Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One girl in countdown mode, Update #2: Half marathon

Legs are incredible instruments.  Our feet, thighs, hips and even our bum region are all part of our legs.  It starts with the bones-- the femur, patella, tibia and fibula.  These bone are covered with layers and layers of muscles: gluteus maximus, quadratus femoris, sartorius, iliopsoas, and the pectineus; then the quadriceps femoris, gracilis, tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus, and the flexor digitorum longus... (this is maybe a dozen out of 4 dozen muscles in the legs).  Then add the nerves, veins and arteries. Legs are intricate.

Though what we can make our legs do is even more intricate.  I started this blog out with a tale of running around a local track in Dawnville, Georgia, so it will not surprise many of you that I turn back to the comfort of talking about racing and training.

For me, running runs deeper than simply putting one foot in front of another.  My parents were runners.  My mom won races-- my mom even raced when she was pregnant with my sisters and I.  My dad said that he always remembered my mom's strength and determination during races.  One time specifically, my dad was ahead of my mom going into the last stretch.  They always ran together in training, so my dad could hear my mom's footsteps coming up behind him.  She passed him, full speed ahead and won that race (and she collapsed at the finish line from heat exhaustion).

For me, running runs deep-- or more, I was running before I even knew what feet were.  I first and foremost run for myself.  I run because it is a challenge (and if you don't know me, Megan loves a good challenge).  It keeps me on my toes, motivated, fresh and excited. I don't think I would be able to complete a race, let alone spend eight weeks training for one and actually see the whole thing through if I didn't race because I wanted to make myself do more.

Then there are two people in my life that inspire me to run.  I still think about John Bruner every time I lace up my sneakers.  He was (and still is) a friend of mine who died in August 2007 from a heart defect.  He was doing what he loved-- running in a race-- when he collapsed and later passed on.  I know that he will be with me while I run, as his death was one of the main reasons I started doing races three years ago.

My other inspiration comes from Joey Jones.  A good friend of mine recovering here in the DC area from a roadside bomb explosion overseas.  He is a Marine who lost both of his legs protecting me.  I know that Joey has always been a runner and I have not a doubt in my mind that he will one day run again.  And for that reason, I can't help but let him push me to run stronger.

Legs.  I use them because I can't stop thinking about how I am alive and well, and there is no reason why I shouldn't strive to achieve something I honestly never thought I would do.  This Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010, I am running in the Heritage Half Marathon @ 7a.m.  13.1 miles.  I am nervous and excited, which I'm convinced is the only combo for true success.  The weather prediction is a low of 50, high of 62 and nothing but sunshine.  They say the perfect jogging weather is 55 degrees.  Perhaps too good to be true? :-) 

It's been tough, though.  I won't lie.  The past eight weeks (pretty much since I have moved to DC) I have spent five-six days a week training.  Running, cross training with a bicycle and the elliptical, a few weights and more running.  I've stopped consuming beverages stronger than water and orange juice.  I eat whole grain, fruits and veggies, and more protein and carbs than I ever knew existed. 

I haven't stayed up late in weeks (this dedication even amazes me because I'm such a night owl).  I'm in bed by 10 or otherwise I've told all of my friends that I will turn into a pumpkin (this is literally what I have told all of my friends, including all of my dates while in DC-- I know, you must be asking yourself if any of these dates have actually called me back-- they have).  It has in a sense taken over my life.  I joke that next week, I will start a whole new life.  And in a way, I will.

Despite it all, I have (oddly) enjoyed training and the goal of completing a half marathon, because for me-- running runs deep and I can't wait to share how fast my feet take me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One Girl Playing Catch Up, Update #1: Sisterly Trouble

The curse of a quick life is the moments fly by and nothing gets written down.  I think that is an accurate summary for the month of September in DC.  Fast, fast, fast, quick, quick, quick, throw in a little breathing, some sleeping, LOTS of working, hours of training (i.e running for my upcoming half marathon) AND the occasional hanging/catching up with friends.  Oh yeah, and eating, commuting and keeping things tidy are somewhere in there too.

Ha, catching my drift?

But the bottom line: DC is FINALLY treatin me just fine.  At first, it took a lot out of me (referring back to post where my true southern gal came out) and then once I realized that I didn't have to be anyone but myself; I have found my corner to play ball in.


Update #1: Labor Day weekend

Jennie Coniker came to visit.  Aka MY SISTER! I didn't realize how home sick I was till Jen came.  The weekend started with a delayed plane ride, shortening our already short, long weekend but that didn't stop us from visiting all of DC's main spots in a little over 65 hours.

Jen had never been to DC before-- making the trip that much more special.  We started at Arlington National Cemetery and worked our way to the Capitol.  What that means in walking terms-- probably four miles. 

My personal favorite place in DC for tourist hot spots is Arlington-- a place where many people do not venture to.  We saw the Changing of the Guard, the Kennedy graves and paid $7 for a very informative bus tour around the whole cemetery.  To think that Ulysses s. Grant (and so many of history's heroes) walked on that hallowed area.

We then started walking... over the bridge from Arlington to the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, the Reflective pool, WWII Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capitol AND the National Archives (ha, all in one day!)

On Sunday, we were history and art dorks--- hitting up the National Art Gallery, the American History Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.  I think we decided our favorites from the five hours of "becoming more educated" were the President's portrait section, the Norman Rockwell picture collection and the 1st Lady's dresses and accessories.


Even though Jennie got sick when she returned home, we had a great time.  More than anything, we spent two days talking and being our normal, sister selves; which made me feel like I was in Atlanta again, living with her and my brother-in-law.

As I dropped her off at the ariport, I couldn't recall where the past two and a half days had gone.  They went to the lifestyle that I described above... fast, fast, fast and quick, quick, quick.  Jennie, thank you for coming to see me.  I love you and miss you very much.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Joey Jones: One Man Right Here

Over the past four--almost five-- years, I have been apart of a military family. No, I myself am not a military "brat," though my father served in the Air Force in the mid-seventies (aka long before my time, ha).

This military family started with one person and has evolved into many friends over the years. I consider myself very fortunate to have met some of the nicest people, and my now closest friends, because of the military.

For those of you who know me (and more importantly, those of you who don't) I somehow always end up being drawn toward men in the military. I know, so many of you are laughing right now. I believe my father even joked with me about whether or not I even knew any civilian men. Even if the relationship is nothing more than male companionship, I usually end up spending my time with 'men in uniform.'

I'll admit it. There is a certain something about military guys: their purpose, what they stand for, and their dedication and commitment to a selfless occupation. This selfless service to protect is where any military person completely amazes me: to them, it is just their job. Nothing more, nothing less. It is their calling to serve and protect. Sometimes, even if that means throwing themselves in the line of extreme danger-- and most of them don't think twice about it.

This is where I would like to put a name with the description above. Some people know him as Johnny Joseph Jones. Others, JJJ. To me and those who grew up with him, he is Joey.

Joey is a Marine and an EOD Technician. He deployed to the Middle East earlier this year with a mission to disarm IEDs (roadside bombs) and return home around November. On Aug. 6, 2010, Joey and two others were hurt when a roadside bomb blew up. One companion of Joey's did not make it, the other had shrapnel wounds, and Joey had to have both of his legs amputated with also severe damage to his arms.

My heart broke the moment I got the news, as I know it did for so many of us. I had been in DC for one week with my new job. I couldn't think of what to do or really how to feel. I walked six hours that day taking a ridiculous amount of pictures.

But the joyous news for me came when I learned he would be coming to Bethesda, Maryland. I live in Hyattsville, Maryland, about 8 miles away (in DC traffic, that is about a 25 minute drive). The point being though, he was coming here.

He would be one man, right here.

I patiently waited to go see him. I wanted to go day one, but I knew I had to wait. Tuesday, August 31, I made my way to the Naval Hospital to go see Joey. My stomach had all these little butterflies and I kept asking myself if I was ready (as a friend) to see him.

It is funny how things turn out and how God always has your best interest in mind. I got off the Metro (train) and ended up getting lost for an hour in another area of town. Ha, no I am not kidding. I couldn't be mad though because when I walked into Joey's room, oh did I have a story for him!

And that is how it went. I entered to Joey's smile and a nice big hug from him, and his mom, telling him how I spent the past hour looking for him. His response was something to the effect of "Well, I haven't gone anywhere, I don't know why you couldn't find me."

He is still the same old Joey. I sat on the end of his bed and we talked like old times. I could tell he was in a lot of pain, but he never missed a beat. He hasn't changed nor has his attitude on life and his future. He has already been fit for his prosthetic legs and mentioned that he will probably build up his arms and core first, and then go for his new legs.

I joked with Joey about how I knew he wanted to get home early and see everyone, but that this really wasn't the way to do it. He then proceeded to tell me he jokes with the nurses, asking them if they will scratch his toes.

Ha, did I mention that he hasn't changed much? :)

He is a Marine. He doesn't want the fame and glory for his sacrifice-- he was simply doing his job. BUT he does appreciate and is very thankful for all the love and support from everyone.

I am going to start visiting at least once a week now that I know he is doing much better. Please check the blog for updates on how he is or what silly things we talked about. I know that I am very lucky to be so close to him, so the least I can do is share his progress. Joey is in high spirits and is one of the strongest people I have ever met, but then again, if you know Joey at all, then that shouldn't surprise you either.