Monday, December 08, 2008

Breakthrough Race

I didn’t set any personal records but yesterday’s California International Marathon was the race I have been waiting for my entire life. I always hear stories about people discovering untapped strength when they do endurance events and learning about themselves. This has never happened to me. Until yesterday, my best race ever was the 2006 CIM marathon because I ran a whole marathon for the first time ever and beat my dream goal of sub 3 hours 30 minutes. But this race went like a dream. I trained really well, ran on a perfect course, got great weather and never was in trouble physically.

This year I trained well but I just didn’t have it on race day and the weather was cold and damp. For the first six miles, I didn’t want to be running. 26 miles seemed very intimidating and I had no passion for what I was doing. Then I saw Rebecca cheering at mile 7 and for the first time all day, actually conceived of finishing. I saw her again at the half marathon point and got another charge.

However, once I hit mile 20, things started going downhill in a hurry. I started getting cold and the inevitable quad soreness and calf cramps began. I held it together mentally for awhile but at mile 22, I walked for 20 seconds and assumed I would do yet another 5 mile death walk, and
the attendant tales of woe. I started to play the “run a minute walk 10 second” game which never works. Except that I ran for a few minutes and started to get pissed, thinking why the hell should cramps defeat me? I was staring a mental test in the face and finally realized that this is what a marathon is about. It’s not about training so well that you avoid the wall. It’s about what happens to you when you hit the wall. All of a sudden I felt the best I had all day. The cramps and fatigue didn’t disappear. I still felt like crap, but it didn’t matter. I was in the moment and it was not going to defeat me yet again. I didn’t finish strong but I did finish proud and pumped. It was the breakthrough I have always wanted. The 3 hours 33 minutes and 24 seconds I raced were transformative.

So there is no post race retirement. I am in. Bring on the last four miles of NYC in Central Park, or the Ironman. Because my mind is finally catching up with my body.