...And Part Time Marathoner
This is hard. I don’t want to do it (okay, maybe I do), but I think we need to break up. I mean, not forever, but at least for a little while. I need to see other people. I need to do other things. It’s not that I don’t like you (well, there are sometimes). It’s not you, it’s me. I haven’t been treating you with the respect that you deserve. I have been lackluster (at best) in my effort and my commitment to you and I think that I need to take some time away to make sure that you and I have a future.
It started off great in the first six months of the year. It really did. You and I got together when we felt like it. A few times a week. Nothing too serious. I enjoyed it. I was happy. If I felt like doing my own thing, I did. It was bliss. We enjoyed the warm weather together. We were so happy. Then you changed. I should have seen it coming.
Fall marathon season was on the horizon and you changed. You started demanding more from me. Bike on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Speed work on the treadmill on Tuesday at 5:30 in the morning (who gets up that early anyhow? Ahem…Dena). Tempo runs on Thursday and then the long runs on Saturday. I would have been ok with it if it was infrequently. But there was a pattern beginning. A pattern that would continue for 16 weeks if I had let you. But I didn’t let you, and that was my mistake. Because, running my dear, you are a vindictive bitch when you don’t get the attention that you deserve.
I shirked my responsibility to you and you made me pay. You made me pay with my time. Rather than put in the work necessary to spend LESS time with you in the fall, you made me spend MORE time with you.
Undertrained, unprepared and delusional, I just figured that you would give me what I wanted. I figured that you would finally go take that vacation to Boston with me. I could see the vision in my head. You and I – hand in hand – coming down Boylston Street ready to cement our relationship and guarantee its immortality. But alas, you didn’t allow that because you didn’t get what you wanted from me…consistent effort.
Well running, it has been a fun three months (okay, 11 weeks but who’s keeping track?). We shared a very special fall.
We made our first trek to win country California. Santa Rosa to be exact. We spent the evening in San Francisco together and then made the 90-minute drive. We had good food. We shared the not-so-beautiful views of the countryside. We survived an earthquake together. It was magical. Magical until the race.
Like a vindictive ex, you built me up and then tore me down. I even did as you asked. “Don’t start to fast,” you implored. “Don’t rush it,” you said. I listened. Eight minutes for the first mile. 7:58 the second mile. I was taking it easy. And then, like you always do…you got me all excited and off I went. 7 flat, 7 flat, 6:50-something, 6:40-something. Ooh, look, a hill…still sub-seven. “Man this is easy, I feel great,” I said to myself. “Oh damn, killer song on my iPod…might as well crank it up. I mean, only 21.2 more miles to go. This is easy”.
I could hear it in my head “if – at the half – you are two minutes ahead of pace, you have blown your race.” So at the halfway point I was 1:56 ahead of pace. Not two minutes. My race was safe and I felt killer.
Ooh, the vineyard. This is cool. I am going to have wine after the race. Nope, scratch that. I am going to have champagne because my best pal running and I are going to Boston and damn it, we are going to celebrate at the finish line like I just won the NASCAR Sprint Cup title. Spray champagne everywhere. Damn right. Only 13.1 miles to go.
Only 12 to go. 11 to go. 10 miles to go. Hell yeah. And then…it happened. All those days that we didn’t spend enough time together…you remembered. You gave me the first 17 miles today, and then you took the last 9.2 from me. 7:23. Well, I only lost eight seconds and I am still 1:49 in the red. 7:30…I’m still okay. I was slipping and I knew it. But then it goes through your mind, “all I need to do is stay steady and hammer the last 5k…it’s doable”…until it isn’t doable. And it wasn’t doable at mile 20. The wall. The dreaded wall. I should blame it on the wall. It happens to people. It’s real. You only have 2000 kCal in the bank. Just say you didn’t eat properly. Nope…everything was perfect today. Weather, hydration, nutrition and the course. What wasn’t perfect? You. That’s right running. You. You evil bitch. Oh well. It’s over. Let’s just cruise it on in. Take it easy. Enjoy the scenery. I mean, who lives out here anyhow? I hate California now. It’s all because of you running. I hate the Golden State because of you. But I’m not bitter. 193rd overall. 3:24:44 and 38th in my age group. I had wine anyhow. Not champagne. Not celebratory booze. Just wine. And I didn’t share any with you running. Not a damn drop.
I thought you had it out of your system. I thought we were even. I thought that now that you had your revenge that you would at least help me out near home in New York.
What better place to book our date with Boston than at home in beautiful Upstate New York in the fall. Three days before my birthday. Awww, running, you do have a softer side, don’t you?
No, running you don’t have a soft side. You are evil. Perfect day. Perfect course. Perfect weather. Perfect crowd. And you had to ruin it, didn’t you? Yup. You did.
It was our second marathon in the span of five weeks and the second marathon in wine country – one on each coast – and you still weren’t satisfied. But that’s ok. I love this race. It was the site of my first-ever marathon and marks the fourth consecutive Wineglass Marathon that I have participated in, and completed, so not even you could bring me down.
Not a Boston Qualifying time, but I’ll take my 186th place overall finish and my 24th place finish in my age group en route to my second sub 3:30 marathon of the season. 3:27:16 to be exact. And I even took you to see “Gone Girl” last night. I mean c’mon running. What used to be a love affair is turning into an abusive relationship and I don’t think I like where this is going.
Departing the great state of New York, I swore we were done with one another. At least for a little while. I had no plans to run another marathon for a bit. Maybe Charlotte. Maybe not.
But you had to hit me close to home didn’t you? How close? Less than a half of a mile to be exact. That is how far away the start and finish line of the second annual Greensboro Marathon was from my doorstep.
Sure it was only 13 days since my last marathon. Sure it was a super hilly course. Sure there was a half marathon that I could have easily run. But I mean would I be ok with running HALF of the race? Of course not. So just when I thought I was out, you pulled me right back in. And not only did you pull me in, you pulled Dena in as well. You even used her against me. After the severe ass kicking she gave me at last year’s Greensboro Marathon, I had to try to redeem myself and you gladly used that motivation against me.
So on Wednesday – three days before the race – I registered and was now firmly committed to my third marathon in less than eight weeks (seven weeks and six days to be exact).
So I fed your appetite yet again and how did you treat me? To a course with almost a full mile in elevation change, that’s how. They said “new course, less hills” this year. I call bullshit, and I can accurately do that because I ran the damn thing and I can guarantee it was just as hilly as last year. The only thing that was better than last year was the weather. Oh yeah, and the race shirts. Nice looking orange and blue, long sleeve tech tees. That was a plus.
I swear sometimes I think you are bipolar. Or maybe I am bipolar. Because I actually enjoyed this race, despite the hills. And I was pleased with the 3:36:08 I put down. 28th place overall and I won my age group. That was a pleasant surprise. And the winner’s gift was a really nice certificate – no I didn’t throw it out, I am cognizant of the environmental impact so I recycled it – and a cool glass with the race logo on it. Pretty cool.
What was not cool was the walk back from the finish line to my residence. Thank god for Frank who found us halfway and drove both Dena and I and our tired asses back to my place where she had parked. We all had lunch and it was time for a nap, but not before I thought that maybe, just maybe, I had a future with you running. Maybe.
Little did I know that that moment of happiness with you would result in you using it against me. That feeling of joy allowed you to creep back into my world and it would also lead to another $150 being removed from my bank account and would nearly lead to a nasty case of frostbite.
It was that passing feeling of happiness that led to another last-minute registration for yet another marathon. Number four in the last 11 weeks, but hey, who’s counting, right? And just like that, we were bound for Charlotte.
November 15 in Charlotte, NC for Thunder Road. My third Thunder Road in the last four years. November in North Carolina would see perfect weather even if the course was tough. Ummm, no. The coldest November 15 in the last 30 years. A high of 34 degrees with the race start a balmy 24 degrees. What the hell is a “polar vortex” anyhow? And why was it messing with my race.
At least Charlotte tells the truth. Whereas Greensboro said that they had taken the hills out of their race (bullshit, remember?), Thunder Road doesn’t even try to hide their hills, in fact they embrace them.
I still have last year’s race shirt that features the motivating “Flat Is For Sissies” emblazoned across the front of it. This year’s slogan? “Don’t Think Of Them As Hills, Think Of Them As Mounds Of Opportunity”. Who did they pay to come up with that? Did they pay some ad agency creative (*disclaimer – I spent the better part of three rewarding years working at an agency and NO we did not come up with creative like that) to come up with that or did they have a team of trained monkeys working around the clock on it?
Either way, even if it was your first Thunder Road, everyone knew the course wasn’t flat. What not everyone knew was that it was going to be well below freezing for the majority of the race.
Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about what clothes I was going to discard a few miles into the race. Nope…I would actually be thinking about what clothes I could pick up along the route, should someone less intelligent be dumb enough to discard any.
Shorts or tights? Shorts or tights? That was the question. I wavered. Ultimately deciding that I had never run over 20 miles in tights, I went with shorts. But I would just wear compression socks to keep my legs warm. That would do it, right? Wrong again ace. This running thing just isn’t going so well.
Long sleeve. Vest. Gloves. Running Hat. Ear Warmer. Sunglasses. We were good to go in our attempt to chase down those hills so delightfully brought to you by the Queen City. I’m pretty sure Queen Charlotte never ran this city. Queen Charlotte can go to hell. I mean who was she anyhow?
I actually like Thunder Road. I love the city of Charlotte. If you get a chance to visit sometime, I highly recommend it. I don’t recommend running 26.2 miles to explore all that it has to offer, but I do recommend visiting.
Uptown (that’s downtown for non-Charlotteans). Southpark. Dilworth. Myers Park. Elizabeth. South End. NoDa. Plaza Midwood. All the neighborhoods we ran through were rowdy and fun and we were cranking right along.
1:41 at the split. This was going well. Man I felt strong. Could we keep this up? On this course? We sure as hell were going to try. And we did. We got stronger. Negative splits at 14, 15, 16, 17. What the hell was going on? Not a Boston pace but still super strong on this course and in this weather and running the fourth marathon in less than three months.
Let’s see how we feel at mile 20. And mile 20 would come and go and we would feel awesome. Free beer in NoDa? Don’t mind if I do. Gummy bears in Plaza Midwood? Yes, please. Ooh, how bad did I want to stop and have breakfast (and possibly a few mimosas) at Zada Jane’s at mile 22? Oh, pretty badly. But we had a date with an unheard of sub 3:30 in Charlotte of all places. On this course? No way.
But we had it. This was surreal. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe I was just breathing better. But if that was the case, then why did my legs feel so great? Oh well, who cares. Let’s do some long division math problems to keep my mind off the miles.
What? They took the Hawthorne Hill out of the race? What? This was awesome. No monster hill to worry about at mile 23 meant I can chase the 3:30. Hell yeah.
23 and 24 were awesome. And then it happened. Not at the dreaded “wall” that has doomed so many a runner at mile 20. No, this one I have dubbed “the crowbar” because that is what it felt like. Like someone had taken a crowbar to the back of the legs right at mile 25. Right at the intersection by the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Oh, running. You do have a sense of humor, don’t you. Right by the home of speed you take all mine away from me. I mean, I could barely WALK, let alone RUN. So we walked for a quarter mile and we both knew…that 3:30 was gone. You dangled it in front of me for 25 miles and you took it away with just over one mile to go. You sure showed me who was boss, didn’t you?
That’s ok. I found something inside to gut it out. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time. Whatever it was – and I am thinking it was my body’s natural “fight or flight” response to the very real danger of frostbite – it got me moving again and across the finish line for a 116th place finish overall.
3:31:22 officially. 16th in my age group. That was more than respectable. I tamed Thunder Road for the third time. I tamed 26.2 miles for the fourth time in 11 weeks. 104.8 miles in less than three months. I’ll take it.
I got what I wanted (except for a date in Boston) and you got the attention you wanted…kind of. I know that what you really want is 16 solid weeks of six-days-a-week intense training. Then you will give me the date I so badly want.
Running, that’s why I am putting it in writing. I will give you what you want. Starting January 4, 2015. It’s a Sunday to be exact. We shall start our next 16-week relationship then. We can sit down and pick a nice race destination and we will prepare for four full months.
We will go get some new shoes. We will break out the Nike Flash Jacket (if you don’t have one of these things, you NEED one. I mean it. You NEED one). We will get a new iPod (it turns out that they don’t last that long when they go through the washing machine). We will get back together and we will get it done. Who knew the road to Boston was so long. But what we both know is that when we get there, the journey will have been oh so rewarding.
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