Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Emergency Blog Post: NYC Marathon Post-Sandy

Coming together is a beginning; 
keeping together is progress; 
working together is success.
~ Henry Ford

I shouldn't be sitting here typing right now. I should be packing, getting work done before I leave - generally getting my ducks in a row. But here I sit typing after two days of going back and forth about whether to go or not to go, whether to run or not to run.

I woke up this morning feeling that I should just cancel the whole thing and defer until 2013. All of yesterday I spent in a state of anxiety, partially for me, particularly for my mother and sister who I had not heard from since the night before, just as the storm was hitting, and partially for all the people who live in New York and New Jersey. I spent the first 18 years of my life in NJ, and even though I left there as soon as I could, I'm still a Jersey girl, and I always will be (as much as I hate to admit this). And so this whole thing is deeply personal and emotional on so many levels. I've been on the verge of tears for the the past 24+ hours. No one really understands why I'm in such a state. It's a bummer - but nothing more. It's out of your hands, I'm told. Let go of it. There's nothing you can do. And as soon as I realized that this isn't about me anymore I thought, but wait - there is something I can do - but the question is: Do I WANT to do it?

What's the right thing to do?? Should I stay or should I go? Does running this race harm or help? Should I just go to help my family? Do I really want to deal with flying to Newark right now? Blah blah blah...

But when I woke this morning feeling I should cancel, I dug a little deeper and realized that I want to do that for ME. I don't really want to go to NJ and deal with the mess. Colorado is beautiful right now - why go into that? I'm 1000s of miles away - I don't need to live through this. Why do it if I don't have to.

And so I went for a run...

I had big plans for this race. I feel in pretty good shape right now, and my sights were fairly high (for me). Yesterday I thought, maybe I could find another marathon to run. Why waste another season of training on another bad race (like in Boston). How many more races do you have in you? You can't waste them....and on and on...Me-me-me-me-me.

And then there's all the opinions and comments floating about on the interwebs - and the people who criticize anyone who would run as selfish - taking precious services from those who really need it - let the city heal and repair and don't do this - they plead. The runners will further drain the city's resources. The people of NY and NJ are tired and need to focus on getting back on their feet. But the vitriol directed at runners on the New York Marathon Facebook page is truly astounding. It's easy for those of us either far away or not directly effected by either the devastation or the marathon to get all self-righteous about the whole thing. We throw a couple dollars at the Red Cross (though we rarely do until the disaster du jour happens), and then we feel all virtuous. We've done a 'good thing'. And that is good, but that's not the only good to be done.

I understand these feelings and the ferocity of them, but it's not that clear cut - it's not always about the tangible things we do that make a difference. The New York City Marathon is part of the soul of that city and I believe that everyone who comes to run will be there for one reason - and that is to show solidarity and support for New York and New Jersey. For those of us who live far enough away, it's MUCH easier NOT to go. Let's be honest, this is not the NYC Marathon experience that I have been dreaming about since I was 15 years old. Every time I think of this I want to cry - but that's all about me. Once I started getting over feeling sorry for myself I knew exactly what I needed to do.  Now I want to run for a different reason. I want to run it for the friends who are there, who live there, and still running. And to show that we do support each other in the ways we know how.

I can't even think of the marathon any more - but I thought, how can I just sit here in my comfortable little life while my family goes through this. I can go. I should go. I will go if that is physically possible. If the race is canceled that's fine. If the race goes on, I'll be there.

A BEGINNING.

To be continued...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fierceness: A Self-Regarding Virtue


 "Though she be but little, she is fierce!"  William Shakespeare,  A Midsummer Night's Dream
Fierce  /   fierc·er, fierc·est 
1. a : violently hostile or aggressive in temperament
    b : given to fighting or killing : pugnacious
2. a : marked by unrestrained zeal or vehemence <a fierce argument>
    b : extremely vexatious, disappointing, or intense <fierce pain>
3. : furiously active or determined <make a fierce effort>
4. : wild or menacing in appearance
fierce·ness noun
Fierceness. It's often seen as a violent, irrational drive that clouds good judgement and causes us to fall into error and vice. In a woman, this is particularly distasteful, unfeminine, unnatural and frowned upon. But sometimes fierceness is exactly what is called for, especially when dealing with our own inner demons and weaknesses, or when we are striving for the best we have in us. Sometimes fierce is precisely what I really want to be. 

There are those days when I "get my grrrrrrr on", as I like to say, and I go after what I want without a seconds thought - without hesitation - without self-consciousness. And on those days I feel in my groove and completely in-synch with myself. It happens in running when I feel the effort and I welcome the feeling of pushing it and the pleasingly painful fatigue that comes with it. It happens in climbing when I'm completely focused on the next move and the moment and not thinking about being scared or falling or the beginning or the end. Just being there in that moment and having no doubt about what I'm after.

I had this experience climbing last night. As I've said many times, I'm probably 'naturally' a better climber than I am a runner, but running is my first love. Climbing, however, is my evil little infatuation (perhaps another love - okay, I'm torn) that still has the power to get my blood running hot. And so I found myself tying in beneath a 5.12  (a moderately difficult grade) last night at the gym and for some reason I wanted to onsight it ('onsight' means you complete the climb without falling on your first try and without any prior knowledge of the route). Now, my climbing has taken a bit of a hit this year because of all the running I've been doing, and so while this grade would not be that difficult for me to do, first try, when in decent climbing shape, I haven't been feeling in decent climbing shape for some time.  

Why did it suddenly occur to me that I wanted to do this route? I have no idea. But as I set off I went into a zone that I wish I could willfully cultivate in myself - and yet, it hits without warning - and the only term that seems to describe this experience is focused fierceness. All I cared about, all that existed in those moments, was the next move. A saw nothing else. I thought of nothing else. And on my hardest routes I've had this experience. I get to the top and I'm almost at a loss for how I got there. I literally don't remember getting there. Some call this "flow", but when I'm in the midst of it I feel fierce - and that's all I feel.

I am also fierce when it comes to my opinions, my family, my values, my friends - and all the things that matter to me. Several years ago I was walking my dog, and I came upon a group of five children, I'd say 6 to 9 years old, smashing bottles in a culvert along a trail. I stopped and asked them what they were doing and why they were doing it? They looked at me, startled, their mouths wide open. They said nothing. Then one little boy said, "Well, you don't have to be so fierce". I found this a very curious comment, because the only thing I did was calmly ask them a question. I wasn't yelling, I wasn't demanding, I wasn't reprimanding. I was just asking a question. So why was this fierce? I was vexed.

Shortly after this episode I was discussing with one of my classes the issue of passing by when something bad is happening and whether you have any duty to say/do something. Most agreed that you 'ought' to say something, but they weren't sure they would actually act on that 'ought' (the bad news, morally speaking, is that an 'ought' means you must do it - but they always hate that part). I used the example of the children smashing bottles to illustrate the situation. The fact is that there were many other people out on that trail that day. They all passed by without saying anything. I was hoping that my class would help me understand why they did that. Why didn't anyone stop and do something...say something? One student said "No one would do that but you." That was a jarring and disturbing comment that I still don't understand or accept. One of my aims in teaching is to encourage students be aware and perhaps just a little agitated about the way things sometimes are, and to act on what they believe, whatever that might be.

Cultivate the fierceness! Be a fierce defender of what you hold near and dear. Pursue your passions with absolute fierceness of heart and soul...Passions, values...that's what makes life meaningful. That's what's makes you YOU...

So, I guess I'm wondering if anyone else out there feels this way, especially women. Have I just got it all wrong? Am I weird?

And when it comes to my opinions, I seem to have no problem cultivating this fierceness - though there are many times I regret my outspokenness because I'm more sensitive than I want to be and it all eats at me like acid on a cream-puff. But with running (and climbing) it's even more difficult. So the trick is being able to call on this fierceness when I need it not just whenever it happens to feel like visiting. And so I've been working on training this into myself. I'm not sure it's working, and I still allow so many things to chase it away: self-doubt, naysayers, the past, expectations...But there have been days when I've conjured fierceness out of a funk, when thing shouldn't have gone well but did. And I will feed off of this...I will try to make this a new habit.

Many runners use mantras to recall a calmness or to remind them of what they're after. Fierceness and calm determination can go hand in hand, and that's what I find I am in constant search of. And so I'm working on a new mantra to remind myself of this thing that is sometimes buried deep inside. I will dig her out when I need her.  

“Are you frightened of me?' asked Ironclaw. 'No. Why should I be?' 'I'm very fierce,' said the brazzle, with some pride. 'All brazzles are fierce. They have to be, they guard hoards of gold. And they peck people's eyes out. Only when necessary, you understand.' 'Have you ever pecked someone's eyes out?' Ironclaw looked sheepish. 'No. But I could if I wanted to.' Felix smiled.” ~ Elizabeth Kay The Divide

Friday, October 19, 2012

Courage: Feeling the Fear and Doing It Anyway

"I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards." -Alberto Salazar, three-time winner of the NYC marathon
 
I've been trying to avoid it, ignore it, put it out of my mind, and I've been pretty successful thus far. But this morning my eyes pop open at 5 a.m. My mind is racing and my stomach is doing somersaults. What the heckedy-heck! Oh, geez! Not this again...Please. Not yet!!!

In terms of running and life I've managed to distract myself fairly well concerning my next 'race'. I've run a couple marathons over the past month, been training fairly steadily, while balancing (not so well) work and family. But today it seemed to smash me in the face, completely out of the blue! I should have known. I've been feeling irritated and agitated and hyper (even for me!) for a couple days - denial does that to you. So today I got the dope-slap from my mind...Wake up you little fool! This is something you've wanted to do since you were a 15 year-old school girl.

Back in 1978, during the first running boom, you could still take an easy train trip into the city from the suburbs of New Jersey and watch the finish of the New York City Marathon. It was a big deal, even then, for anyone living in the NY metropolitan area, but nothing compared to the circus it is today. And it was a really big deal for me, a NJ High School runner, because Grete Waitz was running. We all need heroes. She was mine.

 
So as I stood in Central Park with my Father, about a quarter mile from the finish, and watched the graceful streak of Grete Waitz flow by me, I was completely ME at that instant, and knew something more true than anything I had (or would) know about myself: I love running, and I want to run this marathon...someday. Now this may sound melodramatic (but, hey, I was a teenage girl. It's all melodrama!) but it was one of those moments where the world seals off all around you, it's you and the world and nothing else exists, and your senses feel hyper-sensitive (like when you're about to pass out and you lose your peripheral vision and the world becomes a tunnel - only better). I don't even know how much time passed. Time froze...


Many years have passed. As it turns out, I was right on Oct 2nd 1978 - the one (and only?) thing I've been 'right' about. I do love running. And I've never stopped running since. And in 2 weeks I'll be running NY. And the thought is making me sick to my stomach...But in a good way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

October and November are two of the 'Big' months for marathons (and racing in general), and so lots of us have either just faced this challenge (and are now probably itching for another) or are about to face it. And it doesn't matter if it's your first or your 10th (in my case) or your 50th (though I can't comment, personally, on this one, yet) when you are standing on that starting line waiting for the gun to go off you just might want to puke.

But here's the thing, Salazar is wrong about us being 'cowards'. We are not cowards. To paraphrase Aristotle: Cowards run away in fear. Cowards feel too much fear, and are crushed by it. Courage, however, is feeling just the 'right' amount of fear, not too much and not too little. You feel fear but you push through it in a rational and reasonable way, facing it and thwarting it! Foolhardiness is feeling too little fear and doing something stupid. So as we stand on the starting line feeling nervous, anxious, apprehensive, excited, etc. we are courageous. We do this voluntarily. No one makes you run. You don't "have to" run. And as we each stand there, wondering why in the hell we've signed up for this anguish, we must make peace and accept that we each have our own reasons for being there. No one is there for exactly the same reason.

And at mile 18 it might be hard to remember why you clicked "register" 6 months ago. But I promise that none of us regret it by mile 26.


For me New York City has special meaning. It comes with a lot of 'baggage', and that's good and bad. When I was told in 2008 that I would NEVER run again, the very FIRST thing that popped into my mind was "Oh my God! I'm never going to run New York!". And that single thought brings me to this point in time. And now it feels like a lot is riding on this run, and I'm a little scared about it all - Okay - I'm terrified!! I planned this year to begin with Boston and end with NY, but NY has always been more important to me emotionally...personally. And this year is special because I've been running for 40 years. Perhaps I'll do it again at 50 years. I hope I still can.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Dirty Little Secret

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 
This may be how we feel at first...and then two days later...???
 
I believe that there is a dirty little secret kept quiet among marathoners who have done a few and feel a little less terrified by the prospect of training for, running, and recovering from a marathon - and that is, that running a marathon can actually really feel like it's getting in the way of running when you want to run. Sure there's all those miles of training, and long runs, and the actual race itself, but then there's the blasted taper and worse of all, the recovery.

The internet, blogs, discussion boards, facebook running groups, etc., are all chock-full of sage, stoic, and often deceptive, advice concerning how much to taper and how long to recover. What many experienced runners forget are those early marathons where they couldn't run a step for a week or more. We dole out advice: "Go for a little walk/jog the day after. It helps with recovery, getting the blood moving and the muscles warm". Well, isn't that just dandy!!!?? That may work if you can actually walk, but guess what? You may have a REALLY hard time doing that. And so those newly inducted into the marathoning tribe begin to worry: I can't run. I'm going to lose everything. Worst of all, why can they do this and I cannot?

Online training logs such as dailymile can make this worse. We see what others are doing. We compare, we contrast, we worry that somehow we just don't measure up. 

After my first marathon I felt great. I was young and stupid and pig-headed (still am everything but the 'young') and so I went out and ran an 'easy 10' after one rest day and ran 50 miles for the remained of the week. By the next week I was hobbling around with a killer case of achilles tendonitis. The grinding inside that tendon felt like someone had replaced it with sandpaper. It took months to recover from that. I couldn't run and I swore that my marathoning days were done. One is enough. This just isn't worth it. I want to run! The marathon got in the way of what I really loved: Just running.

That was in 1993, and I kept my word for many years, until 2009 when I ran my second marathon. Now, I was considerably older, but unfortunately not much wiser. This race was hot and tough. I went out too fast, didn't drink nearly enough, and only drank water (no GU or anything of the sort!) and completely cramped up by mile 19. I was on pace for about a 3:30 and finished around 4:30! Yup, that's right. The last 7 miles were a death march. In retrospect, that was my most valuable learning experience, but at the time I swore "Never again"...again. And the recovery? Well, after a dehydrated 7 mile cramped hobble through 80+ degree temps, I was left a pathetic shadow of my former self, barely able to walk for a week. Please. Don't make me step down a curb. I just can't do it.

Then came 2010, my third marathon - the Colorado Marathon - I went into training with some calf tendonitis - but hell, I was already registered so I doggedly pushed forward. It was a bother but didn't really interfere with the miles, though the quality of my runs was total crap. As my mileage built it got worse. Then I hit taper and breathed a sigh of relief. Surely, it will be all gone by race time. But in fact it only got worse during the taper. I lined up at the start feeling nervous that I might end up stranded somewhere in the canyon. But I did make it to the finish, though it was rough. The worst part, however? I couldn't run a step for WEEKS and probably wasn't really back at it for several months. I would try to go out for walks and I would get shooting pains through my calves. It felt like my right tibia had snapped in two. I swore to the gods, at last I've learned my lesson. Really and truly this time. I'm done! Done I say!!!! Shaking my fists at the sky. Marathons are just not for me.

So, now I read the advice doled out by others with a bit of skepticism, a hyper-critical eye and a tinge of disgust. Much of the advise is dubious at best and injurious at worst. Telling a first time marathoner that they should be ready to run a couple days after their first marathon is foolish. Everyone is different. Lots of marathoners boast that they never feel sore, or never feel they really struggled/hurt in the race and so they feel fresh and ready to run shortly after the event. That's all well and good, but in my opinion, it also means that you didn't try very hard in the race. For a first time marathoner, someone who really gave it their all in the race, they are going to be a hurting unit for sometime, and telling them otherwise is unhelpful at best.

 He gave it all he had ;)

Many elites take a week or two completely off from running after a marathon. I know of many accomplished and experienced marathoners who schedule vacations following marathons so that they; a) are more likely to rest (running-wise) and, b) are out of their normal environment and away from the usual cues that make them want to run and feel guilty if they're not.

Those with lots of experience, and lots of years of running miles and miles and miles, week after week, year in and year out, will respond differently than those who are: a) new to marathoning, and, b) still pretty new to running (and by this I mean anyone who has been running either less than 25 miles a week or less than 3 years, and I'm being generous here). Those of us who have been around the block more than a few times need to be very careful about what we say to the new members of our clan, lest we make them feel weak, inadequate, and just not tough enough.

The number one concern I hear from newer runners is that they are afraid they will lose their fitness. This fitness that was so hard-earned, will melt into flabby jello in the blink of an eye. But what we often overlook, is that running fitness is not just about what I do this season, or this training cycle, but what I do over years and years of consistent work. Yes, sometimes that is interrupted with a forced or voluntary break: injury, illness, lack of motivation, pregnancy, life stresses, whatever. But the fact is that over the years we build on what we've done, even if we take some short breaks. There's no quick route to this sort of base. It happens over time and you can't rush time - nor should you want to. With training you make a deposit in the training bank, and that remains there to build on in the future - the experience, the mental trials and tribulations, the willing and succeeding - those will never go away.

And, on the other side of the same coin is the emotional stuff that follows achieving a goal that you've been working towards for 4-5-6 months. Considerable energy and attention has been focused on this goal. And then, bang, like that, it's done. Suddenly you are left hanging...abandoned...alone. What ta do, what ta do...What's next? You are left feeling purposeless. And being unable to run seems to amplify this loss. There is a period, following the completion of a major goal, where we almost go through a type of mourning. It's natural. Recognize it for what it is. Be kind to yourself. This too shall pass...

And so, when your body is ready you will get back to it, but now from a different starting point - and now, hopeful, fresh AND stronger in both mind and body.

"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau


 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Threads That Weave Through a Life

"The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed." ~ Jacqueline Gareau
It's Saturday morning, 3 a.m. I'm up. It's dark and snowing in Colorado as I get into the car and race my way to the airport for my 6 a.m. flight to Chicago. There are two reasons for this trip: 1) To spend the day with a very special friend, and 2) To pace/run with another very special friend in her first marathon. I am feeling excited, jittery, apprehensive, anxious and confident all at the same time. I'm a bit of a wreck, and enjoying the intensity of that sensation. I like intense emotion, it's just the way I am. It makes me a little crazy, but it's also when I feel most alive and satisfied with my life. It's a bit like falling in love - You can't possibly live forever in that state, but it feels good while it's happening.

My plane lands and I make my way to the CTA train into Chicago. I'm meeting one of my dearest friends, Carolina, who I haven't seen in 20 years, but with whom I feel forever bonded. She and I are two peas in a pod. The world feels like a better place just knowing that she's in it. In college she and I went for epically long runs and then returned to our dorm tired and sweaty and smoked cigarettes. She and I challenged one another to run every morning and end each run with a jump into Cayuga Lake. Our theory was if we kept doing it every morning we would get used to it and could do it clear through the winter. We made it into late October, which is bloody cold in Upstate New York. She and I have weathered many ups and downs. We've hated each other and loved each other, and even when we hated each other we still loved each other...

We find each other beneath the elevated trains as a cold wind whips through the canyons of skyscrapers. We hug. We spend the rest of the day talking and walking around downtown as she shows me the sights. We go to the Art Institute. We walk. We talk. We sit and talk and drink way too much coffee. We walk and talk some more. We have lunch. We walk some more. We take pictures of each other together in the reflection of the "Bean" (Cloud Gate)...


 ...We walk some more. We talk and we walk all day. Then we say our goodbyes at Union Station, and I make my way alone, feeling a little teary, to the hotel about a mile away. It suddenly dawns on me that I've probably walked too much. But I don't really care.


I find Sandra and her husband at their hotel and I collapse, just a bit, onto the bed. No, no. Really. I'm fine. Just a little tired. I'm good! The prospect of running with someone, for them not for me, is just beginning to hit me. God, I hope I don't bonk on her. That would be awkward. I hope I can actually do this. Self doubt creeps in from time to time, but I do my best to stuff it.

We wake-up the next morning before the alarm sounds. We make coffee, eat a bit, hem-and-haw over what to wear, and then head off to the starting area. It's pretty stinking cold at this point. Perfect running conditions, but not so perfect for waiting around.

Now, I have this strange aversion to standing around in a corral waiting for the start where I usually just fixate on how I have to pee again. I usually wait until the very last possible minute to hit the porto-potties, and then book-it to the start. I've discovered that this approach makes others nervous. And as we're still standing on the line, as the corrals begin moving forward toward the start, Sandra looks at me in disbelief and says "Um, just so you know, this is NOT how I usually do things". I tell her it's going to be fine. She does not believe me in the slightest. A guy runs by and tells us about a row of porta-potties with no line. We trot over, do our business and head for the corrals - which now have moved forward and seem to be closed. We jump a fence and jog through the crowd to our corral. Sandra's a trooper. She's actually still speaking to me and hasn't hit me yet. At least she hasn't had time to think about being nervous, I tell her.

And then, of course, we wait...


...take pictures, disrobe, jump up and down in place...The usual stuff. And yes. I need to pee again...

Slowly we make our way to the start. And we're off. We immediately run through a long underpass beneath the city buildings where the walls are lined with peeing men. Grrrrr. Not fair.

So things tick along well. I have to keep gently encouraging Sandra to slow down. As always, I have key splits written in ball point pen along my arm. I'm closely monitoring the Garmin. Everything is going well. As we run through the city I take it all in. We wave to the seniors lining the windows of a retirement home. They furiously wave back encouragement. Chills. This experience of taking it all in, looking around, actually enjoying the run is a new and liberating experience for me. I am thoroughly enjoying the whole thing...

We pass the halfway point, onward toward the miles I find so challenging when I'm really racing - miles 15-19 - where you begin to feel the miles add up and you still have a lot to do. This is where you either do it or don't do it, in my opinion. This is where we have to shut up and run and push when we want to stop. I look at Sandra. We aren't talking much at this point, but she has the look of absolute determination on her face. We continue at a good pace. We are still a bit ahead of our splits (which, as always, I've added a cushion to). I occasionally check in, not asking how she feels - I can pretty much guess how she feels and we really don't need to talk about the elephant in the room at this point - But I tell her that she's doing great and we're on pace.

And so it goes. She smartly nips some cramping in the bud with a quick 30 second walk break - which is NO break because she walks so damn fast. I can't keep up with her and walk at the same time, so I jog next to her. It's easier for me. After a few of these, she says that's it. We run weaving in-and-out-and-between-and-around walking, hobbling runners. It seems that we are the only ones still running as we hit Michigan Avenue.

Now, I've had to pee something awful from about 6 miles in, but I don't want to stop Sandra and I don't want to have to catch up and find her in this crowd...so I push on. All the porta-potties have lines. I eye random trees. I have no shame, but...that might be too much for Sandra...so I reassure myself that this is good training. 

I'm checking the time, checking in with her, not asking anything, just looking. At this point I stay about half a step ahead of her. Partially to run interference and to clear a path through the slower runners or to stay out of her way, but I know I'm probably pushing her a bit. She may hate me for this, but I can see that she can handle it. We pass 25 miles, and I look at her and I say "Okay, Time to go". She turns to me and says something to the effect of - I am and I can't go any faster. I press a little and she stays with me. Our pace is picking up. As we turn the corner to go over the last bridge (a hill I know she's been dreading) we push it past the 26 mile mark. She doesn't slow down a bit, but powers up and over the bridge. As we head downhill, around the last turn toward the finish she is running strong. Her dream goal for this first marathon was to go under 5 hours. We cross the finish in 4:54:39. She cries. I have chills...and not because I'm cold.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As I stand in the hall the next morning, waiting for the elevator to take me away, I look at Sandra and say "I hope it sinks in, what you've actually done". She waves the comment away as just so much blather. And I'm not going to get all deep and emotional about it at this point - but I am in awe. She began running two and half years ago, and here she is, a marathoner - who not only ran it, but ran it well. I ran for decades before running a marathon. I'm not sure I could do what she's done. I admire her greatly for pushing this boat out into the great unknown.

My past, my present, my future all seemed to come into focus over these two days. Who I was, who I am, who I will be - ever changing but with strands of continuity that seem to hold it all together. And I am left feeling very thankful for where I am right now...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ramblings of the Dazed and Confused



Well, this week I finally received my official registration confirmation from the BAA for the 2013 Boston Marathon. Things got fairly confused because they had me down as running a qualifying marathon that I did not run, and did not have the one I did run. May the weather be better than this year because I don't know how much more of this I can take.

And today I finally woke up to the fact that I'm a little over four weeks out from NYC. So I started thinking about what I want to do there in a more concrete sense. Ideas have been randomly bouncing around my brain since Fox Valley three weeks ago. After that race, having accomplished THE goal (the BQ), I told myself, "Oh goodie. Now I can go run NY for the shear fun of it." And yet...

I told the tale, a couple posts ago, of my desperate (fairly pathetic and unpleasant) experience qualifying for Boston by 7 seconds. That race put me in a somewhat manic state for at least a week, and I'm not sure I'm back to normal yet - or will ever be normal again - after that last three miles of torture - internal angst of battling one's inner most demons of suckiness and weakness and the give-into-it monster. My sleeping is a mess, my eating is all off, and yet my energy level seems to just keep on ticking along. I'm waiting to crash and burn in a firey ball of exhausted hungry hollowness...but it isn't happening...yet. Wrangling with that beast left it's mark in a way I'm just beginning to grasp.

I thought I was seeking an 'easy' marathon like the one I ran for my first BQ. It was 'easy' in the sense that it felt 'on' and almost effortless, and I've been craving that fix ever since. What I didn't realize was the effect this last one would have on me. It's not the easy ones that change you, it's the hard ones that push you to the mental edge.

Now this weekend I'm running another marathon, 'just as a training run' - Oy! - and that has consumed a considerable amount of my mental attention (clearly this is not actually just a 'training run'). Simultaneously recovering from one marathon and rebuilding for another marathon (NYC) while throwing another one into the mix "just for kicks" (haha) is a little disorienting, to say the least. And at times I start questioning my sanity (as others seem to be doing more and more regularly). And yet I am feeling more jazzed and optimistic about life than I have in a while. So I must be doing something right.

And so NY has remained on the back-burner of my mind. Until today. Why today? I know not why, but today NY came into view with a ferocity I was not expecting, nor really welcoming. Maybe it was getting the official thumbs up from the BAA, maybe it is that I've been running a lot lately and feeling surprisingly good, all things considered. I don't know. But something broke loose and thoughts started flooding in...Thoughts I was trying not to have.

Based on my time at Fox Valley, I'm pretty sure I'll be in the third wave at Boston. This year I was in the first corral of the third wave (so, very close to the time needed to get into the tail end of the second wave), and I so wished I was in the second wave primarily due to the heat and the rapidly rising temps. By the time the gun went off for the third wave it was well into the 80s and the sun was high and hot and the air was thick with steamy moisture. I'm aware that the chances of another record breaking hot Boston is unlikely, but for some reason I just really want to get a better position.

What does that mean for NY??? Well, my wave/corral for NY is good. I'm up front in Wave 2, which is right after all the fast folks (this was based on my qualifying time, which I am nowhere near right now! But I'll take it) and so it might actually be a race-able situation. Perhaps I can get a better time and then a better position in Boston. So maybe I should go for broke, and really run this thing after all...But wait. This was supposed to be for fun...Fun? And I could completely blow up anyway. I wanted to avoid this pressure. Why do this to myself? Whatever...And so it goes.

And...so it goes. I will, no doubt, go back and forth on this over the next few weeks. Frank Shorter famously said, "You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming." and he might just be right about this. And yet...

The Things That Change Us

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” ~ Goethe Sometimes we never "go back" to what we were before....