Sunday, August 23, 2015

+ 365 days

Some dreams take longer to reach than others.

Mine, this passion to run and finish the Marine Corps Marathon, will sadly (once again) be a dream deferred.

I decided this week, on one of three short runs, that the right thing to do is to put the race off a year -- essentially add 365 days to my training schedule. No amount of wishful thinking was going to make me speed up enough to finish. And living in fear the next two months that I would fail was not my idea of enjoying life.

Let me be clear: I'm not giving up, nor am I telling my 8-year-old self to give up. There will be no major break in my training. I won't tear up my MCM calendar and stop running. I will continue on. There will just be some more padding in the calendar before I hit those 13-mile-plus long runs again.

It's the right thing to do, I know, and I'm sure you all know, too. And I do not in any way view this as a failure.

That said, I'm not going to say it doesn't hurt. When I submitted the transfer paperwork last night, I actually had a hard time hitting the "submit" button. I was crushed. But then I got the email that read, "In late January/early February 2016, you will receive an email notification to re-register..." and I was excited all over again about what was to come. It's not over.

Whether I run the 41st annual MCM when I'm 41 or the 50th annual MCM when I'm 50, it's a dream that isn't going anywhere.

And despite setting out on Oct. 29, 2014, with the goal to run the MCM in 2015, I refuse to look at this past year as a failure. I walked at least one mile for 211 days straight. I lost about 25 pounds. I got up to 14 miles in my training. And I made strides toward this goal, closer than I've been in six years.

I've signed up for the MCM 10K in an effort to not be overwhelmed with sadness come Oct. 25. I hope the race, like it's done in the past, simply re-energizes me to keep going, not give up, never look back.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Two weeks

In two weeks, I will have to decide if I will continue on with MCM training or defer until next year. (One other option: Transfer to the MCM 10K.) These two weeks are crucial for me. I need to give my mind a reset and see if I can turn this training around.

Like the past nine months, it will be a challenge.

This morning, two hours before I was supposed to wake up for my 16-miler, I was wide awake. I read for about an hour, then began thinking about the run. I had zero desire to go. Zero motivation. So I canceled it. Slept through the 5 a.m. alarm. When I was awoken by the sun around 8 a.m., I wasn't disappointed in myself -- I still had zero desire to strap on my water-filled CamelBak and head out for a five-hour run/walk. But it was a beautiful day, and I DID have a desire to be outside running. So I walked to the high school track and did three miles.

Yep. Three miles instead of 16. But I was glad I got outside and didn't fall in to the "all or nothing" mentality that typically defines me.

I've been thinking about this lack of motivation recently. As much as I am trying, trying, trying, I admit I'm not giving 100 percent. This recent horoscope hit home:

"You're not doing all you can to ensure the outcome that you most desire -- but why? It's a good day to examine your motives very carefully."

One thing that I'm sure has been holding me back (physically, yes, but mostly mentally) is my weight. I stopped eating the junk that my office gives out for free every day (for the first week or two of our free-snack program, I succumbed to M&Ms and Famous Amos cookies and a bunch of crap; for the past month and a half, I have not touched the bad stuff). But I still am eating a lot of bread/carbs -- and too much dried mango at work -- and not really tracking my calories. When I DO track myself and choose Sweetgreen salads over Chipotle burrito bowls, I not only feel better physically but I am much more motivated during my runs. Even if the weight isn't down, I'm more inclined to run longer, more often, better because my mind believes I can.

And as many people tell me, and I have experienced, so much of long-distance running is mental. I have put in the miles, and I should be able to go farther, but when I get that nagging voice in my mind telling me I can't do it, it usually stops me cold.

So I've decided to see what happens this week, and hopefully next, if I focus on my diet and small runs. See if I can flip that switch in my brain. It's really the last tool I have in my toolbox -- and a critical one.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Keeping that chin up

Blog rewind: Let me start by backing up two weeks and telling you about that 14-miler. It was brutal, but I did it. That’s thanks especially to my friend Lori and her son, Jack, who planned to meet me at Georgetown’s waterfront park afterward. The plan to meet up with them ensured that I got myself out to the Capital Crescent trail (an old favorite path of mine) and had enough time to finish.

The beginning was hard. I was exhausted, could barely pick up my legs and my CamelBak (I bought one to help keep me hydrated on long runs) was so heavy. But I kept telling myself that the beginning is always hard for me. It takes me a good two-three miles to warm up. So I kept on. When I hit the turnaround point at Mile 7, I was feeling good. But right before mile 12, oof – it became brutal. It was getting hot, the sun was intense, and I was feeling really nauseated and woozy. The last two miles seemed to last forever, and I wondered if I was even capable of finishing them on two legs. At one point, I stopped and stood against a railing until the nausea passed. It took me more than 40 minutes to do those last two miles, I was dragging so much.

But what a feeling of accomplishment when I finished. It had been about six years since I had gone that far.

That week was rough at work – I was filling in for a colleague and worked long days and didn’t run once. Not even on Sunday.

Last week at work was also bad. I stayed late nearly every night and worked till 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday to finish a photo gallery for Jon Stewart’s last show. The next night was the GOP debate, and I stayed until 3:30 a.m. Needless to say, with the exception of some speedwork on Tuesday, I didn’t get out to run. (The speedwork was good, though my foot began to hurt toward the end.)

On Sunday, the plan was to do 16 miles. My foot was hurting a bit and I worried about getting too far out and not being able to get back. So I only went to mile 5 and turned around then, finishing with 10. I was so tired. When I got home I fell into bed and slept solid. 

Today, Wednesday, I went out to do speedwork ... only to find that the track was closed again. It had reopened to my delight last week but here it was shuttered once more! So I went out on to the hilly Custis Trail and tried to run as fast as I could. I was impressed with my speed and endurance -- until I looked at my watch and saw how insanely slow I had been going. It was frustrating to say the least.

How am I feeling mentally? That’s been … interesting. Of course, the realistic part of me still worries and believes 100 percent that I’m incapable of meeting the time limit for MCM. But even if that IS the case, I have reason to push on. Two of them, actually:

1. That girl in the picture I posted last month. When I think about her – when I imagine her saying what’s coming out of my mouth (I can’t do it – I’m too slow – what if I can’t finish? – I should give up), I want to shake her and lift up her chin and tell her NO—you can do ANYTHING. You just keep trying, OK? What will be, will be, but don’t give up.

2. An answer to an important question I recently posed. I wrote to an old coach of mine asking if it was even capable of a person my size to even run a 14-15-minute-mile, to even finish the MCM. He wrote back and told me it was possible but that it would require a lot of hard work. Days later, I came across a Runner’s World story about a woman who is my weight and runs marathons and ultra-marathons. She finished MCM at least three times. She runs at an 11-13-minute mile. She makes no apologies for her weight. She is amazing. And she gives me hope that it’s possible.

So with those two people as my inspiration, I continue on.