Friday, April 27, 2012

9 more sleeps, the emotion sets in

9 more sleeps until marathon day. You know what that means, readers? It means that the number of pre-race blog posts left are minimal. Well, until the next race. No doubt I'll have the urge to write the night before the race. I'm sure I'll have a little on my mind.

The taper demons, the marathon crazies, the mental preparation, the positive self-talk - these things I described in past posts continue on. I've gone on a few short runs this week, only to try to preserve my sanity and remind myself of how far I've come. If I fear that this taper is making me lose my fitness, I just have to pay attention on one of my short runs and see that after all this training, how effortless running a short distance has become to me. And that my perception of "short distance" is really not the average person's perception of "short distance" either.

Now the over-thinking is starting to happen. For the most part though, I'm trying to push it to the side and remind myself that I've spent the last 4 months thinking this through. Why over-think it now? Why second-guess the one person I should trust (i.e. me!)? It's time to let go. I've questioned my tested-and-true fueling strategy. I've questioned the shoes I plan to wear. I've questioned my target pace and my goal finish time and wonder if when I feel confident and think I set it too conservative, that I'm actually being unrealistic. It's all silly. Time to shut up the committee. I'm prepared.

The biggest thing happening in my mind now is all the emotion. I'll admit this (and for the record, I'm always able and willing to admit this out loud), that PMS might be playing into the emotion a bit. But the emotion is founded somewhat in reason. I've worked damn hard for this. Not just the last 4 months of intense training, but several years of trying to get my health on track, and half of my body weight to lose. In a sense, this first marathon, this very special marathon, is going to be one of the most important days in my life to date. I don't say this to put pressure on myself because I'll be proud of myself however I do. I say this because now I'm starting to realize just how big it is. It's twice as big as the race I did last year in Victoria because it's the longest distance I will have ever done in my life. And it's the distance that is commonly seen as a true accomplishment. 

The trouble is, there are few people in my life who truly get it. Cam definitely gets it because I won't shut up about it at home (haha!). My colleagues get it, on some level, because they too are athletic. But most don't know my story nor have they known me all that long to truly see the hugeness of this. Very few of my friends and family members get it. The ones that do get it, truly do get it, and have been amazingly supportive and encouraging. But they are few are far between. And no, I'm not here to complain or name names. I love everyone that I have in my life and am not upset or holding grudges - just explaining how I feel.

So what do I mean about "not getting it"? It's when you say to someone that you're running a marathon and they say "good for you" and then change the subject. Or they say "you're crazy" and then again, promptly change the subject. Even when you clarify that it's your first ever, the reaction is the same. Or when you suggest that they could consider coming out to the course, watching the marathon, and being there to cheer you on, they don't realize you're serious. The topic gets dismissed and I get disappointed. There are few follow-up questions. When you bring it up at another conversation, the other party seems bored.

The thing is though, it's hard for someone who isn't a runner or an athlete of some sort to truly understand what a marathon stands for. It's hard to appreciate something you don't have a personal connection to. And the fact that I'm so close to running my first marathon, brings me an incredible amount of joy that I want to share with others, even if they don't know how badly I want to share it with them. I haven't been this happy in my life for so long. Gosh, I don't even know if I've ever felt this good about my life. I want to share that feeling and I want that feeling to be contagious. I want to celebrate my success with others. Not because I want attention, but because I think success and joy should be shared. And ok, I admit it, I do actually want a bit of attention here. Just a bit. But I think it's because I deserve it. It's not that nobody cares about what I'm about to do. I guess I just hoped that there were others that did too that aren't currently showing it.

What sparked my emotional outburst? Truth is, I've been feeling it for a while. I've been feeling it since I transitioned to training all by myself. While I don't need another person to keep me motivated or to keep me accountable, it is nice to have someone to share the experience with. I've not really had that. While I'm very diligent about following a plan, doing my own research, and training smart, I've had few people to bounce ideas off of. I've had no experienced marathoner or coach as a consistent role model to follow-up with me, check in on me, and advise me on my questions. Sure it means that I've had to rely on my own self. And I can be real proud of myself for crossing that finish line on my own without true assistance. In a way that'll make it feel like so much more of an accomplishment. And as a culmination of all this hard work over all this time, this is likely the best way to do it - on my own. I am my own person and I did this myself for myself. But it's a somewhat lonely way of doing things. And I'm never one who believes that things should be done alone to do it well. It's just where I'm at in my journey currently - focusing on improving my health my own way, for me, by me. Training by myself has served the introvert in me well. But it hasn't served the extrovert in me very well. Luckily on race day, there'll be 4,999 perfect strangers running with me.

Yesterday we had a get together for all our Team In Training participants that are running this same race as me. It was an awesome and inspiring evening. But I have to say, I was a little jealous. I wasn't part of the team. I won't have a group of people who I could potentially see on race morning and have cheer me on. I don't have a surefire way for people to recognize me and cheer me on. But although that did make me feel a bit of jealousy, it didn't really bother me. I knew that this would be a divide all along. Those who trained with others, those who didn't like me. I know one day soon I'll train with the Team myself. It just wasn't the time for me to do so this time around. 

What really got to me was when I talked to one of the coaches afterwards. I asked him for his take on the mental side of running a marathon - how to will yourself to keep running even when your body is ready to give up. And bless him, he meant well, but he couldn't have said a worse piece of advice for me. He told me about how at a marathon of his own, he had his mom stationed at km #35 ready to give him a hug, and calm his fears and allow him to complete the next 7km with poise. He said I should try to get my mom or dad to be there on the course to offer that same support. Oh do I ever wish I could.

So that's when I came home in tears, crying to Cam. He just giggled because he knows me well. Then he assured me that he plans on meeting me throughout the course - not just at the finish line. There will be someone to offer me a hug when I need it. And I will have people I know to see after I finish, at the Team In Training tent. I just talked to Patti and she's going to stick around the area after she's finished the half marathon and see me at the finish too. I have other friends running the half marathon too that I might be able to connect with at some point after the race, who knows.

I'm really not doing this alone at all. I also have you, faithful readers. Sincere thanks for hearing me out. :)

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