I’ve really tried to feel sorry for myself, but in spite of my best efforts, I just can’t seem to get the classic old I Trained for A Million Miles, and Then Got Injured!! WAAHHHHH! mojo going. As you (whoever “you” are) may know, in my quest to qualify for Boston 2014, I managed to set a personal worst at one marathon, followed by going off course 4 months later at the next marathon. FFS. Yay running.
So, of course, I jumped right back into it, picked out a marathon that backed right up to Boston registration, and kept on maniacally hellbent on cranking out the long runs and intervals in summer heat. At this juncture, I’d like to share a pleasant and quaint little aphorism with those of you that I coach who may be reading this: “Do as I say, not as I do, Bitches!” I mean, seriously Tanya. Three marathons in 6 months? That pretty much goes against everything I would ever recommend, but the difference is that it was for ME. If I royally fuck myself up, I take some time off and have a few laughs. If I send someone else spiraling into, say, an acute strain of the Iliacus muscle, I feel like a large horse’s ass and lay awake at 3 a.m. reconsidering every bad thing I’ve done in my entire life and ultimately conclude how it was inevitable that I would one day shatter someone’s running dreams. This could then easily morph into major depression, complete with me waking up in a strange alley one morning, an empty half gallon jug of Ripple in shards beside me.
I mean, no pressure on anyone I coach to remain uninjured or anything.
Anyway, about 3 weeks before this final attempt marathon in South Dakota, I suddenly realized, with vague alarm, that I had been lifting my leg up with my hand whenever I went to push in the clutch while driving (yes, I drive a manual transmission…jealous?). Frighteningly, for at least a week, I hadn’t even really noticed I’d been doing this. Who doesn’t notice repeatedly picking up their own leg?! It was at this point that that vague and distant, yet disconcertingly familiar, voice whispered, “You’re injured, you pathetic old dumbfuck….” and naturally, I barreled right on through a final 20-miler.
Seven days before the marathon I was kind of walking around like Frankenstein and the idea of running 26.2 miles (even all downhill) was pretty much a laugh riot. Even so, I thought that I might be able to do it. There was bruising around my hip flexor muscles, but still…. So, I sent a message to someone whose opinion I respect and whose thought processes were probably a tad more realistic than mine since I was clearly insane, and I asked him if I should run the marathon. His response was concise: “You fool. Bag the race.”
I’ll admit that I did have a couple days of swimming laps around the pity pool, but this gave way pretty suddenly to relief, elation, and excitement about getting to go jog a half marathon FOR FUN in a distant state through an indescribably awesome canyon at sunrise and all downhill. I felt a little guilty at first, because Cheryl and I were going all the way to South Effing Dakota so I could go for a BQ (flights into Rapid City’s postage stamp-sized airport are few and expensive), but Cheryl was in great shape and so excited about going for her second BQ in 6 months (bitch!!) that I got over it. Plus, this was also a short vacation in South Dakota: Prairies! Buffalo! Wall Drug! Scary-ass Badlands! Giant heads of past presidents carved into a mountainside! Refrigerator magnets of prairie dogs kissing each other for sale everywhere!
Bottom line: the run down the canyon was possibly one of my top 10 running experiences EVER. There has been a lot of racing focus, stressing, preparing, overworking, and angst connected to my running these past 5 or 6 years, and it felt kind of like exhaling for a change as I lined up with a few hundred women just before sunrise at about 5000 feet. The stars were still visible, but there was a slight glow behind one of the looming canyon walls when the starting gun went off at 6 a.m. The first 7 miles seemed more like being in a dream state than anything else as we passed waterfalls, rock formations, and sheer cliffs…all kind of half-lit in the pre-sunrise.
I’ll admit to giving in to some half-assed racing in the last few miles since I’d only been going along at about a 9-minute pace and had a lot of energy left, even if my left leg was not exactly working the way I wanted. So I became That Person who is all cheery and full of horrific “Almost there!” and “Way to Go!” announcements as I tore by a ton of chicks in the final mile. I kind of can’t stand people like that, but there you have it. I was feeling good, happy, and obnoxious. What can I say?
By virtue of being in a small race and being an old hag, I managed to win an age group award which was a nice sprinkle, anyway, on the large banana split of just enjoying running for running on a beautiful day in the middle of astounding natural beauty. The age group trophy was a ghastly bronze statue of a chick with a bad 80s haircut dramatically breaking a finish line tape. Bonus! After posing for a few overly exuberant shots with my trophy (I’m sorry! I couldn’t help it!), I wandered over to the creek and walked around barefoot in the icy water for a while thinking about how great running can be sometimes even when you, and everyone around you who’s a runner, think it should be the worst. I thought about how I was elated, not disappointed. It occurred to me that it’s only running.
These deep thoughts were interrupted by my noticing a Free Margaritas! stand over near the finish line. Envision my eyeballs rapidly extending out on eyestalks and swiveling abruptly toward the margarita stand, and you will have some idea of how my focus suddenly shifted. I still had about 45 minutes to kill until Cheryl should be coming in and so at 9 a.m., hello Happy Hour!
This was Cheryl’s first marathon running alone, and her training had not been nearly as intensive as it had been before Birmingham, so I honestly had some doubts about her running under 3:55 again. And this time would be a real test of her mind and focus and her ability to push herself alone when it got hard—all things that are exceedingly difficult for a new marathoner to do. Around 3:45, I began to get that pre-race nervousness and started pacing around the finish line, gripping my wretched trophy in one hand and my 3rd margarita (don’t judge me) in the other.
And I’ll be go to hell if Cheryl didn’t come blasting around the corner and over the bridge at 3:47. Looking fresh! Feet off the ground! Smiling!!! BITCH!
And so ends the Quest for BQ Saga of 2013. We’ll be in Boston next April, and I’m sure it will be a little bittersweet being a spectator this time instead of running. But knowing the experience that Cheryl has in store for her makes the anticipation pretty freaking supersweet, too.