Sunday, July 26, 2015

Half Marathon #3: Recap

Today I ran my third half marathon, the second half of the SF Marathon. I ran it last year and only last week did I make the decision to run it again this year. It went quite well, and here are my thoughts:

Miles 1-5: I really don't recall this many miles taking place all within Golden Gate Park last year, but everything up to mile 6 was completely within the park -- who knows, maybe it was the same last year (I'm too lazy to look this up right now). The weather was cool and foggy, but after the first mile this didn't really matter. There was a lot of winding around and many hills. I felt some minor knee pain, which is unusual for me, and I'm wondering if my pains today have to do with skipping yoga for the last week. Maybe it really was keeping me going during the last few weeks. Anyway, there were also the delightful views of GG Park: bison, lakes, the trip around Stowe Lake in particular, the adorable boathouse, and merging with the full marathon runners (I always love that, because they're so inspiring, and on a much more amazing journey than I am). I tried to keep at my natural pace, which is 11:30/mile, and did so without much effort.

But back to hills, and this is where I had a major epiphany today, friends: hill training really works. This year I'd implemented hills into my regular training and long runs for the first time, and really pushed it by going up some of San Francisco's most brutal inclines. I had no idea if this was going to make any difference -- until today. While others were huffing and puffing and complaining and often walking up every hill, I easily, truly easily, ran up every single hill in this race. I had no problems, and that's something new for me. Given that my training runs took me up large hills so steep I'd have to stop at least once on the way up to catch my breath, none of these hills seemed challenging to me by comparison. I was SHOCKED by this. I honestly thought that all my running up and down hills these last few weeks wouldn't make a difference, but it made a huge difference.

Mile 6: We emerged from Golden Gate Park at last, and re-entered civilization running up Haight Street. I was suffering from some more pain in my legs and some mental doubts, but was buoyed significantly when I saw Meghan at the water station located conveniently in front of her apartment on Haight and Masonic. She was screaming for me, and cheering me on, and seeing her was exactly what I needed to get my head back in the game! I didn't stop smiling for more than a mile after that encounter, and I felt so happy, even though my mind was screaming you're only halfway done!

Miles 7-9: I grew increasingly bothered by IT band pain during this time, which I hadn't experienced in months, and which was quite frustrating. However, instead of getting worked up about it, I tried to keep my pace, hit every water and electrolyte station as I had been, ate part of a banana, and took a small walk break per mile. It seemed that -- today, at least -- every time I walked for a minute, or walked at the aid stations, my IT band pain would subside to the point where I didn't notice it for a while. I also kept kicking my legs up so that my feet hit the back of my thighs, and that seemed to make it better for good spells, too. Still, I was frustrated and worried that I was going to be in bad shape by the time I got to the dreaded last 5k. I pressed on, trying to listen to my body, reminding myself that I was doing everything right. I still didn't really know how I was doing, time-wise, but I wasn't worried, since this wasn't a race where I wanted to push a personal record.

Mile 10: "Just a 5k left to go!" is something you hear a lot when you get to the 10 mile marker, and it's supposed to make you feel like an easy distance is the only thing separating you from the finish line. I think this is really well-intentioned, but also really funny, because the reality is that it's more like if you had to run a 5k with legs that feel like gnarled tree branches that have been set on fire.

At any rate, I slowed down a bit at this point, and began taking more short walk breaks to give my legs and feet -- now in a fair amount of pain -- a break. But the end was near, and I was really excited about that, and nothing was going to stop me from reaching that finish line in one piece. I realized at this point that I wouldn't break last year's time of 2:28, but since that nearly did me in last year, I wasn't too upset. My race experience had been almost perfect so far -- no regrets. So I soldiered on, only trying to maintain my pace and not lose ground to walk breaks.

Miles 11-13: I continued to slow and the pain became more difficult to handle, but many others around me seemed to be going through something similar, so I didn't stress too much. I knew I was going to finish, and that kept me going (I also knew G was waiting for me at the finish line!). Other than the pains of distance running, I felt great, and that was a glorious miracle to me. Somewhere along mile 11, a dead rat appeared in the middle of the road, and some people were seriously unable to handle this dead rat. I just ran by it and moved on. Lots of screaming around me, though. I guess if anything it was a break from thinking about how much my legs hurt!

Just after I passed the mile 12 marker, however, a minor incident occurred. We were running around the perimeter of AT&T Park, and a baseball game was apparently (poorly) scheduled for 1pm this afternoon. A huge number of baseball fans were almost entirely blocking the race route as we tried to run by, and by that I mean at its worst point, only one runner could get by them at a time. Here is what I have to say to that: do not fuck with someone who has just passed mile 12 in a half marathon, because I do not give a single fuck what you're doing, you need to have some respect and get out of the way of all these runners who have given so much and are nearing the finish line. So I got extremely upset, and I am not one to really be subtle when I'm upset, and I grumbled loudly, "Are you kidding me? SERIOUSLY? Get out of my way!" to which irate, entitled baseball fans began screaming at me as I ran by: "Oh yeah, SERIOUSLY???"  To which I thankfully did not engage -- but lets get real here, stay out of the way at the end of a marathon. Whoever was on staff at the marathon or the Giants organizations who let this happen: super uncool. Fix that next year.

The good thing about this rage-filled altercation is that suddenly I had a second wind! I wasn't hurting nearly as badly, and I had more energy for the rest of the race. So .... thanks, idiots!

Mile 13.1: There it was, the finish line! I crossed it and I finished the race and I felt ... good! Fantastic, actually. I ate a banana, waited for G to find me, then went and ate a huge lunch, still feeling good. And I still feel good now, actually, as I'm writing this. A miracle!  I also finished 10 minutes below my goal time, at 2 hours, 35 minutes.

Hooray! Today has been really good. Yay running!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Marathon Week?!?!

A couple of days ago I came across a blog post I wrote at this time last year. It was titled "Marathon Week" and detailed how confident I felt about running the second half of the SF Marathon, the race I'd been preparing for all year. I'd had my eyes on that prize for a long time.

This is amusing because this year, I've had my eyes on a different prize -- Hood to Coast, which is next month at the end of August. I hadn't really thought about the SF Marathon at all. In fact, I've spent the year irritated with them for turning me down as an ambassador again. But whatever, I know I shouldn't have been upset about that in the first place. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I signed up to run the second half of the SF Marathon again this coming weekend, and I decided to do this less than a week before the race.

This seems totally impulsive, and it is, except it's not as stupid as it sounds, either. I'm actually at the perfect place in my training to tackle a half marathon this weekend. I jumped the gun a bit with my training for the relay and am at the perfect place in that training. Some people think I just impulsively signed up for this and didn't train for it, but I assure you, I have. Last weekend I was running through the Presidio and then through my old neighborhood and I saw road closure signs, and those seemed like little notes from the universe, telling me to just go for it.

So I am. And I think this is a good thing. What else am I going to do? Run 12 miles next weekend when I could run 13.1 and add a medal to my list? Also, I get really anxious and worked up before races, and I really need to practice not doing that. This is a good opportunity. Plus, I won't be trying to set any speed records this year. Last year I set an incredible PR and I have no desire to do that again right now. Instead, I just want to have a steady race and finish and not feel like I'm going to throw up and die for the rest of the day! Because that's usually how I feel. It shouldn't be that way. Around mile 11 I began to feel really really bad last year. So here are my goals for this year:

1. Finish in less than 3 hours (I'm actually aiming for around 2:45, but no pressure)
2. Don't feel bad afterward 

This is totally achievable. I am not going to overdo it this time. I'm going to try to do that thing where I run a half marathon and HAVE FUN and can go out and do other things later that day! Or even eat that day, since last year I was so sick the entire day after the race, I couldn't even eat food. Yup, that was a day full of bad decisions, but at least I got a huge PR I won't plan on beating for a long time?

I can't wait. Come on Sunday!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Four Months Later

Dear Mark,

Today it's been 4 months since you died. I didn't find out until four months ago tomorrow, of course, but four months ago today is when you killed yourself on the sidewalk, near the field where we always walked the dogs.

Thanksgiving 2008, Boise 

Right now I'm headed to your funeral, which is four months late because everything was so chaotic last March, and we were all so incredibly traumatized, that we cremated you. We all gathered together, sold the house, moved gran to Midvale, and in the process, poor Spike died as well. Now we are gathering again, in the heat of July, to finally lay you both to rest.

I need you to know some things. I miss you every moment of every day, with a ferocity that threatens to topple me. I am so sad, and my heart has a hole in it from your absence that will never heal. You have to have had no idea what you would do to me, to gran, to our family, when you made this decision. I realize you wouldn't have made this choice unless you were in inconceivable pain and torment, but even so -- I am so angry at you. How could you do this to us?! There is NOTHING we couldn't have fixed or dealt with or weathered together.

I have to believe that if you could see the horror that your suicide has brought down upon our family, upon your poor mother -- you wouldn't have done what you did. As it stands, I'm sitting in an airport waiting to board a flight so that we can bury you next to your brother, my dad. My gran has now lost all four of her children to tragedy. I can't accept that this is the way things are. Is this real life? How did you think this was a good idea? This was NOT a good idea, in case you were wondering, and that is one thing I know I will never change my mind about.

As it stands, I don't know how I'm going to live the rest of my life without you. I never planned for this. Four months out, I realize that's not a long time at all, but my grief is rawer than it's ever been.

But I realize that my anger, and my sadness, don't solve anything. Nothing will bring you back. And it's not really fair to be angry at you for killing yourself; I know that. But the anger persists. I know I will work through it, and maybe I'll start working through it after we get "closure" tomorrow.

As if we can really ever get closure??? Will I ever understand??? You left me. You left me.

And while we're here, we really need to talk about Mexico. In February I went on a really incredible vacation to the Caribbean, a trip where it was impossible not to think of you. You are the person I think of when I think of the Caribbean, you and your love of scuba diving and Jimmy Buffett and Caribbean vacations. How could I not think of you? For my entire life I'd been waiting to go to this place that you loved so much, that reminded me of you. You were on my mind for all of those five days. We shared a few really funny, but also poignant, text messages while I was sitting in the middle of El Patio drinking margaritas listening to Jimmy Buffett cover bands. It's something I treasure, but I'll be honest, it's also something that haunts me now. Little did I know that those messages would be the last time I spoke with you. I don't know how to feel about any of this now. My emotions about this trip are all over the place. I wish I had known how you were doing then. I wish I had known.

Why didn't you tell me? Why does our family always do this? How can I break the same habits of being too proud to admit when I'm struggling and ending up dead?

In 2003, you were the one who called me when my dad died. Some days later, you took me to the mall and bought me what I still call my "funeral wear" -- a black skirt and shirt that I've worn to many things, but always to funerals. Last night while I was packing, I remembered all of this, and it hit me just how much I never, ever thought I'd be packing to wear it to your funeral.

I'm about to board my flight now. More than ever, into the unknown.

I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Be Here Now

It's about time I got around to this post. The ironic part is that I've been really busy these last few weeks since my birthday on June 17th, actually out living life. I've often thought about how little I've actually been home. This is ironic because, well, you'll see.

I'm a big fan of setting an intention for the coming year, at each birthday. I often do things like this on new years eve, as well. I have tag lines/mottos that I use for each segment of time. Anyway, I'm sure I am not the only person who does this. This year I've decided that my intention is this: be here now.

I am also not alone in life when I say that I have trouble living in the moment. I'm always thinking ahead, so far ahead into the potential future, that I forget to appreciate the present moment. This also ties into my anxiety -- I get so busy thinking about potential things that could go wrong, that I forget to enjoy the moment, and appreciate what's right in front of me; as a result, I ruin the present moment, and thus future moments, too. It's a vicious cycle.

All this yoga I've been doing lately has reinforced just how important living in the moment is. That and, well, every other thing going on in my life. I'm not getting any younger, and I hate the feeling that my life is passing me by while I worry about things that haven't happened yet. That's why my intention for this year is to live in the present, to be mindful, to be here now.

My birthday this year was really wonderful. Probably the best birthday I've ever had. I started my day at a morning rave called Morning Gloryville, with my best ladyfriend, Meghan. It is the most positive, wonderful environment in which to ring in the day -- on a sober note, unlike, ahem, typical rave type activities. The best part is that it was also Morning Gloryville's birthday, which is incredible timing and really awesome and man, what a way to start a birthday (first two photos by Meghan!):

After this wonderful start to the day, I returned home briefly, then went and got a sandwich down the street, followed by a great birthday haircut with my stylist and friend Jessica at Headlights Hair Studio (go see her!):

Then, I returned home and opened a gift from Meghan, and Claude got involved:

Of course I was still doing the Runner's World Run Streak at the time (it just ended today, in fact), so I went out and ran two miles in the sunshine, up to Alamo Square Park and back:

Then, I went to lunch at my favorite neighborhood Thai place and was able to read a book while I ate. The amount of time I end up making time for to read a book these days is extremely limited, so it was really awesome to feel like I could do this.

Then we get to the really good part. My afternoon was filled with yoga and bike riding -- two classes, at two different studios, pretty much back to back, with bike rides in between:

After two yoga classes, I had plans to go to a film premiere later that night, but I knew I'd only make it to dinner at Don Ramone's (our favorite Mexican place) and that was absolutely fine with me. Every year I seem to make too many plans for my birthday, and the last one of the night always falls by the wayside, but this is the one day a year when I get to do whatever I want, without guilt -- so there's absolutely nothing wrong with this. At all. In this situation, I'd simply run out of time, and I needed to pick between dinner and the film. Duh, food won.

Anyway, I got home after yoga, and G was already there. I thought it was so nice of him to already be at home, in case we needed to leave right away for dinner. It turns out, though, that he had a completely different reason for being home as early as he was, and it had to do with a surprise birthday gift -- a birthday gift that completely shocked me into speechlessness (and everyone who knows me knows that I do not ever get speechless):

I've been working with an old, hand-me-down, half-broken camera for years now. I had the shutter assembly replaced in 2013 but it broke again in 2014, so I'd been shooting with the shutter button on the grip for two years -- with a heavily used, outdated 10-year-old camera body. I've been talking for two years about how 2015 is the year I need to upgrade, that I'm so nervous because I don't have a backup camera body to use at large events I'm shooting (weddings and conferences) and I'm in a lot of financial trouble right now, so I can't afford to upgrade. I haven't booked much in the way of weddings this year, nothing near the amount I'd need to be able to upgrade my camera body. These are things I've been saying for the last two years, but particularly this year. I had no idea he would do something like this, though, and I'm so grateful, I have no idea how to even express it.

I have a new camera body for the first time since 2008 and it has been amazing. I went out and shot flowers last week, and I've been shooting events without a flash that I'd never be able to shoot before. And shooting with the actual shutter button? Wow. It's the most thoughtful gift I've been given in a long time, so generous and I'm so, so thankful I have such a good person in my life right now. I am not someone who usually values material possessions, but since photography is my One Thing in life, the thing that I do, my art -- I get a pass for that. This was something I desperately needed but was unable to provide for myself for the forseeable future. What an incredible gift.

It was the best birthday I think I've ever had. Very different from the way I felt on my 32nd birthday. Last year, although I had a good birthday, I also felt very lost. I was still searching for pieces of myself to put back together. While I would not say that this year I feel perfectly reassembled, I've made great strides in putting my life back together, and I felt a peace and serenity this year that I couldn't really cultivate in 2014. This year, I want to focus more on those feelings of serenity, and peace in terms of my life and my self. The source of most of my emotional and mental struggles and anxiety continues to be dwelling on the future and the past. I don't want to miss the fact that my life is pretty darn good right here, right now -- the only thing that truly matters.

So ... wish me luck?

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