I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Great. Expectations.

It should come as no surprise that since my marathon finish, I have been thinking about not only what I should do next but also my marathon performance. How I handle the first depends upon my feelings about the second.

So. How did I do?

To be honest, while I am proud to be able to check something off of my bucket list, I think I could have done better. I was unsure of my preparation, even though I have never followed any plan perfectly and I have a 100% finish rate *knock on wood,* and thought it best to run conservatively; about a minute slower than my projected ability. I know the next time I have any race, I will not have a wedding with which I must contend to interfere with my training. It was naive of me to think as I was training that I would be a one and done marathoner, the way I have been (thus far!) with my 70.3. Running brings me such joy and while sometimes I hate training, I have never had less than fabulous time at a goal race. That being said, if given the chance to run my first marathon again, I would approach race day in the same way. Had I run at my projected pace and felt like I had to drag myself across the finish line or worry that I would burn out, I think I would regret going too fast and I would be beating myself up for that. Seems silly to beat myself up to do what I felt was best to finish, especially given that it was something to “get out of the way” before Adonis and I try for a Girl J.

What’s next?

I had envisioned 2017 to be the year where I back off from long races so that I could focus on preparing my body for a Girl J. 5ks, 10ks, just working on being fit. However, completing the marathon cemented something for me that I should have realized earlier – shorter races don’t bring me the same joy that longer races do. When I think about how I feel when I finish 5ks or 10ks, it is usually something like, “Whew! Glad that’s over!” Finishing half-marathons has consistently been more thrilling for me. Even in my training, my favorite part of the week is my long run, although it scares me every time. While I don’t want to run another marathon in 2017, I would like to squeeze in one more while I am still running for one, tee hee.

2013 was the year I discovered I can run. 2014 was the year of the triathlon. I don’t know what the hell happened in 2015, but 2016 was the year of the marathon. Here is to 2017 being the year of the half!

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Not the time to ask me which me(t/d)al means more to me. #marathonfinisher #stillmarried

 

Well. Another new year is upon us. And a whole heap of weight is upon me. Damn. I’m fat again.

Of course, I’m mad at myself for allowing such weight gain in the past two years of my life, despite continuing to race. I feel as though I have failed; as the losing all the weight that I did really means nothing because I haven’t been able to keep it off.  Each time I log into MyFitnessPal – and am completely honest, re: weight – I feel like a loser (gainer?). Is anything really different this time? I thought it had been, because I’d finally learned that weight management is a process not an event. I thought that because I found an activity that I really enjoy that I would be able to maintain my weight loss within 5 to 10 pounds. It turns out that I am still not over my habit of using food as a way to cope with changes in my life. Marriage, stepchildren, moving. Two weddings (long story)!  It was a lot of business. Plus, food still tastes GREAT. Nevertheless, I still need to do something about my current weight, because I am not as healthy as I could be.

I think I should be thankful that I am in a place where I recognize that my problem is not so much the fact that I’ve regained weight that I’ve lost but the fact that it was easy for me to do so because of how I deal with change in my life. I also think I have issues with my body image that allow for me to be indifferent as to how I look. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I weigh 150 or 200; I seem to always see a fat person in the mirror. It is much easier to follow a plan and make more good choices than bad than it is to really zero in on what it is that causes me to feel this way. That just might be a beast that I will have to fight for all of my life. I hope my goals for the year are not incongruent; I would like to run 4 Half marathons and lose 40 pounds. 10 pounds per race. Ha. I will be writing more in the coming week about why I have chosen those particular goals, as well as how I feel I performed in 2016 and meeting those goals. 

Here’s to not completely screwing up 2017. Happy new year!

We all know it’s the same me. I just want to get her into my pants.

The Little Piano Girl

“That’s me!” says the 31 year old woman.

When I feel miserable, it’s typically a result of one thing – my chronic feeling of inadequacy. It is frustrating to feel as though no matter what I do, no matter how much education or experience I attain, the target of success moves continually. Life is a seemingly endless race and death is the finish line.

How is that for an inspirational message for the Christmas season?


All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
No one calls on your name
    or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
    and have given us over to[b] our sins.

Isaiah 64:6-7 (NIV)

I suppose what needs changing is not so much that I am feeling like the filthy rags the prophet Isaiah describes, but rather why I do. Feeling badly because I feel inadequate can only be the result of a misplaced idea of what adequacy truly is. I am more than adequate, not because of the reality of what I may or may not accomplish, but because of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. As I played piano once more this Christmas season, I realized that the song that resonated most with me was “The Little Drummer Boy.” There truly is nothing I can do that measures up to what God has done for me, this year, in past years, and in all the years to come. I play my little piano in the hopes of serving Him. May the Prince of Peace grant me the peace of finally coming to grips with the Source of my adequacy, and may I do so before my finish line.

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Perfume. 

Lipstick. 

Earrings. 

Go to the bathroom as much as possible. 

Thank God for all He has provided me, also think of sins for which I need forgiveness so earthly payment doesn’t come due during the race. 

The last one in that checklist (perhaps the last two, tee hee) especially should indicate my level of anxiety. I try, imperfectly of course, to be thankful regularly, and I don’t think of God as my “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of partner, but if there’s any day that I need a solid from the Lord, it’s today. The fabulous 3M had just texted me an excerpt from Hebrews 12, something I had reminded myself before my 70.3 and was trying to keep in mind –

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Yes, Joan. While there is joy at the finish line set before me, the marathon is not the cross. Remember this today. Any pain I experience, while important to God, likely won’t approach crucifixion levels. 

I found the 5:45 pacer and asked him what his plan was. Murray said he was going to run for 2 minutes at about 12 min mile pace and do a brisk walk for 1 minute. He said that while he’s not an official Galloway pacer, running steadily at a 13:10 pace seemed too slow. Fair enough! I figured I wouldn’t get in trouble and go out too fast if I chilled with Murray, so I lined up with him in the corral after hugging my amazing family and saying a prayer with them. 


The horn for which I’ve trained for months finally sounded. I wiped away tears of excitement and awe that this day is really here and walked toward the timing mat. The French horn opening of the first movement of Brahms 1st piano concerto set the mood in my ears for this part of my journey – grand, expansive, RUBATO! Not. Too. Fast. I stayed close to Murray* at the very beginning, but something didn’t feel right about it. I let him go and just paid attention to my Garmin. Mile 1 passes and I look down at my watch. 12:43. And Mr. 5:45 is AHEAD of me. Nope. 

A lady sidled up to me and asked what my plan was. “2/1, stay alive, finish under 6!” I replied. “Me too!” she answered. 

I need you to understand this. I had imagined that I might make a friend or two on the way to the finish line. It had been immensely helpful to me during my 70.3 to do the run with someone, and I will never forget her. So when I say that I was open to running the race with someone else despite preferring to train alone, you must know that I really meant it. 

This was not that someone. 

Roz* from New Jersey was running this marathon on her journey to join the 50 states marathon club. This marked marathon number 15 for this running coach who would NOT. STOP. TALKING. She asked me about my training, and I judged her as I answered her stupid questions politely. I say her questions were stupid because they were questions for which I could presumably have wrong answers. If I did something wrong in my training, what the hell am I supposed to do about it now in mile 2 of the marathon? Turn around? Heffa, please. Performance day is just that. Make it work now, ask questions later. 

Still, I thought the Christian thing to do was to deal with her neediness. Some people need people to boss around to feel useful. I turned up my music and nodded and smiled as she went on about herself. I asked cogent questions. Everyone runs differently and if I can help someone run the best race she can, I can handle a bit of annoyance. 

Jim* rolled up on us around the 5k point. He was talking with Roz and it turned out he was already in the 50 states club. I was thankful for Jim because he took some of the pressure off of me. He wasn’t with us for very long, to which Roz said, “some people just need to show off and talk about themselves to new people!” I burst out laughing at the irony of her observation. “Don’t laugh too hard, Joan. 23.1 to go – save your breath!” I thought. 

At mile 5, I decided to use the toilet. JUST in case. I wasn’t feeling a pressing need to go, but my colleague at work who just completed her first marathon said that it’s better to go in the beginning rather than later. What could it hurt? Plus, I was hoping Roz would go ahead of me. Well, she did, but not for long. A mile or so later, she stopped to refill her water and said she would be behind me. “Okay!” It took a LOT of willpower to stay at my current pace and not purposely speed up to put distance between us. I suppose I have more faith in my patience than I do my legs. 

The marathon and half-marathon courses were concurrent for about the first 7 miles. Then it got REAL lonely out there, man. It looked like I was going into the wilderness. I was actually thankful for Roz’s yelling behind me because I didn’t see a single soul ahead of me. Disconcerting, y’all. It wasn’t too long before I saw some more cones, cops, and the winner headed in the opposite direction toward the finish line. Confirmation of the correct path was comforting, indeed. 

As the race continued, I felt pains that worried me. My left hamstring in mile 8. My right calf in mile 13. I prayed for them and pressed forward. I stayed focused on my 2/1 intervals and the miles just came to me, one by one. I smiled as I enjoyed the music of the clearly brilliant person who created this playlist. I shrugged and sighed as I caught up to and passed Murray, who told me he didn’t think he was going to make it in 5:45. 

Speaking of the aforementioned brilliance, I had tried to time the gospel music around mile 19 – when I projected I might be questioning my life choices most. “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” “My Tribute.” “How Great Thou Art.” Naturally, I chose really powerful arrangements that evoked great emotion. Too much emotion. I started to think about how amazing God is and tears came to my eyes. I felt tingles all over. I glanced down to look at my heart rate. 

TWO.

O.

BLOODY.

FIVE. 

OKAY GOD PLEASE HELP MY HEART RATE COME DOWN BECAUSE I HAVE NEARLY TWO HOURS OF RACE LEFT IN JESUS’ NAME AMEN

Not the most artful prayer, admittedly. I slowed my walking and that helped. I drank more water from my trusty CamelBak. Every sip tasted heavenly, so I can assume by this point I was likely dehydrated. I didn’t want to have my stomach sloshing around with water and honey stingers, but I suppose my trying not to drink too much didn’t help my tingly euphoria. 

By mile 22, my heart rate was still sky high on my run intervals. I didn’t like it. I am confident God brought me Roz for this one piece of advice – “if you get tired, switch your run time to your walk time. That way you don’t lose hope or momentum.” I went from 2/1 to 1:30/1:30. I checked the clock. I had an hour to meet my time goal. I could do that with a speedy walk if I needed to. I stayed in the shade as much as possible. 

I saw some volunteers by the stadium where the race had begun. “This way to glory?” I asked. “Yes ma’am!” 

Then the most beautiful thing happened. 

As I caught sight of the finish line, the recap of the Brahms concerto with which I had begun the race was starting. I don’t know that I can properly describe how fitting this was – to hear that moment in the music at just that time, but it brought the biggest smile to my face. To be back where I started but in a completely different way – just like the music! was nothing short of perfection. I turned on to the track and saw my awesome Mommy. “Hi Mom!” “Hey Jo!” as she whipped out her camera. “You’re almost there!” The clock read 5:55:26 as I crossed the timing mat. I. Win. 

I serve a God that allows for so much more than finishing the race. I finished the marathon with BOTH arms in the air, a bright smile, and Brahms in my ears. He is a cherry on top kind of God. My prayer is that I can keep this moment close to me forever as I continue running with Him and toward Him. 


*- I don’t change names to protect anyone who annoys me. 

6 days ago, I made a playlist for my last long run of my marathon training. My idea was to choose one type of music per mile. Typically, I choose what I want to run to strategically anyhow, but for long distances I put it on shuffle so whatever comes, comes! I thought it fitting to name the playlist “Marathon Test.” 

My test playlist was going fabulously well! 7 miles…no. 7.68 miles in. Bob Marley is playing. I was loving the run and the next thing I knew, boom. I was yelling on my way to the ground. My foot had caught a raised part in the sidewalk and I fell. HARD. 


Naturally, my first concern was my musician’s hands. Aside from the nasty abrasion, they were fine. However, when I tried to get up, I realized I couldn’t put pressure on my right hand because my shoulder was killing me. “Faaaaantastic. My race is in a week and I just may have put it in jeopardy.”

I spent the week icing it and spending quality time with the chiropractor. Fast forward to today and I am in Jacksonville, where I can now put on a shirt without grimacing! God is good, indeed. He is also hilarious because my period came this week, just as it had for my 70.3 two years ago. Between imagining what it would be like to cross the finish line, normal hormonal swings, the end of the quarter at work, and my concern for my shoulder, I have been an emotional hot mess. It is really important to me that I finish, not just because I want to finish everything I start but because I want to get this out of the way before preparing my body for a Little Joanie! I don’t know if I can handle marathon training taking over my life again any time soon, regardless of how I finish. 

I haven’t been feeling particularly confident, as my training was far from perfect. I wasn’t even in the mood to get my nails done and eyebrows waxed, a vital pre goal race tradition. While I am not a superstitious person, it felt like a bad idea to forego my prettification. My nail tech, Alexa, asked me what brought me to the shop. “I’m running my first marathon!” She paused and then replied, “Awesome. You’ve got strong legs,” as she massaged them for me. Another lady at the shop, several minutes later, said the same thing. “Your legs look strong.” 

As I pondered their words, I continued work on my playlist. I was about to change the title from Marathon Test to something else, but it dawned on me that my race tomorrow is, in fact, the ultimate test. Did I put in sufficient time training? Will I have the will to continue as the race progresses? Is my body strong or are these women looking for a tip? 

May I awaken tomorrow to discover the truth, knowing I will be accompanied by the perfect color for my sure to be tired feet.

Negativity is bad. Like, really, really bad. 

Not the kind of bad that lets you know up front that it is bad, like tickets to a Browns game or a $25 sandwich at the airport terminal. It’s the insidious kind that pretends to be on your side, like shots of tequila giving you ‘courage’ before you end up falling on your face. 

Negativity would show up to my training sessions handsomely dressed as Realism or Caution. It wouldn’t say to me, “Joan, you can’t finish” or “Joan, why are you doing this.” It would say, “Be careful or you won’t hit your pace!” “Don’t expect a good training day because you haven’t been perfect with your diet!” I would find myself going faster than I needed to in the beginning of runs because of fear and inevitably end up tired in the middle, thus affirming my negative thoughts before I caught on to what was happening.

The only effective method I have for combating Negativity is to simply keep showing up. I will admit that there were times over the last 16 weeks where I allowed it to beat me, but overall, I believe I won. I will not be able to confirm my victory until tomorrow at about 1 PM EST, but for all the times I felt like giving up, fearing that I am unworthy of the starting line of a marathon, there were many more that I fought through and finished. 

Let’s hope that the 15 pounds I’ve gained are pure courage. 

The Show Must Go On.


Can’t what, you ask? Stay in the bed, as I wanted to do. There was a Veterans’ Day Assembly at work and naturally, the music teacher was on call. On the program today: a 1st grade class singing America and This Land is Your Land, and a Kindergarten class matching with flags to The Stars and Stripes Forever. 

I first went into the first grade classroom to do a quick run through with them. I smiled as they stood up and faced the American flag, excited to represent their school in front of the entire student body and the guest veterans. I kept it together as they sang America, but as soon as they started bouncing cheerily for This Land is Your Land, tears came to my eyes. The simple lyrics of the first verse: 

This land is your land

This land is my land 

From California

To the New York island

From the redwood forest 

To the gulf stream waters 

This land was made for you and me 

You. And. Me. 

I love that I teach an ethnically diverse group of students, each of whom sings enthusiastically and believes in that America. Each time they come to my classroom, they stand and face the flag giddily, prepared to start, sing, and end together prior to the beginning of that day’s lesson. Whenever I teach them their patriotic song in the beginning of the year, I ask, “Why do you like singing these songs in particular?” 

I love America.

It is fun living here. 

America has lots of stuff to do. 

I am humbled to have a job where I help children express their positive feelings about our country. I ask them to think about the people who have served America in the military prior to singing, the ones whom have helped make America a lovable, fun place with lots of stuff to do. I demand that they sing their best because so many have given their best so our children may sing freely. I strive each day to give them my best so they have as many opportunities as possible; to think, to grow, to challenge themselves. 

I brought my Kindergarteners into my room to rehearse the flag march, and let me tell you something – you have not seen excitement until you’ve handed 20 5-6 year olds each two miniature American flags to wave.  I reminded them to hold the flags still and respectfully, just as we should respect our country. As I heard the introduction of our national march, I started to tear up again. I stepped outside myself to ensure that my students were moving correctly, marching steadily, facing their conductor. “If you are not paying attention, you don’t get to celebrate veterans with us today -” was indeed an effective warning for them. They were eager to do their best, for me, for their school, for their families and country. 

As we filed outside for the assembly, I saw the veterans to be honored on the stage. After making sure my performers were seated and knew what to do, I stood to attention, as the color guard was about to enter. 

I lost it. 

Tears were streaming down my face. 

I wiped them away, not wanting to cause anyone concern, but all I could think was, 

“There are people who don’t want me here.”

There are people who see the many colors of my American classroom as a bad thing. There are people who see others as enemies solely because they appear different, worship another deity, or were not born in the United States. I know this is hardly news, but these people are elated that America’s president-elect has helped them express their views more comfortably. 

I understand that there are many people who voted for Mr. Trump that have no interest in discriminating against that which is different. I understand that there are people that I love – and that love me – who did so. I am saddened that this was the man who excited the conservative base in our country, because there were 16 other candidates with the same agenda who didn’t have an interest in overtly provoking the racist dragons that have existed in America from its beginning. I don’t expect them to feel how I do, but if you are truly my friend, I do expect you to consider my feelings. Consider that you probably have never had to question whether people viewed you as American enough. Consider that people likely don’t approach you with pre-judgment. Consider that I am wondering if my uterus should remain vacant until 2020 because I am not sure if this is the America I want my child(ren) introduced to. 

I truly believe the biggest lie told during the presidential campaign was that America is not already great. I could not stay in bed and reflect today because I had a show to do. I have rehearsal every day until Christ comes back (maybe between December 20 and January 20; I am kinda curious to see how my marathon goes – relax! I kid), and my mission in America’s practice room is to make her better by engaging with people who think differently than I do in a respectful manner. Helping others achieve their dreams. Serving my community. 

We’ve got a show to do. 

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