Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Go Big or Go Home

This year, I decided to post something different than my annual reflection of September 11, 2001.  Perhaps this post will not only put a smile on your face, but give you the opportunity to laugh out loud…maybe even roll on the floor while doing that.  Maybe.

This may come as a big shock to you, but I like to run.  Sometimes I even call myself a runner.  For years I have been fascinated by the sport – it caters to every body type, age and lifestyle.  I continue to stick my nose in training books and biographies, blogs and magazines – all related to running.  I keep my pulse on area races of varying distances in the hopes of suckering someone to sign up with me.  I thoroughly enjoy the thrill of watching a novice sign up for their first 5K, 10K, half…you name it.  I make an attempt to run with them or cheer them on just to feed off their nervous pre-race excitement.  I consider myself highly educated on the subject, but please don’t confuse this with knowing all. 

For the past two years I have become internally obsessed with one aspect of racing – crossing the finish line with ‘nothing left in the tank’.  I continue to ask more experienced runners what this means to them; what does it feel like physically and emotionally?  Based on my inquiries I never raced to exhaustion.  I absolutely work myself – sweat, blisters, breathless finishes, but I never felt completely wiped out.  I’m not fast, so maybe I was incapable of pushing it.  Well, until this past Sunday.

Back in June, I registered two marathon relay teams of five runners respectively.  I always suspected that the level of shit talking would increase tenfold based on the previous year’s match-up.  Not only was I competing against the other team, but I was competing against myself.  The 2011 relay was my highly anticipated post-pregnancy debut.  Please note that I am NOT a professional athlete (I didn’t want to lead you on).  I ran my heart out during that third leg, but failed to make up any of the time we already lost.  I crossed that exchange with disappointment on my rounded shoulders.  Twenty-twelve would be my year for redemption.   

My racing hobby flourished this year with three PR’s, a Tough Mudder and the initiation of Philly Marathon training.  Obviously, I have something to prove to someone about whatever, but I believe I’m accomplishing all that.  Some of the speed work I incorporated in my training program helped shave time off my pace.  I was beaming with confidence, just fresh off a birthday 10K PR.  These little legs carried me 6.2 miles at a steady 8:30-ish pace.  I was impressed. 

I’ll spare you the stories of Sunday’s race, but keep in mind that the shit talking between the two teams escalated to an all-time high.  I maintained confidence that I’d smoke my match-up to make up some time we expected to lose in the first leg.  As a reminder, I am NOT a professional athlete.  To no one’s surprise, the rival team member reached the first exchange before my guy.  It felt like an eternity, before I saw that Tough Mudder with white sunglasses round the bend, but when I did, WHEW boy!  I vaguely remember yelling at the top of my lungs and jumping up and down. 

“Go Big or Go Home” 

I’ve heard this phrase throughout my life, whether it was related to sorority pledging, managing large projects or playing an intense game of asshole.  I decided to give this phrase a ‘Google’ to only confirm my appropriate use of the words.  Go Big or Go Home; Balls to the Wall; All In; Eyes on the Prize…The list of motivational quotes is impressive, but this one in particular strikes me.  It’s black and white – this or that.  Would you rather give it your all or just shuffle through?  I think you know my answer. 

So, I hauled ass – the kind of ass that a little shrimp, with an equally short torso and pair of legs can move.  It’s the kind of ass that just about takes your breath away.  My adrenaline blazed through my veins as the sun blistered my eyes.  Everyone had a target on their back; I passed them all.  I swiftly wove around people clogging the hydration stations only to rip a flimsy cup of warm water from some poor volunteer’s hand.  With authority I chucked the empty toward a pile of folded cups while making my way back into the heart of the trail.  I quickly navigated the shallow puddles all the while maintaining my sizzling pace.  In the near distance, I caught the rhythmic ringing of a bellowing cowbell – I just knew this was my teammate.  As I passed, I bragged about hitting my fastest 5K time, ever.  I approached the exchange with such gusto that I almost forgot to hand off to my next runner.  We high-fived and off he went. 

I decided, long before Sunday morning, that I would ‘Go Big’.  Without a doubt, I finished my leg of the race with no gas in the tank – I was spent.  After I scoured the exchange for water it took me a decent fifteen minutes to cool down emotionally.  I immediately felt my friendly blister (which is on top of a blister, on top of a blister, on top of a callous) balloon within my shoe forcing me to temporarily modify my gait.  I couldn’t believe my pace; I never ran that fast in my life.  Post-race, I made it home to shower and take a two hour nap – something else I had never done before. 

People appreciate documented accounts of virtually everything.  Sure, I could tell you that my feet were dancing flames, but who are you to believe?  Sometimes I have a way with words; maybe I embellished the story.  What’s that other saying??  A picture is worth 1,000 words.  How about three pictures?

 Via Relay Handoff 1  

Via Relay Handoff 2

Via Relay Handoff 3