March: Attitude of Gratitude

March was not a month that came neatly wrapped.

In the midst of this I forgot to include a few days worth of reasons for my gratitude, but I did not forget my intention.

I was glad all month that it was trying to be Spring.

 

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Most days I write down five things I am grateful for, big or small, subtle or apparent. I archive and post the list monthly. This is March 2014.

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that on short notice we could organize a ski trip — being a morning person when you wake up at 4am — being able to sleep on the bus —  sunshine — that the kids both did great and had a good day.

getting up to do my longer run —  that I saw so many fellow runners — that the rain held off — that although extra challenging my yoga class still was so beneficial — nap time.

attending an inspiring and informative writing course — that my health is so much better that I can sit through a three hour course — taking my vitamins — rest day from running — last week of school before a break.

the consistency of my coach’s workouts — feeling so much better —  feeling hungry again — the people who show up for Tuesday night workouts — patience.

realizing that what we have is what we want — a mid-morning visit with a friend — people who are genuine — warmer temps — sunshine.

that I could be productive at work with so many distractions — feeling comfortable talking to a group of strangers — soup — muffin — staying balanced in more meetings.

waking up early — organizing schedules — knowing that the kids are off next week — hot lunches at school — time at home.

eating hot dogs and enjoying hot chocolate after soccer games – the friendly runners and bikers I met on my route – that it only rained for half of the time I was running – the love and support of my family – multi-tasking: eating in the bathtub.

out in the woods for my Sunday run – that my wool socks kept my feet warm when they got wet – hot water — warm toast – yoga time.

that the kids get a break from school and routine – that my daughter is able to go camping with a friend – that time alone is good for everyone – being patient with my running progress – eating what I want.

space to think – a good visit with my counselor — seeing the forest for the trees – seeing the sky around the forest – comfort in perspective.

a leisurely morning around the house – being able to spend time with the kids at home – walking to town – having lunch out with just the boy – his great sense of humour – taking the bus home and having the time together.

sleeping in a little – remembering to stay calm when things get busy – managing to do errands in a mostly organized fashion – filling prescriptions I’ve been meaning to pick up for the last month – that the supplements I am taking are really helping – the that the kids could go out for dinner and I didn’t have to cook!

getting work done with the kids’ help – feeling relaxed – the hours to do what I needed – doing what I needed to do – those hours.

the mental focus and determination I have gained — the relief and excitement knowing I have only two more long runs to do — the feeling of having run for three hours — the support I get at home — understanding that body parts will hurt and that this is normal.

friends who are willing to run on a Sunday – being outside – making it home in time to shower and eat – a yoga class that both frustrated and challenged me – the yoga class that reminded me to let go of expectations.

my husband giving me his physio appointment time slot – the lovely physio who caused so much pain and yet fixed me – having patience with my body –  a day off to heal – Epsom salts.

the kids enjoying their Spring camps — my son’s smile at the end of the day – his rosy cheeks – committing to going to my workout even though my body probably wouldn’t run – making it through my workout without causing more pain.

my son growing kale and potatoes and garlic – my husband altering his day to make my day easier – running before the rain started – an easy run to relax my brain – the feeling of stretching.

the excitement and fear of another long run coming up – learning to trust myself – accepting a range of possibilities – remembering to enjoy what is – chocolate.

almost getting caught up at work – an email from my mom – the many options on my cel phone plan – remembering to take it easier – setting my intention for acceptance.

waking up early and watching TV – being willing to face my fears and face challenges – seeing a good friend at the half-way point in my run – feeling stronger both mentally and physically – the joy and awe at running almost 37 km (23 miles).

beautiful views on our run today – learning from other’s experiences – normal is not the same for each person – leftover noodle salad – a yoga class that both stretched me and relaxed me.

extra caffeine – days to prep and pack – getting things organized and ready at work – letting go of results – less expectations.

sunshine on my run – listening to a good podcast – helping the kids get settled – seeing the kids be more independent – a meal together.

 meeting friends for a run – yoga class – keeping things simple – clean laundry – drinking enough water.

 a day off to prep for travel – extra hugs from the kids – a morning run – staying in routine – feeling comfortable.

Paris au printemps

When you think of Paris, in springtime, what comes to mind? Is there accordion music accompanying your reverie? IMG_3525 or IMG_3557or

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Maybe it’s more like this?

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For me it was like this:IMG_3564

I signed up for the Paris Marathon back in September. It was partially a pipe dream: my husband’s employer was the corporate sponsor and there was a slim chance I could get a paid entry to race as a “family member.” An indirect perk of the job. My husband sent in the request and I was confirmed to run the Paris Marathon. I was going to see the Eiffel Tower! I was going to run 42.2 km! I was going to Paris! I was going to have to do some heavy training in the next few months.

This was the first race I had entered that I was actually excited about doing. Anticipating the race provided great motivation to push on in my training when I didn’t want to go for one more run, when my legs ached, when the weather was crap, when my mind wasn’t sure if I could run faster. I liked the training; the reward was coming. I was ready to run the streets of Paris.

Then it was April and my husband and I were on our way to Paris. With a few hicccups along the way — our trans-Atlantic flight being cancelled after the plane was hit by lighting; getting into Paris a day later and having less time to deal with 9 hours of  jet lag; being separated on the metro on the way to the race when I got out of the doors and my husband didn’t, and then watching a woman get subtly crushed by the closing metro doors — we were on our way! With 50,000 other runners and probably an extra 50,000 spectators I marched down the Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe and began the process.

 

Here is why you should run the race:

1. It’s the PARIS Marathon!!  There is no better way to see a city so beautiful and historical than this. You get to RUN through the streets; it’s like being in the Tour de France on your feet. The crowds are passionate, the music and entertainment is plentiful, and it’s so authentic you get to run through clouds from spectators smoking.

2. It’s a fairly flat course. If you are looking for something that is easier on the legs (overall) there are no big hills on this course. There are a few inclines in the last 1/3 of the race. I saw many people walking and I’m sure eventually they all finished as well.

This is the 10km mark. See how the road is now only about 4-5 people in width? Imagine 50 000 squeezing through that. Almost as much fun as putting toothpaste back in the tube.

This is the 10km mark. See how the road is now only about 4-5 people in width? Imagine 50 000 squeezing through that space. Almost as much fun as putting toothpaste back in the tube.

3. This is not your backyard race. It is big, it is international, and it is unique. Did I say it is in Paris??!!

4. The entertainment is worth the distance. We ran past the notable Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower but these sights were upstaged by the laser light show and techno music in the tunnel at mile 17.  I especially liked the few seconds of complete darkness when the lasers turned off and someone in the crowd started whooping in excitement. This was followed by a sea of runners cheering back in response. At that point it certainly didn’t feel like I had another 10+ miles to go.

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Here are some things to keep in mind as a first or repeat marathoner: This is France. Different rules apply.

1. This is a paid entry race for the general masses. You don’t have to prove that you can run a certain pace or distance unless you are in the elite group. That means that if you run slower than 3 hours, you can enter and seed yourself in whatever wave (entry based on projected finishing time) you’d like. The waves were in 15 min increments; nothing is stopping you from thinking you could run the race in 4 hours but seeding yourself with the 3:15 hour finishers in the hopes that they will “pull you along” to a faster time.

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It was a bit squishy, through all 26.2 miles.

2. This is not a PB/PR (personal best/personal record) course. True, it is “globally flat,” but it’s super crowded! Imagine salmon swimming upstream and try a personal record on that course. Unless you are an elite runner, you will not have the space to run as fast as you’d like. I seeded myself to have an optimal race in the 3:15 – 3:30 hour wave. Given that you can only run as fast as the people around you (and I added an extra 1 km to my race trying to weave around people) you hope that these people are going the pace. This was completely not the case. Most of the race felt like I was running with a herd of goats — runners all over the place, different paces, and running in all directions.

A different herd of goats. These ones were English.

A different herd of goats. These ones were English.

3. There are a lot of people at this race which means a lot of people need somewhere to pee! The race had 50,000 entries and just over 39,000 finished. Although there were less people in each corral the port-o-potties were wholly inadequate: there were only a few potties total in each corral. I stood in the shortest line and estimated that there were over 200 people lined up for one unit. You could also not gain entry into any other corral. I waited 40 min before my start time and never made it to the front of the line.

4. Common advice is that the way you train for a race is the way you should run a race. This means what you are eating, when you are eating/drinking, and being consistent.  But you are no longer in Kansas! I stayed away from the aid stations as bananas, oranges, raisins, and sugar cubes (yes, literally the white cubes) are not what I’m used to ingesting while running. This spread also provides additional hazards: think of running along wet cobblestones littered with banana peels. I saw a few people wipe out.

Approaching 30 km. Some boats on the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.

Approaching 30 km. Some boats on the Seine and one Eiffel Tower.

Although the purpose of our trip was this race, it was also a vacation. We rented a tiny bachelor flat about 10 min away from the Louvre which reminded me of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom. If we opened our suitcases on the floor, there was no floor space to walk on. We lived like the French — eating out, walking all day, always wearing a scarf, and remembering to say Bonjour wherever we went.

Le fin.

Le fin.

The second pancake

Dear Friends,

I have been conserving energy; I have been conserving my blogging output energy because I am using it in other ways.

Ifell

The last two months I have been training for my second marathon. Unlike the reliable second pancake on the pan when the first is always the tester, having run this distance once before guarantees nothing. It simply means you have been there before. The only similarity between my first and pending second marathon will be the 42.2 km span.

I have put blogging aside and put my mental and creative energy into running. I am running out of choice rather than out of obligation or expectation or peer pressure. I do the same workouts, I run the same distances, but it’s much more fun going with the first intention.

On my longer runs, when I had two to three hours on my feet, I had plenty of blog topics to think about.  I thought about the feeling of running when you don’t want to and overcoming mental blocks. I thought about the pride, elation, and possible pressure you can put on yourself when you finish a run and it’s exactly where you wanted to be. I thought about all the typical pitfalls runners experience as they train (and then taper or “actively rest”) before a race. I thought about how I got up on every Saturday morning, got my kids to their soccer games, and then ran for the rest of the morning. Then I ran on Sunday. I thought about different answers I could tell my co-workers when they asked me how my weekend went. What part did they want to know about? They all know I am running a marathon this weekend; none of them know the training I’ve done to get there.

I am proud of myself for getting here. I have crossed so many personal finish lines. I have done the training I wanted to do and I exceeded my own expectations. I have done better than I thought I could. My health has been better, my mental attitude and focus have gone through a massive transformation, and I like myself. And, heck, the week before a marathon you are in your peak fitness. So when I get in the shower I do check the mirror for a few extra seconds. And the word that comes to mind is, “Damn!”

I have two main mantras for the next few days: “Be open to success” and “Choose to dwell on the positive.” My mind is still a sticky place. I like to mire myself in negativity because it’s where my comfort level lies.  So when my coach assures me that I have trained to run a good strong race my reaction is contradiction. “What if I go out too fast and then am beyond recovery?”

Sure, I have goals. And if I don’t achieve them in this race, there will be another race I can train for and try again.

Each race is an experience and this one will have many. I need to remember to savour it as I go. I will be running the Paris Marathon. I am going to enjoy every bite of my second pancake.