn’t ignore it. We had to take a long walk break. I felt bad because I knew Jennifer could run so much faster than this. I also felt a touch of self pity because I knew that I could run so much faster than this. (Maybe “so much” is an exaggeration, but at least a little faster.) Meb’s words from yesterday rang clear in my mind. Today it just didn’t click, and I didn’t beat myself up over it. We walked the long overpass at mile 8 and then kept on going.

I know we walked pretty regularly after that, but I don’t even know if it was every mile or every other. We discussed how crowded it was, how good the occasional breezes felt, how the hills were not nearly as bad as we expected. It felt good to be with a friend, someone who makes it easy to be myself. This camaraderie is what I’ve been missing since my move in June. Running slower gave me more time to enjoy it.

The last mile brought us back to base. We saw a long stretch of red, white, and blue flags. I remember Jennifer remarking that we should consider this section our Wear Blue mile. That gave me so much encouragement to keep going. (She’s really good at staying the right thing at the right time!) We don’t just run for ourselves, and my temporary tummy ache was no big deal in the grand scheme of things.

The home stretch has you right under the wings of some massive planes. I picked up the pace as much as I could, and Jennifer matched me stride for stride. I felt awesome to push hard right at the end!

We were funneled down a line to get our medals. Air Force service members put them around our necks. (I wish I knew more about AF ranks; the man I met might have been a big wig, but I have no idea!)

Coming in hot!

Our race stats:

  • 13.1 mile finish time: 2:23:20
  • Average page: 10:57 per mile

Post-race goodies flowed in abundance! They had bananas, water, full sized Gatorade, Panera pastries, cookies, crackers, pretzels, chips. I was craving cold water, so I grabbed a bottle along with some Gatorade and salty chips. We found a spot on the grass to park and enjoy and bask in our runner’s high. After my stomach calmed down and the chips were eaten, we got back up. There was no reason to linger. Although, that’s exactly what many people were doing. This seems to be a great race for spectators! There was a lot to see and do – so many booths. But it wasn’t anything that interested these two tired ladies. Jennifer got her free post-race beer and we trudged back to the car. The rain never appeared, but we got a hearty dose of wind on the walk back.

The afternoon was spent relaxing. We took full advantage of the tv and watched quite a few romantic comedies. Dinner at P.F. Chang’s hit the spot, and we walked around the Dayton Mall afterwards to stretch our legs. Jennifer treated us both to some local chocolates. Hello, buckeyes! Where have you been all my life?!

Sunday morning came all too soon, and it was time to say goodbye again.

We did it!

I can’t get over how lucky I am to have friends who will travel to meet up with me, who love racing as much as I do, who will talk me down from my craziness, and not judge me. I’ve been sad pretty much every single day since I left Texas, but Fort Bliss has gifted me with life long friends, and I cannot be sad about that!

So…who wants to run Rock n’ Roll Nashville with us?!

Leading up to the Air Force Half Marathon

Quite a few months back, one of my running friends put a bug in my ear about the Air Force Marathon. It’s a good location between her (in Indiana) and me (in Tennessee). It would give me something to train for as a way to fight the doldrums of moving away from Texas. It’s “only” a half. But there were also reasons not to run. (Training in the summer heat, a potentially humid and hilly race day, I don’t care much for Ohio.) In the end, it came down to this: I wanted to spend time with my friend! The race was just an excuse to do it.

I’m so, so very glad that I signed up. Not only did I have an incredible weekend with my friend Jennifer, but all the negatives didn’t come true and the positives were so much more than I anticipated.

Race weekend started bright and early on Friday. I dropped off Crockett and Geronimo for boarding and hit the road to Ohio.

C&G

They are happy because they don’t yet realize they are going to be boarding.

It was an easy drive and only five hours away. I was very impressed with Cincinnati when I drove through. It’s huge! I’m a sucker for bridges and Cincinnati has plenty of those. I was immediately plotting ways to return some other time to explore Cincinnati. I arrived in our home base for the race, Dayton, early in the afternoon, and after dropping off my bags, Jennifer and I headed to the expo.

Living in Cin!

Cincinnati!

The parking situation at the Nutter Center (insert juvenile snicker here) was crazy, and we had to circle around a few times before walking in. As Jennifer and I were walking into arena, what to our wandering eyes did appear? Meb Keflezighi! Meb EFFING Keflezighi! Meb the Olympic-marathoner-Boston-winner-awesome-human-being Keflezighi! He was being escorted out of the building and walked by so close that I could have hugged him. (I resisted the urge.) We later realized that we were able to stand so near to Meb due to the extra time we spend looking for parking. Talk about serendipitous timing! (Spoiler alert: our lucky timing worked out all weekend long.)

We did the usual expo stuff (bibs, race shirts, shopping) and left. Next stop: The National Museum of the United States Air Force. Jennifer and I were attending the pasta dinner, and it was held at the museum. Talk about a cool location! Who walked right past us while we were there? Meb, again! I felt so starstruck and breathless. I just admire Meb so much.

I’ve never gone to a pasta dinner, and I had pretty low expectations. I thought there’d be a few types of noodles and sauce, I’d spill some on my clothes, then we’d all go home. Not so! They had garden salad, pasta salad, two types of lasagna, gluten free pasta, two types of bread, a dessert buffet. My tummy and I were quite happy.

air force one

A few speeches were made by major sponsors. Then the creme de la creme: more Meb! Meb spoke briefly about his life story. I was stunned to hear about him growing up so destitute that he ate dirt. I was inspired by the faith and hard work of his family to come to America. I am impressed by Meb’s ability to run really fast, but it’s so much more than that. He has every reason to be negative, but he’s just not. He few times I thought, ‘These words are for me. I’m meant to hear this.’ 

One of my biggest takeaways was when he said, “Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn’t.” He said this a few times. In particular, he said it about his performance in Rio. It was Meb’s last Olympics, and his stomach didn’t cooperate. He made 7 bathroom stops during the race. He could have DNFed. Instead, he wanted to finish and do the red, white, and blue proud. Then he slipped at the finish and fell flat on his face. He could be angry or embarrassed. Instead, he is unemotional about it. “Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Afterward, we were able to meet Meb. I was way too intimidated to even speak words out loud in his presence. Jennifer is fearless, though. She got a handshake and his signature in a book. Meb took time with each person who spoke to him, like a true gentleman.

MEB!

We then had a chance to explore the museum. We moseyed around the many types of aircraft and made our way back to the much beloved fourth building. This is a new addition to the museum (and it is advertised all over the place!), and I can totally see why they hype it up. They have former Air Force One planes that visitors can walk through. We stood in the same plane where LBJ took his oath of office following JFK’s assassination. Well played, Air Force, well played.

About that time, the sun was sinking all the way down in the sky, and we decided it was best to get some shut eye. Jennifer and I drove back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep. We knew we’d have a long day ahead. I’ll be back later this week to tell you all about the  race itself!