A New Chapter

My life has changed. After thirteen years of marriage, I am now living alone. There is a special (triathlete!) man in my life, but he’s a four hour drive away. After a few wonderful years of setting PRs, I have had a slew of injury setbacks. Nothing major, but enough stifle any progress because I’ve dialed down both mileage and intensity. I am trying to accept my new normal while still striving to improve. I have had to take a hard look at myself and what I truly value and believe. Sometimes life cracks your heart open and forces you to confront everything you’d stuffed deeply inside. Overall, I am optimistic about the future, but it’s been a challenging time.

Athletically, this year has been one lackluster race performance after another, with one notable exception: the Phoenix Marathon in March. After narrowly missing the cutoff for the 2014 Boston Marathon, I am happy to say that I was accepted for 2015. While my 3:31:32 fell short of my sub-3:30 goal, I was thrilled with a 7+ minute PR.

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Whether in life or running, it’s all about how you handle the obstacles.

During the spring, I chose the Phoenix 10K as my fall “A” race. I had hoped to crush the 44:01 (7:05 pace) PR I had set on a much hillier course in May of last year, but amended my goal to a 7:30 pace. My friend Shokofeh, who had run the 5K earlier that day, offered to pace me. My boyfriend Ross said he’d run the first five miles with us, and then we’d battle it out. During the race, she repeatedly told me I was doing awesome. He told me I looked pretty when I was suffering. I simultaneously loved them for running with me and hated them for cruising along while I struggled. Ross took off after the fifth mile and beat me by over a minute. Ultimately, their presence kept me honest during the second half of the race, and I finished in 46:32 (7:29 pace). It’s definitely harder to push when you know a PR is out of the question, so I was happy that I achieved my goal.

I’m also at a place where I am having to retrain my brain after skipping and cutting many a workout short due to injury. Speedwork and hills aggravated my calf, so I stuck with slow and moderately paced miles. My body is ready to ramp things up again, and my mind does not like it. It becomes habit to hold back, to take that day off… I’ve had a few small victories lately, though: a 27 degree swim here, a 10-miler before work there. I am beginning to remember the high that comes from pushing through when I’d much rather take the easy road. I want the athlete back.

One non-fitness related accomplishment that I am really excited about is that I have started writing short stories again. During my soul-searching time, I thought about what would I most regret if I were to die right now. I kept coming back to that fact that I had never published a work of fiction. Fear had kept me from even trying. I set a goal this year to either submit a story for publication or to a contest. I stumbled upon the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge and thought it sounded perfect. Writers were are 48 hours to create a story of 1000 words or less that include an assigned setting and object in a specific genre. Here is what I came up with, if you’re interested. I welcome feedback, positive or negative.

Comedy/Speed Dating/Mousetrap

Mystery/Limousine/Magnet

Sci-Fi/Health Club/Welcome Mat

The contest definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t written any stories in ten years, much less a mystery, sci-fi, or pure comedy. Ultimately, out of over 1000 entrants, I was one of 125 writers that advanced to the third round, but was not one of the 25 who made it to the end. Still, my main goal was to put myself out there and grow as a writer. I’m usually never satisfied with what I write, which is a big reason I have avoided it for so long. And just like exercise, when you get “out of shape,” it’s hard to get going again. Inertia is a powerful force.

Other things vie for my time as well. I want to get back to blogging here at least semi-regularly. I’d like my house to stop looking like I just moved in. I am also determined to put a high priority on my love life. Both my ex-husband and I agree that we got lazy when it came to keeping things special, and I don’t want to fall into that again. So, while I am committed to staying fit, I may decide to pursue PRs with less fervor, and Boston will probably be my last marathon for a long time.

As this year winds down, I am grateful for many things. My slower body is still capable of pounding the pavement. My creative passion has been rekindled. And I get to share many a mile with the person I love.

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Falling short

Training for a marathon involves months of preparation, hours of sweat, and seemingly endless miles, all to be laid on the line in an event that lasts a few hours. Last December, I had the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I needed a 3:40, and felt that I was capable of 3:30, based on my 1:40:03 half marathon time and the McMillan calculator. I was trained, tapered, and ready to run. The race did not go as well as planned. I had persistent intestinal issues the morning of, which led to an unplanned detour into the desert. I wasn’t able to hit the speeds that I wanted, even though I felt like I gave it my best that morning. Fortunately, I still managed to BQ with a time of 3:38:41. With the new, tighter standards, I was pretty sure that it would be enough and I wanted to take a year off from marathons anyway.

After the bombings, I knew anecdotally that there was an increased interest in running the 2014 race and wondered if I would make it in. Still, I was committed to my goal of completing a Half Ironman in the fall and didn’t think I could do that and PR in a marathon. Extra slots were opened up for the race, but yes, more people were registering. I submitted my registration, waited a week and a half, and learned that the cut-off was 1:38 under qualifying time. I was 19 seconds too slow. All that preparation. So close. So far. After I got the news, I thought about my desert potty break. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d be looking up airline tickets right now.

Life doesn’t coddle. Sometimes, what you bring to the table isn’t enough. Sometimes your goals are thwarted by things beyond your control (although I think that I will skip the artichoke hearts the night before a race). In reality, all we can control is our preparation, our attitude, and our behavior in the moment. If something is worth it, we will press on, even when faced with setbacks and the very real possibility that we may fall short. Again.

There are endless quotes and songs about focusing on the journey, not the destination (including one from a fully-clothed Miley Cyrus). That’s where the time is spent, the tears are shed – the growth happens. It’s where we learn about ourselves. Finding strength, tenacity, and yes, weakness. There may come a time to shelve certain dreams, but that doesn’t have to lead to despair. After all, Johnny Depp originally sought to make it as a rock star.

In the grand scheme of things, I know that missing out on a race is not a huge deal, and I plan to make like Joe Dirt and keep on keepin’ on. I have already signed up for the Phoenix Marathon in an attempt to better my qualifying time. After a break from marathoning, I am looking forward to ramping up the miles and going long again. Me, Boston, and 2015? There’s only one way to find out. Happy Training.