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What I’ve learned on the 10th anniversary of my unexpected blessing

April 1, 2014 Leave a comment

I don’t remember anything about March 31, 2004.  A quick check of the internet tells me it was a Wednesday and four American contractors were killed in Falluja. My Google search showed countless stories about it.  I’m sure it dominated the airwaves all day.

For me, I’m guessing I woke up in my 2-bedroom apartment on Davis Lane I shared with Kevin around 6am.  I probably woke the kids, fed them breakfast, and readied them for school.  Next, I probably dropped 7-yr-old Dylan off at Cowan Elementary, 2-yr-old Katie off at The Children’s Courtyard, and headed North on MoPac to the American Cancer Society on Kramer Lane where I was a supervisor for a team of Quitline counselors.  Once there, I’m sure I continued packing up my desk because I was moving into a double supervisor’s cubicle (nicknamed “The Doublewide”) with Heather Adams the next day, but I don’t remember it at all.  I’m guessing it was a pretty ordinary day.

But I remember April 1, 2004.  Not because someone pulled a great, memorable April Fool’s Day prank on me or someone I knew, either.  I spent the morning moving into the left side of  The Doublewide.  It was around 11am and I had my top desk drawer open, arranging pens, paper clips, etc… when I received my first phone call at my new desk.  I glanced at the caller ID and it said “Austin Diagnostic Clinic.” As I reached for the phone, I took a deep breath.  I had seen a neurologist earlier in the week to make sure some symptoms I had been experiencing weren’t serious and after a successful neurologic evaluation, followed up the appointment with a “just to be safe” MRI of my brain.

“Hello?” I offered.  “Hello. This is Dr. Reading with ADC.  Is this Shelley MacAllister?” “Yes,” I responded.  “I just got off of the phone with the radiologist who read your MRI scan and it looks like you have a bleeding brain tumor.” I think that’s almost verbatim what she said.  I can’t quote the rest of it, but it was a relatively quick call.  She had scheduled a follow-up appointment with a neurosurgeon off of MoPac/2222 at 5:30pm that day.  She apologized for having to share this information with me, I think.  I was in shock.  The call ended and I sat there for awhile.  Heather wasn’t there with me so I was alone in The Doublewide.  I just sat there, trying to absorb what I’d just heard. Bleeding brain tumor.  In my head.  Neurosurgeon.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the greatest unexpected blessing I’ve ever received, besides the births of my two kids.  Many of you know the story and some of you lived through it with me.  Here’s a link I wrote about it from 2011… http://wp.me/p1f5C8-26.

No doubt about it, it changed me. I’m trying to think of a way it negatively impacted me, but at this point, I can’t.  It gave me new life.  Recalibrated what I considered “good enough.”  It was hard as hell at the time, though.

I’ve felt alone many times in my life, even when I’ve been around people I care about.  That’s what depression and anxiety will do to you.  But what I went through with my brain scare was different.  It’s hard to describe, but I knew if I was going out, I was doing it alone.  I’m not sure if it was my mind’s way of reconciling what might happen to me, but I searched for peace from within.  “Peace from within” hadn’t resided inside of my heart too often before 2004.  I was acutely aware, no painstakingly, acutely aware, that my life had become a collection of reactionary living.  What I needed was at the bottom of every list, of every facet of my life.  This initial diagnosis threw a mirror up in front of my face and I couldn’t turn away.  I made so many changes in my life that year.  Some were devastating, but had to be done. I basically started over and reset my standards of who I wanted to be, how I wanted to live my life, and what I needed to do to get there.

After 10 years, though, I’m not going to act like it hasn’t been a struggle at times.  2005 had peaks and valleys.  2007 was a really hard year.  2012 was a super tough year, too.  But through it all, some of the seeds planted back in 2004 continue to flourish and mostly thrive from within.  Here are the most precious gifts I still have from my unexpected blessing:

1. Strengthened my relationship with God – this hasn’t changed.  In fact, it’s getting better and better.  “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me came on last night on my car radio.  I was just thinking about how lonely I felt when I was first told about the angioma in my brain and the song popped on the radio. I think it was God reminding me that I was never alone and he’s right.  The most peace I would feel through the scariest parts of 2004 was when I’d think about joining God in Heaven and how it would be.  I could feel this warmth wash over my body and spirit.  Like God was bathing me in His grace.  In His mercy.  In His hope.  In His promise of everlasting peace.

2. Taught me that good things can come out of any situation, even the really bad ones.  This is something I’ve shared with many people around me – friends, family, and strangers – and it’s a very precious view to have of life. A very remarkable gift.  You just don’t know what is going to happen next sometimes.  Spend your time assuming the worst or expect the best.  Either way, what’s going to happen will happen.  Don’t you want to spend it being positive? I can lose sight of this at times, but I always come back to it.

3. I truly understand gratitude.  Gratitude for time, gratitude for energy, gratitude for health, gratitude for my family, gratitude for peace, etc… I know what gratitude means.  Sometimes I have to remind myself and this one can get away from me pretty quickly, but I can always get myself back on track when I stop and breathe for a moment. Okay, I can get myself back on track eventually.  The foundation has been set for #3, but I still have work to do to live in the moment long enough, just to be present and not living in the past or looking too far into the future.  Being present in the “now” is the key to gratitude.

4. It’s okay if my needs come first sometimes.  In fact, it’s mandatory.  I can take time and do things for myself and my mom guilt is tolerable.  This is soooooo important and leads into my next gift…

5. I’m a runner, now, and not just ANY runner.  I’m a Northside Runaway with Rogue. This one is big.  I don’t think I ever would’ve had the confidence in myself to be a runner if I hadn’t gone through the experience of my health scare.  I most certainly wouldn’t have thought it was okay to run on a WEEKDAY EVENING when school was in session and on Saturday mornings, too.  No way!  But that was my old way of thinking.  New Shelley learned the #4 lesson.  My kids have a healthier mom – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, too.

For these next 10 years, I hope I can do a better job of living in the moment and having a more sustained sense of gratitude.  I hope to continue focusing on what I have and letting go of my “what if’s” and “what’s next.”  I was beyond lucky 10 years ago to be given this unexpected blessing.  I never would’ve had the sense of urgency or clarity or strength to make the changes in my life that I made back then.  The trajectory of my life is still on an upswing thanks be to the grace of God, a very loving support system of family and friends, and the series of my own personal decisions 10 years ago to use this unexpected blessing to put my life on a better path.

Peace out –

Shelley

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Thoughts before my second marathon

February 14, 2014 Leave a comment

First of all – hello! Just when I think I can’t get busier, somehow, I do. I haven’t done a very good job of blogging about my training (okay, none) but I have so many thoughts swirling around my head right now so thought I’d get them out on my blog.

This Sunday, February 16th, I will be running my second marathon.  If you are a friend or family member of mine (or neighbor, or friend of neighbor, or neighbor’s cousin, or anyone listening to 590KLBJ late this afternoon), you already know this!

I’ve approached my training and this race in a very different way than I did for my first marathon in Dallas (click here for that race report (http://wp.me/p1f5C8-3l).  Leading up to the Dallas Marathon, I was running at least three, usually four and sometimes five, days per week.  I was doing more core and strength work.  When I did my work outs, I paid close attention to my paces, goal times, pretty much everything I could.  I had a spreadsheet going.  Studied my Garmin Training Center religiously.  If I was going to run a marathon, I was going to do the best I could do given my schedule and available time. I worked really, really hard.  There were several others in our group who were also training for their first full or for the half and I did feel like we were all one, big, happy (albeit scared) family.  I had one very dear friend (Denise E.) who trained with me at my pace.  It was just the two of us.  If I didn’t show up, she’d be running by herself and vice versa and that happened minimally.  We were each others life lines.  There were no other options but we really didn’t need or want any other options, to be honest.  We had each other and that’s all we needed.  We shared so much and grew so close.  It was also the HOTTEST summer/fall on record that year.  On some evening runs, we’d start our run when the temps were over 100 degrees and that’s not even including the heat index.  To call it brutal would be an understatement. I ended up getting sick a few times and needed some special therapy to help with tight muscles for several weeks.  Hurt really bad, but worked.  It was INTENSE!  I enjoyed it, but it was HARD.  Getting sick not that long before my race really hurt my confidence, but we pulled out a 5:38 under rainy, breezy, and 40 degree temps.  My back seized up @ mile 18 and I was in a world of pain. But we did it!

Fast forward to this training season.  I’ve run twice per week most weeks with some 3-day run weeks.  On my non-running days, I’ve walked a lot more this time around and tried to incorporate strength and core, but really not like I should have.  I’ve been training with three other fabulous women so if 1-2 of us are absent, there’s still someone to run with.  It’s been nice!  It’s also been (what I would guess) is the, if not one of the, COLDEST winters on record.  We’ve run more than one training run when it was below freezing or close to it.  There’s been ice a couple of times, too.  We’ve run longer distances more frequently than last time.  But I haven’t been sick ONCE.  I thought I was going to finally succumb earlier this week when both of my kids came down with stuff, but Zicam, rest, extra fluids, and maybe divine intervention kept me healthy.  I haven’t had any injuries.  I’ve had the aches and pains that come with running 14, 16, 18, 20, and even one 22-mile long runs, but nothing that sent me  to a doctor or physical therapist.  It’s been a very different training experience this time around.  I think I should have done more, probably, but I did what I could do to balance out my training with my life.  I haven’t missed much of my kids things or needs and I haven’t been so stressed out about fitting everything in so I feel more even keeled emotionally this time around, too.

There are positives and negatives about both training experiences.  I know I’ll do this again in a couple of years and I’m sure that training cycle will bring on another completely different experience.  It’s kind of the fun thing about running, honestly.  Keeps you on your toes.

This Sunday, I face my second marathon.  I might be undertrained physically, but mentally, I feel strong.  I know I can do this.  I finally figured out what it meant to RACE during my last Austin Half Marathon two years ago and that knowledge should serve me well (http://wp.me/p1f5C8-3L).  I know I will be uncomfortable for over 5 1/2 hours (hopefully not much more than that) and it will be hard, but I can do it.  The weather is not looking ideal, but it will work.  It should be cool enough long enough to try and reach my goal of beating my first marathon time of 5:3838.  I have a pace band printed out for a 5:36 finish time for guidance.

I’m going to think about the lesson I keep learning and seeing over and over and over again and use it to my advantage.  The lesson is: YOU CAN FIND SOMETHING GOOD, EVEN IN BAD TIMES. When I hurt, when the weather isn’t what I want it to be, when I feel discouraged, I will turn it around and find the good.  I’ll focus in on the great crowd support I’m fully anticipating.  I can’t even count how many people have told me they’ll be out there cheering me on.  Really.  And there are a good handful of people who will be looking for me to jump in and run some miles with me towards the end, too.  So sweet. So thoughtful.  So comforting.  When I’m having a particularly tough time, I’m going to think about the people I’ve loved in my life, especially my grandparents, and the lessons I learned from them. The good times we shared together.  Just reel in the love. I’ll also remember some of my favorite Bible verses which will be written on my pace band, too:

I can do all things in God who strengthens me.   — Philippians 4:13

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.   —  2 Chronicles 15:7

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  —  Matthew 6: 21

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!  —  1 Chronicles 16:11

 

I’m ready for this. Let’s go.

Hill Country Half Marathon

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

What a race! The Hill Country Half Marathon was hands down the most challenging course I’ve ever run on before. The title lets you know it’s not going to be a flat course, but these hills were intense!  I ran the race with two of my Rogue friends, Denise and Sheryl.  Sheryl and I drove up the day before and stayed at her co-worker’s place which was a serene escape about 7 miles outside of Marble Falls.  We ate dinner at the Bluebonnet Cafe, which didn’t disappoint.

I went into this race initially hoping to finally run a half marathon under 2:30.  I’ve always felt like my mental state was preventing me from performing like I wanted to.  I felt very strong, mentally and physically, going into this race so I thought it could be my chance.  My previous fastest half was a 2:37.  Once Sheryl and I drove the course on Saturday night, though, I knew my goal was pretty unattainable so I started thinking about plan B and maybe even a plan C.  I was hoping to at least beat my 2:37 so 2:36:59 was my plan B.  Plan C was to beat my worse half marathon time which was a 2:55 or so.

We went to bed a little late but I could not really fall asleep.  I felt like I was somewhere between awake and lightly asleep the entire night.  It was very frustrating.  My nerves weren’t helping the cause and I remembered the night before my full marathon I got less than 6 hours of sleep so all in all, I’d be okay.

When we got to the stadium, it was cold!  Like, BRRRR, 39 degrees!  Luckily, the bathrooms were heated so that was nice.  This was a small race.  I’d like to know the total participants but it had to of been less than 600.  It was the first year of the race but it was well run.  There were 10K, half marathon, and full marathon race options.  The gun didn’t work so we all just kind of took off to silence, which was funny.o

We ran around half of the track at the stadium and then out on some grass and eventually a dirt/rock road before we hit pavement in a neighborhood.  I had 3 Gu’s with me and ate a honey stinger waffle right before we ran.  I had some energy chews, too, but decided the Gu’s were enough.

Running out of town, you could tell the descending was starting and all I could think of was how hard it would be finishing a half marathon going so much uphill but I tucked that fear away and focused on the present.  I ditched my gloves and jacket @ mile 3 so I was running with a short-sleeved running T and capris pants. The combo was perfect for the weather.

As I said before, the hills were CRAZY!  Sheryl pointed to the hill to our right on the way out, letting her know we’d be running to the top of it, and I thought she was just playing around.  I think we turned a little early the night before and I didn’t think we’d have to go that high up.  Sheryl was right!   Our turnaround was at the very top of this beautiful hill outside of Marble Falls and the views were just breathtaking.  This race just reconfirmed my desire to retire out in the Hill Country years from now.  Here’s the course and elevation profile (scroll to the bottom after clicking on the link below to see the wicked elevation!)

2013 Hill Country Half Marathon course and elevation profile

I SURE WISH I would’ve remembered to wear my Fitbit One so it could calculate the equivalents in stair climbing and descending.  I think 1069 ft up would mean over 100 flights of stairs, though, and that was just going up!  It was out and back so whatever went up had to come down, too.  I ended up walking three separate times up different portions of the hills because it was just too much.  I love the challenge of hills, but even these got me.  If I run this next year, won’t happen again 😉

The weather was PERFECT.  It was about 40 degrees at start but beautiful clear, blue skies once the sun came up with a light wind.  I’m guessing it was about 55 when we crossed the finish line.  Just gorgeous weather.

I felt pretty fantastic until about mile 11.  I so wanted to get under 2:37 but Denise told me I’d need to at least run 10 minute miles all the way back and with the hills (again, check out the elevation profile – mean way to end a race!) it wasn’t going to happen.  I refused to give up though and knew I wanted to finish strong so I picked it up as much as I could (going uphill to some degree over the last 3 miles!)

As we made it back to the stadium and made our half loop around the track to the finish line, I picked it up as much as I possibly could.  Since my Garmin wasn’t working, I don’t know my times and they haven’t posted them yet but I think it was a 2:48 or so.  That included a readjustment of my timing chip around my ankle at mile 1, a port-a-potty break at mile 4, a rock in the shoe removal at mile 6.7, and a loosening of the shoe I just tied a short time later 🙂  Denise’s watch was on auto-pause and she had us running a 2:40.  I’m damn proud of that time.  Around mile 3 it did dawn on me that people PR races like 3M, not the Hill Country Half Marathon.  It’s not a matter of guts, it’s a matter of the course.  Note to self.

SHERYL AND DENISE ARE EXCELLENT RUNNING BUDDIES!  They challenge me and push me to do my best and I love that about them.  I really enjoyed running the race with them and having the help of their husbands (our domestiques!) was great, too.  Really appreciated all four of them today!

Next up is possibly the 3M (as I chase that sub 2:30 half marathon) but my main goal will be the Austin Marathon on February 16, 2014.  My last marathon time was a 5:38 and I really think I can beat it, even if the Austin Marathon course is harder.  If I make the training happen, I know it’s possible.

Personal cheerleader

March 3, 2012 1 comment

Today’s run didn’t disappoint in terms of challenging course, tough winds, and extra excitement just past the half way mark.

We ran “Josh’s Eastside Loop” this morning. I hope I never meet “Josh” because I might have to kick him.  The first half of this course consists of hill, turn, steady incline, turn, more steady incline, turn, hill, turn, graveyard, turn, steady incline, turn…(I think you get the point.)  Normally this would be a tough course but today we added a brisk 10-20 mph wind from the north with higher gusts blowing in our faces for the first half and it was really hard at times.  Running against the wind messes with your head after awhile so you have to pay attention to your mental game. At some point, I couldn’t figure out how I could have the wind blowing against me, turn, and still have the wind blowing against me!  I conjured the Austin half in my head and reminded myself I’m mentally strong and I would get through it.

I ran by myself today, which was all my fault. I was running late (hit that snooze once, something I don’t normally do on Saturdays) so I made it to Rogue a few minutes late. By the time I dropped my bag, got my iPod and Garmin on, grabbed a map, and went outside, everyone had gone.  I hadn’t run this distance (7 miles) by myself in awhile but I used to ONLY run by myself so I knew I’d be okay.   At least I got to see a handful of my lovely Rogue ladies on my way into the building =)

This is the route we always get lost on.  I don’t think I’ve ever made the right choice at 11th St and Navasota. Today was just like any other day so I spent some time headed west on 11th when I should’ve been heading north on Navasota. I walked around some, trying to figure it out, so my 1st mile was an upper 12.  I was a little nervous running on some of the streets by myself on the east side of Austin, but the area is really changing and I love seeing the history of the area and there would be one or two people I’d cross paths with from time to time so it was fine.

I had a healthy wedgie so I decided to get it out since I hadn’t seen any runners around me for awhile.  Of course, about 20 seconds later, a couple ran up behind me and past me.  I bet I blushed.  It was really funny =)

The first water stop wasn’t until @ mile 3 and the next one was just before mile 4. I was stopped at a light when I heard someone yell out the window “good job, girl” so I turned and there was a man in a small gray car smiling at me.  I’m always friendly to people when I run, especially Saturday mornings.  I like to say “good morning” and smile and be cheerful.  So I smiled at the guy at the light and turned back around.  Okay, let me qualify that last statement. I’m usually friendly when I run. When cars are inconsiderate and come close to hitting me or my friends, I’ve been known to get a little mama-bear-with-rabies.  Not gonna lie.

I proceed to head south, wind at my back (woo hoo!) and was approaching Pleasant Valley which is a nice flat road back to Rogue.  I see my “friend” from the car at the light take a right, make a u-turn, and sit at the next intersection. Didn’t realize he was waiting for me until he turned right as I  passed the intersection and gave me a “looking good!” out the window.  At this point, I’m not completely freaking out.  There are 1-2 people ahead of me and I passed someone a block or two back so I’m not completely by myself.  Plus, he wasn’t being derogatory or aggressive, just a little creep-o.  Over the next two miles, he would appear in various places, yelling out to me his “words of encouragement” and this just made me run a little faster so I could try and keep up with the people way in front of me.  Right after I took a right on 5th St from Pleasant Valley, I heard a car slowly approaching me on my right.  It was him.  I had my iPod on, which I kept on, but he proceeded to give me some compliments (we’ll just say that, um, he seemed to be appreciative of my, um, womanly curves. Yes. I think that sums it up.)  He also proceeded to ASK ME FOR MY PHONE NUMBER.  Um, yeah, no.  So I kept my smile on my face and said “sorry, I have a boyfriend” because what the hell am I supposed to say?  Seriously?  I didn’t want to be a bitch but I didn’t want to encourage him at all.  He rode alongside me for a minute longer, stating he had to give it a shot because he’d probably never see me again, and he left.  I kept thinking he’d show back up at some point but he didn’t.  I was relieved.  Although the whole situation was weird and creepy, I never felt threatened, just a little stalked.  I ran a lot faster those last 3 miles though!  Check out my splits!

12:39, 11:46, 11:59, 11:56, 11:18, 11:01, 11:14, 10:49 (last 2/10 of a mile)

You can tell when my Gu kicked in, when the course got easier, and when my stalker started following me just after mile 4.  I kicked it into gear!  My running friend, Saira, told me she’s praying for me that I meet someone special.  I think she needs to pray just a little bit harder =)

Some of our Northside Runaways were going to eat breakfast with our coach after the run but Kate had a soccer game at 9:30am so soccer mama duties trumped breakfast with friends.  Kate played a great game.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Austin Half Marathon – redemption!

February 19, 2012 2 comments

I’d like to sufficiently warn everyone reading this that it will probably be obnoxiously long.  You have been forewarned.

WOO-HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

I killed it!  I wanted to beat last year’s time (2:55:10, 13:17 pace) and I not only beat it, but I never walked on the course (save for a few of the water stops, when filling up my water bottle, which I’m not counting!)  I even slayed the beastly hill on Enfield!  I am so incredibly happy with my performance.

Here were my splits, comparing this year to last year:

mile 1 mile 2 mile 3 mile 4 mile 5 mile 6 mile 7
2012 11:44 11:46 11:32 12:23 11:55 11:55 11:35
2011 11:52 12:04 12:37 13:27 12:52 12:51 12:03
mile 8 mile 9 mile 10 mile 11 mile 12 mile 13 last .2 mi
2012 11:41 11:56 12:33 12:48 12:37 12:07 9:01
2011 12:13 13:07 14:20 16:01 16:06 13:56 8:57

I ran a 2:38:20/12:05 pace on a super tough Austin half marathon course.  The weather was gorgeous, so that helped a lot, but I’m not giving Mother Nature all of the credit.  As everyone knows, I was out for 3 weeks due to bronchitis/sinus infection and I’ve only been back to running for one week prior to my race today.  But I knew I had more experience going into this race and I’ve been working on my mental game all week, so I was hopeful.  I told myself I would be uncomfortable, minimally, and maybe even in a decent amount of pain at times, for the majority of the course.  If I was going to pull off the time I was shooting for, after not being in the best conditioned state, I knew my attitude and mental toughness would be what carried me through this race.

One of my favorite Bible verses is from Phillipians (4:13) – “I can do all things through God who strengthens me.”  I decided to write that verse on my bib, on my pace band, and keep it fresh in my thoughts throughout the race.  It was a great choice.  Looking down at my pace band or repeating it in my head, especially when I was hurting a lot or about to conquer a tough hill, really helped.

I met Denise E., Denise D., and Val at Rogue at 5:45am and we took the shuttle to the race.  It was sooo cold!  We decided to wear our jackets and drop them at the mile 2 Rogue clothes drop – an excellent decision.  We tried to talk to distract ourselves from the temperatures, but it was tough.  The girls wanted to stop at the port a potties one last time so we headed over about 30 minutes til 7am. This is where I had a “um, do what?” moment.  This blonde girl, maybe mid-20s, came out of one of the stalls wearing white angel wings (awww…) and I told her I loved them!  She then told me “it’s time to lube up.”  I said “hey, we all have to do it” while she proceeded to break out her jar of Aquaphor, swipe a glob on her hand, stick her hand straight down her pants, and start lubing up her crotch.  She was facing everyone while she did it and the first few times I thought “well, you gotta do what you gotta do” but after the 20th or so time, I was a little uncomfortable.  She was really going to town.  It was so funny when my friends were done and walked over to me and I told them what was happening. We all cracked up!  We laughed about that one several times over the race course.

Denise squared, Val, and I planned to run this whole race together.  We had similar goal times in mind and thought it would be nice to have the social support on the course.  We were right!  We didn’t run four across hardly at all, but we did two front/two back for a few miles and the rest of the time, we mostly kept each other within our sights.  It was so good to have them with me on the course.  We didn’t talk hardly at all, but we didn’t have to.  Just knowing we were all there together helped a lot.  All three ladies are on my Rogue Northside Runaways team and they are truly my sisters.

The first couple of miles felt harder than I was expecting, but I reminded myself that it takes awhile to warm up (my toes didn’t thaw out until @ mile 3) and I saw my sweet friend Lisa, with a sign made JUST FOR ME, right before mile 2 and that put a little pep in my step.  I dropped my jacket at mile 2 and it felt so good to have that off of my waist.  I would’ve been way too warm if I had worn it the whole time.  Thanks, Rogue!  (just another perk of being part of THE BEST RUNNING GROUP in Austin, TX!)

As we ran over the Congress Avenue bridge headed south, I dropped my Gu and had to stop and run back to get it.  We hit mile 3 with our fastest time of the morning and I decided to pull back some because I had a side stitch and felt I needed to slow it down some.  That side stich (which started @ mile 1) stayed with me through mile 4.  It messed with my head some, which is probably why I ran a full minute slower in mile 4 than mile 3, but I reminded myself that I was certain I was going to blister badly after splashing through the Dallas Marathon puddles at mile 3 and IT NEVER HAPPENED, so don’t give up hope that this will go away.  Also reminded myself that I was anticipating at least some level of discomfort for the entire race so if a side stitch was it, then so be it.

As we turned to head north on 1st Street, I saw the same lady in a wheelchair that I helped push up a hill last year about 1/3 of a mile up ahead.  That was so cool!  I knew I was doing a lot better this year already so that meant she was doing a lot better, too.  This year she had 3-4 people surrounding her on bikes so she had more course support than last year (she was completely alone) so I yelled out to her “good job!” a few times but no pushing her up the hill this year =)

The first 6 miles really took a lot out of me and I was hurting in several places at this point so I decided to slow down a little more on 1st Street, even though it was mostly downhill.  Looking back, if I had picked it up a little bit, I would’ve PR’ed my best half marathon time so that’s a bummer, but I could tell I needed to regroup some and slowing down a little was okay.  I still averaged under 12 minutes all down 1st so I did fine, but that’s probably where I could’ve taken advantage of the course a little more.

As we were approaching Cesar Chavez (@ mile 9), I was nervous.  After I took the left at Cesar Chavez last year, that’s where I started to struggle.  I had 3 Gu’s in me so I pulled out my sports beans just to help me get a little push to keep me mentally strong and physically pumped.  As I made it down the road, I felt pretty good, definitely better than I felt last year.

At a water stop, I took a cup and attempted to fill my water bottle but splashed a lot on myself instead.  This is what happens when you try to keep running while you’re attempting to fill your bottle!  About 1/4 of a mile down the road, my iPod made a “pop!” sound and died.  I think I splashed water on it during that last water stop.  This was me: “Nooo!  I can’t lose my iPod now!  The toughest hills of the course begin about a 1/2 mile away.  OMG!” but I quickly stopped myself and said “hey, if you lose your music, you lose your music.  Losing your music isn’t going to make you crack.” Then I started thinking of what I could do to entertain me…listen to the sounds of the other runners, sing to myself, repeat my best mantras to myself over and over again “3 weeks of forced taper = fresh legs” – thanks, Tom!), and tried to come to terms with it.  I also knew I would be seeing several Northside Runaways who came out just to see our foursome and cheer us on so that helped my attitude a lot, too.  A little bit later, just after I repeated “I can do all things in God who strengthens me” I decided to try to turn it back on and see what happens – VOILA! – it worked!  I was really happy and relieved but even more proud that I didn’t freak out and tried to think of solutions instead of melting into the great abyss.

I hit the 10 mile mark under 2 hours and was very happy!  This was not an easy feat for me on this course!  We turned the corner onto Winstead and I saw our first Northside Runaway spectator, Z, who had her dog, Bama, and was cheering us on. It was so great to see them!  She told us our posse was just around the corner so to keep it up.  I started to entertain the thought, going up Winstead, that I might have to walk on the really tough Enfield hill but if I did, it was okay.  Then I thought I needed to stop giving myself an out when I’m not even there yet and I would just take it as it comes.  Winstead was tough, but I kept running.

We turned the corner at Enfield and I knew we had just over 2 miles left.  I thought “You can do ANYTHING for 2 miles!” so I just kept going.  I thought, again, there was a decent chance I might have to walk up part of it, but I kicked that thought out of my head again and focused on right now.

I knew my friends would be at Enfield and Hartford and I had googled it so see where that intersection was and I knew it was three roads from MoPac so I should be seeing them shortly…and there they were!  Lia, Chelsea, Saira, and Ade, all looking so beautiful, were screaming like maniacs for me!  I ran over and gave them all high fives and I don’t think I said anything, but I know I had a huge grin on my face.  I picked it up a little but then said “um, cut it out!” and tried to lock into a good pace.  It was a steady incline for awhile and then a nice downhill but at the bottom of that great downhill was the beginning of the biggest uphill on the course so it was a little hard to get too excited about going down.  The two ladies behind me starting laughing like crazy when they saw the beastly hill.  It was so funny!  They couldn’t even talk because they were laughing so hard.

As I tried to let gravity pull me downhill, I looked at the beast and found a point about midway (a traffic sign) and decided I would run to at least that point and then see how I would feel.  I made it up to the sign and although it was hard, I knew I could push it to the top so I committed to it and that’s what I did.  When I made it, I was beaming with pride!  So many people were walking up that hill, probably 80%, but I didn’t do it.  What a difference a year makes!  And a strong mental game!

I still had over a mile left but with the wind in my sails from that hill, I knew I was poised to beat a 2:40.  I didn’t know if that was possible going into it at the start line, but I knew for sure I could do it now.  I thought I might even be able to beat my best half marathon time ever, a 2:37:54 which I ran at the 2011 3M, but it would be really, really hard.  I waited a little too long to kick it in because honestly, I didn’t think I would have much “kick in” left but I really suprised myself.  That burst of speed at the end was all heart.  My Garmin clocked me running 8.3mph at my best effort those last .2 of a mile.  I honestly passed about 30 people, maybe more, in the last .10 of the course.  I felt like a rock star!

I crossed the finish line bursting with pride, relief, joy, gratitude, etc… It didn’t take too long for the tears to start flowing.  I was almost sobbing at times.  The last 2 months of my life have been very difficult. Between illnesses, some work stuff, and some personal stuff, I was depressed for most of that time and I felt so beaten down.  I needed this race today.  I’d been getting stronger and feeling better over the past two weeks, but I needed to see that my mind was strong enough to get me through a difficult course with less than ideal conditioning over the past month.  It felt so good to rely on my brain, my heart, and my body to make it happen and anihilate my old course record by close to 17 minutes!  I knew I could do it!  These endorphins should carry me through to Wednesday, at least =)

If you read this far, you truly are wonderful!  Thanks!

Categories: Uncategorized

The wheels on the bus…

February 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m just finishing up my third (and final, or for at least 6 months, please?) cold and this one was a real doozey.  It turned from a regular cold to a sinus infection plus, wait for it, bronchitis!  Woo-hoo!  I started a z-pack about 10 days ago and while I still have a cough and some congestion, I feel tons better.  Can I just say my timing for this stuff sucks?  Came down with a vicious sinus infection @ 3 weeks prior to my marathon and now this crap about a month out from the Austin half.  I’ve had the Austin half squarely in my sites ever since I crossed last year’s finish line.  I knew I could’ve done better and I couldn’t wait to take another shot at it in 2012!

When I realized I was getting sick – again – a few weeks ago, I couldn’t believe it, which is kind of dumb since this was becoming more the norm for me!  This hit my lungs in a big way in less than a week and I knew the Austin half was slipping out of my grip.  One week out from my last run, I was thanking God I hadn’t tried to run that Saturday morning because I knew it wasn’t looking good for me and what this cold was turning into.  Two weeks out from my last run, I had a few days of antibiotics in me but still had such a thick, horrible cough that I knew I wouldn’t be running in the near future.  I was also thinking there was a decent chance I wouldn’t be running Austin at all and I came to terms with it.  I was emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually exhausted so I surrendered peacefully, something not in my norm AT ALL.  I really turned a big corner yesterday, though. It was weird, but probably was directly tied to the fact that I had been getting good sleep, at least 7 hours, every night the past week and guess what?  I felt better!  And my body healed faster!  Not rocket scientist stuff here, but such a good reminder for me.

Three weeks out from my last run, which was this morning, and I was ready to get out there and see what happened.  Although, I walked outside when it was in the mid-30s with a 12-15mph wind and thought “um, I didn’t miss this part of it all.”  I thought this morning would be telling.  If I struggled really hard, I knew the Austin half would still be attempted but I’d just treat it as a long run and not a race.  We had 6.5 miles on the schedule, including a 1.5 mile warm up, 4 miles of half marathon goal pace, and 1 mile cool down. Denise and I discussed it (huge side note – I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE HER!!!!!! I miss my ladies on so many different levels so to finally see a friendly face, after 3 weeks, was fantastic!) and thought we probably would just skip the goal pace work and get the miles in.  I started running and I felt okay.  I kept waiting for my legs to feel like bricks but it never happened.  Can’t say I felt light on my feet out there but I wasn’t trudging through, either.  We finished the warm up and then started the goal pace work.  We weren’t quite where we needed to be, but considering this was my first run in 3 weeks, I was very happy and encouraged by my performance out there.

12:20, 12:22, 11:57, 11:53, 11:27, 11:21, 11:59

My half marathon goal pace for Austin should be around 11:10 but I’m not sure I can pull it off on that course and one week of running after a 3 week hiatus.  My clock time from last year was a 2:55:09, 13:22 pace, but the wheels on my bus fell off around mile 10.  I want to keep all of my wheels this year!  I’m thinking an 11:30-12 pace is more realistic, probably closer to 12.  Even if I run on the slower end of that goal, I’ll still kill my 2011 time.  I’m certainly not going to run it conservatively.  I’m racing it.  If I lose a wheel, so be it.  Hopefully they won’t all fall off, but I’m giving it everything I can so I know I tried my best.

Finding my balance again…

January 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Before todays long run, I only had 30 miles under my belt since my marathon on Dec. 4th. This was due to my 2 week recovery where we ran less, me missing runs, and a 9-day period where I didn’t run at all because I was sick.  After being sick in November, I didn’t want to chance it this time so I took it easy.  I ran last Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, and cross-trained on Thursday this week so I’m getting back into the swing of things.  The Austin half-marathon is on 2/19 and I need to jump back into it with both feet to be ready.

I sure missed running.  I gained a few pounds over the holidays, which was to be expected with what I ate and the minimal running I was doing.  Now I’ll need to shave those pounds off before the Austin half.  I can do it.

But even more than the physical ways I missed running, my brain/psyche/heart missed it the most.  The majority of my holidays were filled with great times with family but unfortunately, there was one event that happened and it tore me up inside.  It was out of the blue, nothing I could’ve predicted, and nothing I expected.  It really worked me emotionally, big time.  I decided pretty quick that I wouldn’t let it shape this whole holiday for me so I focused on my family and made the best of it.  I had no control over this situation, all I could do is react and hope I was choosing right.  I was so fortunate to be surrounded by so many great family members though so it was easy to get distracted and wrapped up in what was going on around me.  But I was counting the days to when I would feel good enough to go run again because I knew I needed to press “reset” in my heart and a good run can always do that for me.

When I first started running, I cried almost every time I was out there.  I ran by myself, even after I started running with Rogue, because I had a lot of feelings and insecurities I had to work through first.  It touched me to my core that I was believing in myself, pushing myself far beyond my preconceived “limits”, and seeing success after success.  The tears just flowed and flowed.  I felt like running was an emotional and spiritual cleansing of sorts and once I worked through so much, I was able to join in with my teammates and open up more.  I’M SO GLAD I REACHED THAT POINT!  My Rogue ladies mean so, so, so very much to me.  I always love to see their smiling faces and hear about their successes on the road.  We have a true sisterhood and I know they’ve got my back.

But today, after everything that happened over the holidays, I had to go back to running by myself, turning up my iPod, and working things through in my head.  Over the first couple of miles, I chatted with Denise and Whitney and it was great!  But then I could feel I needed to peel off and just be by myself.  I also decided today that “easy pace” wouldn’t be my goal for this entire run.  This Coach’s Special route was TOUGH, lots of hills.  I ascended 2267 ft and descended 2397 ft, all in a SEVEN MILE span of distance.  But I still pushed past my easy pace because I needed to feel myself pushing hard those last handful of miles.  It felt SO GOOD, too.  I ended up running 7 in 1:22:45 and my overall pace was 11:49.  I’m leaving my Garmin on the whole time, no auto-pause or turning it off at lights/water stops.  Here were my splits:

12:33, 12:37, 12:04, 11:26, 12:27, 11:42, 9:52

This included two brief water stops and several lights, one that seemed to last forever.  I loved how I felt out there today.  I’m so grateful to have this outlet to help me celebrate the joys in my life and also to work through the tough times.

I did foot drills when I got back to Rogue and bought my Mac Attack shirt (it’s AWESOME and proceeds of this shirt go towards Rogues’ own Scotty Mac and Alison Mac, who are attempting to qualify at the Olympic trials soon – WOW!)  I think it’s double-cool that my last name happens to be MacAllister, by the way.  I’m wearing this shirt with pride.  Riding on the coattails, baby!  I sped home, took a 5 minute shower, and zipped Dylan over to his archery class by 9:35am.  Yes, I’m wearing my Super Mom cape today but I’m happy to be finding my balance again, spending time taking care of myself – body, mind, and soul.   Happy Running to you all!