“The grace and absurdity of human endeavor.”
I had really been debating whether or not to write this tonight. I’ve written before and after almost all of the five marathons I’ve run so far. Tomorrow is #6, and yet I’ve been tempted to let it pass without documentation (save obnoxious Facebook posts the last few days) because I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
And then, as I was sitting in a muddy bathtub (more on that later) a little bit ago reading The Shining Girls I read the sentence above and was all, “Yup. That’s about right.” I don’t know how much grace there will be tomorrow, but there will be absurdity. So much absurdity.
When last we spoke, six long months ago, I was getting ready to run marathon #5 in Eugene and dealing with a temperamental right hip flexor. I spent two weeks going to physical therapy and acupuncture and not running and freaking out and just generally being very pessimistic about my chances of finishing 26.2. And then… Eugene went really well. Unthinkably well. Not PR well or anything like that, but I finished in a thoroughly respectable 4:13 and maybe even had a fighting chance at that elusive sub-4 for a decent chunk of those miles. The course was awesome, the weather was gorgeous and I felt great for nearly all of the race. And I was helped along mightily by the best cheerleader a dumb injured runner could ask for.
Seriously, Molly was amazing. She made multiple signs that she folded up in her suitcase and brought with her from Montana. She cowbelled. She got herself on foot, without car or bike, to three (was it three? Maybe more?!) spots along the course to cheer like a crazy person.
And when it was all over we retired to her parents’ cabin on the McKenzie River for some recuperation and I thought my hip was fine. But when the general marathon soreness wore off, my hip was definitely not fine. So back to PT and acupuncture and yoga I went and most importantly, I didn’t run. At all. For four weeks. And I take back every snarky thing I’ve ever said or thought about runners who complain about having to take time off due to injury. I get it now guys, it really sucks. A lot. The worst part was realizing how scared I was to even try to run. And then, on Memorial Day, the feeling of missing running that was starting to boil into rage outweighed the fear and I went out and ran 3.5 glorious miles. And then 1.5 a couple days after that. And then some more and more and more until suddenly it was the middle of August and I was flying through Forest Park running my first ever trail half and feeling like, “Well I’ll be damned. THERE it is. It’s back. I can do this!”
I needed that confidence boost in August because right about the time I last posted here, I went and did something really stupid. I registered for the Portland Marathon. Which is tomorrow. It was April 19 and the Boston Marathon bombing had just happened and I was just feeling all the feelings and all I could think was, “I have to run my hometown race this year.” No big really, except that I’m also running the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December and after doing both Portland and CIM last year, I vowed never again to do two in two months, especially while I’m still chasing sub-4. Of the two, I hugely prefer CIM, so running it again this year was a no brainer and I was fine skipping Portland. But like I said, Boston.
So that is how I find myself, for the third year in a row, spending the first Saturday of October a nervous wreck. My training went okay, though I know I didn’t get the miles in that I should have. My brain quit early during a planned 20 three weeks ago and my legs weren’t far behind it. It ended up being a solid 14 of running and another five heavy on the walking. My hip feels mostly okay though if I listen really hard, it might just be whispering a little bit that it’s possibly going to be in a bad mood tomorrow. To ease my mind and keep myself from pushing it too hard tomorrow, I’ve been calling this a training run for CIM. I’m going Garmin-free and without a time goal. That’s right, I’m even cool with Oprah beating me this time. CIM really is my goal race. It’s where I think I can finally sub-4 and where I hope to prove to myself that the next goal isn’t something too ridiculous to even mention. All of that is to say that I’ve gotta be smart tomorrow.
Which brings us to the title I chose for this post. Being smart tomorrow might mean doing something that I’ve never done before and getting acquainted with either a DNS or a DNF. Why? Because after all the stops and starts running-wise the last several months, I went and made it super interesting by getting sick. Just a cold, but it’s been a real doozy of a cold and I’ve been battling it for nearly a week. There have been plenty of times in the last few days when the not starting was definitely more likely than the not finishing and I couldn’t decide which would be worse.
But I decided to tackle this cold the way I did the hip thing and became the world’s most temporarily compliant patient. Sleep, so much hydrating, a giant pot of chicken noodle soup that I made myself early in the week as I could feel the sickness creeping up and around. I went back to acupuncture and let them sell me $40 worth of weird herbs that I would never under any other circumstances have bought. A good friend brought me this detoxifying mud bath thing that I have used the last two nights. Other than the noticeable absence of running and illness woes, I am actually more rested and prepared for this marathon than I was for Eugene. So that’s something. Right?!
We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’m going to work really hard at not being dumb and stopping if I need to. I’m going to go eat some more soup right now and take some of my gypsy herbs. As I’ve written this, a number of kind and supportive texts from good friends have come in, including this one, which I should probably just make my race mantra tomorrow, “Go easy tomorrow. Don’t die. It’ll piss me off.”
I’ll letcha know how it goes. Y’know, after the absurdity.