Saturday, April 28, 2012

That Time I Ran a Half Marathon

A few years ago, I was getting divorced from Ex and I had this fantasy where I conquered all things hard. Part of that fantasy was that one day I would start AND FINISH a half marathon. 

This is the story of the day that actually happened. 

My alarm went off at 4:20 this morning. I was already awake. I had to meet Emily at the Walmart parking lot at the ungodly time of 4:45AM. We were following another car of marathoners downtown where we would park at the finish line (LP Field) and then car pool over to the starting line (Centennial Park). Already I was trying to figure out what to do with my stuff. I had a wallet, a jacket, my race bag, my phone, and my car keys. I decided to leave everything in Emily's car at the finish line except for my jacket, which I abandoned in Kim's car at the start. 

Once we were at Centennial park, Emily began looking for the port a potties. She had stressed the importance of "emptying" before the race as she ran the entire thing last year with an overly full bladder. She talked about having zero modesty and holding nothing back. She made it very clear that although there were port a potties along the race route, we would not be stopping. GO NOW OR DON'T GO. I was panicking, because my Shakeology had kicked in and I REALLY HAD TO (ahem!) GO. I have spent 31 years thinking there are just certain things you NEVER do in a port a potty. Today was a day of many firsts.

After standing in line for 20 minutes to use the "bathrooms" we began making our way to our "corral." I'm going to write this like I'm talking to someone who has never run a race before, because until today, I had NO CLUE what to expect or what a race corral was. As it turns out, when the starting gun sounds, you don't all just go for broke like it looked in my fantasy. When you register you put down an estimated finish time. (I originally put 2 hours, 30 minutes.) Based on your estimated pace, they put you in a corral with other runners of a similar pace. I was originally put in corral #23. But I was planning to run with Emily who has a faster time than me, so I did a corral change to start with her. We started in Corral #17. This means there were 16 corrals of "faster" runners ahead of us. They start in waves, so even though the race started at 7AM, we didn't get to the starting line until about 25 minutes later. They give you a plastic, magnetic "chip" that you loop around your shoelace, and throughout the course there are sensors that record your time. So even though the race clock had been ticking away for a half hour, my chip was keeping my correct time. 

We made our way to the starting line, and there are people stretching, popping energy shots and jelly beans, strapping water to water belts, spitting, and readying all of their gadgets, (stop watches, phones, ipods). I had nothing, not even a tube of chapstick or a stick of gum. So I just listened to the countdown of the corrals in front of me and watched as each group took off. Then it was our turn. A rush of adrenaline washed over me as I heard the lady shout 5,4,3,2,1! And then the people in front of me started running, so I did too. 

I looked up and immediately got dizzy, as the entire horizon was FILLED with marathoners who were bobbing up and down, close together, but in no uniform fashion. The sounds of clip clopping shoes on pavement pounded my ears and the bobbing played with my inner ear a little bit, so I looked down at the ground. I focused on my breathing, and Kim, Emily, and I weaved around runners trying to find a comfortable pocket to run in. We found one, and before I knew it we had covered 3 miles. We skipped the water station at mile 3. Obviously that was for sissies. But regardless of whether or not you drank, you had to dodge a bazillion white and aqua dixie cups being thrown right onto the ground. People splash water on their faces and streams randomly pelt you in the face. Crazy. 

Around mile 4 there was a pretty steep steady hill. We were looping around a college campus near downtown. The major difference between the race route and my standard running route was the lack of shade on the race route. When I run at home, the greenway is mostly shade with a couple of big hills. The race route was uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill THE ENTIRE TIME with NO SHADE. By the 5th mile I was looking for a water station and thanking God for every little breeze that blew across my face. This is where Kim took off to run faster. (FYI, there are only 50 p90x certified trainers in the entire country. I was very aware that I was running my very first half marathon with 2 of them!) I felt a little bad that Emily (who is in amazing shape and is sort of a BEAST) was running with me. She was obviously giving up a PR (personal record) opportunity to run with me. But I was so thankful for her. We hadn't walked any up to this point, and I probably would have taken a walking break had I been on my own. 

Miles 6, 7, and 8 were about the same. I kept running with no breaks other than a quick walk through a water station (so I'm a bit of a sissy now), and I kept thanking God for the small breezes that I found along the way. I was enjoying the bursts of music from the sidelines and there were some great motivational signs being waved by supporters. Some of them were there for specific runners, but some of them were just there (sitting in lawn chairs and drinking beer and mimosas!) to watch the fun. In my mind, they were all cheering for me. 

Some of my favorites were "Worst Parade EVER!" and "This isn't sweat, it's liquid AWESOME." 

And then mile 9 happened. I have no clue what it was about this mile that got me. Maybe it was the uphill, downhill, uphill, part. Maybe it was the steady sun, no shade part. But I was feeling every inch of my body by mile 9, and I began craving water stations like they were crack. I took my first walking break in this mile, maybe a tenth of a mile or 2. I'm not sure how long, but I started running again. 

Every mile from mile 9 to the finish line was tough. Call me a sissy if you want, but my butt ran through EVERY water station after that. I was looking for any way to cool off and sneak in a walking break. Emily was a champ and stayed with me. I apologized every time I slowed down, because I'm sure she was ready to pick me up and carry me at that point! I was so thankful she was there. It was during this mile that she nudged me and said, "Look at that sign!" Some guy was waving a piece of white poster board with the words, "YOU ARE A BIG DEAL" on it. Next to him a sign said, "If it was easy everyone would do it." Emily looked at me and said, "See, you are a BIG DEAL! Keep going!" So I did. We made it to mile 10, then 11, then 12. I was losing my grip at that point, so ready to be done. The most I've run up to the race was 10 miles, and I pretty much walked every 5th minute of that. I had never RUN this far. And holy cow, my body was reminding me of that. 

This is where I should remind you of my little running a marathon fantasy. I used to imagine myself conquering the race, only I'm obviously delusional. You see, in my fantasy, I'm running (effortlessly, of course) and approaching the finish line. Things are nice and calm, and I look ahead to see my entire family cheering me on. They are standing in the middle of a nice quiet road, a few spectators standing on the sidelines, and my family is waving a banner wildly that says my name. My husband and son are waiting for me at the end. "YAY MOMMY!" they shout. They are so proud. Then, I run faster, straight to them, scoop up my son in my arms, (swell of soundtrack here) and my husband bear hugs us happily. 

Obviously, I'm nuts. 

I spent the hard miles trying to wrap my brain around the finish line. It still seemed SO FAR away, and I knew my husband would be there, but in all of the craziness, I had ZERO expectation of actually being able to find him. I tried not to worry about how I would get in touch with him after the race as I had no phone. And because neither of us knew what to expect, we had no game plan to find each other. This wasn't my calm little "Sara is the only runner in the world" fantasy. This was the Country Music Marathon and THOUSANDS of people run it each year. Thousands more come downtown to watch it, and thousands more are associated with assisting. I just knew there was no was he would actually see me finish. I expected it would take me a good solid hour afterwards to even find him. And I was sort of afraid he would have driven all the way downtown for nothing. 

Then, we rounded a curve and I was pulled back into the moment. The full marathoners (crazies) ran left. The halfers ran right. We were SO CLOSE. We ran over the bridge leading to the stadium. I was losing every ounce of will power I had to keep going. 

But God knows exactly what I need. Throughout the whole race, whenever I was too hot, He would send a stiff breeze to cool my face. Whenever I was parched, He sent a water station. Whenever I wanted to quit, I looked up and saw that He had sent Emily. 

And as I crossed the bridge, just in sight of the 13th mile marker, He sent me The Champ. I looked over at the sideline, and there he was, just smiling. Our eyes met, he yelled something encouraging (I don't even know what) and I started crying. And running faster. And then hyperventilating a bit. I needed to see his face so badly in that moment, and God loves me, so he parted the thousands to let me see it. 

We rounded one last curve, I got a grip on my breathing, and I could see the FINISH LINE. At that point, I UNLEASHED some hidden burst of energy and RAN across that finish line like an African Olympian! 

I DID IT!!!!

I got my medal, and they started handing us water and gatorade. It took a LONG time to find Jonathan after that, and a LONG TIME to get to the car to come home. I was pretty discouraged by my finish time at first. I glanced at the race clock as I sprinted across the finish line and it said 2:53:39. I was upset that it took me nearly 3 hours to finish. But I reminded myself that finishing was my ultimate goal. Then, after I got home, showered, and napped, I looked at my results. I had forgotten that the CLOCK time and the CHIP time are different. The clock started with that first corral, so my ACTUAL RACE TIME was 2:26:38!!!!! My goal was to finish in under 2:30, and I DID IT!!! 

I ran the race with a pace of 11:12 minute miles. 

I am SO thankful that Emily ran with me. If ever you need to know what a great friend is, just look to the person who is sacrificing her race time to see you cross the finish line. LOVE HER. 

When I got home, I had a BabyCakes order to fill. There are some leftovers, so this is probably true. 

God always knows just what I need. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Challenge

I've never been one to run away from a challenge. (Get bored with it and quit, yes. But run away from one, never!)

It seems as if that's a theme in my life this week.

We started BabyCakes, something I'm referring to as "an adventure," and literally within 36 hours we were having to email back and forth to make sure we had all of the orders straight and covered. CRAZY CUPCAKING GOING ON. The entire month of May, my free time will be spent in front of my oven looking for the elusive 10 second window known as "the perfect cupcake."

One of our orders was for a gluten free, sugar free cupcake. Talk about a challenge! How do you make a cupcake, a dessert made of flour and sugar, that is not made of flour and sugar?!?! I spent at least an hour in the baking aisle of whole foods trying to figure out the answer to that question. Then, this weekend, I practiced the recipe, tweaked it, and churned out this little number:

It's gluten free, sugar free, and sort of fabulous.

I'm officially in love with the cupcake bouquet. I've decided that Amber will be Head of Flavor Development, and I'll just sit around and stab cupcakes onto a Styrofoam ball. It makes me happy.

Also this week, I got to sit in on our first "E Team" dinner. This is a dinner consisting of all 4 co-parents of my child. We've never done this. Until recently, we avoided interaction unless absolutely necessary, but I guess God had other plans. Now we are planning regular game nights in order to present a united front. This particular dinner came about because E had raised questions about sex and divorce, topics that are difficult to understand at 31, let alone explain to a 5 year old. Not gonna lie, it completely freaks me out that my child is correctly using the word "sex" in context. He finally admitted that he learned it from 2 kids at school, and we did our best to explain that it's a grown up topic but nothing to be ashamed about. Talk about a challenge.

As if that wasn't enough, I registered for my very first half marathon! 13.1 miles. Who pays $115 for permission to RUN 13.1 MILES?! Apparently I do. I'm both terrified and elated at the same time. This week I ran with Emily and her friend Kim (who are both fitness queens!) and it really pushed me. I ran the entire 7 mile stretch without a break...up both hills and everything. I figure if I can do that, I can manage 13 miles where I can walk a bit if I need to.

Last but not least, I have got to get back to my healthy eating. I have managed to NOT DO every single healthy thing I promised myself I would. My pants are tightening up again, I'm bloated, and I feel like absolute junk. It's a good thing I'm still running, or I'd have to be hunting a new wardrobe. SO frustrated with myself. It's a mental wall that I'm going to have to bulldoze. Me and broccoli are going to be best buds this week!

Must remember this...

I'm pushing myself to think affirming thoughts this week. I will conquer cupcake bouquets! I will fuel my body with healthy foods (which means not eating any cupcakes!), and I will cross the finish line of the Country Music Marathon on Saturday!

Challenge accepted.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


This post is slightly contradictory.

A. I.Must.Stop.Eating.Junk!

B. Apparently I'm going into the cupcake business.

I don't really know how these things happen.

I am a therapist by day, which I LOVE. A good session shrouded in hope has the ability to send me into continuous folds of contentment. There's really nothing better than someone "getting it," or finally realizing that they can create their own life.

But not every day is a great day. Some days are filled with "too little, too late," and sheer hopelessness. And sometimes, no matter how many ways I try to sneak encouragement into a session, it just isn't going to happen. It was on one of these days that I sent a text saying, "I quit. Let's open a bakery."

I've ALWAYS wanted to have a bakery. Even when I was a little kid, I remember trying to talk my Nana into opening a bakery, complete with a peach and mint green awning. I had it all planned out. But seeing as how she was a retired hair stylist, I guess she didn't want to deal with the daily grind.

Twenty years later, I still think of it sometimes. I LOVE TO BAKE. But since my waistline seems to grow if I even sniff a nutter butter, I never do it. I never had anyone to take the goodies to, so I just stopped baking.

Then my friend and former sister in law, Amber started baking cupcakes left and right for no reason at all. She brings them to everything, and they ROCK. So when I felt the need for relief from frustrating therapy sessions, I sent the text to her. She replied with something along the lines of "let's do it!" and the next thing I knew, we had a name, a facebook page, and about 5 pending cupcake orders. HOLY CUPCAKE, BATMAN!

And here's the best part! We're baking sweet treats on a mission. Amber recently adopted her fourth child, a little girl from the far reaches of the Ural Mountains in the Ukraine. Anna Gray is beautiful. She's lovable, and precious, and treasured, and she has Down's Syndrome. She was adopted through a facilitation website Reece's Rainbow. They connect adoptive families with precious children on the other side of the world that just happen to have special needs.

Anna Gray was adopted under the pretense that her new American family was saving her. But oh wow, she is saving all of us. I'm just her "not the aunt" and she has CHANGED ME. It's not something that I can describe, and I most certainly didn't see it coming. But this baby girl brought my world together and made things make sense that hadn't made sense in years. She is precious to me in ways that I can't even describe.

So 25% of each BabyCakes order will go towards an adoptive Reece's Rainbow family who is working feverishly to bring their little one home. Sweet treats on a mission! If you live in the Nashville area, and have an upcoming event, please find us on facebook and remember us for your next gathering!

And LOOK! I made my first cupcake bouquet!

I ran out of frosting before I finished, but I was pleased with it. More to come!

Also, (and this seems less important at the moment but...) I ran 4 miles today. It almost didn't happen, because I was craving a lazy day. It was the very definition of "fake it til you make it." And it turned out to be a GREAT run!

I'm sure it's possible to be more blessed, but I don't know how.

ETA: I'm still a therapist. Just a cupcake baking one. :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hunting Eggs

I sort of have writer's block, but there's a lot going on, and I don't want to neglect my blog. So here's a picture of two really cute kids.
This is E and his little sister (the older of Ex's two daughters). She and her mom met up with us at our church Easter egg hunt, and she came home with us to spend her first night ever at our house! Apparently there was a golden egg in this hunt. Neither of them found it. Poor CJ seemed to find only a bunch of junky hard candy. Poor thing.

I'm uber excited about her staying with us, and I hope it turns into a regular thing. For reasons that aren't really mine to blog about, The Champ and I will likely never have biological nieces or nephews, so Ex's kids and his nieces and nephew are sort of our surrogates. Also of note, this entire ordeal is evidence of tremendous growth and some pretty impressive big girl panties being worn by all involved. I'm thankful.

Still bored by my post? Here they are in the tub!
Today, I was supposed to meet up with Amber to run 10 miles. She had childcare difficulties and by late last night it was looking like I would have to go alone. By this morning, she confirmed that. I was bummed. I HATE LONG LONELY RUNS. It took me an hour to talk myself into going, and if we're being frank, that almost didn't happen. I had almost (thisclose!) successfully rationalized a way to keep my chunky butt on the couch when the Champ piped up with, "Babe, you know you'll feel better if you just go."

I hated him and loved him all at the same time.

So I laced up the wretched running shoes and headed out. I knew I wasn't going to make it 10 miles. My iPod wasn't charged, I was by myself, and I was feeling like crap. So I vowed to make it the full loop and go 7. I did pretty well, and ran into one of my cooking club friends along the way. I really can't say that I enjoyed the run. But I did feel tons better when it was over. I MUST do a LONG run next weekend. Seven miles no longer counts.

I think I'm in a running slump, which is not good considering the half marathon is less than a month away. I'm kind of bored, so I think I'm going to look for some new routes or find some more people to run with. Any takers?

In other egg hunting news, I want to have a baby. My body is not currently cooperating with that agenda, although it hasn't been enough time yet for me to go into full fledged panic. My current situation warrants only mild frustration. I guess that's one of those things that most people would just keep to themselves, but I'm not good at keeping my own secrets. I figure, if it happens, I'll want everyone to know. And if it doesn't happen, then I'll need to write in order to process (and the moral support would be nice).

Here's hoping for a golden egg!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Suck at Dieting (and also Words with Friends)

If you were playing a game of Words with Friends with me, all I have to say is, "I'm sorry."

And if you're looking to me for dieting tips, well, I'm sorry about that too.

Generally, I eat pretty well. But I just can't make myself stick to a regimented program. And when I fall off the wagon, IT HURTS.

About a month ago, I was eating my body weight in broccoli and sweet potatoes and I think I burned myself out on them. I am having a hard time motivating myself to cook anything that doesn't have chocolate chips in the recipe. I'm sort of ashamed of myself.

I'm currently debating my next dietary move. Should I "just try to eat healthy?' Should I "count calories?" Am I supposed to be on a plan, or should I just get back to blogging about it? If only motivation could be scraped up with a spatula!

I talk to clients all the time about fording the vast river between "thinking" and "doing." I feel very much like I'm in that river right now trying to make it to the other side. Oddly enough, it tastes like diet coke, and ohmygod, isn't this is how I always died on the Oregon Trail?

The silver lining, if you want to see it, is that I have kept up with my running. I've done a few P90x DVDs. I ran 7 miles on Tuesday with Emily, which about killed me, then 3 more by myself yesterday. I'm hoping to squeeze in at least 3 tomorrow, and I have a 10 miler planned this weekend with Amber. Assuming we make it the whole way, that's a 23 mile week. If that's not enough to offset my recent bad decisions, then this therapist needs to get her butt into therapy!

And now, Lord help me, my child wants me to bake cookies with him!

Do anyone else's blessings seem to make them chubby?!