The Little Picture

Taking off into the fog

It was one of those mornings.  I was T-I-R-E-D.  And the M&M Clan had a B-U-S-Y day ahead of us.  Taking two to three hours to run seemed not only the exact opposite of what I felt like doing (shoving my head back under the pillows and flattening out my body under the covers so no one could find me), but it also could have put us in a severe time crunch (and I tend to get mildly cranky in times of severe time crunches.  As long as “mildly” is translated into “very.”). However…my Type A brain was hyperaware that Run For The Red is a mere two months away and my training days are numbered.  Plus, I want a cute new running skirt to wear for my marathon, and I don’t think I can convince Hubby I need one unless I actually run the marathon.  So, I channeled my inner Barney and suited up.

Now, I checked the temperature the old fashioned way – by looking out the window and then reading stats on my iPhone.  Foggy and 41.  That sounded like layering weather to me, but I have learned the overdressing lesson and the non-sexy-appeal of the roadside strip show.  So I figured sports bra and a light coat, topped with my ever-so-attractive neon vest so I would glow in the fog.  I even considered putting my hood up over my cap, my neck was so chilly…for the first two minutes.  I wasn’t even ten minutes in before I ripped the coat off.  New lesson: global warming really is warm.  No more long sleeved layers until the fall (if we have one of those again). 

Geared up
So, for those first ten minutes, I was blaming my lack of enthusiasm on being overheated.  Coat off, I blamed it on a tough leg workout two days prior.  Then, on not getting enough sleep.  I found myriad reasons to turn around and go home, or better yet! Call Hubby to pick me up roadside like a free couch.  However…I realized for perhaps the first time ever that it would be easier to finish out than it would be to give up.  No one would have to know (besides the Clan that had watched me prepare my fuel belt and set mapmyrun) except me.  Guess what?  Apparently, I am enough for myself.  Go figure.

Rather than face a knowing stare in the mirror (and, Readers, I look in the mirror A LOT), I trekked on, still listing excuses as to why I shouldn’t.  I knew by then that I wouldn’t stop, but it helped pass the time during those three-minute running intervals.  This was one of those days when each minute seemed to drag out FOR-EV-ERRR, some of them beating my lungs into submission, others more focused on twisting my quadriceps into a pairing for peanut butter.  Regardless, I powered through the first forty-five minutes in misery.

I forced myself to focus on each minute rather than the full stretch of 14 miles I was scheduled to run.  Fourteen is a bunch of miles, if you want to get all technical about it.  That could be a daunting number.  Not quite as daunting as the 26.2 looming on the horizon, but it was intimidating enough for a Saturday.  And see, this was the real reason I was lacking in my usual excitement at long run day: don’t tell anyone, but I am getting just the tiniest bit nervous about running that marathon.  Not enough to bag the idea, but enough that I lie awake counting 26.2 sheep, each of them in little Nike Frees sprinting over my head.  There is always the what if of it all and I am not good at contemplating the what if.  I am more of a who-needs-planning-when-you’ve-got-enthusiasm sort of gal and what if  has never been a close friend of mine.  So, the worry is there, in the deep recesses of my brain (but never fear – the shallow end is untouched and busy planning my race day outfit).  What I needed to do was break it down from The Big Picture to The Little Picture: minutes.  I can do anything for one minute, right?  It’s pretty much true and it gets me through some fairly intense training.  Try it sometime.  Promise yourself you’ll really hammer out one minute of tough cardio or lifting.  I bet you find that minute can get you pretty far.  And a minute is seriously less threatening than 14 miles.  If fourteen miles is a child-eating clown from Maine, a minute is the cute fluffy kitten of training increments.  Who doesn’t love a kitten (besides the aforementioned clown)?  And my brain can focus for sixty seconds.  Maybe not for much longer, but one minute I can certainly handle.

Then, somewhere along the road, I found myself in what I cleverly call “the Zone.” (Clever, right?  I’m full of unique catchphrases!) At some point, I had forgotten to keep track of interval times and lost half an hour in the depths of the Zone.  Know what?  I FELT GREAT!  Like, Tony the Tiger great!  I felt so great, in fact, that I continued running sans walking for the majority of my 14.5 mile run.  I not only entered the Zone, I made it my permanent address.  I relished the warm weather and the sudden strength in my legs.  I basked in the growing sunshine and the increased capacity of my lungs.  This…this moment…is why I run.  When my brain relaxes and my body just works.  When my every thought is so cheesey it ought to be poured over nachos (made from organic blue corn, without salt).  I love that I get to run the back roads where there is so little traffic most days I can forget where I am.  I adore that I have hills to run up and speed down, trees to shade me, and streams and rivers to sparkle in the sun.  This is the zen of running for me – when I can fully appreciate not just my healthy body but the gorgeous world surrounding it. 

Of course, eventually, I have to let it go.  Today, it was when non-locals felt the sweaty panting runner on the side of the road was the best person to get directions from.  (No lie.  They pulled their van right over and beeped at me despite the appearance of local businesses RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM.  Luckily, I am just newly local, so I could honestly be of no help to them.)  Still, although I left the zen behind, I was still in the Zone.  I ran farther than I ever had before, faster than I ever had before.  I ran 14.5 miles ten seconds faster than I ran my Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  And I felt FANTASTIC!  My usually sore knees were at least 75% less sore than usual (thanks to the glucosamine I started taking daily) and I was bouncing like a Bubba while I stripped off the fuel belt and vest.  Sleepy didn’t set in until I was riding in a sunsoaked passenger seat and my belly was full. 

But even then I still had bragging rights.  I mean, come on.  I said the zen was a reason, not the only reason.

14.5, baby! BRING IT!

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