Monday, October 13, 2014

Not just where Dylan plugged in

     Well, the third time (or in my case, third attempt) was certainly a charm. My first intended marathon was back in May, Sugarloaf. I was well prepared and well trained for that race, but we all fell ill a week before so I couldn't skip town. I did get the great shirt to keep me motivated.  I next planned on the Mad Marathon in VT, but it was mid July  - the heat and a hip injury kept me out and led me to take much of the summer off from running. Finally there was Newport, RI, Columbus Day weekend.

             Jeff took this one, it was at mile 26, I laid eyes on him and the girls and I was just so, so happy.   (apparently happiness also looks like the running dead) This was just before running through the finish line. Not sure if you can tell, but I'm full on balling my eyes out. 

 Spent the entire week before the race run free -  just beautiful walks with the girls and morning bike rides into school with far we have biked every single day - her new goal is to make it until the first day of winter (used to be to Halloween). 1.5 miles each way doesn't sound like much, but she's the only kid in her school who does it and it's a great way to take the edge off the start of a long school day. She cruises on her own, and I ride with Lila on a bike seat - not gonna lie, every day I just want to drive!

Solveig and Lila exploring Newport's Second Beach, the same beach I explored and enjoyed on Sundays when I was a child.  This was also around mile 15.

I love how the beaches in Newport aren't developed whatsoever. Just dunes and ocean. Not even a snack stand. Certainly not any beach houses. What you can't see is the actual vast, sandy beach. It's also across from Norman Bird Sanctuary, one of the most precious places on the East Coast.

      This was right before the start, beautiful sunrise
         This was right after I registered, sunset Saturday on the beach. I took Mary's advice and ran for two miles just to warm my legs up - got me pumped!

              So I sort of let this race happen. There was no intense training, no inlaws needing to pick up the kids from school so I can get a long run in, no Goo, no carb loading, etc. September came, and when Lila went to school (4 days a week), I ran for an hour. When she didn't, I walked with her to get Solveig from school, did some walking lunges around the house (thank God for our high hedges) and just relaxed. I think the longest run I had pre Marathon was a ten mile run on a bright Sunday morning. September is also my busy work season, so I was seeing students and editing college essays every night of the week and on weekends. My students took the SAT the day before I ran this marathon. Like them, I kept faith in myself and just trudged on, one mile at at time, one question at a time. One memory at a time (about my late sister Mary, mostly) one algebraic formula at a time. I am as proud of them as I am of myself. Few things are as poignant as seeing a personal goal, seemingly so out of reach, come to fruition. We do so much for others so much of the time we forget what it feels like to do something  entirely for ourselves. I chose my "something" wisely. A massage? A pedicure? No thanks, I'll take a marathon. Give me five hours to reflect, regroup, rejuvenate, rewind and reinvent. 
      About the race. When I trained for Sugarloaf I was all about the playlist. Beck, Wilco, Tony Allen, Pink Floyd, Cat Power. Newport was Beyonce. Period. Anyone who knows me would be completely surprised but her latest self titled album was on repeat and I enjoyed every hour of it except when I pressed pause to run for an hour with a great guy from North Attleboro, Ma, where my mom lived before we moved her into a nursing home last month.  It's a sexy, raw, powerful album. I certainly didn't feel sexy in my shiny white compression socks, but I did feel empowered.

                                                 Lila's token smile. I tried to channel it often...
             I had heard only the night before that the course was hilly. But truthfully, RI hills are nothing like NH hills, so that wasn't too much of a factor at all, just made the scenic vistas more stunning. And stunning they were. The only offensive part of the run was the mansions. But otherwise, it was just stunning coast line, farms, large green expanses, charming stone walls and gorgeous blue skies. Encouraging high school kids worked the water stops, and families cheered and gave out halloween candy. The only downside was that the bulk of the runners run the half marathon. As they finished, we just kept going right by them without any fanfare. The runners thinned out immensely, as did any food and celebration at the finish. But really, just crossing the finish line was all the celebration I needed. 
             As it was a holiday weekend and also parents weekend at many neighboring colleges, there were no rooms to be had in Newport. We stayed about 20 minutes away in Fall River, which ended up being perfect. The day before the race, we went to visit my mom, took her out to lunch with Anna (bonus) and then headed to Newport to register and take in the scene. When we got back to the hotel the only place to eat was a Lebanese restaurant about a hundred feet from our hotel. Pure fate! Being Lebanese, this is by far my favorite cuisine. The whole experience seemed surreal to us. We walked in and the owner literally got on his knees and welcomed the girls with opened arms. He sat with us while we ate and played a game with Lila, who loved him. Solveig got a falafel wrap and I got Majedra  (great recipe here) we then gave each other half of our dinners so we could try each. Lila had two spinach pies and fresh mango juice. Back at the hotel we all shared a king size bed. I slept for about one hour that night. I thought for sure that if I got injured, it would stem from the lack of sleep. I just couldn't get comfortable and my mind couldn't stop racing. One hour of sleep! I ate my usual breakfast, chia seeds and goji berries soaked in a cup of coconut milk. I also had a banana. I never got hungry and I never got dehydrated during the race. Everything just sort of worked out. At the start a women told me she only had 3 hours of sleep before doing an ironman, which made me feel a lot better. Adrenaline can sure go a long way....
           I felt great going into about mile 15 and then I just elected to walk through water stations and run  as much as I could. In retrospect, I probably should've just gone for it, but I didn't want to get injured. My left knee bothered me after mile 16, but my back and calves felt great. I got tired. I ran as much as I could and let myself walk when needed - my walking stride was actually faster than my running stride, but at times running felt better. One huge hill near the end almost stopped me entirely. I just felt this immense wall pushing toward me. Only then did I truly have to force myself to keep going. 
           Lots of great things about this race. Lots of great things about so many things we experience and accomplish independently and with others. What I kept with me was this certain feeling I haven't felt in a long time.  I felt it when I decided to move to Southern Utah to climb red rocks and volcanos and teach Mexicans English, and prisoners' GED. I get little tastes of it each morning I put my still too tired ass on a bike and through downtown while riding along with Solveig to school. It's about getting out of your comfort zone. It's about doing and committing to something because you don't know exactly what will come out of it but you do know that sometimes you want to just feel, as Beyonce says, like you're a superpower. Of course a day later I feel more like a 90 year old who fears stairs, but I'm still smiling.

great review of the album. don't worry, it's back to guitar and banjo for me.