Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Testify to Love

The passing of Della Reese who starred as Tess in Touched by an Angel from 1994-2003 brought me to think about the song Testify to Love.  I was first exposed to the song on the television program, although it had been part of the Christian rock playlist for some time already.  I revisited the song as part of the worship band at my Catholic church.  And, since yesterday, I have been reminded of how much I like this song's message.

While there are a lot of lyrics and they have a Christian-oriented focus, I believe that the following lines really capture the song's meaning for me and require no Christian beliefs:
For as long as I shall live, I will testify to love
I'll be a witness in the silences where words are not enough
How do I interpret these lines?  The first question is what does it mean to "testify to love"?  Simply put--live it out!  Act from love in all that I do.  Am I perfect in that?  Of course, I am not.  But I can strive for this goal.

That seems simple enough.  But the interpretation of the second line is just as important.  If I am going to live it out, I can't just live it out when it is easy.  I can't just live it out by talking about love.  I must act from a base of love at all times.  Even when there are no words or all the words are meaningless (and not enough).

This is a real challenge--to make acting from love primary in my life and to be able to show action from love under even the most challenging circumstances.  It means being there for people.  It means showing up for people.  It means acting from love when it takes all of one's effort to not lash out in response to what feels like an injustice.  It means just doing the work of good even when the times are bad.

To have the woman who played the "mentoring angel" on a show in which the characters lived out the message of acting from love even when that could have been furthest from the mind just caused me to reflect on the message a little more than usual.  

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The JFK50 Experience

Yesterday, I carpooled to Boonsboro, Maryland, to run the JFK50 with three friends.  This race is not quite as long as the Comrades Marathon in South Africa that I ran in May 2016.  However, it is the oldest 50 mile footrace in the United States. 

Historically, it comes from a challenge President Kennedy put to the military.  From the race’s website (http://www.jfk50mile.org/history/)  “Although open to the public, the JFK 50 Mile is in spirit a military race.  It always has been and always will be.  In 1963, the initial inspiration behind the event came from then President John F. Kennedy challenging his military officers to meet the requirements that Teddy Roosevelt had set for his own military officers at the dawn of the 20th Century.  That Roosevelt requirement was for all military officers to be able to cover 50 miles on foot in 20 hours to maintain their commissions. 

And when all was said and done, I had my t-shirt, my medal, a lot of interesting conversation with my three car pool mates traveling to and from, some good food after (including pizza, M&Ms, donuts and chicken soup), and some sore muscles.  No blisters.  And no chafing.  (Success on those two!)  Here are some of the lessons I learned yesterday:

(1)           I now have completed two events that were 50 miles or longer.  The Comrades Marathon in South Africa and this one.  I actually ran a faster pace in South Africa.  A few things were different:
a.    I had someone coaching me for South Africa.  I not only trained to go 90 km, I trained to go 90 km specific to the race.  All roads.  Lots of hills.  Real hills began after mile 40.  For this case, I decided to try to mimic my old training plan.  It wasn’t race specific.  There is a reason my coach tells people not to recycle training plans.  Life had become a lot more complicated.  So, while I trained with as many miles, they were less intense miles.  Lowered the probability or injury.  Meant it was still feasible to fit training in my life.  But the lack of hills, progressions, and track workouts really did impact how I felt day of race.
b.    Week of the race in South Africa, I traveled there and worked with colleagues.  So, while the travel was challenging and the work in the week before the race was intense, each night it was just me.  And the night before the race I was able to get more sleep before the race in South Africa. 
c.    The race in South Africa was something I dreamy of and something that I wanted.  I used money from the tiny bit of inheritance I got from my grandmother’s passing.  Yesterday’s race was originally inspired by someone else who had turned 50 this year wanting a running accomplish having to do with 50 in the year she is 50.  I was interested enough to want to do it.  But it was not “my idea first.”
d.    When you travel around the world, it is really hard to justify not giving 110%.  In contrast, when the trip to Boonsboro was only 75 minutes, if I had a not so good day, that wasn’t the end of the world.
(2)           Races on trails can be more challenging.  I generally watched the feet of the person ahead of me.  Occasionally, I looked further ahead.  I quickly realized that was a bad idea as I would almost slip.  I also am often tempted to look at my watch when it signals a mile completed.  Another no-no on the trails.  My first marathon coach from Charm City Run had given me one piece of advice—get out on trails. Her quote the first time I told her I’d be doing this was that she had no doubt I could train myself to run that far.  But that running on trails was very different.   I was only on real “trails” (and not just NCR) once all summer.  I had put in less than 50 miles with my trail running shoes.  Yesterday, I more than doubled the number of miles my trail shoes had and it was only the second time this year I was on real “trails.”  My body was not used to the muscles being used.  It makes a difference.
(3)           There are a lot of rocks on the section of the Appalachian trail we were on.  I was fortunate to get only one bruise.  Not even a scrape.  Failed to lift a leg high enough to clear a large flat rock.  Knee just brushed the large flat rock.
(4)           There are some amazing switchbacks when you get off the AT and start of the C&O canal trail.  Going down was intense.  Amazing to experience.  I slowed down people behind me.  One passed.  It was easier to follow her. 
(5)           Between 1000+ feet of gain and then coming down almost all of that again in the first 17 miles (with much of the gain being in the first six), that is another reason the legs take a beating.  Once again—not really ready.
(6)           Stopping to take water cups and drink them all makes a difference in taking in fluids.  My “pee test” at mile 48 (yes, I had to stop to pee at mile 48 but it had been about five hours of activity since my alst stop) showed light yellow urine.  Just where it should be.  No dehydration.
(7)           Stopping to eat, I stayed ahead on calories.  They did not have potatoes like Comrades did.  But they did have bananas, orange slices, lots of M&Ms, and chips.  I did not take any pretzels after learning at the Baltimore Running Festival how dry they make my mouth.  I did take two small pieces of red velvet cake at one of the later stops.  That was yummy.
(8)           The C&O canal has some memorable spots.  While my running partner from the Freedoms Run marathon in 2015, was one of the three with whom I carpooled yesterday and she did not notice the staircase from the train bridge to the C&O trail, I did.  It brought back memories of running down the metal, wet, spiral staircase. 
(9)           When there is a train track between the end of the section of the AT we ran on and the start of the section of the C&O canal trail we ran on, one risks having to wait for a train.  And I did.  Probably cost me three minutes.  Reflected on the 2015 incident at the Lehigh marathon where people trying to qualify for Boston were slowed by a passing train.
(10)       When the organizers warn you about how long it will take to walk from the staging area to the start—make sure to add even a few minutes more.  The gun went off before we were there.  The starting line was one of the most underwhelming I’ve ever seen.  And there was no mat—so everyone just had a gun time despite the number of mats elsewhere on the course.  Since the time was not all that important, we did
(11)       Many people liked the shirt I wore.  It was the jungle green/camouflage shirt I’d gotten when I purchased two to consider using in Comrades.  It goes multiple comments including one from a pair of women who struck up a conversation when they caught up to me as they were just glad to see anyone other than themselves.  I also wore a long sleeve tech shirt under the one that got comments. It went on and off multiple times during the race as I tried to stay warm but not hot. 
(12)       Chicken broth at aid stations is also a GREAT thing.
(13)       When driving to a point-to-point race, if parking at the finish line is an option—do it.  We ended up wasting nearly an hour (and maybe more) in returning because of an accident on the road that did not involve but distinctly delayed the shuttle bus.
(14)       Conversations on the run can be fun—about everything from other races to technique at the end—like throwing a walked minute into one’s running.  Favorite conversation was about Zola Budd.  Apparently, she lives in Myrtle Beach and was talking to the local running club about her Comrades experience.  She talked about seeing her uncle on the course.  Everyone thought that must have been fun.  She, in turn, pointed out that he had been dead for 15 years.
(15)        Sometimes running is a completely mental game.  I walked out mile 32 and mile 40.  My motivation was low.  It is ironic that just four weeks ago, I was encouraging someone else not to stop trying even if she had to go slower.  But that is why it is good to remember that #NoOneRunsAlone. 
(16)       The fact that I slowed down so much was humbling.  It kept telling myself that only finishing really matter.  I wondered if Dee and Lauren would come up on my side and greet me.  They did not, but I could have imagined it.    The lack of focus comes back to this, from the start, not being entirely “my race” and just not feeling like there was quite as much at stake.
(17)       The humbling experience brings me to my bib number: 538.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5 verses 3-8 are much of the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes are largely about the spiritual rewards for those who are humble.  I can’t always be perfect.  I won’t always be 100% focused.  I will lose sight of why I run on occasion.  Not every race will be all that I want it to be.  But if am remember that it is good to be poor in spirit and not haughty in spirit or presumptive (which is how the Beatitudes begin in Matthew), then I realize that the most important thing is to finish, to learn, and to take those life lessons into the future.

So what are the major lessons?  Be prepared—especially, to make things easier when finishing.  Eat red velvet cake—it makes everything better.  And avoid mental distractions.  They can cause you to fall when trail running and result in a lack of motivation and running under potential.  At the Baltimore Running Festival, I had one focus—help my friend.  Even at Comrades where I drifted some I still did a relatively good job maintaining focus on doing it in memory of my grandmother.  Yesterday, I had little to focus me.  And it showed.  But I have learned.  And regardless of whether I ever run another ultra, I will be sure to be prepared, be focused, and know what makes things “all better.”  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Last Run Before My Last Ultra for a While

Today was my last run before the JFK 50 miler on Saturday.  That will be my last ultra marathon for at least the next five and one-half years and maybe ever.  This has been an interesting week.

I began with a run with Back on My Feet.  One of the slower four mile runs I've ever done with Back on My Feet but celebrating the fact that one of our residential members was the only one running four that day.  And he did a great job.

Tuesday was my day to run with Lauren as it has been most weeks for five years.  Great conversation in addition to about 6.7 miles.  Received two wonderful chocolate chip cookies with Nutella.  One topic of conversation was "just showing up."  Always showing up is a great way to grow a friendship.

Wednesday I had a chance to run with Kristen for the first time since August 9.  She had a knee surgery, and yesterday she was still on the elliptical while I was on the treadmill in the gym in her apartment building.  But it was great to catch up with her.

Today was supposed to be a run in Fed Hill with Nicole, but she had a migraine.  Since I didn't need the six miles we'd planned, I slept a little longer.  That was good because I've been dealing with a head cold.  Also, yesterday I had endless meetings and closed the day with 2 hours of networking.  I love networking.  But as an INFJ, I needed to check out once I got home.  Yes, I had the energy to go to the grocery store.  Yes, I had the energy to put away some clothes.  But, I just needed extra sleep.  And this morning, I ran with my pup for a longer distance than I have in a long time.  We ran 2.5 miles that that brought me over 2100 for the year already.  In the two years I'd ever done that before, I reached that distance on December 1 in 2016 and on December 10 in 2014.

I have enjoyed this year of running immensely.  Saturday will be a great test.  And then it will be time to run less for a while.  Plenty of miles with people.  Just fewer miles overall.

And it will be good.  

Saturday, October 21, 2017

After the Race

So, this is the second weekend in a row on which Back on My Feet Baltimore exemplified the hashtag #NoOneRunsAlone.  Last weekend it was making one person’s day who ended up not being able to do the run this week.  This weekend, many of us participated in the Baltimore Running Festival. 

This was the third fall in a row in which I tried to run an entire race with a running partner from Back on My Feet.  Two years ago, I had another goal for the Freedoms Run Marathon—to get a time for myself, and I ended up not running the entire race with my partner.  Last year, I ran the Baltimore Marathon with a partner and everything went right.  Cool start.  Negative splits.  Boston qualifying time for my friend.  This year, I hoped to repeat last year and had worried that I would not be able to keep up with this year’s partner.  Instead, my job became much more important.  Keep her going to reach her goal of finishing her first marathon in which any tie is a PR.  And, she did—no stopping and now walking.  I stayed because #NoOneRunsAlone.  The race was not about believing in my partner and helping her finish. 

The things that I learned from this race include that:

  • others find it just as important to have someone to run with as I know I have.
  •  I could probably have run the 3:30 we had planned for, although I will never know
  • my seven years of marathon running and training prepared me better than I’d thought

o   how much to drink the day before
o   what to eat the morning of
o   how to use the water stops including the water, Gatorade, and food
o   having done many hot summer long runs, my body was ready for the temps

  • while my partner was just making sure she could continue, I was able to
o   greet many people who cheered me on and tell my partner who each was
o   hug a fellow Back on My Feet member at the BoMF water stop
o   sing along with “Sweet Caroline” as we rounded Lake Montebello
o   yell out “We are…” and “Go Blue!” when passing relevant runners or spectators
o   heartily greet volunteers from the business school at a water stop

I am not sure if I will run the race next year.  But this race has become a great experience each time and each time I repeat it I get to enjoy the atmosphere of the race and the group with which I run more and more.  And having someone to share the entire race with because #NoOneRunsAlone is wonderful.