Thursday, October 17, 2013

chasing: reflecting on the long beach marathon

Coming up to mile 6 I had a wicked rad crowd cheering me on with members 
of Further Faster Forever and #TeamIGotYaBack. Bill ran with me for a bit
 as Joshua, Michelle and Manny stayed behind cheering. Bill sent me off with 
"Go get it" and that's where the race started.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." 
T. S. Eliot

 It's Saturday morning and I have a cold. One that I am desperately attempting to remedy with a potent mix of organic ingredients all mixed in my hydroflask. I will lay in bed throughout the day and go back and forth on what I'm setting out to accomplish and why I want to desperately toe that line. 

Race Morning: still sick
I woke up to an empty apartment and a clear head. I set Pandora on my Jay-Z station like I do every race. I visualized the first two numbers I hoped to see on the time board and piece by piece put on my race necessities. I packed a bandanna and a sweatshirt for afterwards. I loaded my car and drove the 30ish miles on the empty freeway. What am I chasing, exactly?

I'll spare the unnecessarily embellished  details. 
I started out 30-50 seconds per mile faster than I had promised myself I would and I kept slowly speeding up.  My pace leveled off after mile 8 and I would look down occasionally at the sharpied splits written on my arm. I passed mile 13 and I was thirty minutes ahead of schedule, not part of the smart plan.
     I hit mile 17 and at this point I know it, but I try to deny it; I feel fatigued. 
I cant get down any more Pocket Fuel. My GU wont go down either. The mere feeling of it on my tongue makes me want to gag. I look for pretzels and when I finally find them I snag a few. Pop 'em in, chew... but can't swallow (yes, that's what she said...I know). I leave it in my mouth and try to wash it down with liquids but it's pointless.
    So... no calories. 7 miles to go with nothing to fuel off of. At this point I switch to powerade, thinking it's better than nothing. My right arm starts to tingle and I shake it off. Mile 20 comes and all I can think is "This is it, the last 10k, your fastest splits"  I speed up for maybe ten seconds and level back off at 10:10-10:30. That wouldn't be so bad except, I keep slowing down. I take a walk to shake it off. Try again... nothing. Now I'm in my head. 

I hate the road at this point. I start resenting the flat endless inches for that's all I could focus on, not miles. My mind stops and runs clear for a split second. 
I think of Scott (@runrevolt) and his blog post that weekend. I think of his words that burned at that moment, As the individual in the center of these polar opposites, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know if I’m good. I don’t know if I’m bad. I don’t know where to place my efforts, where to concentrate my emotional energies, where to even begin.
 I breathe deeply and think about this. I close my eyes briefly and visualize his health. Then I think of my own self inflicted pain. I'm mentally here when I catch sight of Jack. He begins to talk and stays running slightly ahead. Merely listening allows me to disconnect my mind from my body, and so I run. He stays with me up until the last quarter mile and I finish. I stop my Garmin, already knowing what it reads. There was nothing glorious about the finish, but that's because I didn't allow it. I ran hard despite my circumstances and I pushed every chance I got. I set out to run a hard race and I finished. I honored those who are injured and sick and no longer with us. I gutted myself on that course and that wasn't enough, on that day, for my timed goal. 
     I PRed at Long Beach by 16 minutes and I had one hell of a ride. I saw friends on the course and I kept others in my heart and thoughts. It's a race to be proud of but for days there was a heavy discontent in my heart and on my mind. One that I couldn't understand. One that I couldn't shake.
So, I'm left with this:
When we go chasing numbers, if not done right, it takes us away from the real reasons we do this, the real joy.  I've kept on running because it purges all my toxins, literally and figuratively. It boosts my confidence and mood. It mellows my manic thoughts and it strips me of everything I carry. I run because I know that there are people in hospital beds that would switch instances with me at any point of my suffering. I run to honor the gift of my legs and health. I run to inspire those around me. 

 I run to find myself. 

This doesn't mean I will stop chasing a time or distance. It means that before chasing anything, I must always remember the joy in each chosen stride. 

As for being sick, I'm paying for it now. My immune system probably crashed and my cough has been progressively worse. I feel incredibly tired and slightly irritated. I am still ridiculously hungry but my throat feels like it's been stripped raw. And, I'd do it again if given the choice. 

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