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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thoughts on a Thursday

(Just like the "Random Musings on a Friday" post, these are listed in no order of importance)

You are never too old to feel happy hearing that your parents are proud of you.  I'm a strong, independent, and self-sufficent 39 year old woman.  A few weeks ago, my mom told me she loved me and how proud she was of the woman that I've become.  I could just feel warmth and joy spreading throughout my entire body.  I don't need anyone's approval, even my parents'.  But, we can all use more love.

I am a total retro girl.  I like retro music and retro television.  I go to sleep each weeknight watching "Kojak" or "The Rockford Files".  James Garner is the man.  He had great hair.  And he reminds me of my dad.  Contrary to Telly Savalas who, well, had no hair.  But, he was cooler than the other side of the pillow, even if he smoked those long, brown, skinny cigarettes.  Both put me in my happy place.

Music is a huge part of my life.  I can't imagine going 24 hours without listening to the radio, a CD or my iPod.  I have a very diverse music library and love various styles...except for country music.  I do not enjoy country music.  It makes my teeth itch.  I love Johnny Cash, but more for his renegade spirit and persona.  I don't need to listen to his music.  Unless he is covering Trent Reznor.  Then, he rocks.

I believe I'm meant to help, teach and coach others. However, I'm not trying to be anyone's role model or heroine, nor do I want to be. That means measuring up to expectations that other people have of you and I want no part of it. I'm a very curious creature and I'm always seeking knowledge and applying it towards a better life. But, we are all unique and individual. I don't claim to have all the answers, because we all have different questions. And that's the way life is supposed to be.

Those Buddhists are really on to something.  One of my best friends is a practicing Buddhist, so I've been sort of reading about it.  And, I find it quite fascinating, not to mention comforting.  Practicing the principles of mindfulness while learning how to break attachments has given me such a sense of freedom.  I'm learning to look at things as neither good nor bad; they just are what they are. 

I think I mentioned once before that I have a tendency to come off as a bit of a "know it all".  Being aware of this has been good for me.  It's still a work in progress, but that's okay.  I still enjoy being "right" a bit more than I would care to, but I'm aware of that too.  I'm learning that it's okay to have my opinions while letting others have theirs.  Neither one needs defending.  I'm not out to change the world; just my perspective of it.

The scale and I broke up a long time ago.  I decided that a number was not going to define me.  When they say ignorance is bliss, they're not kidding.  Everything I own that I am interested in wearing fits me without cutting off my circulation or giving me a stomach ache.  So, I've got that going for me.

I decided about a year or two ago that I wasn't going to watch the news on a regular basis anymore either.  I've never felt better.  I don't feel like I "need to be informed".  I know that gas prices have gone up.  I know that there are a lot of things going on out there that people don't like.  I accept it all for what it is and hold fast to the belief that the world can be a pretty good place to live in if you want it to be.  I am a card carrying member of the human race, which is enough.

Since finishing the Boston Marathon 10 days ago, I've noticed something.  Most of the people that ask what my time was are male.  The few women that have asked exploded with joy upon hearing that I ran a 3:58.  I think I could have told them it took me six hours and they still would have been that exuberant.  It appears that time goals are more important to men versus women, at least the ones that I know. 

I think it's okay to have boundaries.  I also think it's okay to lay low and "take a time out" when you need to.  I'm surrounded by hundreds of people on a daily basis.  I spend hours upon hours tending to the needs of others.  It's very rewarding to help someone.  Sometimes, you are in need of your own attention more, though.  If we neglect ourselves, we will soon end up resenting others for invading our personal space.  Charity begins at home, friends.  You've just gotta take care of yourself, because there is no guarantee that anyone else will.

In closing, please enjoy this quote of the day:

“We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about.”

-- Joseph Campbell

Friday, April 22, 2011

Which Seat Will You Sit In?

I was going through some of my old emails and came upon this great message from my friend, Sue:

There are enough other people who will put us down to make themselves feel better, don't help them.

Very wise, not to mention true.  (And you thought I was the only one with the tasty lil' nuggets of wisdom).

Since I'm already in quote mode, I'll also borrow the tagline from the Virginia Slims campaign:

I've come a long way, baby.
Almost 96 hours removed from the start of the Boston Marathon and I'm feeling pretty good.  My legs are starting to work again.  I'm walking more like Cyndi and less like Clyde, the orangutan from "Every Which Way But Loose".  But, what's more important, and less visible, is how I feel.

In 2009, I ran a time slower than I wanted to and I brooded over it for weeks, giving myself quite the flogging.  Obviously, I didn't heed Sue's warning. 

Now, fast forward two years. 

Today, I feel good inside because I've made a concerted effort to amplify the positive aspects of my marathon experience ONLY.  I believe that I am the architect of my own reality and I've decided to build the best life that I possibly can.

For the past 18 months or so, I've been enjoying the teachings of Abraham-Hicks (you can google them).  They talk about the Law of Attraction (which you can also google), but they also give you powerful, yet practical information that you can apply to your own life.  I was listening to the CD recording of their San Francisco/February 2011 workshop in my car the other day; just driving, chilling and enjoying, when, I heard this simple sentence:

If you're feeling high, ride it.  If you're feeling low, take a nap.

In other words, if something is going the way you want, talk about it, revel in it, MILK it.  If it's not, for the love of Pete, STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!!!!!  The seed won't grow unless you water it.

Imagine you decided to walk around with a tape/digital recorder for 24 hours, documenting everything that came out of your mouth.  When you played it back, how much of it do you think would contribute to the life that you want?  How much of what you said would detract?

Think about it.

Don't misunderstand me, here.  I'm not talking about "faking positivity" if you're not feeling it.  The worst thing you can do is recite positive affirmations when you're in a low energy state.  It'll just remind you of the gap between where you are and where you want to be.  Have you ever been around a peppy, happy person when you're feeling "less than stellar"?  Don't you just want to punch them in the face everytime they smile at you?

So, don't do that.  And punching someone in the face is probably not a good idea, either.

But, you have a lot more control over your mood than you might think.

When something happens to you that has the potential to upset you, recognize it, be aware of it and then let it go.  The more you talk about it, the more you "vent" about it, the bigger it gets.  What was a molehill turns into a mountain.  Do you really want that?

I didn't think so.

If something has been bothering you for a while, don't try and deal with it until you're feeling good.  It's okay to put it off.  Distract yourself.  Go for a walk.  Listen to your favorite song.  Meditate.  Take a bubble bath.  Hug your best friend.

Take a nap.  Whatever floats your boat.

The seed won't grow if you don't water it.

Would you rather be driving the car that is your life or riding shotgun, with your hands over your eyes, jamming your foot onto the invisible "emergency brake" embedded into the floorboard because you don't like the way the driver is driving?

Which seat will you sit in?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Break It On Down, Y'All

On April 18, 2011, I completed the 115th Annual Boston Marathon.  Here is the proof:

I ran 3:58.

This was my 7th marathon and my 3rd Boston. 

First, let me say that, yes, I am glad and proud of myself that I finished.  It was tough going there for me, particularly in the last 10 miles.  I had to talk myself into not quitting.  More than once.  I alternated short bursts of walking with longer stretches of running, just staying focused on forward movement.

As you may remember from my previous entries, I am not a "detail" person.  You aren't going to get a "play by play" recap of my run yesterday.  Plus, anyone that is anyone knows how to check my stats online.  Simply stated, I started off strong and ended up running a positive split, which means the second half of my marathon was slower than the first half.  It's always tempting to look back at what didn't quite go the way you planned and say, "maybe I should have done this" or "perhaps I should have tried that."

Well, friends, those are just thoughts.  And it would be both unwise and counterproductive to latch on to them.

You see, the race played out exactly as it should have.  I took a chance and went after a personal best for Boston (which still stands at 3:55).  I was able to hold a sub 3:50 pace until the 30K mark.  From that point on, as I began to tire, it became more about just finishing and less about achieving a fast time. 

So, I will have no regrets.  I do have a couple of observations that I can carry in to my next training cycle:

1)  Although I live in NH which has hills, I did no specific "hill repeats" or "hill training" in prep for Boston.  The hills on that particular course are between miles 16 and 21.  This may or may not have contributed to my fatigue. 

2)  I think I could have done more long runs.  I had an 18, 20 and 21 in my training cycle which, I thought would be enough.  In the past, I've had my long run up to 22-23 miles and performed better.  I think going back to that is best.

3)  I'm not sure how all the low heart rate training factored into the way I ran yesterday.  In some ways, it may have been beneficial.  In others, I'm not sure it prepared me to run marathon pace as well as previous training methods.

4)  Not a cop out, just an observation:  it was 60 degrees and full sun yesterday for the first 21 miles.  I think I'm not alone in saying that we had a crazy long, cold, windy, snowy winter.  Lots of my friends ran slower times than they were planning.  Unless you are from Kenya, or the southern US, you weren't sufficiently acclimated to running long distance in this temperature.  Perhaps this had something to do with it.

So, that's my version of the marathon autopsy.  It would have been great to have run a faster time.  But, at least I tried from the very beginning.  And I held it for the first 18.6 miles.  I've never been able to do that before on that course.  So, it's high time I celebrate what went right instead of what could have been done differently.

To ALL that ran the Boston Marathon yesterday, you have my undying respect.  Congratulations, in particular, to those of you who ran your very first 26.2 race yesterday. 

Now, it's time to rest, relax, recover and refocus.  Chicago 2011 awaits.  :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

T minus four days


It's the biggest countdown there is in the month of April.  Well, unless you count that little wedding that is scheduled to happen on the other side of the pond.

People are excited, both for the big day and for me in general.  I definitely appreciate everyone's interest and support.  The question I think I've heard the most is, "Are you ready????"  At first, I would reply, "Not yet", which would precipitate a, "why not?  What do you mean?" and, well, it just went on forever.  I say "not yet" because that's my way of being present.

You know.  In the "now".

I am not running a marathon today, therefore, I don't NEED to be ready today.

Who knew I was so literal?  I think I've been working with engineers too long.

Needless to say, it got a lil' tiresome.  So, now when someone asks me, I just smile sweetly and say, "yes, thank you for asking."

What makes one ready?  Let's see:

From 12/1/10-4/14/11, I have logged +/- 700 miles. 

I have completed long runs of 18, 20 and 21.12 miles in the month of March, which, to me, is the biggest "peak" time for this particular race.

I tapered my mileage down sensibly.  My last "big" week was 56.5 miles.  That was followed by 41ish miles in week one of the taper and 30 miles in week two.  This week, I'll barely hit 20.

I'm going to bed a little earlier and getting up a little later.

I've enjoyed 15 minutes of daily meditation for the past week.  It's my time to relax, refresh and just breathe.

I know how I am getting there and how I'm getting home.  In a race with logistics like Boston, this is a VERY important thing to work out.  Life stress is total.  The last thing you need to be doing is expending energy on something like that.

I've exceeded my fundraising goal by well over $400, thanks to all of the generous people I know.

Those are all very good things.  But, I think the most important thing of all is to focus on enjoying the experience, first and foremost.  To put all the time and effort into something and then go into it with a negative attitude is both unwise and counterproductive.  The second thing is to acknowledge just how awesome of a thing this is.  In 2010, there were approximately 500,000 marathon finishers in the United States.  Doesn't sound like that many, does it?  Here is one occasion where I don't mind being a "statistic".  I'm proud to say I've finished two marathons in 2010.  I'm learning it's okay to be proud of yourself.  Not only is it okay, it's essential.

April 18th will come when it comes.  And that's perfect just the way it is. 

I'll be ready.  Don't forget to look for me.  I'll have this on:

Your friend,

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Praise of Pappy

The date is Monday, April 4th.  The 115th running of the Boston Marathon will happen in exactly two weeks from today.  People are still asking if they can donate to the NE Patriots Charitable Foundation on my behalf, which further reinforces my belief that there is so much goodness in the world.  Here is the link to my personal fundraising page:

However, that's not the best part about today.

Robert Philip Cunningham, Jr. was born on April 4, 1937.  He was born and raised in CT, served in the Air Force (for 3 years, 11 months, 10 days), and was an educator both in and out of the classroom for well over a quarter century. 

Robert was also known as Bob or, more affectionately, "Pappy".  I met him in the early to mid 80's when I was in junior high.  My parents had divorced shortly after grammar school.  My mother had been dating since my father moved out, so he wasn't the first person she brought home.  But, as it turns out, he was the last.

My initial reaction to him was less than positive.  For some reason, I had a bad vibe about him.  I remember being less than friendly toward him, which was definitely out of line with my personality.  However, he took it in stride, always treating me with respect and kindness.  Once he and my mother had been dating a while, we all took a trip down to New Jersey to see my maternal grandparents, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.  This was the turning point in my perception of Bob.  I just remember all of my suspicion and angst melting away and, towards the end of our stay, impulsively embracing him. 

He won me over.

In August of 1986, he and my mother exchanged vows and became husband and wife.  His two children from the first marriage stood up there with my brother and me as they pledged to love, honor and cherish each other, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse.  It was a happy day for them, but also a happy day for me.  I gained a stepbrother, stepsister and, most importantly, a great stepfather.

I attended high school where my stepfather worked, first as a vocational director and then as an industrial arts/cabinetmaking/woodworking teacher.  Bob loved to teach and I believe his students loved him in return.  He also loved to create things out of wood and had amazing talent.  When my parents purchased new bedroom furniture, he made a tall shoe cabinet for my mother that matched the woodwork in their new set perfectly (yup, mom was like Imelda Marcos).  Every day from the time I was a freshman until I had a drivers license and car of my own, Bob and I rode to and from school together.  I used to put my makeup on the car since I never left enough time to do it before school.  He made a game out of swerving and hitting every pothole he could in order to "try and make me miss". 

But the most memorable part of our car time together was if, God forbid, I had the hiccups.  I would try to hide it from him since I knew what his remedy would be:  to scare the living s**t out of me when I least expected it.  The anticipation would kill me and I never quite knew when he would let out the scream that would practically stop my heart. 

It worked, though.  Every single time.

Bob was also a cigarette smoker.  This, coupled with years of inhaling sawdust and fumes associated with his profession, brought on a diagnosis of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).  He had less than 20% of his lung capacity available to him.  In the early 90's, he took an early retirement so that he and my mother could go and retire in Arizona, hoping the dry climate would be better for him.  And it was, for a while.  He lived on for another 14 years, sometimes existing more than living.  Two days before his physical death, he and my mother renewed their wedding vows, pledging their love and devotion to each other in the hospice facility where he would spend his remaining days.  They took him off of all machines and medications, making sure he was as comfortable as possible.  He took his last labored breath on Friday, October 5, 2007.  He was 70 years young.  I was supposed to run a half-marathon relay the next day with my friend, Jeremy; I was to run the first half and him the second.  I knew he would understand if I skipped it, but I decided to go.  I ran those 6.5 miles clutching a picture of my stepdad and mom in my hand.  That one was for Pappy.

It's been about three and a half years since Bob has been gone.  His presence is still very vivid to me and I think about him all the time.  I'm hardly ever sad when I remember him now because I don't think he'd want me to be.  He left behind a legacy of love, compassion and selflessness that allows him to live on as potently and viscerally as if he were still here in physical form.  At times, he was more than my stepfather.  He was my ally and my friend.  When I broke up with my boyfriend in 1993 (who I was convinced was "the one"), Bob's face was the first one I saw when I came in the front door.  He looked at me, said nothing, and held his arms open.  I immediately went into them and let out the tears I had been holding in.  He just held me as I cried and said nothing. 

I have such love and appreciation for what he taught me by the life he lived.  He demonstrated the closest thing to unconditional love that I've ever seen with my mother.  He adored her.  At times, when she and I would clash as mothers and daughters often do, I would try and see her through his lens.  And I would inevitably soften.  He just had that power and ability. 

There is a part of him in every marathon I run, since I know he never would have been able to run a step at the height of his illness.  I run for myself, first and foremost, but I run for him too.  I do for him what he was not able to do for himself.  His memory gives me such inspiration and fills me with strength.  If I begin to tire or question myself, I'll turn my thoughts to him.

Happy Birthday, Pappy.  I like to picture you now, residing in the non physical world, overflowing with life and love like you always did, creating beautiful things out of wood and breathing easily and fully with plenty of energy and vigor. 

No pain.  No sickness. 

You'll always be with me.