Two Nineteen was my sign

If you follow any of my social media accounts, you can probably agree that one of my most iconic photos was the one of me crying as I crossed the finish line at the LiveSTRONG half marathon (my very first half marathon) on my baby brother’s birthday a few months after his death while listening to his voicemail on my iPhone.

Tears for Donny

That was on February 19th. Donny’s birthday. Two Nineteen.

I have since turned this number into a goal, a race goal. And the thing about me is that once I set my mind to something, I make a plan, practice, practice, practice, and then I go get it.

Oddly enough… when I tried to achieve this goal at the McAllen Half Marathon, I cramped up twice and missed my time. I failed.

I went back to basics. I went to Hector Gandara, my run coach and instructor for Valley Running Company’s Running 101 class, and told him that I wanted to sign back up for his class so that I could go back to LiveSTRONG this year and finish at 2:19 for Donny. He put me on a plan.

However, life happens… and I ended up missing a TON of classes. Doing his workouts on your own is very difficult. You don’t really know if you are doing them correctly, if your form is slouching and what hurts the most… the encouragement from your fellow runners. I felt like a foreign exchange student – part of the class but not really.

On that note, I questioned my ability to have progressed like how I was expected to or felt I should have.

After the Port Isabel Longest Causeway 10k run, I was extremely pleased with my time and knew that Coach Hector’s plan was working!!! But that was almost a month ago already. Had I been able to keep the momentum? Enough to finally reach my goal of 2:19? That was the question lingering in my head these last couple of weeks.

Well, as my life goes, everything I plan for ends up changing. Not having a “normal” 9-5 job with a regular income kinda hurt when it was time to pay property taxes so as I crunched the numbers in the family budget… seems that a weekend in Austin running a race was no longer an option. I should have known, too. The signs were everywhere.

I started a new business venture and am super stoked about it. *I’ll talk about it later I’m sure. But the work and the weather conspired against me and cut my workouts to a bare minimum making me really question whether I was able to reach 2:19 at the next available race, the “Get Up And Train” half marathon in Pharr, Tx. This race is now abbreviated to #GUAT.

Race packet pick up for GUAT was yesterday from 9a.m. – 6p.m. I drove up at about 5:30p.m. to late register. I must have sat in the parking lot for another ten minutes thinking to myself “How can I just show up like this so late?” I know most of the race event producers and they’ve become good friends of mine. I can just imagine the headaches I’ll cause being so late. After all they have done for me, this is how I treat them???? Good Lord Myssie!!! Just pass on the race. Suck it up and wait for another one to do when you get your act together.

*sigh*

I walked in trying desperately not be to noticed but the gymnasium was already clearing out and, honestly, I stood out like a sore thumb. I walked up to the registration table and asked to sign up expecting to be immediately turned down because it was too late or too full or too… something. But there she was… beautiful Amanda and her big smile multitasking while turning out some fires that always happen at registration events. With a nod of her head, her eyes pointing in the direction of a registration form… my registration was handled seamlessly.

I returned home to do everything you should NOT do the night before a marathon. I didn’t eat dinner. I stayed up way too late. I didn’t even shower much less shave. TMI? sorry… at least you weren’t running next to me today eh?

Before the race even started, I had already tied my orange jacket around my waist because I was already stoked and warmed up. I wrote “Donny” on my hand so that when I looked down at my Garmin, I would be reminded to go for my goal… Donny’s birthday. 

The first mile was difficult. It always is but I found my rhythm by mile 2 and kept with it. There were actually times where I was going too fast and had to slow down a bit.  How about them apples? Again, the high fives and hugs and cheers were awesome! Overwhelming at some times, too! But very welcomed 🙂

Once I got to Nolana, I closed my eyes and welcomed the mist as it cooled my face. I remembered the moment I reached the top of the Causeway and felt the same feeling… a euphoric dreamlike state of ecstasy. The playlist helped a bit with that, too.

Surprisingly, the entire run went really smoothly. Just like at the McAllen Marathon, my legs cramped up. I felt the ball of my foot and my toes go numb. While I was running, the thought came through my head… “When was the last time I cut my toe nails? Ouch! I think that’s what I feel. Well, there’s nothing I can do about it now. It’ll probably cause a blister or cut into my skin and bleed. I don’t have my trusty fuel belt with my little band-aid kit so… oh well… run through the pain. Deal with it.” I was pretty strong today. I had to do it. Foo Fighters were screaming in my ear. I had to do it for Donny. I’m not gonna fail again. No sirree!!!

Alright!!! My time is good! My time is really good! Not like Gandara or Kenyan good… but good for being me!!! Just before I hit mile 12, I sneak a peek at my Garmin. I’m way ahead of schedule. I’m going to finish before 2:19.

sooooooo guess what begins playing in my ears?

That’s right… it’s a sign.

2:19 was not a goal. My goal has and always will be to help those who have cancer and find a cure for cancer. THAT’s a goal. 2:19 was a sign.

Yep, a SIGN.

Just knowing I COULD finish in that time was good enough for me. Simple as that.

sooooooooo what do I do?

I took my phone out of it’s case. Went onto Facebook and sent Javi a message. I asked him what Lisa, his wife, was wearing. He responded two minutes later: “pink, long sleeve” The time was exactly 9:23 a.m.

HINDSIGHT: That is not a time. That is a sign. Sissy passed away on September 23, 2011. Nine Twentythree.

I went BACK.

See, I’m a woman of my word. If I tell you I’m going to do something, I’m going to do all I can to make sure I fulfill that promise.

Someone I run with in my all women’s run club (Run Walk or Crawl) had posted a while back about being upset that she may have to cross the finish line by herself and without her family. I could tell it was tearing her apart. There were countless posts that followed hers that stated so much support and understanding from our other sister runners. It was really heartwarming how this group uplifts and encourages each other. My response was something like “I’ll be there with you” or something of the sort. All I remember was that it was the shortest response of the entire string.

So I went back for her so that she wouldn’t have to deal with these last few miles by herself and cross alone. If you’re a runner, a beginner runner especially, it really does help when you have someone by you to push and encourage and drown out that doubter voice in your head. I know.. my inner voice is very loud… and rude.

I began to run the opposite way. I have to admit.. the faces of the runners that saw what I was doing were priceless. “Hey, you’re running the wrong way!” was said over and over and over again. But I kept running – at a good pace, too! – until I saw the familiar face in her long sleeved pink running sweater.

It was exactly 2:19 into my run according to my Garmin.

Lisa looked physically exhausted but still super cute. You know those running shoe advertisements you see in magazines with the sweat beads perfectly placed on their noses??? Ya, she had that.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Good!” she responded cheerfully.

“You’re a really good liar. These last few miles are the toughest of this race. I told you I would be there for you when you crossed. I’m here,” and onward we went!

I could feel her pace dropping and she was getting frustrated. I didn’t want her to stop and I could tell she wanted to quit and walk the rest. “We’ll keep running until the sign and then we’ll speed walk. You see the sign? Can you make it to the sign?”

“Yes, ok.” She replied with heavy breath. “Wait.. the first sign or the second one?”

“The second one,” I giggled. She knew now I was there to push her. I wasn’t going to let her give up on herself.

This pattern continued until we turned the corner and saw the finish line. Have you ever heard a smile? I have! And it came from her.

“Look Myssie! There’s the finish line!” she eagerly proclaimed.

“Smile real big now for the cameras. Make it look like this was easy. Papitas!” I told her. And then I cramped. Not just any cramp… it felt like a bolt of electricity was stuck on my calves. “Ayyyyyyy!” I screamed out (while smiling of course). “I’m cramping!”

“Don’t give up Myssie! You can do it. The finish is right there!!!” and the student becomes the teacher.

“Why does it seem like the finish line is moving further away???” she said. We laughed and we crossed and we hugged and we cried and we hugged again.

And here’s her side of the story:

13.1 miles. The Get Up and Train Half Marathon this morning… I started out with the best intentions, vowing to train and PR right around the time that Javi was rounding mile 18 at the McAllen Marathon a few months ago. I was doing pretty well; the most consistent I had been in a while, then the bipolar weather go the best of my training schedule — I showed up this morning having run only once in the last two weeks with a hand full of bike rides sprinkled in there. I was nervous, a little scared… but determined. I knew I would finish… it wasn’t the first one I’d done, but for whatever reason it felt different… probably because I was running this one solo… Javi taking the sideline for me this time. The first 8 miles felt like 3… and I was on track for a 2:30 finish… right around mile 10, my ankle started to ache… and right before 11, I had made the decision to just walk the rest of it…. I had seen Javi a couple of times by now… with water, peanut butter (my drug of choice), and all the encouragement a girl could ask for… but I was feeling pretty defeated… oh well… walk, walk, walk… then, I see this crazy woman running the wrong way… she got closer, and closer, and finally stopped… it was Myssie Cardenas-Barajas… it took me till the end of the race to realize what happened… she had said she would run it in with me… the story behind how this all unfolded is one that only she can tell… but she did… and together, we finished the last couple of miles — approaching to the finish line, the first face I saw was my mom’s… then dad… then Javi… then the babies… then my little brothers… they were all smiling and cheering… something that I had never had at a finish line…that meant the world to me… when Myssie and I crossed the finish line… I hadn’t hit 2:30; but I had PRd… and all I could do was hug her and cry…. I realized she had not only kept her word to me… but, she was kept me going… even reminding me to smile like nothing hurt for the cameras  This life is full of obstacles… trials….accomplishments… running is a metaphor for all of it… life is also full of blessings… angels…. and wonderful signs… and today, I experienced all of those…. thank you Myssie… I don’t know how I will be able to repay you for the kindness you’ve shown me. I love you, friend… to my family… it meant everything to me to have you there for me! and for Javi… ay mi amor… there are no words for you

And today in pictures…

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2 Responses to “Two Nineteen was my sign”

  1. that was awesome Myssie!! I love reading your blogs..you run with passion and purpose and inspire others along the way… Never quit, my friend!

    Like

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