LA marathon

LA Marathon- Pursuit of the Olympic Trials Qualifier Part 2


When I woke up on Sunday (March 20th) morning at 3:05am, I bounded out bed, flipped the switch for the coffee maker before it could start on its own. I was up, I was awake, it was race morning and I felt, calm, deadly calm. I know I can't fake that feeling but I knew it meant that I had genuinely conquered my expectations and was ready to accept the day no matter what happened. I was ready to just enjoy the race, be present for the race and smile at the rain that I knew was coming. I decided to take the above picture before I headed out. I wanted to be able to look back and say, I went into the race smiling, did I finish that way?

I am happy to say, I achieved that goal. I also had a "Devon Day". But now, I am getting ahead of myself.

Post-Houston/Pre-race

I have talked a lot about my feelings after having such a bad race after Houston. It really messed with my confidence and my head, but in the end, despite feeling like there was nothing redeeming about the experience for a long time, I see now that the bad experience itself was its redeeming factor. Because it taught me a hell of a lot and it gave me experience going through all sorts of things all at the same time (kind of like an ultra, just way faster).

Even though I was bummed after Houston, I got right back up and back in the saddle. I considered my race schedule and decided to do LA marathon. I was helped greatly by rockstar Creative Director of the race Peter Abraham. I am so appreciative of Peter from getting me into the race to allowing me to join him and others in his hospitality suite before the race to introducing me to other ladies going for the OT in the open field to braving the crowds in the corrals to ensure we were up front and had room to get out quick. I am eternally grateful. Thanks Peter for making this experience possible.

Once I had LA on the schedule, it was a matter of balancing recovery from Houston and sharpening for LA. I think I walked a very fine line and part of me was very afraid that I was doing too much, that I had pushed myself over the edge, pushed too hard. And I knew I wouldn't know until things started to shake out on race day.

I headed down to LA on Saturday morning where I was met by Jonathan (aka Bestest Everest) and we headed over to the expo to get a little excited by all the race energy. I didn't need to go to the expo for my number because Peter and friend/Coyote leader/coach/ultrarunner/etc Jimmy Dean had made sure I had all my number, credentials, etc and was completely set. But going to a race expo at a big race is run. LA marathon had 26,000 running! You can't but help getting excited around that kind of energy!

We then made a quick stop at Whole Foods to get all my necessary dinner items and then headed over to my wonderful and gracious host's house. I was lucky enough to be hosted by Kathy Eldon and Michael Bedner at their house on the beach in Malibu. Jonathan works with Kathy at Creative Vision Foundation and they were excited to help support my pursuit of getting my OT any way they could. They were amazing hosts and I felt right at home. Jonathan and I went for a good run, but short and then we made dinner early; nice rib-eye steaks Michael had gotten, roast potatoes and salad. It was a delicious meal, but I ate pretty light overall for the day and went to bed early (before 9) feeling good. I slept really well despite being woken up about every 2 hours by something (first text messages then a faulty iphone alarm). Just after 3am, I was up, eating a hearty bowl of oats with banana and peanut butter and getting my racing kit on.

Excited by the forecast for race day: Lots of rain, urban flooding and debris flow.

Race

It wasn't raining, yet, when I got up but the forecast wasn't that good. The night before it had looked hopeful that it might not rain between 7am-9am and that there would be a lot of rain before and after that but it didn't really play out that way.  But I wasn't particularly worried, I am a battle hardened veteran and after Houston, I wasn't surprised I was again pulling the crappy weather card. I think at this point I should just expect the storm of the century every time I line up. At least there was no talk of canceling the race like there was at Houston.


Jonathan was wonderful and drove me to my shuttle bus at way the hell too early in the morning (arrived at 4:30am). I was able to get on the Coyotes shuttle, again thanks to Jimmy Dean, so that I didn't have to navigate the horrendous traffic at Dodger Stadium as 26,000 fought to find parking or be dropped off or shuttled in. We were to the start and another OT qualifier hopeful, Emily Mitchell, and I made our way from the shuttle up the stadium to Peter's hospitality suite. We met one other hopeful, Joanna Zeiger (who is a badass 70.3 World Champion) and eventually made our way to the start. And waited and waited and waited. Finally after lots of waiting in the cold (thankfully still not raining), they sent the elite women's field off. Then we waited exactly 17:03 and we were off. We were at the front of corral A but we were swimming in a sea of pushy, scraping for the front folks whose bibs indicated they should be way back in B or C. I had my apprehension as we took our first steps and I was cautious. My intuition was right as this dodgy guy next to me accidentally tripped Emily 3 steps passed the start line. She slammed into the ground and I could barely hurdle her and keep going to avoid being crushed my the crowd. It was a bummer not to have the opportunity to run with her but she managed to pull herself together and run a PR of 2:56. Not the day she wanted, but she overcame a lot and had a great race.

I was off and running. Jimmy Dean had sent me some splits the night before for a 2:45 pace adjusted specifically for the course. I didn't memorize it but I noted the mile splits that I should expect to be higher than my needed 6:18/mile pace. All I did was remember that miles 4,5, 18,19, 21 and 22 would be slower to much slower. It provided me a guideline to work with based on my plan to run by feel not by pace. I didn't wear a garmin, I wore a watch and hit lap every mile split (where there was one, only about half of the miles were marked which sucked). I would glance at the split and compare it to how I felt. Simply note it and leave the math for later in the race.



We headed out of Dodger's stadium and proceeded to follow an amazing course to the sea. I really liked the course. It really highlights all the various things you'd want to go visit in LA. It was interesting and despite the rain that started in about 1/2 mile into the race, there was a great deal of crowd support. I settled in and felt really comfortable. My first mile was slower than my goal pace, a 6:20 and I looked at my watch and smiled. Perfect. It was perfect because I wanted to go out slow, I wanted to keep myself comfortable for as long as possible. Especially since I knew, despite some good rolling hills later in the race, that this was a great course to negative split on.


It was raining quite hard by mile 4. We climbed this awesome, pretty steep hill heading out of Chinatown but I actually found it pretty easy to get up, being pulled upwards by the sound of 40 drummers beating in time at the top. Comfortable. I just felt like I was cruising, taking it in, smiling, doing my best to interact with the other runners and acknowledge the crowd. I got super excited at around mile 6 when I saw my fellow ninja, Georgia, who was at the race to help pace her sister to a BQ! She was screaming my name and it gave me such a boost.

I was cruising with a pack of folks including a few woman, Joanna included. One of the guys told me he was shooting for a 2:44 and I felt like I was in the right spot. There were about 8 of us that were roughly together and we made it through 10k in 39:21. Not smoking but within striking distance. After the 10k split, my mile times started getting faster. Partially it was the course, partially I think my body was finally warmed up, partially I think I knew that this was my day and that I should gas it a bit but not get too crazy.

I stuck to my nutrition plan perfectly. I drank a sip of water at every aid station (every mile) and I took my first gel at 45 minutes into the race. I felt like a machine. The running felt easy. I wanted to maintain that feeling for as long as possible. Sure I was aware of my overall time, but not really aware of the math that it would take to figure out if I was going to make it or not. I wouldn't really have a clue until the half way point of where I stood. I decided until then just to keep a smile on my face and the killer instinct in my heart. I was freaking so happy with every step. My body and mind were in sync and I am sure I annoyed more than a few fellow runners encouraging them and carrying on conversation.


The group broke apart a bit but Joanna and I stuck together. We hit mile 13 (which had no marker) and then the half way point was somewhere in there too (also not marked). I asked Joanna, who was wearing a Garmin, what we had hit the half in and she responded right around 1:22. Nice. Faster than Houston by about 30 seconds but I felt 10 billion times better and comfortable at that pace than I did at Houston. At Houston when we were passing the halfway mark, I felt like I was red lining, but now I just felt like I was settled in at that "I could run this all day pace". It was raining a bunch, we'd turn corners and get slammed with a headwind. There was even lightning. My hands were freezing and I could barely get my gels out of my pocket. I took another gel at 1:30 and accidentally dropped my Hyper-vespa which momentarily freaked me out, but then I instantly pulled myself back to the present and decided not to borrow trouble.

I was starting to get excited the closer I got to mile 16 for a few reasons. First, I knew that if I hit mile 16 feeling good that I would never falter. Why did I know this? I am not sure. Second, I knew that Jonathan, bestest everest would be waiting for me to hop in and run me in. Despite there being 26,000 in the race, there wasn't much of a crowd upfront and he was nice enough to be a volunteer pace rabbit for anyone who wanted to get in under 2:46.

Joanna and I ran passed the Chateau Marmont and I turned to her, as she had slipped behind me a few steps, and said, "just stay on my shoulder, hold on. I have a friend coming who will take us in under the standard". But I was accelerating and feeling strong and I was soon on my own.


I didn't have to be on my own for long. Jonathan jumped in and we were off to the races. In fact, looking back, my splits for the mile leading up to him and mile after picking him up were an average pace of 5:44. I was flying. And still smiling.

Jonathan cautiously checked in with me and all I could do was beam. "I feel great!" I said. I knew I needed to stay smart through the upcoming miles, especially since I didn't exactly know what the hills of 18,19, 21and 22 would entail. Thankfully, Jonathan had run the final 10 miles on Friday with Jimmy Dean and so he was able to talk me through each section and let me know what to expect.

I was so happy to be sharing that run with Jonathan. It was a beautiful thing to share. I simple was absorbed in the run, floating along. I would just suddenly get the goofiest smile on my face or say something out loud like "smile at the rain". We made it easily past the bumps of mile 18 and 19. I had to laugh because they were so little (especially compared to that first giant hill) but my pace was slightly slower as we rolled upwards. At 2:15, I tried to get my last gel out of my pocket but my hands were frozen blocks and I struggled for a good 30 seconds while trying to keep pace to get it out. Thankfully, I managed. I took my last gel and a salt cap and started to get serious.


I don't mean serious in a bad way. Like deadly ninja assassin serious. Like I am about to do one of my patented Devon closes. Like I am about to see how many guys I can chick in the final miles. I stayed smart and cautious through mile 22, getting up and over the final hump before a nice gradual downhill finish. Just after the last climb, I encountered the most serious urban flooding I'd seen all day (which is saying something since I went through some major flows). I splashed through ankle deep water that covered the road and then began the hammer drop. I was still happy on the inside but I had donned my ninja mask and was ready to fly. I was ready to put myself in the pain cave, I was ready to run "eyeballs out" as my friend Hollis says. I had been comfortable and cruising all day, now I needed to see what I could squeeze out in the final 7k. At 35k, I was running 6:16 pace, arriving there in 2:16:53. I finally took time to consider if I was going to make the 2:46 standard or not. I was feeling really good, but had I run smart enough and fast enough to make it? I couldn't do the math but I wasn't sure. It felt like it was going to be close so I put it on the line.

Something happened in that moment. I clicked over into the next gear seamlessly and my body didn't resist. My mind somehow had been able to communicate to my muscles "it's ok, we have enough energy to do this". It felt like no effort at all. And my mile splits got faster and faster.



I would occasionally look over at Jonathan or grunt a small command to him as I went for a water cup or to take the higher more even ground. I knew Jonathan was running quite possibly as hard as he could at that moment and I let that propel my forward letting out even more than I thought I had. I still didn't hurt, so I gave more. Mile 22-6:16. Mile 23-6:14. Mile 24-6:04. I was flying at this point, passing other racers like they were standing still, offering them not even a chance to respond or hang on. Mile 25-5:43. "Holy crap" I exclaimed. "We just ran a 5:43 mile in my freaking 25th mile". Jonathan beamed. I knew I was going to do it. I knew I was going to realize my dream of making the Olympic trials. I knew that I could push and push and enjoy every last soggy, cold, windy step of this race.

Thanks @zkiraly for the screen shot!

We made the turn onto Ocean avenue with just under a mile to go. I just kept pressing, now against the most intense wind I had felt all day. I could see the finish line. I knew the crowd would have no idea how important this was to me as I soldiered into the wind, all alone now (as Jonathan had to jump out of the final section as to avoid the shoots). It was my moment, I was all by myself facing down the finish line. I was the first woman in the open field and I would be the only woman from the open field to make the Olympic Trials. I pushed back against the wind with a final 1.2 miles in a blistering 5:42 pace. I crossed the finish line in 2:43:28. I thrust my hands in the air victorious. You might have thought I'd just won the race I was so excited. But I won my race. Peter Abraham was there and raced over to me to congratulate me and told the finish line emcee that I had just made the Olympic Trials and that I was the first woman from the open field (I think they thought I was just the last woman in the elite field). The emcee got back on the mic and excitedly told the crowd who I was and what I had just accomplished. I was interviewed for the news and wrapped in a heat blanket. I finally realized how cold and wet I was. I was soaked. But I was riding high. I felt like I just wanted to keep on going forever I was having so much fun.


Cool race info from Runpix.com. This is where I stood in the overall field,
excluding the women's elite race. My favorite stat was that in the final 4.5 miles I chicked 9 guys. I also like that it says "for the record, you were ahead of about 100% of the guys".


02:43:28
DistanceMAR
Clock Time02:43:32
Chip Time02:43:28
Overall Place44 / 19761
Gender Place10 / 7768
Division Place5 / 1205
Age Grade82.8%
Pace6:14.2
10K0:39:21
15K0:58:41
20K1:18:18
25K1:37:39
30K1:57:19
35K2:16:53
40K2:35:40



Wow. What an experience. It was a "Devon day". It was my day. And not just because I made my goal, but even more so because I did it with the same smile on my face that I started the day with. I ran happy, I ran without expectations. I simply ran the way I love to run. After Houston, I left a little lost,  felt a little void in my running self, felt a little question mark hanging over me. I just felt like I wanted it all (achieving my goal) to be over. After LA,  I was overwhelm with relief. It is exciting to achieve your goals, but it is also a great relief when you have pursued it hard after a failure. I feel invigorated, I feel excited, I feel absolutely renewed. I feel totally in love with running again. I couldn't have asked for a better experience. I am beaming and for once, I am going to take the time to bask in my accomplishment to let that feeling wash over me. It is deep and satisfying to achieve a goal, no matter what that goal is. It is a rare and genuine gift. I fully intend to take my time savoring it.

Minimus Maximus

Nathan cruising in to the Finish of Napa Valley Marathon in 3rd place, 2:33:07

This past weekend I witnessed something awesome, something inspiring and something that made me think. On Sunday, I was up at the Napa Valley Marathon cheering on The Baker as he raced his first marathon since October 2009. This was a race he had been really training hard for, at the expense on time on the trails which is really saying something, and was seeing what he could really do if he specifically trained for the marathon. I set him up with a training schedule and a set of paces to workout at. His key runs were based off of a 2:35 marathon time pace chart and routinely in his track workouts he was well ahead of his splits. This pace was also well ahead of his 2:43:xx PR but was also the first time he had actually trained for a marathon since starting ultrarunning. This time, it wasn't a marathon followed by a 24 hour race or some such deal. He seemed primed and ready according to the workouts he was clocking. A few times on long runs our paths would intersect but he would leave me in the dust like I was clocking a 9 minute mile instead of a low 6 which I was actually running at. He would say his workouts were "ok" or "not bad" but I never got the sense that he was really confident in his training (admittedly it was a short training schedule with a hard load, not exactly confidence inspiring, but nonetheless).

When we headed up to Napa on Sunday in the dreary rain, I was not sure how he was feeling. He didn't seem nervous or excited, just his usual more stoic self. I flashed back to Burning River 100 miler last summer where his sister Kristin and I had to kick him out of the car practically and wondered if I would have to do the same in order to entice him out in the rain. But he hopped out of the car and off he went. I went on my own run, met Brett and Larissa for coffee and then headed out to mile 8.5 to wait and cheer.

I can't say I am surprised by what I witnessed. Nathan came cruising along, smiling and being goofy with the little crowd at the bridge there. He was flying, zooming past us less than 49 minutes into the race. In fact, I think it was less that 48. We zoomed to our next appointed spot, mile 18.5 where we barely had to wait for him (especially since I went WAY past where we needed to turn). Again, he came up smiling and being goofy and moving seriously fast. He was not slowing down and I hastened to make it to the finish line to cheer him in. 

It was like crewing for an ultra on hyperspeed. The race was over before my hair was even dry from running at 5am in the rain. He zoomed into the finish line in 3rd place having consistently moved up through the race and PR'd majorly running 2:33:07. It was astonishing. He smiled the whole way and while the first thing he said was something like, "I am so happy I get to go back to the trails now", I don't think he spent the whole race or all of his training miserable and suffering. He did what he loved: he just ran. It was beautiful to watch.

Admittedly, watching his race made me feel a whole host of things: pride, happiness, love, joy as well as some mixed emotions. The mixed emotions are a product of my experience at Houston. Watching Nathan, I said to myself, I want to have a day like that. Not just a day where I run seriously fast, but a day in which I don't spend the entire race fighting with something whether physical or emotional. I had been hoping that Houston was going to be my day but it was quite the opposite. It was a lesson teacher, an equalizer and has made me think a great deal about where my head is and will be leading up to LA next week.

Nathan's run was inspiring to me because it reflected something that I DIDN'T have going into Houston. Nathan didn't have any expectations ostensibly, he just went and said, I'll see the day I have, hope its good. At Houston, I had great expectations. My training had been going good, I had been running fast and Strands kept telling me I could run a 2:42 marathon. I felt like I was ready to run well under the standard. I felt that despite getting sick race week and having stomach issues the day before the race that come race morning, everything would suddenly feel easy. 


Though I hadn't raced a road marathon in a while, I can remember the feeling of starting CIM back in 2008 and thinking for mile after mile after mile "wow this feels easy". I built up this expectation that come race day things would click and I would have a "Devon Day". I think this expectation even a more diluted simmering under the surface version of itself was hugely detrimental. When the going got tough when I didn't think it should be, it mentally screwed me. I became hugely reactive in that race. I recently read a great article called "Why You Should Expect the Worst", which basically summed up my experiences at my best and worst races. At my best races, I came in genuinely uncertain about what the day would hold for me. I usually had diminished expectations for one reason or another. I always felt a comfortable uncertainty, I relinquished my control over what would happen and hoped for the best. I genuinely didn't expect a thing and was prepared for the possible outcomes. At Houston I wasn't. I wasn't prepared to navigate a bad day, I was not okay with any outcome other than meeting the standard. Ultimately, I derived very little pleasure out of running my second fastest marathon ever and my fastest in more than 2 years. Matt Fitzgerald writes: 


Sports psychology as it is commonly practiced is a form of positive psychology, based on happy talk and can-do spirit. That stuff has its place, but widely recommended techniques such as visualizing yourself performing perfectly in races and feeling supremely awesome while doing it may actually hinder performance instead of helping it, because they may send you into races with unrealistic expectations. Going into races with confidence in your ability to achieve your goals is a good thing, because true confidence is inherently realistic. But going into races expecting to feel any better than wretched in pursuit of maximum performance is a form of self-sabotage. Expect every race to hurt like hell and you will race better.- Matt Fitzgerald "Why You Should Expect the Worst"


On Sunday, I was excited to watch Nathan run the race he was prepared to run. He was fit, he had prepared well, he didn't come with any predetermined idea of how things were going to go. He just ran. He smiled, he enjoyed, he challenged himself. Reflecting upon watching him and looking forwards towards my own race I am faced with those whirling set of mixed emotions that came about from watching such an inspiring race. I was faced with the reality that I have lost a great deal of confidence after Houston. I am faced with the reality of struggling with keeping up the same intensity of austere living, though by most standards I am still a monk (or ninja). I am struggling with the toll of so much hard training and so little downtime. I actually understand what it means to consider that I might not reach my goal. I have finally minimized and destroy my expectations. I've maximized view to be okay with a whole host of outcomes. I have finally gotten back to believing one of my mottos from one of my favorite authors, Dan Millman: "No Resistance, No Stress".


Think about it: when we have expectations, and things don’t go the way we expect (which happens quite often, as we’re not good prognosticators), we are disappointed, frustrated. It’s our expectations that force us to judge whether something is good or bad.Leo Babauta "The Elements of Living Lightly".


As I sit here, tapering away, thinking towards race day, I am thinking about last Sunday. I am holding the image of Nathan's joyous smile as he clipped along. Ultimately, at this point, what happens on race day will happen. I have done the work, I have fueled and slept, run hard and easy, stretched and sat in ice baths.  And now, I just have to do my best to be present, take it as it comes and most importantly, enjoy the hell out of the ride. Race day is a celebration of all that has come before it. It is the ultimate practice in being present and frankly the only thing that can truly disappointment me on that day is if I forget that.

Boundaries

Road trip, South Africa 2003. Going outside of my boundaries and outside of myself.

When I was little, I loved to be outdoors much like I do now. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing, running, riding, swinging and exploring on Capitol Hill where we grew up. In order to keep us safe, my mom gave us boundaries. These boundaries were physical locations, streets that we could not cross, but we were free to roam about within those bounds. They changed the older we got but I found that even when I earned another street or my territory expanded, my go-to locations stayed the same and I found a great deal of comfort in routine. When I deviated, I always felt like a rebel, even if I was still within those boundaries and no rules were being broken.

As I grew up, I didn't realize it but I internalized this framework. I developed boundaries for myself, safe routes, territory in which I was comfortable in. In high school, the boundaries were distance and the territory large, so I never really even noticed them. But looking back now, I can see them. Looking through all of my journeys and all of the places I have lived, I see now that it has been part of my strategy, part of how I frame a place, it is an instant framework that I setup whenever I arrive in a new location. 

Examining it now, I can clearly see this play out. I have somehow managed to be bold and adventurous but at the same time somehow managed to instill boundaries wherever I land. It has been an amazing coping mechanism to get myself oriented and settled wherever I have gone. I can be very spontaneous yes, but subconsciously, I think I am more a creature of habit than I ever real imagined. I can remember living in South Africa and a few of us deciding to go on a road trip to 4 different countries. We had a rental van and a map and I remember being reluctant to go because we had no plan, we had no route, we had no boundaries. I went and it was one of the best times of my life, but I can see now how my subconscious is ordered when it comes to adventure and spontaneity.  

Nothing better in life than exploring new routes and trails with friends.

Looking back it is amazingly evident to me, though I never really thought about it. When I lived in Fresno, South Africa, Pittsburgh, London, Atlanta and when I first moved to San Francisco, my first order of business was develop standard routes to the places I needed to go. I always felt better once I knew exactly how to get to the grocery store or pharmacy or my favorite place to eat. In running it seems even more evident. I am a route girl. I find a route and I set my boundaries and I develop permutations of the route to suit my distance needs. Deviating from those routes always makes me feel like I am on an adventure or being a rebel even if I am not one. 

It is very easy for me to become a creature of habit. I come by that honestly. When a lot of things in life are up in the air and I feel like I am really going outside of myself to do something hard and new and different (starting my own business and writing a cookbook), familiarity is my equilibrium. The boundaries give me comfort. Or so says my subconscious. A few days ago, I set out for a run and realized that perhaps the boundaries, the routes I was limiting myself to were not in fact comforting me, but deadening my senses, allowing me to check out and zone out instead of being present. Its almost like I was sitting in front of the tv, shutting my mind down and allowing myself mindless time. And not in a good way. On that run, I decided to run a new route, I decided to be different. I didn't have a specific workout or speed to go at, so I was free to just explore. It was amazingly refreshing to come to a fork in the road and decide which way to go. I was present in the moment instead of somewhere else or nowhere at all. There is a time and place for routes but I realized that I need to be conscious of how I balance the two things. I think they have gotten out of balance more since I have been training for fast road marathons since the focus is more on paces, splits and miles than when I trail run. I have *less* of this problem when I am out on the trails though I see its presence too. I finished up my run and though it was not remarkable in any way, it felt liberating. Variety is the spice of life and I realize that I need to check myself and keep in balance. Boundaries are not inherently bad, but you have to find a healthy equilibrium between staying within them and pushing past them.

It's really hard to take a picture of yourself splayed out on the ground post long run.

This week I have also been wrestling with boundaries in my training. I am tired. As I mentioned last week, I have been pushing myself really hard and burning very close to the edge. I realized that I had never really stopped pushing the training since December when I started training for Houston. I haven't really taken a step back since then. I raced Houston, took a token light week and was back to it. In my head, I compartmentalized my training for Houston and for LA and didn't see the big picture. The big picture being that I have run well over 90 miles a week with 3 hard workouts a week continually for nearly 3 months. Leading up to Houston, the cycle was so short I never did a cutback week, there was never time. I was doing the same for LA. The only cutback weeks were the taper for Houston, and week following Houston. Not much of a cutback to race a marathon in 2:50. No wonder this week I felt like I just needed to not press into the 100 mile range. I needed to respect my own personal boundaries or likely I would fall to pieces before I was even to the start line. 

Yesterday, though it was not easy for me to convince myself to do so, I decided to take it really easy.  It became a relative rest day, running only once in the morning with Nathan who is tapering for tomorrow's Napa Valley Marathon. I knew I had a long run planned for today but it still took me nearly two full hours in the afternoon to talk myself out of a second run and I even had to text my sister to tell me not to run. My body was spent, my mind reluctant and my glute/hip thing was not happy. Hello, obvious much! I decided to opt for an ice bath and a concurrent cocktail instead. I have been living an austere yet strict life for the better part of  3 months trying to achieve my goals and really, sometimes you absolutely need to remind yourself that life is too short to be so serious and that being constantly rigid will drive you mad (and make you wander around in your running clothes for 2 hours while anxiously trying to decide if you should run or not).  Respecting your physical and mental boundaries in training is essential and as I sat there in my ice bath, sipping a cocktail, I realized I was doing way more for my training by NOT running, by not being rigid and ridiculous, by not pushing myself too hard and by not giving into neurotic behaviour. 

When I woke up this morning, I was ready to run. I felt refreshed, my leg wasn't bothering me and I was ready to push hard in my 2 hour long run. Since I hadn't been able to do my tempo run during the week, I decided to incorporate some hard tempo intervals into my long run. While last week, I worked on relaxing and not forcing myself to run every long run at or near marathon pace, this week I decided to really push my limits and push outside my boundaries. It was a perfect morning, shorts and t-shirt weather. Sunny and pretty still. I did an out and back into Sausalito. I hit around 6:30 pace to warm-up then once on the bridge started doing 2 mile repeats at 6 min/mile pace or faster with 1 mile recovery at long run pace (between 6:30-7:30). It was hard but it was awesome. There were moments when I just wanted to stop during the intervals and instead, I pushed harder, found the next gear. I went outside of myself and dug deep. I didn't limit myself, I just pushed and burned. My 4th and final interval, nearly 15 miles into my run I was able to clock back to back 5:50s. It felt really really good. 

In the end, I realize that boundaries can mean a lot of things and can exist concurrently. They can provide comfort and security, they can provide a way to navigate the world. They can be limiting or protecting. They can be respected and broken. And they can be all of these things all at once, existing in perfect harmony and balance, if we let it.

Back in the saddle

It would be nice if my experience at Houston reflected this cool, fluid shot from my finish. I had a fantastic last 3 miles of the race and kicked in signature style. Unfortunately, the other 23 miles of the race were not as fantastic, did not feel as good and were not as pretty. No, they looked much more like this or certainly at least felt like it:


It took me a few days to recover from Houston, physically. It took me more days to recover mentally. After a bad race, it is easy to be hyper critical of not only your running but also your life. I realized that my race was not a product of poor planning or training, it was just a fluke day and that I would just have to get back on the horse and try again. But when I turned and looked upon my life and questioned whether or not I was working hard enough, planning or training right to achieve the goals I wanted, I was faced with an answer I did not want to hear. I was not, unlike my training for Houston,  doing things that scared me or preparing in case my chance came. I was wishing and hoping and thinking and praying but not planning or preparing or creating the reality I wanted. I was caught in a life rut, a mental vortex of self-doubt, lack of direction, not sure what to do. When it came to my working life (which is what I am talking about here), I realized I was apathetic. And as an introspective, reflective person I find this absolutely weird. The positive side effect of this larger (and maybe more depressing) realization was that I was able to fully accept that the race was just a bad race and I was able to emotionally move on and set myself passionately on the next goal (more about that later...)

Last week, we watched a movie that my bestest everest friend Jonathan had given us for Christmas. It is called Happy, which is about the science of happiness and though I have read/heard/been exposed to most of the concepts in the movie, for some reason it was like a light switch was flipped. I woke up the next morning and all of my apathy was gone. I had motivation and energy and passion to take my business to the next level. Suddenly, it was as if I could suddenly see the path I wanted to take concretely were only vague shadows had been before. I could see my path and what I needed to do. Suddenly, I was as empowered by my working life as I was about my running life. In my running, I don't sit back and wait for things to happen, I go out day after day and make them happen. I control the part I can control and hope my preparation will move me towards my goals. I woke up last week and realized that the way I run is the way I can work. I don't need to shrink back into the shadows and take a desk job for security, I don't need some gigantic stroke of luck to fall in my lap, I just need to get out there and do what I am good at. I have never felt so excited about work before in my life. I feel empowered, I feel inspired, I feel excited. Momentum quickly builds when you get your energy behind it.

Momentum

Momentum is also something I am trying to keep in my running. After a bad race, it would be easy to lose it. It would be easy to be demoralized, to go back to the drawing board. But, as I mentioned above, I was able to shake off my Houston experience pretty well and pretty fully. I had a smart recovery, have listened to my body diligently and allowed myself some comfort and some exceptions. But I also still have the strong driving desire to pursue my Olympic Trials qualifier. I know I have it in me and though the reality may be that I will never make it to the Olympics, the opportunity to try, to be a part of the race that determines it, is absolutely not something I am walking away from. I am going for it.

The week after the marathon, I was looking at every possible race there is this spring to make another attempt at. I went a little marathon sign up happy for fast races this year, but none of them are soon enough to satisfy me. I am hungry now, I am ready now. Finally, I decided on my next attempt and I am very excited to race the LA Marathon on March 20th. I have 5 weeks until race day which means, with last weeks good training, I will be able to continue to capitalize on my great fitness leading up to Houston. I also have the added bonus of having the Houston experience. I was severely lacking in fast road racing experience going into Houston (hadn't done a road marathon in 2 years!) and even just this one experience helps me get closer to my goal and helps me better understand how to race a marathon. I am very very excited about the LA Marathon. I look forward to the training, I look forward to reflecting and sharing the journey towards this goal and I look forward to achieving my dream: seeing a sub 2:46 on that finishing clock.