Looking Foward

Nerves threaten, but excitement is stronger right now. I have figured out what I will wear on Saturday, unless the forecast dramatically shifts: my new green Saucony tech tee, my favorite New Balance running bra, my gray shorts, and my Brooks.

That is pretty much ALL I have figured out, though. I am undecided on whether to wear my fuel belt or just depend on fuel stops. I am undecided about wearing the MP3 player. I am actually debating whether to wear my woobie, my wrist watch. I am undecided on whether to eat that morning or not. I am undecided on what to do for celebratory food and drinks after the race.

I bought some silly St. Patrick’s Day props for post-race photo ops. I got some shamrock shaped and colored glasses and a plastic tiara with a shamrock with blinky lights. A little silliness helps combat nerves. Last week, I was feeling half crazed and neurotic with anxiety. I started a new mega knitting project and it seems to have helped with the half crazed feeling. Ordered and logical, knitting is good for my soul.

Perhaps the worst part of this week is the waiting. Saturday is coming, but it isn’t here yet, and I still have a lot to do to get ready, but at this point, all I want to do is head out onto the trails and go.

Mile 1 will be crazy-time. I will be excited and start out too hot and spend 9-10 minutes running too fast and trying to slow myself down.

Mile 2 – I will find my pace, get comfortable, and still be so excited that the mile will pass without me thinking too much about it. If I chose to look down at my watch (which I try to avoid), I would be surprised how much time has passed.

Miles 3 and 4 are my favorites. Endorphins will be flowing, I won’t be tired yet, I will probably be smiling. I will be taking in my unfamiliar surroundings and feeling grateful for this opportunity. Probably late in mile 4, I will use an energy gel.

Miles 5 and 6 will see the smiles fade. I’ll start feeling more tired and the promise of the halfway point will turn my thoughts, far too early, towards finishing. I’ll still feel good and strong, though. I will check my time and it will probably be great and I will feel well on my way to not only making my 2:30 goal but even beating it; I will ignore the fact that negative splits are FAR beyond my capability right now.

Mile 7 will see me take another energy gel. I am over half way now and I will be thinking about my family, especially my daughter. I will be thinking about my husband and how much I want to see his beaming smile. I will fantasize about running this race again next year. I will imagine doing it with friends and possibly family. I will still feel great but getting fatigued and I will be visualizing crossing the finish line looking strong and feeling amazing. I will ignore the nagging and realistic thoughts in the back of my lizard brain.

Mile 8 the latest energy gel will kick in and move the pain out of my upper left side, but my legs will start feeling heavy. If I have my headphones in, I will start getting picky about what songs play. If no music is playing, I might start “playing” my favorite songs in my head.

Mile 9 means there are only 4 miles to go. I will start reminding myself that I do 4 mile lunch runs easily. I will try not to remember that those 4 mile lunch runs take fully 45 minutes when I am fresh and haven’t already run 9 miles. I will try not to think that I still have almost an hour of running still ahead of me.

Mile 10 will see me take my last GU, late in that mile. I will tell myself it is only a 5k left to go; no problem, right? If I have my headphones on, I won’t be paying too much attention to the music at this point. My thoughts will be somewhat scattered and I won’t remember particularly much of this stretch. I will be running numbers, estimates, facts and figures in my head, disassociating from the growing discomfort and creeping exhaustion.

Miles 11 and 12 will be more of the same of Mile 10. The GU will have kicked in, and while the pain my side should disappear again, the general feeling of pain in my lower body will not dissipate. I will be visualizing the finish, seeing my family, and probably picking and choosing individual songs to listen to on repeat. This is the scary point. The point where things get hard but I am not finished yet. The pain will become impossible to disassociate from. I will be filled with doubts, particularly if my watch proves I am not going to make my two hour thirty minute goal. I will be digging deep to find the mental toughness to overcome the hurts and to not give up, even if attaining my time goal is impossible (thus why I am debating even taking my wristwatch with me into the woods). Negative thoughts will threaten to overwhelm me and I will struggle to ignore them and push them aside. I will not be highly conscious of what is going on around me. If this is the most beautiful spot it the whole park, I will miss it, completely oblivious to it. It will be an entirely inward battle happening at that point; the miles where the battle is much more mental than physical.

Mile 13 is the mystery mile. I haven’t done it yet, but I suspect it will not be different than any previous last mile of any long distance I have done, including the 12 miles I ran on March 3rd. I will be exhausted, ready to cross the line, to stop moving. I will be up and down, left and right, all over the emotional map. I expect I will find a last burst of energy in the tank as I did on March 3rd. My legs will hurt. All I will want in the world is not to be walking at the finish. I might cry. I might laugh. I might do both. I have before. Anything I have left will be poured out, like water from a jug, and I will probably sob and dry heave at the finish, because that just seems to be my modus operandi at this point in my racing life. I probably won’t care to be embarrassed about that.

This is probably the last post I will make before the race. My brain is too scattered and I am not sure what there is left to say on the matter. This first half marathon has meant so very much to me and I am glad it is finally almost here. It will be a relief not to have to contemplate it anymore. Not that I don’t have another one already on the schedule, or more races ahead of me this year, but this one has been a tremendous mental hurdle.

I can’t wait to see the other side.

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