Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finisher Medals

As a child I was not at all athletic. The closest I came to participating in a sport was being in the marching band -- at least I was on the same field as the football players, so that should count, right?

I didn't even start running until late 2010. Since then I have run races in about 10 states, plus Canada, and witnessed a race in Japan (had I but known). I'm even on the committee for the Princeton Half Marathon, and will be a "balloon lady," otherwise known as the last designated finisher, in 2015. I've actually lost count as to how many races I've run. More than medals I have collected along the way.

Often when deciding what race to do, I think about the "swag." Over time I have gotten fussier about what I want from a race. These races each cost money (I won't admit to how much), so afterwards I want something to show for it -- ideally a nice medal and a women's cut tech shirt. According to Runners USA, since 2010 more women finish races than man. However, racing organizations will often hand out "unisex" shirts to all finishes. Us women know unisex=mens cut. I don't run so I can look good in a mens cut shirt.
Every time I read about the debate over "participation awards," I think about the swag I receive for running races. How is this any different? I've only once placed in my age group. It was a race held at Rider University to race money for Women's Space. The race was called "Run Over Violence." Other than placing, the race was such a non-event, I didn't even write a blog post about it. I suspect I only placed because most of the other runners were college students. 
Is it wrong of me to love collecting these medals basically for "participating" in a race? I certainly did not "win" any of them. Is there a difference between someone my age wanting a medal for simply finishing a race and a child receiving a participation award for participating in a team sport, but not winning? Is finishing a race enough to merit a prize? 

These are the questions I ponder every time I race. This year I have decided to only run races between 5 and 10 miles, with the exception of the Princeton Half Marathon because they asked nicely. Most, if not all, will include a medal, or at least a t-shirt.

There is enough in life to feel guilty about. This should not be one of them, but it still makes me stop and think a little when I receive one. I love my swag and will keep working towards collecting it.

Biking Adventures

Last month I finally bought myself a brand-new bicycle. I named her Catie. 

During the week Catie and I go for adventures in Lawrenceville. On the weekends I'm the first one to vote for a family bike ride. Here are few pictures from our adventures.

Pole Farm/Mercer Meadows

Following instructions Don posted online for taking the Delaware River Heritage Trail from Trenton to Bordentown (we skipped the giant hill into town since the littlest one was already tired and we still had to go back):

Heading to Bordentown

Fortunately we were not on the tracks at the time.

After I ran the Spring Like 5 miler, Don and I took our bikes out for a 12.5 mile ride to Allaire Village and back.

Seen from the Capital to Coast Trail at Allaire Village -- old time baseball
 Mother's Day ride with my family along the East Coast Greenway and Lawrence Hopewell Trail in Lawrence.
Behind the Brearley House

Appropriate for Mothers Day -- seeing geese with their gosslings

Up and over Route 1

2015 Spring Lake 5 Miler

For years I have heard about my friends running the Spring Lake 5 Miler and have been very jealous. I've also been very late to sign up as registration takes place in early February. And, it fills up quickly.

When Kim posted she was planning to run it, I decided to do it, too. It wasn't until race day that I appreciated this decision. The Spring Lake 5 Miler started in 1977 with 500 runners. This year (its 39th year) had 12,000 registrants, and 10,880 finishers. That is a lot of people heading through town together. It is one of the largest 5 mile races in the country. They used to cap out at 10,000, but upped it this year to try to reclaim the title of largest 5 miler.

The weather was beautiful -- just a hair chillier than beach goers would like, but perfect for running. Even with hitting traffic for the last mile, I showed up about on time for the start of the race. Fortunately (for me) Don came with me. I picked up my commemorative glass and t-shirt just prior to the race (technically, after the fast people started) and handed them off to Don, who was riding his bike. By the time I started, the people in front had a 4 minute head start on me. It also meant the walkers were between me and the pace I wanted to keep. Rats! 

I think of myself as a back of the packer. As far as the running community goes, that is probably a fair assessment. Though I run/walk at 2:1 intervals, I do run. For me the Spring Lake 5 was a chance to see if the faster times I have been seeing in training could hold up during a real race. As you can see in the pictures, the pack was crowded. It was crowded the entire race. I didn't ever really find my pace group of runners, but I didn't even find "the Goldilocks" zone until around mile 3. Don saw my green sparkle skirt near these houses. He took the picture from the other side of the lake. This is the view I had most of the race -->

In the end, I was too fast for Don. I lost him after the first mile. Each time after that he looked for me, I had already left that area. I anticipated finishing around the hour mark. As you can see below, I finished at 57:10 -- or nearly 3 minutes (and 33 second per minute) faster than my usual pace. I wonder if it being so crowded helped me (in that I kept looking for some breathing room) or hurt me (in that I had to get around people). Either way, I'm happy to PR. This is even more significant to me since I've been making major dietary changes due to an unexpected diagnosis. I've been fading out around mile 4, but that day I was able to tell myself to keep going another mile.

DivisionWhat is this?Age
78012474Jacquelyn PillsburyF45LawrencevilleNJUS1:02:3557:10.811:27508F45-4945.2

I was also happy to see for my age group, I finished faster than 45% of the other participants, and ahead of 28% of everyone -- which makes me feel as if I am more of a middle of the packer now, or at least not a back of the packer.

I was also happy to see my splits when I came home. Each of the last 3 miles were within a second of each other. In other words, no crashing and burning. A good day for me indeed.

When I started running races (calling it "racing" sounds a bit more elite than I feel), I would come home and crash. After the Spring Lake 5, Don and I went for a 12.5 mile bike ride along the Capital to Coast Trail to Allaire Village. Another huge change for me.

The swag was also lovely -- a women's cut tech shirt I will probably wear again, a nice medal, and a calendar listing all of the races for the next year (the calendar starts in June). I added my green sparkle skirt since I did not take a picture of Flat Jacquie.

One last bonus ... the bibs were mailed to us so I did not have to worry about picking it up in advance of the race. If we were any later, I could have collected the shirt and glass after the race.

As much as I enjoyed myself, though, I probably won't do this race again. It was crowded, and just far enough away to make it a hassle.

Growing up Presbyterian

 As if becoming confirmed was not enough of a milestone in Ashley's faith, this week she did something many people have not done. She preached her first sermon. This was in no way a requirement of becoming confirmed, especially since she preached it at a different church. Many Sunday's I attend the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville's evening worship service, called Worship in a New Key, or WiNK for short. WiNK features different music and a different approach to worship, all while staying true to the PCUSA liturgy and order of worship. It is an awesome experience. I invite all of you to join me one week during the school year for worship.

Back to my story. Ashley's 7th grade teacher CS taught her class about the story behind Amazing Grace. Ashley was so moved, she wanted to share the story with the congregation. 

It was such a moving service, in part due to the gospel singing led by Ashley's voice teacher Dr. Trineice. Also because how I envisioned the service actually came to life. I invited a bunch of people to WiNK and they came. It helped I threw a BBQ before the service (in honor of Ashley's 13th birthday) to encourage family to come down and celebrate with us. A true testament to the belief that most people come to church because they were invited. What is normally a very quiet Sunday in this service (due to the nice weather, and seminarians graduating the day before) because a spirit-filled, and body-filled service praising God through old-fashioned Gospel songs. The other two received a short introduction by Pastor Matt, and a solo by Dr. Trineice. Ashley read Ephesians 2:1-10 as part of her introduction to her mini-sermon. She the sang the first verse as a solo -- a big step for Ashley who is trying to become comfortable singing in public. She did an amazing job. Once again, I am super proud of her.

Thank you for the friends and family who came to worship with us to celebrate with Ashley.

Here is the main text of what she said. It may have changed slightly, but you can click on the above YouTube link if you want to hear it "live."

For as often as you've sung and heard "Amazing Grace" have you ever wondered about the story behind the words? 

I recently had to write an essay on the slave trade, and my teacher made a comment about how one of the slavers we had been studying wrote the song, and she told us the little-known story behind it, which I thought was amazing and should be told.

Slave trader John Newton was on his way to pick up some more slaves and transport them over to the colonies, where after a three-month journey of being starved and beaten, the slaves were sold for a few dollars and made to work in the harsh sun of the southern colonies. However, Newton was soon caught in a terrible storm, of which he didn't know if he would survive. So he did what many people would do: angrily shouted at God, and made a promise that if he did live, he would become a much better person, and would stop being a slave trader. Well, Newton did survive, and unlike most people, he held true to his word. He turned his life around and stopped treating people so harshly. Later, he wrote the song "Amazing Grace," which is now a famous and well-known song, but not many know the historical significance behind it. 

Even though that song was written a couple hundred years ago, there are some things that still apply to us every day. The first, the most obvious, but perhaps the most important is to be a good person, even though it is sometimes hard. My motto for this year is: "Don't be mean in 2015." Of course, that also rhymes with 2016 and 2017, and so on, but it's still a good thing to live by. We should also always remember that God is with us, by our side when we need him, and when we don't. He's there with us in good times, and in bad, not just when we need help. 

The other message is also an important one to remember: to keep our promises. John Newton could have easily said, "oh, well, the storms over, I'm alive, that's good." He could have kept on going, and never thought about the experience again. Instead, he did something that people usually don't, he not only remembered his promise, he did what he said he would. He stopped being so cruel and heartless, and even wrote a song about what happened to him. Newton had only been thinking of the money he would receive for managing to keep most of the slaves alive. He had, in effect, been "blind," but now he "sees," and "lost," but now he's "found." It took a near-death experience to open his eyes to the world around him. 

There are several clues to Newton's experience in his song. He says "how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed," saying how happy he is that he became a better person and is following God's path for him now. He talks about how many toils and snares he's already gone through, but that grace will always lead him home. By the "toils and snares" I think he means his work as a slave dealer, and by grace leading him home, I think he's saying that he will always follow God now that he has discovered what he was missing. Newton also says how the Lord has promised good to him. By this, I believe he's saying that he knows that even though he was bad, he is a good person now, and God forgives him for how he was. 

Confirmation Day

Our little girl is not so little anymore. Last week Ashley officially became a teenager. As my friends tell me, life just keeps on picking up speed. We try to enjoy having her around, but she seems to want to be with us less and less each week. It is both normal and sad.

Earlier this month she became confirmed as a Presbyterian at the Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church (LRPC) -- a PCUSA church for those who understand the differences. This means, in the eyes of the church she is an adult with the rights and privileges that come with adulthood -- mostly the ability to vote and the expectation to pay apportionment to the Presbytery (a relatively small fee most Presbyterians don't realize the church is required to pay the Presbytery).

This followed a school year's worth of classes every Sunday morning between the two worship services, as well as some field trips. The field trips were fun. One was to our former church, First Presbyterian Church of Hamilton Square, to see their contemporary service. 

She had to write a statement of faith, which was I found to be very moving. She also choose a mentor. In her case, the mentor's name is also Ashley, but that was certainly not a requirement. Ashley E was thrilled to be chosen. Both Ashley's love animals and are kind to people.

Ashley and her classmates led worship one Sunday in April. Ashley's roles were giving the children's sermon and the benediction. The scripture reading was Luke 8:26-39 -- Jesus chasing the demons out of Legion and into the pigs. After a little bit of research on the topic (otherwise known as googling, shh... don't tell my librarian colleagues) I came across this story where the children were told about sea urchins and how they look ugly, but is beautiful on the inside. We talked i through, and came up with showing a picture of Sandy Dragon - how he looks scary on the outside, but his spikes are just for show and are the softest parts of his body. How Jesus was not afraid when he met Legion -- who was one very scary looking person -- and how we should be more like Jesus who was not afraid even though he looked strange. If I can find the actual text, I'll add it in later. She did an awesome job, much better than my paraphrasing.

Her benediction was a take on the new Cinderella movie "Have courage and be kind." Not sure if anyone got that.

Prior to the service on May 10, Session had a special meeting to "grill" them (so it felt to the kids, I suspect) and vote them in as official members.

It was a beautiful service.

This Spring we attended a bar and bat mitzvah service -- a first for all of us. At the bar mitzvah the mother made a speech which resonated with me. To echo her sentiments, and modify them for our little girl:

So now the church considers you to be an adult. But we don't think of you this way. You won't have to now move out and get a job to support yourself. Your top job is still to be a student. We will still support you and pay for your education. It is time, though, to take on more responsibilities. Time to help others, and to help us. You are awesome. We love you.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Playing Hooky

After being a voter, a home owner, a drivers licence holder, and overall American adult since the late 1980s, I received a notice to serve jury duty and had no legitimate reason not to serve.

I received my first notice over a decade ago. I had a newborn baby and begged them to not make me serve. Give me some time to wean her first. Fortunately they listened and gave me over 10 year. 

Jury duty turned out to be a lot of fun. When I showed up at the massive parking lot by the Sun Center, I bumped into Susie, a mom I had not seen since Ashley was in kindergarten. We picked right up where we left off. We bypassed the bus and walked to the court house on Broad Street, only to quickly learn they moved. We met another woman "just getting off from work" wearing 5 inch spiked heels. Hmm... The three of us found the right building, and went through security. Then we couldn't figure out where to go. Neither could any of the regular employees. It was quite comedic. Fortunately it had a happy ending.

Susie and I finally found the right place. Thirty jurors were taken for a different case. The rest of us (hundreds -- they called 650 numbers that day) were told to wait. And wait. And watch a video. And wait. We were told about the case. It was to last two weeks -- two unpaid weeks for a freelancer/sub like me. Susie asked to be excused based on prior knowledge. I asked to be excused based on hardship. The judge was being kind and let us both go.

Susie and I then looked at each other. It was a nice day. It was lunch time. We could see the RiverLine. Hmm... so we hopped on the train and took it to Burlington for lunch. We chose Legends Pizza. I had the Ziggy salad.

It truly felt as if we were playing hooky for the day. I half-expected to come home to a message saying I misunderstood the concept of being excused. Nothing spectacular happened that day. We walked around an old town. Had lunch together and reconnected. I guess that is what made it special. Rather than hightailing it the moment Susie was free, she waited an extra 5-10 minutes to see if I would be freed, too, and we enjoyed each other's company. Had we tried to plan the day, it would not have happened, but serendipity brought us together.

As for the case, I'll probably never learn the outcome. Someone else I know was in the room for jury selection. He was asked to come back the next day while they narrowed down the jury.

Maybe next time I'll be in a position to be able to put my life on hold for two weeks while I help decide someone's fate. I'm not there yet. In this meantime, this reminded me of an earlier goal for the year.

Follow up to earlier post

A few months ago I posted: PSA: What I don't want to learn about on Facebook, a quick list of announcements that should not be told to immediate family and really close friends at the same time as announcing it to the greater world. So far 63 of you have read it, which makes it one of my most read stories on this blog.

Following my diagnosis, which still hurts me to think about or talk about much, I don't like to see Facebook posts about food. The expression "food porn" had evolved over the past few years. A little piece of me is torn apart when I see pictures of food I know I will probably never be able to enjoy again -- even if I can have a taste of it, I can't fully enjoy guilt-free as I could only a few months ago. I'm not going to ask people to stop posting pictures of food. I try to skim over them, or hide the images in a twisted way of letting FB what I *really* want to see. 

Why do I bring this up? Recently a few friends have recently posted how hurtful Mother's Day is now that they have lost their mother, or child, or have not been able to have children, or have had miscarriages, or any combination of the above, or any reason I can't imagine. I can see your pain in your posts and when we talk or email. I wish I could take it away.

I'm not going to apologize for having a mother and a daughter, hence reasons to celebrate Mother's Day. I can try to honor your wishes and hide you from my posts, but Facebook is funny -- it shows you what it thinks you want to see.  

I'm also not going to ask you to stop posting pictures or talking about food I'll never be able to eat, or talking about visiting places I'll never be able to afford to visit. If Mother's Day, or any day, is that hard, you have to stay away. If looking at food porn is too hard for me, I have to stay away.