Well it' been a while since I last felt the ability to share my thoughts and it has been a hard fought fight to get to where I am today. I think about what it felt like after returning home from Maya's burial and I am so thankful I made it past those first few months and it may take a while to look at those winter months the same way again.
But with the help and gentle inspiration from God, time, and loved ones, "in the depth of winter I found that within me lay an invincible summer."(Albert Camus)
So...I started to run.
I bought a treadmill and demolished a pair of sneakers I had for a decade and invested in shin splint tape and stretchy pants...because sometimes, when you are a man(wo) you wear stretchy pants in your room...it's for fun.
And sometimes you wear your stretchy pants in your room while you run your demons out until you collapse on your bed, because you are convinced that YOU are still in there...somewhere.
My sister-in-law Diana, aware of my new love of running (a.k.a I got over my fear of letting go of the handles on the treadmill), asked me if I would like to join her in a Ragnar race. My usual and immediate response to things Diana says with the word "race" in it was an emphatic "No...huh uh, no way." And then, I started thinking.....maybe!? And theeeeeen...I said Yes! There have been more than a few times I have gone with a good feeling as a propellant for action and this most certainly, defying logic, was one of them.
I told a friend I had signed up to run a 200 mile relay race and she said "Wow! Are you a runner?" to which I responded... "nope."
With maybe 5 weeks ahead of us, we began training. I looked pretty much awful 6 days a week...the good kind though, from a crazy amount of sweat and a decent amount of tears. I read constantly about running tips, how to lace shoes, how to run hills, the length of your stride, how to breathe, how to lean, I downloaded apps, I wore compression socks, I duct taped blisters, I high-fived myself and danced in the shower and I tried extra hard to listen to the voice that said "You can do this." Aaaaand I only had like 5 mental break downs....so.... on to victory!
Finally it was Race Day. Our team got to the hotel late Thursday night and Friday morning we were all up and in the van with our gear at 4;45am. I had figured that just signing up for the thing was going to earn a pat on the back from myself and any mileage I put on my shoes was more than everyone on the couch. I imagined that was why I felt good about putting my name on the roster.
It had been an exquisitely tough year and I thought doing this run would be a symbolic exclamation as we near Maya's first birthday in a few weeks.
I told Maya at her funeral that she would probably see us cry and be sad and that it was OK and that it would bring us closer to God. Well, no doubt Maya has seen me on some hard times since she graduated from her earthly body. I have spent a good amount of time trying to will her photograph to snuggle on my shoulder. Maya's passing has hurt abominably.
So I pulled out a sharpee and scrawled "Mighty like Maya" on my arm, tucked a small laminated picture of my baby girl into my pocket and turned up the music.
If this song just played over and over I would be alright. They pretty much summed it up.
The Ragnar is a relay race with 200ish miles split up between 12 team members, with each person running 3 legs of the race starting for us at 5:15 am and ending the following afternoon.
My first leg of the race was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining and I was running down an open farm road in Amish country Pennsylvania waving at buggies and giant farm machinery as they passed by. The view was joyous and I could not help but run with a giant smile on my face. Seriously...running...who knew?! I even finished my leg before our van got to the next exchange point! Normally as you finish your leg you pass the "baton" (slap bracelet) to the next runner on your team who charges off continuing the race. It was really fun having my team show up with excitement that I had gone faster than expected.
(Sometimes your van is posing with horses...which is what we were doing when we lost our runner earlier in the day)- Diana, Me, Sarena, Karl and Liz...(David not shown here as he is running around somewhere)
(Sarena, Diana and I sporting our Ragnar Tats!)
So what really happened? I learned a lot. When we woke up freezing after two hours of sleep and started preparing ourselves for the last leg, my father in law sent a video message to Diana and I that I was not expecting. He said "This is what it is all about, THIS is what you were dreaming of the whole time you were preparing to get ready to go to this, This is YOUR time as you are getting ready to do THIS leg and I'm glad it's you." I was reminded that I AM strong and that I can do this, and by "this" I mean life. For several months I have felt like life has been dragging me along on my face. I gave birth to my long awaited beautiful daughter and for five months I counted her breaths until she took her last. I didn't feel so strong after that. My last run of the race taught me to be more proud of the statement "and I kept running" than "I won."
I am so proud of myself for signing up for that craziness. I am thankful for the new and dear friendships I have made, and for my crazy team mates who cheered me on in the rain when I so needed it.
I am also so grateful for a God who takes time to teach and lift me up when I feel broken.
So...I am going to keep running, and I'm taking Maya with me.
Much love, and more next time.