Finished – that word applies to so many things today. It’s been the word on my mind most the last few days. Finished. We are finished, we have finished, we will finish, we have yet to finish. Sigh….I’m in a funky place.

Big Man and P finished their school year Friday. P said she actually didn’t want the year to end. Wait, what? From my point of view, it’s been an exhausting, mentally and emotionally draining, dragged out, up-and-down/high-and-low year. I was not sad to see the door close on this one for them.

I am proud of Big Man – he pulled it together enough to have an almost-respectable GPA for the semester. It was a near-miracle, considering how deep a hole he’d dug himself. But he did it. We did have to push, and check in almost hourly to make sure he was doing what needed to be done, but he did it. Oh trust me, his final report card for the year wasn’t amazing, but it was nearly as ugly as it had been. For that, we say “Thank you Jesus!”, and heave a sigh of relief. Pray God he’s figured it out and we won’t have to face these same issues next  year.

After a long season of training (for me anyways  – Big Man didn’t really train at all), we ran the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon yesterday morning. I was really worried about this one, as my training was cut short due to various injuries. My last 11-mile run was five weeks ago. My last run of any significant distance was three weeks ago. My last run was a week and a half before race day, and that just 4 miles. I spent 10 days gently stretching, icing, heating, and praying it would come together and I’d be able to push through. I had a 2-hour massage. I went to the chiropractor. I faithfully used my foam roller.

Race morning arrived. There was a LOT of frustration early – parking was an unmitigated disaster. It took us nearly an hour to get into the lot from the time we arrived downtown, then we had a mile walk to the shuttle busses. We got on our bus at the time we should have been arriving at our corral. We were in the bathroom line when our corral started, and ended up crossing the start with a corral 9 behind our assigned corral. I’d decided with my training partner to just push for the goal we’d trained for – a 2-hour finish. I knew 2 miles in I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that pace – the three weeks without any significant running had killed me. I slowed to my old half marathon pace and regrouped. Three miles later, my IT bands started tightening and my knees started to hurt. I pushed on, with short stretches of walking, until I hit mile 7 when I knew I’d have to just let go of this race. It became a matter of finishing, and nothing else. I walked when I needed to – which was quite a bit – and ran when I could. There was a downhill at 9.7 that almost did me in. But I pressed on. My training partner finished (I was getting texts for her and for Big Man) – I was at mile 10 I think. Then  Big Man finished. I was closing in on mile 11. I was frustrated, in pain, tired, and so disappointed. At mile 12, I started running again, determined to finish the race running. I knew there was nothing structurally wrong with my body – just IT bands that like to knot up and make it feel like there are knives going into the side of each knee – and so I pushed, and crossed the finish at 2:41 – my worst half marathon time ever, by 16 minutes. I headed to the medical tent and had my knees wrapped in ice.

My training partner had a PR, under 2 hours. Big Man didn’t meet his time from last year of 1:58, but he really didn’t train at all (oh to be 16!). He finished at 2:09. But we finished. The race is more about the culmination of training – a cap to a season. I’m trying to let it go, the disappointment of a bad race. Training had been going so well. I’m trying hard to focus on the fact I ran my 8th half marathon and not everyone gets to say that. I am so proud of Big Man – there were 114 boys on the course in his division. He finished 51st of those 114. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? Out of 30,000+ people running (between the full, half, and half-relay), only 114 15-17 year old boys were running, and one of them was my son. I love that I got to share yesterday with him. What’s really fun  is being able to talk about it with him, remembering miles and sections like a football player will remember a play, a golfer will remember each hole on a course, a pitcher what pitch got launched out of the ballpark by which hitter. I love that shared experience. I’m proud of the fact he fought when things started to hurt; he didn’t give in when the course got rough, when he knew he wasn’t going to match his time from last year, when he got tired and wanted to quit. He finished. We finished.

Eleven more school days for Little Man. Then we will be finished completely with this school year. He’s hanging in there. He has had some increased anxiety – it’s so typical of this time of year for him. We will fight through, and then breathe another sigh of relief. It is so weird to manage two out of school and one still in, especially for the significant amount of time 2.5 weeks is. We’re almost finished.

Limping toward the finish line

We are, literally and figuratively, limping toward the finish line of this school year. God, it’s been a rough one. I thought last year was bad. Apparently this year saw last year and said, “Here, hold my beer.” This Herd is DONE. Toast. Finis. Exhausted. Drained. And oh yeah, I am limping.

You see, two days after the Bigs finish school, Big Man and I will run the Rock n Roll Half in San Diego again. My training was a bit derailed last week. I headed out for a four-mile easy run Thursday. I immediately felt pain in the left side of my left knee, and my left Achilles tightened up too. I tried to work through it, slowed down, and then stopped to stretch, but it just hurt. I made it all of .88 miles before I caved. At just over four weeks til race day, I wasn’t going to risk injury. And it really freaking hurt.

I hate when I have to stop a run because of pain. My whole day goes downhill. I was able to get out and finish four miles on Friday morning, but it wasn’t easy. There wasn’t any pain, but there was discomfort. I had to mentally fight to the end. Same happened on this morning’s 5-mile easy run. I was super slow, my muscles didn’t loosen up until mile 3. I will admit, I was tense, afraid the pain from last Thursday would return. I’m so not where I want to be mentally and emotionally with running right now. I’m afraid for this race, afraid I’ve put too much pressure on myself. I’m a little scared.

As for school…we’re usually beat up by this point. That’s nothing new. What is new is the level of being drained we are all at. It’s bad. The Bigs have four more weeks of school – 18 more school days. Big Man just finished the second of two AP exams this morning. The Princess has hers this Friday. In a few weeks, they face final exams. Blessedly they don’t seem to have the level of end-of-school-year projects they’ve had in recent years, thank the  Good Lord. It’s been a brutal year for both of them – academically for Big Man, socially and emotionally for P. We’re all ready to be done, to put this year behind us, chalk it up to life lessons and growing pains, and kiss it goodbye. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, 16/17 school year.

Little Man has 6.5 weeks of school. Yep, you read that right. He isn’t out until June 20th. I can’t remember when my kids were in school that late – past my birthday this year. Insanity. That’s 18 days AFTER the older two finish. Utterly ridiculous. I’ve been whining about it since the calendar was released last year. Then, get this, because they are aligning the middle and elementary school calendar with the  high school calendar, he will have just eight weeks of summer, as opposed to ten or eleven. Again, absolutely ridiculous.

He’s struggling right now, again. His SAI sent me an email the other day he’s back to leaving the classroom quite a bit again, spending a significant amount of time in the great room rather than in his class, doing what he’s supposed to be doing. She said he seems more stressed but he can’t express why. We have seen an increase in his anxiety level at home. I have no idea what the source is for his stress. He does tend to go a little sideways the closer we get to the end of the school year, but who knows.

I have no energy. I’m tired. I’m over the morning routine and homework battles. I’m tired of thinking about carpools, 6am cheer, and test scores. The kids are tired too.

You know, some years we come sliding across that finish line with a bang. We’re beat up, but we fight to the end. We might make it by the skin of our teeth, phoning it in on whatever we can. But this year, we’re limping. It’ll be a close thing. I know we’ll get there, but it ain’t gonna be pretty.

The Hardest Thing

Our kids have various social media accounts. We have rules – they have to let us be “friends”/follow them; we keep their passwords; if we tell them to take something down, they must comply (they’ve always been conservative); they can’t “friend” anyone unless we know who it is. We collect their phones every night. But all this isn’t really the point of my post today. Because I am “friends” with them, I do see what they post. I find it an interesting look into their days, their thoughts, in addition to a layer of protection over my babies.

Yesterday, Big Man posted a photo on Instagram of his Rock n Roll Half Marathon medal. He’s understandably proud of his accomplishment, and acknowledged the challenge of the race. He said it was the hardest and most rewarding thing he’s  done in his life. I’m so glad he sees it that way. I am thankful he doesn’t remember the truly most difficult thing he’s done in his life….that of surviving a birth 3.5 months too soon. He doesn’t remember having to learn to remember to breath. He doesn’t remember all the times he forgot to breath and his heart-rate would plummet. He doesn’t remember the blood transfusions. He doesn’t remember the eye tests for retinopathy of prematurity (I’m scarred for life by that one), the hearing tests, the ultrasounds on his head to watch for and then keep an eye on brain bleeds, the tape being ripped off his face by an insensitive night nurse, the daily weigh-ins, the numerous lines running to all parts of his body, the days he spent under the bili lights, the way the CPAP would push up his tiny nose; the various antibiotics he had, the tests too numerous to count, the times I would sit there by his isolette crying my eyes out, the day I fled the NICU when he had to have another transfusion and my heart couldn’t take sitting there and watching. He doesn’t remember me begging God for my son’s life. He doesn’t remember me begging God to block all those days from my son’s memories. He doesn’t remember.

That tiny boy was the bravest person I’d ever met in my entire life. He fought so hard, every day, for his life. He did everything on his terms, much to our frequent frustration. He obviously loved openly, so happy when any of his nurses talked to him or held him. He defied odds on a daily basis. He still defies those odds. But he won’t ever remember the truly hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. When I saw his post yesterday and read his words, I was so relieved that in his mind, that race was the hardest thing he’s ever done, and the most rewarding. For me, he is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And I hold enough memories in my heart for the both of us.

Take that, prematurity

After months of talking, training, and preparing, yesterday was race day for me and Big Man, as well as my nephew, my brother, and good friends/neighbors M and D. With 33,000 people running in the half and full Rock n Roll marathons, we had a very early start, waking at 3am to leave at 4am to be in the parking garage by 5am. Water bottles filled, breakfast eaten, race nutrition packed, bibs and timing chips attached, we headed out the door into the darkness to make the drive downtown.

I was nervous – not so much for me as for Big Man. He’d hardly trained, his longest long run being 8 miles long, and weeks before the race. He had started coughing last week, and even with full asthma meds going, couldn’t seem to shake it. His confidence level was also pretty high, believing he would charge through this race. I wanted to be with him, but I wanted him to be able to run his own race. I was terrified he’d have an asthma attack during the race. I was nervous he’d forget his hydration and nutrition plan for the race. I was worried he’d hit that wall every runner seems to hit at some point or another, and I wouldn’t be with him to keep him going. I did know that despite my worries, I needed to let him to, let him earn this on his own, allow him the independence he deserves.

We arrived at the start area with plenty of time to stand in line for the porta potties (worst part of running races), then we headed to our start corral. I gave him some last-minute suggestions, went over the race plan again. Before we knew it, our corral was at the start, and it was our turn to take to the course. My nephew has experience with half marathons. He was going to stay with Big Man. I watched them ahead of me for the first mile or so, then lost sight of them as their pace took them further and further from us. I had signed up for text updates on him and my brother, so I knew when he crossed the 5K, 10K, halfway point, and finish. I did check each medical tent we passed, praying I wouldn’t see him in any of them. At some point, I knew it would be what it would be, and just began to enjoy my own race.

I have to say, I love the Rock n Roll series. The course support is awesome, and there are cheering spectators almost the entire route. We saw so many people with funny signs, waving and clapping for all the runners. I think one of my favorite signs said “The faster you run, the sooner we drink!” and “Go Random Stranger!” There was also the, “You thought they said ‘rum’ didn’t you?” We had running Elvis’, at least three fireman in full gear, and a mile dedicated to remembering those military members we’ve lost. There were dogs with their owners all along the route as well.

We were just past mile 11 when my FitBit buzzed with a text – Big Man had crossed the finish line in under two hours. I relaxed and finished my own race, setting a PR at 2:08:49.

I am so proud of my son. Not many 15 year olds run half marathons. Not many 15 year olds run half marathons in under two hours. Not many 15 year olds will come in 2890 overall. Not many 15 year olds who were born at 26 weeks run. This boy has battled and overcome scarred lungs and prematurity-related asthma to become a runner. There was a time we didn’t know he would ever run. So, take that, prematurity. This young man isn’t going to let his too-soon start hold him back.