Grace in small things

I’m a week away from marathon weekend – an event that has consumed a lot of my plans and thoughts every day for months. If I’m being honest, it’s an event that has consumed my thoughts for a year because this time last year I had my goal race in mind and now I’m making it reality. (And since I’m being honest I should also admit that it’s something that has weighed heavily on my mind since my first marathon in 2011. Think there’s some emotion invested in this race??) This post is a good opportunity to shake off some marathon jitters and focus my energy on something else – even if it is for just a few moments.

This week I found grace in…

  • 20 strong miles beneath brightening blue skies, past blazing fall colors, beside my favorite Lake.
  • Fall colors (yes, again) because they seem particularly bright & beautiful this year.
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  • Shirts with thumbholes
  • Honest conversations
  • A night in the city with my favorite person by my side
  • Go, Dog, Go

I just looked at my blog history to link that last point to its story and it appears to not be posted. It must have happened before I started this blog because it’s a really good story that came up in conversation this week: The spring after we moved here I took my children to a Chicago Children’s Theater production of the Dr. Seuss story Go, Dog, Go. (Technically that book is authored by PD Eastman but it’s in the Dr. Seuss collection.) I don’t think it was the first show for the girls but it was for little J who was only two years old. I was afraid he might get antsy and not pay attention but the show was being held in a large circus tent in Grant Park so I figured it was as good a first show as any.

Here we are at the park before the show! (kids ages 9, 7 & 2)
Here we are at the park before the show! (kids ages 8, 6 & 2)

Turns out, J loved the show most of all. We were seated on bleachers around the tent and he stood next to me on the seat to see better. He was as quiet and still as I’d ever seen him. And then he started laughing – those people dressed as colorful dogs just struck him as hilarious. My oldest remembers this clearly as well, J laughed and laughed and laughed – those ridiculously contagious toddler giggles. He laughed so hard his legs grew weak and he could barely stand. He laughed so hard that people all around were craning their necks trying to find the source of such great merriment. Oh… it will always be one of my most favorite memories.

Race report: Hero Half Marathon

I haven’t run a half marathon in almost a year. I decided this year to focus on one big race and while I’ve hit (and passed) the 13.1 mile distance a handful of times in training, I haven’t toed the start line. Then I won an entry to a local half marathon (thanks The Style Files!) that was the same weekend as my last long run of marathon training. And thus, Sunday morning I found myself standing at the edge of Lake Michigan with approx 400 other runners ready to take off for a race.

190 of those runners were doing the half marathon distance, the rest were doing a 10K. I always think that’s a nice race combo. The 10K runners stayed in the Dunes State Park for their run. The rest of us immediately headed out to US 12 which winds its way through trees that are blazing with color this time of year. It was a small enough race that after the first mile everyone settled into their pace and there was no more passing. (I’m sure there was plenty of passing for the front of the pack but those of us towards the back were happy to run our race.) Around mile 4 we ducked onto the Calumet Trail – hard packed dirt with crushed stone. I’ve run this before – in fact the next 5 miles are miles I’ve run before. I was very familiar with the entire course which made this race feel like home to me.

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After about a mile on the trail we hit a street and made a turn straight for the beach – my family’s favorite beach in fact. :) I love this little beachside neighborhood and, while I wasn’t dragging prior to it, I definitely perked up at this point in the race. Soon we came to Lake Front Drive and ran a peaceful mile or so with the waves of Lake Michigan crashing on the right and beautiful homes on the left. A few homeowners were out cheering us on. This was the only “crowd” support of this race. But I wasn’t there for crowds – I was there for the scenery and distractions to help my 20 mile run feel less intimidating.

We had to turn away from the beach and around mile 9 were back on the Calumet Trail. The race director warned us that miles 9-11 were wet. She was being optimistic. Miles 9-11 were 75% flooded. No way to walk around the puddles – it was muddy, slippery & wet. Within half a mile my feet were soaked and mud was squishing out at every step. I caught up to a group of runners here as we were all walking and trying to pick the driest paths. We agreed that we felt like we picked up an extra 5 pounds of mud to carry the rest of the race. It wasn’t fun. At some point I just gave up and ran unless it was too slippery.

My muddy shoes post-race. I really hope I can get them cleaned up for marathon day.
My muddy shoes post-race. I really hope I can get them cleaned up for marathon day.

Just over mile 11 we turned back into the State Park (and pavement). I had mud splattered up my back but enough energy to ask the people manning the water stop where the “dry sock & shoe” station could be found. We all laughed and then I got back on track. The last two miles wind through the Indiana Dunes State Park and it felt like I was running through a gorgeous tunnel of fall leaves for most of it. Loved it.

I ran 6 miles at home early in the morning (just me, the moon & my flashlight). Got to the State Park as the sun was rising, picked up my bib and ran another mile or so to warm up before the race. So when we turned into the park I was at mile 18. Aside from some pain from my calf injury (I don’t think the slick trail with all its starting & stopping helped that), I was feeling great. Plenty of energy and ready to hit the finish. I got back on track with my run/walk intervals and tackled the last two miles. I felt good enough that I skipped the last walk interval because I knew I was only .5 from the finish. I actually had enough energy that I picked it up a bit to push hard and I crossed the finish line strong and with a smile on my face.

The last time I trained for a marathon, the 20 mile run almost killed me. I walked & limped the final two miles that day. This day I pushed harder. I’m shocked at how much stronger I’m feeling with the distance runs. I was actually on track to have the half marathon finish around my average for that race distance (until I hit the muddy miles and slowed down). If I were racing, I would have just crashed through that flooded section. All I could think about was how angry I’d be if I slipped and hurt something and then couldn’t race the marathon in two weeks. The Hero Half wasn’t my goal race and I was pretty determined to keep that in perspective.

I left the State Park yesterday knowing two things:

  1. I am feeling great moving into my marathon taper. Even with those weeks I had to take off of training because of my injury, I feel more prepared than I did for my first marathon. Yesterday’s run was a little slower than the pace I envisioned pre-injury but it was right on target for where I expect to be in two weeks. I didn’t watch my pace for one second yesterday and I don’t expect to on race day either. I’m going to run by feel, soak in the miles and hopefully have lots to smile about at the end. That’s how I ran my 20 and I’m still smiling about it.
  2. I would love to run the Hero Half again. The course is beautiful with its fall colors & Lake views. I like the feel of a small race. And it was the perfect way to make my 20 something special.
Half marathon #9 in the books!
Half marathon #9 in the books!

Graces for finally Friday

It’s been one of those weeks where every day felt like Thursday. Monday night: “Wait… you mean tomorrow isn’t Friday??” This morning on the walk to school J asked, “Today IS Friday isn’t it?” Yes, finally… Friday is here!

I don’t have anything fantastic to look forward to this weekend so I’m not sure why I needed it to be Friday so badly. (Well, a 20 mile run this weekend is something fantastic because I’m doing 7 on my own and then heading over to the start line of a half marathon along the shores of my favorite Lake and will be surrounded by beautiful fall colors. So there’s that.)

At any rate… here are some graces that lightened up my week while I was waiting for Friday to finally arrive.

  • A fun book to read. The past few books I’ve read have just been okay so it’s fun to have something that I’m really enjoying on my nightstand.
  • Glorious fall colors that popped up all week long
  • Sunshine today after a week full of gloom and rain
  • Sending my beautiful daughter off to her first homecoming dance
  • It's obvious in that picture that she did not inherit those legs from me.
    It’s obvious in that picture that she did not inherit those legs from me.
  • Having my meetings end early enough that I got to surprise my family with cupcakes from our favorite Indy bakery. And watching my kids write “dibs” on the box for their preferred flavors.

Bonus: I bought 6 cupcakes. That means there’s an extra one waiting for me today and I didn’t even have to put dibs on it. :)

Grace in small things – even in a frustrating week

This is the week I tried to get my head above water. I’m still treading. I don’t think I’m going to get everything done today that I should which means next week will be a little behind too. It’s frustrating. By & large it’s been a frustrating week. One of those weeks where there’s just so much to be done and not enough hours in the day to do it. I’m hoping for some downtime this weekend to rejuvenate a bit.

Once again, this is just the kind of week where I really need to find and appreciate the grace-filled moments.

  • Taking my kids out to lunch on their half day.
  • Remembering all the various library due dates that are floating around this house.
  • Conquering the ravioli maker.
  • Dinner & a movie with my husband – it was like a real date. (And Gone Girl is such a good movie!)
  • The moon in all its huge, bright, fall fullness.
  • Having grouchy Joyce the bag lady tell me I’m her favorite customer.

The middlest – the child who has never been a morning person – just told me she is exhausted and wants nothing to do with the high school football game tonight that the rest of the family will be attending. (Nothing unusual about that.) I suggested we watch a movie while we eat dinner and then go to bed early with a book. She loves it. Do we know how to party on a Friday night or what?!? I’m not going to lie… I’m pretty excited about our plan. I need some serious downtime this weekend.

Twenty

20th Wedding Anniversary
Traditional Gift: China
Modern Gift: Platinum

Those are good ideas actually. Lots of our dishes have broken by now and we could use some new plates and bowls. As for platinum, pushing away thoughts of jewelry, as a natural element it is malleable, dense, highly unreactive and precious. Those aren’t bad qualities for a marriage that’s lasted this long.

A long marriage has to be able to change over time when needed. It needs to be closely tied together. It should be something that does not easily react to outside influences. And it is certainly something precious.

Happy Anniversary to my husband. So many things have changed since the day of that first picture but one thing remains the same – he’s still the one I want to be with every day and every tomorrow.

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