Monday, March 28, 2011

My 20 mile run... a lesson in perseverance

 Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

 Next time I'll be braver,
I'll be my own savior,
Standing on my own two feet...
~ Turning Tables

Today I ran 20 miles... the last long run I had was a horrendous, awful, failure. Yes... I finished it... yes it was within a reasonable time for any beginner (and a not so fast) marathoner.... but I hated nearly every second of it. I despised the hills... I hated my body for failing me and I was overtaken by injury and the lack of training from a month of no running really hit hard. 
I could not have been more discouraged. I wasn't even proud... I didn't even consider it a legit run because I ended up walking the last 4 miles or so. Recently, running has not been a happy place for me. It has become a chore and a mark on my calendar that I have to meticulously plan for and work around with every bit of my schedule. It zaps my time and energy and those are two things I am in serious lack of as of late. 
Last night I didn't sleep well... maybe 4 hours tops. I woke up dreading the run but the night before I had re-read the "Marathon Words" chapter in my training book and I was prepped. Relax... Power... Glide. Mantras to keep you going when you get tense or tired or lose your form. Amazingly the first 10 miles I felt pretty great and around mile 9 I even felt the runner's high kick in. "Pace yourself." I had to remember I was barely halfway there. By mile 16 I just kept telling myself... "Andi, you've been here before and you are doing great. You got this!" Mile 18 rolls around and the song "Turning Tables" by Adele begins blaring through my earphones.
"Next time I'll be braver,
I'll be my own savior,
When the thunder calls for me...
Standing on my own two feet..."
Pain was setting in now and everything was aching. At the end of every walk break it took immense amounts of push to get my feet moving at a jogging pace again. I felt like the tin man. But then, I realized that I had officially surpassed my previous longest distance and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I was about to finish a 20 mile run. Just 6 miles short of a marathon.... I realized that my dream of finishing 26.2 miles was within reach.  
"I can totally do this! I can feel that marathon medal within my reach!"
See friends, it hasn't been easy... this marathon training as most of you know has been so much more than just running a ridiculously long distance. It has been about overcoming and feeling empowered. About letting go of fears and addictions and baggage. I have been struggling with those things lately and it isn't easy to admit to the world... but it's the truth and I believe there is power in honesty and humility. I am not perfect by any means... I still struggle with feelings of worthlessness and brokenness. I still struggle with the smoking issue. I have had my slip ups. I think it is a struggle I will always carry. My 17 mile run was a clear image of that but I refuse to give up and give in and today... at mile 18... I realized that I am so much more than my issues. I am so much more than any of it.
This time I will be braver...
Today I ran 20 miles because even though I am a broken human... I persevered...
and that my friends, gives me hope.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Life Lately

My favorite folks from the ICU night shift
Hello Friends!
I have been meaning to come around here more often. Still haven't updated about my trip to Ireland and Lebanon... have lots of nursing stories I could share... running stories too... but life has been busy. Life has been busy with the mundane and it's been a little wearying. I can't seem to catch up on sleep or social time with friends or quality time with Chris. It all just seems like I am pulled bit by bit in a bunch of directions and only small pieces of everything are getting done. This weekend I will be heading down to L.A. to see a play that my bff Helena has been helping direct. It will be fun to have a road trip with the gang and see what Helena has been putting her heart and soul into these past few months. Still, it makes for a busy weekend and I've been rushing around all day in order to get things done before we head off bright and early tomorrow.

Oh well... one day at a time, right?

On a more fun note.... I do have a happy event to share with you all. Recently, I was lucky enough to have a baby shower at my house for a very well liked co-worker of mine. This is her first baby and because she let slip that her family was not planning on doing a shower for her... we went all out. I spent a few days looking up DIY blogs and photos on flickr for inspiration and I must admit that the end result... albeit a ton of work... was totally great. It was a wonderful day and I was so glad to have been able to host it at my house. It gave me an opportunity to be crafty and do some blog hunting for fun ideas :)
So without further ado... pictures from Baby C's Shower 

Best idea ever... baby shower potluck style :)
Our adorable onsies after they were decorated by everyone at the party!
Baby S wanted to join in the present unwrapping... too freaking cute!
It's a boy!!!

Another successful house party and a wonderful day spent with my favorite nurses! Hope you all are enjoying your weekend!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The best Valentine's Day present ever

Arabic For Dummies 

I've never been much of a Valentine's Day person. Truthfully, I think it's a very hallmark fabricated holiday and I've just never been a fan of things that feel forced. This Valentine's Day, it was the first time  I was actually in a serious relationship... I was also out of the country thousands of miles away from Chris. Knowing that I've never been a Valentine's Day person... it wasn't that hard to be away from Chris that day. It was difficult having a full two weeks apart from each other though. I think what made it even more difficult is the fact that he was at home living every day life and I was off gallivanting through Ireland and Lebanon.

My world was being changed... I was experiencing something incredibly unique and he was not there to share in that with me. I've always had a passion for traveling and other cultures. I became a nurse because I wanted to be a missionary in Central Asia and in many ways this trip was a glimpse into the dreams I once held. It was inevitable that I would come home a changed person... the love I had for language and culture and people would be undoubtedly renewed.
I have to admit that part of me was worried he wouldn't fully understand where I was coming from and having no ability to talk on the phone during the entire two weeks made it even more difficult. We were limited to brief online conversations where we could momentarily check in with each other.
The thing with online conversations that is hard too is it makes for a lot of miscommunication, especially when it comes to trying to convey how you feel. Comments can be so easily misunderstood.
Chris and I were not immune to this and my fear of him not understanding where I was coming from was fueled by a few moments of disconnect. One being about my excitement in learning Arabic and my over zealous use of all the new words I had been learning.

To make a long story short we got our wires crossed and it was not a fun misunderstanding to have when you are limited to IM messages half way across the world from each other. We eventually sorted things out though and when I got home I returned to one of the most thoughtful gifts I had ever received.

After a 30 hour flight and a much anticipated reunion with my belated valentine... we gathered up my luggage and headed towards the car. Waiting for me inside was a beautiful potted orchid (I had told Chris a few weeks prior that my favorite flower was the orchid) with a wonderful card.
Then we get home and as we head through the hallway he reaches out and grabs a hello kitty backpack (for those who know me... you know how much I LOVE hello kitty) with an Arabic language map inside just like the one below. I opened it up and quickly realized that it had all of the words I had learned in Arabic and so much more. It had the phonetic spelling and Arabic meaning and writing of every word.... all wrapped into a laminated brochure.

Then... as if I couldn't be touched more... I head into my room and I see "Arabic for Dummies" along with two huge coffee table books about Ireland with gorgeous photos... including many of the places I had been on my trip. I also got an Ireland calendar to top it all off.
Chris said he wanted to bring a piece of Ireland and Lebanon home for me. :)
I was floored. To make it even more amazing I discovered that Chris had already bought these gifts before we had our conversation while I was in Lebanon. So... all this time while I thought he was disinterested in my love for other cultures and traveling and annoyed with my new Arabic obsession... he was actually incredibly supportive of me.

Hands down one of the best presents I have ever been given. And it came with a good lesson too... communication in person is so much better than over the phone or the internet... and second... it's always good to give people the benefit of the doubt. :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

My 17 mile run... A Lesson in Defeat

Yesterday I ran 17 miles for my marathon training. The last long run I had done was on Feb. 6th. My second half marathon, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. I got a PR... beat my previous time by a whole 2 minutes. A huge margine for any runner. Then I headed to Ireland and Lebanon (still editing photos for the trip btw, I will post them eventually... I promise) and I didn't run for a whole two weeks. Then I came home and jumped back into work... jet lagged and emotionally overwhelmed by a bit of culture shock and processing through what I had experienced during my trip... running was the last thing on my mind. I ran two easy 5k's during the past week but it had effectively been an entire month before I had done any major amount of running.

Still, I was determined to continue my training and the 17 mile run was due this week. Since I hadn't run in a while and I knew this run would take at least a few hours, I figured I would need some inspiration... a beautiful place to run the longest distance I had ever done would make all the difference.
I headed out to my favorite spot where I do my trail runs. This is where I first fell in love with running. It is my sacred place. A place I go to find peace and re-center myself when life seems to swallow me up whole. These past two weeks after coming home from traveling abroad I have been feeling like a fish out of water in many ways... going through the motions and trying to get back into the routine of daily life. Feeling behind on everything and having not enough time to do any of it. A trail run... at least, I thought... would be the perfect medicine for that feeling.
The trails this time of year are absolutely stunning. I can objectively say that the place I run my trails is just as beautiful... if not more beautiful than places I have been in Ireland. There is plush green every where you turn with waterfalls and overflowing creeks rushing alongside you as you run.  It smells  fresh and when it rains you can hear the sound of drops hitting the leaves above you... the trees shielding you from the downpour, a canopy of nature that conceals you from all the chaos that lies outside the forest. Life is everywhere you turn and you realize that running is a joy... a privilege in a place so breathtakingly beautiful. 
The beginning of my run was hard... I could feel myself struggling to keep up with my intervals and I ended up needing to take more walk breaks than I would have liked. Around mile four I had made it passed the most hilly part of the run and I was relieved but also terrified when I realized I was exhausted and still had an entire half marathon to go. I stopped to take a few pictures with my phone and decided I would try and take it easy... hoping I wouldn't give into the desire to cut the run short. 
By the time mile thirteen rolled around my knee started screaming in pain. I began limping as I ran and my intervals of running five minutes and walking one began to change to three minutes of running and two minutes of walking.  I knew giving up was not an option but the feeling of defeat was starting to set in. By mile fourteen I began breaking down... pain shooting through my legs, my back and my knees. Everything hurt... my body was beginning to fail me and I instantly felt broken. 
"How in the WORLD am I going to finish a marathon if I can't even do a 17 mile run?!" I thought as I limped through the muddy trails... rain pouring down my face. I began watching the other runners zoom past me, waving as they ran by. There is an unspoken bond between runners. We can spot each other from miles away. They're the ones with the racing shirts, compression pants, garmin watches... that determined look on their face as they tackle the trail. It has always been something I loved about becoming a runner... joining into that unspoken family of people who keep an eye out for each other. An acknowledgment that you are one of them... its usually something that makes me feel incredibly proud but this time... this time I was angry as I watched them pass me up... I had to continually remind myself that today it was about finishing... I was doing 17 miles and a 17 mile run is not about speed... it is not about competing... it is about endurance.

I finished that 17 mile run yesterday... it took me 4 hours and 16 minutes. That comes out to a 15 minute mile. According to the Jeff Galloway training method I am using.... in his book "Marathon: You Can Do It!" 15 minutes is a perfect training pace for someone who runs a ten minute mile... and that's just about where I am at. Considering that... I guess I did well and hey, at least I finished right?
Still, I can't seem to get this feeling of defeat out of my head. Running is supposed to be the one thing I can count on to give me strength... to make me feel empowered and alive. To give me the feeling that I can take on anything and conquer it with victory... but today I feel nothing of the sort. The runner's high never showed up for me... and now I am left with sore legs and a bit of a broken heart.
My body betrayed me... and for the first time running betrayed me. 

Training for a marathon has been incredibly difficult and if there is one thing I have learned during this journey... is that grace is the most valuable thing I can have during this whole experience. 
I may not finish every run with a beaming smile and a sense of accomplishment... but I can finish every run. Whether I limp my way to the finish or I run through it with my arms raised in victory... at least I will finish and really... isn't that what marathon training is all about?
Knowing that no matter how difficult it was... you keep going until you have run all 26.2 miles. And now matter how you feel at the end... you have finished... and that is true victory.