Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fell a little short......

Today was Race for the Cure 2009. My goal: finish in 45:00, but be happy with anything under 48:00.

There could not have been a more ominous weather forecast. They were calling for BIG rain today, mostly all day. It looked a few times like the sky might just open up this morning. God, however, smiled on us and the rains held off. Now, it was cool .... cool and humid, as opposed to last year's warm and muggy. It's an odd combination but not a bad one. I suppose this is what doing a 5K in London would be like.

I got to the parking garage and went down to the gathering area and vendor stations in the courtyard. One of the things which I should know by now is to not visit vendor tents until after I finish the race. Nope. I go right away and end up hauling it all with me (mistake #1). I didn't get as many things this year or visit quite as many tents. Honestly, do I need another tote bag? No. I did buy a checkbook cover at a t-shirt vendor .... and it was needed. The little plastic one they gave me when I opened this account nearly 5 years ago is just about being held together by a string.

The survivor's walk began, and honestly, that part alone is worth the price of admission. This year, I was especially impressed by the women who are 40+ year survivors. I think about the horrific chemo treatments that were around back then. I know the ones my great-aunt had 30-something years ago and how terrible they made her feel (in addition to the fatigue from her actual illness). To see these ladies smiling and waving to us all .... serious lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Soon afterwards, we lined up and began. During the first mile, in order to get around some of the slower traffic, I began to walk faster, zigzagging in and out. And in some of the wider spaces, I began to jog (mistake #2). Got to the one-mile point and............... 17:16. WHAT? I know, better than last year's 21:something, but still. That's my usual pace at the office on a walk, where I'm not jogging. But I also remembered that my one-mile pace is usually my worst (because of the slower people and the 1-mile-only crowd mixed together with the 5K'ers). Okay.

So the second mile comes along and it's pretty well uphill a good portion of the way. I pulled off the jacket I had on because by this point, I was definitely warm. Wrapped it around my waist and put back on my sling backpack. A full one, again, thanks to all the vendor stuff I picked up. Not smart, not smart. Anyhow, I walked along and kept an eye out for two of my coworkers who were running it. I didn't see them at all! When I got to the 2-mile mark, my time was around 33:15 (if I remember correctly). Okay, that's a good pace ..... for a stretch where I thought I was doing my worst. Um, okay.

Soon came the time for the turn to begin mile three. I really was getting tired, and I knew I would have to do some jogging if I hoped to have a prayer of seeing 45:00 when I crossed the line. I looked down at my watch when I hit the water station and realized 45:00 was slipping away from me. I looked down a short time later and saw 48:00 had elapsed from the start time. I felt like crying, but instead...... I started jogging. I now would have to be happy with anything short of 56:26, even if it was 56:25.

I saw one of my runner-coworkers: she did 33:20!!!! I was so proud of her, and then she told me our other runner did 30:00 (roughly). WHOA!!!!! Talk about extra proud of them -- the one who finished in 30 just quit smoking earlier this month. He's about 9 days out without a cigarette, and figured that doing this race was good incentive to keep on the healthy track. And she just took up running earlier this year. Amazing, both of them!!!

I got to the final turn and couldn't find the timer that's usually at the finish line. I looked at my watch and guesstimated that I'd have somewhere around 52:00.

Apparently, we got a later start than I thought we had. I saw 48:52 at the timer (a smaller one than last year's, which is how I missed it!)..... and started running. I was gonna hit 49:00 if I could. But I didn't have quite enough juice for that.

It's okay though............. Not only did I beat my time from last year by 7:23, I'm still roughly at the same pace I was this spring. And all this year, I haven't exclusively walked as my only exercise. I've done the bike and aerobics too. In a way, I think that helped me ..... it improved my cardio enough that I wasn't totally exhausted at the end. Last year, they had chair massages available and I took advantage -- and nearly fell asleep. This year, I didn't see the massage area, but it's okay. I went back to the food court, got a Fiber One yogurt and some water, and pulled the apple and protein bar I'd brought from home out of my backpack.

I also ran into someone who hadn't seen me in a long time and she didn't recognize me. I have to admit; that's one of the best feelings ever. I love watching eyes bug out and jaws drop. I also ran into my original WW leader in the stairwell -- she didn't recognize me from behind! :D

It is astounding to think that in 2 years, I've managed to shave 17:03 minutes off my time. That amount of time is right now buying me right at another MILE under ideal circumstances (in real life, let's say it will get me 7/8 of a mile). I am thinking the only way right now I'll break 45 is to start running...... more often, so that I can build up my endurance. I can do about 20-30 seconds of straight on run-jogging, and then I have to slow it back down. It might be that I have to do a running clinic where I learn how to run.

I already can't wait for next year. I have another walk in a month for Juvenile Diabetes, and there's a place to hope for 45 too!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

20 years ago this morning....

I awoke face down on a very nice area rug in Greensboro NC. I didn't wake until 11:30 AM, but it was the next couple of minutes later that got me. When I peered out the windows, there were limbs all over the front yard. I asked Mrs. T (our hostess) what had happened, and she quietly, almost haltingly said, "Girls, the storm came through early this morning. Y'all slept through it."

That's right. I slept through a hurricane.

Hurricane Hugo. 20 years ago last night, it made landfall just east of Charleston, and instead of skirting up the coast as we expected, it came inland, hitting Charlotte, Greensboro, Roanoke and other interior portions of Virginia and eventually Pennsylvania and even up to Buffalo.

We were staying in Greensboro because we had tickets for the Elton John concert, originally scheduled for September 22, 1989 in Charlotte. We figured the storm would go up the coast, toward the Outer Banks and the Tidewater area....... no problem, right?


No concert. We stayed in Greensboro until Saturday afternoon, at which point we trekked on over to Raleigh where other friends had gathered. By Sunday morning, I was tired and just wanted to be home until I knew what would happen next. We all knew school was shut down indefinitely. I dropped off one person from our travel party in Fort Mill (just outside Charlotte). His neighborhood looked like a war zone..... trees and uprooted stuff and mangled fencing. Half his street had water and electricity, the other half did not. I remember he asked about his sister, and his mom mentioned that she was up the street at a neighbor's taking a shower because they were in the water-service area, and their home had none. I dropped off another person in Spartanburg, then headed home to wait it out.

A week later, we were back, but things would never be "back to normal." Even though we weren't there for the height of the storm, as some of our local friends were, an event like that changes you and your perspective. I never really thought I was invincible or even immortal. Having attended way too many family funerals as a youngster gave me lots of exposure to the life-and-death cycle. I knew from losing two classmates in high school that, yes indeed, it could happen to any of us and eventually it would catch up to us. So I held no illusions of invincibility or immortality. But I had an illusion of innocence -- that somehow, the world was still fresh and wonderful if I just believed it so.

That was a casualty of the storm. Wisdom and knowledge have their price, usually consisting of selling your innocence and your idealism.

At least the NBA can thank Hugo for something -- they got a star out of the deal. Tim Duncan was supposed to be an Olympic swimmer. The Olympic-size training pool on his island got destroyed in the storm, so he changed sports.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

As autumn approaches....

I'm so glad autumn, my very favorite season, is nearly here. There's a special kind of magic about those three months that grabs me and doesn't let go. In nearly 40 years, I've never quite been able to adequately describe the magic -- and even if I could, I wouldn't want to break the spell by uttering the appeal. I love the rich earthy colors. I love the crisp air. Of course, I love football season!

The maple tree out back has always been my fall barometer. When I was a kid, I always knew it was close to my birthday because there would be tons and tons of leaves all over the yard from the maple. As time has gone on and the climate has changed, I can't count on the leaves as the telltale sign of my birthday. For many years, the leaves didn't turn, let alone actually fall, until November -- past my birthday. Other years, especially the drought-stricken years of recent memory, the leaves have turned and gone by mid-October (too soon for this girl!).

The tree isn't much longer for this world. It is very old, drying faster than you can imagine, and we've already had to cut limbs weakened by summer droughts and winter ice storms. It makes a nice wood to put in the fire pit, but there's sadness in that burning too. I dread the day the tree will come down at last. It's coming fairly soon -- the tree trunk is just barely on our neighbor's side of the property line, but the branches extend to both yards. As a kid, I always thought of the tree as ours and in a way, I still do. Dad and the neighbor have discussed it several times over the last few years -- we all know that the tree is dying. When limbs were cut a couple of years ago, one limb in particular had a portion of the center hollowed out and full of black ants. Yeah. Not good for the tree or for our respective properties (his shed, Dad's shed and our deck).

It is startling to realize that I'm about to turn 40. Honestly, it's a birthday I've looked forward to for quite some time now. I've been prepping myself for months, telling myself I'm 40. It's just a number. That's all. But it's a good number. I feel very at ease in my own skin and in my own life. It took me such a long time to get there. With age comes wisdom (sometimes, anyway), and as much as I still think of myself as being younger (I'll always be 27 in my mind!), I wouldn't want to do it all over again. I gained this perspective and insight and wisdom through my failures and missteps and stumblings -- and even if I could go back and change things, I wouldn't. Do I want to trade off the hard-earned knowledge for getting my way (and maybe getting far worse)? Not a chance. I'm keeping what I've earned. Yeah..... that's it. A sense of earning my keep in this world. That what I know and what I feel and sense and believe has been earned, and not just handed to me. That's what's making 40 feel like a great place to be.

Makes me giddy. Fall and 40.


One very VERY sad note: I lost a fraternity brother this week, and I am just heartbroken. Carolyn was only a few months younger than me. She was a dedicated teacher, coach, friend, and all-around good person. There will never ever be another person like her -- yeah, we all know that. But in this case, it's so very true. Carolyn wasn't the life of the party; she was the party. It really makes me so very sad to realize the world is a dimmer place without her. I pray today, the day of her funeral, that her family is strengthened and comforted by God's love and care, and that they take solace in the love shown by the legions of people whose lives were touched by her -- all the kids she coached, the students she taught, her colleagues, the friends who loved her, and anyone whose life was changed by her care and concern.

As for me, I am sure that the angels welcomed her warmly into Paradise. I also have no doubts that she's already organized a parade, followed by a barbecue, for all new arrivals to have a meet-and-greet! And is passing out clown noses and balloons to everyone. "Hey, Moses -- here you go, you forgot this! HONK HONK!"

Godspeed, Shotgun. You will be sorely, dearly missed, and I know we shall meet again.

Friday, September 04, 2009

An ugly W is still a W!!

Hallelujah, it has begun and the long national nightmare is over -- college football season has arrived!!! My beloved Gamecocks were again the Cardiac Chickens......

Last year, the game at NC State was almost a yawn: 34-0 and NC State looked baaaaaaad (and I don't mean "Superfly" kinda bad). This year, it was much, much closer, and near the end, looked pretty dang scary. We squeaked out a 7-3 win.

Actually, it's a good thing. For me, the harder you work for something, the more meaningful it is. And two, you learn more from your challenges than from your creampuff moments. Next weekend, Georgia is NOT going to be an NC State (no offense to the Wolfpack, mind you) so we had best develop our A+ game this week. Georgia will be bringing it -- especially if they get punked by Okie State.

Fall is just around the corner. It is official now! LET THE GAMES CONTINUE!