26.2

Well? I did it. I finished the Portland Marathon. I want to share some of how I am feeling and how it felt while I was doing it. Most importantly, to my team, my husband and my youngest son. They were there for me: at mile 1, mile 11, mile 20, and at the finish line. If they hadn’t of been at mile 20 I would not have finished. The conversations with Elijah at each stop are a blog post all their own. He went from disbelief, to awe, to concern, to pride. I would like to believe I did too. But pride continues to allude me. Why?

Because I walked.

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See that belly? I hadn’t trained at all. Nope, no walking, no running….nada. Except for increasing my activity levels: 6 hours of mopping, cleaning and organizing closets, cleaning out the garage, the laundry room, moving heavy things, and sorting. I did a lot of reaching, stretching, lifting, carrying, rest, and repeat. That is all I did. When I registered life looked different and then a small series of overtraining injuries and a realization that I was heading into addiction regarding food and exercise encouraged me to really step back and honor myself.

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Apparently when you register early you get a low number! It has nothing to do with your speed…but most people think it does. So if you want to impress people register early and get the lower number. They’ll look at you in awe (probably not but you never know).

I seriously carb loaded the day before…I think. If carb loading means I ate a ton of carbs and not really anything else than that is what I did. I had waffles, oatmeal, pasta, waffles, chorizo and potatoes….it was delightful. Until that evening and the next morning when I begin to have the realization that too many carbs is similar to protein shake farts <–seriously drink a protein shake or two in a day and you’ll see what I mean. The morning of I had oatmeal and yogurt. Now here is where I made a novice mistake: the materials all say no backpacks allowed. I thought that meant at all, not even wearing something to carry food. It didn’t. It meant in the bag check. Oops. Lesson learned.

The first thing I did when I got downtown? Duh! I went to Starbucks and got a coffee! What else would I have pre 26.2 miles…water? Pshaw doubters!

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I met a very nice lady by the name of Susan, from Pendleton. This was also her first marathon! Yay! I was not alone, we could be starting line besties! She trained though. A lot. She had a time goal. She had excitement. I had dread. Then the sun came up and we started being an official corral. (Which does not mean you are in a cattle chute, just so you know. I was expecting the corrals I have seen at rodeos. Not the same thing, so now consider yourself informed.) I also chose that time to be brilliant and go to the bathroom line where I met my next starting line bestie….guy from Maryland who grunted at the young muscular guy exiting the port-a-potty. I am not sure if he was impressed with the cleanliness of the port-o-potties or something else.

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Look! Thousands of insane runners! This was pretty much in my head the whole time. “Marathoners are crazy. Why do they do this? What’s the excitement all about? I mean…people do this all time.” But the reality is they don’t. They should, but they don’t. I met my third and final starting line bestie, Kristin. She was super fantastic. And what made me realize and notice the hundreds and hundreds of everyday normal looking people who were here for this marathon. She used to weigh over 300 lbs. this year she has done 9 marathons. To keep herself challenged. Every year she says she’ll train. Every year she doesn’t. She was awesome and helped bring me to the present to observe and experience what was about to happen.

Did you know there are free shows on the marathon route? Aside from cowbells and random strangers shouting encouragement to me by name (side note, next time my bib will simply say YOU), there are singers singing, drummers drumming, but no maids a milking. Seriously strangers yelling your name and doing cheers = uncomfortable for this introvert.

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Alright, past the fun and games and onto the real route. I will now give you a mile by mile play of what went through my mind during this “stupid” marathon.

Mile 1: Ooohhh, entertainment! Super cool! I wonder when I’ll see Ed and Elijah. I can totally do this. I am cool for doing this. I only have to finish. Oh there’s Ed and Elijah. Okay, am I tired yet? I could opt out now. DNF? What does it even matter?

Mile 2: Game plan, I will run miles 5-10 sporadically. Until then I am walking.

Mile 3: Oh look, that lady is wearing a sweater set and pearls. Did she just come from church? Seriously. I should take a picture of that. What? Her partner also is wearing pearls? Oh my God. I better get ahead of these ladies. I can’t have old women in pearls passing me.

Mile 4: Time is going slowly. How far have I gone yet? Oh good, almost to mile 5. I can start running and walking.

Mile 5: Running, walking, running walking. I notice the elderly lady with a back hump is keeping pace with me. It dawns on me I’m probably not that fast. Oh wait, she’s also developmentally different. She’s doing this? Wow. That’s amazing. I could totally be her someday. Running, walking, running, walking. Okay, I think that was enough. I’m acting like this is a 1/2 marathon. Get it together Monica! That’s your halfway point, not the end!

Mile 6: Why is it so foggy? It was so nice going up Barbur…now this sucks. I hope it clears up. Oh look people playing xylophones on the overpass! Such a weird word. Why does the x make a zzzzz sound? Anywho moving on. Look the lady with the hump she’s passed me. Come on, come on. Keep with her. I could totally smoke her right now but I don’t need to do that. <To my ego:> shut up! We’re the same her and I. WE ARE BOTH IN THE MARATHON.

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Mile 7: I hate this stretch of street. Oh look Gunderson! Hey, I know some people who work there. If they’re here I can totally wave and be all…yeah, I am in the marathon. Catch ya later!

Mile 8: Look at all these different people. Some fast. Some slow. Some bigger than me. Some smaller than me. Some my size. Wow. Oh man! That guy has Cerebral Palsy! Mr.! You inspire me! I gotta keep going. No looking back. Ego notices him and the lady with the hump are only doing the 1/2…I say WHO THE HECK CARES? We are all here together! No matter our size or our ability…we. are. all. here. together.

Mile 9: Where are the pretzels Ed? I got some gummy bears but I am super HUNGRY. I didn’t bring food (see no backpack statement above). Hunger in a marathon is not good. I’m going to poop myself or something if I don’t eat. Oh wait. That only happens if you eat, right? Get the Ultima instead of water. That’ll have extra calories you can eat up on.

Mile 10: Food. Husband. Food. Husband. Van Morrison? Huh? Hey! There’s Beth! She said she’ll catch up to me. Cool! Hang in there lady…I am counting on you to finish this.

Mile 11: HUSBAND! BABY! FOOD? My wonderful husband is accosting the Fit Right NW employees for a bagel. Oh my God! He got me a bagel! It’s Hawaiin. Oh…yum. I am going to ration this out so my energy can be sustained. I hear there’s a bridge ahead. Uh Oh. Elijah’s concerned we have both cussed a lot…Ed wrecked his car? What? Oh no…it’s just paint. Ok. Easy peasy. Gotta go honey. I love you guys. You have to be at mile 18 or I WILL NOT FINISH THIS RACE. Got that? (Tears very close to the surface here)

Mile 12: This is a super pretty neighborhood. Where am I? Oh this turns into St. Helens Rd. or something and the bridge is at the end. Cool. Cool. I am starting to feel hungry again. Hey that couple looks nice. How can they be flirting with each other at mile 12? They must not be married. Ed and I would be snapping at each other. Well, probably not. Ed’s smart and he would’ve brought food. Just 6 more miles and I will see them again. They better have food.

Mile 13: I can’t believe I just made that kid give me his gummy bears. No shame brother! I’m doing this thing…you’re not! Give me the damn Haribo! Half fucking way!

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Mile 14: More neat music! Look the 14 sign! I better get a picture. Just to show Kyle. Huh…wait, why are the cops following me? Oh my sweet Jesus! An unopened pack of Ibuprofen in the street. Just. For. Me. Thank you LORD!

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I love you Kyle!

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The police? No way…I swear officer, I am supposed to be here.

Mile 15: Oh shit. I am not going to have the cops honking and following me the rest of the way. Speed your ass up Monica! Pass that lady. Pass the nice couple! Come on…oh wait, the couple wants to talk. Ok. He knows the route and yay! Now I do to! Kind of. Big hill up ahead. Time to motor past.

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Mile 16: This hill aint shit. Nice gradual elevation change. Not too bad. Whoa. St Johns has a kick ass hillside water tube! Seriously. I wonder if I could slide down that or swing on these vines. I gotta come back sometime to check it out. I bet Kyle would do that with me.

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Huge Slip n Slide!

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And the Tarzan vines.

Mile 17: This bridge is so beautiful. 1 more mile until I see Ed and Elijah. What? No! You’re at 20? Okay. That’s not much further. I can do that. They are opening traffic on the bridge. There go the police. Whew! Although it would be cool if they were cheering me on and honking. Crap. I hope I can still get a good picture. My feet hurt oh so bad. My feet are not meant for this much pounding. My hips are not grinding together so that is good. Oh god. I still have to finish this thing.

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Mt. Hood

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How many mountains can you see?

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More mountains…can you name them?

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Mile 18: Food. Husband. Food. Baby. I hope Beth is okay. She should be showing up here soon. Uh-oh. What if she passed me? Oh well. Then I better keep on moving. So sore. No fucking pretzels. No more fucking gummy bears. Altima it is.

Mile 19: Just keep going. Just keep going. Oh my God. They have moved all the mile signs. I swear. They are tricking me somehow.

Mile 20: I see the sign. Text Ed. He’s up ahead. Yellow arches. Yellow arches. I see yellow! Oh there they are. Hi honey! Hi baby! WHERE’S MY FOOD? You didn’t bring any? Oh man! I’m i so much pain. Only 6 more miles to go. I can do this. It would be stupid to quit now. Oh you guys are having fun? Party on the corner? Giving away food? Argh. WALKERS MATTER TOO. We are struggling just as much. This isn’t a walk in the park! WHERE’S MY MEATBALL??

Mile 21: Oh you still have bagels? Ok! Thank you partiers on the corner. God bless you. What the heck is this piece of paper? ALTERNATE ROUTE? You are giving a woman who has walked 21 miles a piece of paper AND YOU EXPECT ME TO BE ABLE TO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS? THAT ARE WRITTEN? Do you know nothing of the brain function? Hello? Under stress! Hungry! I should punch you in the throat. Stupid person. Oh…there’s still volunteers telling me where to go. Oh thank God. I am sorry lady for all my mean thoughts. You gave me a piece of paper. I could eat it when I get hungry again. You are an angel for that. I won’t really punch you.

Mile 22: Oh my god. How much longer? Am I there yet? Seriously. I hate Interstate. oh wait…there’s some good restaurants here. I have to remember this. This wings place smells fantastic. Oh that sauce smells homemade.

Mile 23: I wonder what the people at the wings place would have thought if I had take their food and ran? The finishers on the end, they would probably understand. Ugh. So much pain. Gummy bears? Ok. Oh thank you Haribo. I love you. You are my favorite. Wait…these are Black Forest. Whatever. This cup has a lot of bears. I am going to eat them slowly because I loooovvveeee them.

Mile 24: Am I there yet? Interstate to Greeley? Where the fuck is Greeley? Isn’t that like an island or something? No. It’s got to wrap around over on the north side of the coliseum. Maybe. I don’t know. I could be lost. What do they do if a participant gets lost? Do they know? I would seriously cry. So much pain and lost to boot. I would make Ed come get me and drop me off by the finish line. If they said anything I would reply, “YOU GAVE ME FUCKING PAPER!” Then again….I’m in pain. I could be out of line.

Mile 25: Oh my God. Almost there. One point something fucking million to go. I’m going to die. Seriously. They have changed the mileage or something. They are feeling longer and longer. I wonder where Beth is. Hope she is okay. Keep walking. One foot in front of the other. Keep going. That pile of shit is GROSS! Someone didn’t make it. Thank god it wasn’t me. Beth is in pain too. I am not alone. We can do this.

Mile 26: Ok, this is seriously the longest mile in history. Do I know any shortcuts up to 3rd & Taylor? Oh God…it requires a hill. And what if I came up the wrong side? Oh that lady and her husband are passing me. The older lady with the Vibrams she’s kicking my ass now. Totally out of sight. Damn pain. At least my hip bones aren’t grinding. That’s good. I shouldn’t feel every bone and fiber in my feet though. Are there weightlifting classes for feet and ankles? What an overlooked area. I should check that out. If not? I shall create one and become a strong foot guru. Well, on second thought that might be weird.

Mile .6: Baby. Ed. Baby. Ed. Almost there. Oh shit. So much pain. I don’t know if I can make it. What? The finish line is right there? I can see it! I can do it.

The End: I did it. Ed was right there, so was baby Elijah. I couldn’t believe it. Some lady says, “You’re done! You finished!” She must have recognized the look of shock and zombie like survival mode I was in because her next question was, “Did you finish? Did you just cross the finish line?” I had to nod yes. She was forcing me to speak. And then it clicked. I was with my family. I started crying and I blubbered out,

“Never fucking again Ed.”

Elijah grabbed my hand and leaned into me. Rubbing my hand and looking at me with his big eyes. “You okay mommy?” Ed making sure I had everything I needed. There was food handed to me, a shirt, some medals, a rose, and a tree sapling. Too much to process. I was ready to go. Ed and I took some pictures. Me with Elijah and Me with Ed. I was ready to go. I wanted to smoke.

The car was 6 blocks away. I had to keep walking. More and more. Until I could barely stand upright. I got in the car and could barely move. I wanted Hale’s biscuits and gravy…pretty sure it got me through a mile here or there. It was closed. We went to Mike’s Drive In instead. I had a cheeseburger and a hot fudge and peanut butter shake. I was in the car while the boys were at a picnic table.

When I got home: I crawled into an ice bath, took a pill, and went to bed.

The biggest thing going into the future: 1) THERE IS NO CERTAIN TYPE OF PERSON WHO DOES MARATHONS, If a man with cerebral palsy,  a hunchbacked elderly woman, and a friend with a shredded meniscus can do a marathon…then so can you. 2) I don’t understand the big deal about why I should be proud. I’m not. I walked a long ways because I had no ride. That’s a fact jack.

It occurred to me, “If I can do that with no training…what could I do with training?” So it begins again.

The Indomitable Spirit of a Runner

I am compelled to put my thoughts down on “paper”. It has been many years since I have felt compelled to write. I have previously posted that my goal for this year is to run the Portland Marathon. I’m doing it. I have registered. And yesterday, I was scared. Today, I am determined.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!” -Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

One thing that I know to be true is that I previously hated running. To me, running was something that my crazy parents did. They would disappear for hours and come back sweaty, and focused, with crazy amounts of energy they expected me to have the same of.

I rejected running for many years because it was not something I ever wanted to do. I was a basketball player, softball player, and volleyball player. All team sports requiring intense and fast action. Short bursts of all out performance resulting in an jubilant win (or humbling loss).

After learning how to run, practicing long distances, conquering my fears, I too, am a runner.

I don’t know if you have anyone in your life that runs: whether it is a family member or a friend. If you do: you may think they are crazy, dedicated, insane, focused, or what have you. If you do not have anyone that you care for that is a runner, well, let me tell you a thing or two about runners.

For a marathon training plan that lasts 23 weeks I will need to put in over 100 hours in training. This is running two days a week and lifting weights three days a week. 100 + hours. On the road. Alone. My feet hitting the pavement. My breathing creating a pattern. My thoughts of defeat. The glory of overcoming my thoughts of defeat. All of it, is HARD. It is hard WORK. Yes, it is work. Why would anyone do this to themselves? Why am I doing this? Because running simulates real world experiences that I struggle with. Image

Say what? Yes, running simulates real world experiences that I struggle with. I experience social anxiety. I need to plan things in order to be comfortable with them. I experience anxiety in new situations. Running forces me to be equally impulsive and to equally value planning. Running puts me on the road for a set amount of time where I am faced with all the fear and anxiety. Running is the first activity that has ever challenged my intelligence along with fostering my tenacity. Yes, running is an intelligent activity. Not that you have to be smart to do it. Quite the contrary, you have to consciously (and actively) engage your frontal lobe (high level thinking) to overcome the cease and desist primal brain. The primal brain is what signals my body that I am done! Time to stop! Get off the road and GO HOME NOW! Digging deep within myself I pull upon reserves that challenges my primal brain. “Just one more mile.” “Keep digging in.” “Come on, you can do this!” “This pain you are feeling is nothing compared to the emotional pain of your past.” “Keep on keeping on.” “Just past the next sign.” “Just around the next corner, now past that mailbox.” I know that I won’t stop but my primal brain doesn’t. I get to actively practice the skills I need in order to overcome my daily struggles. Over a 100 hours of practice, fine tuning my coping abilities, humbling myself to not quite getting the time I wanted, submitting to the pain in order to breathe through it, these have all increased my quality of life over the last year. Image

And, I owe it to running.

Yesterday, when I heard of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I was stunned. I was in disbelief that someone would do such a terrible thing. I was angry. Possibly that is what you felt as well. Today, I am reflecting on the 1972 Summer Olympics. This was a time in history when running was beginning to change. Steve Prefontaine was making running a household name, he was changing the face of athletes, and making a name for Oregon. Frank Shorter made history. He was the first American to win the Marathon event in 64 years. Things were happening, and running was becoming the sport to watch. September 5, 1972 was the day the Munich Massacre happened. On September 5th, 1972 athletes throughout the world mourned. The loss of athletes, coaches, and young men rocked the nation. Everyone was watching. Everyone was asking why. Everyone saw evil in action. Everyone felt the loss in the face of tradition. Just like April 15th, 2013.

Athletes train, and they push. They rise above obstacles. They overcome limitations. They dedicate themselves to their sport. I read a headline that said the event in Boston would change running forever. I challenge that! No. It won’t change running. Runners, wrestlers, coaches, athletes, and tv viewers have been here before. We have overcome once. We can overcome again.

We will each put in the hours required to conquer our sport. Just as you will put in the hours to support those you love who dedicate themselves to something. I will begin my training without fear of an evil act. For, in my practice of running, I will have already overcome anything worse. I will run the Portland Marathon.

I will hear Frank Shorter‘s voice urging me on, “run hard all the way, and make it hurt, and make it honest to be a worthy answer to the terrorist atrocities of a few days past.” 41 years after he spoke these words they still ring true.

Athletes: families: citizens, let us rise up and demonstrate the Indomitable Spirit of a Runner.

Fabulously Me!

Well here I am in what appears to be my last renew with the Guru. I do reserve the right to change my mind at any point, especially if I am feeling that I can’t do it alone. I still have so much to learn! Like what about counting calories, what are good carbs, how much protein do I need to eat, how do I know when to balance nuts as a snack versus apples? There is so much information that I had better start reading about it all.

Any good places to start? Have you read something that gave you some good knowledge? Let me know!

I am down to 143! Can I get a woo-hoo? I feel fabulous and I am beginning to know that I look fabulous! This last part is an added bonus. I believed that eventually I would look good but I didn’t know if I could last as long as it would take. Now, on to the nitty gritty:

October & November have SUCKED! My motivation is really decreased. Once I hit a size 10 (yeah, that’s right!) then my mind tried to convince me that I was fine where I was at. <Hey mind, I am not falling for your trickery> I haven’t been this small since 2004 and I was not healthy then. At all. I was a gaunt meth head who probably twitched ( I don’t recall this, but I am sure my family will attest to it). My husband loves my new look and I think this is one reason I began to think I could stop. If he loves it then why shouldn’t I? Well…let me tell you why.

I HAVE GOALS. I WANT TO RUN IN A MARATHON, I WANT TO HAVE ABS, I WANT PEOPLE TO BE INSPIRED BY THE CHANGES IN MY LIFE, I WANT PEOPLE TO stop THINKING THAT I AM EXPECTING, I WANT TO RUN A SUB 10 MILE, I WANT TO DO SPEED WORK, I WANT TO TRAIN ON HILLS, I WANT TO WALK INTO A GYM AND DEMAND LIFTING EQUALITY.

Self, we have goals. A size 10 is fabulous but a size 8 is even better. You can meet your goals and keep making new ones. You can be an inspiration. You can have abs (think Gretchen Bleiler here)! You can run a sub 10 mile. You can do speed work. You can train on hills. You will demand lifting equality. When all this seems unattainable: do not start with the trickery! Remember the example we are setting for our family. Remember how much you were hating yourself! Remember how far you have come and how much further you have to go.

Next year when I am sitting on the beach wearing a bikini I will look back and think about these struggles and I will remember how much my motivation waned. I will congratulate myself and I will run into the ocean splashing my husband along the way.