Friday, April 17, 2015

A Path That Was Never There

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I approach my 3rd Boston Marathon, (which should be my 4th Boston Marathon, but such is life), I pause to think about how I got here. These annual events in my life often bring out introspective tendencies and possibly a bit too much soul searching. A fellow Boston 2 Big Sur runner posted about his journey to Boston, his first, begun in 2008 - and that got me thinking about these past 5 years and what caused me to take a direction I had not taken for many years and where it has led, and how in the grand scheme of things, this has been a bit of a whirlwind journey.

Last week I was hit with a pretty ferocious upper respiratory infection - which moved into my lungs this past Saturday and now is just parked there, hanging out. But, as my groggily lungs and plugged ears keep reminding me: We all need to take things as they come. There are things we can and cannot control. So instead of getting upset about all of this (Okay. I am upset about this!) I'm going to focus on how and why I got to this place - in a big picture sense.

My Marathon (and longer) Timeline:

Maine Marathon PR, 3:41:20  1993

Boulder Marathon PW,  2009
Colorado Marathon, 2010
Colorado Marathon (BQ) 2011
Boston Marathon, 2012
Brookings Marathon, 2012
Colfax Marathon, 2012
Fox Valley, 2012 BQ
Tucson, 2012  BQ
Colfax, 2013
Estes Park, 2013
(Great Cranberry Island 50k), 2013
Chicago, 2013  BQ
New Your City, 2013  BQ
Boston, 2014  BQ
Colfax, 2014   BQ
St. George, 2014  BQ
(Des Plaines 50 miler), 2014
Philadelphia, 2014  BQ

What's interesting to me is what happened following Boston 2012. It's not just a coincidence that my running focus shifted. Sometimes turning points happen and we may not even notice them, except in retrospect - or if we do notice them, the picture only becomes clear as more pieces to the puzzle are created and put in place.

Back in April 2012, sitting in Boston, hearing the weather forecast climbing ever higher by the day, by the hour, warnings issued, deferments offered, I was feeling completely ripped off. I had trained through a hard winter, a serious concussion and a case of the flu that had me crawling on the floor for several days - AND for this??? The unfairness of it just made me angry. But I did it. It was not pretty, but I did it.

 The finish line looking like holy-hell!

But I was left with a nagging thought: Was THAT my Boston? 

I really had no thought of running Boston again - that is until it sucked. And then I was determined to come back. I didn't want to leave things like that. But, that 90 degree heat left me with one of my worst times. I didn't BQ in Boston.  And so 4 weeks later I ran the Brookings Marathon on the theory that I really only jogged Boston - but the truth was that that hot and bothered effort in Boston had drained me more than I knew. Again I missed the BQ, by 4 minutes. This was suddenly becoming an issue.

And so I reevaluated things and set to work, plan in hand and mind and heart, and qualified, by a measly 6 seconds, that fall at the Fox Valley Marathon 2012 - dealing with heat and foot issues.

And from there things changed...And I keep coming back.

And so what I find interesting is how a bad experience revealed aims I had not even thought about. I didn't really choose a different path, but rather I just sort of marched off into a field of possibility. I wasn't really sure where I was going. Had that first Boston been a perfect experience I may have been done with it then. Experiences are experiences - good, bad, indifferent - they bring us to a place we would not be without them and if we open our eyes and see, that may make all the difference in the world. So while I wrote this on April 14th, 2012...
"I must admit, I am depressed, disheartened, disheveled...I can't think clearly any longer. And yet it seems in bad taste to whine. It seems that I should just be thankful I'm here, 'running' the Boston Marathon, but I'm not. I want to go home and pretend this didn't happen.
I keep thinking back to last year's race, with cold temps and a steady tailwind, and I want to scream to the heavens "NOT FAIR!!!"."
...As it turns out, I am now very thankful for that experience. What grew out of that matters to me. We can rail against unfortunate circumstances, but that does nothing for us. We can blame injury, illness, the weather, our genetics, our financial limitations, our commitments - the list is endless. And I do it all the time. But ultimately all we can do is do what we can do with what we have. What other choice is there? 

So, I'm sick. So be it. There's nothing I can do about that. And yes, this IS just running, and this is just a cold - not a life threatening illness. But even little setbacks can alter our courses, not just the big things, if something happens that matters, that resonates with you. Tomorrow I head to Boston again to continue this journey, marching farther off into this field of possibility and continuing on. Where it will lead, where I will choose to go, I know not.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fighting With Monsters

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche 
Yesterday, April 7th, the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found guilty on all 30 counts he was charged with in connection with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Social media immediately went wild!

And then this started popping up everywhere:

Comments like:
Put him in a room with a pressure cooker filled with nails and blow it up...burn him alive...this MONSTER deserves to be tortured then killed...put him on a pole and let the people he hurt throw stones at him so we can hear him cry for help and die slowly...Cut off his limbs and let him watch himself in a pool of blood... Hang him in the middle of Boston...I wish we had public stoning in the USA...Firing squad ! Public execution!...

Then there are all the really barbarous suggestions that are too gruesome to even share. 

Can we not take just a minute to pause and think about what we're saying?? What does this say about US? If HIS actions CAUSE us to react in this manner, then we need to think long and hard about what we are allowing him to do to us now. We are allowing him, his actions, to turn us into MONSTERS! Even if he 'deserves' the most gruesome torture, does that mean that we should or must give him what he deserves? Are our actions dictated by his actions? I am disheartened by the hateful, violent vitriol that just seems to flow out of normally balanced peoples mouths. 

Last year, when I went to Boston and ran the 2014 marathon, the atmosphere was one of celebration, determination, defiance, courage, thankfulness, respect, remembrance, love, community, freedom...reverence. We all felt it and loved Boston and became part of Boston. Last year the focus was on standing together and doing something joyful and free and positive in the face of evil. And nothing is more enlarging for the character of a culture than to a take horrible act and turn it into something that unites us and carries us higher than we were before. THAT is worth something. 
"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters" ~ Epictetus


But this reaction - this impulse inspired by the verdict?? This is cowardly, stupid, hateful. It makes us less than what we were. It makes us worse. It makes us victims again. And we lash out, frightened, angry and small, and we call it justice. JUSTICE.
"The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react" ~ George Bernard Shaw
I hope that when I return to Boston next week that this will not tarnish the spirit of this great race, this celebration of running and Boston and the potential that this country has to be great, not small. What we feel and do creates our characters. Now our national character is being tested. Will we rise up together and do the right thing, tell evil to go to hell and we will continue doing what we love to do, or will be give into our violent instincts, and tell ourselves that revenge, retribution, lex talionis, is the answer. 

Be a creator, not a reactor. Care for your character. Be careful of monsters, without and within.
In violence we forget who we are.  ~Mary McCarthy

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Where Have I Been? Where am I Going?

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
It has been a long long, long long long time since I've written anything. And the consequences are not pretty or pleasant. I have come to realize over this short hiatus that when I do not make the time to write I lose ME: My center, my focus, my vision, my plans, my passions, my purpose, my joy...

Running and writing are the TWO essential things that I must do for ME so that I can be me: be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, coach... I've been feeling like life is nothing but one drag-of-a-day after another. I wake in the morning as the stunning, brilliant eastern sun floods through our windows, and all I have been feeling is: God. I gotta get through another day...

So where have I been? Mentally? Emotionally? Because I haven't gone anywhere - and yet I have gone somewhere. I have lost myself. How this has happened I know not, but I am at a point where I at least see it now.

When you spend your life caring for others, and caring about caring for others, that this matters, that they matter, and that you want to be there for everyone, it can get out of hand. The lines between YOU and Them, between doing good, doing your duty, doing what you want, doing what you must, clouds everything else. And then you count for nothing. There's nothing left for you. Part of the problem is when you feel you give so much, but you aren't so sure others are there for you. You pour out your energy, but nothing is poured back in.

Usually I see the effects in a reduced desire to run. But I actually haven't lost my running mojo, I've lost my life mojo, which is much scarier.

And then my friend Sandra made a comment a couple weeks ago: "You have some exciting stuff coming up."
And all I could say was: "Yes. I do, I know. And yet I can't seem to enjoy it." When I said that, something slapped me, hard, in the face.

So. I am writing this for me, as I head off for my last long run, before I really start to taper for Boston. I will think about this for the whole 16 miles of solitude. I will find a solution. I know ONE part of the solution is to promise myself that I will start writing again, just for me. And so this is my start, because all long journeys must begin with that first step...
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. ... The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” ~ Seneca the Younger

Tunnel Hill 100: Living as if Living Matters

I wanted to title this "Running After Heart Failure".  I like the ambiguous way it can be read.  However, I can be superstitious,...