It Takes A Community For One Person to Cross a Finish Line.

I’m laying on the Hotel bed typing this. I’m almost afraid to move off of it. Ouch. But that’s not a complaint. I’m proud of my pain. I’ve earned it. And in case I forget it, the three meter walk to the bathroom reminds me. Even during the race I joked about the pain. Well the pain that isn’t the race ending type of pain. That pain isn’t funny. There’s no reason to complain about the pain when you are running. It’s not going to help. And there truly is only one option to stop the pain. And we won’t speak of that option.

I expected physical pain. Not in my wildest dreams did I expect this much pain. Ya, I know I’m really selling running a full marathon with that sentence. I expected mental challenges. Surprisingly this went well. I had a picture of my two boys with me. I didn’t have to look at it.  I knew it was there. And they knew Dad was running a full marathon. Quitting wasn’t an option.

There were things though that I didn’t expect. Fear. The pain in my quads was relentless from about 26k on. But whatever. Suck it up Princess. But that cramp in the foot. It taunted me from 30k on. It would come unannounced, just linger like an uninvited guest then awkwardly leave when it wanted to. It wouldn’t take a hint. And this is the kind of pain I’m not sure I could physically run with. Not with a full blown cramp. No salt tablet. But some recovery juice in the back pockets. I started to woof them down. Seem to do the trick. Then my calves got in on the fun. And from past experience I know that is a race ending injury. Unless you’re stupid and want the injury to be permanent. Thankfully if just teased me. I have done some stupid things. Running on torn or cramped calves isn’t on of them.  The cramping seem to go away. The burning pain of sore muscles stayed with me. I suspect it will be with me for a few days.

The other thing I didn’t expect was the emotional roller coaster. After a few jitters at the beginning things seemed to fall well into place. It was a beautiful morning. We were bang on pace.  it was euphoric. Running into the sun along the ocean. Perfect running weather. The early adrenalin.  Hard to believe it would get harder. And when it got harder my running buddies Laura and Colleen did a fantastic job of keeping things fun and interesting for the most part.

The middle part of the race was emotionally deadening at times. Not depressing. Just dead. Almost indifference. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re heart is too busy trying to meet the demand of major muscle groups and forgets to send some oxygen to the brain. Those moments were rare.

The elation at the end was also unexpected. I expected happiness. What I experienced was complete elation. From about the 39k mark it finally became real. For something There was no pain during the final sprint. There were no doubts. Three amazing friends came out to run us in. John, Sharon and Colleen made the last few hundred meters effortless.

Before the celebrations, before the half way point, before the starting gun, it’s important no to lose track of the fact this wasn’t accomplished alone. My celebration is and will be a celebration of community and bonding.

I believe no single person person can cross a finishing line without a community. They’re the ones that pick you up after a bad run. They’re the ones that push you on tempo night. They’re the ones that run you in. They’re the ones at the finish line that scream and cheer for you when you need it most. They’re the ones that keep you company and keep you going on those long runs. And sometimes it’s the camaraderie and story telling on run night. Or the laughter over a good post run coffee.

I can never express in words my gratitude to my running family.

One more unexpected emotion. A bit of sadness. It’s hard to say good bye. My life has revolved around marathon training for months. And now she’s gone. The celebration begins. The training is over. It’s going to take an adjustment. The training was challenging. It was also fun. She left without a whisper in the dark of the night. Last night when we didn’t need each other any more.  I knew the day would come. I didn’t think I would miss her. Oh well, training for the hypo half starts soon. More adventures. More stories. And more time with my running family. I can’t wait.  Well, that’s not entirely true. I can wait until the fire in my quads go out.

I’m keeping my promise to my boys.

I’ve realized a life long dream.

 

When Willingness Marries Ability

It takes two things to accomplish a goal. The first one is willingness, the other is ability. Conceptually simple. One of those ideas that is made more genius by it’s simplicity.

But when you start to apply the idea in practice it quickly becomes complicated. First off, which is more important in determining success? Can you overcome a lack of ability with sheer willingness? Physics would argue no. People who have witnessed or performed extraordinary feats against the odds would argue yes. And if someone very capable decides they don’t have a lot of interest can the task get completed?

And there’s the things that shape and form how willing or capable we are. Probably one of the most important and easiest to understand is DNA. My dreams to be in the NHL died when I turned 17. All of a sudden I was playing with kids who were much taller and heavier and faster than me. A body check just wasn’t an annoyance any more. They were starting to hurt. The willingness was there. But the writing was on the wall. Without the correct DNA I wasn’t going any further.

The military is an interesting place to observe where willingness is often pushed up to and sometimes past ability. I particularly remember my diving course. We did all kinds of crazy exercise before our day even started. And like the movies you’ve undoubtedly seen they screamed and pushed and pushed. One morning around 6:30 we running up a long steep hill. Something to this day I struggle with. Not being a strong runner I started to lag behind. But it gets worse. We were ordered to turn around and start running the hill backwards. I immediately slowed to a crawl. I struggled and started walking. Within seconds an instructor was two inches from my face. He very calmly told me I could run or I could quit. Walking wasn’t an option. I was a young man full of ego and machismo on a tough military course. I couldn’t quit. I already worked too hard to get to this point. I wanted the bragging rights that comes along with wearing the dolphins on your uniform. And I started to run. Lungs burning for air. Calves cramping with intense pain. The instructor kept taunting me as I struggled. “C’mon Larose just quit. Go have a nice hot shower. Be done with this.” I would have screamed ‘NO Master Seaman’ but that required energy I didn’t have. I made it to the top of the hill. I turned around and kept going. Obviously I had the ability. As slow as it was. But it took willingness fuelled by ego, machismo and the desire to join an elite group. I passed the course. It was a very proud day when I pinned the dolphins to my chest. I had the ability to be trained to a diver capable of diving in very adverse conditions. The willingness was also there. Two people didn’t have the willingness. They quit. We will never know if they had the ability.

And here I am today. 48 hours from now I should be sitting somewhere relaxing and celebrating. First I’ll have to answer the willingness and ability conundrum.

I’m not a young man any more. My ego has been tempered by experience and and the wisdom from failures you tend to accumulate over the years. And although am thankful to be as good as shape as I am this point in life there’s no escaping physics.

When things go bad can I manage willingness on my own? With no one taunting me to quit will I be able to reach deep down and keep going? What about ability? I’ve done all the training. I’ve improved. My resting heart rate has fallen through the proverbial floor. I am much faster. I put in the long hours and long kilometres every Sunday for almost half a year. What about the DNA though? What will my body do past 32k? And will the goal of completing outweigh the urge to just go have a hot shower.

Rationally I expect to finish. Emotionally it’s a little tougher. I’ve had bad long runs before. I know what they feel like. And I remember in those moments you start to wonder what ever possessed you to put yourself through so much pain. Do balance that I have had great runs. I finished the Bluenose half marathon with energy to spare. I’ve tried to reproduce everything I did in that training cycle. Shortly after that I did the Johnny Miles half marathon. That one didn’t go so well. I’ve tried to avoid the mistakes I made there.

Do I have the right marriage of ability and willingness? Hopefully I can answer at the finish line. But please don’t ask me at the 37 km marker. I’ll be busy fighting the dragons of pain and doubt.

Passing Through the Running Event Horizon

I’ve been watching a lot of science stuff lately on Netflix. I’ve become enthralled with black holes. The idea of mass so concentrated its gravity can consume anything that gets close to it, and crush it into something infinitesimally small. Not just matter, but light. Science isn’t really sure what is in the centre of a black hole. It can’t be observed. Light can’t escape its gravity. Nom nom nom, hmmmmm light.

I’ve watched a few documentaries where they explain what they believe would happen if you got sucked into a black hole. Of the many fascinating facts that swirl around black holes is the concept of the event horizon. That point where there is no turning back. This is the point at which nothing can escape. Prior to this point things can theoretically turn around and escape. But once you reach this point it’s game over. You’re going to experience spaghettification and just end up squished with all that other mass. And this is where even scientists will engage in speculation and fantasy. Is there another universe in there? A worm hole to another dimension? Or just some unbelievable amount of mass squished into something the size of a pinhead.

I think when it comes to running my first marathon I’ve passed the event horizon. That period in my training where there is no turning back. I’m in free fall. No longer able to escape. Hurling toward a great unknown. This body has never been beyond 32k. And it’s frightening. Last post I was talking about walking a tightrope between excitement and fear. Well I’ve fallen off and am clearly headed toward fear. Oddly afraid I can’t stop, even though I started this process. I ran toward this voluntarily. Not just voluntarily, but with enthusiasm. Yet lately when someone or something reminds me it’s only x days away I feel the anxiety hit. It’s not overwhelming. But it is unpleasant. And it’s not needed and it must be addressed. If I have passed the event horizon I want to be excited. I want to celebrate the final moments up until the gun goes off at the start line. I want to enjoy this. That’s one of the reasons I write this blog. Focus, focus, focus. Concentrate.

A fair amount of relief came at our clinic talk tonight. The speaker was Stacy Chestnut. She was an incredible inspiration. She has run over 40 marathons. She is a Boston qualifier and a bona fide Ironman competitor. But it wasn’t her impressive running resume. It was her spirit. Her passion. And she hit all the right notes with perfection. She impressed upon me the importance of just finishing. Being proud of just finishing. No one is going to care or remember your time. They are going to remember you ran a marathon. Genius in its simplicity. She talked about staying positive. And then she reiterated staying positive. Suffice to say her talk had a very positive effect.

I left the clinic calm. Relaxed. Grounded. Ready to be excited again. Confident. Looking forward to the final journey to the start line. It would be futile to try and stop light from passing the event horizon, and would be futile to stop me from making it to the start line at PEI.