Pre-JFK Thoughts and Musings…

Forgive me as I ramble through the myriad thoughts consuming me in these final days before JFK, but this week is kind of a big deal for me.  In fact, the last time I felt this way was almost seven years ago.  Instead of tapering for a race, I was on bed rest, awaiting the birth of my first child.  I was a nervous wreck.  I knew at a high-level what to expect:  the pain of labor, sleepless nights, maternal anxiety.  But not having been through it myself, I had no idea how I would handle the pain and exhaustion.  Would I be able to perform?  Would I be a good mother?  What if it was all too much??

The labor was agonizing, but I got through it, and the pain was soon gone.  The sleepless nights were rough (and continue to this day), but I discovered that I didn’t need much sleep after all.  As I emerged from the first six months of motherhood, I had started to form a new identity.  I was Emma’s mom.

With this new identity came many changes.  Some for the good:  new friends, new layers of patience and self-sacrifice, new depths of feeling.  Some for the bad:  more wrinkles, more chaos, more laundry.  Running, my faithful go-to method of sorting out life’s stress and problems just wasn’t an option in those early years.  Sure, I’d put in a half-hearted effort to train and run Monument Avenue each March, but afterwards I’d just throw my running shoes to the back of the closet for another year.

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I found my way back to running in the dark winter months of 2011.  It began as a way to stay fit.  But as I gained strength and set a few 10K PRs I thought that, just maybe, I could recapture a bit of my pre-motherhood self.  I started training for the marathon.  I read ‘Born to Run’ and dusted off a thought that had been pushed aside a decade ago:  JFK.  It was the tiniest little spark – just a wild idea that seemed so fantastic, so out-of -reach – an embryo really.  But it gestated and grew over the ensuing months.  Each time I went for a long run – it became more real to me.  Every race was a stepping stone.  The long runs and speed work, the hills and the trails, they all brought it closer.

Not long ago, it hit me.  I wasn’t recapturing my past.  I was a BETTER runner than I had been before children.  Motherhood has given me an edge.  The grittiness required to endure a toddler’s tantrum, the exhaustion that comes from waking four times a night, the knowledge that hard work yields marvelous benefits all help the runner in me.  I may not be vying for a podium spot, but in this small way, I feel like a winner.

So here I am on the eve of JFK – the race that started it all.  This time next week, I won’t be holding a baby in my arms, but I will have given birth to a new me.  And while I want so badly to cross the finish line – I don’t think the result matters so much.  The changes of this year – the discipline, the knowledge, the experience, and the amazing network of new friends – will endure regardless of whether there are numbers or letters next to my name.

So I will deal with this anxiety head-on, just as I will handle the pain and fatigue on race day.  I acknowledge it, accept it, and calmly put it to the side so I can carry on.

Stay tuned!

2012 Goals…(I blame the taper)

I’m one week into my three-week Marathon Taper.  The mid-week 10 milers and 20 mile long runs are a distant memory, and my enforced rest has left me chomping at the bit.  Maybe it’s the fact that I just finished re-reading Chris McDougall’s excellent ‘Born to Run‘ (one of my top-five books.  Ever.)  Or perhaps it was Matt Long’s ‘The Long Run‘ (also a great read…wow!).  But I have some pretty fun goals for 2012.  Since I can’t yet share them with my family (for fear of strike) or my friends (for fear of that they’ll commit me), I thought I’d post them here.

November 2011

  • Run 3:30 in the Suntrust Richmond Marathon.  This race kicked my tail nine years ago, when I attempted to run it (too fast) a month after the Chicago Marathon (sore legs).  I paid dearly for my hubris…dropped out at mile 13, and spent nine hours in agony on the floor of my bathroom (I’ll spare the details, just google hyponatremia).  If all goes as planned this year (and with marathoning, you know that’s a big IF), I should be able to pull off a 3:40 (~8:24 pace).  I’ve actually paced my long runs at 8 minutes/mile, which would put me just under a 3:30 finish if I can avoid The Wall.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out on Nov. 12.
December 2011
  • Volunteer at a race for the first time!  I love, love, love those folks who help out at races.  I can’t wait to watch the action from the other side.
February 2012
  • First Ultra.  50K.  With a friend.  Awesome.
March 2012
  • Shamrock.  Have a good friend and running buddy who will hopefully make her marathon debut here.  Fully intend to be there to support her.
September 2012
  • Rumor has it that a Half Ironman is coming to Richmond, VA.  If I can work up the nerve to log the hours on my road bike I’m in.  Don’t get me wrong — I actually LOVE cycling, and border on an obsessed fan at times.  But since I had children I’ve lost my nerve, and get really edgy having to share the road with cars and buses.  Need to find a cycling group and squash these negative thoughts…
November 2012
  • Richmond again, but that’s just a warm up to…(drum roll please)….
  • The JFK 50 miler.
There…its in writing.  Don’t know how I’ll pull off back-to-back marathons, but I get teary every time I think of this race.  I no longer live in Washington County, MD, but its where I was born and raised.  Those trails – I’ve hiked them.  The canal – I’ve biked it.  The roads….well let’s just say there was a time when I’d fly over the hills with the invincibility of a 16 year old.  To bring it all together in one run is the ultimate dream.  Others can have their Leadville or Badwater.  JFK is it for me.
Not sure how of if any of this will go over with the four people that matter most.  But if it works out, what a fun ride it will be!