Monday, November 7, 2011

Gratitude Day 2: That fire...

2011 was a big year for racing in my household. In May, I did a half marathon; June - Ragnar; July - Dirty Girl; and in October the Halloween half marathon. There aren't many years that we do this many races, but this year, what with having older kids and family who live near two of the races, things worked out.

A few months ago, I caught sight of a friend from college's announcement she was running a half.  I knew this person hadn't been running for a long time thanks to Facebook (the ultimate voyuer-inator, thank you Dr. Doofenschmirtz.) When she ran her half marathon, I looked up her time via the race's results page. I saw that she ran her half with a time of 2:13.


It has stuck with me for months. When I started my training runs in late August, I thought about the 2:13. I got up to the 10-mile mark, took 2 long-run weeks off, and worked back up to 10 miles again, all the while thinking of dear Allison and her 2:13. I thought about all the years I've been running and my two (personally) dismal half-marathon times, both of which were much closer to the 3 hour mark than the 2 hour mark. I let the 2:13 infiltrate my whole being, and when race day came, I was ready.

So, to get me where I wanted to be, I made sure to run with an acquaintance. She was aware of my goal and assured me we would finish in 2:13 or better.  I stuck with her and the 2:10 pacesetter (who crossed the starting line after me; grr!) like glue. I used the visualization the pacesetter told me of imagining myself running on pillows during the first 5-mile steep descent. I pushed myself through the honeymoon miles of 6-10, and then wanted to curse my garmin girl and her incessant cheery-ness and tendency to speed up during water stations just at the moment I was slowing down. I let her go at mile 11, knowing I had to walk 5 steps with a cup of water at the last water station. I counted out loud: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - okay - I'm going! and I set off for the final 2 miles. With half a mile to go, I told myself I could do anything for 5 minutes, and I kept a lady dressed like little red riding hood from passing me, 2:13 on my mind the entire time.

I reached the finish line after the worlds longest finishing chute (there was absolutely no visual presence of a finish line - just twist after twist after twist of crowd-lined trail) and I stopped dead in my tracks. I breathed and stood with little red riding hood. I accepted the water and the medal (the volunteer had to come to me, because my spent legs refused to move even another step for a small eternity) and then I remembered to stop my iPod.  It read:


It was jubilation. Had my leg muscles worked at the time, I would have jumped in the air and clicked my heels. Allison's 2:13 half-marathon time didn't have to haunt me anymore. More importantly: I allowed spite or determination or fire or sheer willpower or simply access to a pace-declaring garmin to get me across the finish line in a manner that made myself proud. I shaved more than 28 minutes off my previous half - a feat that I will probably never be able to replicate.

Running isn't all about speed. I get that. I will never ever be the person who wins a race. I think that everyone is awesome just for showing up, walkers, runners, whoever you are. But what I am grateful for is that for once, I didn't give up on myself - something I tend to do to when I get tired and I don't want to keep putting one foot in front of the other anymore. That beautiful fall morning, I let some friendly (okay, let's face it, passive-aggressive) competition get me across the finish line on my terms.  I don't think that makes me bad. I doubt that Meb missed an opportunity last night to imagine himself running faster than the Kenyon he knew he would be up against today in the New York City Marathon. A healthy fire of a competitive spirit gets many a marathoner, triathlete, swimmer, or what-have-you across the finish line. I ran a race that I was proud of, which is really all you can hope for at the end of the day.

(That being said, it was one of the best races I've ever done. I spent way to much time on making a costume, which was half the fun. I had my sweet husband, my best friend/sister Amy, a good friend, and another Ragnar team member there to make the day full of sweet reunions. Our dear mom came to watch us all finish and even gave me and Shane a ride to the car after the race. The morning was absolutely gorgeous; cold, but invigorating. The trail was fast and beautiful the entire way. I will be back to do this race again.)

 Me finishing the longest chute ever...
 1/4 of Team Chafing Tail from 2011 Ragnar: Melissa, Becky, Amy.
 Because who doesn't love to get their picture in front of a hearse, I ask you?

Has the fire of competition ever worked in your favor?


Amy Sorensen said...

I felt SO BAD that I missed you coming through the finishing line. I really, really wanted to let you hear my voice cheering you on! BUT, I'm so glad you got a photo of it. And even gladder (!) that you accomplished your goal. I think you are exactly is that process of not letting yourself give up when you're tired that is exactly the thing you need to accomplish your goals. And...I know what you mean about counting your steps at the water stop and then making yourself go on. I did the exact same thing at the last water table at the marathon. Only I said it outloud and then groaned before i started running again, and that policeman laughed at me! ;)

(I skipped the last water table at the half because I didn't want to have to START running again!)

HUGS. So glad we did this!