Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pre Race Musings

In 17 days, I'll hopefully be running and completing my first marathon.  Below is a jumbled pile of random thoughts that I've had either during training or during reflective moments when my mind simply wanders...

Most training programs have long runs that only go up to 20 miles.  When I hit the 17 to 18 mile range, at the end of those runs I asked myself "Do I have any more in me?" Too frequently, the answer was no 'effin way.  So I added a 21 and 22 mile run to my plan.  Lately, the answer to that same question has been a solid "uh....maybe?"

I remember crossing the finish line at my first half-marathon 2 years ago.  I had to climb the steps up Fluor field to exit the baseball field where the finish line was, and the throbbing pain in my legs told me that I'd never do a full marathon.  Well, that decision didn't last but a couple of years.

Last December, I ran a second half-marathon and was proud of my time.  I took 7 minutes off the previous year's race, and although that was motivating to me, there was still something missing.  I think it was due to the fact that I didn't do anything I'd not done before.  I was certain I'd finish, and very confident I'd set a PR.  But the challenge of pushing myself beyond my perceived capabilities wasn't there.

I won't specifically tell you what drives me to exercise and run.  Maybe you'll catch me with a few drinks in me someday and I'll hint at it with my guard down.

I have a marathon play list on my iPod.  I also have a play list called "!Last Mile."  The exclamation point is there so it's sorted first alphabetically (geek advice).  At the 25 mile mark, it goes on.  It has 3 songs on it and none of you will have ever heard them before.  The Acacia Strain's "Servant in the Place of Truth" is track number 1.  It opens with "Grab life by the throat and tear out its eyes."  It resonates with me and that's that.  Track number 2 is Kataklysm's "Iron Will."  If there's one song that represents most of what I'm feeling during a long run, that is it.  Lastly, Himsa's "Given in to the Taking" will round it out.  That song represents me at my weakest, when my discipline fails and I do things I'm not proud of.  It's there to remind me that regardless of my accomplishments, I can always be better.

I'm trying not to let the following statement get to me too much.  "I've never trained so hard to be so mediocre."  The reality is that I'll be finishing in the middle of the pack.  I will be proud to finish, but won't kid myself that it's anything but average.  That's OK though.

For those of you either just starting out running or exercising and thinking to yourself, "I'm not athletic enough or good enough to do what he's doing," I would respond this way:  There is nothing physically special about me at all.  Nothing.  I am not genetically gifted nor predisposed to be an athlete.  There is simply, and only, one thing that I have that perhaps you do not.  It's just determination.  It's a choice.  And it's choice that you can make for yourselves as well.  It's completely, 100% mental.  You can make the same decision and once you do, you only need to be consistent.  Consistency is key, for if you are, you will make progress without a doubt.  Then it's just a matter of time.  I am the tortoise.

Why do I keep running?  I've trained for something, an ability to do something.  Once complete, I feel like I can't let it go.  The accomplishment is mine and nobody can take it away.  Except myself.  Why would I train so hard for something then let it go?  I joke about my age, which isn't really that old, but at 44 I am past my physical peak.  Keeping my gains is a challenge, but perhaps if I do, I can fool myself that I'm not really aging at all.  Mentally, I have the maturity of 16 year old, but physically, I'm declining.  I don't want that.  I want to keep what I have, and if I stop training, those gains and abilities will evaporate.  I can't think of anything more depressing than saying to myself, "I used to be able to...."

What comes afterwards?  My mindset is such that I'm always thinking about what's next.  Will I choose to run another marathon?  Right now, I don't know.  Cross-fit is intriguing.  Perhaps I'll buy a bike and start riding, maybe that will lead to a triathlon.  Then there's always the semi-joke, semi-serious thought about MMA training.  There's a gym in the area, but part of me thinks that idea will be a first class ticket to injury on the stupid train.  So right now, I really don't know.

This endeavor has been a solo effort for the most part, and that has suited me well.  However, there are team relay races out there that might be fun to do.  The notion of being part of a team does appeal to me in some ways, as evidenced by the Tough Mudder and Mud Runs that I've done.

Lastly, I do want to thank the folks who have motivated me this past year.  First, Dan England, who's been through a couple of marathons himself and provided me with advice at every point during my training.  Also, the Willis brothers, both Brad and Jeff.  They've both made fantastic gains and have been sharing their training progress with me for the past 8 months.  They motivate in obvious ways and not so obvious ways.  I admire the work they've put in and appreciated their dedication and performance in the Tough Mudder last month.

I just need to dodge sickness and injury the last 2 weeks before the race.  And honestly, if I don't, that's OK.  If you've trained for a race, race day is really only a formality.  It's the final step in executing a plan.  But if you've executed each prior step properly, the final one is easy.  I trained, I made gains, and if for some reason I need to execute the final step at another marathon, so be it.  You can't take the training away from me.  Only I can.

But I won't.