A quest.

I do this to myself, more often than not lately. I sign up for a road race, get really gung-ho about a potential PR, plan all my training, and then in a culmination of excuses and laziness, it all falls through. I find myself sitting here, looking down the barrel of the next 10 days and realizing I’m no where even close to prepared to run 13.1 miles. It’s my own fault of course. There’s no other human to blame. Hmm. Maybe I could blame some non-humans? I’ll think on it.

Vegas is around the corner, screeching my name, waiting for my feet to hit the pavement under its twilight skies. It’s something I have to do, will do, and no matter how much it sucks, I won’t quit. I’ll finish. It won’t be with the grace and celebration that I dreamed about twelve months ago, it will be with pain, suffering, and lots of other sweaty bodies. This will all be a moot point in two weeks, as I’ll sit here and remember my trip fondly and be glad it was my last race afar. 

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Looking ahead

The half marathon on Sunday was one of my most abysmal performances. It wasn’t my worst time, no, no, no. It was by far, however, my worst effort. I hit a wall. Okay, I hit many walls. Walls that as much as I tried to climb and eek out just an ounce of additional effort, I just couldn’t make anything materialize. There were a few points on the course where I just wanted to cry because I was letting myself down.

But I have nobody but myself to blame. My training was severely lacking and I never had a run over 7 miles. It goes to show that you really do need to be prepared to run the race. You get out what you put in and that was more evident than ever.

68 days til Rock n’ Roll Vegas. No excuses. It’s do or be done.

Rrrrrun forest rrrrrun

Ever since I started running road races I have been asked a single question time and time again.

When are you going to run a marathon?

My response is usually a quip preceded by a gasp of amazement. It’s not something I’ve truly ever taken seriously, as in thinking it’s something I could actually finish without several medical teams following me throughout the entire course. In the last few half-marathons I’ve participated, around the 6.5 mile mark, I’ve wondered “what the FUCK are you doing?”, when I only had that same distance remaining. This was usually about the point in the race where the half-marathoners split off from the marathoners. At that juncture, I couldn’t even fathom having to run another twenty miles. I’d sooner die.

However, I believe a lot of my feelings toward marathons and even the feelings that surface during the half can be attributed to my poor, inconsistent training. Clearly, I am not afraid of half-marathons. In a 12-month span I’ve signed up for five and still have three left to complete in the next four months. What compels me to sign up again and again is the sense of satisfaction I feel after crossing that finish line. All of these thoughts start flooding through my brain, “Fuck I just did that, again. I’m still upright. I lived!” And it’s in that moment that I know I can do it again, and again.

I’d say a large percentage of long distance running is a mental game. Sure. You should probably be in some decent shape and have logged some serious miles under your belt before you safety-pin that bib to your shirt, but once you’re several miles into the race the mental game takes over. For me, I get bored quick. I need to find a way to stay engaged in my race. Music is a definite requirement. The number one thing I do NOT want to hear is my own breathing…or panting, or gasping. It throws off my rhythm and will generally cause my breathing to be irregular as a result. Music also blocks out the people around me. I don’t want to hear the conversation about who screwed over who at work last week. Honestly, if you’re able to carry on a convo during a race then you’re doing it wrong. Run faster. However, after a while music can lose its luster. I have a bad habit of using the same playlist during my races that I use on my training runs. I get used to what is coming up next and it affects my momentum. Keeping it fresh is something that I’m going to have to do in the next several months to overcome runner’s block.

Oh yeah. And then there is my piss poor training regimen. I’m sure that isn’t doing me any favors. I have a hard time getting in my long races on the weekends. Sometimes because of laziness, sometimes because of other social commitments. I use them as a viable excuse to not run and that isn’t something I should be doing. And then there is my trusty summer sidekick, beer. Shame. I’ve been doing too much of it and it’s been pushing the energy to run some miles aside. Obviously that affects consistency and then running generally becomes something I can do ‘tomorrow’, like a diet.

Okay. So I know where my weaknesses are and where I need to make improvements to not feel like a caboose in each and every longer distance race I do. Where was I? Sure. A few running friends (and my few, I mean like three. My circle of running friends is teensy.) and I have chatted over the last year about the possibilities of doing a marathon. I start to seriously consider signing up, mull over the pros and cons in my head and then quickly remember how I feel at mile 6.5 in a half-marathon. Decision made. Hell no, I won’t go! But something has changed. I feel compelled (by inside and outside forces) to sign up for and actually finish a marathon, even if I just do it once. I’m a person that needs to try everything once (well almost everything) and even though a marathon is not the epitome of running excellence (ultra what?) it’s something I need to check off my bucket list.

I don’t have a race in mind, but I know it will be at least a year from now. My greatest challenge will be consistent training and dedication to this milestone. I’m not sure how I am going to get there, or where to start, but shit, that’s why they invented Google, right? Inevitably there will be a lot of cussing, sweat, tears, but this is my only life and my chance to accomplish my goals. I’m going to get after it and even if I cross the finish line over the 5 hour mark (which I have no doubt) I will still have finished a marathon. And then I will need someone to carry me home.

 

13.1

I’m always striving for a new PR (personal record) when the horn sounds and I cross the start line. In that moment I feel this will be the time that I reach that goal, I will beat previous times and when I cross the finish line fireworks will explode (in my mind) and I will feel this great sense of elation.

That’s only happened once in my half-marathon pursuit. To date, I have completed five and my PR is 2:16:48 which came in my second time out. That race was significantly different than my first, completely flat although I was battling some fierce headwinds. The improvement was significant, roughly 30 minutes over my inaugural race. I felt on TOP of the world. Well, at least on top of Idaho at the time.

This last race in Seattle I felt like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what that was, maybe to show that I was good enough to compete, to be on the streets along side all of the other racers. There is a tiny level of competitiveness that I have buried deep down in my soul. Yes, I want to do well, I want to be the best, but I know there is a level of sacrifice that one must possess to reach their goals. I’m not there yet. Mentally, I’m slowing coming around the corner, physically I have greater strides ahead of me.

I was fortunate that on Saturday the rain held off for what appeared would be a grim day in the Seattle skies. Mother Nature was giving us the greenish light to push forward. As I waited in my corral, inching forward towards the start line I had moments to take it all in. The vast amount of people surrounding me, set out to do the very same thing I was mentally prepping myself for. I started out like I always do, slow and steady. I often see all too many runners crossing the start line and giving 110%. I know they will not be able to sustain that pace and will fizzle out about half way through.  I’m astounded by the number of ladies that show up to these races in full hair and makeup. I silently wonder if they know they are going to look like a hot mess somewhere around mile 3. It’s not a fashion show or a beauty contest, but you’d be surprised.

Somewhere coming out of the muggy I-90 tunnel into semi-blue skies and fresh air I spotted an older women ahead of me. As I neared I noticed she could be my grandmother and here she was, running. She was sporting a sign on her back that simply read “slow and steady”. I was amazed. I was feeling sluggish like I couldn’t make it the next four miles and that was truly  inspiring. As I passed her I looked over and said, “good luck!” and her response “you too dear!” filled my eyes with tears. BREAKING NEWS! Yes, I’m a softie, especially for the older crowd. In that moment, despite the dread I was feeling about my physical state, I new I could reach the end and even if I didn’t achieve my PR this time out, I will have accomplished something. Something that even this 70-something year old woman could do too.

Between miles 10 and 11 we crept up a ramp onto the Alaskan Way viaduct. I was slowly passing a girl that was walking on the left, eating a bag of pretzels. I shit you not. And I’m not talking about a baggie or even a grab bag.. a full-sized bag of pretzels. Chomp, chomp, walk, walk. Hey, I guess if you get hungry..

The last few miles were hell, I will admit it, but as I was about two tenths of a mile from the finish line, I spotted my crowd supporter Mary along the left in the crowd screaming “way to go Amy!” or something to that effect. Having a cheerleader really gets the blood pumping and pushes you forward. I found the finish and felt a sense of relief. I had done it. Completed yet another 13.1 and still managed to live to tell about it! How about that?!?! I won’t lie, the two shiny (and heavy) medals that awaited me really make me smile.

Another race in the saddle, behind me. As I look forward to the next six months I know my training and dedication to reaching my PR will be a challenging road. But then again, I always love a challenge, no matter what shape or form. Three more races on the books and three more opportunities to prove to myself that I can.

Run, run me to the river

Tick tock. 4 months until the inaugural Portland Rock n’ Roll half marathon. Last week they unveiled the course map and even though I live here, I’m super stoked about the route. 13.1 miles weaving in and out of the inner-east-side neighborhoods, two bridges, and a start/finish on the waterfront.

run Portlandia