Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Athens Marathon and Life's Other Stuff

The memory is still very fresh... mile 23 of the Indianapolis Marathon last October.  In the throws of marathon misery, I vowed I would never race another marathon for as long as I lived.  I meant it, too.  Every single miserable, awful step, came the promise to myself I was done.  Coupled with the fear that my brother Jack, pacing the 4 hour group, was quickly gaining on me, I was in a bad place mentally.  The only thing that kept me from walking the rest of the way was the thought of his cheerful, optimistic voice right behind me, passing me and then in front of me.  I was nearly 15 minutes behind my goal time as it was. I was in an all too familiar place, one that I hated and one that years ago had drained my love of running.  It wasn't until I experienced the world of ultra running that my passion was re-ignited.  Give me great distances, food, company and walk breaks... give me all day and I can get the job done.  Give me a time goal, a clock and a bit of pressure... and I crumble.

So what is the logical next step?  In the the lives of logical people, it is to simply shift all together to running slowly and joyfully.  Logical runners in this place run marathons only as training runs... with crowd support, lots of company, chipper conversation and medals at the end.  Every long run is a party, not a job or another workout checked off the training list.  Well, the good Lord left out the logic gene when he created me.  I have registered to run the Athens, Ohio marathon on April 13th.  My intent is to race it for a sub 3:45.

Let me back up a bit.  I am currently coaching seven spring marathoners.  Five of those runners are training to run the Boston Marathon, one is running the Flying Pig as her first marathon, and one is training to run right beside me once again and pace me during the Athens Marathon.  I think it may be all the Boston talk.  I mean, I run with gals who are training for Boston.  The conversations about the race keeps the depression over training conditions at bay (sub zero temps, snow and ice... blah!).  Every time Boston is brought up, I get excited.  Talk of who still needs plane tickets, who is rooming with whom and where to eat the night before is fun hear and be part of.  It is also dangerous.  Or maybe it's good.  I haven't decided yet.  I begin to think, "Now why the hell am I not doing this?"  Ok, yes, I know the answer of, "You haven't qualified!  Last year, while they were running pace runs, track workouts, hill repeats and tempo runs, you were taking your sweet time on the trail, enjoying nature, eating and ultra training.  And before that, you raced and didn't get the time.  That's why!"  I think those things and I know that ultra training was a good reason not to have raced a qualifying race.  However, it kills me to know I have it in me but that I have decided to stop trying because for 6-8 miles of racing a marathon I am hating life.  That is no good reason to give up on something I CAN do.  None at all.  I would never want one of my children to cease reaching for dream but for a few short days, weeks, months or even years of difficulty.  Especially when it is an attainable goal should they JUST KEEP TRYING.  My kids are very aware of my Boston quest.  How could they not be?  When phrases like "carb loading", "Don't eat that.  It's mom's long run fuel", "I told Mrs. Post that I know what pacing means" and "all we have to eat in the house are these energy gels...", are part of the daily household chatter, I realize they are aware of so much.  They are aware of hard work, failure, more hard work, more failure, detours, changing course and getting back on track.  Someday, they will see what came from all of it.  Success.

Now what the heck with Sarah?  How many times is she going to put herself through my miserable racing state?  I'm guessing as many times as it takes to drag my ass to Boston.  I didn't ask her to do it.  Not only does she want a reason to keep her endurance base up, but she WANTS to do it.  She WANTS to endure when I completely lose my cool and start being a complete bitch right around mile 18.  She WANTS to challenge me and risk getting punched when she tells me to pick it up as I begin to fade.  Actually, no, that is not what she wants.  What she really wants is to be there when it all comes together.  She doesn't want to be at home, tracking me on her phone or computer.  In a nutshell, she never loses faith that this will be the race that I achieve a dream whose road has taken me down some unbelievable twists and turns as well as some life altering moments.  She knows it's a matter of time.  I know it's a matter of time.  That is why we both keep doing what we do.  I told her last week that Athens was the LAST time I was going to race a marathon.  She knows that is such bullshit even before I do.  If I get a BQ, I'll then want to run a PR sometime.  If you give a moose a muffin, ya know?

The person that endures the most, though, is John.  Oh sweet John!  He actually lives with this.  I think when I came home from Indy declaring that I was done racing, he responded something like, "Ok, or at least until the next time you decide to race."  I am most definitely this boy's ticket to Heaven.  It takes a really special person to put up with my kind of crazy on a daily basis.  It actually has become his normal.  He would be very worried about me if I did not change my mind... constantly.  John is "training" to run the Flying Pig marathon.  It is 3 weeks after Athens and my goal is to run it with my childhood friend, Nicole, and her husband, Jerry.  This will be their first marathon and I cannot wait!  She is having an awesome training cycle and feels good.  John is also going to run this with us.  I put training in quotation marks in regard to John because he always does his own special combination of training.  It goes like this... run 5 miles as your longest run from October to January.  Then, accompany your wife and her friends on a 14 mile long run.  On the way home, talk about how your calf was really iffy and that it is a good thing we did not go any farther.  Also, make sure you never stretch, roll or ice and for God sakes, do not fuel right. Take several weeks off for some sort of calf or foot ailment.  On race day, run a terrific race and have a good time doing it.  That's how he rolls.  It is annoying and funny and so HIM!

And so we all train on... trying to be creative through the snow, ice and crazy wind.  Our lives keep changing, but our group remains constant.  Our goals change, but running together does not.  Greg, Jen and Cheryl keep vowing to stop doing marathons and yet... here they are, training for marathons.  Sondra keeps saying she hates speed work and is moving to ultras, yet Sondra is always kicking our assess and running the fastest in our pace group during workouts, all the while talking comfortably.  Sarah keeps saying she has no goals and doesn't want to commit to anything, yet her Athens registration was complete before I blinked.  Erin, new to marathoning, is forever doubtful of her ability, yet her race times reflect a fierce competitor and athlete.  Suttan hates ice like no one's business and has the stamina and grit to withstand long treadmill runs when the majority of us would rather skip the workout than run on a treadmill.  Kim hasn't committed to anything except to burn off a week's worth of hefty calorie consumption.  Barbara soaks it all in, analyzes us and I am certain, deems us all as crazy (she's the sports psychologist in our group).

God continues to bless me and I continue to strive to thank Him.  In the throws of the daily grind and mundane tasks of everyday, I sometimes get into the pattern of focusing on all that sucks.  But my kids keep growing, my husband keeps loving me and I keep running with awesome people.  My parents and in-laws are healthy and my siblings are a short drive or phone call away.  In other words, all that really matters in life is good at this moment.  For that, I am so grateful.

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