A while back, my sister-in-law Julie contacted me and shared her experience of running her first half-marathon with me. I cried reading the email; I was just so proud of her!!! She expressed surprise at what a significant emotional event it was for her when she crossed the finish line. For those of us that have run one or two or a dozen long-distance races, that feeling is all too familiar. While any race can be a significant emotional event, that first “BIG” race is a doozy.
|Julie's Marathon Mama Medal|
Julie had been watching my cancer adventure from afar and expressed her admiration that I’d come through it so well. She also wanted to know if I’d like to run a race with her someday. I was so touched that she reached out to me and excited at the opportunity to run a race with her. “Of course!” I emailed back. I also suggested that we ask my other two sister-in-laws to join us to make it a family affair. Julie, Jennifer, nor Becky are crazy runners like Joe and I are crazy runners. Still, I thought they just might join in the fun.
At the family Easter get-together, Julie again told the story of how awesome her first half-marathon was and invited Becky and Jennifer to join us. After a time, Jennifer politely declined. Becky, however, was on-board. We decided to do the same race Julie had run the year before – the Lady Speed Stick Women’s Half-Marathon in Phoenix. Whoo hoo!!! Let the good times roll!
Initially, I thought it would be really fun to run all together, but Joe quickly schooled me and I had to face the facts. Julie and Becky run much slower than I do (sorry, girls). If I ran with either of them for the entire race, I’d risk injury to myself. Okay. When you say it like that, Coach Joe…
|I'm ALIVE... and running!|
The months passed and I continued my ridiculous race schedule. Yes, I said ridiculous. I can say that now, but at the time, I was so gung ho to be getting back up to speed after a year of just trudging along while I was going through treatment, I didn’t care. Four half-marathons, one full marathon, numerous 5Ks, four sprint tris and one half-Ironman in eight months is a bit much, and yes, you can call me crazy. But… I have Dr. Frankenstein’s voice running through my head… “She’s ALIVE!” Ridiculous yes, but important for my psyche.
I had two big fitness goals this year:
- To complete a half-Ironman in under six hours – didn’t happen (the race report is still coming)
- To complete a sub-two hour half-marathon.
|Glad to be finished, but no PR|
I came sooo close to achieving goal #2 at the Albany Half-Marathon. My time was 2:01 and change. My downfall was not the rain, thunder and lightning or the tornado sirens going off. Nope. Au contraire. I think those conditions actually made me run faster as I’m sure most people would have. What slowed me waaaay down was that I had an asthma attack at about mile 9. Grrrr! Ah well, like the Farmers’ Insurance commercials – “Moving on…”
Since the WHM was my last chance to achieve my running goal this year, it was game on! I came to the realization that I needed to ramp up my training and, ugh, incorporate the dreaded interval runs. I formally and finally acknowledged that I was no longer a “novice” runner. I was truly and officially an “intermediate” runner. I know. I know. To me, “intermediate” runners are much faster than I am. I forget that most of the people I compare myself to are weirdo athletes like myself. Anyhoo, I backed off on my swimming and my biking a bit to focus on running. I was ready, but the proof would be in the running on race day.
Meanwhile, in AZ, Julie and Becky were getting ready for the race as well. Bless those two girls for running in the crazy AZ summer heat. It is a dry heat and all, but it’s still HOT!!! They were both doing fine until Julie ended up needing knee surgery in July. Major bummer! Julie felt so badly when she told me that she’d only be doing the 5K; that she wasn’t prepared for the half. While a small part of me was disappointed, I was relieved that she was able to still run and that, despite the distance, we’d still be out on the course together. It’s about the journey, not just about the race. Seriously, Jules! :0)
The first Friday this month, Joe happily sent me on my way to AZ and, BONUS, got me an additional ticket to stop off in Las Vegas for a few days after the race to see one of my BFFs – Carolyn and her crazy busy family. Swweeeeet! I’m so lucky that I’ve got a hubby that gets racing like I do and understands the importance of “girl-time”.
|Ah, the stories these lovely ladies could tell...|
Before getting together with family, I HAD to see my old work buddies. We had a couple of snafus getting together and not everyone was able to stay the entire time, but GOSH was it wonderful to see these ladies who have been in my life for so very many years. These are the gals that were there when I was just starting my career and my adult life. They have witnessed many of my crazy life’s ups and downs and not ratted me out. For that, I love them dearly, and, that’s all I’m gonna say about that… ;0)
|Kylie, Will and Aunt Genny|
There are certain places where I always feel at home. Becky’s house is one of them. Despite one furry little face that was sadly missing, it was comforting to be back at Casa de Drost. The kids haven’t seen me in quite a while (I was bald the last time Will spent time with me), but neither skipped a beat. Whenever I walked out of the room, one or both would immediately ask Becky or Matt, “Where’s Aunt Gen?!” On the second day of my visit, Kylie started calling me “Aunt Genny.” Huh!!!?? Where they pulled that one out of, I have no idea! Oh well. If it sticks, it sticks. Niece and nephew prerogative, I guess.
Saturday morning, Becky had to work so I kept myself busy until it was time to pick her up and hit the expo and lunch with Julie and Jennifer. While I am not uber-religious, in times of great stress, I find comfort in going to church and taking a few minutes to quietly reflect on life, to center, to meditate, to pray. I prefer to go between Masses, when the church is quiet, so quiet that I can hear the outside world passing me by. Sitting in the sanctuary was, even for a few minutes, what I needed. It was warm outside and the doors were all thrown open so that you could hear the fountains bubbling and gurgling outside in the courtyard. Peaceful.
|Candles at church - the way I remember them|
I really don’t remember when I myself started lighting candles, but it’s something that we Catholics do for those that are sick, in need or who have died. My friend Yaz’s husband, Alex, died from leukemia a few weeks ago and our friend Melody passed away from ovarian cancer a couple of months ago. Their deaths still saddened me and I felt compelled to light a couple of candles in their honor. I looked around for the candles and couldn’t find them in the sanctuary. “Ah,” I thought, “They’re in the chapel.” Sure enough, there they were, but when I tried to find the wooden skewers that one typically uses to light the candles, I was baffled. There were none, only little buttons in front of each “candle”.
I’m sorry; I understand the need for safety and reducing the risk of a fire hazard, but pushing that little button instead of watching the wick ignite and then snuffing the skewer out in the sand, just didn’t do it for me. Ask anyone that knows me – I’m a stickler for TRADITION! My dad used to sing the song “Tradition!” from Fiddler on the Roof to me. I miss the smell of the candles burning. I miss the movement of the flames, the way the light danced on the colored glass votives that they were carefully placed in. I could go on and on.
As I pulled out of the church parking lot, I realized that my visit did what I had hoped it would – it centered me, calmed me, revitalized me, and eased some of the ache in my heart. Exercise does the same thing. To me, the great outdoors is God’s original church. Since I was in taper-mode and couldn’t go out for a long run, I had my chat with God and myself in the manmade representation of God’s church.
|Tiff, Jen, Jules, me and Becky after lunch and race expo|
The expo and late lunch afterwards were quite the raucous affairs. In addition to Becky, Julie and Jennifer, we were joined by Jennifer’s lovely niece Tiffany. Bobby, the SPI Belt vendor at the expo, will forever remember me as the “330 Gal” because of our no-holds barred discussion of my breast reconstruction implants in front of his stall. I’ve met him before and he’s a pretty cool guy, but I think he got more than he bargained for when he listened in. :0)
The next morning dawned clear and cool. Temps were predicted to be in the 80s by the afternoon, so Becky and I donned our Athleta tank tops and shorts (well a running skirt for her, but same difference) and jumped in the car. Matt and the kiddos would come down later to hopefully get some snaps of us as we crossed the finish line. Julie was meeting us at the finish line after her race.
|Giddy with pre-race excitement|
We got a primo parking spot at the race start and then… <cue angelic trumpeting>, we got to be the first ones to use the port-a-potties. This is a HUGE deal! I literally got to rip the wrapper off of the tp. I was giddy with excitement! For those of you that don’t race or are not athletic supporters, port-a-potties get a bit “ripe” rather quickly before races. Race nerves and all, if you catch my drift…
Before we knew it, it was time to get in our respective corrals. Since I put my estimated time at less than two hours, I was in the first corral (yes, it really is like a corral that they put animals in to keep them contained). Becky was four corrals back. I hugged her hard, said something encouraging and then she was gone in a sea of other runners. The National Anthem played, I teared up like I always do, I said a little prayer for us and then, we were off!
|I ran this race for Melody and Alex|
Before his Ironman races, Joe always has me write inspiring messages on his arms to help him when the going gets tough. That morning I put two names on my arms – Melody and Alex. I was running this race for them – because they can’t anymore. I ran the first two miles for them. Every subsequent mile, I ran for someone. It’s something that I started doing a while back. It makes the race more meaningful for me and it helps me stay on-task and motivated. That morning, I ran for the people that helped me through my cancer adventure. I ran for those that are still going through their own adventures. I ran for the ones I love - my friends and family. It helped the miles go by, one by one. Usually, the last four miles I run for the kids and Joe. This race though, I ran the very last mile was for Yaz, Lexi, Maddy Rose, Bella and JT five people whose lives will never be the same. It was my tribute to them and their beloveds.
I am terrible at pacing, but I have a function on my Garmin that allows it to “remind me” if I’m going too slow to meet my goal pace. Thank goodness. I managed to keep myself on pace to the point of when I hit the last four miles; I knew I could make it in under two hours. Since I only wanted to go sub-two hours, I eased up a bit. On the last out and back, as I was heading into the last half-mile, I looked in earnest for Becky heading out on the last four miles. Suddenly, there she was - cruising along with a smile on her face! I ran across the boulevard and joyfully hugged her and gave her some encouragement. I KNEW that she would finish at that point!!!
I crossed back to my side of the course and picked up the pace. I could hear the noise of the finish line. I focused and ran a little harder. I never saw Matt or the kids. I never saw my brother-in-law Michael or my nephew Nathan as they cheered me in. As Matt said, I had the 100-yard stare as I came into the finish. But, I did it! Official time: 1:59:29. While I was pleased with my accomplishment, I was more focused on getting back out onto the course to cheer Becky on.
|Thanks, Matt for such an awesome finish line pic! Wish|
I could have run like this for the entire race!!
|Julie and I - all smiles|
|Well-deserved medal for a job|
Julie and I hugged and laughed and talked and hugged and laughed some more at the finish line! I was so stoked that we were there together! After a few leg cramps and some water, we headed back out onto the course to find Becky and run/walk her in. She finished in just over three hours and I couldn’t be prouder of her!!!!! I just wish Joe could have been there to see her cross the finish line! To go from not-really-a-runner to marathon mama in just over six months is so incredible! Will she run another half marathon? I don’t know, but NO ONE can ever take that accomplishment away from her!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to my sister-in-law Julie for suggesting this!!!!! What a wonderful experience to have shared with both of you! :0)