Monday, April 26, 2010

My 1st Marathon (and why I didn't want to write about it)

It's not very often that I'm at a loss for words. I do the word thing pretty well, most days. But it's a lot easier when the words I write are for someone else to use. When they are words for me, about me, it gets a little harder. The words are now personal. And me, I become vulnerable.

I've wanted to write about my first marathon since I ran it on April 25, 2010--the 10th annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. But the words weren't falling into place like they usually do.

When I write, my fingers can't pound out the words fast enough. My brain is in overdrive. I know what I want to say and I can't type it fast enough for fear that I won't capture all those words swirling in my head. The words spill out effortlessly on the page.

Why not now? I just ran my first marathon--something I have been looking forward to, training hard for. But I don't want to talk about it.

For the past days, I've been dodging questions of my family, friends and co-workers, "how did it go?" They got the fake smile and "Good, it was good," as I pray, please don't ask me anything more. I got a lot of praise, a lot of "I'm proud of you." Yet, why do I feel I didn't deserve this? I think to myself, "Don't be proud of me. I'm not proud of me."

The race was one of the best supported I have ever seen--a water stop every mile, crowds cheering you on virtually everywhere on the course. There couldn't have been a better run race. I just wish I ran it better.

Things started great. I was running a 9:50 min pace. I kept thinking about what Coach Jeff told me. Think of the race in 3-mile segments. If you're off pace, you have 3 miles to get back on. It worked really well for me. I kept focused and adjusting my pacing through about mile 17.

The course wasn't hilly, but had slight uphills, what felt like the entire race.

The weather was perfect, a little windy, but wasn't bothering me...until we hit the lake at mile 14-17. The wind slowed me down, but I still felt pretty good.

Mile 20, THE WALL. I got very light headed. Part of me wanted to push on through, forget the pain, it's in your head. Go. Then reality sank in. If I don't get something in me besides water, I'm going to pass out. Next aid station, oranges. Hung out for a little bit. Decided I was doing ok. Time to push on.

I get to mile 23 and start crying. I don't cry often or easily. But it seems when I'm really angry, I cry. I looked at my damn watch and realized all that hard work was flushed away. Gone. Can't get it back. There was no way I was going to finish this in my 4:20 goal. I felt like just let the world down. I let me down. Big time. My legs felt fine. Nothing was cramping. I was really tired, but who wouldn't be after 23 miles?

Yet, I felt like I had no excuse for that time I saw on my watch. No injury. No IT band issues. No ankle issues. No knee issues. I got lightheaded. What excuse is that?

I stopped crying. I really don't know what the turning point was. But I thought: shit, you're not first, but you're not last. Finish strong. Take it home.

And I did: 4:35:03, a 10:30 pace.

It's taken me a week to write this with lots of deletes, rewrites and editing. One of the big reasons why I want to write this is I have a lot of people I need to thank.

First my coach, Jeff Kline. I would never had made it to OKC without you. Only had the pleasure of working with you for 2 weeks, but I made it there without injury!

My girlie Marci! She stopped en route to Kansas City to watch me cross that finish line! I love you more than anything!

My VP and co-workers. You guys put up with my juggling meetings, crazy stories, wearing pink KT Tape to the office, and watching me run circles on that track in loud colors.

All my Twitter friends. You all gave me so much support. I thought about you all a lot out there. I'm going to miss someone, but here's a few: Jen, Joe, Josh, Mel, Kris, Doug. You all played a huge role in telling me I don't suck and being uber supportive.

Very special thanks to Glenn. You always had the right words when I wanted to throw the towel in. Thank you for your friendship, your advice and telling me to shut it when I wanted to throw it in.

And to anyone else I missed, I apologize and love you too!

Marathon #1 is in the books. It's not always what you want it to be, but the marathon does one thing. It humbles you and keeps you coming back for more.

Chicago -- 10:10:10 -- It's where I get my revenge. I'm not quitting. Try harder. Do better. My mantra.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Personal goals are just that, personal

Before you read this blog, if you haven't watched Coach Jeff's video, watch it.

I admit. I have high standards. I put great pressure on myself to try hard to do better. I may be crazy and bite off more than I can chew, But what I don't do is put this same level of expectation on anyone else. These are my personal goals, and they are just that...personal.

The reason I love running so much is because it's a great community. I have never had anyone tell me that I suck or that they don't want to run with me because I'm too slow. I have never had anything but encouragement and love from this community. It's why I love it so much. It's not a competition between us, but a competition within ourselves and how far we can push ourselves mentally and physically. This is why I love long-distance running. I'm never going to win a marathon, but I will achieve my goal goals.

The person in this video that Coach Jeff references is one of my best friends. And I will tell you she is the most determined, good-hearted individual you will ever, ever meet. Her goals aren't the same as mine. But that doesn't make her ANY less or more of an athlete. The one thing it takes to be an endurance athlete is courage. Anyone who makes the commitment to train and run a marathon, whether it's a sub-3, sub-4 or 5+ hours, it takes the same amount of courage to do it. And no one should be looked down upon for that.

We couldn't be successful in this sport without a positive community: from the volunteers at races, to the race directors, to the elites, to the newbies, it takes all of us to treat each other with the same amount of respect as you would treat anyone.

So, next time you're at a race, take the time to thank a volunteer, smile and wave at the crowd who is there cheering you on, or volunteer and give back to the sport. It takes each of us working together as a team.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Countdown to OKC

T Minus 14 days until I lose my marathon virginity.

Anxious. Nervous. Excited. Ready.

Two weeks ago I would have never said, "ready." Today, I feel ready. That doesn't mean I continue to question this whole taper thing, because I do, every day. But, I'm too close to marathon Sunday to screw it up now.

The last 8 weeks have been filled with bronchitis, another URI, sprained ankle, IT band and too many races. I was overtrained. This is not atypical behavior from me. I'm a perfectionist and an overachiever. I wasn't going to listen to anyone who told me to alter a plan that I was following, which happened to be a stupid plan.

Then I realized, I was going to run OKC injured or not even get there due to injury if I didn't do something different. I needed help. And damnit, I HATE asking for help. I don't ask for help. I figure it out by myself. Something with my ego that makes me think if I didn't do it by myself, then I really didn't do it. I know, that's stupid.

I have lots of friends at my running club all willing to help me. But none of them can really hold me accountable. I'm also a very good "influencer" (according to some corporate test thingy I took the other day). So you tell me one thing and I'll tell you 20 reasons why you should let me run 20 miles on a sprained ankle. And I'll either convince you or you will get tired of me talking and you say, ok whatever.

After a horrible 18-mile run on a snowy Sunday, I lost it. I wanted to throw it all away. All my hard work, all the training, I was done. There was no fire or sparkle left. I just flat out hurt all over.

I talked to my dear friend Glenn. Told him I didn't want to run OKC. I don't want to be a marathoner. I can't do this. He said marathon training is physically and mentally challenging, but the reward is crossing that finish line. He also convinced me that I don't suck and that it really didn't sound like me to be a "quitter." EEEWWWW. He said the "q" word. Hell no, I'm not a quitter. But I knew I couldn't get through this alone if I wanted to do this right. I can't rely on my friends. Not fair to me, not fair to them.

I reached out to Jeff Kline. Originally, I thought I wanted him to help me with Chicago. No, Coach, I need your help now. First thing he did was yell at me for not following his advice. No excuses, no negotiating. He's holding me accountable and there is no way out of that.

First run I did, I couldn't hit my pace. "Why," he asked. "I'm tired, I guess," I said. That's code for overtrained. And I had to admit it.

For the past two weeks, I've been listening to him. And guess what? It's working. I'm not saying I haven't questioned it and want to do more. But I keep remembering what he told me, that he's going to make my runs more efficient and help me reach my goals. I started doing speed work. I hated speed work before because I didn't know how to do it. Last week, I did my 18-mile run 3:03, a hair over a 10-minute pace. That's good. I like that. I felt great. I felt like I could go on forever. For the first time since January, I feel like I'm doing something right.

Flash forward to today, I feel like a kid again anxiously awaiting Christmas. I've got my advent calendar and I'm opening the little doors until the big day. I honestly can't wait to get out there. Nervous, yes. A quitter, hell no. A little humility, maybe. But that's a good thing.