“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary
As Sunday quickly approaches, I am left to ponder what the hell I have managed to get myself into yet again. After all, since the beginning of my cycling journey I haven’t been known for making the soundest decisions…
Here is the formal description of this Sunday’s Six Gap Century Ride:
“The Six Gap Century boasts many of the same roads and mountain climbs as the elite Tour de Georgia. The ultra-challenging route takes you up and down six of the steepest climbs in the North Georgia Mountains. Elevations on the six gaps in this ride range from 1,400 feet to 3,460 feet. The toughest climb, Hogpen Gap, will challenge even the strongest riders, averaging a 7% grade for seven miles, with sections as steep as 15%.”
Let me give a little history lesson about some of this course… In 2014, Three Gap Fifty which consists of the first and last two “gaps” (climbs) of Six Gap Century was my very first organized ride EVER. Yes, a Miami girl decided that her first organized ride ever would be 58 miles with 6,385 vertical feet of climbing. If I may say so myself, it was NOT my smartest move ever…
Wolfpen Gap made me cry. I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw my bike off the mountain and never ride again.
But I did not quit.
I did not throw my bike off the mountain.
I did not even walk once.
But, had one more person told me that the rest stop was ‘right around the next turn’ I may have opted to get off my bike and throw them AND their bike off the mountain.
I finished Three Gap Fifty and it was amazing, glorious, and utterly painful all at the same time. That was the day that I truly fell in love with riding in the mountains.
There is something about the pain and suffering that goes along with riding in the mountains that I hate, love, and crave all at the same time. It is the epitome of entering the “pain cave” and “embracing the suck.” There is no way around it and the only way to go is up, one pedal stroke at a time. There is this funny swerving movement that starts to happen when going suuuuper sloooow up a steep incline… You can’t control it, it just happens. When stuck in that space you only have two options, keep pedaling or get off and walk. The problem with quitting and walking is the realization that you will have to walk the rest of the way up because there is absolutely no way to get back on your bike and get forward momentum again. So you just keep pedaling, one stroke after another, how ever you have to in order to keep moving. When one set of muscles starts to hurt, you simply start pulling up on your strokes until those muscles start hurting too and then you go back to pedaling like normal. You repeat the process over and over and over again until you reach the top.
It appears that I love to put myself through the wringer whenever possible. Despite, analyzing this fact to death, I have yet to figure out exactly why I do these things to myself.
I love a challenge.
I love the feeling of being on the edge of life and death.
I love proving the doubters (including myself) wrong.
I love the suffering.
I love giving everything I have and then digging deeper for a tiny bit more.
I love crossing the finish line.
I love the exhaustion and rush of emotions that comes afterwards.
Six Gap Century is a bucket list ride for me and I have been waiting three years to finally get to do it. (I even tried to convince my friend we should do it in 2014, thank God that he knew better than I did then.) Unfortunately, this has not been a banner year for me so far with all these injuries. I am not going into this ride having trained how I wanted/needed to. But, what I do know is that I am in 100% better shape now than when I did Three Gap Fifty, Assault on the Carolinas, and The Assault on Mt. Mitchell (read about my Mt. Mitchell ride here: The quest towards a century ride, REALIZED.). I also know that I have a bike that is lighter, faster, and better than the one I had back then. And, most importantly, I know the drive and determination that I carry inside me to be successful at the stupid things I challenge myself to.
What’s the saying? “If you’re going to be dumb then you better be tough.”
I am incredibly lucky that I am going to be able to do this ride with one of my favorite people and biggest inspirations, Caroline. She is, by far, my favorite training partner (sorry Zac). Caroline drives me to be better at everything that I do. I know that there will be moments where I will want to quit and may not be able to rely on my own brain/heart to push me forward so I am thankful that I will have her there to look over at and give me the “put on your big girl panties and suck it up” face.
Although I am nervous about how my foot and hip will hold up, I am beyond excited for the challenge that is ahead of me. I have been waiting for this day for so long and I am 100% sure that the climbs and descents will not disappoint. My main goal for Sunday is to soak up every single second of this experience no matter how difficult it gets.
I have written about visualization in some of my past posts and that is exactly what I have been doing the last few days, visualizing this experience and visualizing myself (in one piece) crossing that finish line.
And, let me tell ya… the end of this ride feels pretty damn sweet.
“No athlete is truly tested until they’ve stared an injury in the face and came out on the other side stronger than ever” – Anonymous
I have missed running and I have missed blogging but it seems as though the inability to do one took away my ability to do the other.
Life has been a crazy series of ups and downs since my marathon at the end of January.
I continued to try and run despite having lingering pain from my marathon injury, only to find out in May that I had broken my pelvic bone. I was stunned when I heard the news; it was certainly not what I expected the doctor to say to me… Lucky for me, I had only broken my lower left pelvic bone and not the upper one as well (however, you could see on the x-ray where it had also tried to start breaking) so my break was a “stable” one that required no surgery or extra hardware. I rehabbed it the right way; I went to PT, I did strengthening exercises, I only returned to running how/when I was told that I could.
When I started back running, it was completely miserable… My body had forgotten what it was supposed to be doing and how it was supposed to be doing it. Slowly but surely, I started to run more and enjoy it more. I had a series of great runs but still was only running 30 minutes three times per week. I wanted to run more but I was doing my best to be patient. Luckily, I was able to keep riding my bike because it was non-impact so I could continue training for my big ride, Six Gap Century which is on September 24, 2017 (and which I’ll explain in a whole other post hopefully). Unfortunately, my tri season was going to be a wash because I wasn’t able to run enough for a race.
On August 27, I joined two of my amazing friends to compete as a relay team for the Hammerhead Olympic Triathlon. I completed the bike leg of the tri and felt great with minimal hip pain. My teammates did awesome as well and we came in 4th. I left feel amazing after having FINALLY been able to compete in a race this season.
But, as is so often the case, life had other plans for me… Later that evening, while leaving a friend’s house the unthinkable happened… I didn’t see a hole and as I stepped off a step went right into it and rolled my foot completely under. The series of pops I heard were some of the worst sounds my ears have ever endured. I fell straight to the ground, rolling, and repeatedly saying “no, no, no.” The pain was intense but the mental realization was that much worse… When I was finally able to muster a sentence all I kept saying was, “I cannot be injured again. Please God!” But injured is exactly what I was.
Luckily (or unluckily), I had only badly sprained my ankle. It looked terrible; it was completely swollen and all sorts of strange colors. The pain I felt was unbearable and brought me to tears on numerous occasions. I couldn’t sleep for days because every time I moved my foot, it woke me up. I was a mess. I couldn’t run and now I couldn’t bike either. My brain and heart were a disaster. I threw a spectacular pity party every time I was home alone.
It didn’t take me long to get back on the bike but running was a whole different story… I was supposed to stay in the boot for a month but there was no way it was going to last that long. Last week I took it off for a day and was quickly back in it the next day. Friday night it came off and hasn’t been put back on since. Today, I decided to go run with my run group. And running is exactly what I did. I meant to take it easy but I pushed myself instead and it was GLORIOUS.
I have come to love running in a way that I can’t really explain. It is easy for me to explain my love for cycling but not quite as easy to explain my love for running. There is just something about it that moves something in me and makes me feel alive. I can’t quite pinpoint it; maybe it is that it doesn’t come easy and I have to work for every single thing or maybe I love it because it was taken away from me for so long. Distance does make the heart grow fonder after all, or that’s what they say at least.
At this point, I can only hope and pray that I stay healthy enough to get back to running more because I am pretty sure that if I injure myself again I will pretty much lose my mind. I have definitely learned (over and over and over again) that injuries will teach you precisely what you love the most. But, I have also learned that every single thing that happens to us truly does happen for a reason. All of my injuries have forced me to focus on my swimming which is I am slowly starting to actually like too. I almost feel like I am in the twilight zone after having typed that last sentence…
Stay tuned. Who knows what will happen next and what other lessons I will learn along the way.
“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” ~Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon winner
The objective behind me running a standalone marathon was simple: I want to do a full Ironman so I needed to know that I could run a marathon.
I enlisted the help of a friend, Patrick, whom I knew had coached plenty of my amazing friends during their various athletic endeavors. I started running with the Two Rules Running group (www.tworulesrunning.com) on a regular basis and could see, pretty quickly, the improvements that I was making. As I mentioned in an earlier post, marathon training was stressful and physically/emotionally exhausting but, I was managing to follow the two rules of my running group… 1. Look Good. 2. Don’t die. Simple enough, right?
I was lucky enough to remain injury-free throughout my training but my journey was not without adversity. At the end of my 12th week of training, life threw me a curveball that I wasn’t sure I was going to get up from… A relationship that had become an integral part of my marathon journey ended in epic fashion. I found out that I had been cheated on and the news knocked me down physically and emotionally in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. The news and the experience sucked the life out of me and sapped me of my motivation to do much of anything. I was trapped in darkness that I didn’t feel I could escape and the last thing I wanted to do was get out of my bed, let alone go run anywhere.
I wanted to quit, I believed I was done. I told the people closest to me that I was done.
Thankfully, as I have said so many times prior to this and as I am sure I will say plenty more in the future, I have surrounded myself with some of the greatest people in the world and there was no way that they were going to let me get away with quitting. Not now, not ever. They did, however, let me get away with staying in bed for a couple days but that’s it. By Sunday afternoon, Leigh Ann forced me to get out of bed and go outside and send her a selfie while outside and Lavonne later showed up with her bike ready to go for a ride. We DID go ride and it was just what I needed; the ride and the cry on the side of the road in the middle of the ride. No one wanted to stop me from feeling what I felt; they kept encouraging the emotions while also gently pushing me forward.
I am a big believer in feeling your feelings. I believe that the only way to move through pain is to FEEL through the pain. The key, I believe, is to not allow yourself to get stuck in any part of the pain for too long. Obviously, this process is quite often easier said than done but it CAN be done. There were many days when I got stuck in the pain and I hid from the world allowing the circular negativity to go round and round in my head but there were plenty of days where I kept going and I kept running. Running is so very intensely mental for me and there were so many training runs that were filled with doubt and ended in tears. They ended in tears not because of anything that had happened on the run but more so because I expended so much mental energy running that there was no more energy left to keep my sadness at bay.
So I kept running and I kept crying and running and crying and running and crying some more. Sometimes even crying WHILE running.
My friends were never far away, in fact there were an overwhelming number of friends that offered and in turn joined me on my training runs during my last few weeks. No matter how much I wanted to retreat to my bike and call it a day, I kept running. I had a job to do and I was going to finish what I started.
The week after the proverbial shit hit the fan was supposed to be my heaviest training week and that weekend run was supposed to be the longest of my training, 22 miles. Three of my amazing friends (Ron, Kelsey, and Alice) joined me for some of this run; Alice for five miles, Kelsey for fourteen miles, and Ron for eighteen and a half miles. No matter what distance they each ran with me that day, they all left an amazing impact on me. They pushed me and kept me distracted so that I wasn’t stuck in that mental space where doubt lives. We didn’t talk about the break up and no one asked how I was doing, we talked about completely random things and we laughed a lot. Most importantly, although not on purpose, they left me to run the last three and a half miles alone. I needed those miles alone because I needed to push myself through that point where I was exhausted so that I wouldn’t give up. In fact, not only did I not give up but I pushed myself to run faster and I felt a sense of happiness creep in. It was at this very moment that I realized that no one, NO ONE, was going to take this away from me.
This was MY journey and MY sacrifices and there was no one in the world that was worth me giving up on anything, EVER. He didn’t get to take this from me. I didn’t get to give it to him to take.
I felt renewed, not necessarily happy, but I felt a renewed drive to run the marathon and accomplish a goal that I had only dreamed of accomplishing before. I won’t lie and say that everything went back to normal after my realization because that would be complete bullshit. I continued to run, I still cried, and I still doubted my ability to accomplish my goal but I knew that I wasn’t going to give up (a tiny detail that I didn’t realize was going to come in super handy on race day). I kept channeling my inner Wonder Woman and I kept training hard.
The last three weeks of training were a blur but what I can tell you is that they were full of lots of running and fear and doubt and then some more running on top of that. A little over a week before the race I received an email saying that we were able to pull up our bib numbers so I excitedly searched for it, it was 407. It wasn’t until a little while later that I realized the significance of that number, maybe it was weird coincidence or maybe it wasn’t coincidence at all and just some strange continuation of my “fun” relationship with the universe. You see, 407 is the area code for Orlando which was where my recent ex-boyfriend was from and also the city in which we met. I went straight to the universe conspiracy theory belief but one of my wonderful friends, Tammy, gave me this advice instead… “He was a big part of the journey and now this is the last piece. You will wear that number, you will run with everything you have, and you will leave everything about that relationship out on that course that day.” It appeared that having 407 as my bib number was, in fact, kismet.
Kismet (n): destiny; fate
I drove down to Miami two days before the race and must’ve gone through my mental packing list at least 7754 times before getting on the road but still managed to forget something that I had to go back home for. The five hour drive down south just served to make me incessantly think about my race plan and the 16 week journey that I had just gone through. I honestly couldn’t believe that the journey would be “over” in just two days.
The day before the race, I went to the expo to pick up my packet and the “realness” of everything finally started to set in and panic wasn’t far behind. I did all the normal pre-race stuff; I laid out Flat Beca, attached my Valentine’s card from Jimmy (my guardian angel) that goes with me to every big event to the back of my bib number, affixed my bib number to my shirt, set out all the nutrition I was going to bring with me, and charged my watch. I sat down and started reflecting on all the work I had put in during the 16 week journey…
Over 506 miles run during 86+ hours of running and countless new relationships forged.
So much of this journey had included so many amazing people but race day was going to be all about me, I would be toeing that line all by myself. I only had to overcome my own fear and doubt to finish the final 26.2 miles of my marathon journey. It would be my biggest test of endurance thus far and was sure to be one of my sweetest victories to date. I had trouble falling asleep the night before the race which I knew was completely normal but I was able to at least get a few hours of rest.
January 29, 2017, Race Day Report:
I woke up at 2:45am to the sound of howling wind and pouring rain. I pulled out my phone and checked the weather; temperature in the mid 50s, 10+mph wind, and LOTS of rain coming. I was overcome by panic. All I wanted was to get back under the covers and wish the day away but that wasn’t really an option… I had come too far to give up now. I started getting ready and was inundated by thoughts of everything that had happened over the last month, the anger and sadness I was feeling was truly overwhelming. My brain felt like it was trapped in a vice and I was focused on a dark cloud of doubt, fear, and negativity. I had a “come to Jesus” with myself and yanked at the mental reins. I pulled out my phone and looked at all the awesome texts, messages, and Facebook posts that my friends and family had taken the time to send. I started to focus in on all the love and light that I am surrounded by and I knew that, no matter what happened today, I had more than enough to be thankful for. I am a lucky woman and I had everything I needed to push through this day no matter what challenges came up.
I bundled up and headed out at 4:00am to ride the Metrorail surrounded by tons of fellow runners. I focused on my race plan that would hopefully get me my desired 4:15:00 and read all the positive messages over and over. Once I got downtown, I headed straight towards gear check where I handed over my warm pants and phone. The thought of not having a phone and taking 9657 start line pictures was a weird feeling; it had been a long time since I had been that disconnected from the world. I realized right away that it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be which made me feel better about the day ahead; all that cold weather training was paying off. I made my way to corral C and tried to take in as much of the start line experience that I could focus on. 6:00am came quicker than I expected it to and by approximately 6:05am my 26.2 mile journey began.
The first challenge of the day was the MacArthur Causeway Bridge where there were walking people to dodge, a steep incline to forge over, and a cold wind to contend with. Luckily at the top there were awesome guys playing the bagpipes to greet us which kept me smiling. People were flying past me but I kept reminding myself that the majority of people were doing the half marathon and I just needed to make sure to run my race and not theirs.
Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 I heard someone scream something about Team Chocolate Milk and I looked over and saw a woman that I had been standing near in my starting corral who was wearing a Team Chocolate Milk shirt. She was right ahead and to the left of me so I quickly crept over until I was right behind her. I thought about just creepily running behind her and pacing off of her but then I got to thinking about how lonely the race was already feeling without all my awesome running community friends so I decided to say hi. I asked her what her goal time was and she responded with 4 hours and then asked mine. When I told her my goal time she quickly responded that she wouldn’t mind running with me because she wasn’t really dead set on making her 4 hour goal. We introduced ourselves as we continued to talk and get to know each other. Jill was a very unassuming woman and you never would’ve guessed the extent of her badassery simply by meeting her. As we continued to talk, I knew that I was in the company of a BEAST (12 Ironman finishes and multiple Boston marathons)! I had somehow, randomly (or not so random at all) picked the right marathon buddy who would help me accomplish something I had never before done. Meeting Jill was truly my saving grace…
I was feeling pretty good, staying relatively warm, and keeping a pretty steady pace until the rain started at about mile 5. My hands instantly froze and it was nearly impossible to bend my fingers but we kept moving and running. At about mile 6 or so, I stopped to use the port-o-potty which seemed like an impossible feat given my frozen fingers and it felt like I was losing too much time in the endeavor. As soon as we started running again I finally met “the gorilla” I had heard so much discussion about. I hadn’t had any issues with my gracilis muscle through training but I knew from what others described, that was precisely what was hurting me. Jill asked if I need to slow and I said “not at all, I’ll be fine.” I had learned to run through pain in the last 16 weeks and pain wasn’t going to be what stopped me today. Jill told me that she was running to my pace so if I needed to slow down at any point that I should let her know. I told her that she wasn’t allowed to let me get away with wanting to slow down or stop. She agreed to my terms and we kept running and kept talking. I thought back to my 16 mile training run with my friend, Cat, and how we talked for the whole beginning and how I had paid for it at the end of that run and I knew today was going to be the same but I was enjoying the company and the conversation way too much.
Miles 7-14 were pretty uneventful other than stopping for a moment for Jill to grab water and swallow down a gu and for me to fight to get ibuprofen out of a baggie with frozen fingers (I considered swallowing the baggie too when I couldn’t get them out). I believe there was also another potty break in here somewhere during which I was again painfully aware of losing precious minutes. The continuous rain and cold wind was playing tricks on me and making me believe that I HAD to pee when I really didn’t have to at all… Mile 12.5 also saw with it the turn off of all the half marathoners and where the rest of our race really began.
We kept trucking along and continued to talk about race experiences and our running/triathlete friends. At mile 17, we both rejoiced in finally having the remainder of the day measured in single digits. We were still holding a pretty decent pace but I knew that my goal of 4:15:00 was all but lost thanks to the multiple potty breaks and the brutal weather we were being forced to endure. Mile 17 also brought with it one of my favorite encounters along the course… I have yet to decide if the guy was schizophrenic or had dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) but what I can tell you was that his conversations back and forth about himself and yelling at himself about how he was going to finish the race and had what it took to finish the race (in different voices and with LOTS of F bombs, I may add) were simply amazing. Like I said to Jill, they say you have to be crazy to run a marathon and here was clear proof of that!
I was starting to mentally struggle around mile 18 and I kept reminding myself that despite what I was thinking, my body was more than capable of finishing the race and finishing it strong. I kept reminding myself that the doubt was all in my head and I just needed to keep moving my feet. Jill was still talking to me and telling me stories but I was significantly less responsive at this point. I told her that I was probably not going to talk much from that point forward to which she said that she was planning to keep talking, for which I was very thankful. Mile 18.5 brought my high school friend, Lauren, with it and as soon as she screamed my name, something brightened inside me and I got another wind that made me realize that I was definitely going to finish the race. I smiled at her, waved for her picture, shouted that I loved her, took one last look at her friendly face, and kept moving.
Miles 19-22 are mostly a blur. Jill kept talking which kept me distracted off of hitting any kind of wall, my calves were cramping to holy hell, the physical pain was overwhelming, and there was another unnecessary potty break but we kept moving. I believe in here is when I told her that “I loved that she was all roses and sunshine while I was all death and destruction.” We both got a good laugh out of that one and thankfully she kept bringing the sunshine because Miami clearly wasn’t planning to offer any today. I felt like I was starting to fade and I crammed Gu chews in my mouth as well as some Jelly Belly sport beans. I made sure to grab water often from the awesome volunteers but made sure there was no stopping unless it was for the bathroom. There would be no walking today. Jill did try to tell me that if we kicked it into high gear for the last 5k then I still had a chance to make my goal but at that point, I was just hanging on for dear life by a tiny thread that was dangling over a pit of brimstone and fire. I sloughed off the 5k kick idea and told her that maybe we could kick it with 2 miles left. This segment also brought “Joe” with it… Joe was a hand cyclist doing the marathon and while I was really happy for Joe and what he was trying to accomplish, I really wanted to kill Joe. Joe had a regular cyclist with him and his cyclist was warning people that Joe was there except that Joe was so busy zig zagging that we honestly couldn’t tell where Joe was going to be from one second to the next. This was so stressful and I was burning entirely too much energy on worrying about being run over. At one point, Jill yelled to me to jump up onto the grass because Joe was aiming right for us. We both jumped on to the curb in the nick of time to avoid getting run down by Joe. Thankfully there was a hill ahead and we were finally able to shake free from Joe for the last time.
Miles 23-25 were on the beginning portion of the Rickenbacker Causeway towards Key Biscayne with a turnaround under the bridge. There were more inclines on this bridge and while I was super thankful for all of my hill training it seemed like even the slightest road incline might as well have been as steep as a damn mountain. All I wanted was to be done, to not be wet anymore, to be warm, to stop hurting, to FUCKING STOP RUNNING. Jill had other ideas for me at mile 24 when she started speeding up and told me to keep chasing her and not give up. I just wanted it all to stop. I wanted to lie down and die. Instead, I kept running… I kept chasing the proverbial rabbit. Our pace picked up and somewhere between mile 25-26 I heard my other high school friend, Gus, yell out my name. I looked over and saw his face, but couldn’t muster even a smile because I was so focused on keeping up with Jill and on how bad I felt.
I FINALLY saw the 26th mile marker and I knew it was so close to being over. She yelled back that the finish line was right around the next corner but I was entirely too tired to be elated. I was so excited to turn that corner right up until I turned it and saw the last thing on earth I could ever want to see at that point, ANOTHER FUCKING DRAWBRIDGE WITH MORE WET DRAWBRIDGE GRATES. Why?!?!?! Why did the race coordinators hate me? I yelled to Jill that I couldn’t go anymore and she assured me that I could and that it was almost over. I dug deep and pushed with every last ounce I had. As I came through the last leg towards the finish line I heard the best word I have ever heard in my life “MOMMY!” I turned and saw my kids and my parents. I wanted to run to them and collapse on them but I was sooooo close and I couldn’t slow down. I threw my arms up and finished like a champ. I was finally done.
I crossed that line, hugged Jill, and then instantly wanted to collapse on to the ground but she held me up. She held me up just as she had done for so much of the race. We walked through the finisher area, got our medals, got water and Gatorade which I couldn’t drink, got food which I could eat none of, and took pictures. The minute I came across the finish line I felt every pain that I had forced out of my mind and felt 9000x colder. My legs could barely hold me up and my body was shaking uncontrollably but I had finished and I had followed the 2 rules… I looked good (kinda) and I didn’t die (though I really really wanted to).
I am truly humbled by the love and support that I got from my family and friends on marathon day and every other day of my life. I cannot thank my parents, kids, Steve, Lauren, and Gus enough for braving the cold and rain to be out there supporting me and cheering me on. I could not have done this without their love and cheers pushing me forward. Both my father and teenage son took turns being my human canes to get me from point A to point B while I essentially dragged my leg around everywhere we went after the race. Steve took off my wet shoes and socks for me and replaced them with dry shoes (and, c’mon, who wants to be that close to my feet!). When I mentioned this to him, he simply replied “I’ve been there before and I know how you felt after you finished the race. It was the least I could do.” My celebration was their celebration and my pain was their pain.
I was truly overwhelmed when I opened my phone and saw my Facebook and texts INUNDATED with well wishes from SO SO MANY people. I literally laid in a bath of hot water and Epsom salt for an hour after getting home reading it all and crying joyful tears. It is hard to convey the gratitude and happiness I felt towards every single person that has been a part of this journey, no matter how small. So many people reached out after my break up just simply to ask if I was ok, if I needed anything, to just tell me they cared about me… My core training partners, Caroline and Zac, kept pushing me and kept making me laugh even when I really didn’t want to anymore. My running community rallied around me in ways that I have never before witnessed. I am thankful and so humbled by it all.
I went to Miami to run my first marathon in my hometown and that is precisely what I did. Official finish time: 4:23:47 @ 10:04/mile pace. I didn’t do it as fast as I intended to but I overcame plenty of adversity to get to that start line and it was only right that I should overcome plenty more to cross the finish line.
It has taken me a while to gather my thoughts and sit down to write this post; I am a little over a month removed from the marathon. Unfortunately, I am still healing from whatever I did to my leg during the marathon so I have been unable to run since then. It’s funny that with as much as I whined about running during my training, all I want to do now is go out for a run. I know that my desire to run comes mainly from the fact that I just can’t right now and I don’t do well with being injured. Life has taken a lot of twists and turns since marathon day and training has really been my outlet for dealing with life the last few years so it is hard to be without it. Fortunately, I CAN still ride but the short winter days often make riding a hard feat to accomplish during the week.
My marathon journey changed me as a person in so many ways that it is really hard to pinpoint all the lessons that I learned. And, even thinking about it now, I am not sure if it changed me as much as it reinforced things that I already knew about myself or brought other things to the surface of my life that I had forgotten about. I am completely grateful for the experience, all of it. I am grateful for the easy days, the hard days, and everything in between.
I walked up to that start line alone and finished it next to a new friend who will forever be etched in my memories. I had every intention to run the race alone that day and had somewhat mentally prepared myself for the feat that it would be to get through the day by myself with only my thoughts to keep me company. I will be forever grateful that God put Jill in my path and pushed me to say hello. I honestly believe that, given the crazy weather conditions, there is no way that I would’ve done as good as I did without her constant motivation, distraction, and support. Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve finished because I don’t quit, but it wouldn’t have been quite as close to my goal as I got.
I walked up to the start line with a lot of emotional baggage and I finished an infinitely lighter person. I took Tammy’s advice and I left everything on the course that day. I didn’t realize this right away, though, this lesson took some time afterwards to realize but I can definitely look back today and see how I changed on January 29, 2017. I am a strong woman with an incredible drive to push through adversity like a bull in a china shop but during the four weeks leading up to race day, I gave my power to someone else and I accepted much less than what I deserved to receive.
Race day taught me that sometimes you have to let go of things to achieve bigger, better things. Sometimes you have to change your focus in order to move in the direction you want to move in. The simplest way to describe this lesson is: If I had given into the pain that I felt at mile 6, I would’ve given up and not crossed that finish line. Instead, I refocused my mind on to other things and I kept moving despite AND in spite of the physical pain to accomplish my goal. The pain did not disappear, I simply allowed myself to move PAST it. To many people, this may seem like a really stupid thing to do but, to me, it means that sometimes we have to let go of the pain in order to get to where we want to go. Our bodies will do what our minds tell them to, it is often our mind that fails us well before our bodies do.
I registered for the 15th Miami Marathon to achieve something that I had only once dreamed of, to know that I could run 26.2 miles, to become a marathoner. I became a marathoner that day but I also became a better person.
“Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never ever give up, things will turn out for the best.” ~Meb Keflezighi
While I needed to allow myself to feel my emotional pain during those last few weeks leading up to race day, I also needed to decide that I was done feeling the pain. I needed to stop holding on to the pain and the feeling of loss for what I believed could’ve been. I needed to refocus myself on to what is and everything that my life was at that very moment in time. I needed to move out of the bad and into the good. I needed to let go. I needed to ALLOW myself to move PAST it. I needed to greet the pain one more time, say hello, and then say goodbye. And, I did that just as soon as I realized that I had left it all out on those dreary, rainy, cold Miami roads.
A few years ago I learned an important lesson about forgiveness which I had since let fade to the back of my mind. Forgiveness isn’t always about excusing what was done to us; sometimes it is about forgiving ourselves for allowing ourselves to be in whatever situation we have found ourselves in. For the second time in my life, I had almost let someone steal my thunder. I am a firm believer that something cannot be taken from us unless we, ourselves, allow it to be taken. In this situation, he could not steal my thunder unless I was willing to let him have it. I almost gave it away, almost… In the end, I had my come to Jesus with myself on race day morning and several more along my 26.2 mile run. I had to forgive myself for allowing myself to remain stuck in the emotional pain so that I could move out of the pain, so that I could enjoy the moment that I was living in on that glorious day. I could not have both the emotional pain of the loss and the joy of my accomplishment, I had to choose. I chose to bask in the glory of crossing that finish line. I chose me. I chose happiness.
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” ~Satchel Paige
A couple weeks after doing Ironman 70.3 Florida (which I have yet to blog about) I got injured playing kickball. Kickball… Not one of the bagillion asinine other things that I do on a daily basis, I got hurt playing an elementary school sport. I went to the orthopedic clinic the next day and the diagnosis sucked just as bad as the pain in my foot. “It’s most likely a stress fracture but no way to tell for sure without an MRI.” This was quickly followed up with, “you’ll have to wear walking boot which means no swimming, cycling, or running for a while.”
Excuse me. No what?
To say the time in the boot sucked would be the understatement of the year… I had to pass my bike in the living room every day, multiple times a day, and it looked so sad just sitting there. I tried to follow the doctor’s plan as much as I could but I did throw in a ride, just to see if I could.
When I went back to the doctor, just shy of a month later, he cleared me to wean out of the boot, start riding/swimming again, and slowly start running again as well. ‘Wean out of the boot,’ to me, meant the boot was completely done. I went right back into riding with no issue but running was a different story…
When I finally started running again, I could tell that I had lost a lot of the run endurance that I had built up through my Ironman 70.3 training. Not only had I lost the endurance but my foot would burn while I ran making it that much harder to go faster and further. After several runs, I decided that this was probably going to be my ‘new normal.’ My age was catching up to me. I was starting to feel old. I felt like my body was starting to betray me. I hate getting old. When I turned 21, I was ready to stop counting. Unfortunately, that’s just not how life works.
Friends and family kept asking me what I was training for next, what races were on my calendar… I had no answer for that question because I had no clue. My body felt off and weak but I knew I needed something… I needed something to push towards. I needed something to make me believe again. I needed something to help me stop feeling broken.
Injuries steal something from you; not just endurance, muscle mass, or other physical stuff. Injuries emotionally rob you too. Injuries make you begin to doubt your body’s ability to be pushed to the brink because injuries are a stark reminder that there actually is a limit to what your body can take. They remind you that, even if you make it through training for crazy events injury-free, it is something small and unexpected that can sweep the rug from under your feet and knock you down.
On Thursday, June 16 I decided to go to a 4 mile group run with some friends that starts from a local beer/wine shop called Tipples Brews. It was the third Thursday so they bring out the race clock, which means I would inevitably be pushing harder than normal because I always want to ‘beat’ the clock. And pushing myself to the brink is exactly what I did… I took off near the front of the pack right behind a friend that I know likes to push her pace which makes me push right behind her. My foot started to burn around mile 2 but I wasn’t ready to back off so I kept pushing. Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 she got further and further away as she pushed her pace more but I kept steady to mine. Mile 3 was brutal but I dug deep and ended up finishing the 4 miles in 34:08 (8:32min/mile). I was on an emotional high from a great pace coupled with having had a couple ciders when I decided to give myself a seemingly impossible challenge to achieve…
I was going to ride 370 miles in 7 days.
Why 370 miles and why in 7 days? You see, a couple hours before the group run I realized that it was my last Thursday of being 36 years old. I knew the way the rest of the week was going to go already… Every day I was going to wake up and have the same conversation with myself, “Oh my God, it’s the last Friday… Saturday… Sunday… Monday… Tuesday… Wednesday…”
I didn’t want to do it; I needed to change the story in my mind. My M.O. tends to be that whenever I need to change the story in my mind, I dream up some outrageous thing to strive towards, something that will take up my time and distract me from whatever negativity needs to be avoided. I knew there was no way that I was going to run 37 miles on my birthday and riding 37 miles would be nothing big. I needed something bigger, something crazy. So that’s what I did… I gave myself a crazy challenge to pull my focus away from feeling weak, away from thinking about the upcoming change of my age number…
I had no plan and definitely no clue on how exactly I was going to achieve this goal but I knew that I needed to feel as if someone was going to hold me accountable towards completing it. I went to social media and shouted from the rooftops that this was my goal. I knew that, if I put it out into the universe, there was no room for failure. Then all I had to do was start riding…
And ride I did… Rolling into the weekend, I knew I had to ride big miles because I still had to work full time and take care of a pair of kids while trying to achieve this monstrous goal. I was reminded of a question someone once asked me while we were facing a seemingly impossible task at work, “Do you know the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I didn’t think about the bigger goal, I broke it down and focused on smaller goals and each individual ride I was doing. I stayed in the present and quit worrying about everything on the peripheral.
The days went something like this:
Day 1: 100 miles total for the day. 6 rides: 33.5 miles, 10.06 miles, 10.55 miles, 26.23 miles, 4.17 miles, 16.11 miles
Day 2: 70 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 56.14 miles, 14.22 miles
Day 3: 72 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 52.18 miles, 20.18 miles
Day 4: 48 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 28.12 miles, 20.34 miles
Day 5: 43 miles total for the day. 2 rides: 23.26 miles, 20.20 miles
Day 6: Rest day, yay!
Day 7: MY BIRTHDAY!! 1 Ride, 37 miles in honor of turning 37!! Plus I threw in a brick run with my boys just because J
Total riding time: 23:00:34 at an average pace of 16.1mph
Deep down, I knew this goal was about more than just getting it done… It was about reflecting on the current state of my life and the past 37 years. I have consistently written about the peace that I feel when I am riding, even on the especially tough days. Riding is my happy place. Riding is the place where I hash out my life and these 370 miles were no different. I learned new lessons and was reminded of old lessons while out of the road over these 7 days.
Anything is possible. Not only is this the motto for Ironman but it is the damn truth. Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you work hard to get to where you want to be. Life really is mind over matter; as long as you believe, you can achieve. There are so many more clichés that I could throw in right here because they are all so very true. There were moments where I doubted myself but those were far outweighed by the moments where I knew I would not allow myself to fail. I don’t like failing and I certainly wasn’t going to fail at my own self-imposed birthday goal.
This year had more gains than losses. This past year had been one of growth and learning, it brought with it a lot of losses but even more gains. I needed the time out there on the open road to put that into perspective. While the losses were significant, the gains were exponentially larger.Training for Ironman 70.3 brought with it an entire new foundation of friends; I gained a new support network. Whether my new friends were runners, cyclists, or triathletes, they accepted me with open arms. The amazing thing about these wonderful humans? Once you met one, you were instantly linked to 10 more. It was truly as if I had known them for years. They were ready to push and challenge me around every corner, never allowing me to give up. The time and effort that all these wonderful people put into themselves and everyone around them is a thing of beauty, everyone wants to help everyone and everyone is a family. Thank you to each and every one of them for entering into my life at the most opportune moment.
A special thanks to Caroline, one of my newest pals, who came through to help me suffer on two of my fifteen rides on this journey. I won’t even begin to talk about all the texts she sent me pushing me to roll out of bed and keep moving towards my goal. Thank you. Thank you from the depths of my soul. You were my champion this week and will forever be a true friend. Things like this are what make people who were once strangers become friends and eventually even family.
This past year also brought with it a change of employment. It was not a change that I was ready for but it was definitely a change that, in hindsight, was much needed. I had been at my previous job for 6 years and the stress levels were crazy high there. My new job is much more relaxed and is a semi-vaca from clinical work which is a very welcome change. I have great coworkers that constantly have me laughing and have brought another layer of wonderfulness to my already charmed life.
Even a glorious failure can be an immense success. I won’t get deep into this because it will be delved into much deeper in a later post (hopefully). The gist of this is that sometimes what one person calls a failure is actually a success. And, sometimes you need some “failures” to propel you towards an even bigger success. I am so proud of everything I have accomplished this year, whether it be a glorious failure or a resounding success, I am proud of it all. I think this Robert Louis Stevenson quote about sums it up, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.”
I am such a lucky girl. Anytime that I feel myself slip into sadness all I have to do is take a step back and look around me. I am surrounded by so much love, friendship, and family. I have so many friends in my life that have been there for years upon years. It has to say something about a person if they can rattle out the names of so many friends they have had for 10+ years, not to mention the two best friends that have been in my life for 29+ years each!! I may not have a “partner” to walk through life with yet but I have so many wonderful friends that are there precisely at the moments when I need them most, some before I even realize that I need them at all.I can honestly say that I don’t think I ever take my wonderful friends for granted but I do believe that, sometimes when we allow ourselves to wallow in whatever pain has overcome us, we forget the things/people we have directly in front of us. Sometimes we let the pain take over and steal our joy. I am trying to do a better job with moving myself through pain by reminding myself of all the goodness in my life. Sometimes this works and sometimes I fail at it but, like I said earlier, even failure at something can be a grand success in the long run. Sometimes we need to just feel the pain before we can move through. Continuing to focus on the positive of all the things I DO have is definitely a goal for my next year.
Being single ain’t so bad. I love love. I love being in love. I love having a person. But, I have been loving being single and immersing myself in training. I have learned that I don’t need to have someone in my life; I don’t need to be in a relationship with anyone but myself. This has been an interesting lesson for me since I have been so used to being in relationships. I am such a social person that being alone in itself used to be painful. Through my few years of cycling, I learned how to be alone. I learned how to be alone and ok with my thoughts and myself. This year was different because I wasn’t only alone out on the road; I was alone when I came home too. These 370 miles were a reminder of what I already knew… Being alone is ok. Furthermore, being alone isn’t just ok, it’s wonderful. I get to do what I choose to do, train when I want to train, I get to dictate my own life (when my kids aren’t doing that, obviously). I get to be the master of my own peace, something which I didn’t even realize until this year. I am open to the idea of someone coming into my life but, until that happens, I am happy and ok being alone.
I am NOT broken. Age is just a number. Everything happens for a reason. I am pretty sure this speaks for itself given the ridiculous goal I achieved. Getting injured wasn’t the end of the road for me, I got to heal and keep going. I may not understand the reason behind why I got hurt, no one ever wants to get hurt, but it happened for a reason. Maybe the reason was to propel me to set this goal and smash it so that I could see that getting old doesn’t mean that I will be worth any less than the younger person at the start line next to me. I have to push harder to fight the aging process but that’s a challenge that I am totally willing to accept. Bring it on life!
I believe there are probably tons of lessons that I am forgetting at this precise moment but these six were by far the most important of this experience. I am sure that they will come to me later on and then I will get to mold them into their very own blog post. For now, though, these are enough.
Life is going to keep coming and there is nothing that I or anybody else can do to slow it down. I might have to live life on life’s terms but you better believe that I will be trying to control those terms as much as is humanly possible. I truly can’t wait to see what the next 37 years brings with it! Who knows… maybe there will even be a RAAM ride in there somewhere (Ride Across America, check it out!)
“One who goes before and shows the way. Coaches point out the sharp turns, potholes, perils, and pitfalls of the road being traveled. They steer clear of dead-end streets and unnecessary detours as they safely navigate us to our desired destinations. Whether they are leading or teaching or showing or guiding or mentoring, they are coaches. And they are indispensable in helping us find our path and purpose.” – Kevin Hall, Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words
The relationship between my coach and I is one that means so much more than most other relationships in my life will ever mean. He holds a special place in my heart that will forever have such a deep significance that words may not adequately describe it (but I will try). I, honestly, don’t even think he knows the importance of his role in my life…
When I started cycling religiously, my life was in a very dark place and I believe I was cycling to gain meaning. I needed something to hold on to and cycling gave me an arena to feel free and happy.
I’ve known Steve for the majority of my life (his sister, Guiselle, is my best friend of 29 years) but we didn’t really socialize with each other because our only connection had really been his sister and my connection to her. From what I knew about him, he had always been athletic (running, playing basketball, and cycling) but it wasn’t really until MY journey with cycling that our friendship, and eventually him becoming my pseudo coach, began…
I knew the passion Steve had for cycling and I started reaching out to him for help with everything cycling, especially things I felt too dumb to ask other people. He answered anything I asked, despite some things probably ACTUALLY being dumb questions. He was very patient with my nonsense and began subtly giving me pointers and goals to work towards. He had become my coach inadvertently but very much on purpose at the same time.
EVERYTHING in life happens for a reason…
Early on in my cycling youth Steve crashed, and he crashed bad… He crashed, flipped his bike, landed on his back, broke the transverse process of T1, T2, and T3, and nearly shredded his Assault on Mt. Mitchell jersey. I wanted to make him feel better so I searched for the jersey online to buy him a replacement (I knew by then what an awesome feat it had been for him to ride up that mountain). Once I saw the prices of the jersey online, I retreated from that decision but declared that I would one day do Assault on Mt. Mitchell with him so that we could have the chance to get one. I’m pretty sure that my verbal filter was broken that day and that is why I even thought to utter such a ridiculous statement in the first place…
**SPOILER ALERT!! That was the moment when things started changing…
“You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me.” –from the movie Life as a House
I am not sure if he believed in me, liked having someone that faithfully gave into his torture (although I rarely did what he told me to when he told me to do it, I’m hard headed like that), or liked having someone to ride with. Whatever his reason was for helping me, this usually very quiet man took me under his wing and changed my life forever.
He gifted me cycling, and yet he gifted me so much more…
He taught me pretty much everything I know about cycling and cycling essentially save my life. Cycling gave me a purpose. Cycling gave me light and smiles again. Cycling gave me confidence. Steve pushed me and forced me to find the confident women that I had hidden for entirely too long. I am not sure if that was his intention but it was certainly what he did.
I can pinpoint moments on all the big rides I have done with him where I wanted to give up and throw in the towel and he wouldn’t let me. The weird thing is that he didn’t force me to do things or ridicule me into doing them; he just had a way about him that made me want to push just a little bit harder and NOT give up. His quiet, yet very obvious presence demanded a level of hard work from me that I am not sure I had ever doled out before. He helped me, knowingly or unknowingly, complete some of the biggest achievements of my life.
Earlier this year when I decided that I wanted to begin training for Ironman, Steve began coaching me about running. He gave me pointers on running, training, and told me what books to get. When I decided to sign up for my first half marathon in Miami, he signed up soon thereafter and, although we didn’t run together, I was able to know that somewhere on that course was my coach cheering on my finish.
His voice is a constant in my head when I am training whether it’s in the gym, in the pool, out on the bike, or out on a run. He is always there telling me what to do and the right way to do it. I am not saying that I always listen, but I certainly know how he would have me do whatever I am doing. As I mentioned before, I am a hard headed person and it often takes me a while to give in to whatever thing he wants me to do but eventually I do and I always end up with my tail between my legs admitting I was wrong and should’ve done it sooner.
I should point out here that Steve is no saintly, kind man… He can be very sarcastic, grumpy, ornery, and standoffish but the great thing about him is that once you squirm your way into his life you see past that. His way of being is what makes him unique and what made it so that he could teach me as he has done. He never spoon fed me anything and certainly never made things easy for me. But what he also did was that he never left me behind and he never gave me more than I could handle, even when I didn’t think I could handle it. He put thoughts out into the universe of what he wanted me to do knowing that eventually I would give in and do them. He saw potential that I didn’t know existed…
There will never be a way to repay the service that he has done for me so the only thing I can do is continue chasing my dreams and showing him how good I can be.
Doubt and fear enter my mind a lot when I think about the athletic feats that I want to accomplish in my life but every time “I can’t” slips into my mind, Steve saying “why can’t you” is never far behind.
This past Saturday, Steve and another friend were trying to get me to get up to go eat breakfast and we all sat there looking at my wall of race bibs and medals. Steve quietly mumbled “do you remember when there were only 2 or 3 up there? Now they don’t even fit.” I have a lot of angels that I race for and that are my constant motivation when I am out there running or cycling and, lucky for me, I have an angel right here on Earth that pushes me just as much…
On Sunday night, Steve and I were hanging out with two of our friends when they began asking us about whether we had ever “hooked up” and why we hadn’t. I tried to explain but I think that my explanation just made our friends believe me even less.
You see, we haven’t ever and we wouldn’t ever for probably a multitude of reasons. It is not to say that there hasn’t been ample opportunity for such a thing to happen, it just isn’t something that is in the cards.
We live in a society where the thought of a woman and a man being friends, especially close ones, is something that is marred by the belief that if a woman and a man are friends they must have 1. slept together in the past, 2. be sleeping with each other now, or 3. want to sleep together at some point. Lucky for everyone, I often like to go against the norms that society has created for me…
So when you hear me call him my “cycling husband,” know that I don’t mean that in the carnal sense, he is everything that is supposed to be good about a husband with none of the extra drama.
Thank you Steve for everything you have given me and all the gifts you have bestowed upon me. There is so much more that I would say but I truly can’t find the words to describe how thankful I am. No matter how many times I have read through this post, I still don’t feel like it has adequately expressed the gratitude and love that I have for everything you have done for me. You are one of the most special people in my life and, no matter how much you aggravate the hell out of me, your opinion is always one of the first that I ask for.
I look forward to crossing the finish line of Ironman Florida 70.3 on April 10, 2016, a race dedicated to you. Without your push and the faith you’ve had in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
There was something about waking up and going for a long, refreshing ride in the morning that just set the tone for the remainder of the day. Even if the day turned out to be not so good, I could always fall back on the fact that it had started out amazingly.
I am a cyclist, it’s just who I am. It’s ingrained in me to want to be on my bike, all the time. Having recently bought a new bike (to be discussed in a future post) makes the fact that I can’t ride in the morning that much more difficult to wrap my mind around.
There used to be mornings where I would roll around in bed and whine and beg myself for just one more hour of sleep instead of getting up to ride. But, 9 times out of 10, I got up and went riding and would feel amazing. Now that I can’t really do it, I wish it had been 10 times out of 10 that I had gotten up to ride.
It seems cliché to say “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” but it’s the damn truth. They say that hindsight is 20/20 but I am a firm believer that sometimes foresight is too, we just choose to ignore what we know because we think we know better even when we know we don’t know better. (say that 20 times fast)
Life is often filled with crazy twists and turns, most of those twists and turns by our own creation. I just prefer my twists and turns to be out on a road… while I am on a bike…
“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan
I’ve been struggling with finding the right words to use to write about completing my biggest running accomplishment thus far… a half marathon. This post was written over several sittings and even after having finished my SECOND half marathon.
I’m not sure I ever could’ve pictured myself running 13.1 miles but I did. Thinking back, I’m not exactly sure how I even got to that point, to be honest.
I know that it began when I printed out a schedule for half marathon training and then just kinda started following it and running.
And then I ran some more and some more and some more…
And somewhere in there I stopped disliking running as much as I once had. I stopped dreading it… I stopped having to make bargains with myself to “just run a little further.”
It’s weird, looking back, how uneventful the process seems to have been yet how eventful it actually really was.
This year’s Miami Turkey Trot was my first 10k race and I was happy with how I did, 56:48. It was also the first race I got to do with my brother which made it that much better.
After the 10k, I just kinda kept running… And then randomly decided one Wednesday, in the middle of the work day, that I should leave early and try running the half marathon distance for the first time.
So I did… And I ended up running 14 miles… And it sucked and it was absolutely glorious all at the same time. That day showed me that I had what it took to run that distance so all I had left to do was to get it done on race day.
I had planned it all out, I had chosen my first half marathon based on where it was being held… In Miami, my hometown, the city that still owns my heart. It seemed only right that the place that held my heart should be the city that watched me achieve a huge step towards my bigger goal of becoming an Ironman.
But Miami, in all its glorious unpredictability, had some tricks up its sleeve for my first half marathon. Race day was freezing, especially for a born and raised Floridian. I woke up at 230am on race day to find that the temperature was 50 degrees and dropping coupled with insane wind. I still thought I would be fine in a tank top and running shorts because I was sure that my body would warm up when I started running, boy was I mistaken.
The race start temperature was in the low 40s and I had turned into an ice cube. Nothing I did while running managed to warm me up, yet I still ran. My hands burned from the cold, my feet were numb, my nose was bright red and a complete running faucet… and yet I ran.
I ran and I kept running and I kept running.
My headphones started REPEATEDLY warning me that they were about to die around mile 6 and then finally did die around mile 8 or 9. Now I was faced with only having my thoughts as a distraction for the toughest part of the race. Everything hurt. The joy that was the beginning of the race had faded long before my headphones did.
I wanted to stop. To stop being cold. To stop the pain. To stop running. To stop the madness.
Who’s damn idea was this anyways??
Oh yeah, mine. (insert dramatic eye roll here)
I reminded myself… “You want to be an Ironman. Toughen up. This is nothing. This will be a walk in the park compared to THAT race day.”
And so I ran.
I ran up that last bridge, mile 10, pushing through pain and doubt (the only mile I dropped over 10 minutes at 10:08).
I ran those last few miles with a hip that felt like it was going to give out at any minute. Despite the pain, despite the cold, despite the overwhelming exhaustion, my last 2 miles were two of my three fastest miles.
I was able to overcome my most powerful enemy, my own mind.
I did what many didn’t think I could do, what I didn’t think I could do once upon a time…
I crossed that finish line with my arms raised high, I felt like I was on top of the world. Every inch of my being wanted to breakdown and cry tears of joy. But I didn’t. I maintained my composure (mostly because I wasn’t sure I could stop and also because the lady next to me was crying and, boy, was it not very cute).
Truth be told, I was a damn Popsicle when I finished even having to go as far as to ask a volunteer to open my water because my fingers were so frozen and numb that they couldn’t bend. It took me a good 3 hours to finally warm up, but it was still one of the greatest moments of my life to date.
I am so proud of my time and what I accomplished that day. I finished my first half marathon in 2:08:23, a PR for me.
Since that day, I ran a 15k six days later in 1:22:49
and my second half marathon four weeks after my first finishing with a new PR of 2:04:09 (both in my current hometown of Gainesville). I can feel myself getting better and my time improvements mirror that feeling.
There are so many things that led up to my decision to set out on this journey that I am on and, although they were painful experiences, I wouldn’t change a thing. Those experiences molded me and shaped me into this new fierce version of myself that won’t give up, that won’t back down…
I have a feeling that this new version of me is going to come in handy when I venture to that Ironman 70.3 start line on April 10, 2016 and even more so in that full Ironman I’m planning to do in 2017.
The story is just getting good so stay tuned for what’s coming…