California Internation Marathon - What I'm Carrying
Tomorrow at 7am the gun will go off in Folsom. I’ll take the first step of many on the way to Sacramento. Steps to the calculated beat of 6:12 pace. Race plan? Go out on the pace, hold on.
Larger race place? My biggest life goal is always be learning. I’m surrounded by teachers. These are some of the lessons I’ll pull from to finish of this leg of my journey.
Back in the day, Erin lead yoga once a month in our office. We’d all struggle to touch our toes or “put what where”? She’d talk us through breathing in and out, and tell us to invite ease into the pose. How could we put out less effort and reach the same result? How could we stop fighting our own bodies?
When I’m losing grasp of a workout or pace, I tell myself to invite ease. I do a body scan to find little adjustments can I make to stay on pace without pushing harder. Change the breathing, drop the elbows, soften my focus ahead.
Lauren Fleshman is a huge sister hero of mine. I remember meeting her and Steph Rothstein (now Bruce) the first time. I sweat through a Oiselle 50/50 tee just trying to introduce myself.
In 2012 I sat in the stands at Hayward at the Olympic Trials while hundreds of people made a c with their hands, held high in the air. A c for courage as Lauren walked onto the track to race the 5k prelim. She’d been injured and unable to string more than something like 200m sprints together leading up to this race. Courage is an understatement.
She made it out of the prelim and it was overwhelming, chills and tears. To watch someone go out and run with open heart courage like that. To watch her make the next round and the shock on her face, it cracked open what was possible. Not only for her, but for believers in big scary things.
I’ll make a little curve in my hand when I need to remember to have courage. Because courage has lead me to the start and it can bring me to the finish.
FOCUS ON LOVE
The first time I met Kara we sat next to each other at a Oiselle dinner when we were ‘woo-ing’ her to be on our team. It was surreal. I couldn’t really talk. And yes, there was more sweating. I listened to her talk about running, and she was like “I’ll literally never retire. I love this sport so much. Maybe when marathons are over I’ll do trail ultras or something, but I’ll never stop. I’ll be that old runner that just won’t stop because I love it.” Paraphrasing of course, but not by much, this conversation is burned in my memory.
I always hoped the pros were running for love, pure love. But to hear this icon talk about being completely and totally in love with running… after so many years and injuries and ups and downs. Damn.
I run for the love of it. I mean, that’s more of a no-brainer for me, because no one is paying me to run or even cares if I do or not. It’s all inside me, the goals and the whys. At the core it’s because I love running and racing.
As the marathon gets closer, and my nerves grow, I’m reminding myself to replace fear with love. Running full of fear is losing, running full of love is winning. No matter where the cards fall.
Fun and ambition aren’t mutually exclusive. Power and silliness can live together. Laughing is life…laughing at yourself included. I don’t laugh as hard with many people as I do with Sally B. Like ugly tear rolling laughing.
Exhibit A: Eugene Marathon she put Bananas as her bib name so people would yell, “Go Bananas”. Her race didn’t go as planned and the only person who finally yelled Bananas didn’t so much say that as “Aww c’mon Bananas, you can do it.”
I’ll remind myself to have fun and not take myself too seriously, it’s just a marathon.
This whole blog could have been everything I needed to know about running, racing, life, motherhood, music… I learned from Lauren effing Fleshman. But that might need to be a book…
When Lauren ran NYCM, again holy courage, she talked about how she deals with nerves or other obstacles. She says to them, “Hello nerves, I'm glad you're here. You're supposed to be here. You can go now."
There are obstacles I know of beyond nerves (pain from previously broken back, twisted tibia and lazy flip leg, stabby side stitch) and ones I’ve yet to meet. I’ll welcome them and dismiss them kindly. Nobody is invited to stay at my mental party except love and courage and Macklemore.
Andrea Duke’s is a story with layers. At the surface I saw a runner, talent, the build, the time (2:41) and all the victory. She was constantly shining. And I assumed the shit you assume when you see that. She’s happy because of success. As if her joy is tethered to victory.
But then I saw Andrea race Boston on a miserable NE day. Her race lost the wheels in the cold, nasty rain. But after there was no sulking. There was only silver linings. There was only joy.
Because the celebration isn’t the win, it’s the journey. And the journey isn’t always perfect. But it’s always worth taking and toasting.
The mantra I use when I race is from Erin. Breathe in: “I am”. Breatheout: “Here now”.
But because the race is long, other things I’ve lodged in my head to use as needed:
I’m headed downtown, cruising through the alley, tiptoeing through the streets like ballet…
All you need is love, love is all you need.
Wiggle your big toe.
Breathe behind your organs. (massage therapist advice, weird and works)
Don’t poop your pants. Don’t poop your pants.
Steph Bruce is my coach and the reason I’m lining up on Sunday. She took a shell shocked, sleepless, sad mama and said why not? Let’s take one step and another. I followed her like a runt puppy, but slowly I started feeling stronger mentally and physically.
There were lows still but I didn’t drown in them. My life raft was the next days’ workout, numbers and letters in a Google Sheets cell. They kept my head above water another day.
I wasn’t running 15 miles a week a year ago and now I’m going to race a marathon, I didn’t dream that was possible. Not even 10 weeks ago did I dare to dream this. But each day I just believed in the day and in my coach and the rest unfolded.
As the miles unfold on Sunday, I won’t stop believing. I’ll hold on to that feeling. Streetlights, people!