Sunday, May 12, 2013

When The Troops Come Marching In: Part I

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is for them...

After a winter of hard training, challenging weather, nipping burgeoning injuries and illnesses in the bud, succumbing to other injuries - We all converge on Colorado: Me, Cecilia, Sandra, Esther, Jeni. All of us have trained through a hard winter cycle, all preparing for the Colorado Marathon or Half Marathon.

And now the time is here.

My original plan was to run the Marathon, but as many already know, I did a butthead, and hurt myself. After missing Boston, my goal race, I am unwilling to mess myself up for any of my other planned races. Over the past few weeks, weeks where I have been (conspicuously?) silent here, I've been trying to allowing things to sink in, gel, ferment, sort out - because I try to learn from the bad and the good - I have become aware of a fair amount of judgement thrown my way - either to my face, passive-aggressively, or behind my back - "How can she be a good coach when she injured herself?" It's a natural, and ummmm, stupid question for anyone who knows that there are ALWAYS risks when one pushes their limits. I'm no more immune to this human frailty than anyone else - and so I got hurt because I wanted to see where I could go. This was not a case of hubris, but simply seeking my best...and I'll be back, and I'll probably (most certainly) hurt myself again. Them's the risks. Learn, move on...learn some more... I hope I'm smarter now or that really would be a stupid shame. But it's easy to just ignore the lessons and foist abuse and blame on one's self and others.

I mention all of this because, due to my injury, my role this past weekend shifted from being primarily a fellow runner in the race to, first and foremost, a coach and friend supporting the other runners.

This is gonna be interesting.

And so they arrive - from Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey...And the fun begins.

We've all been training together, all winter long, virtually - following each others ups and downs, successes, fits of angst, PRs, weather challenges, schedule upsets, injury and illness scares - and now we are all here - Friends bound together through running first, and now through much, much more. We all 'met' each other on Facebook through  Women Who Run The World, a group I started back in January 2012 (Cecilia and I actually met the old-fashioned way).  And While I've had the chance to run and hangout with most of these women, this is the first time we are all together in one place. 

And it works. We work - like beer and pizza :) We all just go well together. It's almost magic...

So, after a relaxing first afternoon/evening of good food (thanks to Cecilia's Culinary brilliance!) and a little beer, and a nice easy jaunt on the trails behind my house Saturday morning, we pack ourselves up and head to Fort Collins. The car is bubbling with pre-race anticipation - and a healthy touch of nervous energy.  

It's at this point that I first realize that this is a very different sort of experience for me. I'm nervous - very nervous - not in a bad way, but in an "energy jumping under the surface of my skin" way - and it isn't about ME this time. It's all about THEM.  The control freak in me is having issues...

We walk into the expo and the place is just vibrating with energy. And now I'm feeling envious, jealous, out of sorts...I just want to run (and I am running, it's just not what I had originally planned)! God, I just want to run. But my purpose here is different. I'm not okay with that yet. I'm trying to get comfortable with it all, but I'm not there yet.

We then have a fabulous dinner at the Rainbow Restaurant (Thank you, Lisa Roehm-Gensel, for setting that all up!). And, bonus, I get to have a beer because I'm not actually racing in the morning. Okay, that is a plus. Of course everyone else has a beer too, but I'm usually too uptight the night before a marathon to actually allow myself one. Oh, and then I have another. What the hell anyway.

Then back to the hotel, splits are written on arms, teeth brushed...and...Zzzzzzz. And I did actually sleep a little, another bonus since I never do much of that before a marathon.

3 a.m. and Sandra's alarm starts singing "Wake up, wake up, wake up, it's a brand new day..." loud and clear along with Jeni's 'nuclear accident warning siren' sound alarm! Ahhheeee. And, I'm trying to keep it on the down-low, but I'm hacking, just a bit...Shhhhhhh. Don't tell anyone.

We eat a bit, drink copious amounts of coffee and pile into the car. I drop Cecilia, Esther and Jeni off outside the parking garage so they can catch one of the last marathon buses. I wish them strong legs and lungs and say for the umpteenth time, "Please, do not go out too fast". Then hugs and they shut the doors, disappearing into the anonymous darkness. I take a deep breath, look at Sandra, "I feel like I just dropped my kids off at college. It's out of my hands now."  It's about 4:30 a.m. We park the car and catch our bus to the half marathon start.

It is freaking cold and dark at the starting area - and we have an hour to kill - and some dill-weed stole all the toilet paper from the port-o-potties! Seriously bad GI karma raining down on those poor souls for some time I pray.

As the sun begins to come up we start getting ready to run. My toes are completely numb but I know that won't last, so I strip down to as little as possible, teeth frantically chattering. I add on one toss-away t-shirt. And then we're off and all is well with the world again because I'm running at last, checking in with my element. This is not my race, this is Sandra's race, and I actually really enjoy that thought.

Supporting someone else is difficult business - My usual approach in this situation is to sit back and let the other person do the directing. I usually spend that first miles saying "Slow down a bit" or "Do you know you're going x:xx?" etc. Then it's really the last miles that get testy. And these do. Sandra is feeling nauseous probably from dehydration (these mid-west folks do not understand that when I say drink I mean DRINK!! Colorado is VERY dry) and so I covertly keep a sharp eye on my Garmin. We are a bit ahead of pace and I don't want to lose that, but I also don't want to precipitate a meltdown, so I back off for a mile. Then we pick it up again. Two miles and change to go. "You're pushing it" is all Sandra says. "uh huh" is all I say, and she stays with me. At the last water stop, less than a mile from the finish I ask, "Do you want anything?". "No" she responds. "Good", as we continue to press on. 

And as we turn onto the road to the finish, the last .3 mile of the race, I know she feels sick, she says she thinks she's gonna pass out, I say, "You're almost there." and she pushes it toward the finish. I look at my watch as we cross the mats...she grabs onto my arm for a moment of stability. And she has a new PR, at altitude no less. 

Medals...hugs...congratulations. A silent sigh of relief and satisfaction from me. A smile of deep satisfaction shows through her fatigue. THIS is it for me. THIS is why I do what I do and it matters as much to me as my own hard fought for successes.

Now comes the waiting game. We have an hour and a half before anyone else will be rounding that corner heading toward the finish - and I feel more anxious than I ever could have imagined. I am not the praying sort, but I'm praying now. Just in case...
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~ Anais Nin


  1. Nice! SO glad you drank those beers! I'm looking forward to part two!

  2. Looking forward to part two!

  3. So you ran but not the marathon...I am confused!


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