Without thinking, I blurted, "Four twenty-seven."
As one person commented after a rather pregnant pause, "...that's very...specific."
Well, it's what my training guide says. I have it printed out and stashed in a kitchen drawer. Long runs are highlighted (usually with a scared face next to it), mileage per week is tracked, and I take great pride in crossing off each run as it's completed. The paper is wrinkled, spotted with coffee marks, because I pour over it every morning, reading, deciphering, and staring at what is expected of me next. Those folds highlight a great deal of consternation, thought and worry.
On Sunday morning, as I set off for my first 16-miler, officially the longest distance I've ever run to date, I wondered if I was setting the bar too high. Four twenty-seven boils down to a 10:04 mile. A ten minute mile is a really comfortable, easy pace for me at this pace, so why not? I can do that for 26.2 miles, right? It's good to have goals. Training has been going so well (minus that yucky 14-er two weeks ago). Let's raise the bar, not worry about where it's set.
This internal dialogue played out as I drove in my warm, comfy car to the official start. The moment I stepped out, a cold blast of wind almost knocked me over. It was 4:45am and the sun was two hours away from making an appearance. Clad in only a thin, sleeveless shirt, my fears of overheating now danced wildly on the other end of the spectrum. It was freaking cold, people.
And the wind. Oh, the wind. My slow trek into Red Rock Canyon was uphill and made more difficult by the unrelenting wind. Why did I agree to run this direction? I was by myself and turning around was an option. Why torture myself? I mean, as I ran, I passed others wearing parkas, winter hats and gloves. I looked naked compared to these people. By mile 5, I could barely move my hands. Reaching for water and gels became a comedy of errors with my frozen fingers.
My neat 10-minute miles dragged into 11, 12, and 13 minute. As I trudged along, I wondered if there was anything worse than this. My brain told me yes, many things are worse than running alone into a dark, cold canyon. Hello, Jesse Pinkman. But in the moment, if someone offered me a ride to the nearest Starbucks, I would have taken it. Screw Born to Run. I was born to drink coffee in a cozy sweatshirt.
No one offered me a ride, so I ran to the turnaround. Then it hit me - on race day, I have no idea what the elements will be like. It might be windy. It could rain. Hell, both may happen. And what a valuable lesson about timing. As much as 4:27 sounds glorious, variables out of my control (weather, crowds) will affect the race. My goals for race day shifted dramatically during that run, and I'm happy to report they are much more open to interpretation.
First and foremost, I'd like to finish without having to climb on that bus.
Second, I want to enjoy the experience. Reinier said your first marathon is always your favorite; I'd like to prove him right.
And finally, I want Scotty see his mom finish strong enough to pick him up at the end of the race for a much-need post-running hug.
I'm not going to wed myself to numbers anymore. I'll save that for my second marathon.
(somewhere, Brian just slammed his head on a desk).