M- Minus 1
Almost exactly, as it’s 4:44am and the race starts at 5am tomorrow. I’ve been looking at digital clocks since 2:34. At least the numbers are all even.
What did we do before digital clocks? Were our minds slightly less TimeOCD? “Oh, crap, it’s 2:30-ish.” Did that somehow seem better than those gleaming red digits that light every bedroom so brightly you can see your way to the bathroom despite the near-death of ninja cats in your pathway, their gleaming red eyes eerily reflecting the display?
I spent about an hour and a half doing everything I could think of to drift back off. Hail Mary Full of Grace mumble With Thee should I carry the powerbar and the beans or just the beans? But the Blessed Mother figures that’s a personal problem I need to sort out for myself, apparently, and no answer echoes in my manic brain. FLOP. Adjust covers. Nudge snorfing hubs. Red digits burn into my retinas. 2:59…3:13…3:28…
I do know what we did in the times of BK (Before Keurig) – we had to wait at least 2-3 more minutes for the coffee. In my early coffee years, even before the automatic pause feature where you could pull the pot out and the coffee kept brewing, dammed up in the filter for a minute while you poured (DO NOT forget to put the pot back on the burner … tiny tsunami of hot liquid coffee grounds spilling across the counter and dripping into the cupboards), I learned the tilt and pour, pouring coffee into the cup while it still brewed. Yes, you burned a few fingers but what is that compared to waiting two more minutes for coffee?
I did spend several very enjoyable minutes thinking about dinner at Vanelli’s tonight. Particularly the meatballs. I may order extra to take home. With the Traitors firmly ensconced in Brooklyn and Chitown there’s no one to eat them all and leave the empty container in the refrigerator to be discovered later by a very disillusioned mother.
And speaking of meatballs – or any food – how can my stomach possibly be growling hungry at 4am? If I did the math correctly – and there is always that – but I did use a calculator, which is always fun because when Mo hears it he comes tearing into the room and leaps on the desk, absolutely enthralled with the paper rolling out as I add, biting at it, filing it with little holes like an old punch card – if I did the math right I took in 1,635 calories in carbs alone yesterday. This does not include the actual sandwich part of the club with ham, turkey, roast beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, peppers, spinach and mayo (LITE) (because LITE is lighter that LIGHT) or the ham, turkey, cheese, mayo and pickles of the cuban, or the meatballs, sauce and cheese on the spaghetti, all of which is just making me hungrier.
Probably all the hyped up nervous leg jiggling is burning hundreds of calories.
I really am pretty excited. Don’t you just love it all? I’m thinking of tomorrow morning, standing in the Mississippi countryside in the dark which somehow makes sounds crisper, the shuffling of feet, beeping of Garmins, nervous laughter, inside jokes, and suddenly it’s time – the start sounds and off you move, one of many, united and yet each on their own journey, fighting their own good fight.
I was greeted in my inbox this morning by a friend who shared this article: http://triathlon.competitor.com/2013/05/training/chris-mccormack-embrace-the-suck_76419. I loved this: “I realized that no matter how much I loved racing or how hard I trained, at some point a race is going to really suck. It is how I reacted to this moment that determined everything.”
And don’t you think that as a runner – and I know not everyone who reads my blog is a runner but it’s likely that at least one of the two of you are – don’t you think that through running you’ve learned more about life and yourself than you have about running?
I’ve learned that there is always a finish line. You keep moving past the finish line, but there is a finish line. My brother’s death was a finish line. A finish line that fell down out of the sky and knocked me flat on my back in the middle of the race.
So how do you expect me to live alone with just me
‘Cause my world revolves around you It’s so hard for me to breathe
No air, air
No air, air
No air, air
No air, air
It’s no air, no air
(With thanks to Jordan Sparks)
But you can’t keep lying there. You can stop along the way, yes. But you can’t stay stopped because eventually while you stand there in the middle of the event, stopped, they will start taking down the course and the water stops and the cones and cars are free to roam the streets where you stand and your family is at the finish line, waiting for you to arrive, to be there for you, and then move past that line with you.
And there is not just one finish line throughout your life, you have many more to cross until you hit the final one; you’d better learn something every time you get to one or you will just have to repeat that race.
I’ve learned that there are many friends, but there are not so many Friends. The ones who help you find a foreclosed house so you can use the backyard as your personal porta-john, that feel your pain, irritation and embarrassment, and can still laugh at you until you are both crying, crying-laughing in the middle of the street until you can’t stand up. And who also understand you do turn the Garmin off because that doesn’t count on the mileage. Friends who didn’t get to do that run but will have you crying-laughing again in the retelling. Friends who get the texts, the crazy I’ve-lost-my-mind messages, the FB posts and offer to join your run even though it’s not on their plan, because they know expletives mean you’re heading over the edge. Friends that give you the remains of their Gatorade and run the last mile dry themselves, who completely understand that a Ride 5 and a Ride 6 are a continent apart the week before your race. Friends who live far away and helped you across other Finish Lines, still as near as your heart. Friends nearby but time gets in the way and months pass before you get together – but those months are nothing when you meet again, you are where you always were; you could go a year without seeing them and call at midnight for help and they would be there.
I’ve learned that you can hit the wall – in life or in the race – and while time seems to stand still, washing you in a shower of drenching, breath-taking, all-encompassing pain, you don’t die, no matter how much you might wish to at that moment. I’ve learned that you may as well quit standing there and take a step forward.
I’ve learned that you have to look up, not down. I still look down a lot. I like to think I’m looking up more but I know there are days I spend only watching my feet shuffle. This is why I cannot be a runner without races. I need a goal. I need a plan. I need the easy days and the hills and the tempos and the long runs, the rest days. I need the time alone, running, seeing that mama deer and her twins, and I need the run with a friend while mama and the twins look on. I spend time looking at the road passing beneath my feet, and I look up at the tops of the trees and the sky. You can’t spend all your time doing only one of those – you will run into something, or you will trip and fall.
We need it all. The good and the bad, the joyous and the solar plexus blow. If you are not a “runner” you are still running the race and I commend you, fellow runner, and thank you, my Friends, for running the race with me.