Category Archives: Lessons from Running

Random lessons

The Song of the Woods

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Wow, my second post in just a couple weeks!  I know what you’re thinking…um, Lindsey, shouldn’t you be studying?  The answer to that would be a resounding Yes.  But I’m starting to think that writing, for me, is even better therapy than running.  Or maybe it’s writing about running.  Yeah, it’s probably the combination.

But after this morning’s run, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reflect on what that 30+ minutes was for my well-being.

Wednesday mornings are my favorite.  Typically I get Ally out the door to catch her bus around 6:45 before the boys are awake, so I have a few minutes to sit with her while she eats breakfast.  Usually the front door closing is the cue for Silas to stir.  And then a few minutes later I have to go nudge Ethan to get moving.  Today was no different.

By 8 am the boys were dropped at school and I was on my way to what I call, “My Secret Place,” to go for a run. It’s not really a huge secret, it just sometimes feels like one because I never see anyone else there.  Which I love.  And today I needed that. My life has been filled with so much excess noise and voices that I needed to seek refuge in solitude.

I pulled into a parking spot and was surprised to see a couple other cars there, but I knew their drivers were probably off on hikes, or bikes, and I would still likely be the only runner on the road.  I was, at least, the only human runner on the road.  I started my watch, just because I had to be diligent in observing the time.  School doesn’t start until 10 on Wednesdays, but I still try to be in my seat before Mr. Mahoney gets to the classroom, which is usually about 10:04.

Anyway, I started my watch and put in yurbuds in my ear, but I didn’t turn on my ipod just yet.  Over my head I heard a loud “Caw, Caw” from a big black crow, and I turned my face up to the blue sky.  I didn’t see the bird, but I heeded his warning that instead of filling my ears with the sounds of Kesha and Jayzee and the other trash that seems to motivate me, I needed to hear the song of the woods.

I started out and it wasn’t long before the sounds around me rewarded me with their symphony.

There’s a little brook that runs along the road, and almost immediately I was happy to hear its joyful babbling.  It struck me that so often, when we hear water, it is rushing, fast and furious, much like me in most aspects of my life lately.  But the brook was soft and peaceful.  At times the movement was so subtle, it was almost still, and I relished the reminder that sometimes is ok to be silent.

Just up ahead, about 25 yards ahead of me, I caught sight of a deer slowly crossing the road, into the woods on the other side.  A few seconds later, another one.  And a few seconds later, a young fawn, who stopped and stared down the canopy covered lane at me, before continuing on into the woods behind it’s guardians.  I smiled at how peaceful they were out for a morning stroll.

There was a chorus of critters all about me.  I can’t even pretend to know which birds I heard.  I recognized the rhythmic tapping of the woodpecker, but the ones I didn’t know, I enjoyed, nonetheless. There was one that sounded like it was whistling, one that had a high pitched squeak of squeezy toy and one that sounded like it was beaconing me, “Hey, you.  Hey, you. Hey, you…” as if I could just float up to join him in the branches above.  The orchestra was rounded out by the clickity-clack of cicadas, I think.  Are they even around right now?  And definitely lots of chirping from grasshoppers and their friends.

There was an occasional shuffle of leaves off to the side, squirrels scooting around in their hurried but indecisive patterns.  And then there was a chipmunk.  He stopped on the road right in front of me.  I stopped.  We regarded each other and then just as quickly he was gone.

It’s amazing how when you are really focused on hearing each and every sound around you, you can even hear the soft drifting of a leaf as it falls like a snowflake to the ground and softly plunks down on the pavement.  It became a game I played with myself, watching the leaves fall and seeing how far away I could hear them land.

I think if I would have had time, I might have made up for some of my missing marathon training mileage today.  However, Pharmacology was calling, so I answered.  After a quick shower at home, tossing my backpack in the car and a refill of my coffee for the drive to school, I walked in just after Mahoney had taken attendance.  He said hello and nothing more.  I’m usually prompt, so I think he let my minor tardiness slide.  I was out of breath from hustling in from the parking lot, but I was still pretty proud of the fact that on my way in the building another student acknowledged my Ironman backpack saying how much she liked it.  My response was, “Thank you.  I earned this.”

Unfortunately, school didn’t go quite as well as I hoped today.  Pharm is typically the one class, I am confident I can do well in, but today I think my anxiety of third semester got the best of me and I completely bombed my test this afternoon.  Somehow, I am going to need to figure out a way of reminding myself of my song of the woods while I sit in the computer lab where the silence is deafening and pummels me with doubt lately.

It’s not a secret that this semester has been a rollercoaster of emotions so far, and I’m confident that will probably continue until I make it to the next round and I can proudly say, “I earned this.”  But in the meantime, however brief the moments may be, I will often return to “My Secret Place”, my happy place, and allow the woods to sing to me a song that reminds me that I can and I will and this too shall pass.

Perhaps next time I should just make a recording to listen to while I study.

A peak inside My Secret Place.  It's not really such a secret, some of you probably recognize it.  I'll even tell you where it is, as long as you all promise not to show up all at once...

A peak inside My Secret Place. It’s not really such a secret, some of you probably recognize it. I’ll even tell you where it is, as long as you all promise not to show up all at once…

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Don’t Stop at Pain

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I wish I could take credit for the title, but I really can’t. It came from someone I have a lot of respect for, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Hi.  Remember me?  I’m that girl who runs, and raises three kids and tries to do way too much at any given time like training for an Ironman while learning how to be a single mom.  And when that’s done I jump into writing a book and going to nursing school, while still trying to figure out how to be a single mom.  Oh, and I write a blog about all of it.

Anyway, it’s been a while, so I figured I owed you all an update on how things have been going.  And if I’m being honest, I didn’t want you to forget about your old pal RRG.

Last time I wrote, I was kicking off my second semester of nursing school and continuing a course to help me write my book.  Well, second semester proved to be a little more than I was ready for, so after a couple weeks, I decided to take a hiatus from the book and just focus on getting through school and keeping the kids alive.  It was the right choice.  The book will happen, just not right now. As Nancy, the book professor, agreed, any of my non-school time right now has to be devoted to my kids.

It was a busy summer since I was in school 4 days a week and the kids were home, but we managed to carve out some quality time at the pool and go on some outings. Some days that consisted of the boys dragging the kayaks down to the lake while I sat nearby with my nose in a book, or a computer.  Or on rainy days, the three of them would set up a board game at the dining room table and I was just a few steps away at my desk.  But I think everyone was pretty happy with how the summer played out.  And I really couldn’t be more proud of how my kiddos handled it.  A couple days a week I would have to go off to school while they were still sleeping, so I would leave a list of daily chores and without fail, the chores were done when I got home and everyone was ready to play.

We were all rewarded at the end of the summer with a few days at a cabin in the woods near Table Rock Lake.  Brian and I took all 4 kids to the cabin we stayed at in January, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Thank you for bringing us here!”  They loved it.  We enjoyed endless ping-pong, swam in the lake, hunted for buried treasure, made s’mores, laid on a blanket gazing at meteors, played board games, went sight-seeing, made good use of the hot tub despite a heat index of 100 the first day or so, belly laughed, snuggled and fought like family.  I can think of no better way to celebrate coming through second semester on the Dean’s List.  My 4.0 is no longer intact due to an A- in Pharmacology, but I am learning to accept that sometimes survival trumps perfection, because sometimes perfection is found elsewhere.

As of last Wednesday, we are all back in school.  It was a staggered start with Ally on the 16th beginning 8th grade at a new (her first ever public) school, me on the 22nd and the boys on the 31st.  This was the first time in several years that I got to see them all off to their first day of school.  You may remember how much it tore me up the last couple of years to not pack their lunches and prep their backpacks and take pictures before driving them off to school since they were with their dad.  So, to say that I was happy that everything aligned for that this year would be an understatement.

With my clinicals really kicking off this semester, it’s been a little stressful the way all of our schedules overlap, but as has been the case time and time again, I have great people in my life who step up to help where it’s needed and ease the burden.  For that, I am grateful.

So, here we are at the end of week two of third semester.  2 weeks.  10 days.  And I have already gone from the high of making the Dean’s List a few weeks ago, to seriously doubting how anyone ever allowed me into nursing school.  Third semester is kicking my butt.  I know, I know, I said that last semester too.  There is absolutely a learning curve that comes along with the beginning of a new semester, new classes, new instructors, new methods of teaching and testing.  So, I should probably go easy on myself for the fact that my first few test scores haven’t been as high as I would like.  Yes, I still passed, but let’s keep in mind that in nursing school anything less than 80% is failing.  I think we all know by now I am not a fan of falling short of the mark.

By midweek last week, I had hit a wall.  By Thursday night, when I really blew it on an online charting assignment and had to email my program director, hoping and praying that she would reset it, I ended up falling asleep after many tears wondering if I should just quit.  Give up.  Find something else to do.  I have never wanted to quit something so bad in my entire life as I did Thursday night.  After the countless miles I have run, learning how to swim to become a triathlete, completing an Ironman, nothing has ever driven me to the point of wanting to totally throw in the towel like nursing school did.  I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, completely defeated.  I tried to convince myself that if I could just get through the first few weeks of this semester, it would get better.  It had to.  But even after getting some sleep, I woke up for Friday morning clinicals still doubting this path I have chosen.

I was fighting back tears as I arrived at the nursing home Friday morning.  Friday actually went better than expected.  I am gaining confidence in the field, completing my assessments, building a rapport with some of my patients, bonding with my classmates.  This is my niche, this part I’ve got.  But my head is still swimming with the what if’s…What if I drop the ball on an assignment?  What if I fail this Med Surg  test on Tuesday?  What if I can’t get past this semester?  Should I just stop now, before it hurts even more? Before it gets even harder?

After clinicals, a few of us went to Todd’s Canteen right down the road from our facility.  We talked and ate and shared our struggles.  I felt better by the time I left, but the doubts in my head were still holding on.  I got home to see Ally step off the bus, and then headed over to pick the boys up from school.  It was an absolutely perfect September afternoon so the boys were asking to go to the park where several of their friends were going.  Despite my desire to go home and bury my head under a pillow, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to let them play.  So off to the park we went.  I did my best to be social with the other moms even though I didn’t really have the mental or emotional energy to.  My battery was low.  I knew I needed to recharge.  I wasn’t entirely sure that getting up to run 19 miles with the training team on Saturday morning would do it, but I knew I needed to give it a shot.

I was asleep Friday night before the kids were, but I knew they were all at least quiet and settled.  I crashed.  And I was up and out the door before the sun came up, hoping that a good long run would be the therapy my soul was seeking.

As a few hundred of us, clad in reflective gear and high tech watches and hydration items, gathered in the parking lot on the river front listening to coach Brandi give us a pre-run pep talk, she said, “Eventually you’re going to hit the dark place.  It’s probably going to happen between miles 11-18, but be sure, it WILL happen.  And you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do to bring yourself through it.  For some, it may be thinking about family, or the finish line, or…” and she listed off several other ideas.  All I could think is that my whole life feels like a dark place right now.  Nursing school-kicking my butt.  As much as anything else in my life ever has.  And we all know I’ve taken a lot of butt kicking.

But I know that I run because it reminds me that I can fight through the hard stuff.  I DON’T stop at the pain.  It’s not in my nature.  We did a short warm up, took a group pic and off we went, down the Katy trail.  As I ran with the group, I talked with friends, learning that several others hadn’t been able to make it to many of the group runs lately either and had not put in the miles they should.  That made me feel better about my own situation.  My last and longest run lately was a 15 mile march of torture a few weeks ago during the summer of endless humidity that had me walking as much as running during the back half of those long, painful miles.  So, I relaxed knowing that I was just going to do the best I could.  I actually felt pretty good for most of it.  At one point, around mile 8, I even reached what we call the runner’s high.  My endorphins were on fire and I felt like I could run forever.  I knew it wouldn’t hold out for the entire run, so I rode the wave of adrenaline while it lasted.  It was brief.  By mile 11.5 I was starting to drag.  By mile 13, I was really looking forward to the 14 mile finish line of the first loop and being back at the red Fleet Feet tent to eat some sports beans and take a quick break before heading out for the last 5 miles.  My body was tired, but my mind was already convinced (mostly) that I could do the whole 19 if I needed to.  I was running with Joan and I had one earbud in listening to my ipod when Eminem came on and I heard the same words I’ve heard a thousand times.  But for some reason, they stood out to me this time.  He said, “Yeah, it’s been a ride.  I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one.  Now some of you might still be in that place.  If you’re trying to get out, just follow me.  I’ll get you there.”

And that’s what did it.  I did have to go to “that place to get to this one”.  But I’m not stuck there anymore.  Yes the voices in my head still pop back in for a visit sometimes, but they don’t get to stay.  I had temporarily forgotten that I am a leader and I know my way out, but a big thanks to Marshall Mathers for reminding me.  At 14 miles when we got back to the tent, a couple people from our group were debating going out for the last 5.  I could have topped off my mileage at 19 yesterday, but I decided to call it at 14.  I recently decided to drop to the half marathon in October since its not my A-race and it’s the day after my birthday when I have a wedding to go to.  So, just…why?  I really don’t need my mileage to be up at 19 yet since my marathon isn’t until December 3, when I go to Memphis for St. Judes.  I know I could have gutted it out and made 19 miles happen, but I also knew if I had, it would have been me trying to prove something.  And I don’t have anything to prove.  At least not to anyone other than myself. I opted for making a good decision for me.  I’d gotten my 14 miles in, it felt good, and then I went home to spend the day with my people.

Between Friday and Saturday, I didn’t get nearly as much studying done as I had hoped, but I have Sunday, and in this case the Monday holiday, to get prepped for Med Surg.

Last night we went off to church and you can ask Ally or Brian who were sitting on either side of me, but I’m pretty certain my face lit up when Pastor Rob announced that our guest speaker was David Hawkins, a tall skinny dude from East St Louis who has spoken at our church before.  I absolutely love listening to him.  His message was about trials, and it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.  “Don’t stop at pain,” he said and I felt like an arrow pierced right through my heart.  Yeah, that’s exactly what I was doing, I was stopping at pain.

David spoke about a basketball player named Tim Duncan who grew up on St. Croix as an Olympic hopeful in swimming, but when Hurricane Hugo destroyed the facility he trained at, he was forced to find a new sport.  With his 6’11” frame, someone suggested basketball, which turned out to be the right call.  Tim went on to be a force in the NBA.  You should go look him up on Wikipedia, I’ll still be here…

(Insert elevator music here)

He’s pretty amazing, right?  Well, the point David made was that “the storm lead him to his destiny.”  The STORM lead him to his DESTINY.  Just think, if I hadn’t been through the storm of the last several years, would I be where I am right now?  This is my destiny.  Being a nurse is my destiny.  And God has never let me go, not through any of it, and he won’t let me go now.

The other thing David said about pain, is that when you try to escape it, or try to push down pain, you also push down your hope, your faith, your dreams.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve done enough of that already.  I won’t let the pain stand in the way of what I’m doing.  I’ve never been one to quit because of pain before, so I’m sure not going to start now.  Don’t stop at pain.  Ride the highs, don’t stop at the pain. I can’t say it enough.  In fact, I might just go write that on a post it and slap it on every one of my nursing books.  And in my car.  And on my mirror.  Persevere, Lindsey, and Don’t stop at pain!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, Med Surg is calling.

Fleet Feet Training Team...Ready, Set, Go!

Fleet Feet Training Team…Ready, Set, Go!

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Growing Pains

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If you’ve read any of my posts this year, you know full well that 2016 has had kind of a rough start. January was hard.  And as it drew to a close, I braced for February to be even more so.  February followed through.  And just because it didn’t think I’d seen enough, February went and threw an extra day at me.  Thanks, Leap year.

As I sit on the precipice of March, I am quite certain it will prove itself to be challenging in its own right. But I am quite certain, I will prove to be stronger.  I usually do.

Yesterday was my first race in a really long time. I had signed up for a 15k trail race back in the fall to give me a little focus through the winter months.  I’m glad to say that it definitely helped me build my mileage and give me a sense of accomplishment during these weeks that have been a somewhat blurry funk.  While I was fortunate enough to get some really beautiful days for some long runs (I made it all the way up to 10 whole miles…albeit slow miles) I never managed to get out on the trails like I had hoped.  So I went into yesterday’s event with the motto that it wasn’t going to be a “race”, but rather an “accomplishment”.

When I awoke yesterday morning feeling well rested, I marveled at how unusual that is. I typically don’t sleep well the night before a race, so perhaps there is something to be said for the lack of stress when the pressure is off and the only expectation I have of myself is to go out and have fun.

As I dressed, I took 2 things into consideration. 1. The weather was expected to start cool but warm up to 60 degrees by the time we finished.  And 2. Perhaps starting with a personal trainer at the gym on Thursday had been really bad timing.  My quads were feeling it, but I managed to make my way down the stairs slowly and gather my necessary gear.  I got a good luck text from B while I sat eating a piece of toast with peanut butter and drinking my coffee.  A few minutes later, I kissed the kids goodbye and headed off to Castlewood.

When I arrived, I had to drive to the back of the park before I found open parking. I was sitting in the car checking my phone and changing into my shoes, for about 5 minutes before I finally realized that Steve was parked right next to me.  He admitted he had even noticed my 140.6 magnet on the back of my car and thought, “Oh cool, an Ironman” but failed to recognize it was me.  We can’t even blame being up early since this race has a late start time of 10am.  We grabbed our bags and walked toward the Start/Finish area together.  When we got there, he still needed to get his bib so he went off to do that and I joined Kristen and Gerry at a nice spot in the sun.  As we stood in line for the port-a-potties, Kristen and I discussed our mutual goal of finishing this race and not requiring medical attention.  Beyond that, we both hoped to finish in under 2 hours.  I knew she would probably smash that, even with the muddy trail conditions due to a typical Midwestern snow storm that hit mid-week and was completely melted making the trails nice and sloppy.

Our group grew as others showed up, Tony, Wes, Roberto and Brian (Laiderman, to avoid confusion). Even Shane and Heather who weren’t racing had run the Al Foster trail over to say hi and bid us all a good race.  I waved to several other familiar faces and I found myself smiling.  A lot.  It felt good.  As race time drew nearer, we had begun asking “Where are Nick and Andrea?” but we all know that Nick runs on his own time frame, so we banked on the fact that Andrea would get them there before the gun went off.  We were correct.  As we all gathered and determined that we were primarily split between waves 6 and 7, we decided to all start together in 7, with the exception of Nick, Steve and Brain who are faster than the rest of us.  I was just glad to have friends to run with, especially in the beginning.  It made it feel less like a race, and more like a typical Saturday at Castlewood.  When our turn came, it didn’t take long for our group to spread out.  We basically ice-skated across the muddy field and came to Lone Wolf hill which I haven’t run in ages.  I had been chatting with Andrea and we made it up most of the hill before we decided not to overdo it right off the bat.  I had planned that this “race” might be more of a glorified hike.  We got up to the bluff, veered right and carefully made our way down the switchbacks toward the creek.  We ran along the creek and at about 2.5 miles we came up on the aid station.  I grabbed a cup of water from Gerry, half expecting it to be Tequila.  Fortunately, it went down smooth, it was water.  We crossed the road and instead of taking Cardiac Hill we went right to go up the switchbacks.  Thank God!  It was shortly after that when I gave a quick glance over my shoulder and saw that several people had snuck in between me and Andrea.  Rather than stop where there isn’t really room to do so, I just kept going  and figured we would find each other somewhere on the course.  The next few miles were a lot of sloppy ups and downs.  At one point a young kid was running by me and I heard someone ask him how old he was. “12” he answered.  The lady right in front of me said, “My 12 year old is at home asleep”.  I responded, “My 13 year old is home watching my boys.  She got the tougher job today.”  We chatted some before she ultimately let me pass to run down the hill faster than she was comfortable with.

A little while later, as I made my way back up, my shoe had come untied, so as I stopped to make adjustments, a passing runner asked, “Everything ok?” And I realized it was Tim. So we walked up hill together, agreeing that neither of us had been on trails in way too long, but we couldn’t have asked for a better day.

About halfway through the race, with the temperature rising, the sun shining through the trees, the mud puddles splashing around me on trails where I have so many great memories, it occurred to me, this is like Homecoming, in the middle of winter. It was so perfect, I couldn’t stop smiling as I jumped over familiar roots and ran down hill with reckless abandon. My park was saying, “Welcome Home”.

With 6 miles down, I knew I would easily finish under the 2 hour goal I had set for myself. So I continued to enjoy myself.  At 7 miles, I was almost sad that there were only a couple miles left.  My quads were a different story, lamenting how much I had put them through in less than 48 hours.  At about 8 miles, we came back around to the aid station Gerry was at.  I tossed my gloves to him and said to a runner right over my shoulder, “It’s time to get wet!” and I plowed through the creek.  The cold water felt good, but it made my already heavy shoes feel even heavier.  I knew I didn’t have much farther to go, so I shook it off and just ran.  I passed a lot of folks in that last mile.  As we came around the field into the finish, I had my sights on the guys ahead of me, I made a push to pass him.  I caught him, but I felt another guy off my other shoulder trying to catch me.  I sped up.  He sped up.  I sped up again.  He sped up again. He was a step in front of me.  I took back the lead.  It was a photo finish.  But it was fun having that little bit of competition right at the very end.  And because I am who I am, I wasn’t going to let some guy in a green headband come from behind and beat me.  I said, “Nice race” and then I easily sauntered over to where Tony was standing, while green headband went hands to knees to catch his breath.  I may have been smirking. (Read: I was definitely smirking)

A minute or so later I saw Nick heading toward the finish line to cheer Andrea in. I walked over with him.  I said to him, “My face hurts from smiling.”  A more than 9 mile trail race I had just completed and my face is what I noted was hurting.  I’m a weirdo.

When Andrea crossed we walked over to the pavilion to enjoy the benefits of the post race party. We stood in line for our food and then found a spot at a picnic table in the sun.  Other members of our clique eventually joined us.  We ate, and drank, and laughed and caught up.  And my face still hurt from smiling.  As I sat there amidst my crew of friends that I haven’t seen nearly enough lately, it occurred to me that I felt like ME again.  The fog had finally lifted.  Even if only temporarily the hard had disappeared.

Everything about yesterday made me so happy. Being with friends that I love dearly in a place that feels like home with the sun shining on me while doing my favorite thing in the world.  I was so full of gratitude I thought my heart might explode.

As things started to die down and we all had to go our separate directions, I decided to walk back to the car, rather than wait for Steve who was going to ride back with Brian. He had pulled his jeep up to the pavilion but was busy saying good-bye to, um, everyone.  I knew exactly what would happen, and sure enough, just as I got back to the car, I heard cat calls from behind me.  They had arrived at exactly the same time.

The three of us were single file driving out of the park. I honked at Dan, who wasn’t able to run but came to hang out with us anyway. And I left Castlewood, with the windows down, the sun shining, and my face hurting from smiling.  I said softly to myself, “I needed this.  I needed this so much.”

I arrived home to find B helping Silas make a “super suit” out of cardboard boxes, construction paper and toilet paper rolls. Everyone was in good spirits.

B asked, “How was it?”

“It was perfect.” I responded, “It was exactly what I needed.”

“That’s what I was hoping,” he said.

 

Today was another absolutely gorgeous day. This morning the kids wanted to get donuts and go to the park, how could I say no to that?  There is this amazing new park just up the road from us and its set right in the middle of the woods.  It’s so unbelievably cool.  I sat on a bench with my coffee watching my kids play.  I could feel my frustrations wanting to come back and anxiety over the week ahead trying to creep back in.  No, I thought, just no.  I lifted my face to the sun and thought, “In this moment, right now, things are good.  I will not worry about what hasn’t happened yet, or the things I can’t do anything about. In this moment, things are good.”

A few minutes later, Ally came and sat with me. She was sharing her frustration with trying to plan out our day, but not getting much of a straight answer from those we were trying to plan with.  And we were talking through some things.

I said to her, “Well, adjustments are hard.”

She said, “But I’m happy, I mean I’m glad to have this new (adjustment)”…

“I know,” I said, “but even good change is an adjustment. Even good change can be hard.  It just takes time. That’s why it’s called ‘Growing pains’.”

She nodded in agreement and put her arm around my shoulders. We sat there in the sun, smiling.  And I realized that all this smiling, has made my heart hurt a little less.  It doesn’t mean March will be easy, but in this moment, right now, things are good.  Things are very good.

Typical

Typical

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Expectation vs. Hope

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Since I haven’t had a chance to say this until now, Happy 2016! A year ago I said that I wanted 2015 to be big, and I’m pretty sure I lived up to that. It was certainly a year of surprises.  Surprises like a week in the hospital, a trip to Nicaragua, a new step family for my kids, jumping out of a plane, a diploma and a budding nursing career.  I haven’t quite figured out what 2016 is the year of yet, but I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations lately.  After a week in LA to finish out the year, a week that proved to be the week of failed expectations (or so I thought), how could I not?  Expectations of our lives, expectations of others, others expectations of us.   If we aren’t careful, expectations can be really damaging, especially to ourselves and our relationships with others.

Am I the only one who does this? With a vacation on the horizon, I plan out everything we are going to do and what it’s going to look like and how perfect it’s going to be.  I do not however, work the stomach flu into the equation.  I had plans of going on lots of hikes, having a ball at Legoland with the kids and taking them all around Hollywood to see the sights.  In reality, a very few of us went on 1 single hike, Legoland was pretty much lame and only Ethan made it to Hollywood with me.  Failed, right?  Well, not exactly.  Ok, so the things I had set my sights on didn’t go just as I thought they would but how often does anything turn out how we think it will?

The other day I set off for my first run of 2016. My expectations were looooooooow.  Seriously, I have been seriously struggling to get back on track physically since I tried to shut my kidneys down in May.  It continues to amaze me, as it becomes clearer, just how close I was to not being here today.  At my annual doctor visit the other day, Dr. Meddows was looking at my electronic chart and she said, “LINDSEY!  Oh my gosh, this was really bad!”  She used words that no one had said to me in the hospital, I’m sure in an effort to keep me calm.  Or maybe they told me and I was so delirious I just have no recollection.   At any rate, I am in the very early stages of a comeback now, so maybe 2016 should be the year of the Comeback.  But that insinuates that I didn’t learn anything from last year.  I need to remember that sometimes the unexpected happens, and that I need to not expect more from my body than it’s capable of.  I’d like to think that I’m back on the horse, but I’m going forth with a much better awareness of listening to my body.  And not being dumb.

That being said, as I set out for my run the other day, I kept in mind that while I used to be able to run sub 8 minute miles, now the goal is to return home without feeling like I’m going to keel over. So I set out with a general distance in mind, but considerably slower than what used to be my normal.  So what if I’m a couple minutes slower now, the point is to enjoy it.  And I did.  It was a beautiful 55 degree day, not like today’s running temp of -14 that I faced this morning.  Ouch.  Anyway, I took my water and set out in search of potentially my longest run since the Berryman Marathon nearly did me in.

While I ran, I did a lot of reflecting on our week in LA. I’ll be honest, what was supposed to be a fantastic week of vacation with family, turned out to be a really tough week.  Before picking the kids up from their dad’s house to head to the airport on Christmas day, I was in the middle of getting ready to go when I grabbed my phone and read a text from my friend Stephanie.  I think I gasped slightly before Brian and I looked at each other, I simply said, “Inga…” and he knew.  Our friend that we had known since grade school, who has been battling Cancer for 8 long years, had finally been called home to celebrate Christmas with Jesus this year.

While we were in LA, we missed a lot of what was happening back here in Missouri. Watching videos of the flooding Meremac River was surreal.  Places that I pass on a daily basis and places that I love, all became completely submerged.  The Al Foster trail, where Brian and I ran on Christmas Eve was probably among the first to be under water.  My beloved Castlewood was totally unrecognizable in the pictures I saw.  I was very fortunate that my house is in a secure location and when Brian checked on it, he reported that all was well.  But hearing the pleas for prayer over friends’ businesses and the homes of their loved ones made my heart hurt for them.

Several of our vacation plans got side-lined or rearranged as the week went on and Silas was the first to go down with a round of the stomach flu. But he was only down and out for a day before he bounced back and we thought we were good to go.  I was able to take Ethan and Ally, along with their cousin Brooke, off for a hike at Rocky Peak that day while Silas recovered.  It was 6 years to the day since the last time we had been there.  It was weird to think about how much life has changed for all of us since then.  The next day when Silas woke up feeling like himself, and no one else was showing any signs, we thought we were back on track.  We headed off to Legoland, which turned out to be something that we never have to do again.  But my mom and I had taken the 4 big kids and enjoyed spending the day with them.  Unfortunately, on the drive back from Carlsbad to my brother’s, Ally was the next to go down.  And she went down hard.  The poor girl was a mess and being in the car only made it worse.  She always somehow ends up sicker than the others and has been to the hospital multiple times for dehydration, so it gets scary really quick.  By New Years Eve, Silas, Ally and mom had all fallen victim.  While they were pulling through it, they were just out of energy.

Adam and I took the last 2 standing off to Hollywood for a few hours of fun before heading home to witness the Spartans massive destruction that was the Cotton Bowl. I’d like to say it was the game that did me in, but the reality was, I was the next to fall.  At 10pm on New Years Eve.  12 hours before we had to begin our journey back to St. Louis.  And as much as I hoped that Ethan would remain the strong one, he followed shortly after me.  I somehow, miraculously, woke up feeling almost completely 100%normal.  It was a tough journey home for my little dude, but he was a trooper.

I promise you our trip wasn’t entirely tears and illness. We actually had some really great moments mixed in there too.  And the best part is they were things that were totally unexpected.  One night, before everyone got sick, my brother decided to take the kids over to the church playground just to get them out of the house for a bit.  I needed some air too, so I went along.  I couldn’t be happier about that decision as it turned into my favorite memory of the week.  We laid the ground rules for hide and seek, and then we played by the light of the almost full moon.  AJ found that he could just lie down on the ground in his black sweats and he was pretty much invisible against the dark green spongy ground.  Ally sat curled up in a ball on a tree stump and went unnoticed for several minutes.  We crouched into tiny spaces until we had leg cramps, Brooke found Ethan when she tripped on a “rock” which turned out to be Ethan, and I actually climbed a tree for the winning spot.  And we laughed hysterically.  It was pretty chilly out, but we agreed unanimously that the only parts of us that were cold were our ungloved hands.  It could be said that running around is what kept us warm, but I’m pretty sure there was more to it than that.

As I ran the other day, I found myself smiling at that memory. I also found myself thinking a lot about Inga.  I was really sad that I missed her memorial service while I was gone.  But I have some pretty special memories of that girl.  I love that whenever I would see her, even if she already knew my stories from reading them here, she would always say, “Tell me a story!  Tell me the story about…”  So, if you will indulge me, now I want to tell you a story about my friend Inga.  Maybe not a story exactly, but I want to tell you about the woman she was.  Inga was an absolutely amazing person.  She was stunning.  She was valedictorian of our high school class.  I didn’t actually graduate with that class because I had moved back to Michigan, but I still feel very much a part of it. More than anything, Inga was one of the sweetest, kindest souls you could ever meet.  In 8 long years of battling a totally unfair disease, Inga never once waivered in her faith.  She rarely complained about anything, she just simply continued to live out everything she believed and have hope.  So much hope.  Christmas was her favorite time of year, so as hard as it had to be for her family to say goodbye to her on Christmas, it almost seems appropriate somehow that she got to spend Christmas celebrating in Heaven.  Especially since she was born on Easter Sunday.  And could there be any other 2 days of the year that signify ‘Hope’ more than Christmas and Easter?  I didn’t get to see Inga much over the past year, but I was able to be present on her 40th birthday when my friend Teri presented her with her Powered by Hope medal.

By definition hope means a feeling or expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or a feeling of trust. There’s that word again, expectation.  But in this case, it sounds so positive.  I don’t typically ‘expect’ that bad things will happen, like massive flooding and Cancer and the likes, even though I know these things happen in our world.  Why is that?  Well, I guess it’s because of hope.  I don’t claim to have even a fraction of the hope that Inga exhibited on a regular basis, but I think that’s my goal for the year.  More hope in 2016.  Hope for myself, hope for the people I love, hope for many little unexpected moments of wonder.

A little over a year ago, just before Christmas, Inga and I had a spontaneous lunch date at Panera. I was headed to her house to drop something off when she suggested that we meet for lunch instead.  I remember sitting across from her and she said, “You’re such a good storyteller.  Please don’t ever stop telling stories.”  You got it, friend.  RRG is officially signed on for another year.  The year of Hope.

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Making Lemonade

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My dad used to love the word ‘ade’.  I remember many times being in the reception hall at church for refreshments and my dad would offer to get me some ‘fruit-ade’.  My dad was a dork.  But he made me laugh.  And that is one word that I always get right on crossword puzzles.  3 letter word for fruit drink…got it.

Another thing my dad always said, that I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before, was the advice “Surround yourself with good people.”

Yesterday, I went for a run with my friend Ken Clark.  It was so appropriate to celebrate my first day of “freedom” (I finished my Medical Assistant externship on Tuesday) by going for a run with Ken.  A year ago today, I was on my way to Arizona for the big event.  Today, Ken is on his way to Arizona.  I just got a text from him a little while ago, he was sitting on a plane in Dallas waiting to fly to Phoenix.  Anyway, last year in Arizona, I was surrounded by good people.  I drove out with Ally, Brian and Dan.  My mom, brother, sister in law, niece and nephew met us out there.  I stayed in a house with a bunch of friends who were either competing or supporting.  A huge smattering of Swim Bike Run club members were out there.  I had lunch with a friend from High School and saw various other friends from different parts of my life throughout the weekend including all over the course.  From start to finish, I was surrounded by, not just good, but GREAT people.

Ken was one of those people.  He had gone to Arizona to volunteer on the course, earning himself early registration into this years’ event, like I had done the year before.  I never did see Ken on the bike course at any of the aid stations where he was an official volunteer, but he was waiting at the transition area as I cruised in to jump off my bike.  I remember he gave me a quick hug as I passed my bike off to another volunteer and threatened to throw my bike shoes into Tempe Town Lake.  Ken found me at various parts of the run course, he would run back and forth across the bridge to tell my family approximately where I was and how I was doing.  And when the sun had finally sunk low into the Arizona desert and I was resenting the people who had said, “Nah, you won’t need a headlamp. It’s well lit” Ken showed up with his iphone to light the way up that one lonely, dark hill on the course.  He was full of encouragement.  And since he was wearing a “volunteer” t-shirt, I could do things like throw my cup on the ground for him to pick up and not get in trouble.  We aren’t allowed to have “pacers” but that volunteer shirt got me a personal escort in the dark.

So, when I realized how close I was to finishing my required hours for my externship last week while I was at a small party for Ken’s 40th, I knew I had to finish up before he left town so we could run together again.  It had been almost exactly a year since the last time we ran together.  I needed to give him a send off since I can’t be on the course to support him the way he was for me.  Funny story, Ken and I met as teammates for the Smoky Mountain Relay a few years ago when I was in rough shape emotionally.  Ken and I spent a weekend in a smelly van with sweaty people, we ate lukewarm Ramen noodles at 2am, we had a conversation while in adjoining port-o-potties (nothing says bonding like pooping) and he is the one who came into the woods, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me up a hill on my last leg of that race.  Seriously. I love this dude like a brother.

On Tuesday, as I said goodbye to all the people I have spent my time with for most of the past 6 weeks at my externship site, I realized that through the good and bad of that experience I once again found myself surrounded by really great people.  I am already missing the MAs and nurses that I spent so much time with.  And as I drove out 40 towards West County to pick my kiddos up from school, I thought of the people who have played taxi driver to my kids throughout the past year while I went through this program.  And when I gathered the kids we went to Steak n Shake to celebrate everything that has occurred since a year ago when I crossed that finish line in Arizona and heard the words, “Lindsey Jacobs, you are an Ironman”.

While I drove towards my kids, I thought of those words, and how important they were.  It occurred to me that this week I tackled another kind of Ironman.  Last year in Arizona, the idea of going back to school hadn’t even occurred to me, but since then I set it up, started the program and saw it through to completion.  And with nursing school on the horizon, I have absolutely zero doubts that with the people on my team, I will make that happen too.  And in each season of life, in order to make those things happen, I will continue to surround myself with good people.

This morning, I woke up in a somewhat foul mood.  I got plenty of sleep, so I’m not really sure what my deal was, but today had the potential to be ugly.  However, when I walked into my neighborhood coffee shop to meet a friend for lattes after dropping off the kids at school, I saw the face of another friend that I hadn’t seen in ages.  Paul has his own business called Trickle Down Happiness.  I love that concept.  And I actually got to see it in action today.  As soon as I saw Paul, my mood changed instantly.  And when he asked me how things were, I immediately started rambling on about all the good things in my life.  That turned the day around for me.  I was focused on the good things happening and the great people involved.

A couple hours later, when I took my phone into T-Mobile to see why it hasn’t been working lately, I ultimately walked out with no contacts.  This could have been a huge headache, but rather than stress about it, I posted a plea on Facebook and waited for the contacts to come rolling back in.  As they progressed they have been funnier and funnier.  My face hurts from smiling, hearing from friends and the silliness of having to guess who they are.  Who knew something that has the potential to be a huge pain in the butt would turn out to be so fun?  I guess you could say I’m finding the silver lining.  Or I’m making lemons into “ade”.  But I think it just has to do with being surrounded by really amazing people.

When Ken takes to the course on Sunday, I already know he will be surrounded by some greats.  His wife Marti is one of the coolest people ever.  My friend, Jess, was the volunteer who handed me my Run special needs bag last year and she’s competing this year.  My friend, Nicci, who I’ve known since she was a peanut, grew up in the house next door to me in Michigan, this will be her third Ironman I believe.  And every other athlete on that course has a story, young, old, war vets, amputees, illnesses, losses, struggles.  The one thing they all have in common is that they’ve all had to overcome something to be out there.  They’ve all been handed some lemons.  And  all the people standing by, helping them, cheering the on, encouraging them, getting them whatever they need.

I just wish I could be out there to light the way up that hill for Ken.  Or maybe offer him some ade. 😉

With Ken at Creve Coeur for a send off run

With Ken at Creve Coeur for a send off run

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Welcome Back to the Unknown

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Ya know those moments in life where you’re just kinda cruising along and you start thinking to yourself, “Hey, I’m doing alright. I totally got this.”  And then there’s a shift in the wind and suddenly you’re like, “Oh, wait…Welcome to the unknown”   Or should I say, welcome back to the unknown?

I’ve been a single mom for a little over three years now. It’s been a bigger challenge than I ever could have imagined.  But I have my days where I’m like, “Oh yeah, I ‘ve got this down.  I’m totally kicking butt. No problem.”  Our weekly schedule is a little crazy, especially on Wednesdays when it looks like this: Out the door by 7:45am with lunches in hand and the crockpot set for dinner, drop the kids at school by 8, drive the hour in traffic to the Central West End and pray that I can find rock star street parking not more than a few blocks from the hospital, walk (or run) into Siteman for my externship hours, at the stroke of 4:00 bolt back to the car, the kids have been picked up by a friend and dropped at home for Ally to be in charge until I get there, drive the hour back to Wildwood, burst in the door (by 5pm if I’m lucky) hoping that homework is done and Silas is at least partially changed for soccer practice, change clothes, sign off on homework, shovel food down the kids throats, try to remember to eat something myself, leave again by 5:40 to get Silas to practice in the valley by 6 (tonight we snuck a quick stop in to their grandparents’ house to pick up some of Ally’s forgotten items), drive across the valley to drop Ally at the church for youth group, drive back over to the ballfields so I can get in a quick couple miles before practice ends at 7:15, drive home, put Silas in the shower, clean up the kitchen, finish the homework, go pick Ally up from youth group by 8:30 (I lucked out tonight and she got a ride home), get Silas into bed, get Ethan into bed, sink down into a chair somewhere and finally take a breath.

Wow. That’s a day.  But I’ve gotten somewhat accustomed to the craziness and doing it *mostly* on my own.  I’ve very thankful for my villiagers who help how they can.  But I’m used to being on a minute to minute schedule most days.  And, if I do say so myself, I’m doing alright.  Not perfect mind you, but alright.  I’m keeping the boat afloat.

So here we are going along, doing our thing, but yesterday Silas threw me for a little bit of a loop. After not seeing the kids all weekend, I arrived home to hugs and chaos.  After about a minute, Silas said, “Hey Mom!  Guess whaaaaat?” with the last part of the word going up a few notes in that sing-songy way that kids do when they want to spill the beans.

“What?”

“We have some news!”

My mind was spinning with, ‘Oh please let him say he lost another tooth, or they had pizza for lunch, or something…’ but I already knew what he was about to say.

“On Saturday…Dad engaged Katie!” He was beaming.  I was too, just because of how cute he was with his verbiage.

“Oh yeah? Your dad proposed to Katie? Are you excited?”

“Yes!”

I sat with that a minute. I wasn’t surprised in the least.  Even though they started dating around March of this year, I fully expected things would go quickly.  Call it gut instinct, women’s intuition, whatever.  I really was ok with it.  But I’m still processing the fact that my kids are about to have several members added to their family, people who I really don’t even know.  That’s kind of weird.  Kind of like that change in the wind I mentioned earlier.  Katie currently lives in Iowa with her 3 kids.  They will be married and moved in by Christmas.  Maybe instead of a light breeze, that’s more like a big gust.

Tonight after dropping Ally at youth group I drove back over to the Chesterfield Athletic complex where Silas was at practice. I had plans to get in a couple miles on the levee if I could scrounge up a headlamp in the car. I pulled the car into an empty space, pilfered through the running bag I keep in back, scored a headlamp with non-dead batteries and had all of 35 minutes until practice would end. It was still light enough when I started but the sun was already beneath the horizon, so I knew it was only a matter of time.  My first mile out, with the wind at my back, seemed easy and my feet cruised along the old familiar path.  At a mile and a half, I turned back to wind in my face and it got darker with each step.  I turned on the headlamp, which helped a little, but since I was also wearing a visor, some of the light was blocked.  Oh well, I would adjust.  I was dealing with the challenges, but I was still doing just fine.  My mind went back to a conversation with Ethan last night at bed time.

As I was tucking him in, he was telling me that Katie’s youngest would be in his class since they are less than a year apart in age.

I said, “You’re pretty excited, aren’t you?”

“Yes!” He responded. After a pause, he leaned over the top bunk to look at me, with a big smile and concerned eyes, he asked, “Are you, Mom?  Are you excited?”

“Am I…um, what? Excited?  Uh…”  I admit I wasn’t very graceful in the moment, I mean how in the world do you answer that?  But I recovered fairly quickly.  “Bud, if you are happy, then I am happy.  I’m glad you are excited.”

He smiled. I smiled.  Then I kissed him on the top of his head, as is our custom, and said “Good-night, bud, I love you.”

So, during my run tonight, I was thinking. Am I excited?  No, that’s not the word.  How do I feel? I’m not upset in any way.  It’s weird, for sure, to think about it.  And like I said, I’m still processing.  But I’m ok.  It creates a new dynamic, like wind or running in the dark, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.  It will take some getting used to, but we’ll adjust and in time it will just be what we’re all used to.

As Silas’ team came back into view, the lights of the field were much brighter than my headlamp. I could see them down on the field, running, playing, having fun.  And I thought, “I really do just want my kids to be happy and taken care of.   And if they have one more person (or several) in their lives to love them, then that just adds to their happiness.  As a single parent, all you can really hope for is that if your former spouse finds someone to share your children with, that this new person is good to your kids.  It’s the ultimate in letting go of control.  And it’s ok if I’m not always graceful when I feel like I’m running into the wind, in the dark.  I’ll adjust, and recover, and keep going.

As I neared the end of my run, I found myself praying…

God, help me with forgiveness. Help me continue to let go of what I thought my life should look like and help me to be gracious, always. God, Bless the union that is going to bring two families together and please protect my babies in that.  And God…bless the woman who is about to take on the new challenge of being a step-mother to my 3 amazing kiddos, carry her as she enters unfamiliar territory.  And guide her when she feels like she’s alone in the dark.  Show her grace and mercy and remind her that she isn’t alone.

As I prayed I noticed a lump forming in my throat. I know exactly what to pray for her, because it’s what I pray for me all the time.

It’s tough to run and cry at the same time, it really just makes you start to hyperventilate.

And God…please help me to remember to breathe.

 

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This is My 40

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A couple weeks ago I did a triathlon. It wasn’t a very long triathlon, and I wouldn’t exactly say I trained for it, but it was my first and only tri of 2015. A year ago I was preparing to go to Arizona to complete an Ironman, but this year a lot happened…school, sickness, recovery. Like I said, it wasn’t a very long tri (.75 swim, 18 bike, 5 run) but it included my only open water swim since Tempe Town Lake last November.

The NEMO tri (which stands for Northeast Missouri) was one that I had been contemplating for the better part of a year. You see, it’s the one and only tri my mom has ever done. She did it when she was my age, on the cusp of 40. And she did it with my dad on the course. He was the runner of his team, but he was there.

So, a couple Saturdays ago, Brian and I made the drive over to Columbia, then north to the small town we grew up in. I only lived there for 5 years of my youth, Brian’s family is still there. I’ve only been back a handful of times since I moved away in 1989 but the memories are still as fresh as ever.

We rolled into town a few minutes before the athlete meeting at the Thompson Center was supposed to start, but I figured I could get checked in and get my biked checked before. As we approached the building, that from the outside looked exactly the same as it had 26 years ago, the memories started flooding back. Memories of my first ever mile race that ended in that parking lot, I ran 7 minutes flat. What I would give to still be able to do that!

We walked through the doors, the set up had changed, but as we walked toward the stairs, I stopped suddenly and pointed to the exact spot where my dad bought me a Mickey Mantle baseball card well over half my life ago.

We walked down stairs and into the main hallway. To the right were the racketball courts where my parents were playing wally-ball the day my brother fell off the jungle gym in our back yard and I had to call them to come home so he could get stitches over his eye. Eventually, we walked into the big gym, which didn’t seem nearly as huge as I remembered, but I had spent hours shooting baskets as a pre-teen.

I signed my waiver and got my packet, which we took to the car in exchange for my bike and helmet. We went back to the gym, got my stickered that it was approved for racing before returning it to the rack on the car. We still had a few minutes before the meeting, so we grabbed a seat and watched the other athletes shuffling in.

Brian said, “That guy has been the director here forever.” I turned and looked to see who he was talking about. And a name I hadn’t said in almost 3 decades, instantly rolled off my tongue. “Dan Martin”, a person who was instrumental in encouraging my love of running at the ripe old age of 9. I guarantee he is the one who handed my first trophy at my first 5k all those years ago.

We sat there looking around and I’m quite sure Brian could tell I was trying to hold the tears at bay as I said, “I didn’t expect it to be this emotional…”

We sat through the meeting and waited to say a quick hello to Dan, who had been trying to figure out why I looked so familiar. “You look exactly like your mom the last time I saw her!” It’s true, people say it all the time. Even our voices are the same. Even my dad couldn’t tell us apart on the phone.

Before we headed to Brian’s parents’ house we drove out to Thousand Hills State Park so I could preview the course a bit. I remembered the huge hill I was going to have to climb immediately after mounting the bike, but I wanted to see if my memory was correct. As we pulled into the park, we came to the playground. Some of the equipment was different, but them memories were still there. We parked and found the little trail that leads to the “cave”. We walked down the hill and found it. I loved that cave as a kid. I used to walk down there and imagine myself an explorer, like I was the first one who found it. I’m sure every other kid who grew up there did the exact same thing. B and I read the names that were written all over the rocks, looking for people we knew. Then we made our way back up the hill to the car and drove over to the transition area/finish that was already set up in anticipation of the next morning.

Yes, that hill was pretty much exactly what I remembered. It was a doozy. All of the hills were. I felt my nerves flare up in my stomach a little, but I told myself not to worry about it until tomorrow.

We left the park and drove past where Leo’s roller rink had been, I spent so many Friday nights there skating to the sounds of Madonna and Phil Collins. My first kiss was there in the coat area. We used to make “suicides” mixing all the different flavors from the soda machine. And we ate giant dill pickles. I had my own skates that I carried in a purple skate case, with a care bear keychain.

We spent the evening with Brian’s family. I had promised Silas I would take pictures of the baby cows for him. We grilled and ate chicken and pork chops. Brian pulled out some old school projects and we went through them seeing who all I remembered from his school days before I came to Kirksville Upper Elementary. Which has since been renamed Ray Miller Upper Elementary, for my principal and outstanding basketball coach. Brian’s sister came over with her kiddos for a while. We turned on the Michigan State football game and one by one everyone started turning in for the night. I organized my race gear and I managed to stay up long enough to see my Spartans win it against Oregon.

Then I climbed into bed and turned out the light in the room where Brian had slept as a kid. Funny, if you had told me then where I would be now, I don’t really know what I would have thought.

The alarm went off at 5:25 am. But I had already been awake off and on for a while. I rolled out of bed and started getting ready. Brian poured me some coffee in the kitchen. I made a peanut butter sandwich and grabbed a banana. We loaded up the car and by 6am we were on our way to the course. It was in the 50’s, but the air didn’t feel as cool as I expected. We got to the park, I got my body markings, set up my bike and the rest of my gear in transition. I debated about whether or not to wear my wetsuit and ultimately decided against it, as I always do, but second guessed my decision until I didn’t have a choice anymore.

Brian and I were sitting in the car to stay warm and relax since I still had plenty of time until I had to get on the shuttle to the swim start. He could tell I was nervous. He put a hand to my cheek.

I’ve done an Ironman. Why in the world am I so nervous about THIS?!

The truth is, I was scared. I was scared of how much it would hurt, of how hard that hill would be. I was scared of being weak, of overdoing it and ending up in the hospital again. I was scared of not honoring my memories of this place well.

I knew there were only 3 people in my age group, so all I had to do was finish and I was pretty much guaranteed a spot on the podium. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to earn it.

Eventually it was time to go. I had been talking to the girls who were set up in transition next to me, and I decided to follow them to the shuttle. I gave B a quick kiss and said I would see him after the swim. Turns out one of the girls I was talking to, is the wife of an old friend of Brian’s.

I rode the shuttle over to the beach. I found a few other non-wetsuit-wearers and hung around them. Turns out, one of those guys is a friend of Brian’s sister who she had mentioned the night before. I took it as a good omen that I was meeting people I had some sort of connection to. It calmed me.

I waded into the water. The sun was up now and the air was hovering around 60 degrees, but the water was 74 so it felt like getting into a bath. I acclimated to the water. They shot the cannon sending off the individual men. Then they gave the rest of us a countdown, and 3 minutes later we were underway.

I knew once I got going some of the anxiety would dissipate. It did. I’m still not a fast swimmer, but this time I felt like a swimmer. I had predicted 30 minutes for myself. I just kept breathing when I needed to and making my way from one buoy to the next. At one point, I took a breath and I could see a row of cabins on the hill. The same cabins that the whole Jacobs side had rented for a week one summer. Memories flooding back. Keep breathing, keep swimming. And finally, Dan helped me out of the water in almost exactly 30 minutes. I ran towards T1, waved to Brian, shoved half a banana in my mouth and the other half in my pocket, then got on my bike to tackle that hill. I actually passed a couple people on my way up. I don’t know why I stress about hills, if there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m a climber. I rode past the playground and thought about that cave. I thought about how far I’ve come since my younger days there. And I kept peddling.

We rode out of the park and at the 9 mile mark, we turned around and rode back. I continued to pass people, mostly on the uphills. When we got back into the park, I had to go down that massive hill. I think I’m more afraid of going down than up. Steve in particular likes to tease me about how I ride my brakes going down steep hills. When I got to the bottom, I saw B as I passed. I said hi, he looked surprised to see me there already. I had finished the bike about 10 minutes faster than I anticipated.

I racked my bike, ditched my helmet, changed shoes and headed out for the run. The 2.5 miles out were almost entirely uphill. I knew I had to keep my heart rate under control. I ran past those cabins again and then onto a brand new paved path through the woods. It was tough, but beautiful. Finally after the turn around, there was one more short up hill and then the rest of the way was pretty much downhill to the finish. I was almost done. I had done a good job of finding balance between pushing myself hard, but not so hard I ended up back in a hospital bed. Just before I got to the finish I saw B and made silly faces for the camera. Then I cruised into the finish and it was done. I felt good. I felt really good. I kept saying I was surprised at how good I felt.  I was tired, but not totally wrecked.

I had hoped to finish in under 2:45. I was surprised to learn that I finished in 2:24 and change, and earned myself 2nd place for females 40-44. During awards, Dan called me up and presented me with a NEMO pint glass along with the others. Memories of years before at the forefront of my mind.

“Lindsey, you’ve done this race before, right?” He said into the microphone.

“Nope. My mom did. 25 years ago.”

And she earned a 2nd place age group finish as well. Keeping it in the family.

It was a great race. Everything went exactly as you would hope. The weather was perfect. No flat tires. It was just an all-around great day.

I had a tough time coming back to reality in the Lou after that trip to the ‘Ville. I found myself wanting to go back to Kirksville, 1985, when life was just being a 10 year old kid, riding bikes, building forts, trading baseball cards and playing kickball. But I finally had a break through the other day when I dusted off my Mizunos and hit the trails in Castlewood, for the first time since Berryman. Without even realizing that I hadn’t dumped the sand out of them since the race that made me so sick, I had been avoiding the woods ever since that day in May.

But this is how I know that I did myself proud at NEMO. I was scared, but the only way I would really have been weak or not honored my memories well, is if I had let the fear stop me from getting out there and trying. We fall down, we get banged up.  Life isn’t always kickball and baseball cards, but I will take advantage of those opportunities as they come, even if I get a scraped knee and need a Band-Aid once in a while. And, well, if this is what 40 looks like, then I’m in for a pretty good ride.

Coming into the finish of my 7min/mile

Coming into the finish of my 7min/mile

 

 

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Just Call Us…The Comeback Kids

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Not all comebacks are created equal. They don’t all look alike and they don’t always lead you back to exactly where you were. But they do all have one thing in common. Every comeback requires that when you get knocked down, or fall down, you have to get back up again and keep going.

You might remember my friend Katherine that was in a really horrible bike crash back in April, we weren’t sure if she would make it. And if she did, we weren’t sure what the damage would be. A mere two or three days after she got out of the hospital, I was admitted to the hospital for dehydration and Pyelonephritis that went septic (that basically means the infection got in my blood and was trying to kill me).

This summer didn’t look at all like last summer for me or Katherine. Last summer, I was training for my first (and only for the foreseeable future) Ironman. By the end of last summer Katherine had qualified for the Ironman World Championships and was preparing to compete in Kona. This summer, for both of us, workouts were considerably less intense. Not that I am comparing myself to Katherine on any level, her accident was completely different from my illness, they left very different scars. But we were both brought back to zero for a while where triathlons are concerned.

On Saturday, I made a comeback, of sorts. Before I got sick I had signed up to be on a relay team of 6 people to run 82 miles. At the time, I had confidence in my abilities. 13ish miles in one day, sure, no problem. But as September 6 edged closer and closer, I wasn’t completely sure what I would be capable of. I gave my friends an opportunity to find a replacement if they wanted since I was the obvious weak link of the group. They assured me that despite my lack of speed they still wanted me on the team. And so, for the first time ever in my life, I asked for the shortest, easiest legs of the race. I knew what I was capable of, and I knew it wasn’t much.

As we started watching the 10 day weather forecast, we all hoped that there would be a major cold front to come in and push summer’s last efforts out of the way. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, so we were left to deal with 95 degrees, humidity and sun, which made the “feels like” temperature somewhere in the low hundreds, as we made our way from Creve Coeur to Hermann, MO. This had me a little (a little meaning A LOT) worried. I didn’t want to end up in the hospital again. No more IV’s for this girl this year, thank you very much.

When we got to the starting area, I immediately thought I was in some kind of a sick joke. It was awesome to see so many familiar faces, but with our start time being the last of many waves between 4am and 8am, I wondered what I was doing with all the fastest people I knew. My mileage this summer has been low, and my speed has been even lower. And yet, there I was with lots of speedy peeps.

I was the #2 runner, so I was glad to be getting my first leg out of the way early. I was set to go just before 8:30am, before the heat of the day, for about 4 miles. However, that first leg was 99% in direct sun. No shade. It was brutal. As I finally made my way across the Highway 364 bridge to the exchange point, the very last runner to start this leg caught up to me. We handed off our bracelets and the exchange volunteer said to me, “Are you the last one?” I responded, “Yeah, I think so.”

I was so glad to be done running. That was hot. And the reality that it would be even hotter when I had to run again 4 hours later was not super exciting.

As the race wore on, it did warm up even more. We all took care of each other, having bottles of cold water waiting as a runner would come in to an exchange, a bag of ice, sponges soaked in cold water to squeeze over our heads, salt tablets, whatever we needed. We worried when we didn’t see our runner in the anticipated amount of time listed on Angie’s spreadsheet. But I’m happy to report, we all made it to each exchange without anything catastrophic to report.

My other two legs were even less eventful that the first. They were both on sections of the Katy Trail, both 90% shaded and I even began passing runners from some of the slower teams that had started hours before us. We strolled into the finish line in Hermann around 7:30pm where they had brats, sauerkraut and beer waiting for us.

Despite the heat and my lack of training, it was a fantastic way to make a comeback. I wasn’t really racing as much as just being at a very sweaty party with a whole bunch of great people, who happened to be running. I saw lots of friends throughout the day, and I made some new friends along the way. My team was awesome and I genuinely appreciated their support to get me through my return to “competitive” running. It wasn’t pretty and I have no idea if I will ever be truly competitive ever again, but it got me back into the community I love. And somehow we managed to finish 6th out of 49 teams in our open/mixed division. It certainly wasn’t due to my speed, but this “down time” in training, if that’s what you call it, has reminded me that I am so much more than just a runner. To all of you who shared Saturday with me, especially the CRABS, from the bottom of my heart, Thank you.

As I mentioned earlier, not all comebacks look the same. I’ve never had a guest writer here, but there is a first time for everything. And the timing of this couldn’t be better. I read a post from Katherine earlier today and it oozed the essence of RRG and all that I want this blog to be. With her permission, I’d like to share it. Her life looks a little different now after her accident, but she continues to inspire all those around her, in any and all circumstances. I couldn’t be more proud to call this girl my friend and I am thankful for her perspective.

So without further ado, here is Katherine’s comeback…

Thanks for all the bday wishes. I’m so grateful for being able to celebrate another bday. Here’s why, in the form of an update.

.               September 8, 2015 at 9:12am

I believe that there are things to the be grateful for in every situation. My severe bike crash that occurred at the end of April is no exception. I am, of course, so deeply grateful to have survived. Not only did I survive, but I made it through with all of my faculties and body intact. I’ve been able to return to what I consider the most important parts of my life: being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a physician.

What I am not able to return to at this time is competitive triathlon and endurance sports. As a result of my accident, my amazing team of doctors discovered that I may be at a slightly higher than normal risk of a cardiac arrhythmia at this time. Based on the risk:benefit ratio of another severe and potentially fatal accident occurring at this time, I have decided to walk away from racing for awhile.

I’ll admit that it hasn’t been easy. My athletic hopes and dreams for 2015 and 2016 have been shattered. There were 6 races that I was registered for this year, all of which I have officially withdrawn from. The 3 biggest ones were ITU Olympic-distance triathlon Nationals in Milwaukee, the ITU World Championships (which I qualified for at Nationals last year), and Ironman Louisville. The ITU World Championships in particular were a dream come true. I was so looking forward to proudly donning my Team USA uniform in a race which just happens to be in my hometown of Chicago this year. I was then planning to race in Ironman Louisville where I was hoping to try to earn a repeat spot at the starting line in Kona.

I envisioned 2016 as being my peak year in endurance sports, a field in which women tend to peak in their early 40s. 2016 was going to be The Year, after which I was planning to transition to ultra-distance runs and shorter distance triathlons. 2016 was supposed to include Boston and Big Sur (my favorite marathon in the world followed in less than a week by a marathon that I’ve always dreamed of running). Then ITU Worlds in Mexico. Finally to cap it all off, the greatest starting and finishing lines that exist in sport: Kona. Dreams. Shattered.

Yet I am still so grateful for the fateful day of April 29, 2015. I am actually grateful that the accident even happened. So many things have happened that wouldn’t have had it not. For example, it has forced me to make changes in my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise made. After the 2 months that I spent in the hospital and rehab, I found myself with what felt like endless unstructured/free time, especially because I am no longer training to race. As a result, I have restructured my work days. I am now working more days per week, but fewer hours per day. For the first time in their lives, my kids no longer have to go to aftercare. I’m now personally picking them up from school 5 days/week. They’ve never complained about aftercare. In fact, they’ve asked to go numerous times over the years even when they haven’t had to go. It’s all they’ve ever known, yet I think that this change is for the better. It has happened just in time, at a crucial age when activities really start picking up as does the beginning of the formative pre-teen and teenage years.

I see my role as a doctor so differently now after being, and continuing to be, a patient. In particular, I think I’m a much better psychiatrist now that I understand what it’s like to be a patient. I also now know what is feels like to have to go through a somewhat big life transition so abruptly. It’s not easy. There are many ups and downs. There is no easy fix. Yet there is hope and so much gratefulness to be had.

Not only am I more focused than I’ve ever been at work, I also am at home. My family has always come first. There was a period of time right after the injury when I was in the ICU and it was unclear if I was going to make it through without brain damage. I feel horrible that the kids had to go through that, but it has opened their eyes to the fact that bad things happen. My accident and its sequelae are small things compared to the atrocities, hatred, poverty, and violence that happen throughout the world. Moreover, my accident was small compared to what so many people, including some of you, have to deal with on a daily basis, and every day going forward for a few of you. Things like incurable cancer, progressive neurological diseases, heart disease, and other chronic and severe illnesses.

I don’t know what the future holds for anyone, much less for myself. I’m still keeping active, but I now exercise like a normal, fit woman in her early 40s. Nothing long and nothing fast. It hasn’t been easy to stop endurance training. It’s been tough, even tougher than the hardest race I’ve even participated in, Kona. It’s been a process that I’m still working through, but I’m getting there. I’m starting to feel content with what used to feel like nothing. For example, a 1 hour swim used to be my warm-up or cool-down for my long bike rides or runs. Or it is what I used to do on my rest/recovery days. It is now my main form of exercise of any type for the day. I’ve actually grown to love it. Running 1 lap (5.5 miles) around Forest Park also used to feel like nothing. In fact, prior to my accident, I can’t remember a time when I went for a run and came back in less than an hour. Now even 1 lap feels like exercise and leaves me feeling content.

Who knows what the future holds? I may one day get back on a bike, something which is currently too risky for me to do. I may one day participate in triathlons again, even longer distance ones, but I quite likely may not. I do know that I am so thankful that I have such an amazing support system. I have family and friends who truly care, who have gone above and beyond. Same with my doctors, nurses, therapists, and the rest of my treatment team. Above and beyond. I couldn’t ask for more in terms of my recovery from my “accident.” I put accident in quotes because I don’t truly think it was a complete accident. It was meant to happen. It may be tough at times, but it has changed my life for the better. The future is unknown, but I do know that it is bright and that I hope to continue to be able to see what it holds.

 

I know I am not alone in how glad I am to be able to say, Happy Birthday Katherine! Let the birthdays, and the comebacks, keep on comin!

Pre-race eL CRABS, which stands for Lindsey, Chaz, Rob, Angie, Becky, Scott.

Pre-race eL CRABS, which stands for Lindsey, Chaz, Rob, Angie, Becky, Scott.

And eL CRABS post race

And eL CRABS post race

 

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A New Chapter

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Yesterday was National Running Day.  Now, to someone like me, who is used to running most days, you wouldn’t think that would be very significant, other than the opportunity to celebrate what I love.  But yesterday was different.  Having not run at all in almost 3 weeks since a marathon, followed by a lengthy stay at the Mercy spa, it was definitely something to embrace.

This recovery process has been longer and slower than I expected which leaves me feeling a little frustrated.  I’d say I’m back to about 85-90%.  I’m feeling mostly like myself again.  But that last 10-15% is the fatigue that is hanging on, reminding me to let my body rest.  I’m falling asleep a lot earlier than usual, frequently taking mid-day naps when time allows, and even simple things, like a few hours at school, a short shift at work or making dinner, can leave me feeling wiped out.

I’m taking things as easy as I can, ordering pizza when necessary and not scheduling any activities that would be considered “over doing it”.  But yesterday, I needed to make a comeback.  It wasn’t much, but it was something.

After I dropped Ethan off at a friend’s house so they could go off to the Cardinals game, Silas and I were hanging out on the back porch while Ally was upstairs in her room packing for their trip to Chicago this weekend with their dad.  On the way home from dropping Ethan, Silas had spotted a garage sale and since he had $5 burning a hole in his pocket, he insisted we stop.  He found a table hockey game, some Legos (like we really need MORE???) and a “decorate your own football”.  So we were sitting out on the porch, painting a football…arts and crafts mixed with athletics, perfect.

I said, “Hey Silas, it’s National Running Day.  Want to go around the lake with me?”

“Yes, ok.  Can I ride my scooter?”

While this seemed mildly like defeating the purpose to me, I agreed since I think the bigger idea is really just about getting out and doing something active.  Also, since Silas struggles with asthma, running can be tough for him.

So I changed into running clothes, Silas grabbed his scooter and we went down to the backyard where we got on the path.

“I’m going to beat you!” Silas teased. I smiled.

Yes, I’m sure you will today, Little Buddy.

And we were off.  Slowly.  At first, running felt almost foreign.  I wasn’t sure how fast or slow to even go.  But after a few steps, just like riding a bike, it came back.  About a tenth of a mile from the house, we came to the bridge.  We stopped just before and I pointed out some baby ducks near the water’s edge.  As we crossed the bridge, I noticed something perched on a log.  As we got around to the other side, Silas and I stopped to check it out.  Upon inspection, we realized it was a bird, but one we didn’t recognize.

“We can look it up in one of Ethan’s bird books when we get home,” Silas said as he took off again.

But we stopped almost immediately when we saw several turtles sunning themselves, it looked like a mom and 2 kids.  And some were swimming nearby.  We, of course, had to count them all.

Then we continued on our way.  But the rest of the journey was much like that, go and stop.  We saw more baby ducks and a really big turtle.  We got to the lighthouse and headed up the hill.  We rounded the corner at the clubhouse and started back down the hill.

“Can we go to the dock?” Silas asked.

“Sure.”

Just before we got there, Silas called me back to look at something.  “What is it?” he asked.

“It’s a dead squirrel.  You can look but don’t touch it.” I said firmly, knowing how his mind works.

And then Silas ditched his scooter on the grass and walked out onto the dock.  We watched a tiny little turtle scoot off a log and plop into the water.  We watched a mama duck and her babies swim by.  We were enjoying being out on the dock.  Just a few months ago, it wasn’t even floating.  You see, less than a year after I moved into this house, all the water from the lake drained into the Missouri caverns below.  It had happened a couple times before, but they thought the problem had been remedied.  Unfortunately though, I’ve spent the better part of my 3 years here, staring at a mud pit, rather than the pretty lake I saw when I moved in.  It’s good to have our scenery back.

Silas grabbed his scooter and I walked up the hill to get back on the path.  “Let’s take the short cut!” Silas yelled as he zipped past me down the hill.

“Which way is the short cut?” I asked confused since there is only one path.

He used the driveway.  I guess that’s the short cut?

We continued on, at one point waiting for the geese to clear the path so we could go by.  Past a barking puppy.  More baby ducks.  And back around to the other side, our side, of the lake.  And then we were home.

I stopped my Garmin. (Yes, of course I wore it.)  We had gone not quite a mile and a half, averaging about an 11:30/mile pace.  For someone who is used to running 26 at an 8:30-45 minute pace that could seem less than successful.  But the truth is it didn’t matter.  I ran.  It felt good.  It was slow, but I took it all in.  I was with my little buddy.  And if that isn’t what National Running Day is all about then I don’t know what is.

That little 1.5 mile run was so symbolic of life, the cycles we go through.  Sometimes we run, sometimes we walk, sometimes we have to stop and catch our breath.  Sometimes the scenery is beautiful, sometimes we are curious and need to take a closer look, sometimes we see things that we really didn’t want to see.  Sometimes it comes easy, and sometimes it’s a world of frustration. But eventually, it all comes back around.

There is another cycle in my life that is coming to a close.  And while I know that it’s a really good thing for me, it’s still hard and I have VERY mixed emotions about it.

Exactly 4 years ago this week, I walked into Fleet Feet in Chesterfield valley, for my very first shift.  I was excited about what might lie ahead, but I was nervous about everything I had to learn.  I immediately felt right at home with great people, who have become amazing friends, like Faith, Pam and Jess, who I’m pretty sure were all there that first day.

When I look back on everything that Fleet Feet St. Louis has been to me over the past four years, it is so much more than “just a job”.  Fleet Feet gave me purpose at a time that I needed something to hold on to, and it reignited my passion for life.  Fleet Feet has given me the opportunity to learn and grow, and has reestablished my confidence to a level I never expected.  After almost 10 years as a stay at home mom, Fleet Feet gave me a chance.  When I moved from Chesterfield to help get the Town and Country store in SBR up and running, it was both a learning experience and what felt like a reward for my efforts.  Most importantly though, Fleet Feet has given me a community.  The relationships that I’ve formed are extraordinary.  Friends who are like family.

And that is what makes it so hard to say goodbye.

At the end of June, my time at Fleet Feet will come to an end.  I’m going to spend some time this summer enjoying my kiddos and my life, before school really kicks into gear in August.  The last couple months have been tough being a hero…school, work, kids, marathons.  I’ve proven I CAN do it all, but in doing so, I ran myself right into the hospital.  It’s time to take a step back and remember what matters.

It’s time to refocus and reestablish some balance.  Change is hard.  But it’s time to let go…

This part of my journey is complete, but I’m excited to see where the next 4 years go.  It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one.  And while I’m saying goodbye, I’m not going far.  You’ll all still be able to find me on the streets and trails and race courses of the Lou.  I’ll be easy to spot.  I’ll be the one wearing Fleet Feet red.

National Running Day with Silas

National Running Day with Silas

 

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Berryman

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Part I: The Race

I can honestly say, this is the first time I’ve ever written a blog post hooked to an IV.  But I’ll get to that later.

On Saturday, I ran the Berryman Marathon.  Back in January a couple friends had enticed me into signing up since they were doing the 50 miler.  Coming off of Arizona, I didn’t feel like doing much.  And while my usual motto is, when given the choice, choose the longer option, I didn’t think I should push it so I opted for the marathon.  (That just sounds silly now)

On Friday night, after I closed up shop with James in Town and Country, I hopped in the car and drove to Potosi, a rural community on the edge of Mark Twain National Forrest, where they have a Super 8.  I checked into my room and was in bed eating pie by 10pm.  I had everything laid out and ready to go.

At 6:15 I rolled out of bed and began race prep. I dressed in my running gear and went down the hall to the ice machine so I could fill the bladder of my hydration vest.  I grabbed my bottles of Scratch out of the mini fridge that I had mixed the night before and added them to the pockets of my vest, which was also stuffed with Huma gels and Gu.  It was supposed to be humid, so I was going to be prepared.

Eventually I took my stuff to the car and went back into the lobby to grab some breakfast.  Or some coffee at the very least.  I was greeted by a gal in running gear who asked if I was headed to Berryman too.  I confirmed that I was.  While I drank my coffee, we chatted about previous races and our thoughts for the day.  She was hoping to finish between 4 and 5 hours.  I was hoping to finish.  While I was the more experienced of the two of us, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this course and I knew that I hadn’t properly trained for it.  So I set the bar low and my goal for the day was to go out and have fun.

By 7:30 I was in the car, driving the 25 minutes to the course.  My race started at 8.  The thing about trail races that is very different from the huge races downtown is that you don’t have to get there an hour and a half early.  At Berryman, like many others, you basically pull up, get out of your car, slap on your race bib and away you go.

I saw several friends at the start.  Rosie and John had already started the 50 mile at 6:30, but Rosie’s husband Alex greeted me with a hug.  I handed off my keys to Megan and Seth to put in the Fleet Feet truck for safe keeping.  Then I gathered behind the starting line with some of the girls from the tri club and a few seconds later we were running.  About 10 steps in I knew it was going to be a slow day.  Not that I hadn’t already figured that out from lack of training, but the humidity was at about 99%.  It settled over us like a blanket.  An oppressive wet blanket.  It was making my legs feel like lead.  It was then that I knew my body didn’t have it that day, my mind was going to have to do most of the grunt work to get this race in the books.  But it’s not like I’ve never had to brush that feeling aside, and so into the forest I ran.  I stuck right behind Tara and Donna for the first 5 miles or so.  We broke apart at the first aid station, which was good for me, because then instead of mindlessly staring at Tara’s shoes, I started to take in the majesty of the forest.  It really is an unbelievable trail.  Tough, but beautiful.

I’m not really sure when it started raining, but it felt amazing!  The cool water on my face felt refreshing and it made running seem easier.  It also made the creeks rise, so where in the beginning I was able to jump from rock to rock to get across without getting wet, it wasn’t long until I would just trudge right through, soaking my shoes and socks.  There’s something to be said about the thrill of returning to youthfulness, playing in streams, enjoying the woods, exploring and the satisfying crunch of gravel under your feet.  This was the fun I had been seeking.  Yes, I was going slower than usual and no I hadn’t adequately trained for this race, but it was reminding me of what I loved to do.

Just before the 14 mile aid station I caught up to Donna.  She was walking, so I slowed to walk with her for a bit.  Her stomach was off and she was having a rough day.  Mine wasn’t the stomach, but we probably could have started a club.  We approached the aid station and when I was ready to take off, Donna waved me on.  She was done.  “Have a good race,” she hollered after me.  “Thanks!” I waved.  And I heard someone from the aid station ask if she wanted a ride back in the truck.

And then, I was alone in the woods again.  The terrain was rough, so there were several times throughout the day that I turned an ankle so hard I felt it down to my toes and all the way up the lateral side of my calf.  That would probably hurt, I thought to myself, if I hadn’t taken that Aleve earlier.  However, the Aleve was not only masking the ankle pain, it was also hiding the bigger, more serious issue.  While making them worse at the same time.

As the race went on the hills seemed tougher, I don’t know if that was the course, my body, or the fact that the sloppy conditions were making it more challenging.  I walked a lot of the uphills, I ran the down hills and the flats.  As I cruised into the aid station around Mile 17, I saw Tara. I told her that Donna had gotten a ride back to the finish; she said she had a feeling that would happen.  As we took off again, I vaguely heard one of the volunteers giving directions about when we get to the road the trail is only a little ways up.  When we got to the only actual road we would encounter that day, there were 4 of us, Tara, me, a random guy and a random girl.  We saw the arrow that appeared to point across the paved road directly at a gravel road, so down the gravel road we went.  About half a mile down, a big white pickup truck pulled out and almost blocked us.  The driver got out and said, “This here’s a dead end.  Whatchya’ll doin’ out here?”  We explained that we were looking for the Berryman trail.  “Well, ya won’t find it down that way, that’s just Joe Bob’s farm.”  Good thing he intercepted us.  He couldn’t understand why in the world we were looking for a tiny little trail in the desolate weather we were experiencing, but he told us generally where we needed to go.  He offered to drive us up there in his truck, but we politely declined.  Nobody likes a cheater.  But I can’t honestly tell you that none of us thought about it for half a second.

Usually around mile 17, 18, 19 of a marathon, your brain has to do a decent job of convincing your body to keep running.  Even worse at that point of a race and you realize you’re not even on the course.  You’re running to get back on course, I can assure you it’s more than a little deflating.  But, just as I said in that moment, what’s a race without a story?  We plugged along on that gravel road until we got back to the paved road, which we began to follow.  And about 10 steps up, we came upon another spray painted arrow on the road.  If only we had seen that sooner.  Ah well, such is life.  It wasn’t long until we ducked back into the woods again.  We trudged up a hill single file with the rain coming down.  Tara disappeared from my sight again shortly after that.  And eventually so did everyone else.  It’s funny how that works, one minute you’re in the midst of a crowd, the next minute you’re in solitude with a bunch of trees.

I continued my strategy of walk up, run down.  There were times that I was literally running in a creek bed, slopping through mud puddles.  It was amazing.

A lot of the latter part of the race is a little blurry.  Looking back on that now, understandably so.  I don’t recall ever feeling bad, other than tired.  I remember a lot of telling myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I even passed a few people in the last mile or two.  And then, just as we were about to come out of the woods, there were Tara’s shoes right in front of me again.  Just like I don’t  I don’t recall exactly when it started raining, I don’t remember when it stopped either, but it wasn’t raining when we came out of the woods and ran through the finish.  Despite running completely different races on the same course, we’d seen each other at the beginning, the middle and the end.  Two races with times that were just seconds apart, and we spent most of the day not together.

I was so glad it was done.  And even more glad I had signed up for the marathon and not the 50 mile.

Then there was a medal around my neck and I went to grab a bottle of water.  There was a great spread of food, that I couldn’t even think about enjoying until I changed into dry clothes.  I glanced around looking for Alex, but saw no sign of him, so I wondered if Rosie had decided to call it a day after 1 loop.  I couldn’t fathom doing that a second time.

I hiked up to my car, changed into my flip flops, made my recovery drink, took off my empty hydration pack and began stripping off soaking wet clothes.  Once I was dry and the Gu brew was gone, I started back towards the food.

I joined the other runners in the pavilion, downed a big cheeseburger, lots of chips, some cookies and more water.  I was tired, sore, but I felt good.  The girl next to me noticed my tattoo and asked which Ironman I had done.  I can’t remember which one she said she had completed last fall, but we both agreed that we thought that one standalone trail marathon was harder than the marathon at the end of an Ironman.  It took me 6 hours and 1 minute.  Even in Arizona, I was solidly under 6, at about 5:20.  It had been a tough day, one that I wasn’t truly prepared for.  But I’d made it.  And something I had thought about on that course was how often are we ever really prepared for the hard stuff?  We aren’t.  There really isn’t much we can do besides take things as they come and do the best we can under the circumstances.  Ah, and wasn’t that a prophetic thought…

Part II: The Aftermath

On the drive home I wasn’t in any hurry, so I plugged my address into my phone GPS and let it take me home by way of the back roads.  Hilly, twisty, turny roads with tiny little churches, grand houses with big white fences and fields full of wildflowers.  I enjoyed the ride home as much as the race, maybe more.  And by then the sun was shining.

I got home, unloaded the car, showered, and I was feeling pretty good about myself making 6:30 church.  I grabbed a cup of coffee on the way in to keep me awake.  As we stood to start singing, I felt it hit me.  A wave of dizziness passed over me.  I wanted  the singing to end, I was desperate to sit down.  Finally we did.  I was shifty, fidgety, unable to focus.  I was so tired, but it wasn’t an ordinary tiredness.  I felt like I was going to pass out.   I fought to maintain through the service.  I survived.  Then I drove home, grabbed more water and curled up on the couch under a blanket with my jacket still on.  I was shivering.  My heart was racing.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t peed more than twice that whole day.  Once in the morning before the race and once after the race.  That’s it.  I recognized some of the signs of dehydration and I started getting worried.  After talking to my mom, we agreed I should consider having someone take me to the ER.  I called Vega, who lives just a couple miles away, but he was over in Illinois so he suggested I call Heather.  I did and she came right over.

I had turned on the movie Wild, which I’d been wanting to see, because I knew it would hold my attention and keep me alert as well as anything.  I kept refilling my water.

When Heather arrived, I had already started feeling a little better, so we decided to sit tight and see how things went for a while.  We hadn’t seen each other so we caught up on each other’s lives and the time passed quickly.  Before too long I was going to the bathroom frequently and things seemed to be returning to normal.  I sent Heather on home and I climbed into bed for the night.

I woke up around 1am and stumbled clumsily with marathon fatigued muscles into the bathroom.  When I returned to bed, I had a hard time going back to sleep.  I tossed and turned a lot.  I didn’t feel right but I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I chalked it up to post-marathon yuck.

I finally got up around 8:30 the next morning.  My muscles hurt more than they should have.  True I hadn’t trained very well, but this seemed like an excessively miserable state.

I made my way to the kitchen and shoved a bag of lays potato chips in my face.  Yes, for breakfast.  Don’t judge me.  I knew I needed salt.  I chased them with a bottle of lemon lime Gatorade Silas had taken one sip of and then left in the fridge.  Typically I loathe lemon lime Gatorade, but on that particular morning it tasted like the nectar of the gods.  Again, I should have suspected that something was awry.  I downed an orange Gatorade and some other easily accessible items.  I avoided coffee, because I feared the feeling of my heart racing the night before was due to the quantity of caffeine I had consumed.  Pre-race coffee, caffeinated gels, cola at the aid stations, coffee at church.  It was a lot even for me.  I settled in on the couch to study for my Monday exam, this week testing on the Urinary system.  Oh, the irony.

As it closed in on 11 am, I got ready for work and headed out the door with enough time to stop for a burger on the way, I was craving one.  I swung by 5 Guys and Fries, got stuck behind a whole baseball team and was shoving fries in my mouth as I drove the rest of the way to work.  I pulled into the parking lot and in a cumbersome manner dragged myself and my supplies (food, water, Gatorade) into the store.

We were slow for quite a while.  I told Hannah about the race.  I used the massage rollers.  I wanted to lie down.  I wandered aimlessly.  Hannah was helping a customer with a Garmin when a guy came in for a shoe fitting.  Hannah knew I was going to have a hard time getting up and down off the floor, so she had already offered to take fittings first, but she was helping someone, so I sucked it up and did what I was there to do.  I did have to explain to my customer that I am not typically so inflexible that it takes me 5 minutes to get up off the floor.  He was kind about it, he probably should have laughed, I’m sure I looked absurd.  After those 2 customers left, the entire store was empty.  I was freezing, so I put on my jacket. Hannah and I were over talking to James and Ronette.  I really wanted to just go to sleep on the couch on the SBR side.  I went and stood halfway out the door.

James looked at me quizzically, “Are you cold?!”

“I’m freezing.”

At this point, Hannah started insisting I go home.  We were mostly through the day, the “rush” was likely over and I was pretty much useless to anyone.  So, I followed Hannah’s orders and I went home.  The drive was one of those drives where you get to where you’re going and you’re like, huh, how did I get here?

I went in the house and resumed my position on the couch under the blanket, jacket still on.  When B showed up about an hour later with my requested can of soup, I hadn’t moved and I probably looked like death.  I had quickly escalated back to worse than I had felt the previous evening.  I don’t recall that I said much for the next hour as I dozed on the couch.  He asked a couple different times if I wanted my soup, but my appetite had become a thing of the past.

He sat down on the couch at my feet.  I finally looked at him and said, “I don’t think I can fix this myself.”

B asked, “Are you ready to go to the hospital?”

“Yeah, I’m done suffering.”

We gathered my purse, a blanket, my phone charger, things I would need in case we had to be there a few hours.  I wasn’t planning on days.  I figured we’d go to the ER, they’d give me a bag of IV fluid, maybe a prescription for an antibiotic and send me on my way.

B dropped me at the emergency door and then went to park, I was already in Triage when he came in.  I told the nurse my symptoms, she drew some blood and started an IV and put me back in the waiting room for a bit.  I was glad I had brought my blanket.  I was shivering again.  B went and asked the nurse for another blanket for me.  A nurse told him she would bring one over.  The longer I waited, the more I shook.  I was freezing, I actually had a fever of almost 103. Eventually, B went back to the nurse and got a blanket that felt fresh out of the dryer.  It was heaven.  But with the shaking, came the nausea.  So then B had to go ask for something for me to puke in, just in case.  If you’re wondering, I never did. Finally after the longest hour ever, they took me back to a room and not too long after the doctor came in.  “You know your body well,” he said.  Turns out I was severely dehydrated, with a kidney infection to boot.  They planned to give me a couple more bags of fluid and some antibiotics.  That right there was enough to confirm the decision to come in.  They needed to run more tests, so they took more blood.  And then I was admitted.  More confirmation I had done the right thing coming to the hospital.

I got to my room just after midnight.  I was exhausted.  It took a while for that to change.  My temp would ebb and flow, waves of nausea mixed with episodes of violent shivering, vitals every 4 hours, midnight round of antibiotics and shots in the belly, 5am blood draw for labs, one day would flow into the next with the hope of going home tomorrow.  I started feeling like the little boy who cried wolf.

My diagnosis was Pyelonephritis.  What are the odds that I know exactly what this is because there was likely a question about it on the exam I missed Monday.  My kidney infection allowed the infection to be sent out from my kidney into my body through my blood.  Had I ignored my symptoms longer, I might not have lived to tell the tale.  Scary, but true.  The good news is RRG rambles on.  However, I may not be running much for a while.  But that’s ok.  I’ve got a lot to focus on.  And after 4, almost 5, days in the hospital, I’ve got some catching up to do.

Something Rosie texted me the other day was, “Take care of you.  Remember: your face mask first.” She’s right.  I know everyone calls me supermom, but what good am I to my kids, or anyone else, if I don’t take care of myself?  This was a good reality check that while I know I am capable of pushing through the pain, there are times that I probably shouldn’t.

So apparently, the moral of the story is, I’m not superhuman.  Huh. Who knew?  😉

As for Berryman, we’re on for a rematch.  Someday.  When I don’t have a potentially life threatening infection.  As for this weekend, be certain I won’t be traveling too far from the couch.

 

 

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