A few weeks ago I read an article where a professional runner said that come race day, they could tell if they were going to make their goal in the first mile. I wondered at that idea as I read it. Questioned if it were true, then wondered what it would be like to know your own body to such a degree.
     I’ve been training with a running coach for about a year. When I was training for the North Face 50k last year I had a moment a few months prior to the race where I realized that I had no idea how to train myself for that kind of distance, so I enlisted her help. After successfully completing that race, I realized that I really liked working with her, so I kept her on.
     After the ultra I decided to work on my real challenge, speed. I can run all day. I like to run long distances, but I can’t do any of it very quickly. Since last summer I’ve PRed a 10k, and unofficially, the 5k though I still need to do it in a timed race. I’ve run faster times consistently and hit my 10k PR time more than once during training runs. I have made progress, happily tracked by my trusty Garmin, so I can go back and see those times after a not so great run.
     This weekend was my most recent PR attempt. I’ve been working very hard to PR the half marathon and beat a time I set in a race I ran last spring just for fun. In the first mile, I knew I wasn’t going to meet my goal that day. The article I read a few weeks ago popped into my head as I compared how I felt this past Saturday in the first mile of the Rock n’ Roll USA half as compared to how I felt in the Iron Girl half last April – I felt slow, I felt tired, I felt like I was already working hard in the first three miles. Something just felt off. During the Iron Girl race, I felt light, my feet felt like they were hardly working – I knew I was going to PR.
     So I spent the Rock n’ Roll half toughing it out and finding joy where I could. We ran across my favorite bridge in DC which leads to the Women’s Military Service memorial. I paced off of a guy in a kilt for several miles. I appreciated the fact that I did not have to pee the whole race. I enjoyed the animal costumes (a cow beat me by at least 45 seconds). I appreciated the fact that I did not walk the whole race, not even through water stops, or up the hills miles 6-8, even though I wanted nothing more. I was not going to beat myself in this race, but I did not let the race beat me either.
     I also had two free hours during the race to think about running. To think about why I love it even when I don’t. As I was pondering my relationship to running I passed a man holding a sign that said “Run with Gratitude” and that pretty much summed up the thoughts swirling around in my head. When I am running, the gratitude comes without me even trying to be grateful or think about being grateful. With every, often slow step, I know that it is a gift just to be able to do it. To be physically capable of running, of propelling myself forward under my own power.
     This race gave me a new respect for the distance. I’ve gone farther, but that doesn’t make 13.1 miles any less difficult. It gave me a new respect too, for my fellow runners. You never know what a distance means to someone. What they’ve overcome to get to the finish line. A 5k can mean more to one person than 50 miles means to another. I think this is something that I’ve lost sight of over time, believing that running further means more in general, and that is simply a fallacy.
     I am reminded as I propel myself down stairs, hovering one foot over the step below me and then pitching myself forward, hoping I land on the step below, or decide to just stand for a bit instead of sitting because my quads are still sore from missing my goal, that sometimes the best thing for you is to be humbled by something you thought would be easy.

As a newish resident of Ward 5, in Washington DC, I’ve been loosely following the race for our Councilmember as the September, 14th voting date comes closer. I’ve seen the number of street signs increase on lawns on my runs around the neighborhood. Months ago I became curious about Kenyan McDuffie and his stance on marriage equality and the recently passed approval of gay marriage in DC. I tweeted a question at him and after some back and forth due to technical issues, received a confirmation that he does indeed support same sex marriage (SSM). As I already knew that Harry Thomas had been an advocate of SSM this year when it counted, I knew that I had another candidate to at least consider. Recently I’ve been seeing signs for Delano Hunter. A little bit of digging revealed that he did not support SSM in any way and even went to far as to take money from NOM. Being a frequent user of Twitter, a few tweets revealed that he seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth, stating via his Twitter feed that

“There is much room in the SSM conversation for mutual respect and genuine open mindedness. What I’ve noticed at times is advocates on all sides that promote positions that do not take into account the complexity of this issue. There are ways in which we can provide equality and respect religious convictions and traditions. It’s just gonna take honest dialogue, openness, and compromise.”

As NOM’s sole purpose is to  campaign against gay marriage, guess who’s supposed to compromise? Delano Hunter says that he won’t move to overturn gay marriage in Washington, DC but clearly thinks that we’ve reached an adequate state of compromise. I find this curious as being married in the district still affords married, same sex couples little or no federal protections including social security spousal or survivor benefits, hospital visitation outside of the district, tax-free rollover for a non-spousal beneficiary for 401K retirement plans, etc., which are just a few of the examples of why localized SSM marriage laws are still not enough.

So based on this, you can imagine my surprise this morning upon waking to discover that the Washington Post has chosen to endorse Delano Hunter of the four candidates running for Ward 5 Councilmember. The article states,

Mr. Hunter is not a supporter of marriage equality, but he is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be, but rather someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups. He said he would not seek to change the law.

It is this type of statement that truly drives home my second class status. I feel as if I am expected to respond by saying “Thanks for letting me live in this neighborhood with you fine, straight folks!” or be pleased that he’s going to be upset if someone tries to burn down my house because I’m gay. The message is really, it’s not okay to hate gay people, but it is okay to bar gay people from something that straight people don’t even have to think about. It is as if it is expected that I hate myself just enough to be grateful that I’m “welcome” and not question that an individual can represent my interests but not respect my right to love, to build a home, to raise a family and have that investment protected like any other couple. To know that if something happens to me I will be able to be seen in the hospital by the person I share that home with and I will be able to put provisions in place that protect that family in my absence.

Look, I don’t know anyone who enjoys mere toleration. Gay people live in Ward 5.  There are three other candidates for Ward 5 Councilmember. Harry Thomas, Kenyan McDuffie, and Tracy Turner all support marriage equality – pick one.

This morning I ran in the Global Race for the Cure 5K. It is the first time that I’ve done this particular race by myself. I admit to feeling an odd sense of entitlement when I am running in it. I find myself entertaining thoughts along the lines of “get out of my way with your stupid stroller,” or “why the hell did you stop dead two steps in front of me – you signed up to run and we’re a quarter of a mile in,” or “I know that you didn’t just throw an elbow right into my survivor shirt just to gain a whole step in front of me, asshole.” It feels like my race. I had breast cancer, so all of you, really you’re running for me. I own that shit. At least that’s the weird twist my brain puts on it when I’m out there. It’s always crowded. It’s always blisteringly hot, even though it starts early. Honestly, were it any other race, there’s no way I’d do it every year.

But I got up early. I ran to the metro for a warm up, rode down to Chinatown and jogged over to 7th. I had considered doing the “Parade of Pink” because they move to the front of the race line, though I think that would make me feel like I was on display in a weird way, but I got there a little too late. I did hear the official announce the Survivor of The Year, which made me wonder how the competition plays out for that annually, considering the nature of the honor. It’s funny if you think of it in the right context. Honest. So, instead I walked over towards the start line and noticed that there were signs placed where the parade of survivors would go so I meandered over and squeezed myself in before the actual parade came.

It’s so big and such and event that the time you spend waiting at the start gets tedious.You are bored. Everyone around you is bored too, and when there is any indication that you’re going to get to move, the crowd converges in on you from all sides. It’s a little frightening. So the gun went off after I listened to half of the playlist I had prepared for the race and the crush made its way across the start line. The first hard turn is not long after the start line, and the crowd is still thick. So it’s kind of annoying because I felt as if I was getting pushed more towards the sidewalk the closer I got to the turn. The crowd stayed heavy until the first mile when the heat really starts to get to everyone, and some runners succumb to improper pacing at the start. I started out fast for me, somewhere around a 9 minute mile. I felt good but knew the heat, and that thick cotton survivor shirt that I actually wore right out of the race packet like an idiot, would eventually get to me.

Mile 2 was uneventful. The sun was brutal and as I approached mile 3 I discovered the benefit to starting out in the back of the pack – I was missing the freak sightings which make this kind of thing amusing. My pace had slowed a bit, but I was still running sub-10/mile, I was getting passed, but I was also doing my own share of passing, however there were no pink flamingo hats, only one tutu, and no big teams, feather boas, anything. All I could do was repeat my “make it easy, make it light” mantra in my head, turn up the Gnarls Barkley, and wonder how much of a disaster it would be if I tried to take off my shirt for the last half mile while running instead of finishing wearing the equivalent of a  soaked cotton towel. Next year, damn the gun time – I’m running in the back of the pack, just because it’s more fun!

When the finish line became visible, I checked out my Garmin and sure enough, it looked like I was going to come in sub-30 minutes. If it happened, this would be the first time that I’ve ever done that and it was my goal for the race. Sure enough, my official time was net- 29:33. 29th/258 bc survivors, 786th woman to cross the finish and 147/856 in my division. For me this was not bad, not bad at all. Still, next year I’m going to run at the back, just to try and get the full experience.

Herb Garden

Originally uploaded by l@in.

Last Friday was my birthday. I was supposed to go out and have a night of it, but I just was not up for it. Maybe it’s age (I am now officially into my 30s), or maybe I’m just boring, but I like to think of it as just another step in the process of listening to myself a little better and trying to pay attention to what I actually want and need to do. Baby steps, you know? But it was a super nice weekend, full of good food, and good wine, and really low key fun.

Saturday we went out to dinner at my favorite deli, and afterword I treated myself to some local hiking and camping books. I don’t think I’ll manage to get in a camping excursion this year, but at least I can be ready for spring and do some local hiking. Today we went to the National Arboretum, which I’ve never been to and it was pretty awesome. We only ran around about 1/3 of it, but I can’t wait to go back.

Sometimes I really love being in DC. I mean we went to this amazing park, that’s right in town, and totally free. And there’s so much to do, and explore, if you want. DC drives me nuts, too but overall, I’m not sure if there’s a place right now that I’d rather be. So, I’m 31. I’m happy with where I am both literally and figuratively. Who knew?

Today I left work early as I had a bunch of reading to do to prepare for a meeting tomorrow and hate doing that at my desk. My plan was get home, start some chili and read as it cooked. I arrived home about the same time as school was getting out. As I was about to unlock my door, two elementary school-aged kids from a few doors down walked over and asked if they could come in. The kids always ask about Oliver and the turtles because they can seem them through the window, so I assumed that they wanted to come in and attempt to play with Oliver. I told them, not today and moved towards the house. Then the little girl, said, “Our mom’s not home.” I looked at her brother who was walking decidedly towards me, and said, “Really?” He smiled and said no. “…and we don’t have a key.” Great. I asked if there was anyone else at home, and of course there wasn’t. “Well, let’s go inside!” I told them.

So there I was, needing to do work, planning on making dinner and was now host to two elementary school kids for an indefinite amount of time. As they ran into the house I tried to remember if there was anything laying around that shouldn’t be and played out disaster scenarios in my head like if their mom didn’t come home until late and I’d have to feed them vegetarian chili and they found it disgusting and I had to take them to McDonald’s or their mom would freak out when she got home because her kids were in a stranger’s house.

I only had to keep an eye on the kids for 20 minutes or so. During that time I gave the little boy a glass of milk and followed him around the house while he drank it and balanced a too-big-for-his-hands glass in just one hand as he tried to pet Oliver, and not trip over my yoga mat, and my running shoes, and the mail. They watched the Disney channel, called their mom on my cell phone, successfully petted Oliver a few times before he wisely retreated upstairs, “Can I go get him?” they asked, “Um…let’s not.”, harassed the turtles, ran the bathroom sink over and trailed armfulls of bubbles over the wood floors.

Altogether, they’re well-behaved kids. I learned that everyone at school has a cell phone and they use it all the time and found out where all the elementary schools are in our neighborhood. I was glad that they ran into me before they had to hang out on their porch until their mom came home or had to knock on every neighbors door until they found someone home, even with as safe as our neighborhood is. But honestly, they wore me out a little bit. In retrospect, had I realized that they were going to leave so quickly I should have stuffed them full of ice cream and soda and sent them on their way.

clinton speech

Originally uploaded by l@in.

Today, Joanna and I met up with a friend to go see Hillary Clinton’s final campaign speech at the National Building Museum. We waited in the hot June sun with hundreds of others snaking around the building until we finally got inside. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait in the heat for too long, though we couldn’t see much from the second floor. We did hear the applause for Terry McAuliffe as he arrived and joked amongst ourselves that perhaps Bill had stopped off for a snack at the Burger King nearby as we watched the clock and waited.

Clinton is great speaker. She certainly did not disappoint today as she managed to address the disappointment of her supporters, the historic nature of her campaign, the need for full inclusion in the Democratic Party, and throw her full support under Barak Obama as the presidential nominee in a concise and eloquent manner.

I won’t lie, I’m genuinely sad that she didn’t get the nomination. I believe she is the best candidate for the job. I am also sad that this election will not send the first woman to the White House in a position other than First Lady.

I am, however, heartened by her speech. In hearing it live, as well as having time to reflect while awaiting her arrival I realized that there are important take-aways from her campaign. These points are especially pertinent to me as a woman. It’s difficult to explain, but I do feel that this election process has exposed the very serious cracks in the foundation our nation was built on. Sexism and racism are still present in our collective psyche. They are easy issues to ignore or try and overlook because they’re difficult to deal with. They’re messy, and personal, and emotional, but in order to really deal with them, one must do it head-on. It requires dialog both internal and external. There is no excuse for either, but I do feel as if sexism is easier to ignore. I heard a pundit on tv once I returned home this evening talking about how the idea of a glass ceiling was a “ridiculous” idea. Granted, the man was on Fox news, but I was still shocked that he said it. Shocked that he thought that was an okay comment to make as if months ago almost every news poll was asking the question if America was ready for a female President. They asked the question if we were ready for a black President too, and frankly I’m just kind of appalled that we’ve got to ask the question, even though it’s clear that we do, because we’re not sure about the answer.

Anyway, it’s a lot to process. Seeing Clinton speak this afternoon was inspiring to me. She was confident and gracious and conceded without being defeatist. I think it’s a good lesson. It got me thinking about what I might do to change my thinking about failures, both small and large, and how to work towards success in my own life. I came up with points made in Clinton’s speech today that I think would be helpful to me.

1. It’s okay to be proud and vocal about your accomplishments.

One of the first comments I heard about the speech today while watching the news was that she talked about herself a lot. My first thought was well… yeah, it was about her campaign. But then I really thought about it – she is able to talk about her own accomplishments without being self-aggrandizing. I think that’s important, especially for women, because I think we’re taught to down-play what we do and wait for someone else to congratulate us for our accomplishments, which ultimately, doesn’t do anyone any good.

2. Don’t stop just because other’s think you should.

People have been advocating that Clinton drop out of the race for months. If she had, we may never have seen just how much support was out there. I think it’s a good lesson in not giving up, trying your best, and having faith in yourself and your goals.

3. Just because you fight hard, doesn’t mean you’re going to win.

I think that sums it up. Along with this though, I think it’s easy to assume that because you didn’t win you weren’t good enough to win. In actuality, that’s not always the case.

4. Be thankful.

Clinton was thankful for the opportunity to run for President, for her supporters, her family and friends, and for the opportunities afforded her. It’s cheesy, but it’s easy to forget to be thankful.

5. Be gracious, exhibit grace.

Throughout the campaign, and even before really, I have always been a little amazed at Clinton’s graciousness. The speech she gave today must have been extraordinarily difficult, but she did it very well. I feel as if the ability to do this is born of a little hardship.

But that’s it. It was a good race. Now, time for a Democrat in the White House.

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