This Friday, I hopped on the road to Michigan immediately after work. Me, myself, and I. 4 hours to the minute later, after passing a Troy High School football game in progress (ah, memories), I was pulling in to my parent’s driveway. A tomato/feta salad, Schwann’s chicken pot pie, and a glass of white wine awaited me inside. As did Mom, Dad, & Griffy. We did some catching up while I ate, and before I knew it it was 1130p. AKA wayyyyy too late as the day to follow had a lot in store.
My alarm sounded at 445a Saturday morning. I was NOT happy about it. But what I was happy about was meeting and running with my pseudo-cuz, Ashley! So I suited up, #PS sweatshirt and all, and got on my way.
My drive to Clinton River Trail was a mere 25 minutes away (a piece of cake compared the hour I’m used to!). I met Ashley in a strip center parking lot adjacent to the trail. We stripped down to our tanks and got to running. Mind you, it was 6a, 50 degrees (freezing!) and pitch black. And swell me, I left my knuckle lights at home (as in Indiana home). Ashley came to the rescue and took out her iPhone flashlight to pave our way. It was a little scary since I had no idea where I was at, but our conversation muted my fears. So did the beer-smelling woods. We ran just over 2.5 miles before turning to head back to our starting point.
Ashley is part of an amazing organization called Team World Vision, whose mission is to help children, families, and communities worldwide gain access to things such as clean water, education, healthcare, etc. At 7a, the large group (Team Kensington), decked mostly in orange (see above), congregated in a semi-circle where we listened to coaches and special guest speakers. We prayed. We laughed. But the take home message for me? A quote we’ve all heard before.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
After downing a G2, we were back on the trail. And I was finally ready to knock out my second and final 20 miler of training season. 5.3 miles down, 14.7 to go.
Ashley had ran her first 20 miler the week before so her lower extremities were still feeling a little creaky. Despite her pains, we kept a great pace from the start, 9:30-9:45 min/mile. I joked that I would be happy to slow things down since I was certain keeping this pace for the entire time was out of the question. We kept chugging along for a couple more miles, at which time Ash asked me if we could walk for a few. I had told her the day before that 20 miles two weeks in a row is not the wisest idea. There is too much risk for injury, especially this close to race day. So she decided to knock her mileage back to 13-15, depending on how she was feeling. But when she told me she was needing to walk, more than once, I told her I would be fine if she needed to turn around. I stressed to her again that it’s best to play it safe if things aren’t feeling right. She took my advice, and around mile 8 we parted ways.
At first I was a bit sad. Here I was, 8 miles in, with 12 miles to go, and no one to run them with. This was not completely true as I was surrounded by tons of Team Kensington peeps. But none of whom I knew, nor felt comfortable sharing those miles with. I was also sad that I was missing miles with my Perfect Strangers, who were back home on the Monon making their own memories without me. I felt alone for a short while. But like it or not, it was just me. Me, myself, and I. I tucked my emotions in my back pocket, looked ahead at the beautiful trails and the cloudless sky, and on I ran. Determined to reach my goal.
For the next 4.5 miles, I kept things quiet. No music. No chatter. I focused on my miles and listened to the groups of people around me. I said hello to everyone I passed and every single person said hi back. I shared a few words with a COG on the team, who was also running by himself. I commented on how cold my hands were and how I hoped they would warm up soon, to which he offered up his gloves! SO sweet. I thanked him kindly, told him I would be fine, and ran ahead with a face full of smiles. Something about this day just had everyone bright and shiny. For the first time in awhile it felt like fall. And everyone was relishing in the beauty of the day. This certainly helped my mood. Not to mention my pace, which was staying strong at 9:45 min/mi.
At mile 12.5 I pulled off to the side, gelled, and got out my headphones. Though my mental state was still fresh, I figured some tunes would help keep me going. Not to mention I was turning around much sooner than the rest of the group as Ash and I had logged 5+ pre-dawn miles. The rest of the group was running 10 miles out and back. I picked back up to a run and drafted behind a guy that seemed to have the same pace as me, which helped keep me focused. He eventually turned around, leaving me solo again. I was passed by tons of bikers as well as families out walking with their kids/pets. I also re-passed the COG, smiled and said good morning, to which he smiled back and said, “Wow, I’m impressed.” 🙂 That was my fastest mile.
I stopped a time or two more, once for a walk break and once for a chocolate Surge to round off my final 5K. Speaking of 5K, around mile 16 I noticed some people running in bibs and realized I was amongst some people running the Rotary 5K! Again, EVERYONE wearing smiles. I loved this day.
As I was nearing the finish, I found myself reflecting on the past couple of months. This training season has been nothing but a struggle for me. Coming off an injury in March, my endurance took a major hit, leaving my motivation less than stellar. I was no longer as fast as I once was. My legs felt heavy more often than not. And little injuries continued to plague me. The awful summer weather did not help any of my training runs either, especially the mid-week ones. And it seemed like every race I ran this summer left me with little to no confidence. So today was a big day. This run was huge. I finally felt good. I finally felt strong. I finally felt like running the Chicago Marathon was something I was capable of doing. There have been SO many moments over the last couple weeks where my doubt was all encompassing and all I was looking for was a way out. But today helped wipe all those doubts away.
I approached the strip center parking lot with about 1/2 a mile to go. If you know me at all, you know I NEED to see proof of my mileage on my watch. And today of all days, I needed to see those 20 miles in digital print. So around the parking lot I ran until finally my little Garmin beeped. I had done it. 20 miles complete. All by myself. Me, myself, and I.
I grabbed some gatorade supplied by TWV and stretched on the curb. My legs felt amazing. Sure I had some blisters, but my heel and calf felt flawless. Some would say my body felt like a wonderland 😛 I couldn’t have been happier. I hopped in my car and took off. A few minutes after I left, as I drove past Yates Cider Mill, I got a text from Meggie asking me how my run went. As soon as the words appeared on the screen, I instantly broke into tears. And I started talking to myself. My conversation went something like this:
“I did it.”
“Twenty miles by myself!”
“I can’t believe how good I felt.”
“I NEEDED this. I needed this run.”
Blah blah blah.
When I got home, I replied to Meggie’s text, telling her all of the things I had just told myself 😉 She was so supportive, so great, so encouraging. So were all the Perfect Strangers for that matter, most of whom I received amazing texts from. My heart was so happy. I reviewed my Garmin as I uploaded my workout, which told me I averaged just under a 10 min/mile pace. Walk breaks included. Holy hell. I really did do it.
The girl I was on Saturday morning was not a girl I recognized. She was confident. She was motivated. She functioned absolutely fine by herself. I thought I had lost this girl. So to have her back was so awesome. And I now know for a fact that she will be sticking around until October 7th. She’s got something bigger to do that day. As evidence by something that just came in the mail.
I have made the game-time decision to make the rest of this journey a memorable one. Who’s with me? Hopefully this time it’s not just me, myself and I 🙂