Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Small steps...

I am in a state of numbness about running. Unfortunately, my legs are not. It still hurts to bend and stand and lift heavy crates of lettuce, which I have to do a lot at the store. My running partner, C. is not sore, which is fine, but it doesn't change the fact that I am. Why, though?

I want to walk my old running routes-- like the two weeks between cross country and track in college, when I missed it so much I couldn't stay away-- and think about my life and try to understand why seasons change and things die, but I can't. Short walks tire me out. I miss running; I miss races, but I don't want either of them right now. I have this terrific feeling that running is all at once everything and nothing to me. That it still defines me, is almost closer than my name, but still I hate it. Why didn't anyone tell me that a marathon is the slow, torturous version of a truck hitting your whole body?

On Sunday Pat and I sat out side the library on the grass with two bowls of ice cream and a notebook and made a list of pros and cons to help him decide if he should go to grad school (he got accepted the night before the race). Though both lists were a fair size before we called it a day, in the end all we could really see on the 'con' side is the money thing and the family thing. I miss my family, and I don't want to be in debt, but weighing on the other side were massive things like community, vocational direction, and the fact that we will stay in Seattle, which I also love. And its only three years, after all. Not a decade, not a lifetime. After a few moments silence while we both stared off into space, Pat looked at me with a grin shyly forming and asked, "Well, Kristin, what do you think?" I thought for a minute.

"I think I'm going to run another marathon," I said. Which he said he already knew.

So yesterday we caught the 30 to the campus and walked around a little bit after he turned in his intent-to-enroll paperwork. So that's it. Pat's a student again! Which has inspired me to get my own proverbial shit together and start perusing Craigslist for a teaching job. Just a couple months now left of freedom before Pat moves and embarks on a task which could very well send a new wave of stress into our relationship, but I really couldn't be more excited.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where moment meets eternity

So why can't I describe the way I feel about it?

It's been all I've been thinking about for six months. Or even longer: since I was twelve and Mom dragged us downtown early one sunday morning, and I watched the Kenyans speed by with something in their eyes that I didn't understand, or that lady with the tiny veil, running right next to the man with a matching t-shirt, proclaiming, "Just married." All those smiling faces parading past, all running towards something I couldn't see or didn't know, just knew that I wanted to work for it, too.

And I have! I have for so long. Every humiliating, dog-tired day of cross country in college, every terrifying track meet. Every inch of success has given me another taste, every failure has only increased the burning for the ultimate thing: the marathon!

I remember just a month or so ago, the first time I ran fifteen miles and felt, for the first time, a true sense of despair about it, like it was something that I maybe just couldn't do. I have an insatiable optimism when not in the precise moment of trial. And though I have a great capacity for fear and panic in the moment, beyond it I am determined and sure. So it shook me that day when I came home and said to my mom, "You know, I just don't know..." But the following long run was longer, and I felt fantastic at the end of it. 18 was thrilling because I'd never been there before and I felt that the marathon was truly finally within my grasp, that the massive number 26 was something I could and would do.

But yesterday, in the hot sun, on the hill, 18 was not thrilling, it was miserable. For that matter, 8 was miserable if only just because I knew there was still so much to go. My mind was just ...off... from the beginning. I was so full of fear you could have wrung it out of me. Even my running partner kept looking at me in disbelief. "Kristin, this isn't like you..." At the time, I didn't feel too bad about it, because I felt that the pessimism would be outweighed by the result, that when I finished the pessimism would seem justified. After all, no one says a marathon is easy. The better you are, the more you want to try, I imagine.

But by mile 13, C. was slipping away. She had been pushing past me since the first mile, though I'd brushed it off as race-day enthusiasm, something we'd traded between us on these longer runs. As we rounded the 14th, however, I came to know that she just had more in her than I did. More: skill, training, mental capacity? I don't know; just more. By 19, I couldn't see her anymore, and when we passed each other on a turn around, we cheered, and I noticed she still looked fantastic. Where was my confidence? Where was the hard work I'd put in? Earlier that day I'd talked to another runner before the race and we'd agreed how scary it feels to taper your mileage right when you feel that you need it the most. "You'll be surprised how much your body remembers, though," she promised me. But whether or not my body remembered, I have no idea. My head completely forgot. I, at no time during the race yesterday, had the notion that I could really accomplish it, and purely because of that, I feel today that I did not.

Right before mile 19, something strange happened that's never happened before, and my throat closed, like I was breathing through a straw. The more afraid I felt, the tighter it closed, and I knew something was wrong. Finally, a man in front of me turned and told me to stop because he was worried about my breathing. And that's when I started to cry. Which, of course, only made my breathing more laborious. A few seconds later, it went away as quickly and strangely as it came and I didn't think a lot of it, but looking back at it, its obvious that I was absolutely seized with fear. My throat closed again a mile later, but I closed my eyes and concentrated on relaxing and it opened again without much trouble.

At the water station between mile 21 and 22 I sat on the median and sobbed, because I knew I just didn't have anything left. You might think to yourself that 22 is so close to 26 and that I was pathetic and that four miles is no big whoop if you've just run 22. And you'd be right about the pathetic part, but four miles IS long- its forty minutes-- actually, longer at that point, sadly, and my legs felt like they were make of machine gears and nerves.

And then out of no where, I heard someone say, "Hey, hey, you're okay, come with me. We'll walk to the end together."

When you first meet new people, you always want to present the best side of yourself. That is just the way the world works. But not in a marathon- everyone you meet is like family, like the man who made me stop when my throat closed and only went on his way again when I'd promised to take care. When I met M. on the course yesterday, I had my worst, my ugliest, weakest foot forward. And she didn't leave me till we'd crossed the finish line.

We ran every few minutes, and stopped every few minutes, too. This was her sixth marathon, but this time around she was injured, she told me, and I looked down to see a brace on her leg all the way from her knee to her ankle. We talked about running, and about goals and we met some others along the way. One man I'd passed at the beginning, pushing himself in a specially designed racing wheel chair came by and now cheered us on at the 25th mile. The course began to look different, slower, the people less consumed with the fire of what was ahead, but full of something else now I didn't recognize. My legs throbbed and shook and my stomach threatened to upset, but I knew M. and I would stop if we needed to, and we did, a lot: sometimes for me, sometimes for her, and I didn't mind.

Finally, I saw a long, steep decline, at the bottom of which was a large cardboard number 26. So we ran to the end, slowly, gaspingly and smiled into the camera that broadcast my finish to my family 2000 miles away, huddled around Shea's computer, who made bets whether or not I would throw up right then and there.

M. and I stopped to have our pictures taken together and then after exchanging names and facebook accounts, parted ways. Ten minutes later I threw up every cup of water and cytomax into a plastic-lined carboard box marked 'Recycling,' while Pat and a friend from the store turned modestly away and waited.

I don't really know why I feel so heart-broken now, but I want so badly just to go for a nice, easy six mile run by myself and think about nothing. I just want to see some beautiful scenery and be quiet for a while, but my legs are so broken and sore I can hardly sit in one position for more than ten minutes.

I know it seems selfish to cry over a marathon time, when there are so many people in the world experiencing real loss, or who wish they were healthy enough to stand or walk for long distances or even run, but its more than my disappointment over the results that aches. It is the loss of myself at the crucial moment. I should have been there, I should have scraped up some resilience from the deep of me. But I didn't. I just felt empty and panicked.

I want so much to try again and succeed, but you can't just recreate the 23rd mile of a race. The entire meaning of a the 23rd mile is the 22 that come behind it. The secret of the success of a 23rd mile just isn't that easy. It's really long, and really hard and takes a lot of faith. and 22 other miles.

So, tomorrow its back to the grocery store. 5am. But I guess that's the wonderful thing about disappointment and marathons. Life just goes on and on anyway. So in the words of my new favorite line of running gear: We all run on.

We can only hope.


So, there are the events of yesterday:

3:40am I wake up after a night of terrible attempted sleep
3:45 shower
4:00 breakfast of oatmeal and chocolate almond milk, one rice cake
4:30 we decorate our arms with permanent markers
5:00 a stop at my apartment for pictures
5:05 we anxiously load up the car and zoom downtown, to the Westin where a vehicle supposedly waits to shuttle us to Tukwila, the start line
5:20 panic- the line is six blocks long
5:25 ATM
5:30 hail a cab
5:40 arrive in Tukwila after hopping the highway railing and walking the exit around the mile long standstill of shuttles and drop-off traffic
5:50 check our gear, pee
6:10 shiver in a half hour line to pee again, eat a bagel and peanut butter sandwich
6:45 head to start line
6:55 wait in corral
7:26 cross start line, walking, screaming and waving at the camera
9:43 Half Marathon
12:31pm Finish
12:50 vomit water and cytomax into a recycling bin
12:55 pick up gear
1:20 catch city bus home

Friday, June 26, 2009

A little plug for my new friends

The marathon is tomorrow. I am feeling... okay about this.

Yesterday C., my running partner, and I stopped in at the Rock 'n' Roll Expo for FOUR HOURS picking up free CLIF shot blocks and kiwi halves. I got my t-shirt, my number, chip and some unexpected purchases, one of which, I would like to share.

At running events, like marathons, multitudinous running companies (and a handful of chiropractic, naturopathic, and other various oddities) show up to peddle their wares. Typical are the shirts: "26.2 miles. Been there; Run that" and "I know I run like a girl. Now try to catch up," and while these shirts are definitely festive and playful, I discovered a new line of running apparel called Running Divas (www.runningdivas.com) with a refreshing distinction. They sell not only t-shirts but sweaters, long sleeves, undies and even thongs, all randomly (and thoughtfully) smattered with poetry written from their experiences of an active, competetive lifestyle. While you may see typical "runner's gear" and be tempted to spend, Running Divas sell products and messages that you must witness like art before you even think about your checkbook. It's beautiful, intriguing and in the end, collaborative with your own experience of the sport. There is something other runners can recognize, something we already know we're a part of.

As for the messages themselves, they're wonderfully understated, a unique move in athletic apparel. Many of the shirts simply say, "It's who we are. It's what we do." Several have the words in a long skinny vertical tower "mile after mile after mile after mile..." and on the back "I'll be miles away." It seems to capture the mundane and difficult work of a long run, while still somehow allowing space for the peace and joy that solitude and hard work bring. Some just sprout random running realities like "morning runs... alarm clocks" or "runalicious" that make us laugh or roll our eyes in recognition, even in memory of our own seasons or competitions. Other products are just plain fun, like the thongs that read "marathong" across the front, unapologetically.

Running Divas seem to remind us what we feel on our best days: that running is, while difficult, a ton of fun, and that we are more beautiful, stronger and happier people for participating. Please check them out! And good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

Oh!, and my shirt? Looks like this:


When she's running
she's flying

Monday, June 15, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Long Road Home

I ran 19 miles yesterday, and I I just don't know if I'll ever recover. First of all, I did about four stupid things. The first stupid thing was this: I didn't bring any food with me. Two: I ran (what I thought was) ten miles out and ten miles back on flat pavement with virtually no change in scenery. Three: I mistook the distance to Christy's bookstore (my designated turn around point) as ten miles when it was actually eleven. Four: I started running too late and stranded myself in the dark on a woodsy notorious-for-shady-happenings trail three miles away from home (since I had to walk back because I miscalculated the distance).

I am dearly hoping that if I don't do these four stupid things in the marathon, the result will be so great that I can run seven additional miles. This is the plan anyway. That and TAKE THE GU. I know its creepy, but TAKE IT. Food for runners, while arguably not food, is free and mentally helpful since one knows that it should work since it has for so many others for so long. Don't know what GU is? Google the GU.

K. came over for dinner Thursday night and I was euphorically happy. I picked up my clean laundry, washed the dirty stuff and made my bed. I reshuffled my bookshelf, and lastly, I stuffed my stack 'o papers under the couch which unfortunately contains another student loan (my fingers instinctively type 'stupid' instead of 'student') bill, the THIRD which I didn't even know about until it was 90 days overdue. How did they get my address to send me the threat, since they lost it for the warning? But, shoved under my couch, it looked a lot better. Christy bought flowers for the table and the sun showed up right about 5:15 and we opened all the windows. It was a beautiful evening, though the sun has been beautiful for days now.

K. brought a fantastic dessert and Pat helped me pick out the wine and I haven't touched alcohol in about four weeks because of the marathon, so I was ecstatic to share it with her. We boiled water and sauteed squash and asparagus and threw in some vodka sauce. At 7:15 Pat came home from work and dinner was served. It was fantastic-- mostly the wine. Two glasses later, we all had a lot of opinions. And I thought a lot about the world.

There are many things broken, and I hate it. Its true that resources are misused and social structures are corrupt and rotten. But I look at myself. I care a lot about people, but I'm a jerk all the time. I am broken, I feel corrupt and rotten. This doesn't make me depressed and repentant- I'm only human, but it does make me reevaluate. I care about the environment, and I'm constantly making comments at the grocery store about how we handle our resources, and yeah, it frustrates me. But then I look at myself again: how many things have I thrown out this week that I could have recycled just because I was lazy? Have I really done the research about my own city's recycling policies? Every time I get angry about the world, I look into my trash bin.

Along the road last night I saw signs for forest restoration and I thought about eschatology, one of my least favorite subjects. But I realized that in my hope for the future of the planet is a little bit of that reconciliation-talk from college. Part of the reason I both care and want so much to act is that I believe in something.

And that was a little bit of a surprise. Me. Believe. So there you go, you lovely Mormons.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Watching A. -we learn about feeding

I keep thinking about Anne Lamott learning to feed herself as she describes it in Traveling Mercies, my favorite of all her autobiographical work, definitely worth reading. Anyway, I watched A. again a couple of weeks ago and something she did completely blew me away.

We are eating dinner, something she seems to never enjoy and I immediately begin the dinner-ritual I often force on the kids I babysit which is: politeness, nice conversation, and the eating of as many vegetables as possible. Now, A.'s parents seem to be health nuts of the best variety and both our plates are packed with whole wheat pasta and carrot sticks (this is typical: also broccoli, yams, cucumber slices and hard boiled eggs) so I don't worry about the nutrition, but I do worry about her eating habits. She rocks back and forth in her chair and is unresponsive to my conversation-making (usually successful among the 7-and-under female variety), she tells me she hates the food I've made even though I make her thank me for making it and even though I'm almost certain its what she eats every night. This is a mystery to me; she just won't eat with me, and she flat out won't enjoy it.

Then, out of no where, something clicks in her mind and she grabs a wooden block that is in front of her on the table. There is a large letter 'A' on one side of the block, a 'B' directly opposite and four pictures of Santa on the remaining faces. It seems to be the sort of decorative block used to spell sweet, festive words like, "peace", "hope", or "joy" during the holidays.

"Okay, here's a game," she tells me. I'm just slightly intrigued. I was about to chuck my hopes of Dinner Time out the window. "Okay..." I hesitantly agree to hear her out. "I'll roll this, and whenever I get the 'A' I take a bit of pasta. A 'B' means two bites of carrot and a Santa means I lose my turn." She says this all with the confidence and logic of a school-teacher explaining an extremely simple game to a five-year-old, though she is, in fact, five herself. "Sure," I say, unsure of how this would turn out. She rolls the block. It's an 'A.' She grimaces, but dutifully eats a bite of the 'disgusting' pasta. Then she rolls a picture of Santa (was it on purpose?) and hands the block to me. Slightly amused that I am also a part of the game, I roll the block and a 'B' comes up. I've been eating already and my carrot is already halfway gone, but okay, for the sake of the game, I crunch two bites. She seems satisfied at my assent. Then I roll another 'B', and we laugh, but I do my business. Then an 'A', then another 'B'. Okay, I think to myself, this is not the point of the game. So I roll again, but carefully this time. Santa. I pass the block. She is catching my drift; she rolls a Santa also, but I am sure that it was on purpose.

I figure all pretenses are gone. I don't bother attempting to appear as if I am fairly rolling the block like a dice. I simply turn it over so that the jolly St. Nick smiles up at us, but she doesn't challenge me. She picks up the block. It is her turn. She turns- without pretending to roll- the block to the toothy saint. I take it back and do the same.

At this point I assume the game is over. Just as I am about to change the subject and request that we eat normally, something very interesting occurs. It is her turn, but instead of turning the block to Santa, she turns it to an 'A.' I look up at her and furrow my brow, skeptically. She shrugs and takes a bite. It is still her turn, so she takes the block in her hands again and turns it 360 degrees. 'A'. She chews and I grin at her. Do you want to eat? And she must, because before her turn is over she's eating six bites of carrots and four pieces of pasta. I take it back and 'roll' a 'B' because I want another bite of carrot. She rolls another four letters before passing the block back to me, and together we learn to feed ourselves.

I thought about this tonight when I was running. Sometimes the main reason I like being alone is because I'm so affected by the people around me that I actually think there might be something wrong with me. But, in turn, I'm almost always depressed when I'm alone simply because there is nothing outside my own crazy mind to affect me. Why can't I learn to fill my time contentedly without achieving the affirmation of the community surrounding me? It is obvious to me now why I choosing and keeping my friends is such a sensitive task. They are the ones who make meaning from the empty mental drawers of 'good', 'bad', 'useless' and 'holy'. Watching A. the other night I realized why things like running, liturgy, lists and schedules are so important to me. They are simply frameworks: thinks that help me construct meaning out of my own mental chaos. They are mood stabilizers; they are like A.'s little wooden block. They tell me how to feed myself; or rather, they help me to choose the things I know I need to feed myself.

Feelings like the one I have tonight help me to understand the pull of a monastic community, or the secret desperation one has for The Other, even the small community of marriage and/or a roommate, be it lover or friend. But for now, it is late and the most important thing is that I finish the dishes before Christy comes home. Tomorrow I'll wake up early to run and head to the Food Bank and hopefully these Good Things will carry me one more day.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The F-word

During my workout that Saturday Patrick and I talked about Our Future.

We've tried to have this talk before; sometimes its gone pretty well, other times badly, most of the time we just get too overwhelmed: If in one year we do A, then that next year we'll do whatever jobs/schools B1 and B2 and then in a couple years C! The fact of the matter is, all we have are variables. We'll work here for a year, maybe stay at the grocery store, maybe not. We'll move to the Midwest next summer or fall and get married, maybe work at another grocery store, maybe not. Maybe he'll go to school; maybe I will. Maybe Americorps? Maybe overseas, maybe.

So 'overwhelmed' is about all we have. The only thing we managed to agree on is the Midwest, where my family is. The grad school he had been looking at that looks the most promising for an MDiv is in California. Perfect. A couple years in the Midwest, a couple years in California. Maybe by then we'll have other prospects. Maybe we'll miss Seattle, maybe my sister'll be having kids and I'll desperately need to move to Virginia. Maybe the economy will be completely belly up and we'll move to New Zealand (this is still totally possible).

So when Pat started dreaming about the University here, the Free-Methodist Christian school, I was somewhat derailed. His California school is Episcopalian, so much more in sync with our beliefs, sympathies and societal concerns. But a professor there wrote him back, "you're just in time; we just extended our deadline for the fall..." and Patrick said he felt his heart leap. His heart, you know? What was I supposed to do? I told him to look into it.

I had a small panic attack about it today at work. I've had one before while working and left mid-shift, but got reprimanded for it later, which really doesn't bother me, but it bothers Pat a lot, and so I stayed and it was good to know that for the record, it was horrible. I had to go outside and drink a bottle of juice that cost four bucks and tasted like cucumbers. Luckily, its P-day and the Mormons stopped it to stock up on-- one can only assume-- chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels and dried mango slices, so I talked to them a while and felt tremendously better.

It's just that I never thought I'd actually totally move out of the house. Our house, the Tuttle house. My favorite, most comfortable, most known place. In this big city on this big island of the big, big world I feel very lonely most of the time. Especially at the store.

So on Saturday I had mile repeats and then two 800s at the end. After each one, I jogged under the shade of the Rec. Center and reported my times to Pat, so he could record them in my book. Each time I'd say something like, "8:17, But do you really think we can afford it?" And he'd look up and sigh, writing with one hand and holding the place in his book with the other, "Well my mom and dad always tell me that..." And eventually he'd cut himself off and whack my shin with his book-hand, "Go run!" Then, I'd jog back to the track.

It really was one of our most successful conversations.

Tonight I ran to Fremont, the closest neighborhood to the University campus, I think, and the one I'll live near if Pat and I get married next summer and live there together. And it was b-eautiful. It may have been Coldplay blaring through Christy's iPod, but I truly felt a rightness about it, and a real love for the city, which I feel on most days. I don't really want to leave Seattle, I just absolutely don't want to leave home and its so hard to understand how to do this.

Well, Runners: until the race is done.