Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mount Desert Island Marathon…..1st blog post in 18 months…..

This is my first blog post in 1.5 years. And as I wrote it (before I saved it) it vanished so this is a re-do. A shortened, probably less funny re-do. Such a bummer. The first was fun and funny and I liked it. But now I'm starting over from scratch so I apologize if it sucks!! (I especially apologize to DT out in Denver CO, my most loyal reader!)

View from the hotel (Harborside)

Two weekends ago I left my beautiful 2.5 yr old daughter and my kind husband and travelled to Mount Desert Island (near Acadia National Park) to run a marathon. It was my first marathon since I had baby Z. At the time I signed up for it I thought it would be a "race". You know, where you train hard, and work hard through the race, and overcome some obstacles and persevere with a PR or something close to it at the end. But as the weeks passed and a total of 3 "long runs" (i.e. longer than 13 miles) with the rare mid-week run became what I called "training", I knew I needed a new plan. Combine that with cold/allergies/something is stuck in my chest since September 15th and well, race isn't the best word for that kind of situation.

I debated bagging the whole trip. The few weeks leading up to the trip were pretty rough on the homefront with Z solidly entering something that I assume is considered the "terrible twos", my work scheduling becoming crazy, and these mean mucus blobs taking up residence in my chest. I was honestly really looking forward to a few days away from the former two even though I knew the third would join me on the 10 hour journey from Illinois to Maine. To aid my decision to go or to stay I polled my friends at work, my husband, myself. Fall is a beautiful time in Illinois, why would I leave my family for a few hours of self-imposed torture?  In the end I decided that the best version of myself would do the race and PR. A very good version of myslef would do the race. A poor version of myself would give up and not go. So I went.

Race morning was perfect. B/t 35-50 degrees and sunny. Folks were in good spirits. Lots of mommies running with daddies and newborns/babies/toddlers spectating. Inspirational. All that jazz. During the first mile I was short of breath. Not that "I need more oxygen (or more correctly less CO2), I'm out of shape" short of breath. More like huge glubs of mucus are actually preventing me from moving air through my trachea. I've "raced" marathons with a head cold and done well. Chest congestion....a whole new beast. To make it worse, I feel pretty strongly that unless you are planning to run "fast" (which I have a loose definition of- me on a good day I'd consider "fast"), you really shouldn't be spitting and snorting on the course. If you are on a mission to a PR, go ahead and do what you gotta do (though the jury is still out on "poop if you gotta", cute tag line but EWW!). So I was coughing up (and then containing) a heathy dose of mucus (also EWW!).

So with breathing a problem in mile 1 and not letting up by mile 3 I needed to make a gameplan. I thought about quitting. I thought about this at miles 3, 5 and 10. At mile 10 I figured it was almost as close to the finish as the start so I might was well continue to make forward progress. When I thought about quitting I thought about the bad example that would set for Z. And my friends. And my colleagues. I'm not a quitter. So that was not reallly seriously entertained. But I had a decision to make. Was this going to turn into a horrible slogfest where I just got my 4 limbs from point A to point B, or was there another option?

Incredible leaves the entire course-
but not enough to keep despair at bay!
I decided I was going to enjoy this marathon. I realize some folks (GDN) probably think that is an oxy moron. But I thought I could find a way. I decided to treat this as a few hours outside in a beautful place. No pressure to run. No time pressure. I let go of the idea of getting a time I would be proud of. (Not hard to do when the pace group that would be your PR passes you at mile 3, but a bit harder when the pace group for some of your slowest marathons goes by). I walked up the hills. I raced down the hills (cuz THAT's fun!). I stopped and took lots of pictures. I walked whenever I felt like it. I did NOT look at my Garmin. I threw out all my mental games like run one song, walk one song, or run to that next tree or sign or person. I did whatever I wanted to do to ENJOY THE MARATHON!

Maybe others have already figured this out. But it was novel for me.

Even after I made this decision, I despaired. Marathoners know what I mean. That low grade despair that sets in in the early miles before the endorphins, when you've accomplisehd so little and have so many freakin' miles ahead of you. I despaired becuase while nice with leaves changing and all, the first 6 miles aren't all that special. 

Then I saw this:

All of a sudden, we were at the water. The beautiful ocean. Ahh! I rode high for a few miles, walking, running, listening to music, smiling. Things generally were okay. I did more running than was strictly "enjoyable" becuase I had other things to do with my day and I didn't want to be on the course forever. I really didn't want this running to get in the way of my nap, my massage and my wine and lobster that night. So I ran. I ran so I could nap. I'm not kidding. Really, if you don't have a nap on your vacation without your spouse and child, can you call the trip a success? The anwer is no.

Marathons are long, even when you are trying to have fun. I was that jerk who facetimed while on the course. Twice. (Tried to do it with no one around, I missed Z!!) Additionally, it is just plain cruel and unusual for miles 21-24 to be solidly uphill. No way to make that good. Best version of myself thought "this sucks and I'd like to die now". I don't really want to be friends with the person whose best version says "looks like a good challenge!" anyway.

I will say the spectators were good and I felt a bit guilty accepting their cheers. There was a very enthusiastic woman at mile 19 (which happens to be uphill and right along the road so I was mildly concerned about tripping and falling into the road) who was shouting "You are in CHARGE of this marathon! You are the BOSS of it! You show it who's in charge!". I felt like a fraud. "I'm doing this for fun, lady, I've tossed aside the idea of this being a test of endurance or physical prowess or whatever we usually do this sort of thing for". In reality I said "thank you".

So the big question is, will I do this again? Will I leave my family for a weekend to run a marathon I'm poorly trained for, albeit in a beautiful place? I don't think so. I had a good time. It was really important for me to do this race to maintain my identity as a marathoner and a person independent of "mom" "doctor" "spouse" etc. But I'd much prefer to fold a marathon into a family trip of some sort (which was the initial intention with this one anyway, just didn't work out). I don't even need them to spectate, I just want to travel with them and have dinner with them afteward (preferably after the massage and nap). I am trying to do all 50 states. I will eventually. But right now, I don't want to spare the time to train properly and while this marathon was a fun exception for me to let go and enjoy, that's not the way I generally set out to do marathons. I want to PR, I want to qualify for Boston. I need to train to do either.

The main reason I may not do another marathon for a while is the same reason I probably won't write another blog post for a while. Right now my life is very full. I want to spend time with my daughter, my husband, my family, my friends, shoot I even like my job right now. Training for marathons and writing blogs takes away from those things (or sleep, but I really need sleep). Maybe in a few weeks I'll change my mind. But for now, I'm going to get another glass of wine, some dessert and spend some time watching trashy TV. Maybe THAT'S what weekends away from daughter and husband are really for:)