Saturday, October 31, 2015

Over and Out

Prelude -
I drafted the majority of this post back on Sunday, October 18th.  I continued the story as if it was that day.  Time travel on Halloween...hmmm, sounds appropriate.
Happy Halloween!

Let it be Sunday!

I 'slept in' until about 7 am which is a remarkable feat for me.  I reached for my phone, checked the time and quietly slithered out of bed where I was immediately reminded I raced the previous morning.  My soles of my feet released after a few paces.  They were thankful for a slow start, one in which I wouldn't be running again.  My soul thanked me for the latest journey we'd embark upon - two months with no structured training.  The no training training could have had a different start had yesterday been unfulfilling.  I needed to get off on the right foot, so to speak; I'm glad we made that happen.

I spent four months training for a marathon that I lost.  I think I'm owning that now; moving on.  I envisioned a more smooth plan that cycle like the waves I so yearn to see.  But I, the hurricane, rolled in to disrupt the way, changing the course of things forever.  Post marathon, I failed to make sense of things further pushing me under water.  I just wanted to close my eyes and let the water wash over me.  Sometimes I could see myself sinking to the bottom, in slow motion, face up.  A small bubble in the corner of my right eye, looking towards the surface, reaching out, but losing touch.  Such a dramatic picture, but I grappled with the reality of my run.

Q: Why was I doing this to myself?
A: Not really sure.

Instead of drowning in my bullshit I did two things (in September):
1). I signed up for the New Jersey Marathon (May 2016), with intentions to try for a Boston Qualifying time...sigh, again.
2). I told my coach I was going to race the Runner's World 5K...sigh.

In the short few weeks leading up to yesterday's 5K, I had a few failed workouts as the result of being unfocused, but I pressed on (cause I'm a glutton for punishment).  I tried to make peace knowing that I love the road and what happens will happen and blah blah, insert all the bullshit cliches here.  Last weekend's girls' trip to Rehoboth invigorated me.  I didn't think about the run, or about the calories, or the drinking (well, I thought enough to KEEP drinking) or much of anything that tends to sneak into my pretty little head.  Whatever it meant, I was ready to race.

The business of the week and evening before kept me distracted from Saturday.  The girls participated in the kids run at Steel Stacks and, as always, made mamma proud.  We picked up a later-than-usual dinner.  I ordered and devoured a not-the-usual pre-race dinner of spicy veggie drunken noodles.  After the kids turned in, I carefully gathered my gear, laying out what would be a flat Muff representing Team Oiselle for the first time.

Aside from the usual rituals the morning of, I was prescribed a 30 minute warm up, peppered with short bursts of speed work to prep my legs for the work.  Three and a half miles later, I bundled up headed for the warm building with my hot tea in-hand.

I connected with a few Crazies for chatter while stretching out my hips and legs.  I sensed us all take a deep breath knowing that this was another silent moment for us.  Staying tough, we hugged it out and went our separate ways.

I lined up at the 7:30 mark, shaking out my body.

I'm not fast, but I'm fast for me.
I don't toe the line, but I get pretty goddamned close.
I snuggled in an open pocket, surrounded by a few intense athletes, giving off the air that they'd be gunning for a good time, too.  Although the sun kissed my skin, the low 40's air reigned supreme.  Following the tail end of the National Anthem I reluctantly removed my top layer, throwing it to the side.  My comfort was forever lost.

I pushed off at a steady pace, passing my car on the way out of the complex.  The sea of runners flowed over the bridge and up the biggest hill of the course.  Knowing this would be a short race, I picked off people on the climb, dropping my arms to release my shoulders and lift my heart.
I thought of nothing, but the run.
- sun on my face
- light on my feet
- breeze in my hair

On the return, I established the kick on the downhill and sustained that on the straightaway, knowing my pace would drop on the remaining inclines.  I climbed the final hill which lovingly transitioned into a downhill to the finish.  The course snakes alongside the casino, wrapping around the front of the steel stacks.  As I rounded that corner, a huge gust of wind fought me.  Ah, the hurricane reared its ugly head.  I charged through, pushing my face towards an eventual sprint to the finish.  My feet hit the brick paved path (the final few dozen strides of the race) at a sub-7 pace, topping out at a 5:04.  I promise you that everything went black.  I saw nothing; I heard nothing, but my breath and my feet hitting the radiant cubes.

I crossed the finish line just seconds from breaking my PR.

I needed about 30 minutes following to get my wits about me.  The runner's high encapsulated my physical and emotional body.  I walked on clouds, slurring my words to anyone who engaged me in conversation (not an unusual reaction for me).  With a smile, I jogged back to my car to get out of my clothes, pulling on a warmer, fresher set.

My 5K PR stands strong on a flat course.  Knowing that I came within a breath of knocking it down, on a hilly course, makes me beam with pride.  I set out to kick some ass and that's exactly what happened.  Accomplishing that goal to tie up my racing season helps set my mind at ease.  I have no solid plans, but I know it's going to be a tough road, requiring an emotional reset.  This is exactly what the universe has planned.