Sunday, October 6, 2019

Fuck Tejas: Reflections on surviving a 25K in the Texas summer

It was already 80 degrees when we started at 7am. Just the walk from my car to the start was about a mile and I was sweating.  The sky was dark and the stars were big and bright on the East side of Texas but the humidity was suffocating.  It was in these conditions that I started the most grueling race of my life: Mission Tejas 25k.

I was supposed to be running the 50k and joining the ranks of the ultra marathoners but I had to leave for a work trip 48 hours later and the doctor didn’t want me to run the race at all so between not running and the running the 50K was the 25K.  It was seriously horrible.  People were dropping out of the race left and right.  People were cramping.  I passed several people just sitting on the trail, just trying to breath.

Mission Tejas is beautiful.  I had run close to 15 miles there in July.  If I could handle July heat then surely by the time the last Saturday of September hit I would be good to go!  Fucking hell dammit all, I was not okay.  Going into the race I knew I hadn’t really done enough training runs.  My doctor wanted me to rest.  He said my nagging leg numbing issues were from lack of rest.  I was dealing with some other issues, ie no sex drive, and that was from a lack of rest as well.  I pulled back but I needed to finish Tejas.  I had marked my summer with the end goal of finishing Tejas.  I’m way too goal oriented to just let it slip through my fingers without a fight.  What a fucking fight!

I knew that physically I could do the race.  Maybe I won’t beat my Hells Hills time but I could finish.  I knew it would be an issue of my mental state rather than my physical one.  By the time I hit the snack/water table before going into my last full loop, I was done.  I was crying, like ugly crying.  I wanted to quit.  I had done all of this twice and I needed one more loop.  I was convinced that one more loop would kill me.  People would find me half way up the steep steps and have to finish their loop in order to report me dead.  I would be in the hot Texas sun just rotting for hours.  I just knew it. I can’t do this.  I can do lots of things but this wasn’t one of them.  Then the crew of Trail Running Over Texas brought me back to my senses.  Of course I could finish.  I still had 10 hours before they called the race and only had 5ish miles to ahead of me.  Fill up your water.  Cool off in the ice and keep moving forward.  Forward I went.

My time/pace wasn’t great but I finished.  I was tougher than I had given myself credit for.  I am stronger than I thought.  I am a trail runner and I am not going to get over halfway through a race and just quit when I’m not hurt just being challenged.

I still don’t want to run Tejas again for a good while but once it cools off, like in December, I’ll go back out to Tejas.  It really is beautiful.  For sure I’ll run with T.R.O.T again; seriously they know how to run a race and the crew of volunteers were amazing.  I know as we were running and cursing the ground we were on, they kept us hydrated, carbed up, and iced up as much as they could.

Was Tejas the hardest thing I’ve done, no.  I birthed two children naturally without any medical intervention, that was hard.  Tejas was the most difficult race I have done.  I think Hells Hills was more physically taxing.  Wayne’s World took longer and it was a new distance for me.  Tejas had so many wonderful places to quit.  I passed my car before going into the hardest part of the race.  My last loop, I saw my car, started crying, and cursed myself for not having the guts to just walk to my van and leave.  Tejas broke my spirit and then I emerged a stronger person.

Challenge yourself.  Change yourself.  At the end of my life, I don’t want to wish I had tried.  I will get there and know I lined up.  I showed up for me.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Pace Shame

So I love Brene Brown and read everything by her and really try to take in the lessons on vulnerability and connection.  I struggle with belonging and that struggle means I cling to people, teams, jobs, and such.  But that is a different post, this is really about shame.  One of Brene's bits of wisdom is that if we cannot ask for help without judging ourselves then we cannot help others without judging them. 

As I was running the other day and listening to Nike call out my pace, I began to think about my pace at this time last year.  Of course, I was running like crazy to avoid my life because it sucked to be me.  My pace now is way slow by comparison but my life is so much better than I'll take the slow pace on my runs and in my life.  

Now before the marathon, I was doing my long runs on a 1-mile loop at the local zoo.  I was out there for hours at a time so I would see people come out and run a 1 mile, run 3 miles, run 10.  I just kept my intervals and shared the track.  After my 18 mile run, one of the guys that had been running stopped by to ask about my run.  He was talking about trying really hard to build distance and that he noticed I kept messing with my watch as I ran.  I told him about Galloway running and that I had kept like a 17-minute pace over the whole run.  But I said it in a way that let him know I wasn't happy with my pace.  His response when I think of it now kills me.  He looked down and said I wish I was that fast for just my 5k.  Before thinking, before I even give him a chance to be seen, I had shamed him.  I didn't mean to.  Honestly but I did it anyway.

Keeping your pace.  Keeping up with your pace.  All runners know "their pace."  I can tell you that I usually run around 13min on an indoor track, 14 min on an outdoor track, and 19 on the trails.  I do this while running 30/30 intervals.  I know that for some people looking at these numbers they think I'm so slow.  Other people looking at it go, wow that is way faster than me.  It is just my pace and I use these numbers to help me gauge my run.  Did I push today?  Did I run some recovery miles?  Am I running faster on this surface or slower?  I work hard to not measure myself against other people.  I am not running for anyone but me.  I don't care if I ever run in an elite race, ie Boston Marathon.  I don't want to end a run dying because I push so hard that I don't enjoy the run. 

So I always post my run pace.  Nike makes it super easy and I like that I can go back on Instagram and see my pace back a year ago.  People hide their pace.  Once upon a time, I would have told you that any run that I didn't beat 15 min pace was a bad run.  I don't think that anymore.  If I finished 1 mile at 20 min/miles and I finished with a smile on my face then that was a good run. 

I don't hide my pace because I want everyone to run and go out for a run.  There are so many websites, magazines, dialogue about running that is based on the idea that a runner looks like x and runs x pace.  Fuck all of that shit, if you get off your ass and run 30 seconds then you are a runner.  If all we see online, in print, or on the street/trail/track are "runners" then we, the non-traditional runners, would never leave the shadows.  Part of changing the dialogue is being seen in all aspects of running, not only our distance and sweaty face but our pace. 

I believe in you and if you seeing my big 20 min miles helps you get out there and believe in you then I will keep posting my pace.  If you ever think that you can't do it remember that pace changes based on everything: weather, terrain, mental state.  I challenge you to post your pace.  See your growth or maybe like me, you actually go backward.  No shame either way.  1 mile is 1 mile at 7 minutes, 13 minutes, 21 minutes.  Or in the case of the picture below: a marathon is 26.2 miles whether it takes 4 hours, 6, hours, 8 hours, or 20 hours.  #mypacenoshame





Saturday, July 13, 2019

It's just me - Low Self Esteem and other fun issues

I was binge watching Downton Abbey last month and I had forgotten about all of the wonderful lines that Dame Maggie Smith delivers with impeccable timing and tone.  In one episode, Isobel walks into the room and says, "It's just me." and the Dowager replies that "I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self worth."  

It suddenly hit me that I do that all of the time.  I say "It's just me."  I thought about it a bit and realized that in fact I lack self-worth and I'm giving others the opportunity to devalue me before anything else happens.  When someone forgets a meeting with me to runs late and apologizes, I usually say, "Oh don't worry it's just me."  In other words, I'm not worth your worry, I'm worth less than others and my time isn't as valuable. 

I've completed a doctorate and while I worked on the stupid thing, I would tell people "If I can do it then anyone can." Which is true but just because I did doesn't mean you can.  This really ticked me off once when someone who has not yet to this day finished their undergraduate degree looked at me and said, "Well if you can do then anybody can."  Like somehow I'm so slow or stupid that everyone else is better than me so obviously if I can anybody can.  The funny thing is nobody that I know that has actually ever started their doctorate has ever said anything like that to me.  The only people who have ever been like "Oh, it must not be that hard if you did it" are all people who have never gotten past the undergrad level.  

Same with the marathon.  Yes, I was slow but I finished.  Again, "Oh if you can do it then anyone can." Maybe but that doesn't mean you can.  And again, no one that has ever started a marathon has ever demeaned me for my time on the finish or anything close to that.  They always high-five and congratulate me.  People who have never lined up, yeah they pull that anyone can card.

So what does it mean that "If I can then anybody can" versus "Just because I did doesn't mean you can." Well first of all I want everyone to pursue their dreams and reach their goals.  You shining doesn't take away from my shine.  Secondly, I have accomplished tasks that put me in the 1% or even .5% of the population.  I am a fucking unicorn.  I haven't done things that are impossible if you work for them.  You can walk a marathon.  You can take 10 years to finish your dissertation.  I'm not a genius.  I am 100% of average intelligence.  I am not a thin running gazelle.  I am an overweight chunky woman.  What I have that anyone who has ever finished a marathon or dissertation has is a refusal to quit.  It takes stamina, both mental and physical for both.

If I have ever given you the impression that I am ordinary then I do apologize.  If you have ever met me and thought well she's not that special then again I'm sorry.  You need to understand that you stand and have stood in the presence of greatness.  I am extraordinary.  I am exemplary.  I am a fucking unicorn that is covered in diamonds and poops gold.  

Don't you ever dare think you can be me.  I don't give a shit if you run faster and further than me.  Please, beat my running PRs.  I want you to do well.  Don't ever tell you me that my doctorate is less than someone's from the Ivy League.  I spent less money and still get called Doctor.  Never make the mistake of thinking that because I tell you that "It's just me" means that I don't understand my own awesomeness.

Do I feel awesome?  Fuck no!  Do I walk around like those Ivy League grads with a stick up my butt forgetting that I'm a poor Mexican woman?  Fuck no!  I know I look like everyone else you know but I'm not.  As my boss told me this week, I am meant for bigger and better things than where I stand today and people where I stand today is pretty damn awesome.  I have accomplished a shit ton of stuff with half the resources and God-given talent of those around me.  

Line up at the start line and I'll be your pit crew.  I'll be your faithful cheerleader.  I'll stand in the cold, rain, wind to watch you finish your marathon if it takes you 4 hours or 20.  But don't you dare tell me you can be me.

I'll read and edit your research papers.  I'll drive you to your interviews.  I'll sit at your defense and take you for a celebration when they pronounce you Doctor.  But don't you dare tell me you can be me.

I am the product of luck, opportunity, ambition, DNA, failure, and grit.  I am amazing.  I am exemplary.  I am extraordinary.   

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Wayne's World Marathon - Party time? Excellent?

I finished the Wayne's World Marathon with an official time of 8:03:09.  I was targeting finishing in less than 8 hours and almost did it.  According to my Nike Run Club app, I was under 8 hours but that is because Nike stops when you stop so I "lost" about 10 minutes at the fuel table/water station.  I'm good with it.  I was not last!  I actually passed up 2 people who had been about 12 minutes ahead of me.  My last loop was difficult and satisfying. 

I have found that with each long run/new distance I have a transition point.  I have a bit of a breakdown or major breakdown.  Much like transitioning during childbirth, I am different and maybe a slightly better me afterward.  At Hell's Hills it was about mile 13 or so.  At Wayne's World, it was mile 22 or so.  I was running on the bridge for the 8th time knowing I had to do it one more time and I just couldn't.  Brandon Flower's Crossfire was playing and I was crying.  I wanted to quit but I knew I had really come too far to stop now.  I wasn't sure if I started the last loop I could finish it but I also knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I stopped.  I was in pain in all realms: physical, mental, spiritual.  As I walked into the water station I was still in transition.  DH took my water pack but snapped my phone belt which just about ended my day.  Now he didn't break it.  He just undid the snap because it was my water pack.  I was tired, transitioning, and oh yeah facing 3 more miles.  I was not rational in that moment. 

My last loop once I got going became an amazing growth experience.  I run 30/30 intervals; however, I spent a few miles just walking and ignoring my intervals.  See if I stuck to them I would have finished well under 8 hours but I digress.  I took off from the water station running.  I ran for about 2 minutes convinced that if I stopped running I would just stop maybe even die, transition time is a bitch, people.  After 2 minutes, I realized there was no way I could run the next 3 miles without walking some so I made a deal with myself, for the last loop I would stick to the intervals and if I drop dead at the finish then it was just meant to be that way.  As I passed things, I would amp myself up with the thought, "I never have to fucking see this again!" 

I could feel myself get stronger with each step.  I could feel the finish.  I could feel the accomplishment of a goal. I just had to push a little bit longer.  I caught up to 2 people.  I was, in theory, going to finish with them but I was just feeling my pace so I just kept going.  I ran straight into DH's arm and had my tears of victory.  Then the pit crew came into view.  They had been taking care of me for over 8 hours.  They shoved, lovingly and expertly, soda, pickle juice, bananas, and just about anything else a good water station has in my face and hands.  They gave me high fives.  They gave me hugs.  They gave me knowing looks that said, "Next time you'll do even better and yes there will be a next time." 

I can't say enough good things about Running the Distance, LLC.  The race was wonderful.  The description on the race site was spot on.  The volunteers cheered us on by name.  They create a community around the race.  I was a little sad to not be running the next day with them.  I will be back to run with them.  Maybe I'll run the actual triple someday and not just Wayne's World. 

So was Wayne's World a partytime excellent marathon?  I would say so.  Well I give it excellent.  Was it a partytime?  Considering it was the closest to a birthday I have had in years, I'll give it a partytime too.  Yes, it was partytime, excellent!