I won

Yesterday was a day I had been preparing for, for a number of months.

For fun, on random Saturdays and Sundays during the year, I get up out of my nice, warm, comfy bed before the crack of dawn to run 13.1 miles with a bunch of other weirdos.  Why do we do this you ask?  Do we all think we are going to win?  Hell no!  We do this to prove to ourselves we can push our bodies to the brink and our minds just a bit further….oh, and of coarse the added benefit of the hardware, bananas, and chocolate milk at the finish line!

I originally had all these grand plans for my 9th half marathon.  I have had a stressful spring and summer, haven’t felt much like running or training for anything.  When I committed to running this race, I felt like I was re-committing to myself and my health.  I set up a training plan with the best of intentions.  Then life continued to happen.

The stress from the spring and summer carried over into the beginning of the school year, never slowing down.  I think it actually started doubling its efforts to crush me in September.  My drive fizzled and my training runs tanked.  Oh, I still completed them, if you can really call it that, they were just terrible runs.

As the date on the calendar kept getting closer and closer, my expectations for success got lower and lower.

Then Friday hit.

It has been a particular bad stretch of days at the Ye Ol’ behavior school.  At the end of each day, we look at our imaginary score card for the day to see who won.  The students have been being extra behaviorally disordered this week, pushing us to our brink and challenging our last nerves.

Well, my one last nerve broke on Friday.  They won….Big Time.  While trying to talk to a student about one of his behaviors, he unleashed on me, a whole different set of aggressive behaviors leading to me filing an assault charge, leaving work early, going to the doctor, and being an emotional wreck.

Their win defeated me.  It broke me.  Not only was I physically hurt, but I was emotionally devastated.  And now I was supposed to take my already sore body and push it 13 miles?  At one point on Friday night, I nearly called my bestie who was driving me to the race to cancel.  But I just couldn’t.

Mind over matter.  You hear that expression all the time, but it wasn’t until I started running long distances, that I truly experienced it in action.  A distance race is so much more mental that physical.  My physical body might be damaged, but my spirit wasn’t broken, yet, and I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

The race we registered for was a trail run on the Wabash Trace in Iowa.  Many races are of the out and back variety, but this race was not.  For our race, we were shuttled out the start line and left, literally, in the corn fields of Iowa with nothing to get ourselves back to our vehicle with but our over-priced running shoes and our hearts.  It was truly an ingenious plan.  Once you start, there’s no quitting!

Despite his best efforts to injury or maim us with his poor driving skills on gravel roads, our shuttle driver delivered us safely to the start line.

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Hey, at least it wasn’t a short bus……

It was nice to see they support crew gearing up for the event.

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I do believe it’s extremely rude for them to be eating donuts, smoking, and drinking coffee in front of all of us.  F*#$ers!

And could someone please fix the bathrooms?

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This one wouldn’t flush!

At least they were kind enough to leave me something to play with before the race started.

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Corn!  Yippee!

All jokes aside, when you get down to it.  It’s just you, mind and body, pushing yourself to the finish line.

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Let’s do this.

The race started out pretty decent.  The weather was perfect; in the 60s, overcast.

I cruised through miles 1, 2, 3, and 4.

There weren’t that many runners signed up for the race, so by this point, the trail had really thinned out.  It felt like you were all on your own.

This can be good and bad.

Although the scenery was beautiful, a wandering mind is not always your friend.

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With my legs burning in mile 5, my mind replayed my week.  Have you ever seen someone cry and run at the same time?  It’s not pretty and doesn’t do wonders to help you keep up your pace.  I was starting to feel crushed and wondering how I was going to make it to the end.  My physical body was teetering on the edge as it was, now the last of my mentality looked like it was throwing in the towel.

Down, but not out.  Not yet.

Mile 6 called for a change and a mental refocus.  Yes, I had shed tears, but they were out and it was time to keep pushing forward.  My first step was to change up the music.  See you later Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean.  Hello Snoop and Dre.

Nothing kicks your pace back into gear like a sippin’ on Gin and Juice followed by Salt N Pepe’s Expression.  It was just the pick me up I needed.

I was cruising into mile 8 when I got leid.

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Hey, freak-o.  Get you mind out of the gutter.

I hit my wall around mile 10 1/2.  To put it mildly, it sucked.  Luckily, about this time, we emerged from the trail into the town where the race would end.  Now, if you’ve ever participated in or been a spectator at a race, you know how uplifting a crowd can be.  The cheers…. the encouraging words…. the signs.

Oh, the signs.

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of my two favorites, (I feared, if I stopped to snap pics this late in the race, I might not start again) but here’s what they said.

“Go Total Stranger Go!”

and

“Worst Parade EVER!”

Ha!

As I trudged up and down the hills of the town towards the finish, (Seriously, who puts hills at the END of a half marathon???) I got my Tootsie Roll groove on, had OPP thoroughly explained to me frame-by-frame, and learned who the Real Slim Shady is.

I rounded the last corner, saw the finish line, took a deep breath, and finished hard.

What do you do after you cross the finish line?

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This Is How We Do It…..  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist one last one!)

The ups and downs of the week.  The physical pains and the emotional drains.  The falls, the walls, the failures…  Followed by getting back up, trying again, pushing through, and finding success.

My final score card from the week???

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I won!

 

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A mighty giant

in a tiny package.

Well it appears that winter has finally decided to exit stage left here in ye’ ol’ Nebraska.

The claps and cheers at the local university baseball games can finally be heard in full force, fans being able to leave the thermal gloves and knitted scarves at home when they flock to the ball parks.

The temperature topped 70, causing us all to dig through last years shorts and shimmy into a pair, daring to expose our neighbors to our winter paleness while we steal those first few rays.

And it’s the type of weather that sparks all humans, whether hard-core athletes or couch loving potatoes, to strap on some shoes and hit the trails.

Now while those trails and roadways get backed with runners, bikes, and strollers, another breeds squeaks in its four paws, adding to the congestion.   The dog.

I love dogs and I love people who take out their dogs on runs with them.  When I go out for a run, I used to be jealous of those out with their jogging companions, wishing I had a four-legged friend I could take out with me, especially on my early morning runs.  Unfortunately, when you’re a woman and  you run alone at 5 am, there are times that you feel uncomfortable and desire a furry protector.

Almost three years ago, we added a furry member to our family.  The kids had been asking forever, begging to be loyal and responsible dog owners.  Santa finally caved and deposited a cute little, Yorkie-Poo, Maddie, into our home.  Why a Yorkie-Poo you ask?  Well, the answer is two-fold.  Paige has a dog allergy, any puppy we were given need to be non-shedding.  Secondly, I’m not a big dog person.  Just thinking about 87 pounds of slobbering, shedding dog sends my OCD into a tailspin.  In my eyes, dogs should be fluffy, soft, little and cute.  It should be able to fit under my arm, in a purse, or curl up in my lap.  (Ok, mock me now.  I’m woman enough to handle it.)  I do draw the line at clothes.  You should not dress your dog….except on Halloween…. and during football season…. and, screw it.  I dress my dog sometimes too.

Anyway, back to the nice weather.  Maddie LOVES to go for walks.  And when I say loves, that’s an understatement.  We cannot even say the word ‘walk’ in our house.  We have to spell it, because, if you say it, you had better be prepared to grab the lease and the poop bag right then and there.  When you do walk her, she pulls you, going full throttle at the end of her leash the whole time.  She comes home still hyped, still leaping up to your waist, still looking for you to throw her ball.  Seriously, how much energy does this dog have?

Too bad I can’t take her on a run.

Or can I.

I don’t know where the unwritten rule about what type of dog you can take on a run came from, but today, I remembered that my dad didn’t call me his ‘little trendsetter’ for no reason and set out to re-align the universe.

I laced up my shoes, strapped on my music, and asked the spunkiest Yorkie-Poo on the block if she wanted to go on a run.  Want to guess what she said?

She took off like a dart, practically dragging me off the driveway and up the first hill, proving she was up for the challenge.  The only thing Maddie might love more than being out on her leash…. is peeing.  She is forever at the door, scratching to be let out.  She will go out, come in, then go right back out again.  Apparently, I have the cutest puppy with the smallest bladder.  That, and the largest ‘little dog’ syndrome, so she must spread her scent wherever she goes.  Our run started out like this.  Mad dash at puppy full speed, nearly choking herself trying to make the leash longer.  Squat in grass.  Be passed by Kerry. Give up squat to pass Kerry and take the lead back.  Repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat.

About twenty minutes (yes, I said 20 minutes) into our run, Maddie started running at my side, matching me stride for stride, no longer trying to drag me.  I thought, maybe, just maybe, this was it.  I had found the point at which one can tire out a Yorkie-Poo.  Then she started running behind me.  Crap, I’m about to break my puppy.  I’m going to have to carry her all the way back home.  You know what looks sillier than running with a Yorkie-Poo… running while carrying a Yorkie-Poo.  Well, my fears were completely unfounded.  As it happens, my puppy was nowhere near spent, there just happened to be a runner approaching me from behind and Maddie morphed into protector mode.  I stepped to the side to let the runner pass.  Maddie again took off at full speed.

We hit the half way point and pulled a U-turn, heading for home.  She didn’t let up the whole way back.  I was in awe.  At any moment, I expected her to throw in the figurative towel, to sit down and refuse to lift one more paw.  But it never happened.

We rounded the last corner and caught sight of the house.  She did it!  She made it the whole run.  Hot Dog!  No, seriously, she was hot, thirsty, and panting like crazy.  I rewarded my superstar runner with a puppy treat and giant bowl of cool water.  She eat, drank, and crashed.  Literally.

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Remember the Tootsie Roll commercial…’How many licks does it take to get the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?’  I still don’t know that, but I now know how many miles it takes to tire out a Yorkie-Poo… 4 1/2.

If only it lasted.

Later in the day, IP made the mistake of saying the “W” word.

Guess who made a B-line to the door…..

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This is what I do for fun

Call me crazy, but I run half marathons.  I actually really enjoy them.  I know, throw insults now.

I started running 20 years ago when I was a senior in high school.  (Crap, 20 years old…damn, I’m getting old.)  My dad ran.  It was something to do with him.  As I ran more, I found that I enjoy it.  It’s relaxing.  It clears the mind.  It frees your body of stress.

For years, I ran for exercise, to de-stress, nothing else.  Back in 2006, I had a friend who dropped a bunch of weight by working out and had gotten into running races.  She told me I should sign up for a half marathon with her.  I said, sure, why not.  I ran my first one in 2007 and have been hooked.  To date, I have ran 8.

Now I know what I’m going to say will should crazy, but running a half marathon is not about the running.  Bare with me while I explain this. Of course, you have to run and make sure your body can make it 13.1 miles, but the reality is, most bodies can do it.  I have seen and been passed by all body types, young, old, very old, thin, average, and heavy.  All people can run and do run.

Once you get the breathing and endurance thing down, it all becomes a mental game.  Can you push your mind to keep going?  I am living proof.  I trained well for the first one and did good.  I trained intensely for the next because I wanted a certain time.  The last six, I’ve just gone out and done.  I didn’t train the way some might have, but none of that mattered.  Some were ok, some sucked royally.  Some I ran, some I walked/ran.  I got up that morning, put on my shoes, started the race, and I finished.  And in the end, finishing is finishing.

I think that is why everyone gets medals at races, because it’s a personal battle with yourself.  It’s a mental game.  If it was just physical, only the winner would win.  In a foot race, everyone wins.  Because you made a commitment, because you pushed yourself, because you did it….. you win.