Monday, February 21, 2011

Austin Marathon Recap: Puke & Rally (or Douchebag in a Cowboy Hat)

I had said in my last blog post that if I could say at the end of the day that I had fun, then the trip to Texas to run a marathon would be a success. At about mile 20 of the marathon, I decided the trip was a failure. I was miserable, felt awful and was not having any fun.


When I arrived in Austin on Friday (an hour late… thanks, Continental!) I was met at the airport by Texas locals Bojana and Marci, and Josh who had flown in the day before. We went straight to the runner’s meet-up where we feasted on Torchy’s Tacos and Holy Cacao cake balls. Yes. Cake balls. Yes. They’re amazing. They’re balls of cake. What is not to love? Balls. Of Cake.

While gorging on tacos and cake balls (BALLS OF CAKE!), I got to meet some of the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know over twitter over the last several months. It was so nice to connect faces to avatars and 140 character conversations. Everyone was lovely and delightful. I had no doubts they would be.

Saturday morning I got up and went for a relaxed & groovy 20 minute run around the Capitol. It was misty, overcast, warm and incredibly humid. After spending my winter training through snow, slush, blizzards and arctic blasts, this humidity was quite a shock to the system. Then we went off in search of breakfast and headed to pick up our bibs and goodies at the marathon expo.

The rest of Saturday was pretty much spent relaxing and fueling up for the race on Sunday, after a little misadventure trying to find a pasta restaurant that would seat us all anywhere in the Austin area.

Sunday morning, the alarms went off in our room; mine, playing the Superman Theme (obviously) and Bojana’s air-raid siren. Up and at ‘em! It’s go time. We took our time getting dressed and fueled and ready and headed out the door at about 6:20. The hotel was super close to the start, so once we started making our way to our starting positions, we hugged Marci and wished her luck as she got ready to run the half-marathon. Then Bojana and I, with Josh made our way up to our starting area, right by the 3:50 pace group.

My usual bubbly self was stifled by nerves. Despite knowing that this was not my A race for the year, I couldn’t help but have butterflies in my belly. I felt ready, but anxious. I just wanted to get moving. After a few more minutes, some high fives and hugs (and a good luck tushy grab from Bojana), it was time to start moving. The three of us started out together, taking it easy for the crowded first two miles. Then we started to pick it up a bit. I felt good. I felt really good. Around mile 5, I hear Bojana call out, “ROAD KILL!” just in time for me to jump over the enormous dead possum in the middle of the road. Woohoo! Go Texas! For the next several miles, the three of us were cruising. I barely even noticed that it was about 35 degrees warmer than I’ve become used to running in. Somewhere around mile 9, I looked over my shoulder for Bojana and Josh, but didn’t see them anywhere. I put on my headphones and kept charging ahead. At the halfway point, I checked my watch. Just about 1:52. My magic number, to PR, was 1:53. I was feeling super confident about the second half of the race. I told myself, “This is where you push through, Sharon. Time to show what you can do.” At the next aid stop, I grabbed a cup of Gatorade. And then I did show what I could do. All over the side of the road.

Right around mile 14, I felt a wave of discomfort that started at the top of my head and traveled down my spine, lodging itself somewhere behind my navel. I knew immediately what was coming next, so I made my way over to the side of the road and heaved my Gatorade-y guts onto the pavement.

Gatorade. Is it in you? Nope. Not anymore.

I collected myself and kept on running. The fantastic feeling I’d had those early middle miles was zapped. I talked myself through by saying I could still come in under 3:50 if I just kept pushing and kept it together for the rest of the second half. But I couldn’t shake the queasy feeling. I stuck to water for the next few aid stops, and tried to choke down a Gu, just to get something substantive in my belly. When I started to feel okay again, after mile 18, I needed to stop for more Gatorade. I’d slowed down a lot and needed fuel. I sipped some Gatorade and water at the next aid station. Maybe it was just in my head, but I started to feel queasy again. Around mile 19, I made my way to the side of the road again and yarfed a Gatorade and Gu colored rainbow. I started moving again immediately. And I started to cry.

I looked over my shoulder to see if I could see Josh anywhere behind me. I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to quit then. But I didn’t see him. And since there was no one to tell me I could quit, I kept moving. I wiped away the tears and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

Sometime after that, I saw some guy up ahead of me. Wearing a bright yellow shirt, a cowboy hat and Texas state flag short shorts. HELL NO was I letting this guy beat me. With everything I could muster, I made my move and passed him, just as we were coming to a pretty large hill, which I dubbed Are You Fucking Kidding Me Hill. I put the sick feelings and doubt out of my head and just focused on getting up this hill efficiently and quickly. When I reached the top, I was surprised to discover that I was smiling. I wasn’t feeling great. I felt tired and beat up. At mile 24, I told myself that it would be okay if I walked for a little bit. So, I moved to the side of the road and walked for about three steps before my legs said “WOMAN, GO!” and I knew walking was not an option. If I stopped or slowed down any more than I’d already slowed down, my legs were going to lock up altogether. Again, I wanted to quit. But I thought back to this same point in the NYC marathon, where I was looking for Sam. I imagined her at the same spot, cheering me on and I kept moving.

At mile 25.5, I saw up ahead what I’d been dreading since looking at the course elevation chart weeks ago. The big San Jacinto hill. “Alright, hill. It’s you and me,” I said aloud. Head down, leaning forward, arms at 90 degrees, quick strides, GO. I charged up that bastard and asked it, “Is that all you got?!” The finish line wasn’t far now. I turned past 11th street and heard people yelling my name. Marci and Shannon were on the side of the road, hollering and waving. I raised my arms and waved, smiling and hauling ass. I ran the last 400 meters with my arms in the air, waving wildly and unable to wipe the smile off my face.

Final time, 3:54:29. I’m not thrilled. Obviously. However, given less than ideal circumstances, I’m pretty friggin satisfied with that time. The hills were beasts, and my stomach clearly had other ideas for how it wanted to be spending it’s Sunday. But I got through it. As soon as I crossed that finish line, all that misery, all that doubt, all that wanting to quit was erased. I felt great. I was a two-time marathoner! And, rather ridiculously, as I collected my finisher’s medal and a bottle of water from the volunteers at the finish, I thought to myself, “Hey, only 10 weeks until your next one!”

I rounded out my time in Texas drinking and eating amazing barbeque (OH. MY. GOD.) with new friends and old ones. Lots of recapping and lots of laughing. I’m so, so grateful to have found all of the people that are fixtures in my life. And while, if given the chance, I might rethink my Gatorade consumption, really I can happily say I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

On to the next one.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Marathon #2 -- Wait, WHAT?

So, after spending what really amounts to YEARS preparing myself, physically and mentally, to run the New York City Marathon, I find myself a few days away from running my second marathon…. Just over three months after my first, this one in Austin, Texas. I feel, in equal measures, totally prepared and utterly panicked. I think it’s the fact that I feel prepared that that is causing me to panic.

For all the time I spent worrying about, focusing on and obsessing over my prep for NYC, physically I KNOW I’ve done the work this time. I may or may not beat my time from NYC. I’m pretty sure I’ll come in close to it. Ultimately, I’m okay with whatever happens. This is really more about maintaining the fitness I built up in the fall, preparing to launch into a full-on BQ assault in the spring, and most importantly of all having a goddam good time.

I’ll be traveling to a place I’ve never been, meeting people I’ve never met and having an amazing experience. I really couldn’t be more excited for this.

There is a level of anxiety, being that I will be 1,800 miles from home, have only done this once before and don’t really know the topography of the land I’ll be running in at all (but my quads have been warned to prepare for some hills). The field of runners for this event is about a tenth the size of New York, so I’m sure the crowds along the streets won’t be as raucous. I’m a little anxious about that, as well, because I really think the crowds helped me a lot in NYC. I do know I’ll have friends along the course, old friends who used to live in New York but moved back to Texas. I’m so excited to be seeing them.

No matter what, I’m sure I’ m going to have fun and really that’s what this is about. At the end of the day, if I can say I had fun then I totally won the race.

Oh yeah, and...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Does Running = Optimism?

I smile a lot. I laugh a lot. As it says in my profile, I tend to laugh loudly and inappropriately. An actor I once toured with commented, at the end of our tour, “Sharon, do you know what was the first thing I noticed about you? You laugh at EVERYTHING.”

“Well,” I replied, “It’s better than the alternative, isn’t it?”

I don’t know if I consider myself to be an optimist. I don’t think the glass is half full, or half empty. I just think it’s twice as big as it needs to be. But I do think that there is a certain amount of optimism that is unavoidable when you are a runner. Why else would we get out of bed at 5:30 on a freezing Saturday morning to run a half marathon (like so many of my friends & I did two weekends ago)?

This thinking about optimism, and running as optimism, started because of a very wise bag of tea I steeped a few days ago (pictured above). Some wheels in my brain started turning, pondering this idea. As runners, as individuals, as people are we running after satisfaction? In some ways, we have to.

Getting up and facing each day isn’t always easy, but doing so with purpose means it is not a choice, but a goal.

Running isn’t always easy. Sometimes, it’s awful. Sometimes, it’s painful. But seeing every mile as a bridge to the next achievement makes it all worth it.

The satisfaction that comes from within can come from knowing that this time, on this occasion, you caught up with what it was you were running after.

I love challenges. Knowing that I’m waking up tomorrow morning and setting out for a 21 mile run excites me because I hope that when I am finished with that last mile, I’ll be able to say that I pushed myself hard and got where I wanted to be. When I’m tired, when I want to stop, I won’t. I’ll see it through to the last step. Has my training for marathons trained me to be an optimist? Or am I just stubborn?

I know one thing’s for sure…

If life seems jolly rotten

There's something you've forgotten

And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.

When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps

Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.
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