Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tête-á-Tête on Nineteen

Saturday was a BIG day for me. Nineteen big ones were on my marathon training schedule. Longest mileage of my life. The legend that most first time marathoners hit their wall at 18 the first time through, was hanging heavily in my mind. At the same time, there were (and still are) fires in the Los Angeles area. I convinced myself that the air quality would be deemed too poor for such long mileage. However, as I made my way to training, I could clearly see blue skies. I arrived at my standard time, approximately 11 minutes late, and joined the group mid-stretch. I was just in time to hear that 19 miles was still up for the running. Oh….. Goody.

For the first 6 miles of my course, I looked, well sniffed, for any excuse to call it off. To my dismay, I mean, uh, excitement…. the park had the usual scent – cut grass, tilled dirt, fresh horse manure, and a slight whiff of skunk. Mmmm. Breathe that in deep. Not even a hint of smoke.

Six miles turned into 12, and a switch flipped in my brain. I became determined to finish before the winds changed, moving the smoke onto my route and cutting off my run. I was focused, and suddenly I wanted to run this entire 19 mile route. 4 hours and 8 minutes (I never said I was fast!) after I tried to find a reason to quit, I ran back to the cheers of my teammates, having completed my first 19 miles.

My friend Maricia has asked me, what do you think about when you are running for so long? Indeed. That is a lot of conversation with yourself. But, some good stuff comes out of it that tends to apply to more than just my running.

Take the labels off. 19 miles sounds long. But, it isn’t as scary when I think of it as – Hill Loop, Out and Back, Reverse Hill Loop, Water Stop and Back. If I take it in pieces, and take the label of “long” off, take the number off, it becomes attainable.

Mini-Goals are Less Scary. On our route there is a big hill. Bertha. The Beast. THE hill is a hefty and steep one. Early in my training my friend Lori told me to focus on the hydrants. There are fire hydrants, at a somewhat equal distance apart, all the way up the hill. I run to one, walk to the next, run to one, walk to the next. Focusing on mini-goals gets me to the top without injury, without feeling defeated, and without doubt.

Believe in yourself. Determination is a funny thing. It really moves you forward, but it also forces you to really believe in yourself. This week I did, and it made all the difference.

P.S. There is no such thing as too much bengay. And, never underestimate the power of ice.

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