Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Power of One

In January, I made a New Year's resolution like most people do.  I didn't create a long list of things I didn't have a chance in heck of doing.  I made one, fairly simple, goal.  I was going to run a half marathon. 

Up to that point, I had run a slew of 5ks and 10ks and other races of various lengths.  The time had come to step it up a notch, as it were. 

I had heard about the Mesa Falls Marathon and heard it was a gorgeous run.  I've been to Mesa Falls many times, so I knew how gorgeous it was up there.  The thought of doing my first half marathon up there was very appealing.  But January is very far away from racing season, so I just kept up my running schedule as well as I could and didn't think much more about the goal until the weather began to warm up.

After I ran To Bone and Back in June, I figured it was time to actually look up the Mesa Falls Marathon and start some planning.  The marathon was in late August, so I had just enough time to train.  I found a training schedule, got some advice from other runners and got down to business.
The training was not easy, especially as the mileage increased, but I stuck to it.  Since life often finds a way of making a nuisance of itself, I had to tweak the schedule a bit to work around things.  For instance, the week before the race, I didn't do my long run.  Shocking I know.  The Saturday before the race, I was to run 13 miles.  But my shins weren't happy with me and I had the makings of plantar fascilitis on my right foot.  I was advised to both never skip my long runs and also listen to my body.  Those two "laws" didn't seem to conflict until the week before the race.  Facing a dilemma of which law to transgress, I chose, ultimately, to skip this last long run.  My body needed rest.  It felt weird to take it easy so close to race day, but it's what my body was telling me to do. 

So race day finally sauntered in amidst a week of potty training my twins.   It was a stressful week, but it kept my mind off the race, which was good. 
Keersten (my sister-in-law and running buddy) and I make it to the starting line around 8am and the gun will go off at 830.  The sky was overcast, it was nice and cool and we were surrounded by a lush, green forest.  Don't need much more than that to put a runner's mind at ease.

830 comes and before I can really think straight, I'm off running down a dirt trail.  The first 6 or so miles are completely in the forest.  Most of it was a dirt trail and we later meet with a paved road.  It was gorgeous!  I got a little distracted by the sights and the river and slowed my pace a bit, but I kept going.  I was feeling great.  My legs felt great.  My lungs felt awesome and the scenery was just the icing on the cake. 
At about mile 8 I hit a wall.  I don't stop, but man did I want to.  It surprised me to feel like that at this point in the race.  I wasn't expecting to feel that way until at least mile 11.  I force my mind and my will to focus on the music blasting in my ears and I lip sync the words to every song that comes on.  I make it past my "wall" and soon find myself on long stretches of farm road.  This is when the sun came out.

It started to get hot.  Thankfully, the sun was at my back.  But I can feel my energy being sucked away.  At each water station I take two cups from the volunteers.  One to drink and one to dump on my head.  My hips are starting to really ache and my lower back starts to nag me as well.  Usually I'm battling my shins or foot pain, but all of that feels just dandy.  As my lower back nags on, I silently curse my bed for being so pathetic. 

A lot of people are taking walking breaks.  It's mile 10 and every time I see someone walking, I'm very tempted to do that same.  In hindsight, I should have taken a minute or two to walk, but I felt like I should run the whole thing.  I actually could have made better time had I let my legs relax a bit, but I'm stubborn and apparently slow at seeing the consequences of my actions.  I'm convinced that if I do another half marathon in the future, I'm going to do walking breaks. 

At mile 12, I get the happy giddy feeling.  I know I'm almost done and even though my hips are killing me, each step is taking me closer and closer to victory.  That giddy feeling lasted for approximately 3 and 1/2 steps and then I went back to the battle of wills.  Would I walk or would I keep going?  I kept going. 

A long line of cones will take us to the finish.  The cones round the corner and even though I can't see the finish line, I know it has to be around that corner.  I usually try to muster up all the energy I have left at the end of races and run as fast as my legs will carry me for the last hundred yards or so.  As I got closer, I wasn't sure I would have any energy left this time.  But then that finish line came into view and without even thinking, I pick up the pace and run as fast as I can.  I made it across the finish line at 2 hours and 23 minutes.  That's a freakin' long time to run.

What I've learned from this whole experience:

-  KT Tape is the best invention ever.  It stopped any pain I may have felt in my right foot or either of my shins.  The stuff is magic.
- You have to have a really awesome spouse and terrific kids to put up with your training schedule.  It took up a lot of my time.  Both my family and my poor garden were quite neglected.  But they never whispered a word of complaint and my garden grew despite my abandonment. 
- As much as my legs hurt when I crossed the finish line, I am SO glad I ran this race.  The sense of accomplishment was through the roof.
-  Guys who wear flappy running shorts mean business.  They are seriously, quite often, the leaders of the pack.
- I want to be like the family who dressed up in tutus and tiaras and held up signs that said, "You can do it!" for all the runners to see.  Seriously, I want to find a marathon, get the kids in the car and as a family go cheer on random people putting their whole heart and soul into a feat of physical and mental endurance.  That family was awesome!
- The Lord answers prayers.  I prayed for help during training.  I prayed for help the night before the race.  I prayed for help at mile 1 and at mile 12.  I thanked Him for bringing me this far and asked Him to carry me the rest of the way.  In my mind I heard, "I've got you.  I'm right here."  It seriously brought tears to me eyes.  While running a half marathon may not mean much in the eternities, He knows it meant the world to me right then and He helped me through it. 
- Running buddies are the bomb!  Especially when they're related to you.  Keersten, my sister-in-law, did this race with me and I'm so grateful for her for doing that.  She kept me motivated and encouraged and I couldn't have asked for a better partner in this madness.
-  Yoga is one of the more splendid exercises ever.  I used it on my cross-training days and I am simply in love with it. 
-  I miss Zumba.  When I began my training, I had to say goodbye to my Zumba nights.  Training made me realize how much I enjoy variety in my workout routine. 
- Most people think you're crazy when you say you're going to do a race like this and I kind of like that.
- Finally, this experience has changed my perspective on goals and New Year's resolutions.  Coming back to my title, "The Power of One", I made one, solitary goal; to run a half.  My whole focus was on that one goal.  Sometimes I think we spread ourselves thin over too many goals all at once so that, ultimately, nothing gets done.  And even though I focused on that one goal, I got to benefit from everything else I'd have to do to achieve that goal.  I benefited from a better diet so my long runs wouldn't suck.  I benefited from level of commitment it required to stay on schedule and not cheat on my long runs.  I benefited from having to find other complementary forms of exercise, like yoga and therefore found others things to love just as much as running.  Having one goal doesn't necessarily limit us.  I personally think it helps to focus and to really dig in which I think is the actual benefit of the goal.  So my new resolution every year, will to simply find one goal.  I will pour my all into that one goal and I will achieve it and I will glory in all the benefits that come from focusing on that one goal.

If you've read this much, then you must not have anything else to do right now.  But thanks anyway.  This race was an truly awesome experience for me.  It helped me to learn more about a lot of things, including myself.  If I had a big rubber stamp that read "Completed" I would stamp this New Year's resolution and feel satisfied that I did what I said I was going to do.

When will I run another half or even a full marathon?  Who knows and now is certainly not the time to ask me as my thighs are still sore from the exertion and my husband says I'm still not walking right.   Right now,  I'm glad to be done with my goal and I look forward to whatever goal I make for myself next January.

Happy Running!