Me, nervous as hell, typing next to the Christmas tree in the lobby.
It's raining. A lot. But that's not how the day started out.
This was the first time I've been to an pre-race Expo alone since 2007 when I drove down to South Tahoe to pick up my race packet for my first marathon ever, the Lake Tahoe Marathon. Since, I've always had someone else with me: some one to do the driving (but more importantly, the parking) someone else to lead me through the crowds, someone else just as confused as I am, someone to tell me I was going to just fine the next day. But not this year. Today I found myself in a minor panic while sitting in a chair by the door as people came and went. So many people. So many runners. So many bodies, no two alike. Running bodies. Not-so-running bodies. Young and old; and all there for the same reason I was: to run 26.2 miles tomorrow. But so many bodies! So many stories and me just one among many. It's easy to doubt when you're all alone like that in a crowd.
It's also easy to wonder why you thought this was a good idea-- this whole marathoning thing-- when the first table you stop to talk to says: "I have perfect weight loss program for you" (as if running 70 miles a week wasn't enough.) Or when you go up to the table where the Elite numbers are and the lady working there directs you away even though you know you are supposed to be there (I say: I'm #92. Look at your list. She said: No. You get your number over there [pointing]. This is for elites only. I say: I am an elite. Number 92. That's me. She said: Oh. Me (internally): Grrrr.) And so after that I sat down and waited. I wanted to let the moment sink in-- this moment I realized I was going to be running a very long race tomorrow with obstacles worse than the ones I found at this expo. A very long race. And what looks like will be a wet day.
But you know: it's funny. It seems just as soon as I'm ready to panic, the universe sends a little ray of light down to say "Yo! Rebecca! Turn that frown upside down" (or something like that. I'm sure the Universe isn't as dorky as I am.) A familiar face. Faces: the NSET (Northern Sierra Endurance Training) crowd I raced with this past summer. And then my phone vibrated against my thigh to let me know Steve had arrived.
And so I'm in Folsom now in the hotel. A few hours ago I watched dusk fall into darkness. I pinned my race number to my shirt, attached the timing chip to my right shoe and set out everything I'll need to put on my body tomorrow morning "before-bright early." I've done the inventory countless times: shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, number, timing chip, Garmin, arm warmers, gloves, headband, racing flats, sweats. Then I have another bag packed for the finish line with another set of clothes and shoes so I don't freeze to death afterward.
It's the stuff I can't set out that has me worried. Confidence. Speed in my legs. Faith.
Steve and I went out to pasta and we joked about just throwing in the towel and downing shots of Jager. But that's not what we did: I ate pasta. I drank more water. This time with lemon in it. I smiled and tried to joke. But I think he knows: I'm nervous.
And the rain! This might be cruel payback for having the protagonist of my novel (my thesis from the M.A. in English in 2009) run a marathon in sheets of rain. (My turn, she says from her fictional world. Now you see how it really feels.)
But I can't focus on that now. Any of that. For now, I have to keep drinking water. Breathing. Remaining calm and relaxed. I have to picture myself running strong; feeling each step without injury. Breathing steady in cadence with the swing of my arms.
When I get back to the room (I'm in the lobby now, hunkered down by the Christmas tree. There's no wifi in the room) I'll set the alarm on my watch for midnight like I do every time I race so I can wake up to drink a large bottle of electrolyte drink (so my muscles are full of glycogen for tomorrow. Or so I have been told.)
It's funny to think the next time I'll see the sun, I'll be en route; three minutes or so into the race. That the world will be in motion, smelling fresh from all this rain, and I will be running the race it's taken me a year to prepare for.
Running a race I've dreamed of. It's close, so very close. I hope I finish.... in time.