(please see Chris McCormack and his article: http://triathlon.competitor.com/2013/05/training/chris-mccormack-embrace-the-suck_76419) – you won’t regret it, just getting through life, it takes a lot of effort.)
Time: 3:30am. Sound: the irritating Marimba tone of my iPhone alarm, fortuitously interrupting the man attempting to strangle me in my dreams. Later I came to believe I should have paid better attention to “his” intentions.
At the time I was too busy trying to be sure I’d set everything out properly and had time to fuel before target departure at 4:15. Of course not; I got to the car with no hair rubber band and clip, which I totally had to have; after all what is more important in a marathon than good hair? I say hair that is not hanging in your face dripping sweat into your burning eyeballs, but that’s just me so I made a mad dash back to the room to get the damn things which – of course – were hiding in the very bottom of the makeup case.
The lines to the porta-johns were huge and I forgot my sunglasses in the car so I had to find Rick, find the car and find the sunglasses. It being 4:45am you can see why I didn’t know, at first, if I had the sunglasses on making everything look dark or if it looked dark because it was, in fact, dark. Dark is ubiquitous. Pitch dark, o’dark thirty, don’t darken my doorway, so dark I can’t see my hand in front of my face; you can see that until I felt about on my face and head I didn’t notice they were missing.
We were all milling about when suddenly the race director whispered “go” and I heard people moving forward. I hit the start button on my Garmin but it didn’t start because it had very considerately shut itself off to save energy. I couldn’t see the face of the Garmin for some reason – finally explained by the sunglasses, so it took a moment to get the Garmin back on, searching desperately for the satellites it had found just 10 minutes before. Then I had to fix my shoe – while others around me moved forward. Not an auspicious beginning but, hey, I’ve had worse, that man dropping trou and, um, expelling in front of me and my friend, Lane, which is not her real name, was something I’ll be talking about in the Home when I don’t know my own name; it could have been worse.
I set a decent pace which was going well although I incorrectly remembered the rolling hills as more Rolling than Hilling. I hit the turn-around and headed back out. The knee felt twitchy and my hamstring was pinging from all the hills, but I was holding pace.
And then it gradually fell apart. I got to the biggest climb on the back half and walked, nauseous. At the top of the hill I sat for a moment and it passed. I felt better for a mile or so and then, again, nauseous, hamstring pinging into my knee and up into my lower back, unable to catch my breath. As time went by it all worsened, I’d run for a minute and get chills, spasming, nauseous, my throat tight. I decided my Butt is going to Fall Off again.
My first child was born in the height of the all-natural, here’s-a-towel-bite-on-it movement, fear running rampant that if you had an aspirin your child would someday visit Luby’s with a gun or something. I was young, and dumber than I was young, so I went for that.
I was also lucky, labor and delivery start-to-kid was five hours.
She wasn’t actually breathing at the end of the five hours, which wasn’t such an auspicious ending/beginning and had me concerned, but the good medical personnel took care of that in no time and she’s still here to tell the story. She doesn’t tell the story, however, since she doesn’t remember it. So don’t ask her.
Today’s race took, start-to-finish, five hours. At the end I was breathing, but didn’t really care.
I thought about that as I plodded, walked, plodded, walked, counting one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two up to one-thousand-sixty, OK, walk, count, repeat; run, count, repeat; I thought of that day.
At some point in the past the decision to participate in these events was optional and I decided to pursue them.
Then I was very happy. Euphoric, even.
I’m gonna have a BABY! I’m gonna do a MARATHON!
In both cases I plotted and planned, training, checklists, to-do lists, target dates written on the calendar.
I consulted experts. I paid good money. I bought special clothing, and special food, and special shoes. I grew full and fluffy with baby or with carbs.
The special day came and there I was, in Labor and Delivery sans medication, contractions strong enough to propel objects into space. Contraction OUCH. No contraction, that’s better. Contraction OUCH. No contraction, I still like this part better. Contraction SUNUVABITCH. Okay, then, this is for real. I’m not sure I like this. Can I go home? Hello? HELL-O?? No?
(Gentlemen please substitute Kidney Stone for Child. So I’ve been told, just don’t want you to feel left out.)
What I realized this morning while Embracing the Suck is that in this race I could have quit. I could have flopped down by the side of the road and one of the cop cars running the route would have picked me up. I didn’t have that option in Labor and Delivery, but I had it today.
No kidding – I thought about that. Sitting down. That’s the part I thought about, just not moving my legs. If I could just quit having contractions … if I could just quit moving my legs. This could be so much more fun.
I mean, where’s the glory in finishing a race by walking? Where’s the bragging rights? “Oh, yeah, walked the last five, threw up in the garbage can back at the hotel, too weak to stand up”?
This was the best training plan I’ve ever had, and I followed it. I hit my paces; I hit my long runs, tempo, track work. It should have worked. But it didn’t – or I didn’t. Maybe it just wasn’t the day, maybe the electrolytes were off, the carb-loading didn’t work, maybe it was just freeking hot and humid – or maybe I suck.
You can make up a very simple rhyme for sucking. Oh F— I suck.
This can get stuck in your head.
You can start to believe it. What the hell was I thinking? I can’t do this. I’m an idiot. I’m never doing this again; obviously this is not something I’m cut out to do.
Meanwhile Brain 2 is in the background:
“WHAT the hell? How many marathons have you done?”
“OK, so how many did you quit?”
“And suddenly you have to quit?”
“Well this SUCKS. It HURTS. I’m NAUSEOUS. My back is spasming.”
“OOoooh. OK, then. I understand. People die from sucking hurting spasms.”
“Well it’s frustrating. I should be doing so much better! I did my training!”
“Ah,” said Brain Two, “that makes a difference. Things must go the way you planned?”
“Well,” I pouted, looking at my feet, “they … should …”
“Ok, then, what you need to quit doing is writing blogs, you dipshit, because you don’t say what you mean.”
I remembered my dream this morning. I was choking. But it wasn’t anyone but me doing it; I was choking myself.
What did I really want out of this race? A PR? (yes, however unrealistic). As close to my PR as possible? (yes, and not realistic today).
What did I really want last November and December when I thought it possible running was over for me?
To run a marathon.
“And,” chimed in Brain Two, “what, exactly, are you doing right now?”
“I’m embracing this f–‘ing suck, sir, and I’m doing a marathon, and I’m accepting it as it is, thank you.”
And so I walked that sucking f—er in. Friends saw me and cheered and I have to tell you, to my chagrin, that I didn’t smile much. Unexpected movement had a way of shooting from my right shoulder blade to my knee, and I apologize to all who did cheer me on and try to cheer me up – I was afraid to move. I did not run across the finish line, I walked. I tried to smile at the photographers but all I really thought about was finding some position that did not involve being upright.
And – I was. I finished upright. Last December I would have taken that in a box with a bow and fireworks and marching bands. Embrace the Suck.
(Again – with many, many thanks to Chris McCormack and his article: http://triathlon.competitor.com/2013/05/training/chris-mccormack-embrace-the-suck_76419)