’tis the season to be thankful

Thanksgiving is next week – NEXT WEEK! It’s been a busy month around here so it almost feels like it snuck up on me. The fact that it will be December when I get back from our Thanksgiving… well that’s a little mind blowing. It’s funny how the months can zoom past while the days drag on (every day has felt like Thursday this week – it’s been a neverending week). So here’s what I’m thankful for this week before I get caught up in all the turkey day preparations.

  • The grin on my son’s face as he cheered on his teammates in last night’s spell bowl
  • Finding time for short runs every day – runs that lift my spirits even as they freeze my face
  • Family dinner conversations & laughter
  • Flannel sheets
  • Watching 20, 8/9 year old kids close their eyes and pray for the recipients of their shoebox gifts (don’t tell them I watched, we were supposed to have our eyes closed!)

Holiday worries

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to take my family down to the Smoky Mountains for Thanksgiving. It’s not the ideal time to go perhaps – no fall colors, a little chilly for hiking – but it works well in our busy schedule and it’s one of the places on my bucket list of family road trips. (Besides hiking in the winter means bigger views with no leaves in the way.) We always spend Thanksgiving with my brother’s family so I asked if they wanted to join us or if we should just part ways this year. They said they were in.

And now I feel a ridiculous amount of anxiety about this trip. I’m messing with a HOLIDAY here. We can’t cook all the foods we normally do. The weather may or may not be good up on the mountain where we’re staying. (It’s cold & snowy right now.) It’s a long drive – one that will feel longer for my brother with his three young children even though my drive is two hours longer. My family likes to hike but I’m not sure my brother & his wife do – even if we pick shorter hikes that work for the little legs of my nieces and nephew.

If something goes off schedule and it’s just my family. I can roll with it. Can’t get a fresh turkey? we’ll have turkey breast or ham or pizza. Fun! Snowy weather? We will toss on boots and layers and head out for a winter hike – maybe even go tubing. Fun! It’s an adventure! We’re building a family memory and will always remember our Smoky Mountain Thanksgiving.

But if something goes wrong that ruins a HOLIDAY for my brother’s family… when it wasn’t even their idea and they don’t particularly like changing traditions… I will feel guilt for a long time. Instead of having a cherished memory of our adventurous Thanksgiving, I’ll have lifelong teasing about the year Barb ruined Thanksgiving.

I’m watching the weather like a hawk. I’ve got a host of plans that work well for all ages of children present. I’ve worked with my uncle to get us a ridiculously good deal on neighboring condos. I’m willing to concede my hiking plans on Pajama Pant Friday after hearing the tone of voice with which those plans were greeted. (It appears that some things just should not be changed regardless of the circumstances.)

I don’t want to do this every year. I like our Thanksgiving tradition. I just think it’s so important to expose my family to new horizons (in this case literally) and I love knowing that we will have this experience together. I just hope it doesn’t cause my brother & sister-in-law to disown me forever.

Stay tuned…

Thankful for small graces

I’m thankful for starting a hike on a carpet of leaves…

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and ending it on a dune hundreds of feet above deep blue waters.

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I’m thankful for slowly fluttering snowflakes, even when they fall too early in the season.

I’m thankful for the feel of a warm cup of tea in my hands.

I’m thankful to have my days not centered around running certain distances.

I’m thankful for quiet music in the background.

I’m thankful for big things of course: a warm house, a healthy family, a safe place to live. But it’s rejuvenating to stop and notice the small things that grace my life with happiness. It’s hard to be in a funk when you realize that there is good in every life – just waiting to be noticed.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

~Romans 5:1-2

Race Report: Indy Monumental Marathon

The full 26.2 is finally under my belt.

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I wanted this race to be a celebration. Oh, I knew it was going to hurt (and it did) but I wanted to tackle it with joy and revel in the fact that I can run 26.2 miles. No time goal – I was just hoping to not give up on myself, to run my plan and finish with a smile.

I stood in the start corral all by myself (surrounded by a few thousand other runners). I turned on one of my favorite podcasts. I tuned out the distractions around me. I remembered my key scripture quotes. I prayed for a strong race and a strong finish.

I honestly don’t remember much about miles 1-9. I felt great. This part of the course is fun. I was cold (below freezing at the start with a brisk wind out of the north) but I had no real complaints. I saw my family (my husband, son & oldest daughter) for the first time in the 10th mile. My oldest brought her best friend from here and her best friend from Indy joined her too – they were an awesome cheer squad. They ran alongside me until I got to my 10 mile “snack break” and they walked with me for that. I saw them again just before the halfway mark. I was still all smiles and loved having them there. I was also happy to be turning out of the wind at the halfway mark. (I wished more than once that I kept my gloves with me – my fingers were painfully cold. Brrr!)

The support in miles 10-17 was fantastic. HUGE shoutout to the Meridian/Kessler, Broad Ripple & Butler/Tarkington neighborhoods! They were out with music playing. Handing out Halloween candy, sliced oranges, bananas, tissues. At mile 12 there was a table with two guys pouring beer into shot glasses and banging a gong whenever someone took a beer. At mile 15 I stopped to stretch when I saw my family again. I was starting to hurt in a few places, but nothing I wasn’t prepared for. Somewhere between miles 16 & 17 was a party in the street, people dancing, giving high fives and pats on the back – hysterical. Really – this part of the course was so very fun.

And then the course was so NOT fun. Mile 17 was on the campus of Butler University and there were students out walking along oblivious that a marathon was running past them. And then miles 18-23 were dead. Yes, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is in the 19th mile and it was truly beautiful but only for about 1/2 of a mile. After that there was nothing… no people… no distractions… nothing but the increasing pain in my legs and the voices in my head.

Did I hit the infamous wall in this stretch? I don’t know. There was never a point where I wanted to stop. There was however a long stretch of nagging doubts. “You aren’t good enough to run a marathon. Who do you think you’re kidding?” My family drove past at mile 18 and saw that I was struggling. I don’t know my husband’s plan prior to that drive-by but after it he managed to see me every two miles. I just kept focusing on that. “Just get through two more miles and you’ll get a boost. Just two more miles.” That’s what I said to myself over & over in mile 19, 20 (got to see them!), 21, 22 (got to see them!). I started to feel better knowing I could count the remaining miles on one hand. I think my daughter is the one who said to me – “4 miles, mom! You do that all the time, you’ve got this.”

I went into the race with a run/walk plan of 6/1 and was determined to stick to it. However, I blew off two run intervals and walked at different points in this 5 mile stretch. That was the only time I did so the entire race. Of course, when I was walking people were passing me which only added to my mental struggles. It didn’t help that this was the only stretch of the course I didn’t know. We used to live in Indy and I was very familiar with the course – except this section. I told my husband it was bothering me so he started giving me course previews when I saw him. That was a huge help. I got some texts from friends and I read them on my walk breaks. Those helped a lot. It sounds silly but I also started talking to myself (don’t worry, not out loud) and telling my feet, calves, knees, quads that they were strong enough. That I was not going to walk the rest of the way because I didn’t need to. I focused hard on my mantra:

Be truly glad there is wonderful joy ahead. 1 Peter 1:6

I didn’t blow off another run interval after that. Just past mile 23 you turn back onto Meridian for the final stretch. You can see the Soldiers & Sailors Monument straight ahead and you know that you’re not far from the finish. My mood lightened tremendously. When I saw my family again at mile 24 I think my husband was surprised to see me smiling and happy again. I knew I had it at this point. I was determined to finish strong.

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Just as I crossed the mile 25 marker I took an unscheduled walk break because I really wanted to run the last mile without stopping. When I got to the one mile left sign I started running and smiling. I saw my family, now joined by my brother & his friend who both ran the half, I yelled “I think I’ve got this in the bag!” They laughed. I ran past the Carmel Marathon tent and those people who patted me as I went by and said the most encouraging words lifted me even higher. I turned the corner and saw the start of the finishing chute. I laughed out loud. I passed people. I turned into the finishing chute and my cheeks hurt from smiling. I laughed again and some people at the corner laughed and screamed for me. I passed another runner and ran across the finish line with the goofiest grin ever.

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My family was waiting right at the finish and I yelled “I DID IT!!! ME!!! I RAN A MARATHON!!!” There were hugs and smiles and pictures. It was awesome. You better believe I crossed that finish line with joy.

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Postscript: Here’s a funny observation: You know what it took to really come to terms with my first marathon? Running a second. It was during this marathon that I realized, even stopped short at mile 24, my first marathon was indeed a marathon. Two marathon medals are now on my shelf. The kid who used to sit under a tree at recess and read a book — she has now run TWO MARATHONS. Damn. I can hardly believe it myself.

small graces found in marathon week

My runs this week have been short. I’ve had extra rest days. So I’m sitting here with legs that are getting antsy to run – seems like a good time to pause and be thankful for things that have shown me grace:

  • A husband who didn’t think I was crazy for trying the marathon again. (Or at least didn’t let on that he thought I was nuts. Heck, he even went out of his way to buy me smoothies.)
  • Yoga – one of the few things that is making my tight calves and not-quite-right back feel better this week.
  • Notes of encouragement from friends
  • An excuse to meal plan around carbs
  • A cool, sunny race day forecast
  • Creative pumpkin picking & carving from my kids

Today I’m heading to Indy to pick up my packet. The kids are on Fall Break so we’re going to wander the Indy Zoo for the afternoon before heading to my brother’s for trick or treating with my young nieces & nephew. Tomorrow I’ll take a deep breath. Say some prayers. Run a lot of miles.