Tag Archive | marathon

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done: Running the LA Marathon

It’s official. Running is a mental illness. I’m counting down the days until marathon running is entered into the DSM. It’s only a matter of time. Four days ago I finished the LA Marathon—however reluctantly. Nothing in my life has challenged me physically and mentally like those 26.2 miles. The experience was leaps and bounds more difficult than my first marathon.

Let me get the bummer stuff out of the way. The LA Marathon just isn’t for me. As much as I love Los Angeles (and I do, deeply), running across it did nothing for me. I thought the experience of bipedally moving from the east side to the west, unencumbered by traffic and a vehicle, would instill a great deal of civic pride in my heart. It did not. The first six miles were great. Brad was still running with me. We trotted through the streets of downtown Los Angeles discovering little gazebos and walkways that you just don’t notice when you’re in a car. I felt fresh and strong, and the city looked great. Once the race got really hard (which I’ll get to in a minute) the city lost its luster and no amount of drag performers in WeHo or palm trees on Rodeo Drive could cheer me up.

I wanted to run the Walt Disney World Marathon because I knew that no matter how hard the running got or how bad I felt physically, I would be in my happy place. I thought the environment would act as a stimulant when my legs wanted to give out, and I was right. My old pal Mickey got me through. I loved running through the world of Disney because the whole place made me happy. I love Los Angeles but my associations with the city are not that pure. There are certain neighborhoods and streets that feel like happy places and others that feel like haunts. I’d pass down a street near where I used to live years ago and think, “Oh that was a tough time in my life.” Who wants to be reminded of such chapters of one’s life when doing the hardest thing you’ve ever attempted to do? Total bummer. No, LA has way too many complex emotional associations to make for a good marathon environment.

Another benefit to Walt Disney World was that I did not know the geography. I had no idea how far it was from Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios so I couldn’t think about the many miles from point A to point B. Not knowing the terrain forced me into the moment and the mile at hand. Very beneficial. In Los Angeles, however, I am all too acutely aware of how far it is from Hollywood to Brentwood and so when running down Sunset Blvd I felt completely crushed by the thought of making it allllll the way to Wilshire. Are you kidding me? I have to run to Crescent Heights? I’m only at Sunset Junction! Not possible! When it comes to running those kinds of distances, ignorance is bliss.

I live in Venice and I work in Glassell Park. For those of you who don’t know LA geography, Venice is as far west as you can go, and Glassell Park is about as far east as you can go and still say you’re in Los Angeles. In short, I traverse the entire city from west to east and back again—every—single—day. Why did I think going from the “Stadium to the Sea” would hold any novelty for me? It felt like my commute.

My last beef with the LA Marathon is logistical. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO ORDER ENOUGH BATHROOMS TO ACCOMMODATE 26,000 PEOPLE? I swear. It seems that every race I do skimps on the port-0-potties and I seriously don’t understand it. There’s no way to irritate a runner faster than a) run out of water or b) not provide enough bathrooms thus causing said runner to have to wait in line when she should be running. This is exactly what happened. I may have had one too many garlic knots the night before at C&O Trattoria but I had to make two bathroom stops during the marathon. Guess how long I waited in line? Go ahead. Guess.

20 minutes.

What?! That is unacceptable. I was already having a painfully slow race but to add an extra 20 minutes to my time, and then another 10 minutes for the second bathroom stop, that is heartrendingly significant. We all paid a lot of money to run this thing. Can’t we go to the bathroom in a timely manner? Oh and the first john I used ran out of toilet paper. Not cool. I mean there just aren’t a lot of options in that scenario.

So those are the reasons both personal and logistical that I won’t be running the LA Marathon, specifically, again anytime soon. I’m glad I did it. I was curious. But now I know.

More bummer stuff—I’m ashamed of my time. Listen, I never ever judge anyone else’s running pace. I don’t believe there is a certain speed at which you become a real runner. It’s personal. A 10 minute mile may be slow to one runner and unattainably fast for another. To Meb, an 8 minute mile is a very gentle jog. I can’t even imagine. We run to discover our capabilities and ranges, and learn to perform within them. Me? At my best, I’m a 10 minute mile runner on a 5k, an 11 on 10k, and an 11:00-11:30 on a half marathon. Knowing that range I believe in my heart of hearts that I should be able to do a marathon between a 12:00-13:00 minute mile. I believe I can do that.

This marathon clocked in at a 15:00. Part of that was due to the half hour I wasted using the loo, but even taking that out of consideration I generally clocked about a 14:00 on my Garmin. Here’s the thing. I’m not a 15 minute mile runner. I’m not a 14 minute mile runner. I’m just not. So even though I finished the race and got my medal, I feel beat. I feel like the course and the day got the best of me. Even though my mom keeps telling me I should feel proud, I don’t feel proud. Two in and I’ve yet to perform a marathon at my potential.

There was a litany of reasons specific to where I’m at right now as a runner that made this race so slow and painful. The greatest challenge I faced going in was that I was injured for about 50% of my training. By the time I hit the double digit training runs I was almost crippled by shin splints. Even on 3 mile runs I could barely get my time below a 12:30 minute mile. Brutal. I was this close to skipping the marathon after I barely finished a 16 mile run. It was an “oh what the hell” attitude that got me to sign up, not any kind of belief in my strength.

I was injured, and I was overweight. Look, I like myself. I like my body. Maybe if I were a bit more dissatisfied on an emotional level it would be easier to lay off the calories that have put this extra weight on my frame. But alas, I’m fairly confident in my skin and didn’t feel all that motivated to slim down for this race that I wasn’t even that enthusiastic about running in the first place. To be overweight as a runner is tough stuff. It makes your job ten times harder. It is precisely the same thing as a fit person with no body fat trying to run 26.2 miles wearing a forty pound lead suit. It would slow anyone down. I don’t need to lose forty pounds but I could stand to lose twenty-five. I think if I did that, that might be the only missing link to my elusive 5:30 marathon.

So what was it like to run a marathon with all of those things working against me? As I said on Instagram, I can’t imagine anything in the world—short of torture and maybe childbirth—harder than running that race. (I’ve actually heard several women tell me that giving birth was easier for them than running a marathon, so there you go). I hit a wall at mile thirteen. THIRTEEN. It’s normal and expected to hit a wall at some point but usually it’s around 18. Then you work through it until about mile 21, and you’ve got the last 5 miles on adrenaline. I hit it with HALF OF THE RACE LEFT TO RUN. Besides a few brief and fleeting runner’s high moments, I pushed against that wall for the entire rest of the race.

What does it mean to hit a wall? I think the best way to imagine it is literally. Imagine running in place, now push up against a wall. Now don’t stop. Now keep doing that for five hours. Now imagine there are thousands of people around you running right through the wall but you still have to push against it. Now imagine the feeling like you’re not getting anywhere even though your feet are moving in a manner that would suggest forward motion. Now imagine that this is your fate for all time. Like Sisyphus, you are to push against this wall for eternity. Now imagine you feel more alone than you’ve ever felt in your life. Now imagine the time you felt like the biggest failure in the entire universe. Now feel like that. Now magnify that feeling by ten. Keep pushing against that wall. Now imagine you’re nauseous. Now imagine your mouth is on fire but no matter how much water you drink your mouth is still thirsty, but you can’t drink more because then your stomach will be even more nauseous. Now imagine a car just rolled over your feet.

It’s kind of like that.

It is so difficult to put the struggle into words because I don’t actually remember any of it. I remember it intellectually, but I don’t remember the pain. Nature does this as a defense mechanism so we’ll repeat painful things like childbirth without hesitation, but I’m not sure Mother Nature anticipated the effect on marathon runners. I imagine her looking down on us from some celestial treehouse shouting “You guys! Stop it! I wiped the pain memory for making babies! Not for this! This is ridiculous!” Runners don’t listen though. I don’t remember the pain. Which is what has led me to my next question…

Which marathon should I run next?

At mile 20 I promised myself I would draft a document and have it notarized stating that I was not allowed to run another marathon. Ever. Three hours after I’d finished I started doing the math in my head to figure out how much I’d have to save to do Walt Disney World in 2018. I’m telling you. It’s a certifiable mental disorder. Despite the tears running down my face (there were many), despite the pain, the doubt, the struggle—I want to do it again. I understand masochism now. Something about pain and struggle brings us closer to our potential and a divine truth.

Can you tell I’m Catholic?

In all honesty, this race was a spiritual experience. Perhaps it’s the season of Lent that has me meditating deeply on the concept of struggle. When I ran up against that wall I wasn’t running on strength. I had none. I wasn’t running on willpower. I had none. I wasn’t running on grit. I had none. I had nothing. Nothing left. I had to pull from something higher than myself. And whether or not you believe that’s a real thing or just a mind trick, it doesn’t really matter and I don’t really care. It only mattered that it worked. And that higher power—that pull on a force of energy beyond myself—was absolutely the only thing that got me across that finish line. Oh and this song by The Killers.

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” You see this quote a lot in the running world. You’ll see it written on people’s bibs, printed on people’s shirts. Meb has it listed as the only thing on his Twitter bio. The first time I saw a runner with this passage printed on her running shirt I scoffed. Pfft. I’m a Catholic but I’m not really on board with the whole divinity of Jesus thing. It’s confusing. I’m a bad Catholic. I just don’t believe all the magic miracle stuff, but I do believe that Jesus was an amazing figure with an absolutely incredible story. I love all the rituals, and I love good stories. So what does that passage really mean? It doesn’t have to mean that the magic of Jesus helps win races. It can mean that if you want it to. If you need it to. If it does to you. To me it is the story of the universe—that there is a force which unites all of us. This thing—this energy—is there for us to call on when we need to endure. It is pure goodness and grit. It is mystery and it is power. It is outside us and within us. It never runs out. It never hits a wall. Whether you call it Christ or God or The Force or the Universe, I think the important point is that it is something eternally strong that exists outside of you, but flies like a kite with its string tethered directly to your own heart. And to the heart of every human walking the earth. I accessed that magic on Sunday. I let myself fly that kite, and it is the only reason I finished.

So what were the upsides to running the LA Marathon? Oh of course there were many. That divine revelation thing was pretty cool. Seeing so many friends on course made my heart explode. (Seriously guys, you have no idea how much you helped). I learned a ton. You can’t go halfway on something that hard and expect satisfying results. I didn’t— couldn’t—go all in on my training and I should have adjusted my expectations accordingly for finishing the race. Manage your expectations. Always a good life lesson.

I’m fired up for next time. I may have thrown out the contract prohibiting me from running again, but I left a few provisions. I won’t sign up for another marathon until I’ve dropped 20 pounds. And I won’t sign up for another marathon until I’ve found one that I’m really excited about. I may only have one marathon left in me and if that’s the case I have to see what I’m capable of. Where I run is just as important as how I run. Unfortunately I have top shelf taste. I’d love to run Rome more than anything. Hmm.

It was a true treat to run this race with my husband and Neiman. Even though we didn’t run it together, we were together, you know? Neiman finally broke his 4 hour marathon goal (see what I mean about relativity with pace? that is crazy fast), and Brad made his goal of running the entire race without any walk breaks and he made a great time too. Good job boys.

I learned about struggle. I’m a very laid back and casual person. I’m not Type A. I don’t like things to be hard. This serves me in that I’m a very happy person most of the time. What I learned about myself in this race is that I associate struggle with failure. When things got hard running this race the negative thoughts FLOODED in. I couldn’t keep them out. A true athlete encounters physical struggle, but they win the race by winning the game between their ears. I didn’t lose this marathon with my shin splinty legs. I lost it with my mind.

If running marathons were easy everyone would do it. Everyone doesn’t do it so the struggle makes the difference. If getting a book published were easy everyone would do it. Getting my book published is, as it turns out, very much in the not easy category, so I have to embrace the struggle as a sign pointing me toward success. Insert any dream or goal and the same is true. Struggle is the stuff. It’s the troll guarding the bridge that you either have to fight, escape, or trick into letting you pass. Rejoice when you encounter the struggle troll. Then kick his ass.

Oh and my skirt was really cute.

IMG_6522

There’s more to share but I think it’s time to move on. On to the next race. I’ll take a break from marathon running for a couple of years, but marathon—I’m coming for you. We don’t get to break up like that.

Some photos.

 

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Lovers getting married at Mile 11.

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Completely unappreciative.

Happy running friends!

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VIDEO: 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap

Brad just finished our recap video of the Walt Disney World Marathon! I know I say this every time he makes a new video but I really think this one is the best yet! Maybe that’s because he gets better and better at cutting these recaps, or maybe it’s because each race is more magical than the last. Either way, this one is GOOD! Really good. Check it out. If nothing else at least watch the first minute for Brad’s magic moment with Winnie the Pooh. This doesn’t happen every day.

What a great race. Still reeling from our accomplishment. Great video Brad! Everyone, let’s tell Brad how great he is. I tell him every day but he’s used to it from his wife. Share your comments below or on YouTube!

Just a Couple Little Major Announcements

You know that feeling when you have so much to do that the weight of it all paralyzes you from actually doing anything? So you spend way too much time on Facebook. The final refuge of the paralyzed. You shop on Amazon for things you don’t need. You read Buzzfeeds about Disney princesses re-imagined as rocks. Anything to keep you from activating your brain. That’s my relationship to blogging at the moment.

I have the single biggest announcement to make about running since I started writing here at Running to Tahiti. Everything has led to this. It’s huge.

Follow that up with the SECOND biggest announcement to make since I began running over 15 years ago. So yeah.

Each of these announcements comes with deep introspection, analysis, and reflection that maybe no one really cares about but I feel compelled to explore. It’s the whole point. So I feel I can’t make these announcements until I can adequately collect my thoughts and articulate them clearly.

Who has the time for that? On top of these massive colossal running milestones are the myriad other report type articles I’d like to write. Race recaps, tips, running news, etc. There’s a lot going on.

And then there’s my personal life. Running a marathon gave me 6 hours to think about things and well, oh…

Woops.

I let one out of the bag there. I guess I’ll just tell you then. I ran a marathon.

I RAN A MARATHON!!!!!

So yeah, that’s huge. What can I say? Nothing I can say in this moment can adequately capture the significance of crossing that finish line. I’ll try again later, but until then, here are Pooh and friends:

Pooh Friends FinishI know, it’s a proof. I’m sorry! I DO plan on buying some of the official race pics but I have to wait until a payday rolls around that’s not right after a trip to Walt Disney World. I’m broke and those pictures are about $5000 a piece. For serious. Here’s some more though.

So yeah, running for over 6 hours straight. You should try it sometime. No really you should. I finished 26.2 miles and I swear within less than one hour I was thinking to myself “When can I do that again?”

Runners are so crazy. I love it. It’s like how that one time, during the marathon, when I was thinking about how we made it to Tahiti… oh.

Wait…

Let another one slip there. Big announcement. We made it to Tahiti.

WE MADE IT TO TAHITI!!!!

I know what you’re thinking. “You’re not in Tahiti, lady. You just posted a Daily Mile run in Santa Monica yesterday.” You would be right. I am not currently in Tahiti. But clearly you haven’t been reading my blog for very long. That’s ok. Here’s the short of it. 4 years ago Brad and I picked a dream destination. Tahiti. We looked up the miles between L.A. and Tahiti, and vowed to run the equivalent distance no matter how long it would take. We put $1 in a savings account for every 1 mile that we’d run, and now we’ve got a sweet little nugget of change to ACTUALLY get us to Tahiti. Because we ran there. So it’s like we’re there. Get it? Running to Tahiti?

We reached the shores of Tahiti somewhere around mile 10 of our first marathon. How sweet is that? I tell you what. I had quite the little burst of energy for several miles after that fact dawned me. The burst of energy came only after I stopped crying from joy of course.

The perfect words elude me once again. It’s best I just blurt out these announcements because my mind is just mushy joy right now and can’t formulate thoughts. Just feelings.

Pride, joy, relief, disbelief, awe, eagerness, electricity.

When I started this journey 4,109 miles seemed like, not an impossible distance, but quite a distant one. The number is just so big. Like saving for a mortgage, you never really feel like that extra $100 you put in your account from your paycheck every month is going to amount to what you need but somehow, day after day, month after month, you just keep doing it and slowly it does. Little tiny efforts don’t feel in the immediate sense like they can ever amount to much, but if you wake up every day with renewed commitment and HOPE… If you believe in what you’re doing… You get what I’m saying here, the whole Rome wasn’t built in a day thing. But really think about that! I don’t like the Rome analogy actually. It’s too elaborate, tangled up in complex political systems and evil emperors. There are too many people involved in that metaphor. It took too many people to build Rome. Personal achievement requires a more solitary comparison. A single steady force chipping away at a rock. Something much more simple. It’s like… the Grand Canyon. Sweet, smooth, steady water trickling trickling then rushing and gushing over a loooooong time. Water, when combined with persistence, did THAT.

The-Beautiful-Grand-Canyon-by-Michael-Matti

Constant. Steadfast. Relentless. Most of all, patient. That water didn’t wake up one day and obsess about carving the Grand Canyon by dusk. It just thought about finding a way downstream. Ok it didn’t think at all. It’s water. You get me though. We knew we wanted to get to Tahiti but the day we started tracking miles we just went on a run. Probably 3 miles. Then the next day we ran again. I know, it’s so simple. I’m sounding so prosaic. I told you I wasn’t equipped to talk about it yet. I’m really not. But I just want to tell you this one more thing. I’m going to sound like Bill Murray at the end of Scrooged but here goes.

Whatever it is you want in this world, if you really truly want it then you were meant to find it. If your heart truly dreams of something, you CAN have it and you should. I used to think it didn’t make sense for EVERYONE to fulfill their dreams because the world just isn’t set up for it. Some of us have to work the jobs that others don’t want to work. Some of us have to pick up the trash and flip the burgers and crunch the numbers. Some of us have to be unhappy. I was wrong though. I believe we all have a story to tell, a destiny. Maybe your destiny IS crunching numbers or flipping burgers. You have to listen very closely to your heart to find out. To find your purpose in it and your accompanying joy. It may be hard to hear, but listen more closely. We all were meant to tell a story. To be a PART of a story, a big story. Something is whispering directions to us. Listen and follow. Trust it. You can do whatever you want to do in this life and you can be whatever you want to be. It WILL NOT BE EASY. I can guarantee you that. It won’t always be pretty and you won’t always be happy. Sometimes the universe will appear to conspire against you. It’s not. It’s actually helping. I don’t know what those hard parts are really. Tests? Helping hands designed as obstacles? Maybe something more mysterious. I don’t know. I just know that you can do it. Be patient. Work hard. Don’t give up. Believe in yourself. Lord knows I’m not quite sure what my personal legend is yet, but I know this has been part of it. I feel that Brad and I achieved something huge together and now there’s an omniscient voice in this cosmic video game saying to us Congratulations, you may proceed to the next level.

So there you have it. Mental blogger mush, this post is, but I had to get it out. I didn’t want to let another day pass without announcing to my dear patient readers that we made it. 4,109 miles.

WE MADE IT!!!

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moon rocks

The Big Announcement

I’ve been hinting at a Big Announcement for a long time. Sorry about that. I know those were all teases. Well this one is no tease. I made good on my promise. I have an announcement, and it’s probably what you’re expecting. I just can’t concentrate on anything else until I make it known.

Look what I did.

 

Announcement

 

And whenever I think about the fact that I’ve signed up for a full marathon, this…

betty-faint

or this…

Jimmy Stewart faint

 

or something like this…

totoro gif

 

But hopefully when I’m done I’ll feel more like this:

i did it

with a hefty dose of…

Mononoke did it

Ultimately what I’m hoping for is…

I did it Falkor

 

Though I might make my way to the finish line doing something like….

crawl to the finishAnd once I’m done, pretty sure I’ll resemble…

tired slime

 

Shock. Amazement. Wonder. Fear. All things I’m feeling right now…

shock

I’m at the beginning of a journey; and whatever happens, it’s happening!

 

Have you run a full marathon? Tips for a first-timer? Please share in the comments!

 

2014: The Year I Slay the Dragon

As much as I await and adore Halloween, as much as I relish and savor Thanksgiving, as much as I swoon and smile for Christmas, this particular portion of our 365 trip around the sun just might be my favorite. The potential, the ambition, the planning, the hope. A New Year. I’m reminded of my favorite quote from musical theatre:

“White. A blank page or canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.” – Sunday in the Park with George

This is everything.  A clean slate. Potential energy. An annual invitation to become the person you were destined to be. If you missed the party last year, the New Year’s Fairy doesn’t care how many times you decline, the invitation arrives again and this time you RSVP. This year, 2014, I plan to attend that party. I am especially energized.

Maybe it’s because I say goodbye to my 20’s this year. Maybe it’s because I get married this year. These two rather significant rites of passage have me at once mourning a chapter of my life coming to an end: my roaring 20’s, my life as a bachelorette; and yet prepared to say goodbye as I embark upon richer seas. I look forward to the added accountability that comes with being thirty-something. I look forward to being taken a bit more seriously. I can’t wait to be someone’s wife. To have my own beloved. A guaranteed partner in life’s adventures. Brad and I have been together for 6 years and the past few of those years have felt pretty darn close to marriage, but they weren’t. It’s different. This is a topic for an entirely different post, but through being engaged and planning a wedding I’ve discovered that the piece of paper matters.

I want to be more truthful this year. I want to write more truthfully. I need to get at the heart of myself. This blog helps with that. I appreciate Facebook in that I get to stay in touch with people I care about who I otherwise wouldn’t connect with for months at a time due to geographical realities and my fear of the telephone. I also appreciate that it gives everyone the opportunity to project the ideal version of themselves out into the ether; but we must remember that it is just that: a version. Life is at times messy, complicated, and painful. We all log on to Facebook and get the impression that everyone else we know is doing just fine, great actually, thriving. We’re comparing ourselves, warts and all, to everyone else’s highlights; and rest assured they are doing the same with us. I respect a place that allows us to create an ideal picture of ourselves. There’s value in that. But it’s the messiness and the pain that bonds us in empathy and compassion, and Facebook isn’t the place for that. This is why we need art. It’s not perfectly manicured and edited. It’s a truth, warts and all. I need more truth, from myself and others. I plan to immerse myself much more creatively this year and I plan to articulate my life, messy parts included, either here on this blog or in my own personal journal. It will be documented so years from now when my great great great grandchildren research the life of Rebecca Marie Sigl, they’ll see all the truth that was underneath that Facebook page.

In the past few years I have been dancing around a sleeping dragon which I alluded to previously. In 2013 that damned dragon woke up and it was fight or flight. I’ve been fighting. The battle isn’t won yet but I am pretty damn close to slaying that dragon. I apologize for speaking entirely in metaphors but details will come. Let’s just say the dragon is almost lost and I look forward to exploring the castle beyond. What riches might it hold?

2014 is going to be quite a party. How does one plan for such an event? With resolutions of course. They are the party dress we wear out into the world. The rate at which resolutions get thrown out the window by February 1st has many people poo-pooing the entire notion, but I for one am entirely pro-resolution. This year I take a different tack. In the past I’ve focused on one main goal but my sights are bigger now and I can’t repress them. I’m just so damned excited about the future that I’m going to set as many resolutions as I want and I’m going to kick their butts. Because I am taking 2014 by the horns, damnit, and I am going to mold it into the life that I want to live. And I’m going to start right now. So here they are, my myriad of resolutions for 2014. I plan on doing every single one of them. I’ll keep you posted.

  1. Be more creative
  2. Read 52 books in 52 weeks
  3. Paint monthly
  4. Take a drawing class
  5. Never leave dirty dishes in the sink
  6. Make bed every day
  7. Clean kitty box every day
  8. Purge unwanted clothes/things
  9. Run 4 times a week
  10. Write one new story a month
  11. Don’t give up on strength training
  12. “Do” my hair at least once a week
  13. Save money for the future, build up that nest egg
  14. Make my lunch for work 3 times a week
  15. Eat breakfast everyday
  16. Pay off credit cards
  17. Lose 15 pounds
  18. Be kind to everyone
  19. Say no to fear and anxiety
  20. Write in my blog at least once a week!
  21. Acting. Decide what I want to do about it.
  22. Be efficient at work.
  23. Reduce time-sucky Facebook usage
  24. Clutter clear and clean our apartment
  25. Run 4 half marathons
  26. Sign up for a full marathon
  27. Make one new Whimsy Do creation a week
  28. Get married
  29. Breathe
  30. Have faith…
Skiing in Colorado just one week ago. Cross that off the resolution list! Pretty sure I made that one when I was 12. Doesn't matter how long it takes, goal achieved.

Skiing into 2014 via Monarch Mountain in Colorado just one week ago. Cross that off the resolution list! Pretty sure I made that resolution when I was 12. Doesn’t matter how long it takes, goal achieved.

 

What are your new year’s resolutions. What is your outlook on the new year? Please share by commenting below.

BIG announcement, like, big

Last weekend I watched my friend not only finish the L.A. Marathon, but kick it in the butt. Brad and I drove him to the starting line at 6:00 am. The sun continued to sleep soundly somewhere past the horizon while Dodgers Stadium overflowed with 20,000+ eager and excited runners. As we pulled into the drop-off area, inspiration filled my lungs. I couldn’t believe not only how many people took on the challenge of running a marathon, but how many of them were in the same physical condition (and maybe even a bit worse) than me. I couldn’t help but excitedly think if they could do this, I could do this. And I can.

With no further ado I have an announcement to make. I will run a marathon in 2015.

In case you weren’t sure, that’s 26.2 miles.

I’ve been toying with the idea since about one week after I finished my first half marathon. Immediately after finishing I thought that running that distance twice in a row sounded like the most insane idea I’d ever heard of, and I couldn’t believe ANYone actually did it. But it only took about a week to forget the pain before I started thinking not only of running another half as soon as possible, but entertaining the notion of greater challenges. I imagine it’s a bit like having children. During childbirth and immediately after I think most women curse their spouse’s name and swear they’ll never do this again. Doesn’t take long before that cuddly little bundle wipes away the memory of the pain and you start prepping another baby’s room. So yes, I’ve been thinking about it for years, (the marathon thing, not the baby thing) and I’m done thinking. The only way I’m going to find out if I can actually do it, is to just frickin’ do it.

So I’m going to do it.

Why wait until 2015 you ask? Well I’ve got this little thing called a wedding to plan. Brad and I are getting hitched in July 2014 (BRAD AND I ARE GETTING HITCHED JULY 2014!!!!!) and I don’t need to add to the stress of wedding planning by trying to squeeze in 15 mile runs on the weekends. 2014 is the year ‘o’ love. As soon as we get back from our honeymoon, let the training begin.

The goal right now (and I hope I hope I hope I can make it work) is to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. We’re talking about a marathon people. My FIRST marathon. It’s a big deal. You want your first time to be special, y’know? Whether or not we’ll have enough money leftover to fly to Florida for a running vacay after saving for a wedding and honeymoon remains to be seen. If it doesn’t happen, then it’ll either be the LA Marathon or the California International Marathon that takes my marathon V-Card.

So there you have it! You heard it here first. Accountability officially in print on Running to Tahiti.

I will run a marathon.

special idiots run marathon copy

falling down the rabbit hole HURTS!

I’ve convinced myself that what happened at the race on Sunday happened so that I would have great material to write about for my blog. Who wants to read about something going as planned? Don’t worry, you won’t.

Running has given me life lessons at every turn and last weekend’s half marathon is no exception. You can plan and plan and plan for something and when it comes right down to it you can’t control what happens at go time.

I start the weekend with enthusiasm and confidence. I know I have trained hard and I have trained strong. I am ready. More ready for a race than ever before. There is practically nothing that can stop me from murdering my personal record.

I am so excited about my costume choice and have even convinced Brad to dress up as the White Rabbit.

ready to race

We make it down to the starting corral at 5:00 am and the nerves start to kick in. Not everything is perfect after all. I have a pinched nerve in my back that seems to flare up only at times it is unwelcome. Despite my best efforts to get up extra early and drink copious amounts of coffee I have not yet “gone to the bathroom.” Pardon me for the crudeness but this is a very important issue for runners. And lastly, I remember that my last long race was not strong at all. It was an 8 miler and it almost got the best of me. These things start to play on my confidence and I feel it wane a bit.

I suffer from allowing my race day energy to disguise itself as worry as I wait in my corral for the 45 minutes before we start running. Something I need to work on. Thankfully the energy is quickly put to good use as we move across the starting line. I feel the nerves turn into running fuel. We start strong. 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1.. GO! The race is off. 

At just a 1/4 mile into the race Brad and I hear a loud smack and see a poor runner just to our right take a nasty face-plant into the pavement. Those street lane bumps, they’ll get you every time. It’s a bad spill and I feel so sorry for her. She gets up rather quickly, although I don’t know if she is able to stay in the race. I think to myself “Geez I’m glad that wasn’t me,” coupled with an eerie shadow of foreboding. I shake it off and keep running. Watch your footing, I tell myself.

The race is fantastic. I feel so strong. We’re passing people left and right which clearly means we’re going to pace out with a group much faster than in previous year’s. We do have to stop in Fantasyland for a bathroom break (dang coffee, NOW you kick in!) but luckily there is no line so it’s only about a 3 minute delay. Still. 3 minutes mean a lot to a runner trying to beat a PR. But it can’t be helped.

There’s not much else to say about the next 5 miles. They are incredible. I feel strong. I feel fast. I even feel a runner’s high start to kick in. I have a killer playlist to boot. Amazing what music does to put pep in your step. Good, good, better, better. Let’s skip to mile 8, shall we?

We turn the corner to enter Angel Stadium. This is one of Brad and my’s favorite spots on the course. There are so many people in the stadium there cheering us on. It’s exactly the burst of energy we need at mile 9 to get through the next 4 miles. We turn the corner to exit the stadium and that’s when it happens. I fall down the rabbit hole. The operative word being fall.

I have a fair amount of Disney music on my half marathon playlist. What can I say? I love it. Have you ever run to “Out There” from Hunchback of Notre Dame? Or even better, “Go the Distance” from Hercules? You’ll never run faster. I have one song on my playlist to pay homage to our costumes for the day. This song:

This is the song that Alice sings right before she falls down the rabbit hole. This is the song that plays as I turn the corner out of the stadium, catch half of my foot on the cement walkway and half on the dirt sidewalk, and fall on my face. This is the song that plays as I fall down a rabbit hole of my own, I kid you not. Not only do I seem to live my life in metaphors, I seem to actually BE Alice.

Many emotions and thoughts race through your body and brain when you fall in a moment like that. Amazingly you run the entire gamut of emotions in just the few short seconds it takes you to hit the ground. Forgive the dramatics as I describe this experience but the reason for them is that I have huge expectations for this race. I know what stellar shape I’m in. I know that we’re ahead of our PR and if we just keep at pace, we’ll beat it by a landslide. As I fall, first I feel denial. I feel that I can stop myself. I feel that I can catch my footing. Then I realize I can’t. Then I feel embarrassment. Good lord how embarrassing to fall in front of all these runners. And in a petticoat no less. I suddenly feel silly for wearing it. Then I feel dread. Oh no. I can’t believe I just fell. I can’t believe that just happened. What does this mean? I try to assess the damage but I can’t tell yet. Oh God what if I can’t finish?? I look down and see that I’ve scraped my knee rather dramatically. What just a moment ago was was a gleaming pair of white tights is now a torn dirty bloody rip across my knee. I don’t care about that. I can run with a scraped knee. What I care about is that I can tell something is wrong with my ankle. A new level of denial kicks in. No way. My ankle is FINE. I give it a good rub. A runner who is right in front of me when I fall is so kind. Even though she sees Brad is there to help me, she stops and helps me up and shows true concern on her face. She tells me just to stand for a few minutes before I start running again. There is something about her. She doesn’t show me pity. She looks truly concerned. She shows solidarity. I read in her face “girl, this happens to everyone at some point.” I won’t forget that woman and her random act of kindness. It really comforts me in that moment.

I take her advice and Brad and I stand there for a few minutes to see if I can put weight on my ankle. In the back of my mind I know it doesn’t matter. I am finishing this race if I have to crawl to the finish line. A few minutes of walking and I start to pick up the pace again. The tingling in my ankle seems to have stopped and I feel pretty much fine putting my complete weight on it and getting back to our previous pace. I figure I’m lucky. That I just escaped really twisting or spraining it and won’t be injured at all other than my bloody knee. I underestimate the power of adrenaline. Looking back I know now that a huge dose of the wonder hormone surged straight towards my bad ankle and let me finish the race. Adrenaline is an amazing thing. Human bodies are amazing things. Of course a day later I’ve got a knot the size and color of ripe plum on the side of my foot, but in that moment I think I’m in the clear.

Within just a few minutes we’re flying again. I feel strong and fast and I’m doing my best just to laugh off the fall. Focus and determination to cross that finish line prevent me from looking back. Prevent me from playing the moment over and over again in my head and trying to undo it somehow. That would come in time.

I do my best to really pick up the pace these last few miles. I know we lost at least 4 minutes with the fall. We turn the corner at the end of mile 12 and I can’t believe how amazing I feel. I see a group of runners doing burpees at the mile 13 sign. Ok, so I don’t feel THAT good, but by my standards I’ve never felt better. The finish line is in sight and I fly toward it. At this point I try not to think about my time and just focus on finishing strong. I’ve never experienced the half marathon finish like this. Not a single ounce of nausea. Barely any fatigue. Minimal muscle tightening. I really could have gone farther. We fly through the finish line, Donald and Goofy cheering from the sidelines. Brad feels good enough to proclaim that he feels like he could run a marathon right now. Now there’s an idea.

Not too much time goes by and thoughts previously put at bay by determination and adrenaline start to creep into my mind.

WHY DID I HAVE TO FALL?????

Ugh. Why? How hard is it to put one foot in front of the other? How could I fall? I try to visualize it in my head in slow-mo and I can’t figure out how it happened. One minute I’m running, the next minute I’m eating dirt. If only I had been more careful with my footing. If only I hadn’t been so over zealous in trying to pass people. I would have stayed more on the center of the track and not gone near that lip that tripped me. If only I hadn’t chased that white rabbit. If only… if only… if only. I know it’s just the Disneyland Half Marathon. I know it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But I was doing so well! Why did I have to fall on my best run ever? Why couldn’t I fall on a mediocre run when there was less at stake?

I immediately start thinking about the Olympics. So many Olympian runners have fallen at clinch moments. 1st place with just 200M left and a hurdle gets ’em. Down they go along with their dreams of gold medal glory. If I feel this bad after falling during the Disneyland Half Marathon, I really can’t imagine how those Olympians who have suffered a similar fate felt when their life’s dreams slipped away. Truly. My heart goes out to you.

Even with these thoughts running through my head trying to undo what happened, the truth is I don’t feel terrible. I feel awesome. I feel better than ever before and though I don’t share Brad’s immediate confidence that I could run 26.2 miles in that exact moment, for the first time ever I start to think that one day I probably could.

Then I start thinking about our time. Brad used the Nike+ running app (which he is now completely converted to thanks to my review), to track our time so we’d be able to see our splits. We look at the final results. 2:33. Last year’s time, 2:43. That’s not bad. We didn’t shave 15 minutes off but we shaved 10, and that’s pretty darn good.

This realization is bittersweet. I know that this will not be our official chip time. Brad paused the app during our bathroom breaks and during my stumble incident, so while this is an accurate depiction of the amount of time it took us to literally run 13.1 miles, it’s not our official time. 2:33 is the time it took us minus all of the obstacles that got in our way, but it’s the obstacles that get in your way and what it takes you to overcome them that give you your real record. That’s why official times matter. Because you can’t subtract the obstacles from your life to measure your success. They have to factor in or the success is not real, it’s sterilized.

So how long did it officially take us to run the Disneyland Half Marathon this year? 2:39. Even with two bathroom breaks (one extra long) and a pretty dramatic tumble in Angel Stadium, we still shaved 4 minutes off of our race time. We still finished with a personal record. So why am I so dissatisfied?

Last year’s race and this year’s were so different. Last year’s training regimen was weak. We ran the race with zero stops, bathroom breaks or otherwise, and finished at 2:43. If what had happened this year on the course had happened last year I know that 2:43 would have been closer to 2:55. So somewhere in my heart I know that I actually did cut 15 minutes off of my race time. But it doesn’t count. What I did was cut 15 minutes off of my ability, and there’s value to that, but the official time is the official time. We run races for a reason. A race is what you do with 15,000 other runners around you. A race is what you do with a course you’ve never been on before. A race is what you do in a sudden rainstorm, or freezing weather. A race is how fast you pick yourself up when you fall down. A race is what you do knowing the clock won’t stop to make it easier. You can train for years and when it comes right down to it, you can’t control what happens on race day. You can’t control the weather, you can’t control your bowels, you can’t control if you fall (well, you can control it but you definitely can’t reverse it). You can never run in perfect conditions. This is why runner’s run races. Because life isn’t sterilized. Life doesn’t hand you perfect conditions so when you succeed in spite of the challenges, the success is so sweet and so worthy of celebration.

When a race doesn’t go exactly as planned, the challenges that got in your way motivate you to try again and circumvent them completely. Yes we finished with a new personal record. In the face of the obstacles presented to us we did incredibly well and yes, without those obstacles we would have done even better. Without those obstacles I would have accomplished what I set out to do, and that is cut 15 minutes off of my official time. Knowing that I’m ready to achieve that motivates me like crazy. We did everything we should have done. We trained right. We ran strong. Everything else was out of our control. Let’s just say, I’m counting down the weeks until Half Marathon 2013. I will not be falling again.

falling down hurts

but doesn’t stop me from smiling

proud with our medals

Alice

shot of the bunny tail

happy

Next installment of Running to Tahiti, “my visit to Wonderland.”