Monday, November 29, 2010

A quick breakdown of my goals for this race

So with all this running, I've overlooked the simple: to simply state, in terms of very concrete figures, what my goal is for this race. To qualify for the Olympic Trials, yes. But what does that mean? (So much for being simple. It means so much to me.)

But here's a quick breakdown of what I have floating in my head now, 6 days out from race day: 

Pie-in-the-sky-I-can't-believe-I-feel-this-great-race: 2:44 (avg. pace of 6:16)

Olympic "B" Qualifying Standard: 2:46 (avg. pace of 6:20)

What I nee to run to be able to join a local group of women training for the Olympic Trials in the Marathon: 2:47 (avg pace of 6:22)

What I believe I'm capable of now, even on a slightly shitty day: 2:50 (avg pace of 6:29)

I'm chanting to myself in every waking moment: believe, believe, believe. And you know, it's rare for me but I do believe. I believe in me and all the work I've put toward this. And if not this time, then there will be another race. The joy is in this journey, after all, that's led me to a place where I am finally able to appreciate who I am as a person. I do not have to objectify myself in terms of one body type or another; nor do I have to apologize for this sport that is my love even when I don't run great races. (I have, after all, run them.) 

It simply is-- and that is me. And in this me, at long last, I believe.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seven days until my trials attempt....

I'm sitting in Starbucks, working on a book review that will be in Mary, the literary journal published by the school I'm currently attending for an MFA in creative writing (nonfiction.) Here I am: dressed better than I usually am, which means no running gear. Today I'm in a skirt (a shock, I know) and tights and boots looking about as artsy as a tomboy like me can. Just a minute or so ago, this man came up to me and said: "When is your race?"

And I answered because that's about all I think about these days. My race, the California International Marathon. 26.2 miles. How I plan to run 6:20 pace for most of it, but hope to have a bit of kick at the end to maybe drop just slightly below the 2:46 B qualifying standard.

But after I answered, I wondered: how on earth does he know about my race? 

I checked my table: no evidence there. I don't have a bib pinned to my chest. I don't even have running shoes on. 

I think my confusion filtered through my smile. 

That's in like, seven days, he said, this man I kept looking at to see if I knew him from somewhere: another race? The running store I go to in Concord more often than I should? The Nike running store in Emeryville where I drool over clothing I won't buy because I'm poor and in graduate school. But no, I hadn't seen him in any of those places. 

The confusion remained on my face. 

I see you practicing. On the track sometimes, he said. Ah. The track at a local high school. Now that made sense. I nodded and smiled to the man, and thanked him for his kind wishes. 

And you know, I'm glowing right now. I feel-- well, let's just say it: I feel sort of famous. And I feel like what I'm doing is important. People SEE me. Kids see me. Grown men see me. Moms see me. I thought, starting out, that my running was just about me. But the more I run, the more I'm starting to understand that athletics (after a certain point) become ABOUT other people and not just the athlete. That my achievements are mine, yes, but also Steve's (who puts up with me) and my professors who ask me about this crazy thing I do, and my friends who support me through those dark moments when doubt overwhelms me. My success is owed to my family-- my mom and sister-- who are so much a part of me, we are (at the level of souls) inseparable. My strength comes from others; my success is owed to them. 

And, I hope I can be an inspiration to others. I don't expect-- nor deserve-- the Nike banner on my chest, but I hope in some small way my running might make someone, somewhere go after their pie in the sky dream, whatever it is. Mine was marathon running: and look at me now. I'm going to run a marathon next Sunday. Regardless of the time I run it in, I really could not be happier. If I can give some other person that kind of happiness, I will be eternally fulfilled.

So, from a small corner of a not-so-special Starbucks, I hope my marathon-induced glow reaches you, my reader.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The final stretch before my first attempt at the Trials

On December 5th, my life will change. I will either be an elite marathoner, or I will not (yet.) It’s a definite break from who I am, sitting here. I will know, one way or another, if I have spent this year training correctly or if I have made mistakes along the way. Surely I have done both: my best, I mean; and I know I have also made mistakes. But it has been a work of the heart, a constant pulse in my life I cannot live without. I will never stop running.

I have had some amazing workouts that suggest I am fit. Fitter than ever. 16 miles in 1:45 as a progressive-style run with the final mile in 6:13. Two mile repeats in which the third and final effort was a 11:30. That’s 5:45 per mile. Fast for me. The fastest miles I’ve ever run in this life of mine. It’s nothing to turn heads at, but I’m so grateful and happy for what I have accomplished. Me-- just me.

But in this quiet before the storm, I have to pause because I am not here just because of me. I carry so many people-- their memory and their love-- within me. I carry my mom who might not always understand me, but who loves me unconditionally. And I carry my grandmother, the one I wrote about this past summer. I spent summers with her growing up in Southern California. She taught me to swim. She taught me to love poetry. She was a remarkable woman; she could recite Frost, Keats, Browning and others (but those are the ones I remember her reciting the most) from memory. She told me to love the body I had, and to strive for greatness within the gifts that were given to me.

I list these things because she passed away. I haven’t come to terms with her passing yet. I can’t make myself cry... yet. It is as though she’s still with me, still reciting those lovely lines, still sitting beside me at the ocean, recounting a life I never knew, telling me family secrets.

She was with me when I ran those two mile repeats. She told me to be strong. I promised her, as I circled round the track that I would be: that my running is, in part, a gift she gave me.

And so, trials or not, I wanted simply to express the quiet, kind and determined gratitude I’m filled with for having had such extraordinary women in my life. I hope to be just as extraordinary-- one day. But for now, my expression resides in the stride that will carry me 26.2 miles.

(Love you, Grand.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Three weeks until my trials attempt....

What to write? I feel like I’ve been absent so long from the blog that you’ve all given up on me, wondering if I’ve fallen off the side of the world, or if I’ve merely been hit by a bus. Well, it was neither that took me away, but rather the generic combination of scholarly endeavors and having my hard drive crash. I was so stressed that even my training suffered. But I am back now, and I think better, in so many ways.

Two days ago I did a 16-mile progressive run. It’s a workout that is supposed to go like this: 4-mile warm up (7 minute pace or so), 4 miles 20 seconds slower than marathon pace, 4 miles at marathon pace, 4 miles faster than marathon pace. The first time I tried to do this workout, in September, my head nearly exploded from the stress and worry that I could not, then “run that fast.” Well, reader, I did it. On November 9th, I ran 16 miles in a total time of 1:45. I recall the first months of this training cycle-- back in March, say-- when I could not run 16 miles in less than two hours. I have shattered two hours and my final mile split was an impressive (to me at least) 6:13 mile.

It would be folly to say that I’ve sealed the deal. I’ve learned from my two-year tenure in the sport that 26.2 miles is a long way, and a countless number of factors will either propel or hinder me on race day. Yet, I can’t help but feel a certain glowing pride of accomplishment, a certain confidence even, that I hadn’t expected before. Regardless of how I do on December 5th, I have never been this fit before. I have never worked this hard. I am better than I have ever been. And I know it’s bad dramatics to settle before the climax of the story, but I am happy with that.

Of course, one does always want to be better. (I know I do.) But maybe it’s my age, or the temperature of the air; today I want to acknowledge the effort, my effort. I want to say, regardless of what comes in three weeks, I have put in my miles. I have had setbacks, but I have done my best. And really, that’s all I can ask of myself.

I only have a handful-- a little less-- of workouts left. And a mere 240 miles to run which separates me from the race. I catch my breath at such a little number. Will I be able to run a 2:46 when the time comes? Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

All I know is that I will run faster than 2:54, my PR from 2008. I feel it in my bones. I am better now. Perhaps not yet the best, but better. And for that, I am grateful.