It’s my birthday today. It’s not a big one, I’m not moving age groups, my (haha) BQ time isn’t getting longer, but it is always time to pause and reflect on things.
52 weeks and 5 days ago.
First of all, I’m running a marathon in two days. At first I was kind of bummed with the timing (you can’t really celebrate a birthday properly when you have to avoid booze and spicy food and anything too overly fatty or rich). However, I think I’m actually happy about it because of the idea of mental boxes.
One way for me to look at this race is to look at this race is as the culmination of the last 7 months. Normally, I’m all bubbly and talking about the race as a celebration of your training and popping champagne all over the course. Unfortunately, this last cycle has been more about overcoming obstacles than happily checking boxes, so I’m more than ready to put it away.
The last 7 months has seen an experiment with nutrition gone completely awry, causing me to swiftly gain about 12 lbs. It delivered me feeling great and confident to my first race (70.3), and gifted me with that specific 12 hours per month where all I want to do is curl up and die, and then a bike crash, causing me to finish OVER AN HOUR slower than my goal.
After that, my head and heart quit on me for a while, causing me to be completely unenthused with training, and hit a pretty low point with a personal worst at the 26.2 distance at the end of November. After some time, I found some new enthusiasm skewing my training towards chasing a PR at the half marathon distance. I didn’t quite hit it, but I felt like I ran well and showed I wasn’t too far off my game.
Thumbs up indeed.
Then, with my head and my heart pretty well in it, I spent the prettiest (for running) 3 weeks of the year on the treadmill, and then my body quit on me – specifically my hip. I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about it, but it’s really frustrating to have to cut a marathon training plan down from running 6-7 days a week to 3 planned runs, where one usually ended up getting cut short or cut altogether to attempt to heal the stupid him of doom.
These are all things that happened in the last half of my 36th year. The good news? Today I start my 37th. I can officially package up age 36 and put it in a box with a bow and put it in the closet. Will the choices I made last year affect me? Absolutely. However, I can choose to leave the baggage that doesn’t matter, the mental bullshit, the doubts, the fears, and the negativity in that box and start with a fresh attitude.
I embark on a romp through the woods, not as a culmination of these things, but 2 days after the start of a fresh year. I like that better.
There are a few things I’d like to put in this new box to bring with me on Saturday.
The body does not forget. I feel like I am incredibly undertrained because I like checking all the boxes and proving that I’m a workhorse and I can go all the miles because miles are actually pretty awesome. In the last five weeks, I’ve gone a lot less miles, which feels less than awesome. But over the last 7 months, I’ve ran double digits NINETEEN TIMES. This weekend will make 20. That doesn’t suck. The body does not forget how even if it feels like there is NO WAY I’ll remember how to run long right now.
This race is about working with my body and mind, not fighting them. I’m ready for a few arguments near the end, around mile 20-something, when they SHOULD pop up, but I’m hoping to spend most of it just focused on my stride, my breathing, and the course. I want to quiet my mind and just run with no expectations or judgements.
I gave 7 months of focus on these races instead of focusing on fat loss or time off or learning how to line dance or anything else. My goal is to at least honor that focus, even if it all didn’t go as planned, and run the best I can with the cards I’m dealt that day and end the day satisfied.
This day’s cards were a REALLY hot day and a sock that wanted some sort of revenge…
I have a general plan. My goal is to run without looking at my watch for the first 5 miles. I warm up reaaaaaaaal slow nowadays, and I’m forcing myself to not care if some of those miles tick by in the 12s.
From then until halfway, I’d like to judge where I’m at, and work on cutting my average pace to 11:15/mile if it seems reasonable to do so. It may not be any increase whatsoever, or it may be a little bit of a challenge. I’m typically strongest at this point of the race, so I’d like to set myself up for success.
13.1 through about mile 20 is where things get sticky for me. My goal is to simply not slow down if at all possible.
Usually, somewhere in the 20s I get a second wind. If that comes, I’ll harness that and speed up as much as I can or at least try to keep it together.
My A goal is 4:xx:xx. My B goal is to finish before the cutoff. I’m striving for the former, but I definitely will back off if anything feels acutely injured. I’ll do this distance again (though maybe not for a while…) and I’d rather miss it this time and live to fight again if that’s what it takes. Franky, my C goal is “do no lasting harm to my body”. My mind is not allowed to quit, but if my body does, after the last 6 weeks of hobbling through some parts of runs, I have to respect that.
No matter what happens, I have to have a little perspective, which is also something I want to make sure comes with me into my new box. A disappointing time or walking a lot or even if the dreaded DNF happens to preserve myself from injury will suck. No doubt. However, I read on the internet (so you know it’s true) that only something like a fifth of a percent of people have finished even ONE marathon and I’m toeing the line of my sixth in 3 years and 4 months. That doesn’t suck. Not one bit.
It will be an opportunity to go out and test myself and see where 37 starts. Where 37’s head is at. Where 37’s heart is at. It is not a measurement of self worth. I am not Saturday’s race time. For my birthday, I paid someone to close off the roads for me and give me gatorade and a t-shirt and a medal, and I could have an awesome run or a shitty run, but I’m going to go play on the roads for 5 hours, give or take, because I CAN.