I am two days pre-marathon. Is this what being in the eye of a storm feels like? I think it must be. Come what may, it will all be over in less than 48 hours and between now and then it may get swirly and unpredictable and possibly very, very bad. But for now… calm. Just a quiet, eerie calm.
The short version is that for the third year in a row, I will get on a plane tomorrow morning and fly to Sacramento to run the California International Marathon. The long version is that two years ago, I ran this same race in a little bit of rain and one year ago, I ran it in a little bit of cold. And each year, CIM became my marathon PR. Each year, in spite of less than favorable conditions that flew directly in the face of what a December marathon in California is supposed to be, I ran hard and fast and well.
So maybe it makes a little sense that while my brain and legs are thrilled with the forecast for Sunday in Sacramento (50’s at the start, rising to 60 by about the time I’ll cross the finish, with no rain in sight and even a little sun possible), my heart isn’t so sure. I’m a creature of habit in such a devoted and rigid way that it would almost seem cartoonish in its extremism if I weren’t also deadly serious. I worship at the altar of Routines Are The Most Awesome Awesomeness Ever and when it comes to me and Sacramento, our routine is shitty weather and a great race. Like I said, my brain gets that the forecast for Sunday is dreamy. My crazypants heart part isn’t so sure.
Weird neuroses aside, I really am excited about this race. This will be my ninth marathon in a little over three years and between the 26.2 experience I’ve racked up in that time and the fact that I’ve run this particular race twice before, the nerves are there but they’re quivering markedly less than they have before other marathons. I could spend a number of words here telling you in great detail how training went (or didn’t) and how I maybe have been referring to this race as a “garbage marathon” because I don’t feel as ready for it as I wish I did, but that’s boring. What I will say is that I front loaded 2014 with six months of kickass running. I racked up mile after increasingly speedy mile, collected my most prized running possession in the form of a 1:44:53 half PR at the end of May and had an absolute blast during all of it.
Then I ran the Missoula Marathon in mid-July and spent the rest of the summer taking what I spun in my head as a well deserved break. A break that lasted, as it turns out, far too long. I figured out sometime in September that a place had been saved for me on the struggle bus, and I’ve been trying to get off it for the last few months. With a couple of half marathons, a solid 16 miler two weeks ago and a surprisingly fun and speedy Thanksgiving 10k in Bend when I was home last week under my belt, I’m as ready for this bitch as I can possibly be. I’m not expecting a PR because a PR is not what I deserve. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hope a little bit that some of the magic of the previous years will kick me across the line in under 3:57:07, but I know that this year I haven’t earned it, so I can’t let that hope take root too much. I can aim for a sub-4, but I need to be okay with whatever happens.
I think I’m going to Sacramento this year in part to say goodbye to the way I’ve run marathons for the last three years. It’s been fun and it’s been hard and I’ve learned some good and some ugly truths about myself. I’ve been excited and scared by it. I’ve embraced the miles and I’ve avoided the miles. I’ve been hopeful and kind to myself and I’ve been negative and unkind in darker moments. I have felt ALL the feelings but there is one thing I have steadfastly avoided. I have not been disciplined. I half-assedly follow training schedules and I don’t do speed work and I marvel at those who are dedicated with a detached curiosity and admiration, rarely thinking what I should be, which is, “Yo, Robinson. You should be taking notes and doing exactly what she is.”
The plan is that all that ends after Sacramento. Come 2015, we’ll see if a 36-year-old dog can learn some new tricks. I won’t be running these marathons willy nilly, cramming two or three into a year and training poorly for them. I have my eye on exactly one marathon next year and I love that city so much that if I get into the race, I won’t give it anything less than my very best.
But for now, it’s time to go pack up the jelly bracelets and head south and go for a run.