Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Barely escaping with my life from: Canada geese

I dragged them out of bed at 4:45 am and they greeted me at the finish like this.
It is inescapable that there are at least three challenges involved in what I'm doing here: running 12 half-marathons; raising $10,000 for the JDRF; and writing about all of it. This third part is the challenge that sneaked up on me. I love to write. But one problem is, I don't have any time to do it. I spend all day running around after two spazzy kids, and then I put them to bed and I work (freelance editing) until I go to bed. And the second problem is, it is really really hard to write about running and make it interesting. "I lifted my foot and propelled it forward. I lifted the other and ..."

Anyway that little preamble is my way of hopefully making it clear that I take keeping this blog updated seriously. For those of you who have donated to my efforts, I do most definitely feel like I at the very least owe it to you to prove that I am doing the part I committed myself to, and that it is occupying a lot of space in my brain (not to mention schedule). Otherwise, you might assume I talked a big game and made a big noise about all this running and nonsense, I waited until the donations rolled in, and then I went back to popping bonbons. Which of course is what I was doing before.

What was interesting about this run was the lessons learned. There were three that I can think of.

1. You are never too old for your mommy to save your butt.
Right after my last race, I started to panic because I won't be able to run one in July -- every weekend is spoken for, and even if they weren't, there are basically no half-marathons scheduled anywhere near me that month (I can't imagine why). (Oh right: Everyone in the southeastern United States is holed up indoors, with the windows closed and the A/C blasting, and a Zip-Loc baggie of ice cubes stuffed in their underwear for good measure.)

So I needed to double up in June, and the best option I found was just outside Atlanta on June 23. I started to look for a cheap airfare. None was presenting itself, and the 6 1/2-hour drive would be to much for me to do alone and also too much for our family to do with our screamy, car-hating 1-year-old, so I started to think I'd just have to suck it up and cough it up for a not-so-cheap airfare. And then I mentioned my little puzzle to my mom. "I'll drive down with you," she said simply, not really stopping to think very hard about it. "I'd be happy to." She lives outside Charlotte, which is squarely between Chapel Hill and Atlanta, so it wasn't the most illogical solution in the world.

So last Friday, as soon as Brandon was finished working, we threw our things (in this context our two children are being classified as "things") in the car and roared off for the 2 1/2-hour drive to Charlotte. On Saturday, my mom, Elaine and I piled into my parents' Jetta and tooled the 4 1/2 hours to Lawrenceville, Georgia (leaving Brandon and Ollie in Charlotte with my dad). On Sunday, my mom and my 5-year-old got up at 4:45 am, fumbled their way into some clothes, and drove me 30 minutes to the race start. A couple hours later, they met me at the finish, and then off we set to return to Charlotte, only this time it took 6 hours because we sat for 90 minutes with our engine off on the highway just outside Lawrenceville in the nastiest traffic snarl imaginable. And then in Charlotte my husband and I stuffed our two children back in the car, and back to Chapel Hill we went.

All those hours I spent in the car with my mom, she drove. I kept offering, she kept refusing (I am delicately choosing not to wonder if I have some sort of reputation behind the wheel). So she drove well over 11 hours in the space of two days. When she was not driving, she was energetically and uncomplainingly delighting my 5-year-old. Reading to her, drawing with her, saying, "You are kidding me!" with absolute conviction to every single totally-not-shocking announcement Elaine made ("Nana, one day? I saw this bug. And it was black").

2. It is just a little bit fun to be a medium-sized fish in a teeny tiny pond. 
The setting for this run was gorgeous, around a thickly wooded lake that was gently exhaling mist in the early morning. The weather was impossibly, sweetly, beautifully mild: around 70 degrees, with none of the thunderstorms that had been predicted. And the run itself was tiny. All of the signs for the route were hand-lettered in magic marker on posterboard. There were 28 runners doing the half-marathon (those of you who've done longer races know that this meant I was running totally alone for nearly all of the race, without another participant anywhere in sight). There were no chips on our bibs; our times were recorded by hand as we finished. And I finished fourth. I ran just a little bit faster than usual, but certainly nowhere near the speed of typical fourth-place finishers. I got to pretend like I was a hot shot, just for a fraction of time. I liked it.

3. Canada geese, deer and frogs do not give a shit about runners. 
Owing to the setting (lake, woods), I saw a bit of all three. Well, a lot of the first, since Canada geese tend to hang out in groupings of no less than a zillion. And it's just a little bit intimidating when they have crowded themselves across your path, and they all look up when they hear you coming and turn their zombie-ishly expressionless black faces toward you, and move precisely not one inch (while, apparently, continuing to void their bowels -- those things poo an astounding amount). You wonder if anyone would hear your screams, if you know what I mean. The deer, they just keep languidly munching the underbrush next to the path as you huff past, literally not even looking up. And the frogs, well ... there were at least three that were freshly squished on the path, presumably by runners one, two and three. Flattened frogs on a pedestrian-only path are a little depressing, and also baffling (why don't they move it?).

And there it is. I'm 25% of the way through my races, and 33% of the way to my fundraising goal. I feel constantly inadequate in my efforts to show my gratitude to everyone who has supported me, by donating, by forwarding and reposting my information, by acting like what I am doing is worthwhile and appearing to hope I succeed. Thank you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

In which I did not barf

A common piece of advice you hear thrown around is: Listen to your body. It sounds like great advice, and I think its underlying meaning is usually something along the lines of "don't ignore screaming pain" or "call a doctor if you get short of breath on your way to the fridge" or "start going to bed earlier if you are becoming so exhausted that you fall asleep midsentence while reading to your daughter during the afternoon" (this has actually happened to me. Not very long ago).

But here is the thing: it is super-easy to go deaf to most of the voices that represent your physical needs. In my case, I got noticeably good at the deafness after having two kids. When you're pregnant, and giving birth, and then raising the little nutcases, it becomes impossible to accommodate all your body's requests and demands, no matter how reasonable they are. Just for example, when you are pregnant, your stomach says things like "Let's not eat anything at all for several days now" followed almost immediately by "Let's eat everything in sight, maybe we could get our hands on that partially eaten donut our colleague just pitched in the trash can" and then (this one is very popular) "Let's barf, a lot and all the time, in response to nearly all smells, sights, thoughts, motion and any movement of air, even when we are completely empty let us heave violently and try to barf anyway." Your hips say "Ow dear lord OW, we don't stretch laterally, we're not designed that way, you're going to have to remove the baby some other way because it's not passing through THIS gate." Your feet and back say "We cannot accommodate the needs of a whale, you suck, we are going to complain incessantly until you do something about that ridiculous appendage out front." During childbirth your entire body says "Let's die now, that really seems like an attractive option, no matter what the means it has to be less inconvenient and excruciating than this other business."

Clearly, you can't fulfill all those requests, no matter how urgent they seem. You ignore them, push past them, stop talking or thinking about them, because if you didn't you would achieve spectacular levels of misery and no one could stand to be around you. Mostly you have better things to do. You are distracted by exciting prospects, or you simply can't be bothered to slow down for yourself. Or, as on that last count, the childbirth one, Western medicine is in your corner, if you want it there (I found it to be a very welcome companion after a couple of days).

Anyway my point is: This deafness, I think it is now my friend. Yesterday morning my knees complained, my toes hurt, I had a headache. But I didn't wallow in any of it. I instead thought about other things. In my head, as I chugged along for 13.1 miles, I read through all these incredible comments people put on my JDRF page, telling me I can do it. I tried to imagine what it will feel like when I have done it. I spent a lot of time thinking about money and how hard nearly everyone works for it and all the stress it can cause, and how shockingly awesome it is that people will part with some of it when there is little chance that they'll get any tangible reward or gain for doing so. I also thought a lot about food and coffee, because I wanted some of both.

Until the first 30 minutes after I finished the race. Then I mostly thought about barfing. I graduated from the place where you hope you won't to the place where you wish you would so you can feel better. I tried pacing, I tried to sit still, I sought shade, I wandered away from my wonderful husband and children, trying to find a space where the nausea was not. And I did it. I pushed through that too, I won! Once that last voice had gone quiet, the endorphins and the adrenaline took over, and I was excited, I am excited I am doing this.