Friday, December 3, 2010

The night before the night before the big race

Oh heavens. It begins already: the jitters. The feeling like I've had five espressos as I lay in bed at night with my heart pounding so loud and hard I swear the neighbors in the house next door can feel it though I live on the second floor and they are old and mostly indifferent to my presence. The sweaty palms- so much so the cat doesn't much like to be pet, preferring to remain as dry as he can. And the thoughts of "Yes, it's here, finally and at last" competing with "Oh God. What have I done?"

Ah, the marathon jitters. Nothing quite like them. I'm actually surprised, however. I've been able to sleep most nights this week and my dreams have been void of racing scenes. Last night, I dreamt of bears: bears breaking into the house to eat me. And I didn't run away; I just stood there, terrified, watching those black, furry bodies approach. Sigh. Maybe dreaming of the race would be better. 

I ran five miles today-- just to shake my legs out-- and followed up with light, easy strides. The sky was gray, the air crisp and the final leaves of fall still clinging to the trees. I averaged 6:47 pace and felt as though I was hardly moving. It was easy, my breathing practically nonexistent. My aches are both amplified and muted; my thoughts, the predictable insanity: "WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING; I can do this, I can breathe, just keep a pace hold a pace OMG. IT'S HERE. MY MOMENT. Relax. Breathe. AHHHHH!"

I'm hydrated. So hydrated. I'm drinking so much water-- more water than I can remember drinking in a long time. I can't drive anywhere. Just a trip to the store and I almost didn't make it in time. I hope I'll be able to drive to Sacramento tomorrow; I need to pick up my race number (92) and visit the expo, one of my favorite things to do.

Actually, this is going to make me sound odd: but I have a strange adoration of running Expos. Of course, none approach what I experienced in Boston (where I met Kathrine Switzer-- the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1960) . But it's fun to visit all the little tents to try out whatever crazy thing someone's trying to market to runners these days. Sport gels. Peanut butters. Shoes. There's shoes EVERYWHERE. I'm always tempted to buy them (not for the race. That would be an awful idea) but I do love running shoes. I would have a pair for every day of the week, if I was not a lowly graduate student. Shoes that match each running outfit. Shoes for trails. Shoes for the track. Shoes for going out that can also double as running shoes in case I decide to do that instead of sauntering into the bar. Shoes that make me taller. Shoes that make me faster. Oh, shoes. Sometimes I think I chose this sport because of my love of its required footwear. 

So the question is: can I relax one more day? I think all this nervous energy comes from running so consistently (70-80 miles a week) and now I'm down to 44. I mean, 5 miles?? That's only 34 minutes out of my day, leaving another 23.5 for me to figure out what to do with myself. Sure, there's final papers to write and stretching to do and the requisite afternoon nap: but it seems as though I'm one of those cartoon renderings of a fat Roman man , stretched out in a toga upon a lounge while being fed grapes by an attractive woman. Which, I admit, sounds pretty good: but it makes me feel guilty. And I'm not ready to be a fat, Roman man yet! I want to be a marathoner! :)

But there I go again. I have to remind myself to breathe. To focus. 26.2 miles. I'll start at 6:29 pace. Cut down at the half, run negative splits to the finish. Finish strong. Unless I feel so incredibly good that 6:25-6:20 feels OK at the start. But then I have to know right away if I can maintain that; there's no slowing down and definitely no stopping. No, once the Rebecca-train leaves the station, the deal I have made with myself is that there is no going back. Only forward and faster, step, breathe, step, breathe. 

But for now: sleep and perchance to dream of  a successful (not rainy) race day. And on that note, I have to excuse myself. I am, as I said, so very well hydrated.

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