Sunday, September 29, 2013

One Year Later.

A year ago at this time I wasn't running. At all. I had run all summer, and then quit mid-August. I missed the beautiful, cool fall days that were perfect for a run. I also set aside my goal of finishing a half-marathon (or at that time, a full marathon), at least for a bit.

But yesterday was the day. I was able to check that one off of the bucket list. 13.1 miles, conquered.

I had my doubts. Going into yesterday's race, I had not run since the previous Sunday, when I had a horrible run. It was so bad that I had to call Chris to pick me up around mile 7, four miles shorter than what I was hoping to do. I spent the week limping. Tight calves and shin splints. I declared it a week of rest, and spent my nights stretching, icing, and taking a painkiller or two. I got a massage on Tuesday, which helped some, but didn't take away all of the pain. It certainly didn't give me confidence that I'd finish the race. That was my only goal - just to finish.

How I spent the night before the race.
When the alarm went off at 5:00 am, I was already awake. I was in and out of sleep all night, and thanks to a playful but incredibly annoying cat, I woke up at 3:00 am, and couldn't fall back asleep. I put on my gear, ate a little breakfast, and packed up my stuff, and walked out the front door at 5:15. I wanted to get in some slow jogging up and down the block, just to get a sense of whether my legs were on board for the road ahead.

Chris was a trooper and drove me to Miller Park at 5:40 am. A time that neither of us regularly see. We parked, I stretched, went to the bathroom three separate times, and then lined up. My bib said "Corral K," which wasn't even a true corral. Just the back. Like "Hey slow people, find somewhere to stand behind Corral J. And don't get in the way of the people in front of you." Sounds good.

And then it started. And I ran. I ran down Canal Street and past the casino, where it was super smelly, btw. And then over to the Iron Horse Hotel, and back for a loop around the Harley Davidson Museum. And then around the rest of the city, past Miller Brewery, and through some neighborhoods, and then back to Miller Park.

It was a pretty scenic run - although I only half paid attention. I was mainly focused on keeping going. One mile at a time, most faster than my average training run. As I would cross a mile marker, I'd recite my mantra. "Alright Mile 9. All in on Mile 9." No idea where that came from, but it helped. Other times I counted backwards from 100. Over and over. Boring, but it kept me from stopping and giving up. And it also helped me to ignore the various pains in my legs and feet, and an icky stomach feeling that came and went throughout the race. I knew that I'd be looking at some huge blisters when my shoes came off.

Beauts, aren't they?
Popping blisters has become my sad post-race ritual.
At mile 11, I walked. I powered through all of the other hills and up the start of the on ramp, but I eventually met a hill that I couldn't take.  So I let myself walk to the top of the hill, and then picked it back up. It helped that there were folks with signs, cheering along the way. "Pain now, beer later." Best one by far. Am I right?!

Mile 13 brought me into the stadium. It was totally surreal to run through and see all of the families and friends that were in the stands cheering. And then to look up and see that we were on the huge screen, woah. I wanted to speed up through the stadium and finish strong, but I also had the urge to slow down and take it in.

As I ran the final portion of the race and through the finish line, it hit me. Not the pain, but the overwhelming feeling that comes with accomplishing a major goal. One for me that was really hard, and not without set backs. And somehow, I managed to sort of rock it. And blew my own expectations for what I could do.

I just wanted to finish, and yet, I did way better than I thought I ever could!
I know for some people, 13.1 is nothing. And I am in total awe of everyone I know who has completed a full marathon. Because as soon as I finished, the first thing that came to mind was "Oh hell no. No way that I could do what I just did, but twice." In fact, as I found my sister and Chris at the end, and started to cry, all I could say was "I can't believe I finished! I don't want to do a full one."


I promise that giant wet spot is from dumping water over myself.
Not all sweat. I think...
Maybe that goal will come back around later in life. Maybe. But for now, I am pretty proud of checking this off of my list. And I think I'll focus on recovering for a little bit. Because right now I'm walking like  an 80 year old. And just want to sleep on my couch.

Give me a week or two.

Didn't get it done before 30, but getting it done within 30 was pretty great too.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Update or Two

Thank you.

I have had a hard time getting it together to write anything after that last post. I'll be honest - it took a lot out of me. It was very freeing to share how I was feeling and finally open up. But it did something more.

It opened the door to some really wonderful, but very emotional conversations with great friends via text, e-mail, Facebook message, and phone call. Friends who have experienced their own loss. Who are navigating their way through their own life transitions and figuring out how to do so without the loved ones that they miss. There is something about having a shared experience that connects people. And while I wish that we didn't share this particular one, I have found that being able to have an open, honest conversation about missing a dead parent, spouse, or family member helps in the healing. So thank you. My tears were flowing that night. But they were good tears.

These last few weeks have been pretty crazy. When you work in education, the start of the school year is sort of a whirlwind, but in this awesome, high energy, "This is a pretty cool job" kinda way. I have been going in high gear for so long that I am looking forward to a little bit of a break. To read books. To sit around in sweatpants. And to get back to a bit of wedding planning. Because guess what the next step is? Cake!

We are also getting our engagement photos taken in about a month, and I am pretty excited. Because I have a new accessory for my pics.

My engagement ring is here! Isn't it pretty? I love it.

We had actually ordered the ring a few months ago from Rare Earth, a fine jewelry shop on Etsy. It arrived in August, and I immediately fell in love. It's beautiful, personal, and ethically sourced/conflict-free - something that was important to me. Melanie actually uses 90% recycled metals, which I think is pretty awesome. Unfortunately, we did not do a very good job on the sizing, and the thing practically fell off my finger. The designer was great to work with though, and let us reorder the correct size. When I got home today, my little furball greeted me at the door with a bow tied around his neck. He's a great gift giver (as is Chris)! But Bucky was just as excited as I was to get the thing off of him and onto my finger instead. : )

There is one other reason that I am excited for our pictures. No, it's not the fact that we have to be all lovey dovey in public. That part is going to be hard. You might also recall, it means I can shop! Anything wedding related. Right?!

With my schedule, I honestly have no desire to go to the mall and struggle through trying on a bunch of stuff in a fitting room. Per the recommendation of a friend, I signed up for an account on Stitch Fix. It is sort of like Birchbox, but better. Because it's clothes and accessories! You pay a $20 styling fee and get a box with 5 different items. Tops, skirts, jewelry - all kinds of stuff. When you sign up, you create a custom profile, where you give lots of details on your preferred sizes, styles, price range, etc. You can also share a Pinterest board with them, so that they can get a better sense of your style wish list.  Plus, you can specify any special things you are looking for - like clothes for a trip...or engagement photos!

When your box arrives, you have three days to try on the items and decide what you want to keep and what you are going to send back. The $20 styling fee is applied towards whatever items you want to purchase, and you pay the difference. They give you a prepaid envelope to send back whatever you don't want to keep. And they are totally okay if you send a bunch of stuff back because they want you to give feedback on what worked and what didn't, to help make future boxes better.

I got my first box last night and had a ton of fun trying on the clothes. One of the nice things that they do is provide a guide for some different ways to style each of the different pieces. I got a few things that I wouldn't likely wear, but a few that I love. And one thing that will be totally perfect for our engagement pictures. And I loved that it arrived at my front door, picked out just for me.

Who knew that I'd get so excited about some wedding things?

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