Monday, October 12, 2009

Redemption Song

"Won't you help to sing
these songs of freedom? -
'Cause all I ever had:
Redemption songs -
All I ever had:
Redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,
Songs of freedom." -Bob Marley

So Fall is here. It is marathon season. I am so glad that Summer is *supposed* to be over now... I am forever disheartened at waking up at 5am on the weekends to get in my long runs to beat the heat. I am not a morning person. I need most of my morning to sleep off whatever the night before had in store... that makes more sense to my body than having quiet weekends where I go to bed at 9pm drinking water all night. I did come in first place in my age group in a pretty big 5k this Summer, and I shaved nearly 14 minutes off of my 10k Classic thats pretty cool.

This whole goal has become for me the classic struggle of good vs evil. My bad side wants to reep the benefits of whatever fun is calling; and it always is in countless forms. My good side counters mousily with powerful guilt trips...and when it wins, I am always deeply and profoundly grateful that it did. I somehow managed to hang on to my half marathon endurance from the Spring and build upon it, despite the all out inner freedom fest my Summer turned out to be. A broken heart made me behave quite foolishly trying to escape the pain, but then it also made running absolutely necessary. I needed those long runs to sink into my ipod and work things out. Long runs are an exercise in patience, because really, each one poses discomfort, and struggle, and if I just take my time and make it to the end I find myself at peace for a little while. A friend posted this tonight: "Embrace endings with joy. You have come a long way to get where you are, and you will lose nothing that is truly yours." and I just couldnt have said it better. Thankyou Katie Marsh.
I have overcommitted myself this Fall, and I am constantly stressing over juggling all of the things I am committed to. Basically I just steal the guilt from one activity to drive myself to do another. I come up short all around. The one thing I have kept my grasp on is running. I can not claim an effortless grip, but I have not let go, and I could have justified it many times over. My friend Brian reminded me to just keep my priorities right: Kids, running, writing..."and don't forget about God". Sound advice for someone like me, always trying to drink from the firehose. So the lesson for me here is that I can maintain training for 5k's AND volunteer all over the place...but that's not so smart when I am training for a 26+mile race.
It is hard to believe that I set this goal nearly a year ago, and that I have actually stuck with something that does not provide me with instant gratification. The fact that I have blogged about it so publicly is great motivation for those days that I have blown off one too many weekday 4 milers... I always start them cursing my big mouth, but then settle in and space out and get a wierd satisfaction from getting so sweaty and working so hard. I think I can call myself a runner, body and soul.
My last long run was 23 miles. My body needs 3 weeks to recover from that distance. I couldnt even run over a mile in the days following, and took nearly a week to work my way back up to 4 again. I am taking a B complex daily now, and trying oh so hard to stop eating so many empty calories. My diet has not been up to par for what my body needs. Shame on me, and I have been paying for it.
I hope that after all this that crossing the finish line will not be anti climactic... I really thought it would be all about the race, but really its turned out to be more about the commitment, and allowing a 4 hour run to turn into something beautiful.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm a power me explode!!!!!!

Wow that last journal entry feels like years ago. It has been a very challenging Spring to say the least. In terms of running, I have some accomplishments lately that I am VERY proud of..and have encountered a few setbacks. I could probably give up right now, and everyone would understand. I have valid excuses to drop out, but I won't.

The ING half marathon was a huge running milestone. My long run was up to 16 miles, so I knew I would be able to complete the race before I hit the starting line. That made all the difference in my attitude on race day. I had completely underestimated just how many people ran in this race...which makes me aware of how many people are out there running long distances like I do. I think 3 of my facebook friends popped up with ING pictures that I had NO idea ran at all. I guess I am a bit more starved for attention because everyone I know knew I was doing it....and people I dont know as well. Thats just me. I had an entire team of friends and family out there to support me, it was an awesome feeling to be loved that much. Based on my practice runs I told them to expect me to cross the finish line somewhere around 2:15-2:30hrs after the start.
Matthew and I just hopped in a corral and got going. He is a much more naturally talented runner than I am, and in much better shape, so it is a testament to the kind of selfless person he is that he stayed with me the entire race. He actually took a bathroom break and then sprinted a mile to catch up with me. He was talking about staying with the 4hour full marathon pacer to try and come in under 2 hrs for the half. I didnt argue with him, but I thought he was kinda shooting for the stars with me. I had terrible side stitches for the first 8 miles. I decided that maybe if I didnt acknowledge them they would get bored and go away. They finally did.
The crowds and bands on the sidelines were so much fun. I did not know the course, and half the time hardly recognized which part of Atlanta I was even running through. Matthew just kept pushing me to keep pace, and so I did. By mile 12 I was sort of vocalizing wierd sighs and moans as I panted along. I had made a new playlist for the day, and it had pretty much run its course... until I stumbled upon "TNT" by AC/DC.
When Grant and Griffin were little football players, we used to jam out to this song full blast in the caravan to away games. They were always so excited at the build up to "I'm a power load!!!!....WATCH ME EXPLODE!!!"..and we would all scream the lyrics and laugh hysterically and hop out of the car ready to kick some serious butt. Those moments with my kids are pure and deeply touching to me because they belong to the four of us, happy and without the sense of loss that hangs over so much that we do. I imagined my kids waiting at the finish line, and my second wind came through. I finished in under 2 hours. I would not have done that if not for Matthew, he made the experience profound by planting the seed for that accomplishment. I still can't believe I kept that pace for that distance.

ING was my race of choice, and The Granite Grinder trail half marathon was Matthew's. It was two weeks after the ING, and a completely different environment and experience. It was at the Conyers horse park. The crowd was totally chill, easy going. There was a jam band playing in the field at the start. I looked around and noticed I was practically the only person with an ipod. It died less than a mile in. I really wanted Matthew to run this race at his pace, so he was off just about the time my ipod died. It was just me and my thoughts that were heavy and consumed with much hurt and confusion in my personal life. 13.1 miles of hills, and tree root terraces, and mud puddles, and granite slopes... that course was hellacious. Nothing like the easy peasy trails of Kennesaw Mountain. There were parts that you just couldnt possiby run..and by the second half I was walking up most of the hills. Everyone was, they were hella steep and chunky and truly killer. I made friends with some girls from Augusta around mile 7 and we took turns encouraging eachother and leading the pace to the finish. At the finish line we crossed holding hands. I love runners. They had the best food and free beer at the finish line. My time was 2:32. The extra half hour from my ING time speaks volumes about that course that I am super proud to have completed. holy crap.
After that race my stress level continued to spike, and with that heart burn, which then triggers my ulcers to flare, which then makes it painful for me to eat. When I can't eat, I can't really run..when I can't run I can't build mileage. I missed three long runs in a row and most of my weekday runs that should have happened in between...and thus marathon mileage that I worked so hard to build up. I was up to nearly 19 miles..and am now back down to about 13. I am struggling to get out there, but I am trying...really really trying. My race season is pretty much over until Fall so it is a good time for me to just relax and enjoy my runs. I need them right now.
The silver lining of that set back is that I did run in a 5k race last weekend, and I placed 4th overall female with a personal record time of 21:18. That was a quiet victory for me in the middle of so much loss and sadness. My kids were there, and my dearest friends and it was a day that will stand out in my memory for the rest of my life. Once my Aunt Saralene told me that when things are really tough you have to just go ahead and be sad and let God love you. I have never been able to do that before now. I prayed before this race, and thanked him for the positive loving support of the people that were there with me, and then I just ran as hard and as fast as I could. I was hurting and sad, but I felt the love. It is all around me. I find so many things I need by running.
Soooo, I went back out yesterday and struggled through the 13 miles I mentioned earlier. My heart is raw and broken, and I am shaky and weak. I just walked when I had to, and set my mind to do atleast 13 miles. If I can do 13 miles than I have not lost everything. I did 13 miles. Two weekends from now I will do more..and I will get back on track for the full marathon in the Fall. I have just worked too hard and made too many sacrifices to lose something that means so much to me. I'm a power load...and although I am not exploding much right now, I am still putting one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Seven Nation Army Couldn't Hold Me Back

Thursday, March 12, 2009. 17 days until my first half marathon.
First things first, I am honored to have my blog published at now. They have been a huge supporter of Sweet Sara's Chargers, donating athletic bags to our team, and office space for me to use as I wish. Thank you Kristy and Fred and the whole staff over there for making me feel so welcome!
I had to go back and read my last entry so that I would know where to pick up. Writing has not been on the short list of things I have been able to pull off lately because I have been swamped. I have been doing just enough running to keep up my mileage for the last few weeks because things have been very overwhelming. I envisioned myself being a running and cross training machine six days a week when I first started this program…but more often than not when Galloway gives me the 0-2 miles option on the calendar, I opt for 0.
I am crazy busy. I have a new job that I am still settling into full time at a bar. This means many double shifts… still keeping up with all the kids activities and projects, the non- profit project and running group, and to top it all off Sara had 3 days of testing and day surgery 7 hours away from home; two days before the group’s first 5k event. I put February to rest and have since spent at least 12 hours on the phone ironing out the red tape involved with switching Sara’s medical equipment provider, and transitioning from private insurance coverage (she lost it Feb 28th) to Medicaid. I know; I lost you. I get lost in it too. That’s why I run. I would much rather be doing speed work on those off days, or some hills. Not going to happen any time soon, and that’s o.k. I set this marathon goal roughly four months ago, and my last long run was just under 16 miles. I can run 16 miles. I love telling myself that, because I have worked my butt off to build up that mileage. I am not going to focus on the things I have been unable to do.
Anyway, I think my last entry I had gotten up to 10 miles and had just gotten new insoles for arch pain. I finished the Polar Bear run 5k somewhere around 27 minutes.
My arch pain is completely gone, for two reasons: my insoles that are designed to correct my stride..and also because I stopped pushing myself too hard. I needed more rest to recover than my program called for. When I increase my mileage, I need longer than a week to recover. So after my 11 mile run, I cut back to 6 miles the next Sunday, then bumped up to 12 the next Sunday, back down to six the next Sunday, theoretically anyway. When I run with Matthew I always go farther than I had planned…but somehow it seems easy because we are keeping pace and chit chatting. I do much better with a partner out there. It helps that traveling such a long distance comes very easily to him. On our last long run we went over 15 miles…almost 19 according to my Nike+, definitely more than the 13 I was supposed to do, and guess what? I did just fine.
After this long run I took my first ice bath. If you know me you know what a chicken I am about the cold. I don’t have much meat on my bones and it takes me a while to warm back up…so I may be more proud of taking the ice bath, than the run that preceeded it. I had to work that night, and probably walked another 2-3 miles serving. It was a heck of a day. I had to get back out the next day for a four miler in beautiful weather with Nick and his buddy Brandon..and guess what? That wasn’t so bad either. I think I am finally getting used to all this hard work. The four mile runs feel especially natural. I know my pace, and I know how long it will take, and I just enjoy it. It is not a big deal anymore to carve it into my day. I did take a week off when I traveled to Cincinatti with Sara..but the end of that week was the Guns N Hoses 5k, and all that rest made for a very special day!
It was pouring the morning of the race, but our little team had spent a fortune having Sweet Sara’s Chargers t shirts made, and we had already collected pledges for this race…so I was running it no matter what! My friend Jenee flew in from Virginia to run with us, her first 5k ever..and so many of my dear friends and family where in rain or shine. I felt very scattered and worried about how the rain had really messed up how I pictured our day going. I envisioned sunshine, and lots of easy, pretty photo ops with our t shirts and bags… an being able to talk with everyone, and thank them for their hard work… I pictured Sara, the object of our team to be there too, but it was cold, and wet and miserable and I just barely made it to the finish line on time shooing Griffin off with my cousin.
The race began and I pushed my way to the front of the group and stayed there for the first 400 yards. Kathi’s son Jacob had asked to run with me, and I thought for sure I was going to need to look back and check on him every once in a while. Soooo not the case. He actually slowed down to keep close to me. What a gentleman already at 13. He is a very talented long distance runner to just show up and keep that pace. He definitely would have placed in his age group had he not been so sweet to stay with me for as long as he did. What a doll, he made my day.
It was exhilarating to hit the halfway point and turn back to see so many friendly faces cheering me on as I passed back by them. I don’t remember the last time I felt such crushing joy. The kind that can make you almost implode. The last hill was a killer, before the last ½ mile loop to the finish line. I crossed it in 25:29; a personal record. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I have shaved nearly 1.5 minutes off my 5k time in a little over a month. Not only that but I placed 3rd in my age group. I laughed when Brandie told me because it sounded so absurd to me. I don’t place, I just finish right? Wow!
Here I am getting my first medal.
My friend Jenee placed too…in her first 5k!!!! Brandie placed 2nd in our age group and her dad placed first in his! It was a great day for our team. We raised money for a great cause and everyone hit their personal goals. It was one of the best days of my life, full of love, and positive energy. I am so honored to know the people that came out that day both to run and walk, and to cheer us on. Things are never as I planned them, but at the end of the day, just as good.
Here we are cold, wet, and finished with our first event:

I am now focused on the ING half marathon at the end of March. I have been feeling a little fatigues since my last long run (the 15+ mile one) so I have been taking vitamins again which I had gotten lazy about with everything going on. The weather has been nasty and wet for the last few weeks and it was hard to stay motivated after the excitement of the 5k.
I worked a double last week and had to pack my bag in a rush to squeeze in four miles between shifts. When I got there I realized I had forgotten to pack socks…and lotion…and so I ran in black foldover socks with dry scaly legs. I guess I am not as vain as I was because I never would have done that before…I would have just excused myself from the workout rather than look foolish. It was a crappy run, and my time was awful, but I did it.
The weather stunk this weekend but I HAD to get in at least a six miler…and I did. It was boring and cold and crappy too..but I got out there in Nicks big old Patagonia rain tarp knocked it out. I looked like a blueberry in tights I’m sure. I dropped my license and keys, and some nice guy chased me down to return them to me. He had found them on the trail and asked me if I was Melissa Brown. I thought he was an axe murderer or some weirdo stalker that had read my blog at first; turns out he was just a good samaritan trying to be helpful. He saved the day and for that I am thankful. I feel like a jerk, but am reminded to carry my mace all at the same time. Anyway, what I was getting at is that I have taught myself to stop coming up with excuses to get out of these parts of training that are unpleasant. They are just as much a part of the process as the days that are perfect and inspiring. I feel much stronger after completing a run when I felt crappy that morning..or had a good excuse that I chose not to cash in. I don’t like excuses any more, they cheat me out of accomplishing the great things that I see myself doing. I like doing much more than not doing…even in black socks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fundraising for the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation this weekend

Below is the email I sent to all the friends in my address book about our groups first event, the Guns N Hoses 5k in Woodstock.

Dear friends,

You might have heard of the running group I have formed called Sweet Sara's Chargers. Our story was featured in our local paper, The Cherokee Tribune recently. Nearly 30 of my closest friends and family..and even a few new friends have all been training for two months to run and walk in our first fundraising event...The Guns N Hoses 5k this coming Saturday in Woodstock. Most of our team members are beginners that have never done anything like this before. We are all asking for donations to be made to the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation to honor all of our hard work, but more importantly to honor Sara and everything that she has been through overcoming CHARGE. The CHARGE Syndrome Foundation has become our lifeline and a very important part of our daily lives. Please help us support this wonderful, caring organization by sharing this email with your friends and by making a donation. No amount is too small.

Babies born with CHARGE suffer life-threatening birth defects. Despite hearing loss, vision loss, balance problems and a host of other serious medical problems, many of these children overcome insurmountable challenges to far surpass expectations. Thanks to the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation, individuals with CHARGE syndrome and their families have a place to turn for information, research, support and hope. Attendance at one of our biennial conferences can be a life-changing event: an opportunity to meet with other families and professional experts.

Click on the link below to visit my personal web page to make a donation, become a fundraiser or simply to learn more about the Foundation. Your gift will make a difference in the lives of individuals with CHARGE syndrome!

Thank you.
Melissa, Grant, Griffin and Sara, and the entire Sweet Sara's Chargers team.

Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support CHARGE Syndrome Foundation

Some email systems do not support the use of links and therefore this link may not appear to work. If so, copy and paste the following into your browser:

Melissa Brown

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ready or not, here I come....

"Ready or not here I come, I'm gonna find you"..thats a song lyric by the Fugees that my friend Jennifer suggested for a workout playlist. I think it struck a chord with me because most of the time I feel like if my stress could talk, that's exactly what it would say. This ridiculous marathon goal and related fundraising project has brought me a heaping helping of tasks and connections and discussions and ideas that I am struggling to keep up with...but I am loving it all. This is good stress. It is stress that inspires me and energizes me. I have a precious little newborn idea, that I am worried about and caring for..and it is exhausting me but driving me all at the same time. I am so proud of the people around me and how much of themselves they have given already. I feel an almost crushing joy that my family's challenges have made way for this loving network of strength and encouragement not only for me, but for everyone working their butts off training for our first race. It's amazing to be a part of.

Since my last entry I have been introduced to Nick's very kind and experienced friend Matthew who met me out on the trails for my 10 mile long run. It was refreshing to have someone cool to talk to; someone with marathon experience that got why I would want to do something like run 26 miles. I know he could go much faster, and without the walk breaks I need to take, but he was right there with me the whole time. I am so excited to have a new running friend.

I had a little bit of arch pain in the days before the Polar Bear I made a trip to Big Peach Running Company in Marietta. The manager had me run in the parking lot, and just by watching me run and asking questions about my training schedule he diagnosed me with plantar fascitis, and prescribed an more firm insole and a pokey football shaped ball for massaging my foot. He suggested that I taper my long runs down to half every other weekend, because my pain was probably the result of over training. Well, three weeks and roughly 50+ miles in those insoles my arches feel great. I added some more rest time into my calendar, and it has helped all around. I am in love with Big Peach. They are so passionate about running, and more importantly know what they are talking about. I HIGHLY recommend them as a resource for any walker or runner.

I have made some progress with my ego on the indoor track at the gym, resisting the urge to outrun the muscle dudes that pop on there for their 10 minute warm up. I learned how to count laps on my watch, and rely on my nike+ to tell me when I have reached my mileage goal for each run...that means I can sort of zone out and just travel. I really thought that al this running would begin to transform my thoughts into some sort of zen reflection..but mainly I just mill over all the things I need to get done..or come up with more ideas of things I would like to do. I dont really know what to make of that. I do see progress there though.

I started a new job and it has been tough squeezing in my weekday runs around my work schedule. I will have to start getting up early to run before work...I am not happy about that, but it will be good for me to start the day with my stressors beaten down by a good run. I have always admired morning people because I have never been one.

I was lazy about writing down my schedule the last few weeks with the new job. I am in a groove though where I know what I need to do without constantly checking my training chart. My long run is now up to 11 miles. This Sunday I will do 12 miles. My efforts to incorporate some core cross training has not happened yet... but I am hopeful that once I get settled into my new job I will work it all in.

So far so good. :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Taking Care of Business 1/12/09

This week was very productive. The non profit project is moving right along. I think we have around 12-15 folks on board to run in our first race, The Guns N Hoses 5k here in Woodstock, Feb 28, 2009. I am so inspired by the enthusiasm and energy surrounding "Sweet Sara's Chargers", it is hard for me to focus on anything BUT running.

My training schedule this week was still under 20 miles. My long run last Sunday was 8 miles, and I have to say it felt pretty easy, but I think that was because I completed it on a 1/2 mile flat loop at Hobgood Park in Woodstock. Here is what the last two weeks have looked like:

Sunday:7 miles on Hobgood Park track
Monday: off
Tuesday: 3 miles on gym indoor track
Wednesday: off
Thursday:4 miles on gym indoor track
Friday: off
Saturday: off
Sunday: 8 miles on Hobgood Park track
Monday: 4 miles gym indoor track
Tuesday: off- fitted for new shoes at Big Peach Running Co.
Wednesday: 4 miles gym indoor track
Thursday: off
Friday: 4 miles gym indoor track
Saturday: off
Sunday: 9 miles on Kennesaw Mtn trails

My training program makes 2 miles optional on those "off" weekdays, and I have been opting not to run on them so far, but this week I plan to do 2 miles of speedwork and some light cross training with weights. I want to strengthen my core, and my hamstrings a bit more.

I went to Big Peach Running Company on Tuesday and got custom fitted for a new pair of shoes. Sounds expensive, but it is a free service they offer, and their shoes are not priced any higher than a regular sporting goods store. They look at your footprint and arch, and then video tape your ankles from behind while you run on a treadmill. This helps them learn whether you need to correct your stride with your shoes. It was quick and painless and very, very cool! I must have tried on 10+ pair of shoes before finding the perfect ones. I should add that the sales girl was very friendly, extremely knowledgeable and did not mind one bit humoring my wishy washy shoe choosing. They just genuinely love running there, and it shows.

I needed those shoes badly, and had been putting it off for a couple of months now because I did not want to spend the money. Later in the week I returned with Nick, where he bought me an Amphipod hydration belt, thankyou Nick, and I replaced my old Nike+ plus shoe sensor. When my long run hit 8 miles, I think I decided it was ok to take myself seriously with all this marathon talk...I am taking care of business. I am really making it happen, and it feels amazing.

I also downloaded two audiobooks with the itunes gift cards I got for Christmas with the intention of switching to those to pass the time as opposed to my played out playlists. The first is "The Middle Place" by Kelly Corrigan. It chronicles her battle with cancer. I am sure it is a good book, infact excerpts of it about friendship brought me to tears..but during a run it was like molasses in my veins. I will save it for the next time I am stuck in traffic, or can't sleep. The other book was "How to See Yourself as You Really Are" by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. I read "The Art of Happiness: a Handbook for Living" this Summer and it really made a profound connection for me in practicing peace and happiness through suffering, a concept I believe in wholeheartedly. Naturally, I was excited to see this one on itunes. However, this one is not a pleasure is very hard for me to follow as it weaves in and out of Buddhist principals that are way over my head. The concepts are worthy of studying, but not while I am flopping around the indoor track at the gym. Audiobooks as motivation get the thumbs down for now.

For Christmas Nick got me a MyRoadID bracelet so that if I freeze into a block of ice on the side of the road, or have a heart attack..the person who finds me can call and hear a computer generated voice detail my vital information. We cracked ourselves up plugging in completely inappropriate phrases and then playing them back to check their accuracy. Great for safety on those long lonely trail runs, and highly entertaining on a quiet Thursday night in front of the laptop.

Yesterday, I ran at Kennesaw Mountain, and was joined by Kristy P and her son Pooch for the first 1.5-2 miles. It was nice to see a friendly face out there! This was my first time on those trails so I didnt really know my way around. Well, long story short I took the wrong trail a couple of times and went way off bythe time I hit 9 miles I was still 2 miles away from my car. I had to call Nick to meet me at the closest drop in and drive me back...but I ran the full 9 miles I had planned on. Nick made me a huge meal afterwards. He is so supportive, I dont know how I got so lucky.

What is more amazing to me than running 9 miles is that I attended two girls night parties Saturday, and managed to make it without partaking in cocktails. I still had fun, but the dynamic of being social has changed for me. I am getting some good natured slack about what this world must be coming to when I decline a cocktail on my off weekend (the kids were at dad's house) to get up early and squeeze in church before a Sunday long run. I am not making any crazy over the top declarations about changing my life completely. I have always liked balance. But I do like what I am learning about myself through trying some different things, and committing to this running goal without excuses. Every Sunday as my mileage increases I am exhilerated by the realization I am doing something I have never done before. I am growing and improving in ways I cant describe. The rewards for the effort are already infinite, and I'm not even half way there.