Thoughts Before a Race

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Tomorrow is the day. All the training or lack thereof comes down to this.

I took two long walks today, mostly to get the dog out but also to calm my nerves and stretch my muscles. I came home and I tried to relax on the couch, and I had pasta for dinner. And suddenly, as I stood in my bedroom laying out my race shirt and my leggings and my socks, it hit me. I was taken back to those times in my life years ago. I realized that I am familiar with this feeling. The feeling you get when you’re about to do something hard. When you’re about to stretch your body to its limit, and you’re about to put your heart and soul into something that you never thought you could do. The thoughts, anxiously jumping around in my head, the butterflies in my stomach. I am taken back to nights of pacing and packing, checklists and doublechecking. Writing down my goals and visualizing the beginning, middle and the end. Trying to anticipate victory but wondering if I’m just getting my hopes up for failure.

This feeling is not unlike the feeling I had before a swim meet. Which surprises me, because this whole process has felt nothing like swimming at all. I felt so comfortable swimming, so at home in a pool. It was predictable and safe and easy.

But these past few months of running have been hard. It’s been mentally tough to get myself back in this game of practice, practice, practice. It’s been full of ups and downs as I figured out how to deal with sore knees and flat feet and blisters. I was convinced in the beginning  that I would be able to create my own training schedule and stick to it. I figured I’d be able to build up slowly but surely and that by the time this race came around, I’d be a pro.

But every day was a struggle, mentally and physically. After we adopted Sadie, I began walking 2 miles every single morning. That was great, but walking is not the same as running. I knew I needed to run and train, but after waking up early to walk and being at work all day, I came home and felt like I’d already done my workout, and I didn’t want to go out again. Forcing myself to get back outside, to put on my third pair of socks for the day, and to finish up with another shower before falling back into bed was hard.

I didn’t run as much as I wanted to or thought that I would. I ran mostly on the weekends, when I had more time and more daylight. I ran enough to be able to run the next time.

And then it got cold and dark. And that was hard.

I feel like a fairweather runner – literally. I wanted to run during the mid-morning, when it was 67 degrees, sunny but not hot, and definitely not raining. I wanted to have eaten something, but not so much or so recently that my stomach got upset. And I wanted my knees to not hurt and my legs to feel great the whole time. Guess how many times that actually happened. Right.

But there was one night, about a week and a half ago. I got out in the neighborhood after work, before dinner. It was a little cold, getting a little dark. I had planned to run about 3 or 3 1/2 miles and not worry about speed because I knew I’d be tackling the hills in my neighborhood.

And as I crested a fairly steep hill, I saw the pinks and golds in the sky as the sun set over the houses, and it was like a switch flipped. I didn’t have to stop to catch my breath. At that moment and for the rest of that night’s run, I actually felt like a runner. Not a swammer trying to run, but a true runner. I felt strong, my knees were okay, and my heart was pumping. I suddenly felt like my legs could take me up and down those hills and I would be fine.

That night, as I ran, I felt like I was flying.

I came home after 4 miles and I said my run felt easy. And I never in a million years thought I would ever say that about any run.

So tomorrow I am hoping to fly. I am trying to keep that amazing run in my mind and have it carry me through the next 10 miles. I’m going to go through the motions to prepare tonight like I did so many times for hundreds of swim meets.

I’m not going to be nervous, because this can’t be any worse than a 200 meter fly.

 

Also – remember this?!

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