June 1, 2012

Double Down

Okay.  I started running from scratch in September 2008, about one year after my daughter was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis (JM), a rare and terrible autoimmune disease.  Since that time, I have run 10 (ten!!) half marathons and, with much help from friends, raised something like $55,000 for Cure JM.

I will run my 11th half marathon in two days, on June 3, which is the day after my birthday.

In October, I will travel to Baltimore for a wonderful weekend of educational events put on by Cure JM.  The organization always plans these events around a road race that is used as a centerpiece for fundraising, and this time it's the Baltimore Running Festival.

I figured I would do another half.  And then I read this amazing piece, written by fellow JM mom and my soul sistah, Erika.  And I got to thinking, maybe it's time to go for the full.

Over the 3+ years I've been running, I've often been asked whether I would ever run a full marathon.  Frankly, I've never really felt the urge before.  13.1 miles is an AWESOME distance - long enough to be a challenge, but not so long that it does serious damage to my body.  Running has become such an important tool to help me cope with life's challenges, and I feel very protective of it - like I don't want to jeopardize it by risking injury at the longer distances.

But after reading Erika's piece...  hmmm.  I just have this feeling.  The same kind of feeling I had 3+ years ago when Shari Hume, founder of Cure JM, originally sent me an invitation to run and started this whole thing.  This little voice saying, "Maybe.  Just maybe."

I guess I always figured that someday the urge would probably strike.  And if I WERE to try a full, what better place to do it than at a Cure JM event, where I'll surrounded by many of the children who inspired me to run in the first place, cheering me on?

So.  Long story short, I'm going for it.  And while I'm afraid, I'm not nearly as afraid as I was when I first started running.  When I go back and read those early posts, I kind of shudder because I can still remember exactly how that felt.  But look at me now.

Here we go!

This is why I run.

March 14, 2011

Highs and Lows

Well, that race in February turned out pretty darn great. I did, in fact, set a new personal record - just over 2 hours, 3 minutes! Inching closer to my goal of coming in under 2 hours. I feel more confident that it will happen eventually. I'd say that about one third of the course for this race was a gentle decline, and that's probably what shaved those three minutes off my previous time... but on the other hand, it was an uncharacteristically hot day, which no doubt slowed me down a bit. So all I need to do is find a race that goes slightly downhill the whole way, and dial up a 50 degree overcast day for the run, and BOOM! 1:59:59. Easy.

Since all my buddies had to back out of that race at the last minute for various reasons, I came really close to bailing on it myself. Obviously, I'm so glad that I showed up for it, after all. It is so exhilarating to push myself that hard, and achieve a new milestone. So why, oh why, has it been so hard for me to get my running butt out the door since then? Let me tell you, it has been hard. I'd say I'm in a bonafide funk.

There are some actual reasons; I got sick a few days after the race - my first real cold of the season - and it hit pretty hard. Then I traveled to Las Vegas for several days for a photographer's convention, and although I had the best intentions of getting out for just one run, Vegas got the best of me. Then, my lingering head cold evolved into an energy-depleting sinus infection, and I'm still feeling the effects. Come to think of it, those are actually fairly valid reasons for taking a break.

But still, it seems like there is something else, something I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe a bit of rebelliousness; maybe a bit of laziness. I don't know. I dragged myself out this evening (after berating myself all day about not running the past week, not running early this morning, not running after the kids went to school... it was pretty much a running commentary in my head all day long). So finally, finally I just did the dang run. And as usual when this happens, at the end I thought, "Why didn't I just do that earlier so that my internal voice wasn't bugging me all damned day??"

I don't know, friends. I don't know. It wasn't a great run, but it was a run. And some days that's accomplishment enough.

January 9, 2011

Hiatus, sort of

So my buddy Claudia twisted my arm (not really) into signing up for this race in Golden Gate Park on Super Bowl Sunday. I just thought it would help motivate me to keep getting out there to run over the holidays. Well, it worked a little, but not much. So I'm lagging. But I did manage to eek out a slow 11 miles today when I was only planning to go 8, so I feel a little better. I know I can do it, but I don't think speed will be a big factor with this one.

Recently, I've been giving all the fundraising stuff a bit of a break for a couple of reasons. First, everyone pulled out all the stops in helping little old itty-bitty Cure JM achieve the impossible - a first-place, $250,000 finish in the Pepsi Refresh project for August. (Go on, click the link... I still like to just look at it every now and then). Second, our boy Lucien has needed a lot of our attention over the past few months. (Sometimes I feel like a pendulum of urgent needs is perpetually swinging, back and forth, back and forth... first one child, then the other. Then back again.) Lately, it's been all about Lucien.

But my commitment to Cure JM hasn't wavered, not one whit. Thanks to this organization, there is now a pretty tight community of JM families, and the terrible stories of suffering continue. They make my heart ache. They remind me that, as bad as our experience has been, it could have been so much worse. And let's be frank - it still might be, because (as we know) there is no cure, only remission - and always the threat of recurrence.

I still think of these kids each and every time I run. They are still the reason I run. I'm committed for the long haul and won't stop doing everything possible to defeat this rotten disease. So enjoy the break, because soon I'll be a-knocking on your door, asking for the green stuff once again!

January 2, 2011

On skiing, and triumph

We've made it something of a tradition to spend time between Christmas and New Year's in Tahoe, playing in the snow. We make snowmen, sled, drink hot cocoa, sled some more. You get the idea.

This year, however, our friends Fred and Julie really wanted to take their kiddos and Mielle skiing, and convinced me to come along. And that is how I found myself on skis again, after something like 20 years. I did a bit of skiing in high school, but that was a long time ago... and I can't say that I've had any pangs of longing in the interim. Truth be told, enough time has gone by that I actually felt a little afraid. But it felt fantastic! And, surprisingly, I got the feel for it again pretty quickly.

We took a family lesson with the kids, so most of the afternoon was spent on the uber basics, and we finally built up to snow-plowing down a very gentle slope. It was really fun and gratifying to see the kids settle in and get more comfortable on the skis, but after a bit I was really itching to do more. So when Julie offered to take the cold children into the lodge, and Fred asked if I'd like to join him on a couple of grown-up runs, I was thrilled to say YES!

We didn't have much time, and we weighed our options: a green trail, or a blue one. We debated and then decided on the green. We didn't want to get too crazy. Well, it was basically the bunny slope and while it was longer than the training slope we'd been on with the kids, it wasn't much more satisfying. We eyed the blue slope again... it really didn't look too bad... it seemed to be small, steep-ish hills with little plateaus in between. We decided to go for it.

Ignoring the huge sign that declared "This is NOT a beginner's slope", we hopped on the lift and went up, and up, and up. Well. Turns out that the part of the slope we'd seen and evaluated was just the tiniest little end part of the run; my stomach dropped as the chairlift stretched up as far as the eye could see, and the mountain got steeper and steeper and steeper. It was going to be way more challenging than we thought, and I won't lie - I was freaking out just a little. I mean, I was never that great of a skier in the first place, and it'd been 20 years, and the mountains where I grew up were nothing like this... I wasn't prepared for this!! Fred and I, we chuckled nervously and said things like "You know, you just go slow, keep making turns, and stay in control. It'll be fine." Except I remembered how easy it is to get out of control and shoot straight down the damned hill.

But, as they say, there's only one way to get down, and so we disembarked the chair lift, adjusted our gear, smiled nervously and started down. And this is what I did: I went slow, I kept turning, and I stayed in control. I was fine. I was better than fine - I was AWESOME and I was having a great time. My legs felt a little jelly-like at times, but whether that was due to nerves or simply from calling on under-utilized muscles, I don't know. It took a lot of effort and concentration, but about halfway down I was able to loosen up a little and let things fly a bit. And it was SO FUN.

Okay, all you black-diamond skiers that are reading this -- you can stop laughing now! I know that this is not all that impressive in the big picture of skiing - just as my personal record for the half marathon is not all that impressive in big picture of running - but it was for ME. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment - triumph even - for conquering that hill that was so frightening from a distance.

It's exactly the same kind of triumph I feel when I run faster than I ever have, or farther than I thought I could - and I need that feeling of triumph in my life. I need it because, every single day, there are so many things that I can't control, that I can't "triumph" over - at least, not in the way that I really want to. I can't cure my daughter's illness, and I can't make my son's disability disappear. I do everything to help them that I possibly can, and I always will - but ultimately, it's not within my power to change the fundamentals of either situation.

What I'm realizing is that stepping out of my comfort zone, doing things that feel scary (terrifying, even), and conquering them makes me feel powerful, and triumphant, and is amazingly therapeutic. So for 2011, I think my goal has to be to do more of them. Any suggestions? Better yet, anyone want to join me on some yet-to-be-determined adventures?

December 2, 2010

Big Sur Race that is not in Big Sur

I ran another race in November - the Big Sur Half Marathon, which is not in Big Sur at all, but in Monterey and Pacific Grove. It was my 6th half marathon in the two years that I've been running, and I was psyched to post my fastest time yet - 2 hrs, 6 mins. That is not particularly fast in the world of running, mind you, but -- it is for me! I was thrilled.

As usual, I wasn't able to train quite as much as I'd planned, so I wasn't holding out much hope for a notable time. I just wanted to enjoy a much-needed weekend away with friends and have fun on this most spectacular and scenic race course. But when my awesome running-mate Nicole looked at her watch at the 8 mile mark and noted that if we maintained our pace through the end of the race, we'd both set new personal bests, I just thought, "hell yeah!" and went for it.

I was tickled to see my friends Carolina and Rob along the race course, and Carolina snapped the above photo. I just love it so much. She really captured the joy I felt during that race. It was so beautiful, and I so needed to run, to push myself hard physically in order to clear out my mind and refresh my spirit. It was a fantastic weekend.

July 2, 2010

Kicked that race...

right where I wanted to - in the arse!

Things got off to a grumpy start when we arrived for the race. Everyone had to pick up their timing chip that morning, at the race, and it was a complete mess. Crazy lines, nobody knew what was happening, we had to split up to get in the right lines, and then suddenly it was 5 minutes before the start and I still didn't have my chip. Grrrrrr! Finally got it but then couldn't find any of my gals. GRRRRRRRRR! So frustrating! About 30 seconds before the horn sounded I did find them... so happy!

It was a pretty warm day, but we still had a bit of fog at the start and I was hoping it would stick around. I ran the first 7 miles or so with Nicole and our buddy Rebekah, but they made a pit stop and I just wanted to keep going. For the first time, I had a really specific time goal in mind - 2 hrs 15 minutes. My previous best was 2:19 in Austin, but I had never really focused on my times that much. So I figured that if I actually applied myself, and managed to avoid the porta-potty line, I could probably do it. Especially since the route is my home turf - I run it all the time - and it's flat as a pancake. So anyway, I broke off around mile 7 and ran the rest alone.

I felt pretty great for most of this race; I was still floating from all the birthday love, and during the time I ran alone I just kept thinking about Mielle, and all the amazing kids I've come to know through our experiences with JM... Dominic, Grace, Morgan, Connor, Gary, Mason, Megan, Parker, Kya, Sienna, Gracie, Brielle, Kristen, Amanda, Kendyl, Selma, Emma... the list goes on and on. I felt pretty strong but whenever it waned a little, I'd just think about those kids and it literally fueled me.

Once I was to mile 10 or so, I was sure that I would beat my goal time so I spontaneously revised it to 2 hrs 10 mins. That would be close. I chugged along as hard as I could those last three miles and felt pretty good because I was passing a lot of people; I was getting tired but at that point, it's so close... so I just kept pushing and pushing, past all the familiar landmarks of my regular runs -- up Shoreline, past Park Street, Willow, Grand, the Crown Beach parking lot with our favorite water fountain... and finally around the curvy path to the finish at Crab Cove. I still had some kick left in the end and crossed the line in 2 hrs, 10 mins, 40 seconds. I just missed 2:10 - but still - Woooo hooo! (Next time I'll try for 2:05.)

So I gotta say that the champagne sponsors totally redeemed this race, after the organizational fiasco of the "race day chip pickup"earlier. The slogan of this particular event is "I run for chocolate and champagne", but last year - by the time I finished - they were running low on the bubbly and I got about 1/3 glass. This year, things were different, and it was so nice! The champagne was flowing freely - we all had glass after glass, even the non-runners. It was so very festive! So we kicked back, waited for the rest of our peeps to come in, and then just basked in our glory for a bit. Nothing like a nice little champagne buzz on a sunny day after 13.1 miles! Sweeeeet.

Doesn't Mielle look great?
The medals were teeny tiny this year. Maybe they used the $$ they saved on extra champagne?

Gorgeous Nicole.
Hot, tipsy mamas! Awwwwwww yeah!

June 4, 2010

Race number 5!

by Suzy

Tomorrow is my fifth half marathon in the 1.5 years I've been running! Let me tell you, those are words I NEVER thought I would speak! But here I am, and I'm excited, and proud.

Training was not as consistent as I would have liked, but I pushed myself to get out there even when it would have been easy to blow it off, because I really really wanted to feel prepared for this race. And I do feel prepared. My AWESOME birthday experience really gave me some mental and emotional momentum and I hope I can keep on riding that wave tomorrow! Going for a PR, people! (aka "personal record" - are you impressed with my running-speak?)

Here in Alameda we have a big local issue concerning a proposed parcel tax to fund the public schools. State funding is basically a joke these days, and it's been cut after cut after cut for years. There is no more to cut, and there is no other way to get the money than a parcel tax. So although it's not a perfect solution, many of us feel it is the ONLY solution available right now, and people have been working like mad to try and get this measure to pass. So mamajoggers felt drawn to making a statement at the race, and we'll be wearing these:

I'll wear my E with pride! But at the same time, I have to say that at my core, I'm always running for Cure JM, and my kiddos. It'll always be Mielle, all the other JM kids, and sweet Lucien in my heart, propelling me forward.

Send me good power vibes tomorrow because I want to kick this race in the arse!