Race day is three weeks away.
That means I have two more weeks of training, a taper week, and then the race.
It helps me to spell it out like that because I sort of don’t believe it. Training for this race has been so much different from any other race I’ve ever trained for. At this point of training last year I was so excited about the taper week because I was exhausted from training (I was also about 7 weeks pregnant…) but now, like everything else in my life right now, I sort of can’t believe I made it this far.
Normally when I commit to a race that commitment means sacrificing other parts of my life to run, strength train, and try to get a little extra sleep. But right now? Right now I have a 4-month old who couldn’t care less about the Richmond Half Marathon. I definitely don’t want to minimize the beauty and wonder of a baby, but in the first six or 12 months of a baby’s life, while the baby is busy being adorable and amazing, the parents are wandering around the house mumbling and running into things in a haze of exhaustion.The best way I can describe the color of those months is like wet paper mache: opaque and gray and messy.
Maybe it’s just my family, but most days with a new baby feels like something you just need to get through. Everything, even little things like pulling my hair into a pony tail, making coffee, even drinking my coffee, feels like a task.
That’s sort of what running became in the past few months: just another task. It’s a part of our day, just like breakfast and changing diapers, getting groceries and watching an episode of Caillou before nap time. In a hundred ways this is good. I haven’t skipped a run because I’m tired or busy or just don’t feel like it. With the help of my running partner, I’ve stuck to a schedule of running four days a week since the first day I started running after pregnancy.
The consistency is amazing, because somewhere along the way running started to feel normal again. I can’t pinpoint where or how, but one day it just stopped feeling so horrible.
Then on Saturdays we run our long runs. Long runs have been totally different.
Our Saturday long runs have been really hard for me. They haven’t been hard because of the running, but because of everything else in my life.
On the morning of our first long-ish run, when we met at 9:30 a.m. to run 5 miles, I’d already been awake for five hours, because I’d been up with Mary Virginia.
Then David got sick, and passed his cold to me. Then David had a fever and I stayed up all night worrying that Mary Virginia would get a fever. Then I got a fever the night before our run. Then I caught some sort of respiratory infection that lasted for two weeks. I’ve coughed through the past three long runs and have been on an antibiotic for two. Once, when we were just a mile from home, I was so wiped out that I sat down on the curb.
I’ve only been healthy and sort of rested for one run. And that’s a strong “sort of”; Mary Virginia still wakes up every three hours, every single night. So for me “sort of rested” means “sort of exhausted”.
This is when my mom starts shaking her head and because she raised me to have more sense.
Even though Saturday runs haven’t been easy, I’ve finished them. Here’s the problem, though: if you’ve ever trained for a long-distance race before, you know that gaining endurance isn’t the only reason you run long runs. The other reason is psychological. You run long runs to gain confidence, so that when you’re racing and you get tired and the miles feel long, you can think back to those Saturday runs and start chanting I CAN DO THIS, SON!
And that’s the problem: my Saturday runs have only felt ok.
But then last Saturday I ran 11.5 miles and actually felt amazing.
And then today I ran 14 miles and, you know what? It felt amazing, too. When I say “amazing” I’m not describing the feeling of, say, sleeping in on a Saturday morning then drinking hot coffee and eating a stack of pancakes and plate of bacon. A 14-mile run feels amazing in a way that includes a brand new blister on my toe, and ohmygosh my hip is killing me.
At mile 11 we stopped and asked some ladies for a bottle of water and were THIS CLOSE to accepting a ride home from a stranger with a van. That’s what I mean by “amazing”.
But we did it. We finished 14 miles; 14.1, to be exact. And when we hit 13.1 — the race distance — we fist-pumped and kept going.
So now on race day we’ll look back to this day and remember that even though we weren’t well-rested or well-hydrated, and we got lost out on the course, we still did it.
And it was amazing.
(And then there’s the other kind of amazing. Post-run pizza. Extra everything.)