The Flight of the Phoenix
This morning I was thrilled to be enjoying a triple cappuccino in the Asbury Park Convention Hall. Yes, triple. I was most thrilled that I sat there with a smile on my face and a lightness in my soul. I remembered, yesterday, what was most important. It was a tough journey getting here, but together we rose.
In my most recent post, I documented my plan for the marathon:
I am here to write that I actually won yesterday. No, not first place, and no, not a Boston Qualifying time. But this race packed all the feelings of my life over the past two years; thankfully it was over in less than 4 hours and 30 minutes. This was not my fastest marathon; it was actually 36 minutes slower than my personal best. When I initially try to wrap my head around that, my heart feels a little twinge, but I stop myself, reframe the thought and find pride in the overall journey.
I trained for six months - harder than I ever had. I got faster, recovered better, and pulled my mind into the game. I worked on visualization and breathing techniques; I even engaged a sports psychologist who helped me uncover the reasons for some of my racing anxiety. I continued to work with my therapist who helps me find light in a sea of darkness. My coach helped me dig deep, physically and mentally, to overcome a number of challenges. My tribe continued to support me, to be my sounding board, and to keep me grounded. My sherpa, for life, was everything; I know it's a big ask to have someone put their goals on hold while you chase yours. Yup, he did that.
I did everything right. And these 'everythings' overflowed into all aspects of my life. THIS process made me a better human being; and helped me truly be free from the demons that have been running amuck within me.
Sunday morning, I awoke with less jitters than I had been feeling in the weeks leading up to the marathon. Carrying the theme, I did everything right. Food, mental, physical...all right. I reflected on the words of my coach.
I remembered the words of my soulmate:
I felt the vibe of my oldest daughter:
I touched the word on my arm:
I walked to the line among a flock. Never alone.
We parted ways, but I found more:
I made my way to my corral to make peace. I held back tears during the National Anthem, only to let them go when they blasted Springsteen's Born to Run.
With the sound of the Monmouth Race Track Bugle we were off.
I flew in the early miles, weaving in an out of a flow state. I nailed hydration/fuel, grabbing it from my sherpa as he cruised the course on his bike. I felt unstoppable until mile 11 tried to eat my brain. It almost won. I let the letters 'DNF' (Did Not Finish) scroll through my head; I saw them in the sky. I made peace with them; I found them to be comforting. I got cold and everything just started to harden. I expended more energy in trying to maintain what should have been a comfortable pace. I ran the Via Marathon (worst marathon on the planet) in 2015 and spent 10 miles hating myself, hating on life. I didn't want to do that again. It's just a soul crushing experience that I'm still trying to repair. Like then, I wanted to stop and lay down. At mile 12, I stopped on the course, ripped off the KT tape from the back of my right hamstring, and started yelling.
This behavior continued through to mile 13 where I was told, by King Sherpa, that he'd see me at mile 15. I spent two miles trying to rally, organize my thoughts, get back into some sort of 'game'. And then I remembered...I was always told to believe. I was always told to trust the process. I was encouraged to smile, to have fun.
I wanted to enjoy the rest of the race; I wanted to fly (whatever that meant) down the boardwalk to the finish. And I did. I smiled and danced the rest of the way. I got to thank volunteers and the police. I got to see Jamie, a woman with Cerebral Palsy, who started her marathon Saturday night. I enjoyed the scenery, the other runners, and most of all, I enjoyed being able to do this. After all, I chose to be there.
During the first stretch of boards towards home, I asked a spectator to take my photo. I don't stop...ever, but yesterday, I did. With a smile. At mile 20.
I know that it was supposed to happen this way. This process wasn’t ever about a BQ. I don’t need a time to validate that I am strong. And I am a fighter. This was the hardest earned medal. By far. That's what I needed to believe in.
As I write this, through tears of joy, I am so thankful for everyone who believed in me and kept trying to help me to believe. Your words may seem to fall on deaf ears some of the time, but trust me when I say that I remember most of them. And sometimes, they are saved in my journal, in this blog, and screen captures.
Well, ladies and gents, I won; I slayed them. I guess I didn't think it would be this difficult, but good things don't come easy, right?
If you're asking: yes, I will run another marathon. I don't know when, but my 'A' goal will definitely be different. For now, I'll enjoy some recovery while thinking ahead to triathlon season. Why? Because why not.