Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Injury Roller Coaster - Marathon Wrap Up Edition

This post is so overdue.

I needed these last two weeks to process everything that happened on November 6. I hope you can forgive me for the delay in keeping you all updated.

I'll start at the beginning. At 4:30 AM, the day began. My friend Glenys and I nervously ate toast and drank tea, double and triple checking to be sure we hadn't forgotten anything. We took a taxi to meet the rest of our group, and all of us shared a private car to Staten Island (not my idea, but I was quite happy to skip the long transportation lines in the cold). We crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and made it to the start villages by 7:00 AM. By the time my wave went off at 10:40, The temperature warmed up to near perfect upper 40's, but I hung on to my thrift store warm-up out fit until the last minute, where it was donated. I must say, it looked pretty amazing. Hats complements of Dunkin Donuts (!)

The rest of the people I knew started at 9:40, and were in their corrals by 8:45. After I hugged my friend and wished her luck, I had plenty of time to think about what was about to happen. It was a perfectly beautiful morning.

I made it into my corral at 9:50. Nerves came and went. I sent a few texts to my husband and prayed and prayed and prayed. The start was beautiful. There were several thousand of us going off together, and talented singers performed the national anthem and Frank Sinatra's New York, New York. And then, very suddenly, the longest day of my life began.

My old familiar pain started on the downhill crest of the first hill. I didn't even make it one mile.

At first, I started crying. I had been hoping that something amazing would happen and I'd be okay. But that early pain caught me by surprise, and I knew then that this day was not going to go anything like I hoped it would.

The streets were lined with happy spectators, jumping and shouting and cheering. I was not proud to be walking that early. So I decided that this was not happening, that I'm running. So I tried to run, and was met with more pain. Early disappointment hit me in waves, waves of tears and waves of determination. At one point, a very sweet Mexican women, Daniela, took my hand and said, "don't give up! We are running today, let's go!" I tried to explain that I really couldn't run, and she called over her trainer, a man in his late 60's, who whipped out a spray can of some numbing spray and covered my knee with it. Daniela said some more encouraging things to me and took off. She was so kind.

I found myself keeping pace with a woman who had a jersey that said "Jess." After a while, we started talking and walked together. Her name is Anne-Marie, she is from the UK. You can see us walking together on the far left, at the bottom of the picture:

(I'm sorry for the size of these photos, it can't be helped)

She also had pain from the first bridge. We walked together for around 6 miles. She told me she didn't come all this way not to finish, and if it took her all day, she'd walk to the end. That was the first time it actually occurred to me that if I wanted to, I could finish walking.

I tried out my knee again at around 7 miles, and I didn't see Anne-Marie after that.

Jeremy met me at mile 8, and we took this picture together:

Yes, those flowers are for me. He's good.

Just seeing him had me in tears again. But he walked with me for a while, and at that point I was determined to keep walking. So we made a plan to meet at mile 17, and if I ran into trouble and needed to drop out before then, I'd call.

After Jeremy left, my anger was driving me. I was angry that I knew I could run and yet was prevented. Angry that there was nothing I could do to change my situation. Just angry. And stubborn.  I decided that I'd make my race-walking Mom proud of me and finish this thing come hell or high water. It was not pretty, but my average pace was around 12:50 minute miles at that time.

I kept up my walking and ran every now and then. My knee hurt less going uphill, strangely, so I ran the occasional uphills. At that point, the course was still pretty flat. You can just barely see me in the middle here, at the half marathon mark.

The Queensboro bridge was just as bad as everyone said it would be. Its long. Very long. And hits around 16 miles. I kept going thinking that very soon, I'd see people I love.

17 miles came and went, and I didn't see anyone. I was so discouraged, so tired, and in a lot of pain. So I just started crying. Lonely, painful, deep, intense crying. I felt alone and exhausted, but since I hadn't given myself permission to give up, I kept walking - tears running down my face.

I was receiving texts so I heard Jeremy was at 23. 23 is a hell of a long way from 17. I can't describe how tough 17-26.2 was for me. Exhaustion and physical pain, mixed with the sadness of being alone was almost unbearable. I didn't know why any of it was happening, why I couldn't just run, why my family and friends weren't there for me, why I couldn't quit.

Its like I said, I'm stubborn.

I cried on and off from 17 to 23. People started saying, "you're almost there!" from mile 20.
No people, we are not almost there. Stop it.

Then the sun started to go down, and it got cold. Soon my skin was red and numb and I had a hard time feeling my fingers.

I made it to 23, with no sign of Jeremy. That was the end of holding it together for me.
These pictures about sum it up:

Slow, cold, exhausted, alone, discouraged, in pain. I'm not sure how I kept moving. By the time I made it to 25, the cheering crowds were much thinner. When I turned the corner at 25, someone was rolling up the banners along the course. It wasn't difficult to be discouraged. I haven't cried so hard, so much, since I can remember. The tears just kept coming.

This race represented so much for me. Its hard for me to even talk about now. It was devastating to feel so powerless and alone.

Eventually, darkness hit the course and the I crossed the finish line, running. I saw Jeremy at 26, and he shot this video:

As it turned out, Jeremy did all he could to be there for me, but he kept missing me.

I dragged my pathetic self across that finish line with streams of tears running down my face. I was struggling to breathe when I crossed it. I doubled over from the shock of it all, the relief that it was over.

I finished in 6 hours, 22 minutes, and 7 seconds.

 My phone went crazy with texts from people who had been tracking me, congratulating me on my finish. I didn't feel much like anything had happened that was worth celebrating.

I think I emptied my body of all my tears from the last 10 years of my life. Its taken me two weeks to try to understand what happened, why I felt the way I did, what was really happening in me. I'm not sure I'm there yet.

Luckily, I've decided that what I did was good, honorable, and brave. I didn't think so for a while. Looking back, there were so many moments that I saw, heard, and felt confirmation that I actually wasn't alone - that I wasn't abandoned.

I saw two little boys in Queens that looked like my sons might, cheering their little hearts out. I passed church choirs and singing women who looked me right in the eyes and smiled. I ran behind a woman wearing a shirt that had one of the verses I had been meditating on, Isaiah 43: 29-31 - "He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint." I heard God say He is proud of me, He has never left me, he will never leave me, He will not forget me. Even last week, in worship at church, I heard Him say I was never alone. I felt alone. I was not.

I know that I have important things to learn from this. That I am capable of so much more than I thought I could be. That even in physical pain and intense sadness I kept going. That even without the immediate support of people I loved, I didn't stop. I know that I will need these lessons in the not so distant future. I now have evidence that I am strong and brave and powerful when I don't feel like I am.

And it is good.

Thank you, everyone, for how amazing you are. You sent me texts and facebook messages, you called and checked in. You told me how proud you are of me. I shrugged it off, but I so needed to hear it. You interceded for me powerfully. You believed I could do it. I can't thank you enough for that.



Friday, November 4, 2011

Track Me

Thank you so much, everyone, for your amazing support this week. I received so many emails, texts, and messages offering prayer and love, and it has meant the world to me! My knee is still not 100%, but since it really appears to be ligament/tendon and not bone, I am going to give this thing a try. My amazing PTs and Massage Therapist gave me their all this week and I love them. Only God knows how it will all turn out! And I'm trusting him. 

So, here is my Bib number: 47008

and if you like, you can track me (on Sunday morning only) via the ING New York City Marathon Website

I'll be one of the 45,000 or so running across this bridge this Sunday!!

See you on the other side! 



Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Injury Roller Coaster

The beginning of the end: 

Or, you could say - the last time I could run more than 3 1/2 miles without severe pain. 

See that small round bruise on my left knee? Its from PT I had earlier in that week, due to an achy, sore, annoying knee pain that I gave myself from running on tight muscles. It would come around after running about 12 miles or so, and after my initial PT appointment, I thought I had it handled. On this day, I was supposed to run 20 miles, my last very long run before New York. I felt totally amazing until I noticed a little bit of that familiar pain at around mile 13 or so. I stretched my quad and kept running. All was well until mile 16, when I felt a pain like someone shot me in the leg with a dart gun - quick, sharp, intense, severe, un-runnable pain. It just happened to be right around the time that Jeremy was able to meet me on his bike. He found me walking, stretching my quad, running around half a block, feeling pain, stretching, walking, running another half a block, pain...and so on for the remaining 4 miles until home. At the end, I was just stubborn and stupid enough to force myself to keep running. I was dragging my leg. I can't believe I did that now, looking back. I finished my run, but I was done. 

Since then, I have received some of the best treatment around. (Mark, Shirley, and Heather at In Motion Rehabilitation are world class.) Its improved substantially, but that pain won't leave me alone. I feel amazing until around 3 1/2 miles, and then, like clockwork - dart gun to the knee.

Its driving me insane. 

So what is it? A bizarre combination of a leg length discrepancy I didn't know about, subtle, related instability in my shoes, super tight muscles that needed to be massaged out weeks before I got that done, a stuck tib-fib joint and talus joint, and probably some other factors I don't know about yet. It looks a lot like Iliotibial Band Syndrome, but hasn't been responding quickly to soft tissue treatment. It seems that no matter what I do (stretch, ice, roll on a foam roller, massage, ice baths, epsom salt baths, KT Tape, compression sleeves, and on and on), nothing changes. 

(My pain is not where the red inflammation is on this diagram, its low. Right about where you see the tibiofibular joint. Shot in the leg, I tell you)

I've been on an injury roller coaster these past few weeks. Run. Pain. PT. Feels better! Hope is restored! Run. Pain. Hope is lost. PT. Feels Better! Hope is restored! You get the idea. Now with one week to go, its not looking good for me and this New York Marathon dream. 

I can't tell you how sad I am about it. 

I have walked home with hot tears running down my face in frustration. I have walked home screaming at no one in total anger. (Not proud of my outbursts, except to say that I did them no where near anyone's back yard. I have some decency left...) I have walked home with no hope, completely at a loss for words. And I've walked home arguing with God about why He won't just heal me already, because I can't take any more disappointment. At least I think so.
(Note to self: see Job 40: 1-2

Looking back now, I can see all kinds of mistakes I made. I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can't. Our flight leaves on Friday. The race is on Sunday. This race is huge - 45,000 people. It is not the sort of race you can get a refund from if you can't run. You can't (legally) sell or transfer your bib number. I have the option to defer my entry until next year, but I have to pay next year's fees in April, and I won't know any more then about the status of my journey to motherhood than I know now. Running a marathon is not really a great idea when you are not sure exactly when two toddlers will be yours. It might work out, it might not. It doesn't really feel like the right answer for me to defer until next year. 

So, the plan as it stands is to do the very best I can this week. See Mark (my PT) again, and get more advice. If I get any information that suggests I shouldn't run at all, then I won't. Otherwise, the plan is to go, try - and if I have to drop out at 3 1/2 miles, my husband and my brother will meet me there with a warm jacket and some kind consolation. At least I tried. And, since you can never rule out miraculous intervention - who knows? I might be able to run 6 miles. Or 12. (It would be especially good to make it to 5, since those 5 are sponsored by some very wonderful people in support of my fundraising efforts) I highly doubt 26.2, but hey, it could happen. If I don't try, I might miss a miracle in my life, and I'd probably always wonder about it. 

On the bright side, my wonderful friend is running. She is in great shape and it will be a tremendous victory for her. I want to be adult enough to be able to celebrate with her and leave my self pity and sulking at home. I don't want to miss this experience, even though it isn't going at all like I planned. To say the least. 

So friends, I would sincerely appreciate your support and encouragement this week. In fact, I might spontaneously cry if you ask me how I'm doing (you have been warned). I am desperate for breakthrough and growth and positivity this week. Many other things have been going on that contribute to the emotions happening with this. I have to believe it is ultimately for my good and God's glory. Your prayers this week would be so precious to me. 

My spirit is willing, my body is weak. 



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Marathon Training: Most Loved List

This season of marathon training has been highly educational for me. Even as someone who has worked 7 years in Running Specialty Retail- there is nothing like first hand experience!
So here are a few of the things I love the most.

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11 is the best shoe for me. Bar none. I love these things!
I've had at least 15 pairs of Adrenalines over the years, and I can only remember one version of it that hasn't been great for me.
Love love love them.

You can snag a pair at Boulder Running Company. If you over pronate moderately like I do, that is.

I have been quite blessed to be able to "test run" a Nike SportWatch GPS unit. I love it!

This little friend is accurate, intuitive, simple, and easy to use. I have found it incredibly helpful to be able to see my pace, average pace, times, and accurate distances. Before this I was driving my routes and estimating un-drivable ones by my typical average pace. Archaic, right? At least thats how it feels now. It will be hard to give the watch back! Heck, it even throws a little digital party for me when I break a personal record. With the words, "High Five" and everything. Love it.

I've learned that a hydration pack to carry water is completely necessary. Particularly for someone like me who over heats easily. I've carried mine on any run over 10 miles or so. Mine is the Nathan Speed 4 R Hydration Belt. It rocks.

I can carry a few gels, my car keys, my cell phone, and my ipod all in the back pocket. (Though all of those items are not usually with me at the same time!) I've been experimenting with my water-to-hydration drink ratio all summer, and so far 3 bottles of water to one bottle of hydration drink is my best formula. Particularly with 2 gels, 1/2 every 45 minutes. It feels heavy at first, but once you get going it becomes less noticeable. I can get the velcro quite tight across my hips which minimizes bounce.

Speaking of Gels, I've tried lots. So far, chocolate GU is my favorite. Its sweet and has caffeine, which works for me.

Luckily for me, I'm also a fan of PowerGels. I hear this is the brand that will be handed out at the aid stations along the course of the New York City Marathon. My favorite flavor so far is Kona Punch. Least favorite is Chocolate, incidentally. I found it to be bitter and odd tasting. Couldn't even finish it! PowerGel is much runnier, which I like. I think its easier to take that way, mid run. I've also tried ClifShot and HammerGel. HammerGel is my least favorite. It has the least amount of sugar, which could be seen as an advantage, but I just did not love it.

For my training schedule, I chose one of Hal Higdon's plans. So far, its been a good fit for me. With 6 weeks to go, I only have one very long run left. This past Friday was 19 miles. 19 miles seemed like a totally unachievable, completely impossible distance for me 3 months ago. Though it was tough, it is so good to be able to say I can run that far. I think that is the most rewarding part of all this...making the impossible happen.

And just because I can't resist, I thought I'd give up my secret weapon:




P.S. Another big thanks goes out to you lovely people who have sponsored miles! So far, the last five of my race miles are sponsored, which is AMAZING. Would you help me get all 26? You can sponsor a mile by clicking the PayPal donate button at the top right.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Today's Inspiration Need: Answered

I'm needing some inspiration for new work. These artists never fail me. 

Marco Suarez. Source

Pieter Hugo. Source

David Maisel. Source

Valerie Roybal. Source

Cy Twombly. Source

Sally Mann. Source

Kid Grandios. Source

I ordered some inks today from Inkodye- I can't wait to get my hands on them. Now if I can only find enough hours in the week...



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Where we've been..


Jeremy turned 30 at the beginning of August. I decided last October to start saving to take him somewhere great for his milestone birthday, to go skydiving - something he has been wanting to do for a long time. So thanks to airline miles, secret saving, budgets and low cost accommodation, we went to Aruba!

One of us went skydiving...

Both of us went exploring...

To the ruins of a gold smelting factory, and to the natural bridge that collapsed 6 years ago.

We dodged the local wildlife...

...and ventured out to the natural pool, only accessible by 4x4 -

and then to Dos Playa, possibly the eeriest beach in all the world.

We visited some old caves (complete with bats)

and relaxed in the peaceful garden of our home away from home, Paradera Park (thank you Trip Advisor)

there were delicious dinners out (and, in too, thanks to our trusty toaster oven)

We even had one dinner on the beach. It was a bucket list check-off for me.

The restaurant is called Barefoot. The place was beautiful, and the view even better. 

most of the time, we just relaxed here:

It was amazing, and I am so, so grateful to have been able to go. 
These kinds of memories aren't made all the time. Life is not always blissful and easy, and I know just how rare and beautiful this opportunity was for us. The timing of this trip turned out to be beyond perfect. I'm so grateful to God for Aruba.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Just Keep Running

 On Friday I ran 13 miles. Alone. And it was awful.

Ok, not awful, but not great. I need to remember what I'm doing this for:

to prove to myself I can do this...and to bring my kids home forever.

At least there was a beautiful view!

On top of that, I watched this video, and I cried.
This family I haven't met, met their son.

It reminds me that one day not long from now, we will see our babies (or toddlers, or kids) with our own two eyes.
And after all the paperwork, waiting, emotion, running (!) and planning - our kids will be in our lives forever. It will be so very worth it.



P.S. Thank you to those of you who have sponsored miles! It makes a world of difference to know you are behind me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Inspiration - For the Little Ones

Some inspiration for the little's:

1. Cape Town (hint hint), photographer unknown
2. I will bite the bad things drawing by corduroy on Etsy
3. Eames Elephant designed in 1953
4. Oeuf Robin Crib from Giggle
5.Cheetah Print by Ryan Berkeley on Etsy
6. Skinny Jeans from Zara
7. Twill Trousers from Zara
8.Cordy Roy Lion by JellyCat
9. Multi Use Easel from Giggle

This is too fun.



Saturday, July 2, 2011

Royal Family.

Last night I came home from Royal Family Kid's Camp.

It was utterly amazing.

Royal Family Kid's Camp is an organization whose mission is to provide a positive, fun, happy, life-affirming camp experience to kids who have been abused or neglected. Most of them are currently in foster care. All have had intervention from social services. At camp, they sleep in safety in decorated rooms, eat three square meals every day, swim, rock climb, fish, kayak, do archery, make crafts, dress up, and attend parties and bonfires and dances in their honor. It is so, so awesome.

Here are my 2010 girls, T, S, D, and M. My friend Kellie was my partner counselor. Before Royal Family last year, I didn't think I could fall in love so fast, be so patient, attach so deeply, or feel another person's sorrow with such intensity.
I learned that foster kids are just kids. They want what everyone else wants: love, security, safety, stability, to belong. They want to have fun and be silly and forget about all the hard places.
Their stories are hard. So hard that it kept me up at night. My girls have experienced homelessness, abandonment by a parent, sexual abuse, neglect, and cruel mistreatment - and for some of them, all of the above. When I first heard their stories (both years), I expected specific girls to be very difficult to handle. And both times now, the girls with the longest files and the toughest stories blew me away with how gentle, kind, funny, and easy they were to be around.

In short, they are the most amazing people I have ever met.

Loving them and caring for them for one week is a privilege I can't describe. They are forever burned into my memory, and I can't be the same anymore.

This year, my girls were just as amazing. I had A, and two sisters, M and H. (They are wards of the state and so their identities are protected. I'd love to share their names and photos - I can't even have photos of them!) I had a lovely partner counselor, Debbie. It was a beautiful week.

Best of all, two of my girls from last year came back. One in particular, sweet T - she has my heart. Her smile is just electric, and her spirit is sunshine. She had a tough year. She and her older sister both came to camp last year, and they were completely inseparable. I learned that her sister is in a terrible place emotionally, and might possibly be institutionalized for bad behavior, acting out violently, running away, etc. They have been separated. T is in an adoptive home, which is best case scenario. Please, please pray this is a good and permanent situation, and that the best of all ends can come to her and her sister. I spent some quality time with her this year, and I was refreshed to my core just being around her.

Royal Family has taught me so much about myself, about the God I serve. Being a counselor is a tremendous, life changing experience that I would highly recommend. You can also serve on staff in all kinds of roles. You can find a local camp here.

Still decompressing.




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