Monday, April 7, 2014

8 mi run: Remembering an end. Appreciating a journey

Photo by Fine Art America
I went to bed last night with 8 miles on the table for today along with a nose I could barely breathe out of, a sore throat, sneezing my head off, and a huge headache. Yip, all this in spite of pumping Airborne, Olive Leaf Extract and spending the last 2 days mostly in bed. 

I'm not getting sick. I'm not getting sick, said the Queen of Denial, yours truly.

I also went to bed with a goal on the same table of running my first real half marathon April 27th, just 3 short weeks away. I can't afford to miss any training if I am going to meet this goal.

I've been really shy about sharing my half goal. I think I'm a little gun shy to put myself out there ever since last summer's marathon heart break. Broken ribs with one week of training left until my taper. Epic fail. It still stings.

Moving on.

April is bittersweet for me. My dad died on April 15th and I realized today on my run that the nightmare of his death started 11 years ago from today. 

So I put off today's run until I got my weekly message from my TA running partner.

Nope. No replying until I at least try to get this long run done

Accountability even if there is an ocean between us. 

The beginning was painful both mentally and physically. The first few miles I lamented on how out of sync my breathing was. My hips hurt. I was pretty sure I tweaked my right calf. 

Mentally I was all, Are you kidding me?? Come on Darcey. You ran 13.1 miles last month

I had only been off 3 weeks with peroneal tendonitis but it felt like I was starting from day 1 in so many ways. Time to retrain my mind.  

Run slow. Run conservatively.

So the first few miles were a struggle. I wish I could have recorded my thoughts. They were wildly all over the grid. Somewhere in the 3rd mile I was sure that my chest hurt and I wouldn't make it. 

Ugh. Really? Back to that?

But I hit a turning point by the end of the 4th mile. I realized I was halfway done. I had settled into a comfortable pace and I had started to feel the familiar rhythm of my feet and my breath. The steady beating was as comforting as knowing I was halfway to the end.

The end.

I started thinking about this morning's talk. "We come to appreciate life and love when death is on the table."

Is that really true for me? Why should it take the end of something to gain an appreciation for it? 

I turned the corner to the last leg of the run. I was at 5 miles and the next 3 were a straight shot to my street. It looked long. Really long. 

I could almost make out the end though and it filled me with a second wind and I was determined to get there.

Hmm. There's the end thing again.

The long road ahead instantly brought up a very vivid memory.

Put the phone up to his ear, I told my sister through my crying
Dad. I'm on my way. Everything will be ok.

Those were the words I had spoken to my dad over the phone exactly 10 years ago when my sister called me to say he had just had a massive stroke leaving him unable to speak or move. 

She told me a tear streamed down his cheek. I knew he heard me.

I turned around and drove 24 hours home to be with him after just arriving on vacation. I will never forget our last moments together.

Day after day went by. The nurses kept telling us it wouldn’t be much longer. He hadn’t had any food or water in over a week. We all knew what his wishes would be and as painful as it was, tried to carry them out. He just kept holding on. He was such a fighter all his life. It was torture to watch him suffer.

I will never forget the last night. The nurses told us that his systems were shutting down and that it wouldn’t be much longer. We had all heard this before. My sister and I were exhausted. Neither of us had really slept more than a few hours at a clip. My other 6 siblings went home except my oldest sister and I. She is the oldest and I am the youngest, the “bookends” as they called us. She was on his right and I was on his left. We tried all over again saying it’s okay Dad. We’ll be okay. You can let go. We tried to pray with him. We told him that his Mom was waiting for him. Just let go. He didn’t. My sister asked him if he wanted to be alone. Maybe that was the problem. We wanted to be there but maybe he wanted to be alone. A tear streamed down his face and we knew he didn’t want to be alone.

We finally decided that I should try to step out of the room. Maybe he just couldn’t leave me. He had spent his whole life taking care of me. I was the youngest, his baby. So I stepped out. I was exhausted and drained. I felt ready to explode when I left the room. I went into the meal room. It was a glass rectangular room full of tables overlooking the river. It suddenly occurred to me that this was the very room where my Dad had told me 3 years earlier that he couldn't live like this in a nursing home and asked me to please leave some pills by his bed.

I had to let him go. 

In that moment, I dropped to my knees in front of the window and I sobbed. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. 

I prayed. 
And I prayed. 
And I prayed. 
I repeated over and over the same thing out loud. 
“Please God. Please take him. Please God. Just take him. 
Fucking take him.”

I dried my eyes, and went back into his room. I quietly walked over to the bed and put my head on his chest, listening to his strong but fading heart beat. 

And I cried.

Today the thumping of my feet and my breath suddenly remind me of the sound of his heart beating against my ear.

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

I told him how much I loved him but it was time to go now. My sister did the same. Within minutes he was gone.
I notice the sky is a brilliant blue today. I can feel the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze on my face as I continue my run down the long road.

Yes. I can definitely see the end of this run in the distance.