Probably Ill Advised To Write 2 Hours Before I Race

This morning is brought to you by strong coffee and the Foo Fighters.

It is also brought to you by months of training, miles of road, trail, sidewalk and treadmill, buckets of sweat, vitamins and supplements, hill repeats, long runs, progression runs, foot cramps, energy gels,

It’s 0600 and we gotta be on the way to the park in less than an hour; I am roughly two hours from crossing the starting line. I am sipping another cup of coffee (forgot my splenda in this one! clearly a sign I need more coffee!) and trying to decide exactly what Mother Nature is throwing at me. Last night, the forecast said it would be in the low 40s at this point and probably would only just get to 50 degrees by the time I would be finishing the race. At 0520, it was already 51 degrees.

Nerves come and go; I wouldn’t really call myself nervous about the race because the distance holds no mystery for me. But my stomach still flutters with barely contained butterflies of excitement and tense anticipation. My anxieties are more about things like “Don’t forget your fuel belt!” and “Please don’t let me take a bad fall on a root, turn an ankle, or get a charlie horse or something.” and have nothing to do with “Please let me make it through 13.1 miles.” That anxiety at least is put to rest, given the aforementioned falling anxiety doesn’t become reality.

I am a little unnerved by the fact that I will *know* people out there with me today. To this point, I have enjoyed total anonymity for the most part in my races. No one out there with me who knows me and can judge me except me. Today, that is not the case. Today, I will be running with one coworker (ran the Richmond half in under 2 hours), one former coworker (no clue on his speed but I know he’s no slow poke), and another coworker is riding the course as a sweeper (he is a long distance cyclist, and his wife runs full marathons regularly and is quite fast). There won’t be any ability to “vague” my way through this when Monday comes and people ask how I did. “Oh, you know, pretty good; it was tough but I accomplished what I set out to do” is a fine answer, but it is easier to say so when people have no idea what “what I set out to do” actually means to me. I know those coworkers won’t actually spare a second or third thought about my pace and whether or not I qualify as a runner or a jogger or an over-glorified crawler, but those are exactly the kinds of thoughts that stalk me when the going gets really hard (and it will at some point today) and I have to battle through them. It is easier to do when I know I am just an anonymous runner out there in the woods and come Monday morning, I can vaguely smile and say “Yeah, it went really great” and feel safe in the sense that no one has any idea what “really great” actually qualifies as maybe a 12+ minute/mile pace.

I didn’t say any of that was logical. It just is. And it is the only unpleasant aspect of the entire process of training for these half marathons: fighting the really dark and ugly places that live in the closets of my brain.

The last several runs have been dedicated less to training my body than to training my brain. I really focused on thinking positive, driving out negative thoughts, and you know what else? Just remembering to smile. If you actively tell yourself to smile because you do this for fun, it is hard to remember why you weren’t smiling in the first place. Will that work when the going gets more than tough around say, mile 11.5? Probably not. I probably won’t be able to remember how to smile by then. My brain gets all kinds of flakey once I get to double digits, but I did practice and maybe some facial muscle memory will kick in today when my brain kicks out and get me over the tough miles.

Anyway. It is now 0630 and I need to get dressed and wake Byram up so we can going.

I’m ready.

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