Sunday, December 15, 2013

Down in the Valley

I've attempted to write a long-overdue blog update at several different points during the past few weeks. First, I wanted to post about my final days of training and tapering (otherwise known as "running a little, eating a lot and drinking even more wine") leading up to CIM. After comfortably securing my 2016 Trials qualifier, I planned to summarize my experience and emotions as I've done after my other marathons and significant finishes. Lastly, I'd hoped to regale you with how much I've been enjoying my down time in the days since, sampling an extra dessert here and a fumbled smack of the snooze button there. Trust me, it was going to be riveting. But in the handful of times I've had the opportunity to sit down in front of the computer to address my tens of readers, I've allowed myself instead to get distracted by things like the world's most amazing Wal-Mart "portrait studio" Christmas card photos. (Although, in my defense, can you blame me? This is redneck gold!)

Because, truth be told, I don't really feel up to the mental and emotional challenge of writing about any of that. It's something I've always done with a celebratory spirit, as if chronicling the experience is a reward in itself, something pleasurable to savor. I can't tell you how many times I re-read my own Philly entry last year, if for no other reason than to continually remind myself that I had, in fact, actually done it. (And also to double- and triple-check for typos, seeing as I was about two-thirds tucked into a bottle of wine at first writing.) 

But as I'm typing this, I don't have a whole hell of a lot to celebrate as far as running is concerned. Our entire lives, we're fed platitudes like "You can be anything you want to be!" (says the person who's never seen me dribble a basketball) and "If you work hard and persevere, you'll always achieve your goals!" (Also: "don't do drugs" and "stay in school," a directive that half my high school class seems to have disregarded.) Well, I worked pretty damn hard this time around, and at the moment I don't have much to show for it. To get even more depressingly specific, I have very little in the way of quantifiable, tangible results to show for this entire year of running. I haven't recorded a single PR (except for 8k, but that was summarily filed in the "made up distances that no one cares about" folder) nor can I name any specific race about which I feel particularly proud. Had I spent the entire year taking a pastry class or toilet training my cat (yes, despite the fact that she lacks opposable thumbs, SkyMall tells me this is a thing that is possible) or learning a new language, I would've probably emerged with a greater return on my time investment, mais oui?

Riding the high after Philly, there was simply no conceivably logical chain of events other than me running faster the next time around. I would train just as hard, race just as smart, ideally not have to take a very public bathroom break on the side of the road, and continue my solid progression away from sub-sub-elite and toward the coveted A-standard of 2:37. It sounds naive to say out loud, but I truly didn't think there was any way for this not to happen. And yet, for myriad and varied reasons which don't actually matter to the finishing clock, it simply didn't. I made it through halfway relatively on pace while trying to ignore an increasingly persistent tightness and limited range of motion in my (frozen) left hip and glute. Could I have finished? I'm sure. But anyone who reads this blog knows I've never been interested in a participant ribbon.

So at this juncture, instead of turning up the emo music and dwelling on all the things I didn't accomplish at CIM, allow me to present you with a few notable positive memories of the past few weeks via everyone's favorite blogging device, the photo montage. And rest assured, though behind all the flippant self-deprecating banter my frustration is genuine and I've indulged in a few ugly cries, I'm still as determined as ever. My next step is yet to be decided, but I can only move forward.

Jordan celebrating Thanksgiving in Ohio with mom, brother, sisters, aunts, cousins

Jealous of my hairstyle? I have a very exclusive stylist (pictured to my right)

Post-Black Friday Cincinnati shopping nourishment

My CIM roomie, Brett, reliving her epic finish from 2010

Post-race libations at the ready in the elite hospitality suite

Caitlin and Brett deep in concentration while decorating their water bottles

Thanks to Nuun Hydration for the support and the sweet black ops bottles!

Pre-race early bird special dinner with Caitlin, Jeannette and Brett

About as photogenic as it gets at 4:30 on race morning. Note to self: My Craft reflective headband works and doubles as a neck warmer.

Post-race afterpartay: a bunch of speedy marathon finishers, plus me and Jordan
Want to hear more from people who actually finished the race and qualified for the Trials? Then get up in Caitlin's and Drew's blogs. Until next time, we can all live vicariously through them.


Drew Polley said...

Any whiskey rivers in this valley?

The Running Chef said...

Hang in there my dear friend! I know exactly how you feel right now, but I also know you would never have achieved all you have so far without some setbacks, and this setback is gonna make you stronger so when you do hit that 2:37 it will feel EVEN BETTER! You are tough, and I know you will come back next time in even better shape :) Now go continue to enjoy your down time! You earned it :)

Rob L said...

Runners are so deeply immersed in data and yet somehow we still only feel we are as good as our last run. But that's a sample size of 1 trial.

One thing you neglected to mention is that you gained experience facing crushing adversity. That will increase your impressive mental toughness as well.

You know you did the smart thing saving your hip from possible injury. You've lived to fight another day and none of that prior training is wasted. So you will do what champions do, which is adapt, refocus and hit it hard again.

Caitlin Bullock said...

This only means that 2014 is going to be full of PRs and Olympic Trials A Standards! Drink up and be merry because you will achieve it all!