A Marathon Reminder for a Seasoned Runner

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Prologue

At this writing, 24 hours has passed since I joined thousands of people along West Palm Beach’s Intracoastal waterway to start the Fit Team Marathon of the Palm Beaches’ half and full marathon race yesterday on Sunday, December 3, 2017.

My body is still carrying on a one-sided conversation with my brain (perhaps a rant) about the abuse it has endured and how it’s still threatening a complete physical shutdown to show it means business. I’m proud of everyone that got up so early and completed their respective races, whether goals were reached or not.

Past

It has literally been well over a decade since I ran this specific race. It was the Inaugural edition in 2004 for West Palm Beach hosting its own marathon series race and it was also my first marathon ever—somehow I made the qualification for the 2005 Boston marathon which I immediately signed up for and then finished off my year of marathoning with the 30th anniversary Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in Washington, DC where my husband I are were working at the time.

“DINKs” they called us, “double income, no kids” and so completing 3 marathons in a year’s time in your twenties is not such a far-fetched idea. Upon completing that third and awe-inspiring MCM, I hung up my running shoes for a year or more to rest both body and mind. By the time I started running again along the Capitol’s mall area, it became apparent that we were about to become parents in a matter of months.

Present

After 4 pregnancies in my life, blessed with three miraculous births of our children in their own respective arrivals—a seasoned runner as myself felt it was time to run and give back a little in the process. The result became a plan to run three races in three months time.

This fall I had decided to sign up again with the local Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to raise money while I prepared with our Palm Beach Chapter team to run in the Marine Corps 10K in October.   Since I was able to run some long runs with our team members who were taking on the Marine Corps Marathon, I heard we had the Marathon of the Palm Beaches again in town after a 2-year absence and signed up for the December race. At the same time, old teammates of mine had rallied and we’d collectively decided to enter the Ragnar Relay South Beach race in November as a mini-reunion and reminder of how we’ve aged since our Division I collegiate career days.

The Marathon: A Possible Spiritual Exercise Regardless of Religion

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I have Greek blood in me and although I just completed my fourth marathon, I’m still in disbelief because although training helps to complete this distance—I’ve found that each and every time I run it I’m truly humbled to the core of my being. There are times I’ve been super prepared in my mileage tallies and pacing and other times like yesterday when I had a moderate amount of training but have also been balancing life’s responsibilities.

It’s never been a surprise to me that Greek legend holds the story of the man who ran to shout victory and promptly died upon doing so.   Maybe it’s a mathematical thing as the 26.2 mile distance may be very easy for some and for others literally the most difficult physical feat they’ve ever accomplished (save giving birth for women of course).

Yesterday I shared with some friends that my feet told me they hate me at mile 15. By mile 18 I was beginning to feel the twinges of various muscles in my legs getting ready to seize up. My fuel belt had lots of different sources of electrolytes, protein, caffeine and sugars to help me along but by mile 20 my stomach was closed for business and threatened to heave its contents if I tried to send anything besides water or some Gatorade its way. By the time I saw mile 25 I was so grateful that I hadn’t fallen down already and started to spontaneously cry with a bike support and old friend by my side asking if I was okay. The finish in sight with half a mile to go and evidently my body still had some liquid adrenaline left to send me through the finish line only to start bawling in relief that it was over.

It was a blessing to run and raise money for IOCC – International Christian Orthodox Charities during this particular race and wear my friend’s campaign material for her run for City Commissioner in West Palm Beach. I will admit that running for something or someone other than yourself does help when facing physical challenges—a reason why many former collegiate or professional athletes still enjoy their sport when supporting charities in their retirement.

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In addition, I cannot “tag” enough people or thank enough my own local family, including my mom Vanessa, my husband Thomas and kids, my sister Artemis and niece who were out there giving me water and encouragement that I never knew I would need as much as I did yesterday— support bike Cecilio not to be excluded of course or my dear Molly Ragsdale who has coached me in the past and my Newman sister Shannon Fox as they ran 13.1 at a good pace for my first half. There are people out there who will also never know how much their clap or cheering meant to many of us running that race—but thank you!

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Epilogue

I could write a page for every mile I ran yesterday but I’ll condense it into a couple of paragraphs describing what I observed and what philosophical reaction I have had to it all.

To the old friends and colleagues alike I saw, they ran or they were supportive, it all mattered so much. There were those I didn’t know but saw their sacrifice for charities, for family and friends and yet others running or racing in their wheelchairs because it celebrates life—that we’re all here together regardless of our backgrounds and what we’ve overcome in our respective lives.

When you’re a seasoned athlete in your sport, it may be daunting to continue past the age when it’s considered the “peak” season. Personally, I’ve been running in road races for over 30 years.

We learn even more about our strengths and priorities, however, when we venture into that unknown field beyond the youthful speed so plentiful with running and learn to see our accomplishments and that of our loved ones in a different light. We evolve to give ourselves and others grace.

Gratitude. I personally was grateful to finish this last marathon in one piece never mind that it was the slowest I’ve ever ran in this distance. I’ve recommended to family and friends alike that if they’re physically able they should consider trying to complete a marathon at least once in their lives—it’s a “time-out” like none other in life.

R.V.S.B.

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Ragnar Relay Reduction: Melbourne to South Beach, Florida

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Pardon me as this is another one of my philosophical reflections after completing a Ragnar Relay Race—technically the third I’ve participated in and the second one I completed with a majority of my University of Florida track and cross-country teammates and friends.

The Muscle Hangover

 A few days have passed since I participated in the 2017 Ragnar Relay South Beach Race. For those not familiar with this racing series, it involves teams of 6 or 12 people splitting the mileage of a major distance like the 200+ miles my team known as “In It To Win It Dos” just finished by starting in Melbourne, Florida and finishing in Miami’s South Beach.

Although it’s a relay with the mileage broken up, it still means that each individual runner has a substantial amount of mileage in three different parts. Post-Ragnar racers usually have the same hobble-waddle-like walk in the days shortly afterwards.

Our team took over 26 hours to finish this running challenge and those hours are spent in close quarters with folks in a van and involve trying to refresh and refuel one’s body several times without the luxury of space or time. In short, it’s a bit grueling and perhaps masochistic—but for someone with an athletic background, it’s familiar and in a weird way comforting to be able to still participate in something like this with others.

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Another Sort of Family

 We’ve heard of family by blood and family by Spirit (especially in religious traditions). I now propose that there is definitely another sort of sister-brotherhood to be found in having been on an athletic team with others through high school and/or college. Like anything where you spend an extended amount of time with others in close quarters and under physically stressful circumstances you’re bound to be bonded for life.

For our 2017 team “In It To Win It Dos”, we were a mixture of University of Florida teammates and high school competitors as well as an additional respectable athlete in her own right who had agreed to join us for this crazy ride of a race. Seeing each other again was a balm to the spirit and even if there was awkwardness it was only because it had been so long since we’d been in each other’s presence.

If you think about it for a moment, after you’ve known a certain set of folks for twenty years or more, there are many life moments that are traversed: Marriages, births, miscarriages, divorces, deaths of loved ones, military service, regret over not serving in the military, Olympic aspirations strived for and perhaps not reached, disappointments, victories and unexpected surprises both positive and negative.  Catching up in during the  in-between moments of the competition allowed us to share what we’ve experienced and learned thus far in our respective lives.

The Actual Race

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 In our particular team with twelve participants, it meant that we split into two vans each of six people to tackle the 200 plus miles of this Ragnar Relay South Beach. Thankfully we had planned ahead and had matching tank tops that exploited our team’s name and gator logo. We had fun with our name monikers and also numbered respectively our tops in the order we would run the legs.  Other teams would “tag” other vans with magnetic names or mottos for fun–the racing atmosphere joined all racers in a funny if not friendly camaraderie.

For a race set in mostly south Florida, it was impressive how many different weather patterns we encountered as each of the twelve team members were responsible for running three legs respectively: with various running legs going over intercoastal bridges, we had a number of runners dealing with gale force winds and rain, roads during the night with little light and lots of animal noises or whiffs of swamp gas.

Personally, my second leg involved a post-midnight 8+ mile run through my own familiar city ground but was quickly humbled when I took a fall so hard that I felt my neck and spine rattle as my left shoulder thankfully took the brunt (my face was about to take it all, thank God I was able to twist in time). Was blessed with the presence of an Army soldier as a running mate during this particular leg and he was standing over me asking “Are you okay, that was quite the face plant fall!” All I asked was that he “please pick me up”. He did and we were on our way toward the exchange point.

We had runners who encountered confusing road signs, muscle fatigue and unforeseen events. For a moment in time, we took a break from our respective work, our children, our spouses, our co-parents, and our general life routines just to participate with each other in a fabricated competition against nothing but ourselves really—and in some ways it can seem absurd, but it also was an awesome exercise to have with each other in how life can unfold.

Logistical Nightmares

Some of us on this team had run in these Ragnar Relay races before and so had a pre-conceived notion of how these things should go from a logistics standpoint. This specific race course was on its inaugural run so we were unknowingly the guinea pigs as it unfolded.

Isn’t that life though? Don’t we encounter systems in place that are supposed to take care of us but we’re disillusioned by at times?

Being with my teammates and navigating the snags along the way with the different challenges that presented themselves was also a great exercise on how to pool resources between our skill sets and know-how on the fly. It reminded me of the sort of government or corporate retreats where they organize workshops to help teams or groups of people tackle problems in a cohesive and effective manner.

That being said, Ragnar Relays may have to take note that they’ll receive a large amount of feedback concerning the South Beach race in weeks to come.

Crossing the Line

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There is an anti-climax to the end of things–like after you receive a diploma, finish a certificate program, give birth and so forth.  It’s the same after a long race like this where for hours we’ve been using our mental and physical energies in a heightened mode to achieve a great completion.

“In It To Win It Dos” didn’t win like we had hoped, there was even raw frustration about losing to a team we’ve faced before by only seconds.  We still gathered to run through the finish line for our photo shoot (I apologize publicly for being absent during that particular “finish line run” as the race had taken its toll on me and I was appreciating a non-porto-potty bathroom situation nearby).

Nevertheless, we were all reunited for our final photo together afterwards in the finish area on South Beach and deserve to feel proud that despite our places in life that we could pull together and achieve a great physical and mental accomplishment!

Until next time…

R.V.S.B.

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2014 Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame: A Reflection

Note: I credit both The Palm Beach Post for the news link and photo (Bill Ingram)Image,

as well as Palm Beach Sports Commission (www.palmbeachsports.com) for the detailed information on the 2014 Induction Class.

The Morning After

The morning after most big life events can evoke a mixed slurry of both euphoric and bittersweet emotions.  This past Monday I awoke to gray skies here in south Florida with slivers of pink and lavender tones to the east signaling dawn’s arrival–the rain would begin softly and go on to run intervals throughout the rest of the day.

Intervals. How many intervals of some distance or another have I run in my lifetime up to this point?  The seasons of my sport blend into the shifts of my life seasons from a little prep school runner to a student-athlete representing the University of Florida Gators to a young wife of a seminarian to Capitol Hill and U.S. Treasury mini-careers to a CEO of the Home including working as homeschool teacher of young children.

Reflections On Fellow Inductees

After the initial phone call a few months ago when I was informed about my inclusion in the Inductee Class of 2014 for the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame, I was curious to know about the other inductees.  This past Sunday evening I was genuinely humbled to be in the company of not only some past honorees but my current class. The following reflection is for each one inducted:

  • Reidel Anthony:  What a blessing to be inducted alongside a fellow Florida Gator! That you were able to achieve such great stats in a short period of time shows what a great drive and understanding you have of your sport. Proud of your personal accomplishments and now as a coach giving back and helping the next generation find their footing as rising student-athletes.
  • Randy O’Neal:  Your baseball career is outstanding and reflects that you not only respected your sport but understood the importance of higher education and collegiate athletic training.  What impressed me the most was that in your speech’s mention that one of the times you learned the most was when you were in a limbo situation during your baseball career–essentially alluding to the fact that we often glean wisdom from our moments of adversity.  This is so important to remind young student-atheletes about as unforeseen difficulties can abound as they forge into their respective careers.
  • Donald Blaze Thompson:  I meant what I said about Coach Harry Howell in my speech the other evening, that he was like a father to me and such–I believe it’s priceless what likely you are to many, if not all, of your players as not only a successful coach in the game of football, but as a mentor on life itself as they go forward from school to the next step.
  • Vincent Bogdanski:  What an honor to meet a fellow Cardinal Newman Crusader and see you recognized for an exceptional sports career that included football, tennis, golf and basketball.  Your focus on academic achievement was reflective in your college choice and yet it’s exciting to learn that you were able to compete for Georgetown in football and then later represent the U.S. Air Force in tennis.
  • Pete and Alice Dye:  Honestly I’m just beginning to learn about the game of golf–it was a revealing education to read about both your accomplishments in and your contributions to the sport.  It is wonderful to see such great team that between the two has designed just under 100 courses that are known as “golf’s best” and because of Alice has been taking “the women’s game into account” by standing on site and helping oversee the construction.

Nutshell Conclusion

The entire event was a great testament to the sports accomplishments of Palm Beach County in general and I was happy to see the various high school student-athletes recognized: Rasheeda McAdoo in Tennis and Jesse Stephanos in Wrestling–including other outstanding persons like Malachi Knowles with Inner City Youth Golfer’s, Inc and Special Olympics Athlete of the Year Bridget Manken.  Amateur Athlete of the Year Tre Mason, Professional Athlete of the Year Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Andrews-Ceravolo High School Coach of the Year, Jack Daniels with William T. Dwyer.  Congratulations to everyone mentioned or missed!

Grateful and Onward

Personally this event was a gift to help take a pause and look back for a moment before heading onward again–as I said, it is impossible to truly thank everyone who has been part of my personal triumphs (as well as perserverance through times of difficulty).  It’s common to say that the people who are part of your life’s journey resemble links in a chain.  However, I would offer that from my experience during childhood through to the present tells the story of family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers resembling threads woven into an elaborate tapestry representing my life.  Thank you and God’s blessings to all who have been, are and will be a part of my life.

R.V.S.Bean

The Palm Beach Post link: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/photo/sports/reidel-anthony-proud-product-of-the-muck-enters-pa/p9RKw/

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections, Projections and Reality: Memoir for a Moment

Note: Started writing this shortly after 2014 began and find that my birthday this week is a more appropriate time for a reflective and somewhat autobiographical piece.

Welcome 2014!

The beginning of a new year can produce the feeling of renewed hope for some as we’ve shed the tired coat of the waning year–at best no looking back, only forward.  Although I normally reserve the right to keep my resolutions to the safety of my personal correspondence and journals, I feel comfortable sharing the following reflections, projections and reality of what I expect of 2014 and beyond.

Last Year’s Ending On the Road 

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Just over a month ago I ran competitively in a local road race after training for nearly 6 months straight.  My goals for the race continued to change as the race start date came closer to pass.  First I kept focusing on placing in the top three females overall.  As I kept getting up around 4:50 am a few days every week to get the training done, my body and spirit awakened to the sacrifice I was purposely subjecting myself to–its effects were lacing my conversations with family and friends as a bitter brag.  The daily routine with my children and immediate family were labored because I had already taxed myself before the day had begun.

As the exhaustion compounded I realized that my heart wasn’t into it so when I came across the story of an eastern European woman who once was a competitive runner and now represented the Race to Respond program with the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) I wanted to know more.  After I contacted the IOCC and found out that this program was open to any and all athletes who wanted to participate and raise funds while running in a race.  By chance that same week I got into a conversation with a colleague at my church and found out she was training for the same race–when I shared the info about this program she was very excited and we teamed up.

IOCC has been doing a lot of work in Syria with those displaced in the warfare ravaging the population there and most recently with relief efforts in the Philippines following that tragic super-typhoon in the fall.  Running for this cause breathed new life into my discipline for what I needed to accomplish each time I practiced.  The painfully early mornings were more manageable because the cause was much greater than my own ego or assumed goals.

At race start time, my colleague and I had raised over 1100K in just a few weeks and I felt part of a team again as I wore IOCC’s logo on my racing top.  However, while running the race I was overwhelmed by the unexpected: I felt completely drained and light-headed.  By mile 4 I had become dizzy and labored in my running form.  When I passed through mile 8 and saw my family cheering me on there was a part of me that just wanted to stop right there and walk with them back to the cars and speed home.  The other part of me was very frustrated and had resolved that I was finishing this race without collapsing because of the donations from others to IOCC on behalf our running in this race.

In short, I finished in the top 10 women, 2nd in my age-group and was simply devastated by one of my slowest times in the half-marathon.

New Year’s Fears and Frustrations

If you know me well personally, the last couple of paragraphs make sense to you–if you don’t know me, I don’t blame you for being impatient with my tone.

Of the many things I learned in 2013, it became clear to me that I really thrive on helping others and if I’m to push my body physically then I definitely need a cause to support beyond myself.  Within weeks of the switch I made to run for charity I had also received a call that I was nominated to be part of the induction class for the 2014 Palm Beach Sports Commission Hall of Fame banquet in March.  Cliche as it may seem, I felt like everything in my athletic life had come full circle.

There’s also my squirming emotion that revolts against the idea of being inducted into an athletic hall of fame:  My will screams that I’m not done yet with my competitive days, the Olympic torch continuously burns in my heart for a chance to make the Games and I still dream of races both past and future like a soldier might be haunted by battles on the field.

What is more important to learn?  Is it to rise up always and conquer?  Or is it more complicated; can success also be found in being content to accept and forgive one’s self for not accomplishing the stereotypical dream story of a child growing up from a poor and abused background to achieve star athlete status on the worldwide stage?

Peace and Gratitude

Running in that race last month also helped me truly dissect what my running career was for me in my younger years:  It was an escape from the daily burdens of personal life.  It provided opportunities to have wonderful father figures and mentors like my coaches Harry Howell and JJ Clark.  It was my prayer and my dance for my Creator.  I loved running and meeting others who were like me–connecting with them even if we were so different in other aspects of our respective personalities.  It provided me educational opportunities and the honor of wearing my University of Florida’s orange and blue colors in our uniforms in competition.

By accepting the honor to be included in the Hall of Fame for Palm Beach County’s Sports Commission I’m affirming that my running accolades are a testament to what discipline and dedication of others can yield.  Looking back I also realize that there are countless people I wish to thank for their inspiration, support, prayers, unconditional love and overall belief that I was capable of setting and achieving various goals in my sport.

Being Here, Looking Ahead But Present Still

I’m a runner and always will be but it’s not the only thing I am and associate with in this life.  For nearly 15 years in my childhood and early adulthood years it was second only to my academic career and so I suppressed other aspects of myself until I could expand in those areas later.  What I strive for the most now is to truly live in the here and now–to engage in whatever moment I’m living whether as a mother, a wife, a lover, a sibling, a friend, a teacher, an artist, a gardener, a writer, a dancer and the list goes on ad nauseam.

What I hope you can take from this personal babble is that my philosophy is shaping to understand that it’s possible to peacefully dissuade regret and the “what-ifs” from the psyche.  The truth is there is ‘what has been’ and may be ‘that which comes’ but the best we can all do is be here and thrive in the ‘now’.  Then there isn’t a question as to whether you did all you could because you did–for the better or the worse doesn’t even matter because you respected the present by exercising your will to live.

R.V.S.B.

“Let it Be” The Beatles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4zaofnVhps

Naked Run

Tonight I ran naked. To be specific: without any sort of electronic technology on my person. I ran away from the ipod playlists that I usually end up skipping through to find the current song of my heart.  My hands were free from taking turns holding my Blackberry phone that I’d try to peek at to see if I missed a call, text or email from anybody.

As I ran through the dark streets of the neighborhood that I reside in, I could hear everything including the crickets screaming out in their respective songs.  No moon in the sky and so I could make out many stars sparkling.  I felt the cool evening air filling my tired lungs, my skin and muscles tightening and relaxing as I tried to find my run’s rhythm pace.

It’s been so long since I ran free like this-alone and quiet-and yet so rich in the experience of the run itself. The human body in its most free mode of land-locked flight. No one could reach me and my heart soared in the raw feeling of this temporary escape.

By the end of my run I felt refreshed even though my physical heart was thundering in my ears, my thighs weak with the weight of soreness throughout.  I felt the breeze in my scalp like a gentle massage helping any troubles from the day tumble away. My heart within was singing its own song rendition.

I advocate this type of running.  To each his or her own of course.  However, if you can’t remember the last time you ran unfettered from wires and wireless signals, I recommend you try it once in a while as a detox for your body and spirit.

RVSB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"