Sorry for my recent absence from WordPress. I’ll get to some running-related material at the end of this post. Bear with me.
My grandmother died about three weeks ago and I haven’t really felt like blogging. I majored in English in college, and I work in communications now, so when faced with a problem, I often have the instinct to solve it with writing. In this case the problem was my sadness at the loss of my grandmother coupled with my relief that her pain and suffering were over. At 105 (yes, really), her quality of life had dropped precipitously in just a few short months, although she only needed one prescription medicine, and it was clear that her time had come. I wanted to write something powerful and profound about my grandmother’s incredibly long life and about how that life and its end affected me. I had lots of feelings about Gran, but I couldn’t come up with anything to do justice to her. If I couldn’t write the one important thing I needed to write, I didn’t really want to write anything at all.
I kept coming back to the following little memory from the day of her passing. It seemed important at the time, though I can’t quite find the words for why that is. It may just merely be too apt, or that I’m searching for profundity in the mundane, but whatever the case may be, it stuck with me:
My grandmother lived so many years past the century mark that my family had long been making cracks about how “Gran doesn’t buy any green bananas.” On the day that she died, my aunt and uncle, my parents, and I took bananas from the bowl in her kitchen without discussing it. None of us thought to check the refrigerator for milk or other perishables, but grabbing the bananas was seemingly automatic. And wouldn’t you know, they were brand new and pure yellow, not a patch of green on them.
Maybe the significance of taking the bananas lies not in their yellow color, but in that the act of taking the bananas acknowledged that my grandmother was truly gone. I’m sure I don’t know, but that memory is indelibly etched in my mind.
In her honor, I’ll add a quote my father found in her address book to my (extra-long, to make up for my long absence) offering of inspirational quotes in this post:
“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.”
The slip of paper she saved noted the above as an ancient Chinese proverb. In looking it up, I’ve seen it attributed to Confucius and to Benjamin Franklin. Words of wisdom have value regardless of who spoke them, so I’m choosing not to worry about the attribution.
Further words to enlighten and inspire:
“Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Blood is acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not.”
“Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results.”
“Fitness is not about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you used to be.”
“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.”
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” – George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
In other, running-specific news, I’ve got a couple of cool things to report.
On March 30, 2014, in truly grim conditions (39 degrees with rain and hail), I won my age group (females 20-24) in the Runners Marathon of Reston, posting not only my new personal best in that distance, but my first time under 4:00, with a 3:48:03. After posting (I can’t in good faith call it ‘running’) a 6:18:21 at the 2012 Georgia Publix Marathon, my first-ever marathon, no way did I think I’d run another marathon, let alone break four hours. I’ve now run six marathons. I lucked into the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon this fall and I’m hoping to run a BQ time there, although it’s not the most favorable course for that lofty goal. The Boston Marathon may have to wait until 2016 or later, depending on when registration opens (as I’d need to have run a qualifying time by then), but I plan to run it someday as a qualified registrant. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would be a possibility for me. I really love racing in the rolling hills of Reston (previously I’d run a 10k and two ten-milers all starting and finishing at the same high school in Reston), so even though I had to endure biting winds, practically frozen fingers, and hailstones abusing my cheeks, I love Reston even more because that marathon opened my eyes to new possibilities.
Last Sunday, April 6, 2014, I ran in the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. After the 2013 race I vowed to never run it again, but I signed up for the lottery again for the 2014 edition, and the same issues that bothered me in 2013 bothered me again this year. I put down what I thought was a pretty aggressive time in order to establish my starting corral, and I again found myself stuck behind hoards of people, many of whom were walking early in the race. I have no problems with people who run a race just to finish it or those who employ a walk-run strategy in order to finish comfortably. What I do have a problem with is those people starting in competitive corrals. At one point I found myself behind a woman wearing a shirt that said on the back, “If you’re behind me, you didn’t train for this either.” Real funny. Except that I did train and I’d like to get by! I was weaving in and around major traffic for the first four or so miles of the race, so I had to push pretty hard in the final six miles to keep my overall time to an average sub-8:00/mile pace. I posted a 1:18:42, which is significantly better than my previous best from the Army Ten Miler (1:23:14 in 2013), but I feel like I could’ve run another minute or two faster had there not been so many slower people in front of me on the narrow course. I wound up finishing with people all wearing red bibs – the red wave went off two or more minutes ahead of me as it was for people who had submitted an even faster estimated finish time. That race is all kinds of jacked up, and although it’s a “rite of spring” and pretty reasonably priced, I think I’m going to stick to my guns and really not participate next year.
Perhaps the biggest news of all: I’m running the JFK 50 Miler this fall. My time in the Runners Marathon made me an A-Standard qualifier for the nation’s oldest ultra, so after consulting with Jenny’s ultrarunner friend (I won’t name drop, but he wins these things and has been on the national team and is basically a really big deal while being a dad and a normal, all-around cool dude who is awesome enough to exchange emails with me) about the race, I took the plunge and mailed in my entry form. That’s right, mailed it in, very old school. Last night I checked the confirmed entrants list for my name (after having seen the check clear earlier in the week) and it was there. So this is happening! I lost about 36 pounds between late 2012 and mid-2013 while being very, very low-key about it. I didn’t tell people that I was planning to lose weight, I just did it. I’ve found that’s often the best way to do things: don’t tell people my plans, just show them my results. I don’t think that people make unsupportive, doubting comments to be deliberately cruel, but if they can cut down the validity of my commitments or my effort and watch me fail, that makes it easier for them to be at peace with their own inactivity or untried dreams. This piece of news is only for a supportive audience, and I think that you WordPress runners and running enthusiasts are that kind of audience, so I’m putting my faith in you to be cool as I prepare for this ultra in my own humble, workman-like, unflashy way.
Final thoughts to close out this overlong post (thanks for hanging in!). I’d like to make this blog more personal and more about my experiences. I’m still truly a gear junkie with a wicked shoe habit and a taste for protein bars so you can still expect plenty of product reviews (I’ve got reviews for the New Balance 890v4 and the Salomon X-Scream coming soon, as well as a couple of protein bar reviews), but look forward to a bit more of me in future posts. More often than not, the things in life that matter aren’t things, although things can be really, really cool.