To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-Steve Prefontaine
Make it simple, but significant.
- Don Draper

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Feel Good, I Feel Great, I Feel Wonderful... Running Edition

I was out for a run the other day and had a flashback to crying when seeing a 26 mile marker. It got me thinking of all the ups and downs that seem to come with running, at least for me. When I am struggling I try hard to all I have accomplished when I never figured I could even run a mile in the first place. So I decided to not just think about this during runs, but instead try to put it down in writing where I could look back any time I started to tell myself how much I suck!

Perhaps the first milestone that I think of was my first ever race. Having just recovered from H1N1 I was in no condition to run, but that didn’t stop me from navigating 3.1 cold, sometimes icy miles. It was 27º yet my mom, step-dad and dog all came to cheer me on. Crossing that finish line was awesome and made me determined to better myself the next time.

I had a whim and decided I was ready for a very hilly 10K trail race with hip bursitis, having only done 1 trail before and having never run more than 3.1 miles. Ha, oh my did I have my ass handed to me! BUT I always use that race to remember how I was challenged so much, did want to just stop and call my mommy, and felt like sitting down to cry… but I didn't cry. I didn't call my mommy. The only sitting I did was for a quick bench photo on top of a scenic hill. I survived crazy terrain that to this day still seems scary … and I finished – all while running injured! It always tells me that when an easy run feels hard, I have done harder!

Once upon a cold, rainy Oregon morning I found myself at another 5K race, this time determined to place. When they handed me my bib I told them they’d see me getting an age group award later that day. I staked out all the women ahead of me at the start area and put myself as close to the line as I felt comfortable, i.e. behind all those speedy men. A girl seemed to be drafting off of me for half of it. I was dying, but not backing off for the first half. Finally I relinquished first place, or so I thought, and said I’d be happy with 2nd in my division. She passed me and I was determined not to let another woman near me. I flew through the finish line, not earning a PR, but confident that I finished ahead of people and could maybe be 3rd in my division. Imagine my shock and joy when they announced I was first! As it turns out I was racing and pushing myself against a girl over 10 years younger than I am! I should have thanked her for her unintentional help!

“Come on, what would Pre do?” “He’d run.” “Right! And what’s at the finish line?” “My mommy.” “Yes, so let’s run to your mommy!” (When extremely tired and whiny apparently my mom becomes my Mommy!) This was the conversation between Lesley and I as we were going up the hill to the overpass near the end of my first half marathon. I pretty much forgot to fuel, hit every single character stop from mile 3 to the end, had awesome photos, got a sunburn, and kicked ass!! That race got me addicted to 13.1! That feeling of “I can do this” that turns into “what the hell am I doing?” that turns into “I’ve got this” that turns into “this is never going to be over. I’m dying” that turns into “OMG I did it!!!!!!! I want to do it again!!!” Seriously, fellow Princess 2011 runners, can we all agree that race was disgustingly hot?!?

With so many half marathons under my belt, I had this whole new sense of confidence come over me nearly a year after my first one. I did the 5K Friday morning, followed by the WDW Half Marathon on Saturday. Fun memories made with friends … but it was the Sunday race that changed things for me. I was the second leg of my marathon relay team, Agony of d’Feet! Never had I run back to back half marathons before, and I had no idea what to expect. My partner started in the A corral and ran incredibly fast. I was in the first handful of relay people to take off for the second part of the course, sending me out to run with the FAST runners. I was terrified. My legs weren’t sure what was happening. I was too scared to walk for fear of getting run over. My ego wouldn’t let me either. Those fast runners don’t seem to do photo stops, so I had no lines and was able to hit every stop with no waits at all! I kept pushing my pace, knowing this wasn’t only MY race, but I was on a team. As I neared the Boardwalk I was feeling overcome with excitement. So many spectators were cheering us on and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was giddy coming through World Showcase and by the time I hit Spaceship Earth I could feel it. Emotions were about to explode. I came around the corner and heard the gospel choir singing. I looked to my left and saw the 26 mile marker. Sure, I hadn’t done it all at once, but I had still done it over those two days. As I approached the finishers chute a huge group yelled my name and cheered me on! Complete strangers helped my partner cheer for me. That was it, tears started flowing! I was crossing the biggest finish line I had ever seen! I knew that moment that I would be doing Goofy the next year and running my first ever marathon!

I did, in fact, feel INCREDIBLE!

The next April I was at the Boston Marathon expo, registering for Goofy and feeling so giddy!! The day after registration I stood at the Boston 5K starting line on Boylston Street. What?!? Something about that city and the vibe – I ran as fast as I could given the crowd size. The sights were incredible. I loved every single step of that race. But as a girl that will never qualify for Boston, nothing can top how it felt to round the corner onto Boylston Street and see THE finish line. I was about to cross the finish line for the Boston Marathon! I got a PR that day and wore my medal proudly as I danced and sang on the Fenway Park jumbo-tron later that night!

I spent the year training for 2 marathons. I ran 18 miles around town, starting the run around 8:30pm! I did 20+ mile runs, finishing in 90 degree heat. I set many PRs. I ran a lot of races. I continually kept surprising myself. I look back at all that hard work and can’t believe that the slacker that I am did that! By the time October came I was ready for the Portland Marathon. At 13.1 miles I was running just shy of my half marathon PR pace and feeling awesome! My face was a permanent smile. It was like a party with a ton of strangers. All of that changed at mile 18 when both knees had freakishly buckled under me and I was in tears trying to run. My heart was broken. My finish time wasn’t that bad considering how much I had to walk. I deliberately ran through the Adidas campus, fighting the pain with each step. I crossed that race in tears from sheer pain, and also pride. I fought a hard battle and while some would have just quit, I wouldn’t let myself do that. I completed my first 26.2 mile attempt!

It was a hard recovery, and took many months before I could go without pain, but I kept pushing through to prepare for Goofy. A 5K Friday, the half marathon Saturday and then the mother of all races …. The Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday morning. Saturday’s race was awesome. We were Woody & Jessie and having a ridiculous amount of fun being silly and hamming it up for photos and the media! Sunday was different. Tired legs. Tired bodies. HOT weather. It was 6am. We were sweating and unsure of what was going to happen. I crossed the start line and couldn’t really feel my body. I was still but again too scared to not run. Soon I loosened up, and realized that walking hurt more than running. Still we hit every photo stop and ran into friends along the way. I loved it all! At mile 19 my tears started, wondering if I would finish it in time. (Of course I would, but at the moment in that heat, I was losing it!) The last 10K I found myself almost delirious from heat. Man Friend would run ahead to get water to use to cool my body off while I was drinking mine. **Don’t wear black cotton t-shirts with capes, even if it IS a super cute and easy costume!! Every sign I saw I “knew” was made for ME and they all made me cry. I grabbed my phone to let my mom know I had a couple miles left – and found she had been texting me words of encouragement. And cue more tears! In Italy I caught my friends and shouted that we were NEVER doing this again!! All through World Showcase, however, I did have a huge smile and got my 3rd or 4th wind. I blew through the countries! At the finish line it was tears all the way. I really did it. I ran a marathon! I did the Goofy Challenge! I accomplished more than I could ever have dreamed! All of us girls hugged and cried together in all our sweaty glory! The next day we would text about doing it again someday together…we runners have short term memories at times!

From then on no matter how hard it is, I always tell myself “I did Goofy. Everything is easy after that.” I still stand by it. I did over 42.4 miles in 3 days. *My marathon was 27.1 miles thanks to photo stops! Ragnar Relay was a blast, and knowing I did Goofy helped me have zero fear of all the running and lack of sleep. I’m so happy I did all the hard work. It gave me confidence I never expected to have. So now as I look at a busy race calendar for 2015 that I am still forming, I am happy to be able to look back and remember that even though I’ve had plenty of sucky races and training runs …. I’ve had some pretty awesome moments that formed me into the runner I am today!

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