I warned you…

I am obsessed with suicide. Completely and entirely preoccupied with it. I read every scholarly article. Every editorial article. Every story by a family member left behind by a person who died by suicide. I read the stories of suicide activists, many of whom die by suicide during the peak of their advocacy. I have been hopeful that like any other subject I find myself ignorant in, the answer will reveal itself if I just consume enough information. But it doesn’t.

Some mental health professionals attribute it to unrecognized or uncontrolled mental health issues. Others liken it to addiction, where a person can’t shake the desire to end their life. One terrible asshole (a professional in nothing but conspiracy theories, from what I can tell) attributed it to population control. Really, dick face!? Screens and screens of text, and pages and pages of articles, and I have resolved that I will never understand the pathology or decision-making process of a person’s choice to die by suicide. And there really is no answer- but it is a motherfucking epidemic.

In early August, my family lost one of the brightest members of our clan; my niece. She was 22 years old when she took her life in front of some of the people who loved her the most.  We were stunned. We still are. And not a one of us saw it coming or had any idea that this was a choice she was tossing around in her brain space. My niece was a young person who was living truthfully in her own skin (I think and hope). She was surrounded ALL the time by her family who loved her and adored her.  She was making her way professionally and was always looking forward to the space she could grow into. She had a shit dad, but she was spared most of the terror he thrust upon his children being the youngest of three, and a mom who took up his void and filled it with better things. She had some heavy crap (don’t we all?), but she was loved- and she was making her way. She took her life, though, and the “why” overwhelms us.

Grieving has been hell. It sneaks up on me at inconvenient times and hits me square in the chin.  My grief likes to show itself when I am driving into the sun on my way to work every day. Something about the warmth of the sun as she lifts herself over the mountain makes my heart hurt- a deep and unimaginable hurt.

And the people in grief- Jesus Christ, the “well intended” people:

My yearly PSA, and I will say it loud for the people in the back- if one more person says to me that “everything happens for a reason” or “it was just god’s plan”, I will experience the back of a police car for the first time. JUST STOP with that nonsense. It’s bullshit and judgy and dismissive and condescending and contrived. If you are ever compelled to form those words to use with ANYONE (literally, anyone) just STOP- and DO NOT say them. Just don’t.

The questions we get- they’re the absolute worst. “Did you see it coming?”…”There must have been signs, you just didn’t see them.” “Was she on drugs?”- really, jackwagon?! Yeah, we all saw this coming and just took a knee and let it go. NO. We had NO idea. We had NO idea that at that moment and in that space, on that dark Summer night, in front of people who loved and adored her, that she would be SO overwhelmed with pain that she would end her life and leave us all destroyed. No, we didn’t damn know.

And that’s the thing about suicide- you can spend your every moment looking for signs in the people you love and trying to stop attempts, but I think maybe it’s not always stoppable.  It feels bigger than those of us looking for it.

I regularly marvel at the drive of a determined human being- a long distance runner, an ironman, a mother giving birth, a person suffering a debilitating injury and learning to walk again. There is something on the other side of that determination that flips a switch in their brains and hearts and makes them go for it. I wonder if it is the same chemical reaction that shepherds a person considering suicide to complete their suicide. I have seen it in terminally ill people, who have thoughtfully considered their options, and are choosing to end the pain of their illness with the relief of suicide. I can’t find logic that argues that a person suffering mental and emotional pain isn’t just as entitled to suicide as the terminally ill person.  The person who chooses suicide, in any case, I am sure is driven and determined, and it seems like those that are left behind are insignificant in the choice- and that really sucks.

Those of us left behind beat the shit out of ourselves. I am still kicking my own ass: I should have been around more. I should have reassured her more. I should have mentored her more. I should have….I could have….If only I had…    Then, the pendulum shifts to being angry at her for leaving her adoring family like this- with all these fucking questions and all this shit to put back together. Things are not better without her, and I wonder if she thought they would be.

I’ve no words of wisdom or inspiration to impart here. I’ve nothing of impact to leave you with, except: Suicide is an epidemic. It does not discriminate itself by socioeconomic group, gender, age, race, level of education, or *insert category here*. Suicide just takes people we love and leaves broken hearts.  The stigma around suicide is strong, but it does not rate compared to the number of completed suicides- so get comfortable with it. A subject being taboo, doesn’t make it any less real- and this one is very real. I warned you I would get loud about this…and today this is what I’ve got.

Look at your people, square in the face, and ask them how their hearts are- then love the fucking hell out of them.

Breaking up with a Mistress. Rather, we are on a break.

I am a quitter! Yep…you read that correctly. I quit. I quit my marathon…I left my mistress…my temptress. I shut the front door on the Columbus 26.2, and 26.2 and I are on a break. I hated 26.2. I hated every single mile she brought. I hated the heat, the speed, the drain on my time, the runner’s trots, the Honey Stinger Chews, the Camelbaks that don’t fit right, the early mornings, the late nights, the rain, the hotel reservations, and the plane ticket. She was the most dreaded thing in my days, and I quit her…with a little help from my 26.2 coach…and the insight of one brilliant little six year old.

It went a little something like this: Jefe and I set a lofty goal. We set some training paces, and miles that I had not yet attempted. We wrote them down…I calendared every step and every pace. And guess what? I nailed every god damn one of them, with the exception of a few rough long runs. My legs were doing the work. My body was moving and overcoming injury without outrageous effort. My speed and tempo were there- but my head and my heart never stepped into those shoes…so I quit.

Quitting did not come easily. I cried…I beat myself up…I did all kinds of rotten things to myself, and then I found some grace, and let it go.

While deliberating over quitting, and deciding whether or not to breathe life into this struggle by marking it with words, I asked myself, “What would E$ do?” Is that WWE$D? OR WWED? Either way- my six year old…that cool old soul of a person…what would she do?

Working out the answer, went down like this:

Soccer- I strongly encouraged E$ to play…from the time she turned 3, I wrangled (more like forced) her into cleats and shin guards. She hauled her little ass out onto that field, and played her heart out, and hated every single minute of it. She hated the equipment…the grass made her skin itch…she hated her uniform…she hated that I was her coach…she hated the atrocious winds in the spring season, and being cold in the fall season. But God Dammit, she was good! She has mad ball handling skills, and packed some serious dynamite in her attitude and shots on goal! It was so frustrating for me to see her as such a solid player, but just hate the game the way she did.

This is what E$ did: She started flipping and cartwheeling and monkey bar swinging until she talked me into a gymnastics class. And then, after a taste of the gym floor and callouses on her hands, she thrust her head, her whole heart, and every ounce of strength in her tiny little body into the sport of gymnastics, and she quit Soccer. She took a few days to think about it, and feel about it, and then she quit. A big ol’ quit! Today, she spends many hours a week on the gym floor, and her heart is full and happy! Her mind is clear and calm, and her little body has become a machine. She is confident and whole; all because she quit! I drew on her bravery to quit what she was hating and to embrace what she loves- this is what I dug my decision making claws in to. It takes some balls to quit. It is a brave move, to quit, because most of us are conditioned to believe that always finishing what we start, is a measure of strength and character. I don’t believe that so much anymore. It seems that quitting, can require as much strength and character as sticking out something truly awful.

So, I did it. I opened my mouth and I put it into the Universe that I wanted to quit. Jefe, was of course, my first call. This one went like this:

Me: If I told you I was thinking of bagging Columbus 26.2 in October what would you say?

Jefe: FINALLY. A wise decision on your part. (Because he is right, I have made a series of REALLY bad decisions of late). You CAN do it. Your body can do it…but your head and heart aren’t in it…and they haven’t been. So, don’t do it. It would just be a waste of your time. You are burned out and you need a mental break.

Me: *INSTANT MOTHER TRUCKING RELIEF*

I kid you not, I was feeling achy and feverish and had flu like symptoms when I started the conversation with Jefe, and was immediately and miraculously HEALED after he told me to bag it (maybe a WWJD moment??) Probably more like Black Freaking Magic. In either case, it was the healing power of a good decision validated by an important person, or several…as my luck had it.

So there it is. I quit my 26.2 for October. Such has been 2014…quitting. E$ quit Soccer…and I quit some other things that weren’t right for us. Painful as things went, quitting made room for the right things. Perfect things (for us, anyway).

E$ and I found our mother daughter rhythm again…we discovered music blaring at 6am makes the day go better…and is far superior to tiptoeing around the house. We know that saying what we mean, at the very moment we feel it, is much more productive than having to wait for the right time (because the right time is always, now)…being on time to movies is way more fun than being late…impromptu playdates are better than planned ones…KIDZ BOP on the radio trumps any Top 40 station…less television and more talking makes for better evenings…

So that 26.2 I quit; the Columbus Marathon. I did the work. I went through the motions. My body was present. I delivered what I planned to. I know I love her, that temptress, but I just hated her. She wasn’t filling my heart…and she was taking more than she could give. Drawing on the spirit of E$, her fierce spirit, I followed her lead, and made room for a different relationship with the pavement- one that gives, just as much as it takes. In a very Ross and Rachel kind of way, we are on a break! I get to run with friends, when I want to, and because I want to. I get to have a cocktail on a Friday night and stay up a little later, because I am not worried about how my 20+ mile run will feel the next morning (we are on a break, after all). I get to bust out 6 or 10 miles at a quick ass pace, and give myself a solid “good game” when I have finished… because those runs are awesome now, and make me smile! I am in love again with my miles. I am pounding miles without obligation…and those miles are loving me right back, and haven’t asked a thing from me. I get to roll up 3 nights a week and watch E$ practice her love…and step out for a run halfway through. We are both getting what we want. We are both doing what we love, and what we love is loving us right back.

Here is my wish: That we all find a chance to consider quitting the things that aren’t working. Quit the thought pattern that holds you back. Quit taking the same route to work every day. Quit hoping to be loved, liked, wanted, or approved of by (insert your whoever here). Quit doing that one thing that you just hate, every day. When those things, and relationships, and patterns keep making you feel unwell…and heavy….dig deep, and see if there is some courage to say “I am quitting this. It is just not right for me, right now.”

Here is my promise: I don’t know why, and I don’t know how it happens, but when we clear out the things that aren’t working, the Universe has a way of dropping the right things in their place.

Here is my Suggestion: When your shit is in the street, ask a kid how to get it back inside.IMG_2256

Photo cred: The Hartsocks

hartsocks.com

Stretching out the Middle…

It’s the perpetual forward motion. When asked why I run so much, that’s my answer. It keeps me moving forward, and forbids I look over my shoulder- because the moment I do, I will certainly lose my footing and be on my face. In marathon training, the water stops Jefe plans out are always, for me, a slippery slope. I have two choices: 1) Stop or 2) keep going. I know where they will be before I set out, and I argue with myself about whether or not I should stop. It is my own personal crap shoot, and a stop will either prove to be the moment I melt down and end up in pieces, or quickly fuel, fix whatever needs fixing, and get back on my way. I almost always make my decision at the last possible moment. When I do blow past Jefe and his water stop, I never look back at it. Ever. Forward…always.

I’ve spent the past few weeks helping Poodle understand how to say “goodbye”. Parenting is a mother f*cker, no doubt…and I am certainly hosing up a lot of it, but this one…this one is tough. I don’t do “goodbyes”…like at all. Much like the water stop, I argue with myself, I make a decision, and I just blow right past those parting moments as fast as I can, and never look back. Never. I don’t do funerals. I don’t do airport send offs. I don’t do break ups. I don’t do bon voyage. I just, don’t. But I am faced with a six-year-old who does say goodbye…who wants to feel the goodbye…and is learning her own process for such things. I am reminded, she is my child, but she is not me. My decisive nature is not hers. My constant desire to move forward is not hers.

Parenting. I’m one person, with one set of life experiences, and a method of my own creation. I don’t begin to have many of the answers Poodle needs. So last night, somewhere around 9pm, after Poodle and I consumed the chemical shit storm (disguised as Pizza) we had delivered to our door (cuff me, I am headed to mommy jail for sure!), Poodle asked me how I say goodbye. I couldn’t very well tell her that I don’t, and so I did what all resourceful parents do, and looked to someone wiser. Last night, it was Shel Silverstein and some obscure Poem of his that is randomly filed in my brain.

Parenting Crime # 297 for the evening: We went to Target (because Barnes and Noble was already closed), in our pajamas, at almost 10:00pm on a Sunday night and bought the damn book with said obscure poem (the internet wouldn’t do for this one…we needed a book we could touch and feel and go back to). I scored some serious “cool mom” points for this little outing. That little sh*t beamed in her booster seat the whole drive, and wore a grin from ear to ear. She held my hand extra tight as we trotted through the empty store, and was wide open and ready to receive my answer in the way I had decided to deliver it. She held the book the whole drive home, never peeking inside once. Snuggled up in bed, I read her the poem:

“There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.”
―Shel Siverstein, Everything on It

We didn’t talk about it anymore, and just laid in her bed silently, holding hands just as tight, until her sweet eyes drifted to sleep.

 

Running and Parenting. You can approach both with a well thought out plan, and inevitably, shit goes awry. I had a plan to be the kind of mom I thought was ideal, which, no surprise, flew right out the window the moment I locked in Poodle’s newborn gaze- and I couldn’t be more grateful. I am captivated by this child, and am honored to be the parent she needs, and the parent she demands. Her plan is far superior to the one I came up with.

And Running…well, I started out with a Plan for this 26.2 cycle, and that too took a flight out of a very high window very recently. In a fit of self-pity over a chronic injury this morning, and beating myself up for feeling like I’m not made of the right stuff to help Poodle through hard things, she calls me on her way to Gymnastics. She reminded me that I haven’t run today, and wanted to be sure I made the time. She even recalled that I need 5 easy miles today. She proceeded to inform me of the plan she made to ensure this happens: “Mom, you run your 5 easy miles on the trail. Yaya and I will meet you when you are done, and then you take me on a run. I need you to teach me how fast to go…and to tell me how far we’ve gone.”

So there’s the thing about plans. You make them, they get hosed up, and you have two choices: 1) You Stop, and let yourself get hosed up too or 2) you readjust your course. Goodbyes have never been part of any plan I’ve made, but they happen. I suck at them, but there are souls, like Poodle’s, that work through them with class, and dignity. She feels every moment, and tries to feel what we feel…me on the other hand; I blow through it, trusting the momentum in forward motion to carry me through to the other side.

So today, we will run. I can only assume that Poodle has plans to give my method a try, and see what blowing through it feels like. And me, I will help her find her pace, and remind her how far we’ve gone. And, on the wise advice I got this morning, I will readjust the course; moving forward without being too concerned with the departed plan.

From here, it looks like we may both get just what we need…and hopefully, we can learn to stretch out the middle, as long as possible.

Words.

Words. They intrigue me. I am a literal, and a smart ass, which has definitely made for the loss of a few acquaintances along the way. The cloth I am cut from: It is one where we say what we mean, and mean what we say. Literally. Like “Rainman” literal. I’m not the only one, thank the Universe. My grandmother was cut from this cloth…my mother is cut from this cloth…and Poodle, I am finding, is cut from the same cloth. She’s hungry for new words, in both Spanish and English. She won’t let a word pass through a person’s lips, which she doesn’t seek to understand. Neither of us is lazy about words, and we will use them to lift a person from the ground, or craft them sharply to chop a poor soul off at the knees.

I got a call from my dad this morning. It was unexpected, because our calls are usually about some task, or plan. This one though, was different. He called just say that he is proud of me and who I am. There were some years where my voice shook…and one or two where I lost it all together. I used my words, to communicate someone else’s needs and desires, and not my own. I was a lifeless, isolated, puppet of a person. My only light, was the fire that is, Poodle.

When you try and alter the fibers of your cloth for someone else, you will fail. And this is exactly what my dad’s call was about. I had tried to change for someone else (more than one someone, in fact), and each time, I failed. The past several months, I have had some challenges being true to my cloth. I’ve directed sharp and colorful words at myself, more than I should; and I have held back the words, that are my truth. For each time I’ve held on to my words, the next time proved easier. And every time I’ve said not so nice things to myself, the destructive momentum has only grown more powerful for the next little venomous spew.

So, back to my dad’s phone call. My mom complained to him that I had decided to run a marathon this year after all. The first words out of his mouth… “Marathons keep you on course; your course. Why the HELL did you decide that you shouldn’t run one this year?”

My response…“It’s just so hard on everyone else when I train for a marathon.”

His reply… “F*CK everyone else. We’ve already been through this.”

Then he went soft, and reminded me of my own course. Be the mother that Poodle deserves:

 

1)      The one who takes care of her body, heart, and mind.

2)      The woman who takes time for herself, never asking for it, so she can be the best her.

3)      The one who maintains enough autonomy to combat resentment toward the people she loves.

4)      And (this is where I lost it, just before driving through a military installation guarded by a bunch of Military Police with guns)…he reminds me to be the woman who

doesn’t change for anyone.

She deserves this mom. Poodle will do what I do…and I never want to see her change for anyone.

 

If you know my dad, he’s one part philosophical and patient, one part playful, and one part cut throat competitive. He has spent his years as my dad trying to give me enough space to carve my own path, but he swoops in when I have lost my way. He is quick to dish out a swift kick when my sorry ass needs it, and he is protective of my spirit and the fibers that weave my cloth.

When I was expectant with Poodle, my dad helped me decorate her room. I chose to decorate with words, instead of the regular things you decorate a baby’s room with. He and I selected our “wishes” for her, and this is what they were:

Integrity, Confidence, truth, curiosity, compassion, courage, loyalty, bravery, modesty, kindness, individuality, and creativity.

Three words on each wall. Our wishes…our words…are exactly the fibers of Poodle’s cloth. We are ALL wildly protective of these fibers. And today, my dad reminded me that I must show Poodle how to guard her own cloth…to speak her truth…and hold fast to who she is. There will be a day when I can’t do that for her, and she will rely on her own grace.

“Stay the course” he said. “Pick up your feet, and run.”

 

The Marathon. The mistress that keeps me on course. It is by the likes of her that I rediscover myself, over and over, and care for the fibers of my cloth. She shows me the ugly parts, and lets me feel the beautiful ones. She both tortures and gifts me with time with myself. She removes the fear I harbor about speaking my truth. She delivers me back home, purged, clean, and completely incapable of being anyone else, but me.

 

May we all know our truth, and be able to speak it. When we love something, let’s say it. When we love someone, tell them. When we love ourselves, and I pray you do, scream that sh*t out loud!

Seuss

We should start old…

Six-year –olds. They remind me that we should start old…and grow young because they already know exactly what they need to. Never give up. Give lots of hugs. Cry when you’re sad… or hurt. Scream when you are angry. Squeal when you are excited. Dance when you are happy. Trust your gut. Eat when you’re hungry and drink when you are thirsty. Snuggle as often as possible. And run, not walk, to all destinations.

I watched Poodle for two hours yesterday while she practiced with her new gymnastics team. She was annoyingly interested in gymnastics about 5 months ago, and begged to have a class thrown in to her already hectic schedule. We finally gave in, and gave it a go. As it turns out, she’s amazing! In five months, she’s moved up to a level that most girls her age, we are told, take a couple of years to get to. I can’t say I am surprised, because Poodle is just “that kid”: the one who does everything with precision and calculation. And, most of all, she loves gymnastics and does it with the whole of her GIANT heart. Of course she is great!

Yesterday though, brought me pause. I have spent much of the past several months frustrated with the cycle I have allowed myself to create. Life is hectic. My relationships are suffering. Everything is completely out of control. Our house is a wreck…the pantry is half full…and I can’t seem to do a single thing with any level of precision. My training has been inconsistent, and my results are evidence of that. I am undertrained…I am heavier than usual… I am injured (likely because of the preceding)… I am just one hot mess of self-loathing pity over my condition (rather, my LACK of condition)- which is 100 damn percent my own sorry doing. I know this. But cycles are bitch…and I am full of excuses which are made up of “I can’t find time” and “Shit is crazy right now”. Lame, I know.

So yesterday, Poodle rolls up to her second practice session with her team. And shit is REAL. It is 2 solid hours of twisting her little body into a knot and ENORMOUS feats of strength for my tiny giant. 95% of the exercises the coaches asked her to do, she had never done before. Ever. But she did them. Every last freaking one of them. Not one single complaint. Not once did she talk herself out of attempting what her coaches asked of her; rather she stood there awaiting her turn intensely watching the girls who knew the drills. I watched her talk to herself (literally), and walk through the exercise in her mind before her turn. Each exercise, she did with all of her mighty little self and nailed them! A couple times she fell, or lost her grip- but she got up quickly and did it over again. Nobody told her to try again. No one helped her lift herself up off the floor or the mat- she did it on her own, because it was the only option she gave herself. Every once in a while she would look over at me, as if she needed a little reassurance. Each time she looked over, her gaze was intense, and her expression was stoic and focused. Just a small smile or a nod from me was all she needed. That’s it. It appears, she has everything she needs right inside of her.

I am a grown up, and not the shining six-year-old she is. Somewhere along the way, I stripped myself of watching, learning, and trusting myself to dig deep and just do it…whatever “it” may be. I draw on the way she moves through life to remind me that Running moves me forward when I am stuck. It has taught me over and over that as long as I am moving forward, even when it hurts, that I can do all things. My relationship with running has been a bit cold, and I seem to have forgotten the power it offers. The power to bring Poodle’s six-year-old spirit back in, is for me, harnessed in the repetitive pounding of the pavement…feeling my chest burn…pain in my legs…and deep, slow breaths along the way. Running, as you know saved our lives several years back. And today, I need its grace again more than ever.

While Poodle may have looked to me yesterday, I now see that it was me that was receiving the reassurance. She already knows what she needs to know…she just wanted to show me that she has seen me lose touch with what I know, and tossed a nod my way to remind me to get moving…forward.

 

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Stagnant…and it’s ok.

Something about the Winter Months made me go stagnant. Not a bad stagnant, but a productive stagnant. October 6, 2013 was one hell of a day…and sort of calmed the waters in an oxy-moronic sort of way for the remainder of 2013. 26.2 # 2 was BANANAS! I PRd…a big one ( in comparison to my deflating Utah valley 26.2 experience in June) and…DRUM ROLL…PC proposed!!!! Yep! I am gonna get hitched to THE most amazing person on this planet! The proposal was a Runner’s dream. Just the finishing side of the finisher’s chute, and in the midst of a post 26.2 daze. My two running besties bust out a 100yd sign…and PC was on the ground and on one knee. The Popsicle I had just slurped down was slowly doing its work and replenishing some glucose, but my response was sloooow…and I was VERY confused. After what seemed like an eternity of confusion, I noticed the big sparkly diamond PC was waving in the air and my marathon brain FINALLY realized that PC had not in fact fallen on the ground accidentally, and my besties were not holding open a very large SPACE BLANKET…but PC was POPPING THE QUESTION!!!! HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!! I said YES!!!!!!!!!!!! A million ways to Tuesday, said YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How much better does it get?

Things sort of settled down a bit after that…and got more hectic at the same time. My body has been beat…and I have enjoyed some laziness around running…and training…and eating. That didn’t come out right- I have NOT in fact been lazy when it comes to eating, rather, I have been eating every damn thing in sight.  Eating like I am training for a marathon- but I am not! My jeans are a little tight…and my muffin top is a bit…ummm…JUMBO. But, it’s ok…this time. I tuned back my training, opted for fewer miles with added intensity- while I haven’t exactly accomplished that training regimen yet, I will. And it’s ok.

I have enjoyed more weekend time with E$, and PC. I have learned a thing or two about basketball, and have enjoyed a few glasses of wine. I joined a local group of Sisters, SOLE SISTERS, to be precise, and have discovered a new community of runners in the 505. We do lots of shit talking…and inflating one another. We have women who are winning every damn race they run, and ones who are happy to take up the back of the pack- it’s a beautiful new thing for me…and all of them. We are 60 strong, and have one hell of a leader! The stagnancy of this winter has been so welcome…and so appreciated. But shit is about to get real. 13.1 is my bitch this year…and so is PC!

Let me tell you a bit about my love of quiet. I always seek it…and running has always granted me moments of quiet…and moments of nothing. I usually find these things on my solitary days. The few days I run alone, have always been my time for quieting this brain. Recently, I have found  it in racing.  This has been a surprise. Somewhere in the midst of the hype of the start line…the anxiety of the pre-race days…and the inevitable scramble to toe the line…I have discovered silence and solitude. I’ve run a handful of less than marathon distance races since PDX in October…and each one has brought me further from the pack…and running alone. And, it’s ok.  I haven’t quite figured out what is happening, or what it all means, but I think it is making me a better runner. A more competitive runner. A more thoughtful runner. A more calculated runner. 2014 is my year for getting hitched and a faster 13.1…let’s see how silent this rumble turns out. Blessings and Happy Miles, my friends. 

 

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20 seconds of courage…insane courage

We Bought a Zoo…that movie with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johannson, you know the one, right? (If you don’t, go watch it! Great way to spend two hours of your life). Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, tries to help his children understand the importance of taking risks pushing through discomfort…and fear: “you know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

On September 15, 2013, in Albuquerque, NM-  I FINALLY, for the LOVE OF GOD, FINALLY found my 20 seconds of courage. It was somewhere between mile 6 and 8 of a half-marathon race.

After 6 weeks of some pretty disappointing and discouraging training (long runs mostly) I had been feeling pretty defeated (take note of the multiple fatalistic “D” words). The Mafia (as my runner friend, The Dark Lord refers to them) in my knee and feet had begun to plot my death (which I am pretty sure consisted of a Sopranos style concrete entombing) and caused me to stop short of planned long run mileage a hand full of times. I have spent a much higher ratio of hours in tears and worry, than I have in excitement and confidence the past several weeks. As you well know, my first 26.2 was a disaster. I fell apart very early on, and while I am grateful to have finished the race, I have been desperately trying to take down the demons (Another damn “D”word) that participated in that mess!

My Demons are jerks, let me tell you. They tell me that I can’t…that I am not strong enough…that I am too old…that I am too spoiled…that I am too tired…that I am too sick…too under nourished…too dehydrated…that I can’t do it on my own. Those bastards are full of “can’ts”. This story gets better, because on September 15, 2013, at approximately 7:45am, I told them to go eff themselves. And they did.

26.2 training consumes you. It sends you to bed early. It takes the glass of wine from your hand, and slaps the cheeseburger right out of your face. It makes you cranky. It makes you hurt. It makes you cry. It can sometimes pluck the fun right out of running all together. That is where I was. Boo. Hiss. No fun. Done with this crap.  Somewhere in the midst of my recent abusive relationship with running, I spontaneously decided it would be a good idea to get a 13.1 in before PDX 26.2- hoping it would give me a little confidence (it was just a sliver of hope, too). I decided to sign up for a local race (on a fast course) and give it a good go-  trying to knock it in under 2:00h. This only meant I needed to shave a little over a minute off. If I couldn’t do that, I told myself, I had no business running.

I went out with PC to a concert the night before. I drank a beer and ate a drive-thru cheeseburger and french fries. I barely got up in time the next morning to meet my RBFF with her bib…and I left without my race chip! I never do that (Race OCD represent!) Ever. It was a big ol’ mess. PC Had to do a drive-by with my race chip. Somehow though, I was cool…as a cucumber.  If you and I  have met once, even if for only a minute, you would know the level of “high strung-ness” I pack and understand how out of character this is. My RBFF reminded me of the pace for bringing it in under 2:00H…gave me the “calm nerd talk” she is so good at…”take the corners close…start out easy…pick it up on the last 5K…run your own race”…I panicked a bit- but only for a moment. Next thing I knew the gun had gone off and I was on my way. Some of our girls were standing near the start and I heard them cheering for me…but that was the last thing I heard until the 10k mark.

PC, in all her beauty and splendor, was the next thing I heard around the 10k mark. She came up from behind (very Mickey Goldmill style) conducting  her trademark “cat call drive-by” (My RBFF got one too). Her antics always make me smile. She asked for my time, then said, “You’re moving” with question in her influx (not the doubting kind of “question”, rather the keep shaking your ass, you’re doing great kind of “question”).  She parked and got out of the car around mile 8 and sidled up to me for a few strides. She did her “thing” and  asked about my pace again and how I was feeling. I spat out my overall time and told her I was trying to stay on track. She knew I was moving (fast for me), but what she didn’t know was that I straight slapped the sh*t outta some of my Demons about a mile back! Bludgeoned them. Told them to go play in traffic and not to come back.

Almost immediately after the gun sounded, the world went quiet (this is the thing I chase in my running-silence). The panic that usually happens in my head…and heart…wasn’t there. I wasn’t listening for my steps or distracted by the noisy steps of the runners around me. I wasn’t looking too far ahead- doubting my ability to get there. I didn’t care where the next mile marker would be- and  the GIANT puddles that remained from the torrential downpour the night before didn’t rattle me one bit. I wasn’t alarmed by the 10K runners speeding by, and for the first time, I was completely and 100% o.k. with being on that race course alone.  You see, one of my demons likes to convince me that I can’t run alone…that I don’t have the stuff, unless someone is there to push or pull me through the miles (this Demon was fully hydrated and fueled during my virgin 26.2). About mile 7, he started to lift his shroud. Right then, that Demon got a “junk punch” and I left his sorry ass in my dust (or he drowned in a Puddle- who knows which)!

It was then, after hearing the distinct “thud” of that bastard, and a few others, hitting the ground behind me, that I heard the silence again… and I felt the silence. I noticed that all that quiet in my mind made a lot of room for an encouraging conversation to happen between my heart, my mind, and my legs. I calmly picked it up just a bit and said to myself, “You’ve got more than you think you do. Give it a little.” It was here, a marked and distinct point in time, where I decided to cash in my “20 seconds of insane courage”…and listen to myself. And then, I listened to myself again…and again….and again over the next 5.1 miles. I haven’t the words to describe this feeling, but know that it brings a smile to my face to type these words.

September 15, 2013, Albuquerque, NM (1:56:23.25). That’s where I came in. It’s no BQ-esque 13.1 time, but it is fast- for me. It is more than 5 minutes better than my previous best. I saw the numbers on the Finish line clock, and saw PC standing right at the finish line (of course). I came in pointing at the clock and shouting to her “I’m gonna PR. A BIG PR!”  (she already knew I was coming in with some heat and was annoyed that I wasn’t “Sprinting it in”- she’s a crack-up with her “Sprinting talk”!) That was the first time I have ever crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. 20 seconds of insane courage. That is all I needed to B*tch slap my demons and trust myself.

I run 26.2 deux in 9 days. The time between September 15, 2013 and today, have been extraordinary. I fell in love with training all over again. I found speed a few track workouts ago that I never knew I had. I find myself smiling and giving myself a “Good game” and a “slap on the ass” (wink to SOLE SISTERS) more often. I’m hungry for better…and more. I am less fearful, and more calm- 5 mins and 20 seconds of insane courage to thank.    What can you do with 20 Seconds of insane courage?

October 6, 2013 Portland, Oregon. 7 am, PDT. 26.2 Miles. I await the opportunity to find silence…muster up insane courage…and rumble with my demons. Gloves on!