dusseldorf marathon

Ack!i can’t believe I’ve been here a week already! I am really behind with posts and should start with the marathon since that is what launched this whole trip anyways. That said, I did not prepare for it at all. Like, at all. My longest run in distance was the half marathon i paced at Tobacco Road March 15. My longest run by time was 2 hours on March 28. Needless to say I was just praying for survival. To have a good time, as good as one can with little to no training, and not hate myself for the next week bc of how much trauma I subjected my legs to.

Taking a red eye to Europe 3 days before the race probably isn’t advisable but my family had a condo at Sea Island for 2 weeks and I was trying to maximize time with them before I left. Of course I couldn’t sleep on the direct flight from Atlanta despite the completely flat personal pod bed I had in business class, courtesy of Judy. So with an hour of sleep I tried to maximize the day with Dirk and his aunt/uncle, our hosts. A trip to the phone store for a SIM card, the bakery for delicious goodies including:

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and a little tour of Gerresheim, the quaint suburb we’d call home for a week or two then a Quick nap before a drive downtown to the less than interesting race expo to get our bibs and race shirts (extra purchase required), and some silly pics with the bmw display:

 

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Dirks aunt and and uncle only put about 5000 miles on their car annually but were super sweet to drive us downtown and then parked in a deck and couldn’t find the car again! We finally tracked it down and headed to his cousins house for a 4 year olds birthday party which basically entailed adults drinking alcohol and eating cake 😂. It was a gorgeous day so eventually we all moseyed to my first Biergarten for a Radler (Pilsner with sprite, literal translation “cyclist”):

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So despite being jetlagged and all it was a great day. Then I slept for 12 hours. God bless. My little fold out bed in the attic is too cute and comfortable. Hiltrud treats me like a daughter and I could not be more grateful.

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Oh so marathon… Ok Saturday we went downtown again on the above ground train and walked and walked and drank some altbier and ate some Lebanese food (yum!) and did things one probably ought not do the day before a marathon (goal race or shot in the dark, either way), but it was fun and Düsseldorf is super cool. We made our plans and went to bed and I tossed and turned til 3am bc that’s what happens the night before a race, right? Thankfully it was a 9am start so the alarm went off at 6:30 because “the bus was leaving at 7:30!!”

hiltrud and Verne drove us to a train station to meet up with dirk’s friends Archie and Anya who were also running. We rode the train downtown to the start where their other friends took our personal belongings so we didn’t have to deal with bag check and after a news interview, some selfies, and  a couple trips to the toi-toi we were off. I positioned myself just ahead of the 4:00 pacer, bc despite by extreme lack of preparation, that was my ridiculous goal, and I’d even had this personalized pace band made for me at the expo with my name and 5k splits for a 4:00 finish. One of the pacer was a friend of Archie’s who I met the night before while guzzling altbier and laughing nervously about how I used to pace 4:00 marathons myself.

sub 9s were not the plan but the course was flat and that’s what just kept clicking off. I was anxious and afraid. There weren’t a ton of spectators early on, but good pockets of them kept me energized and I was trying to run super easy and ignore my watch. Stick to the nutrition plan, check your form, keep it easy, no heavy Breathing…. I tried to hang with some English speakers for a bit just to actually have some distraction but they were just a tad too fast so I backed off. It’s remarkable how quiet a bunch of foreign language speaking runners can seem.

the cobblestones were worrisome but didn’t last long. the one “big” bridge we crossed twice was negligible. the spectators were blaring great american music from balconies and curbs. I couldn’t remember where Hiltrud and Dirk’s cousins were going to be but I knew second half, so after a 1:57:50 first half I kept scanning the crowds. At mile 16 I popped in a toi-toi, truly a first for a race I was running for myself (i’ve only ever stopped mid race when pacing, weird), but it was quick and easy. until I started running again and my legs revolted. I thought maybe my race was over and I was dreading a potential run/walk/hobble to the finish. but I kept praying and had those silly Fillnow positive mantras in my head, and by God it worked!

Somehow I kept going, and sure, it hurt, I mean, you read I hadn’t run over 13.1 miles since uh, Nov 2? I did see the cousins and Hiltrud and Verne at mile 17/18 yelling “USA” and jumping around, and the bag holding friends around 24? A  cup of coke from a stranger at 22 saved the day and I managed to hold on to a decent pace all the way til the end for a 3:58 finish, even passing Archie who was hoping for a 3:45!

I waited for him at the finish and of course then it started raining on us (at least it held off during the race?). Why in God’s name did they have huge tents of non-alcoholic beer at the finish I have NO idea, but we got goody bags with a towel and shower soap (they had onsite shower tents), a box of dry spaghetti, a bottle of apple juice, and some kleenex, in a reusable grocery bag. I mean, weird? Our meet up spot was at the Uerige a few blocks from the finish festival so we just navigated over there in our nasty wet clothes, in the rain, to find Dirk, who was actually in the shower still. We stopped for some Schumacher altbier at a pop up biergarten in the city hall square en route and the manager who is friend of my new friends loaned me her jacket to help with my shivering haha. Everyone here is so nice!! even after I changed into my dry clothes I was freezing so Archie gave me (like for keeps!) his sweatshirt:

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In the midst of our social media posts and celebrating we realized that Somehow Dirk managed to lose his baggie with money, coaster for 5euro post race dinner and house keys. It wouldn’t be until that evening that he recalled laughing at the emcee announcing someone  had lost their bag with coaster at the start line. It would be a few days til we confirmed it was in fact HIM we were laughing at hehe. Regardless we had a great post race celebration with lots of friends and family that carried on from the Uerige to a local bar back in Gerresheim near the house. I ate a currywurst and lost count of altbier and was eventually talked into trying a killepitsch, a local liquor much like jager that is sold out of a window in old town. hey, when you shock the hell out of yourelf with a sub 4 marathon you can treat yourself to some local delicacies 😉

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apparently you can also sleep til 11am the next day, because that’s what we did, and no one gave me hell for it 😀 I ended up on the news twice, in the paper, and with decent race photos i’ll share once i purchase. Dusseldorf marathon done and done!

Learning to Love

Friday April 10th was the day I left Charlotte. It had been a pretty crazy week of being homeless, disorganized, busy, nervous, overcommitted, and basically overwhelmed. I was offered the opportunity to make some last minute money working on a project for my recent employer which was great but also a bit of a time suck. I was squeezing in visits with some of my favorite friends before I took off for a couple months. I was attempting to downsize my suitcase contents and make wise decisions about what to leave in my friend’s basement. I was calling financial institutions to streamline accounts and figure out the best place to keep the proceeds from selling my home, not knowing when exactly I’ll want to use them to buy something down the road. I was alternating between sleeping at my best friend’s house and sleeping at my boyfriend’s house, which are inconveniently about 30 minutes apart from one another. So needless to say I was thrilled to finally get on the road and head to the beach to relax. And thankfully, we were headed south on I-95 instead of north with all the spring breakers migrating home, stuck in a standstill for miles on end.

However, when we arrived at Jekyll Island at the communicated time of check-in only to be told our villa wasn’t ready yet (by the least customer service oriented receptionist I’ve ever encountered), all the hunger induced crankiness reared its ugly head. Okay, we’ll take the boys for a walk on the beach, this is fine, just 15-20 minutes right? A) the beach was practically non-existent, B) the millions of beetle like critters scampering over the rocks was like a scene from an alien movie, C) 15 minutes turned into almost 2 hours and the barely chilled beer I overpaid for at the trailer park retail center down the road was not sufficient to calm our nerves. Things were not starting off well. I was feeling an I told you so moment coming on and was afraid our first “family” vacation was going to be the end of our relationship.

After we unloaded my clown car of disorganized luggage and cleaned up, we got back in the car (ugh) to try and find dinner (at 7:30, rather late for the kids). There is basically one restaurant on the island. There was an hour and a half wait. Go figure. It would be a 30 minute drive back into Brunswick so we resolved to ordering pizza from the “villa.” Hmm, no one delivers way out here? Shocking. No one was answering at the pizza place on the island so I decided to just drive there and get take out while poor Matt made peanut butter on pretzels snacks for the boys who I set up with a movie on my laptop bc I couldn’t get the apple tv to work. Oh look, as soon as I get back in the car, it starts to rain. Like lightning and thunder scary rain.

I find the weird little pizza joint (at the miniature golf course) and when an employee finally emerges and asks if I’d like a to go order I explained that I called and called but no one was answering despite the recording saying they were open for another 30 minutes. She explained that they stopped answering because they ran out of food. Excuse me? After a lot of back and forth with her and a little Asian lady, I walked out with two pitiful salads and a lot of breadsticks. Lucky for me, 5 and 8 year old boys love breadsticks. Matt was too upset to eat the pitiful salad. Why so upset you ask? Because while I was chasing down food in the lightning storm, they went out to sit on the patio and watch the storm, and were accosted by raccoons.

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Did I mention our “villa” was in a nature preserve? So the proprietors are forbidden from doing anything about all the vermin and varmints creeping us out on the beach and attacking children for their pretzels. I’m still itching all over from whatever was snacking on me for the 15 minutes I sat on the boardwalk the next morning while my sweet boyfriend convinced the manager to refund our money and let us leave.

Yes, sweet boyfriend was horrified and embarrassed about this place he had been told was fabulous by a[n apparently insane] coworker. So he ponied up the cash to relocate us to a much nicer resort on the neighboring island of St. Simon for the rest of the weekend. He also gave me carte blanche to go for a long bike ride to let off some steam while he and the boys relocated to the new digs. God bless him. When I arrived, covered in sweat and bugs from a much needed workout, everyone was in good spirits so we cleaned up and enjoyed some strong drinks and comfort food at the beach front restaurant and finally let ourselves relax. Just to make sure everyone slept well we drug the boys on a second long beach walk of the day, with no creepy crawlies, no invisible biting ninjas, just good old people watching and piggy back rides.

As I sit here on the balcony of the luxury condo my parents rented for two weeks on the exclusive Sea Island, missing him like crazy, reading Daring Greatly (still), I am keenly aware of how the weekend adventure was a lesson in vulnerability, expectations, grace, love, and teamwork. No one hopes for adversity or disappointment and a challenging vacation weekend is certainly not the end of the world. I am a lucky, lucky girl to have the opportunities I do and the wonderful people in my life. I have been completely spoiled by my parents on some world class trips and I know it sets unrealistic expectations. But the weekend was just the beginning of a lot of travel adventures and teachable moments and opportunities to choose my attitude. I feel incredibly selfish sometimes (the kids constantly remind me just how selfish I really am). This whole journey feels incredibly selfish. And I’m not really sure what to do with that emotion just yet. The last time I fell in love my selfishness was, in a way, what rescued me from making a really terrible mistake. But now that I’m falling in love again, I’m recognizing that my selfishness could be a major hazard. So I have some things to sort out and am asking for grace in the mean time.