Monday, September 18, 2017

Pushing the falls

Well here I am and there you are and it's the beginning of the end of September which means it's been almost a year since I hit the road with the tale that I'd never be back until I ended up coming back to Denver and here we all are again, in my tiny space of the infinite internet. A few nights ago, after whiskey and wine and dinner, I laid in our bed and stared at the ceiling and said "Why do I always find a way to be broke in October?"
"Broketober" was Zac's response.

I've been running. I haven't really been sharing my running, partly because I have very little people to share it with and partly because if I share it then I might end up talking about what I've been training for and I might end up saying my expectations and then they're real. I've spent the summer on the city streets of Denver training for the Portland Marathon.

Recently, when I've told people I'm wrapping up my training for the ol' Portland 26.2, I get a response similar to "Oh, a marathon is nothing for you", based on the knowledge that I used to race ultramarathons and love it. But that love, and my body, broke. My hip healed, but my heart didn't. Not for the ultra distance. The thing about ultramarathons is you can feel like shit and bonk and dehydrate yourself and still come back for a win. If you screw up your race strategy, you can take two miles and walk. You can catch your breath, you can take time to eat, sometimes you can rinse your face in a mountain stream. If you screw up your race strategy in a marathon, you likely won't be coming back in that race. If you forget to eat, if you forget to drink, if you let your mind wander for too long, there isn't time to come back. If you get 14 miles in and you're bonking, the next 12 miles are going to be awful. You don't get 30 more miles to figure it out, you get two hours to hate yourself.

These reasons are why racing a marathon is terrifying to me, and I could ramble on about them for what will seem like forever for a reader. But I won't. Instead, I'll tell you what I did.

I went to the three strongest, fastest women I know.
First, my sister. She works with a coach and for awhile she was forwarding me her weekly workouts/training plans. I built my base with these and my knowledge of meeting easy runs with perfect form, and read over and over the importance of aerobic capacity and aerobic fitness, and kept my mileage around 30 miles/week. No matter what I start training for, I always accelerate my mileage way too fast and burn myself out. This was key for the first 6 weeks of my training.

Second, Kim Barnes. I know Kim from the horse world back in Michigan, and for the past few years she has been slaying road running. She readily forwarded me MONTHS of her training plans with her coach, and from these I took cross-training and mileage suggestions for my own training plan. Four weeks of body-weight exercises, four weeks of weight training, and three weeks of plyometrics.

Third, I reached out to Kate King. I ALWAYS reach out to Kate when it comes to running. Kate and her husband, Zach, live in Denver and have been here since I moved out to Flagstaff. They're both fast and fly humans. They ran in college, Zach has been crushing 100s for a few years now, and Kate ran a sub-24hr 100 mile debut in Leadville last summer, and then this spring ran a 3:05 marathon in Eugene. I told Kate ALL about my training plan. My track workouts, my times, mileage, etc. and she unleashed so much knowledge and mentorship. One thing I was dreading was long runs, because I don't have a training group in Denver, and that long, slow distance is a Saturday morning that made me feel sick on Friday nights. But Kate told me to use my long runs. Work hard on them. Figure out what my hydration will be like, if I need to eat during the marathon distance, and if so - what? Can I get away with just an electrolyte drink and water? Do I need to carry a gels? Shot blocks? At what mile do I start to falter? Figure it out.
I also needed her to tell me about mental game for a road marathon. We talked about a few things, but these are two that I am constantly thinking of:
1. Control. I will, I guarantee, like most runners, go out too hard in the beginning. It's a new place, it's a new course, it will be much cooler than my training temperatures, adrenaline and crowd support are going to naturally push my pace. But I have to control that until at least halfway. And if I feel good at mile 14, I can let go and see what my legs can do.
2. "Miles 18-22 will suck. They just will, they always do. Expect to be slower here. Be ready for it, and accept it." I think this is the best bit of information. I remember Matt Wittenberg, years ago, saying "The marathon starts at mile 18." It's true.

So that's what's been going on with my running. I'm now in this weird spot where I have only three weeks until the race. I'm fighting something that feels like it could turn into a serious calf injury, and I'm trying to not let it make me crazy. And I feel constantly scared and worried.

I'm also starting a new job soon. The skinny on it is it's a fantastic new, beautiful restaurant opening in Denver and Zac and I get to work together again (not in secrecy) with other people that I miss and love. Back to what I love, with people I love. But it's new, and it feels like a gamble, and it's cultivating at the exact same time as this race I've put all of my energy into training for.

So this morning I paced around our apartment with my hands on my head trying to split up my anxiety and dismantle the hold it has on my lungs and my stomach and my legs and my brain and my heart. So I thought about what I felt a year ago.

And that answer is something like what I feel now, right? Restless, anxious, excited, naive and scared. Terrified. I am terrified.

But last fall I learned that you have to be terrified sometimes. Partly because I get myself into these terrifying situations and there really isn't anything to do but roll with it, and try to figure it out, because you can't go back.

I do wonder what it is about this time of year. Maybe it's because I'm not an academic anymore. Fall signifies a new period of learning, twelve weeks to stretch your mind in new directions and learn about the world around you, and in turn, learn about yourself. Maybe, because I'm not a student anymore, I force myself to do this in other ways (I wish they were more fiscally responsible ways, but you can't have it all). In the fall, I take what I love and push it into a new direction. Take it and fold it and knead it and roll it out, and see what it becomes. It makes my stomach turn, and it presses my brain into certain irrationalities, and it is so close to impossible to remember the good of what came from it last time. But it's there, even if you can't find it all of the time. And you have to kind of find solace in those moments and hang on to it. Hold it close, and make a mantra to help you remember it in times when you need it.

The weather in Denver has seemingly turned to fall, with day temperatures in the mid-70s. I have to spend some time in the aspens while they're turning, to not only take in their beauty, but calm my heart(rate) and my soul. I think you should do the same, yeah?

The race is October 8th. My next post will be spurred by the tears I have crossing the finish line - whether they be from physical pain (guaranteed), disappointment, or an explosion of victory. I know what you're thinking - "It will be all three!" No, it won't. It can't. That's just not how this race will work.

Lastly, I leave you with the song that I've been blasting in my ears for nearly this entire post. Stranger, by Covey. It's on Spotify (probably iTunes Radio, too) so go listen to it.