Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Dreaded "C" Word

I must have boatloads of character - considering that the last several races I’ve done have been what you would call “character builders.”

I’m sure there are any number of reasons why my marathon race day did not go according to my dream plan. Quite likely, my leg strength (particularly in my quads) is not yet enough to counter 26.2 miles of relentless pancake-flat pavement pounding - without the benefit of varied terrain and the ensuing mixed muscle use. Perhaps all those miles on the bike trainer, while building a solid foundation for Ironman, detracted more than I had hoped from my run stamina. Or perhaps I’m just not as fast as I’d like to believe!

Then again, it could have just been an off day. One thing I love about MJ is her immediate ability to lift my spirits post-race. “The thing is,” she tells me, “You get what you get on race day. And sometimes it’s not what you want. But they can’t all be good. Don’t worry, your time will come.” I’ve seen her embrace this things-happen-for-a-reason type philosophy in the midst of some of her own worst race-day setbacks, and she means it – she doesn’t let the rough patches bring her too far down.

I know I have much to be thankful for: that I have the health and fitness to run a marathon in the first place; that I ran fast enough to secure a fourth Boston qualifier spot; that I never once walked during the 16.2 miles in which my legs screamed with pain.

I was fine for the first 10, though I never quite felt fantastic, which is by far how I prefer to feel at the beginning of a race. But then my quads began begging for sympathy – and they never stopped until I crossed the finish. I maintained my 3:30 goal pace until the halfway point, but each mile thereafter seemed to stretch for a few extra seconds, until I was weighed down with far too much time on the clock to reach my goal or even set a new personal best. I was left to settle for Plan C, salvaging a Boston spot by crossing in 3:48.

Just prior to the race start, MJ had given me a good luck hug and urged, “Enjoy every bit, even the hard parts.” Through those long latter miles, when every step was a hard part, her words kept popping into my head. So even though it hurt like hell, I turned up my smile and enjoyed the day.

And honestly, the race was merely a few rough hours out of a whole wonderful weekend. I traveled to Phoenix specifically to meet up with two of my boarding school gal pals, Nilda and Bebe. Our high school mini-reunions are becoming a regular occurrence now that many of us have gotten back in touch after long absences (Facebook is our friend - how we ever managed through high school without the internet is a miracle indeed!). MJ and HPP also joined in the Phoenix fun for the weekend, running the half marathon as a training race and having decidedly the best days of anyone in our group. And even MM made a guest appearance with his younger brother, swooping into town for less than 24 hours and running the full marathon on what amounts to zero training. Not a recommended approach, but I have to grant the guy points for spontaneity (as well as beating me).

We girls talked until the wee hours, laughed, napped, relaxed by the pool, discovered some fabulous Phoenix restaurants, played endless rounds of “tickle-tickle” and “eeewwwwww” with Kathryn (Bebe’s 2 ½ year old gem of a daughter) and on Sunday morning went for a seriously long run. Race weekends don’t get much better than that!

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