Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trying to see the light

Four weeks into official marathon training.

Nine weeks until a half marathon and 17 weeks until my first marathon of the season. My first shot at a Boston Qualifying time.

It's sometimes so hard to see the possibility of doing that right now, in the worst part of summer. On the positive side, I am doing pretty well running in the summer. I never thought I'd be relatively comfortable doing 2 hour runs and 30+ mile weeks in the height of summer in Texas. But despite the whining I do in the last 30 minutes of our long runs, I really actually am doing just fine. My average heart rate is consistently staying under 140 and I'm running negative splits.

But it's just so slow. Intentionally slow, but slow nonetheless. It's right where I should be hitting my long runs when the dew point is well over 70 and the starting temp is pushing 80, but wrapping my head around that is still a bit of a problem for me.

I'm doing just fine with intervals, tempos, and hill repeat pacing. I can see all that improving, I can see my cardiovascular strength improving, and I know I'm making progress. But those 10+ minute long runs....ugh....I think realizing the benefit of long SLOW runs is a tough thing in general for marathoners to deal with. It's hard to see that when you run so much slower than goal pace, you're actually doing something good for yourself.

My goal race pace is 8:58 to hit a Boston Qualifying time. I need to aim for more like 8:52 to have any shot in actually making the cut off for entry into the 2019 race, however. My top goal is just hitting the BQ time of 3:55...making it into the race itself will be extra awesome, but is not my main goal. I know this is still such a lofty goal when I've been a relatively crappy marathoner until now, at least compared to shorter distances. Not many people make that big of an improvement in such a short amount of time.

I know that my biggest strength right now, besides my improvement in cardiovascular strength, is my attitude, and while I am struggling to push a few doubts away, I do really believe in myself. Most of the time, at least. But I'm also human and have anxiety and need to take a few deep breaths now and then to calm myself down. My attitude is a thousand times better than it's been in recent years and I'm trying so damn hard to hold onto that!

I've been using my new Garmin for about six weeks now and it's still totally stroking my ego. Its race predictor has me solidly at 3:31-3:36 for a marathon time, way way WAY under my goal. This goal is only truly attainable if one actually seriously trains and that race day weather is on target for a good finish time. I like the fact that my Garmin loves me so much. I think it's a liar about what it says about my ability, but it's still nice to be loved. I figure even if it's way off, that 3:55 goal sounds completely reasonable.

I signed up for a half marathon in October. It's on a notoriously tough course, but I'm not a stranger to tough courses. It's not any harder (I don't think) than the San Francisco (First) Half course, and I PR'd (at the time) in that race. I want to PR my October half, running under 1:51:36. I figure if I can do that with 900 feet of elevation gain, I can hit a 3:55 marathon on a flat course. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Running a 1:51 or faster on this course will be a bit insane for me. It will NOT be easy. I have nine more weeks to figure it out, to hope the weather is at least a little agreeable, and to try to strategize those hills to even come close to running under 8:30 pace. If I continue to work hard and chip away at my pace, to build my cardiovascular endurance so I can hold a faster pace for longer, and the weather cools, I should be able to do it regardless of the hills. I've been told people just don't PR on that course, but whatever. I haven't ever really been good at listening to people.

When we were on our long run this morning, my teammates and I talked about how it will feel when the weather cools and the humidity cuts us some slack. I have a feeling we are going to be pleasantly surprised at how much faster "easy" pace will be. I'm getting excited about that. I remember last year when I headed to California for a half marathon and the temp and humidity were perfect for race conditions and I felt fantastic. I was comfortable at a much faster pace than I had been running and it was wonderful. I want to feel that again!

Step one in getting better - Find great running partners!

Friday, August 4, 2017

8 years later

Began on Tuesday, August 1:

It's that time of year again. The first week of August. It snuck up on me this year. I had been doing okay lately, keeping my grief episodes from overwhelming me. But yesterday it snuck up on me. My day was not so good, but I can't pinpoint exactly why. I had a sadness and a lack of motivation that was very hard to shake, that I was feeling incredibly guilty about because I didn't get done all the things I wanted to get done. I think it was grief, which comes and goes still eight years later. I can hold it off a lot better than I used to, but because time doesn't really heal all wounds, it's always there in my subconscious.

I spent a bit of time thinking about what my life was on August 4, 2009, and then all the things that have happened since August 5, 2009.

On August 4 I had a sister who was very sick, but who we thought was getting better. I was worried but optimistic. My sister was in good spirits on the phone when we spoke that evening. I was looking forward to another phone call the next day.

I had a 4 year old daughter and a 7 year old son. She had a 9 year old daughter. She was a writer and worked in a law firm. I was a stay-at-home mom who had just started on an athletic journey, having run my first marathon a few months prior. We were young. I was 35 and she was 37, just one month prior to her 38th birthday.

Fast forward 8 years and life is very different. My kids are now 12 and 15, and her daughter is about to start her senior year of high school. Her widower and daughter still live in the Seattle area and we still live in the same house in Round Rock. I am now 43, 6 years older than she was when she passed. She would be turning 46 next month. I've now run 12 marathons and am training for 2 more.

The part that really blows my mind is how old our kids are now. I can't wrap my head around the fact that my daughter only has one memory of Aunt Trisha. We had just seen her two weeks prior while in California and my daughter remembers vividly the time she spent with her. But she's 12 now and so many years and so many changes have happened in that time, so many things that I couldn't talk to Trisha about.

Her daughter was going into 4th grade when she lost her mother and now she's one year from starting college. She went though all those years with mother figures surrounding her, but no mother who tucked her into bed each night. So many milestones and life experiences, but thankfully she could share those with her dad.

I've written many blog posts over the years about my grief. My loss doesn't define who I am, but it does guide me on how I want to live my life, on why I do some of the things that I do, on why I'm extra sensitive and introverted during certain times of year. Most of my friends and family understand this.

Ironically enough, I was becoming a bit of a grief expert back in college. Grief was a topic I spent a lot of time on, taking classes, completing my internship at Hospice, and even writing my thesis on the topic. Unknowingly, it was a precursor to more loss than most people experience in young adulthood. The next 12 years were not easy with several difficult losses. Recently, I found a copy of that thesis and decided to convert all 84 hard copy pages into a soft copy. It was a very important research project of mine and one I was quite proud to have written. Reading through the chapter on normal grief and complicated grief was even more meaningful now, 20 years after I wrote it. It made me realize two things: (1) I made it through the normal grief cycle long ago, and (2) it's okay to have grief relapses.

I see the bickering around me in the world, in my community, and among my friends and family and I want to shake them. I want them to stop and to appreciate what is around them. I want them to appreciate who is in their lives. "What if they are gone tomorrow?" I want to say. They always think there is a tomorrow. But we know better, don't we? Stubbornness, narrow-mindedness, anger...these things can be toxic and unfortunately for many, by the time you clear your head of the negativity, it's too late. I'm incredibly sad about this.


Fast forward to today, August 4:

After I began this blog post earlier this week, a friend died. It was not an unexpected death, but are those really any easier to take? He was only 30 and had been married for six months.

I'm angry. I'm so tired of this. I'm so tired of the suffering and the loss that people are experiencing. the sadness has been all encompassing since I found out on Wednesday. The celebration of life is tomorrow, on the 8th anniversary of my sister's passing. Of course I will be there, but my heart feels like it's in a vice grip. It hurts.

Go give someone a hug, buy a coffee for a friend, pick up the phone and text or call a loved one, smile at a stranger. My late friend wrote on his Facebook page "Just trying to let my light shine as brightly as I can."

Be a light.