What happened after I last posted in October? All that change that was going on? Well, stuff continued to change, must to my dismay. It was like we were on this giant roller coaster of emotion for most of the fall. The biggest high: the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, obviously. I think I might have left my body for several minutes after Kris Bryant threw that ball to Rizzo for the last out. Mind you, just an hour before, I was literally laying behind our couch with my hands on my head, moaning and cursing. That game was INSANE. I have a very low resting heart rate because of running, and for that, I'm thankful. That game nearly killed me.
Fall low point: the election. Hear me out before you stop reading: every Chicago Cubs fan that is also a Democrat went through the a CRAZY week back in early November. On Wednesday, November 2nd, we were on top of the world - and six days later, it felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath us in the most shocking way. On Election Night, I went to bed before they called it; I didn't need to watch anymore. Brian kept yelling, "It's okay, she still might take Pennsylvania!" I just shook my head.
We all know she didn't take Pennsylvania.
This is not a political blog, so I'm going to stop right there. Moving on.
If there's one thing I've learned about major world events, it takes a LONG time for things to settle. Both post-season baseball and the election kept me up past my bedtime on multiple nights, and both sucked out an enormous amount of emotional energy. With no 6am boot camp, I had no desire to rise before the sun, a marked change from the last five years. I went to an hour of Power Hour (cross-training) during the day, but let my miles slip. The less I ran, the less I wanted to run. Whatever.
Knowing Boston was coming up was always in the back of my mind, but I ignored it. It'll work itself out. Plus, there was so much change in the world. The Cubbies are no longer the lovable losers (man, I HATE that phrase. Good riddance). Kris Bryant is impossibly good looking. We are about to have a new president in what feels like a very divided country. Why is everyone shooting each other? What next?
If I really was honest with myself, world events should not influence miles, period. I was completely burnt out. The sad fact was the Revel Marathon and subsequent recovery sucked the life out of me. I know all runners go through dark times, but I had never experienced anything like this, on this level. Scott Jurek talked about his hardest times, during his divorce and when his mother died. Anna Frost also has spoken publicly about motivation and burn-out. Kara Goucher has been candid both about her depression and disordered eating. Being a runner doesn't make you immune to tough times; sometimes, running causes tough times.
My crisis of confidence continued every single time it was mentioned how "easy" the Revel Marathon is (um, no marathon is easy). Or when I would go for a run, and my times were for crap. "Nine minute miles? And you expect to run Boston?!" screamed the voice in my head. I wasn't worthy. I was a fraud.
(PSA: if you feel compelled to comment on the "ease" of the Revel marathon, don't do it to my face. It's such a sore spot for me. Congratulations on being a better runner.)
I couldn't figure out how I ended up in this ugly, gloomy place. After all, I got what I wanted. I qualified at a BAA-sanctioned event. The Revel-haters can suck it. I was accepted into Boston. Why so...tired?
Reviewing my journals from the past few years, I realized I had set myself up for failure through naive enthusiasm. Unknowingly, I packed miles and miles into various training programs and races with little to no time off. 2016 may have been when the train derailed but it began in 2014 when I signed up for the ultra. I followed that August race with the Chicago Marathon in October. Jumped right into training for the LA Marathon in March 2015. After that crummy experience, I did the Summerlin half to cheer myself up. A new training schedule and much more intensive approach took over that summer. In July, I cut my arms, DNF'd at St. George in October, and by December, dove into my first sub-4 race at the California International Marathon. That was, of course, followed by Revel in May.
Geez. Close to two solid years of training, several ER visits, thousands of miles. Burn-out was the best case scenario, honestly. I'm lucky I didn't sustain some kind of long-term physical injury.
One giant, key moment brought me back. (I'm back, I swear! This isn't all sad!) Namely, the Cubs. And ESPN, if I'm being honest. Yes, that sounds so dumb. But it goes all the way back to 2011 and the reason WHY I started running: my dad.
I actually mentioned Cubs and the World Series in my father's eulogy. He was the biggest Cubs fan I knew and one of the reasons I'm a crazy fan. (baseball is the only sport I like and understand). It's why I am raising Scotty to be a crazy Cubs fan. But back in June 2011, I wasn't running; I didn't even know the length of a full marathon ("Like, 20 miles, right?"). By that August, I had thrown myself into this horribly painful sport because it was the only thing that stopped me from crying. Next few years go by in a blur: I run, run, run, run. I set an completely outrageous goal of BQing, which is both fool-hardy and stupid, because a.) I'm not getting any younger b.) I'm not particularly fast. Unbelievably, Revel hosts the first-ever Mt. Charleston Marathon, giving me my best shot to BQ. As we all know, it happens.
Several months later, in the same year, the Cubs win the World Series. This has not happened in 108 years, not since 1908.
These would be two completely unrelated events EXCEPT for that giant brick wall in Chicago. Cub fans wrote messages in chalk to deceased loved one expressing their excitement and anticipation about the series. They wished with their whole heart that the people they were writing to were with them in person. It doesn't stop there - ESPN ran tons of stories about this wall, in addition to a story about a man who drove 700 miles to watch Game 7 at his father's grave stone, about a woman who died right after Game 3, leaving her adult children cry and celebrate her Cubbies at the same time, about how people decorated Harry Caray's grave with green apples. November 2nd, my sister's birthday, also happens to be All Soul's Day on the Catholic calendar.
The more I watched and read, the more I realized: I'm not the only one to have lost a beloved Cubs fan. ANYONE who is a Cubs fan has lost a Cubs-fan relative. Grief is a twisty animal because it makes you feel so alone: you and you alone feel this way. No one else has ever experienced this.
Those thoughts couldn't be more wrong. Grief, while intensely personal, is simply part of the human condition. We ALL go through it. It's not unique or special; it just..is.
Running has similar qualities. One of my favorite quotes from Christopher McDougall, as mentioned in my post about the Revel Marathon recap, is about the impossibly strong bonds running create. ...maybe we don't run to beat each other...maybe we run to be with each other.
Recreation has its reasons.
And maybe, just as running helped me get through my grief five years ago...maybe going toward my grief and all those yucky feelings would help me come back to running?
Running is the ANSWER, not the problem.
It was like a light bulb went off. Watching these happy/sad Cubs fan, celebrating and mourning exactly the same thing I was made me realize: I am not special; I'm not even noteworthy. I was just another cog in the wheel that is part of the wonderful and crazy community. We were all celebrating, crying, cheering and mourning together. Grief came out in the happiest of times and that's okay. The 2016 Chicago Cubs brought us - all of us, living or dead - together. That's pretty spectacular.
And that friends, is how I snapped out of the this funk. Running isn't a bad boyfriend I need to break up with; running is why and how I have this amazing tribe of people in my life. They make waking up at 4am doable. They run hills with me on dark Wednesdays. The tribe, whether in Cubbie blue or Lululemon or whatever the hell you wear, is what keeps you -us - all of us - going.
I isolated myself more and more as my times slowed, thinking I was bad or unlovable. I did exactly the wrong thing. I should have sought out others, regardless of pace, to keep that sense of community.
But it's okay. I'm back. I'm better than back - I'm enjoying the first few weeks of marathon training in a way I've never done before. I'm jumping into group runs and saying yes to anyone who asks me to hit the pavement. The result: miles are excellent. Speed: poor. But who cares! Know why? I DON'T HAVE TO QUALIFY ANYMORE! ::insert maniacal laughter::
Case in point: we have a 5K time trial tomorrow to set our marathon training paces. I HATE time trials. They are so stressful. Knowing my turnover and recent splits, I'll be lucky to come in under 25 minutes. And while I care, I don't care that much. I'm going to run as hard as I can and leave it at that. I'm doing it to be with a great group of people, have fun, and train for Boston. Maybe my 'racing' days are over. They weren't very glamorous to begin with. No one gets "22:35 5K" etched on their tombstone, you know?
Nope, I'm going to enjoy myself. I mean, in the most 'plant-friendly with tons of hard work' kind of way. I want to run a strong Boston and enjoy the experience. After all, I can't think of a better way to unite a city than through a marathon. Plus, my mom, Scotty, Brian, and a whole host of Las Vegas (and some non-Vegas friends) will be there. It's like an episode of your favorite TV show when they all go to Europe. Remember when the Bradys went to Hawaii? Yeah, like that (minus the evil tiki idol). When is this chance ever going to happen again? It's about the people, not the race.
Next, I want to run a strong New York, too (registration opens next week). Over the course of the next few years, I'd like to run a strong Berlin, London, and Toyko. I would never normally consider going to these places, but running seems like a good reason to expand the horizons.
I can't wait to see Scotty in Japan. He should be the perfect age by the time I get there.
So boom, Boston Marathon Training Week 1: done. About 35 miles. I weigh just a tad more than I did this time last year. Some body aches, but it's expected with higher mileage. Best yet: the more I run, the more I want to run. I had 6 tasty miles for dinner on Wednesday night. It was awesome and horrible and windy and cold and life-affirming.
Thanks for reading. More to come in the next 90 days! Boston-or-bust!
Oh yeah, and there were good parts to the last part of 2016. We met Kris Bryant in November. He's totally touching my arm in this picture. He's as nice as he looks.