Tuesday, November 5, 2019

NYC Marathon Recap 2019

I am home from New York City and while I should definitely be folding and putting away laundry, instead I'm thinking about my latest journey through The Big Apple. The best way to see the city? The NYC Marathon, of course!

I have a lot of thoughts, possibly some excuses to share with you regarding race day. I'm super proud that I got to do this, but as with every other time I've run a marathon, I feel a little regretful of my performance at times, too. I've talked a lot about marathon running as a formula that I haven't been able to figure out yet and that still rings true for me. Admittedly, I didn't feel prepared for this distance leading up to the big day. It's very hard to fit in all the training when life happens. I haven't been able to find the balance of homeschooling my kids, being a good wife/mother/friend/whatever, sickness/injury, travel, other interests, and trying to train hard for a time I'm really proud of. I run because it helps to manage my anxiety. It's difficult to decide how much emphasis I should give to this sport in light of all of that. In the very same breath, I wasn't ready this year and there's no one to blame but myself. Still, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I got to run a major world marathon again and that is not lost on me.
I couldn't wait to start, but I had a late start time. There was plenty of time for my nerves to build up and bubble over especially as I watched my step-dad and my husband's start times come and go.

Running by myself was the way to go, though. Part of the difficulty of this marathon is the enormous crowd. I spent so much energy attempting to weave in and out of people to keep a good pace. I'd fall in with someone a lot slower than me and not realize for awhile that I had slowed down. I'd get through the crowd for a bit and then encounter the same problem. The first mile, as usual, was the most crowded one. Runners are trying to set a good pace, others are climbing up on bridges to take in the scenery and capture a picture, and I was just trying to get my mind right. After that first mile, I settled in to a 9:15 pace. I knew I wouldn't keep that, but I wanted to be right there since that is a comfortable pace for me and I didn't want to start off too fast like I did in Napa Valley earlier this year. That plan served me well until about the half way mark. I began to get slower at mile 13 and my legs just would not go. I can't explain it. I didn't feel tired, out of breath, or have any major injuries or pain I was trying to manage. I just couldn't propel my legs. I think the lactic acid build up was a big issue for me in this race. I hardly walked at all, but my times began a downward spiral slipping into 10,11, and even a 12 minute mile. I ran to mile 16 where I thought I'd find my sister and I did. She kept me running to her because I couldn't wait to see a familiar face. I thought once or twice that I would just stop and walk back with her when I got to her. Good thing for that barrier between us when I finally did see her! I was moving, but it wasn't nearly as fast as I wanted to. I felt my mind start to drift..."This is dumb. Why do I do this to myself? No one cares if you just walk the rest of it out." So I did what any Loudon Lacer would do and I sent a Marco Polo to my running pals around mile 18. One of my friends in the group had a stroke a few months ago and it has been a long road for her to have to walk down. I had been thinking of her the whole time. I was imagining myself running for her and for others I don't even know who would love to be able to run right now and those who do run and would love an opportunity to run in this marathon. Who was I to quit?

As soon as I sent my video to my running friends, they responded with so much support. It kept me going. I imagined all of you (who were texting me telling me that I was doing great or to finish strong) were on the streets of NY that day and I couldn't stop. I felt the love all those miles away. At mile 20, you all told me I just had a 10 k left. At mile 23, you told me I just had a 5k. At mile 25, you told me I could do anything for one mile and somehow I busted out one of the fastest miles for the whole race. The finish line felt so good. Thank you all so much for cheering me on. My friends who run with me, my homeschooling group of mamas, those of you who watch my kids so I can do this thing I love, those of you who reach out in support and encouragement--you share in this race with me. It's always an incredible reminder that I'm not alone and I have good people who care deeply.
The biggest takeaway for me was this epiphany I had as ESPN cameras swarmed my face on Sunday. This was my second televised sporting event where I was competing with tens of thousands of the world's best runners. The start of the race was captured on the front of the Wall Street Journal. This marathon is a big deal and a big blessing to me. God has given me so much. I was happy to complete this race another time. I don't even mind too much that it was a minute slower than last time. Lord willing, I'll keep persevering.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It Didn't Even Hurt

I carried his growing body, his lanky limbs dangling loosely around my legs nearly over taking me. He is a lot bigger than last time I made this trek. I positioned his head on my shoulder as I walked him into the doors of our home, careful not to disturb the incision that was made on his head only hours before. His eyes fluttered opened, he picked up his head, and he pointed saying, "Take me to my brothers first."

"It didn't even hurt", he told them and then he went to his room and fell back asleep.

We are home from a nightmarish whirlwind of doctor appointments, diagnosis, CT scans, and a surgery that we didn't foresee having to deal with this year. It has been nearly four years since we have faced this infection. Four years for it to grow inside his curly little head. As you can imagine, it was rampant and his body had made interesting adjustments to compensate, growing bone and pushing the wires from the mostly explanted cochlear implant into the mastoid bone. It was a mess and left no hope to ever implant again, not that we wanted to anyway. The aim of surgery was to extract all foreign bodies and clean out the infection. We were told it was successful, but we've been told that before. I don't want to seem gloomy. We're incredibly hopeful. Many have been praying and that's truly all we needed. Still, through this I was able to see all the good in people, too. People taking off work to help, my sister-in-law watching the other kids while we stayed at the hospital, hundreds reaching out to pray with us, and old friends coming to Nashville with a gift goody bag full of a newly sewn shark pillow case, handwritten notes of encouragement, and cookies. People praying for my son in the midst of their own tragedies. My kindness list is very full. Thank you.

I've been so proud of my little people. Kinley hugged Abel and prayed over him before we left.

Abel never cried as he bravely asked the doctors exactly what they planned on doing and how long he would be asleep. They wheeled him away as he was putting the finishing touches on a drawing he was working on, leaving me with a wetness in my eyes I hoped wouldn't spill over again.

Before he left, I focused on Matthew 8:17-

"He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases."

I believe God did that and He will do that in Abel's life again. God bless this testimony snuggled up in his bunk bed back home with his siblings.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Napa Valley Marathon and the Power of Yet

Good Morning from Tennessee. I was welcomed home last night into the unseasonably frigid winter air after having spent a long weekend in Napa Valley, California. I want to share my trip, but first I want to jot down some thoughts on the race to talk myself through it and have a record of what needs work and what I did well. Warning: If you don't run, you might find this post terribly annoying.

It's hard to not be disappointed in my performance on Sunday. In the same breath, I know I ran a freaking marathon...again...and that feat is an enormous blessing that I should feel very proud of. For a reason unbeknownst to me, I'm too hard on myself. I'm disappointed after almost every race, even when I PR (set a Personal Record). The truth is that running fast is hard and with the amount of training and time I dedicate to it, I feel like I should be better at it. If I'm being totally honest, I am better at it than I was, but my progress feels so slow. Some people are born with the ability to be speedy, others aren't made that way but can set their goals to improve despite it. I'm in the second camp and the power of yet hasn't escaped me. I know I can improve. I can get faster. I have already. But man, is it frustrating to have a goal in mind half of the race, just to see it slip through your fingers with no good explanation except that I just couldn't do it that day.
I could look at a lot of setbacks that played into my performance on marathon number two. During training, I hurt my knee and was out for a few weeks. I was also diagnosed with rupturing ovarian cysts which can be incredibly painful and sabotaged more than a few training runs. My mileage just wasn't there for the improvements I wanted to make in my finishing time. Still, I shaved fourteen minutes off my previous time, crossing the finish line at four hours and eighteen minutes. Truly, when I left for California on Friday I believed I would be incredibly pleased with that time. When race day rolled around, though, a new story developed in my mind. God had answered my prayers that I wouldn't have knee pain or cyst pain that day and I felt so hopeful starting the race with two girls who are really just incredible, faster than I could ever even fathom being. I knew I could finish the twenty six miles even at mile zero. I was ready.

I set off in mile one anxious to start fast, but not too fast. My plan was to hover around 8:50-9:10 minute miles. I loosely wanted to stay with the 4:00 or 4:10 pacers for as long as I possibly could. I think my first mistake is that I didn't look for them. I managed my clock on my own wrist and ended up sticking with the first group I found near me which was the pacers finishing at 3:55. I ran just in front of them for a long while and then I slowly slipped just behind them. I was with them for about fourteen miles and I was feeling so hopeful. The first half of the marathon felt great, but it was quickly into the second half that I felt my body giving up. In the last marathon, I didn't feel this until much later in the race so I started to worry that I set my sights too high and started off too fast.
A funny thing happens when I'm running long distances. I migrate from a lofty yet focused, hopeful goal into this thought "Well, most people don't go out and run a marathon. You are awesome and you deserve a little walk break." Ha! I tried to press on, but the hills were long instead of steep. They stretched out and messed with my head. The rain made me cold coupled with the wind pushing me backward and I could feel my newly created personal goal in my mind becoming unreachable. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, but it was the shuffle of an exhausted marathon runner instead of a prepared, strong athlete. Soon, the 3:55 group was out of my sight and I thought I would just try to stay in front of the 4:05 or 4:10 group. If they didn't pass me, I should be good. I never saw them pass me. I don't even know if they existed. At mile 20, I still had a pretty great time (for me). If I could have busted out those last six miles, I might even have made it around four hours. At that point my body was burning and aching around my stomach and back. I felt depleted. I knew I would regret my slow pace, but I was struggling, knew I was on pace to crush my previous time, and frankly, just didn't care. I lost my race in those last six miles.
Carol Dweck wrote, "In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work- brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment." As frustrating as running can be, I attribute it to saving me. I think God put this sport in my life, giving me deep connections with friends when I needed it most. Postpartum with all my babies was a difficult time and I searched for something I could work towards for myself. It has been a gift. This trip was a gift, too and I'm grateful to have had another opportunity to try to crack the code of marathon running. I remember when I used to think people who ran marathons were superhuman. Now, I've done two full marathons myself and I feel not at all like a super human. Instead, this sport draws me closer to Him. In my desperateness, I remember how much I need him in every area of my life. In the quiet moments as I ran along the Napa Valley Silverado Trail, I could call out to Him and ask for His strength and He gave it freely. I could cry out to a Savior who hears me and cares about every little detail of my life and tell Him thank you for the ability to run, for breath in my lungs, and for strong legs to carry me all over His beautiful creation. Running is a gift that brings me closer to Him.
Sometimes I really want to quit this sport, but I have so much room for improvement and I know I can do it. I'm not done. The power of yet feels so promising two days after the marathon. How quickly I forget the toll! How readily I remember that "Becoming is better than being"(Carol Dweck). I'm not done working toward figuring out this distance and when I come back at another chance, I'll know more than I did before.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Facing Fear

I hardly write here anymore. But old problems swell up, threatening to burst open into the comfortable life we've been living lately and when that happens, I want old faithful. This blog has been an outlet for me on some of our darkest days. I'm teetering on a nervous breakdown at the risk of sounding remorsefully weak. If you're new here, this post should give you a little background of our story with Abel. If you want to read even more, check out these posts. Abe has been through a lot. We have been through a lot. Before you start worrying (like me), I will preface this with- Abel is doing just fine. He currently has strep, but is on medication and won't be contagious soon. But what we discovered at the pediatrician yesterday sent me into a tailspin of despair. It's not terribly alarming news, it's just that I have so much PTSD associated with that time of our lives that the black cloud that has just been gathering over the years poured out all over me again when I heard it.
Lately we've noticed an odor coming from the ear that he had all that trouble with years ago. In short, he was simultaneously bilaterally implanted. He had all sorts of struggles and surgeries causing the surgeon to come to the decision to take out one of his implants nearly a year later. Months later, he was finally released from infectious disease and I never looked back. I despised Nashville and all that it represented to me. No longer was it the first place I ran the distance of a half marathon. No longer was it where I celebrated my birthdays in college. No longer was it a fun place to get away for a couple days. It was the city where I mourned so much of a normal life for my child. It felt suffocating when I drove into the awful traffic almost weekly that year. Nashville was the place we spent much of my son's early childhood in cold offices and caged hospital beds. I know this is a bit crazy, but it's how I felt. When I drove away from infectious disease that day, I knew I would only be back if I had to. Fast forward to now.
His pediatrician has cultured the bacteria in his ear and was a little concerned. The results are not back yet, but he wanted us to go ahead and get in with Abel's surgeon in Nashville to check up on him further. It might be nothing, but the fact that it could be something broke me open again. I cried all morning thinking of starting down this road again, both literally and figuratively. Over the years I've worked at trying to create happy memories of Nashville in my mind, but when I get off that exit I feel the heaviest curtain of dread fall around me. I know better, but I can't always shake it.
Tomorrow we will return to Vanderbilt to get him checked out. It's something we've needed to do for awhile now. I had pretty much laid to rest the idea of having him implanted again and so I saw no need to bring him back. I hoped to find an ENT around Knoxville who would see him, but because of his delicate history, no one was willing to take him on as a patient. Perhaps his infection is one that is easily handled. Perhaps it's not. But I'm writing here today because I know you'll join in praying for him. Thank you for allowing me to spill out my heart for all to see as dramatic as my sentiments may be. I feel better already. God is and always has been in control and He'll never leave us. He'll carry us with Him as we walk back into the doors of the Children's Hospital tomorrow and everything will be just fine. Deep breaths, Kacy.
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