Year ends & beginnings.

I sat down six or seven times determined to write about 2013 or about my feelings on the arrival on 2014, but mostly all I managed to accomplish was writing curse words over and over and over again. Nothing I came up with was anything I’d want to say on the internet and really, it wasn’t even all that coherent.

2013 didn’t end the way I thought that it would and December wasn’t the month that I thought it was going to be – it was supposed to be this incredible thing, this culminating event of several long months, but then it wasn’t. It wasn’t all terrible – like everything, there was some good bits thrown in there too, but it’s been a hard few weeks and I’m feeling, to be completely honest, a little bit lost.

As disappointed as I am about how 2013 ended, I know that I did a lot of really amazing shit in 2013. I became a runner, for reals, in 2013, running two half marathons, some 10ks, 5ks and mud runs, set and broke a whole bunch of personal running records, and ran 750 miles over the course of the year. I read 51 books. I partially renovated one of my bathrooms. I went to Texas and Alabama and Florida and North Carolina and D.C.

I even got to pet a lion. And feed a buffalo.

I spent the final hours of 2013 surrounded by friends, good friends. Friends who are more like family than anything else, friends who make me come over for dinner on Christmas so I don’t have to spend the whole day alone, and really, the best part of 2013 has been the realization that I have some really fucking incredible friends. I’m a lucky bitch, to be loved by so many incredible and brilliant people.

I keep thinking about making a resolution or some such shit for 2014, that I should set some goals or throw out some grand, sweeping statement about how this year is going to be the year of SOMETHING, but I just can’t muster the energy.

I know I want to run more. Maybe I’ll run a marathon this year. Maybe I won’t. There will be more half marathons, more PRs broken, more time spent on the road, escaping.

I’d like to take the dogs for more walks. I’d like to read 50 books again this year. That was nice. I should probably finish renovating the bathroom upstairs and maybe add that second coat of paint to the downstairs bedroom.

I have all these other hopes too, these unmentionable, fingers-crossed sort of things that keep me from sleeping. I want to fix it. I want 2014 to be the year of the bounce-back, of everything returning to the way I know in my core that it should be. I want to wake up and not feel the terrible ache in my chest that’s been building there for months and I want to go a day without crying and without feeling like I’m losing the most important thing in my life.

So, yeah. 2014. Here’s to surviving the terrible, awful heartache that it’s probably going to be, to running more miles, crying fewer tears and surviving the mess.

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

Wanting & Returning.

Last night I collected a handful of poetry books and read poetry aloud in my dining room, music turned up, alone, with a few kitties making suspicious faces and burrowing into a neglected basket of clean laundry. I didn’t know I missed poetry until I found myself there, reading poem after poem, opening the books at any place and proceeding, yelling the words in caps, whispering the parentheticals.

I feel in some ways that I’m coming back to the person I was, recovering a few of the bits, or maybe it’s just the hurt that makes me reach for the comfort of words, just like always. Break my heart, and you’ll find me settled in, speaking the words to my favorite songs, wine glass in hand, poetry book beside me, along with an overabundance of emotions scrawled across some journal pages.

I think a lot about the person I’ve become, the person I’ve been and the person I want to be. I wonder sometimes if I’m not enough, not good enough or pretty enough or whatever enough, if I’ve spent years misreading signs or making devastating missteps.

I know I’ve made mistakes. I’ve yelled and cursed and pushed. I’m not perfect. But at the end of the day, I really like who I am.

I like that I’m a runner, that nachos account for 13% of my diet and that I giggle at the same things now that I did at 13. I like the way I laugh too loud, that my hair is almost always in a ponytail, that I still don’t know how to apply blush, even at 29. I like the skinny jeans in my closet, the beers in my fridge, the music on my iPhone and the support system I’ve culled from the different parts of my life. I like that I’m crass, that tacos are my favorite food and green is my favorite color.

Would I change parts of me? Of course. I’m not perfect. I’ve got a mean temper, for sure, and I’ve done and said things I wish I could take back. I wish I didn’t leave dishes in the sink overnight and I wish I was better about putting laundry away and walking the dogs and taking out the trash. I wish I could paint my nails without it looking like I murdered a paint can with my fingertips and I wish I could eat the lettuce in the fridge before it goes bad.

But the more time I spend pondering my inadequacies, the more I realize that really, I am enough. I deserve love and compassion and kindness, not games and uncertain sentiment. I didn’t do anything to deserve a trampling. I didn’t do anything to deserve the things that have been said and done and that’s it. I deserve better. Really. Because I’m fucking awesome. Not perfect. Not without faults, but fucking awesome. I’m a good person, mostly, just like most of us are mostly good. I’m the best person I’ve ever been.  I’m stronger and funnier and happier and more willing than ever to fight for the love I think I deserve.

So there.

I’ve changed, yes. I wasn’t this person before. I used to write terrible poetry, and now I read good poetry out loud to kitties and my dining table. I used to eat freezer meals and now I eat tacos and run four times a week because I love it and because it grounds me. I used to stress about every single little detail, like name cards at Thanksgiving and removing every stray bit of dog fur in the house, but life is too fucking short for that. I’m a beer drinker now, and jalapenos and hot sauce have entered my diet and are here to stay. I’m different, but the same.

I’m happier. I’m stronger. I’m braver. I’m better.

And I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry for changing, for learning how to be okay on my own and becoming a happier and better version of the same person I’ve always been. It doesn’t mean my life is too full, that there’s no room for the people I’ve always loved. It doesn’t mean the me I was is gone and dead – she’s still here, only new and improved. It doesn’t mean I want to walk away from the life I’ve been living or that I’ve outgrown it or drifted away from it.

I’m not the one pushing anything away.

All this really means is that some things have changed, like they have been since the beginning and like they will until the end.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
― Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Running Richmond, the Second Half & some smile crying.

1476060_10101445552368516_1011232151_nIn November, I ran my second half marathon. It was totally different from my first half marathon experience, back in March. I was ready. I knew I could run 13.1 miles because I had done it before. I was stronger this time, better fueled and faster. Plus, it was here, in Richmond, and I was really excited to run the streets of my own city.

I won’t lie – I was moody about the race in the days leading up to it. I had expected Andrew to be home and hoped to have a few friends running as well, but none of those things happened, so, for the first time ever, I got up alone on race day, got myself ready and headed out the door to run this race for me, and me alone.

The weather was tricky, with no wind, 80% humidity and intermittent rain that dampened me on the way to the start line and then drenched me while I was running miles 3-5. I’d opted for a tank and shorts that day, the exact same outfit I’d worn during the muggy days of July, because humidity kills me and I was determined to not be broken on race day by poor wardrobe choices.

Once I got to the start, I ate my customary pre-race banana with almond butter (a WaWa pretzel and a kashi snack bar had been downed earlier), hit the porta-potties one last time and then found my corral.

At 7:42am, 12 minutes after the gun start of the race, my corral was released and I was off, knowing I would set a personal record no matter what, but hoping I’d run a sub 2 hour half marathon that day, a secret goal I’d only voiced the day before, but that I’d been silently around with me for months.

The Richmond Half was capped at 9,000 runners so it wasn’t the crowded madhouse I’d experience at previous races. I didn’t need to weave through crowds and, as I set off down Broad street, my legs felt a little tired, but good. I wasn’t sure how the race would go, but I was hopeful.

I walked briefly at every water station, positioned every two miles and equipped with both water and Powerade. I carried my own 10 oz water bottle too, so I could sip water whenever I wanted and especially when I started downing Gu.  I’ve found that a few seconds of walking and a sip of Powerade or cold water gives me a solid energy surge that more than makes up for the seconds I spend walking and sucking down fluids.

By mile 4 it was raining, but I was in familiar territory, running the same streets I’d trained on. The familiarity of the course gave me a little boost before we headed into Bryan Park, the hilly part of the course. I was nervous about the hills and knew they could make or break my race.

But the hills? They were fine. They were soft and rolling for about two miles and then they were done. I started sucking down some Vanilla Bean Gu right before we left the park, at mile 7.

One one of my favorite things about this race was the spectators. They were everywhere on the course, holding signs and swinging cowbells and it was incredible to see so many people lining the course cheering us all on. There were also coaches from the half marathon training team all along the course and they were great, cheering on their trainees, but also anyone else who needed some encouragement. As I pushed up one of the final hills in the park, I smiled at one of the coaches and he yelled that I had this, that I could do it, and right about then I realized he might be right.

 

As I approached mile 10, I prepared to check my overall time to see if I could finish the race in under 2 hours. My watch was just a little bit ahead on mileage, so I knew I needed to check my overall time at the actual mile mark to get a solid idea of how I was officially doing. At mile 10, I’d been running for just over an hour and a half, which meant I had a little less than 30 minutes to run a 5k, something I was almost sure I could do. I’d been running pretty consistently at a 9 minute mile pace, so I sucked down some more Gu and pushed for the finish.

I ran the 11th mile in 8:53.

I ran the 12th mile in 8:36, checked my watch for my overall time again, saw that I had just under 12 minutes to finish that last 1.1, and I knew, then, that I was going to make it.

So I cried, for the whole first quarter of the 13th mile, while smiling too.

I ran the last full mile in 8:07, my fastest of the day, helped in large part by the massive downhill finish and, just before crossing the finish line, I heard my name yelled from the sidelines and I turned to see two of my friends, who braved the rain, cheering me on. So I smiled, threw my arms in the air and booked it to the end.

Final time: 1:57:13.

Me, near the finish:

photo 2-1

photo 1-1Not only did I PR by nearly 18 minutes, I also achieved my super secret running goal with a few minutes to spare.

It wasn’t the race day I thought I wanted. I wasn’t running toward my husband like I’d envisioned when I signed up to run and I didn’t get to congratulate any friends on running that day, but it was still perfect.

I’m still, two weeks later, trying to process everything this race meant to me. I know it means I’m starting to understand what it means to be a runner, that I’ve learned how to better fuel and hydrate my body in order to get it to do awesome things, but it’s so much more than that too. It’s everything.

Regrets.

I try to remind myself that yesterday is done. It’s gone. I can’t go back and do anything over.

I tell myself that the decisions I’ve made have led me to this point, for better or for worse. Those decisions are made and done. When made, they seemed right. It’s too late to regret them because they’re done. That’s it.

I’ve said that life is too short for regrets. I’ve tried to keep them out. I’ve caulked the corners, sealed myself off to the very possibility of regret, and yet, there it is. They made it through anyway, no matter how hard I tried to keep them out, there are the regrets, unscathed and triumphant.

I know what’s done is done. I know that. I know I can’t go back.

But I want to.

I want a do-over. I want to go back, and do it again, different this time. I want to try a different path, just to see if it ends at a different point. I want to change my mind. I want to try harder, I want to be better and I want, more than anything, to try what’s behind curtain number two.

I don’t know if it would make a difference. I don’t know if it would change anything. But that’s just it – I don’t know. What if it would have? What if I’d gone? Packed the boxes, me, the kitties, the dogs, and gone too? What if it changed everything?

I know it’s not healthy to dwell on what might have been. There’s a logical part of me that can step away from the emotional response and evaluate the situation. I know that playing that game, the What If game, doesn’t get me fucking anywhere, but that doesn’t mean I can stop myself from playing it. I hear the logic – what’s done is done – I get it, but I can’t stop looking behind me, wondering if a simple but big choice could have saved the whole damn thing.

So I sit with the regret. I wonder if I have enough to pull us out and up on my own. I play the game, going back and forth, weighing the options: the could have beens, the would have beens, the what ifs.

It gets me nowhere, I know. But I can’t stop. Once the regret gets in, it’s hard to shake.

Meeting strangers on planes, running things and doing things I didn’t ever want to.

I’ve got a whole process when I fly, one I’ve honed over the course of 15 months of regular and fairly frequent solo air travel. Before last year, it had been a decade plus since I’d flown anywhere alone, but this year, with Andrew in Alabama for flight school, I’ve embarked on solo flights to California, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Atlanta and, of course, Alabama. My process is nearly flawless. I know to put all my liquid or gel toiletries in a little plastic bag that must be in a bin, not in my bag, and I’ve learned to grab the three bins I’ll need right from the get-go and stack them, one on top of the other, as I add my toiletry bag, shoes, jacket, laptop and purse to them,which saves space for the people behind me. I know to stash my carry-on suitcase in the overhead with the wheels or handle facing out and I know, on smaller planes, that there’s a side that fits suitcases that way, the right way, and one that doesn’t. I always have something to read before electronic devices are allowed, and I almost always have my kindle to read once the plane reaches cruising altitude.

So, when I flew to Texas back in September, I was ready. I sat down, in my aisle seat, next to a JetBlue pilot who I’d later learn was flying to Albuquerque to visit friends. I pulled out the issue of Runner’s World I’d been flipping through by the gate before boarding, tucked my kindle under my leg, buckled my seatbelt and started reading my magazine. The pilot next to me saw my Runner’s World and asked if I was a runner and I said yes, without too much hesitation this time and, after learning that he’s also a runner, one who was training to qualify to run the Boston Marathon in April, we talked for the next three and a half hours, ceasing only when the plane landed in Dallas and we headed in separate directions at the gate.

And that, right there, is why I really like this running thing. Runners are, generally, just really fucking phenomenal people.

I’ve never actually wanted to talk to anyone on an airplane before. Ever. I don’t chat on airplanes, period, and yet, for an entire flight, one that took me halfway across the country, there I was happily talking to a stranger about all things running and then, when we had exhausted talk about our race experiences and our running bucket lists and which shoes we wear and how great good running socks are and after I asked him all about what Richmond races he runs or has run and after we shared how we got into running in the first place, he in 2003 and me much more recently, we talked about pets, because if there’s anything I love it’s talking about my animal hoard.

Turns out, my in-flight running buddy has an even bigger animal hoard than I’ve got, which immediately impressed me, and he and his wife don’t have kids and think of their cats and dogs and birds as their kids, which HELLO – THAT’S MY LIFE. And so then we shared photos of our critters, trading stories about bottle-feeding kitties, dog shenanigans and living a critter-filled life.

The more I get into this running thing the more I realize how incredible runners are – there’s this whole community and I could compare my in-flight conversations with this man to my experience attending Bloggers in Sin City because, once we established we had a commonality, we were set. Running, much like blogging or internet living at BiSC, was enough to generate conversation for multiple hours and establish a friendship.

The craziest thing about my conversation with this runner friend, was that talking with him made me want to a marathon. I said, not that long ago, that I would never run a marathon, that 26.2 miles is just REALLY FUCKING FAR and that half marathons are a lovely challenge and that going for 20 mile training runs sounded like actual torture, but, two things happened that made all of that seem like a lot of whiny bullshit:

First, I ran my third Spartan Race, and I was fresh from that experience as I flew to Texas, having only completed that race a few days before. That shit took me five hours and I realized, at the top of a ridiculous mountain, about 4.5 hours in, that running a marathon would take me about five hours and that if I could huff and puff up and down double black diamond ski slopes, sans snow, I could also spend five or so hours running because I tend to enjoy running a whole fuck of a lot more than I enjoy climbing up actual mountains.

Second, talking to that man for three and a half hours and hearing about his marathon experiences made me want one of my own and, when we talked about it, he encouraged me to do it. He’s a coach for the Richmond Marathon training team and told me he knew I could do it, had absolutely no doubts about it, and that he’d love to see me run the Richmond Marathon next year.

So there it is.  I want to run a marathon.