Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankfulness and Lightness at the Star City Half

Malin, Zach, Theresa, me, Julia

Yesterday I ran the Star City Half Marathon. It was a last-minute decision, but an easy decision, driven by the need to feel the energy of fellow runners and friends and to run a new route in different surroundings. I also wanted to run the half marathon that I never finished at IM 70.3 NC and end the season on a more positive note.

With just 44 unstructured off-season run miles under my belt in the last month, I wasn't exactly primed to race. (Nor had I told my coach!!) I had no expectations, and my only goal was to stay happy and relaxed for the duration. (inspired by Kelly's amazing relaxed marathon PR)

I left my house just as hints of the sun began to appear and I was suddenly filled with happiness, for the morning, and for life in general.

I arrived to a very warm welcome (Julia!) on a crisp and clear morning that was perfect for running! Off we went - the half marathoners and 10k-ers starting together. I settled in with a small group and was pleased to discover that my legs felt light and willing.

I spent a lot of time on that course thinking about how fun it is that you can run alongside perfect strangers, and with great ease share words, space, time, and effort. Imagine doing that in any other environment - just hanging off someone's shoulder in their personal space like that!

I leapfrogged a few times with my friend Dave who, when he isn't managing an IT band situation, would be far ahead. I bridged up to a group of 5 girls who were running strong and I thought I'd be pretty thrilled to hang with them and not get dropped. Then I got a burst of "flow" and moved past them. The miles ticked by and I was still in disbelief at the lightness I felt.

photo by Tyree Ellison

At mile 9 there is a short steep uphill of the sort that was my undoing at IM 70.3 Chattanooga. I took it super easy but kept running. At the top we were rewarded with an awesome sweeping downhill section where I passed another runner.

Things started to feel hard and a little lonely around mile 10 as I ran solo, but here I thought about elite runner Kate Grace (Runners World, Dec 2016) who said when she has doubts in a workout, she acknowledges it then focuses on the "but." So, I'd think, "this feels tough but I am tougher!!"

My calves began to cramp, and again, I thought "my calves are cramping, but at least it's not my quads, this I can manage!" I downed a mustard pack and tried to will relaxation to my legs! It was a hard final two miles but when I got near the finish I could not believe my eyes! I saw 1:39:__ on the timer and I gave it all I had, finishing in 1:39:45. That was a PR for me, by just 10 seconds compared to the Hokie Half from two years ago, but a PR nonetheless at age 49!!

So, it's fair to call me a sandbagger. Or one could say it's the "spirits of endurance sports" working their magic - humbling us one day, and unexpectedly rewarding us another. It's one of the things I love most. When we say "have faith in the training" it doesn't mean it will necessarily play out the way we hope or when we expect it. It means it will ultimately be worth it.

After the race, I walked back to my car, got in, and tears began to stream down my face. Life has presented some major personal challenges lately, but I can't help but feel blessed beyond measure. (thanks Janet for the timely texts :-) The things that matter most, aren't things at all, and can't be bought.

I am so incredibly thankful for running and triathlon and for the community that comes along with involvement in the sport. To everyone who cheered for me, or took time to say hello or chat, I just want to say thank you. I am thankful for each of you, and I hope my energy lifts you in the same way that yours lifts me.

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!