Wednesday, June 19, 2013

hi, internet, it's me, katie

I'm not sure why I've gone from being able to post five days a week to not be able to post five times a month.  But here we are.
When I started this blog, I weighed roughly 40lbs more than I do right now.  I could run for about 2-3 minutes max, before I started to feel pain and had to quit.  I was in my first semester of graduate school.  I was in a job that I straight-up despised.  I was six months fresh off of a divorce.  I had a new boyfriend who I still wasn't even ready to call by that label, although he was mostly residing in my house by then.  I had no idea who I was, where I was going, what I was doing with my life.  I was lost.  Or rather, constantly in the darkness, a line I picked up from the song I played over and over and over, in my headphones, in my car, at night when I couldn't sleep (Diana Krall's "A Case Of You," live in Paris version).  Blah blah blah, I've talked about my journey quite a bit as I've traveled along, but that's where I was before it started.  When I used to stare out the window at people jogging by on the sidewalk and get angry, because why was it so easy for them and so hard for me?  All I wanted to do was be out there too.  Why couldn't I?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  I have several athletes who I think are at the beginning of journeys of their own.  Or maybe their journey has taken a sudden and quite violent change of direction.  And they are confused, or hesitant, or angry, and I can hear it in their voices.  Why is it so hard?  Why me?  Why did this happen, why can't it just be easy, why can't the life I want just be mine?  Where do I go now, how do I move forward?  And I ache for them.
Chasing the life that you want is hard.  Changing the life you have, that's really hard.  Trying to understand why the universe hands off the cards to you that it does, well, shit, that's nearly impossible.  If it was easy, I wrote in an email just the other day, everyone in the world would be slim and trim and strong and happily married and healthy and mentally well-balanced and get enough sleep and vegetables and vitamins every single day.  That's what the world would look like if it was easy.  But it's not.  So what are you going to do about it?
This blog, writing down all the crap I do and say and posting pictures of my ass, that has been part of my journey.  Bringing everyone I could along for the ride.  Call it support, call it enabling, but I can click through the past four years of my life and without even reading, watch the changes happen.  I wrote it all down at first because I was proud that I got up and moved my body every day, and when I told everyone what I did, they all said, "YAY GO KATIE!" and I clicked over to their blogs and said, "OMG YAY GO OTHER BLOGGER YOU!"  And we all made friends, and we supported each other, and that was a big part of how I was able to get this far.  That was important to me, that motivated me, that mattered.  And now I've jogged forward, and I noticed at some point that I wasn't motivated by that anymore.  I didn't need to hear, "Go Katie!" on yesterday's workout in order to wake up and get today's work done. So I stopped writing about it.  Then ironman training rolled along, and I realized that we are all doing the same work just in five hundred minisculely (that's probably not a word and if it is I am not spelling it even close to correctly) different ways, so I stopped talking about that in blog posts.  I rode my bike for six hours last Saturday?  SO DID EVERYONE ELSE.  Life wandered forward, and I swam, I biked, I ran, I ate, I drank (a lot), I packed up all my shit and I moved two thousand miles away from everything I knew.  Somewhere along the line, sitting down and telling the story of my life so that my inbox would fill up with blog comments stopped being quite as important as living the story of my life, holding the friends I have close to my heart, quietly searching for joy instead of blasting my greatest hits and sarcastic moments on the internet.  
Everything I wrote in that first paragraph, all of that is different now.  My weight has been stable for about three years.  I can run for four hours and twenty-eight minutes (although it hurt just about as badly as 2-3 minutes did back then which seems a bit unfair).  Graduate school is done and paid for, I enjoy my job, I like my co-workers, but I am not escaping to work because my life is empty without it.  The poet and I get in stupid fights about whose voice was using the sarcastic tone first when they said the thing about the car, but we are happy.  Being married to him fills my life with joy (and stinky feet).  I am in love with how much my puppies love me, I KNOW that there are dogs but they are my family.  I am not perfect, and I will be the first to fill you in on my imperfections, but I also know exactly who I am now, and I will not apologize for it.
Everyone has challenges in their life.  Everyone.  And my life has been shaped by how I've decided to approach those challenges, which is generally to sledgehammer my way through.  That doesn't mean it's been right, or that I haven't made mistakes while holding the machete, but that's how I've done it.  
The thing I continue to tell my athletes, the puzzle piece I wish I could slot into their brains, is that it is worth it.  Chasing your joy, seeking health and happiness, it is worth it.  And I wish that I could shoulder their burdens, I wish that I could fight through the hard parts for them, I wish that I could take away their pain.  Between puppies and athletes, I don't think I could bear to have any children even if I wanted them, my heart hurts too much when they are struggling.  I don't have magic words to make them feel better, I generally say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time.  But I can remember the moment, so clearly, when I realized that I had the power to say, hang on, wait one fucking second, no, this is not what I want my life to be.  This is not how I want my story to end.  And it is true that I would go through my divorce all over again if it meant that I would end up in the marriage I am in.  I didn't know that then, of course, and all the people who told me I would feel better "in time" I wanted to punch in the mouth, but it was true.  I would gladly again suffer through four years - YEARS, not days or weeks or months - of being unable to run in exchange for the marathon I ran last month.  For the ironman I finished last June.  
I'm training for my second ironman right now.  (And my third...).  It's a lot different than my first.  When I was training for my first, everything was new, I didn't know how to handle all the shit my brain threw at me while I was throwing an unbelievable amount of shit at my body.  And I tell those stories over and over, about the meltdown I had on the bike and where I stopped my MAF test to sit on the track and cry and how I made the poet come pick me up from the side of the road sobbing only to let me back out 10 minutes later to keep riding.  Those stories are funny, now.  They make me laugh at myself, now.  And I think I still have a few more days before shit really starts to get serious on my calendar, or maybe I am doing a slightly better job of taking it all in stride this time around.  Or maybe both.  
I don't suppose I really had anything to say, here (but do I ever?).  I'm not sure how I got so serious when I sat down to fill up a blog post with tales of riding my bicycle and changing my fucking swim stroke is so aggravating and my knee hurt so I didn't run for a few days but now it's fine and training camp was amazing and oh we're moving and I finally purchased and ate kale and did not drop dead on the spot.  I rode my bike so hard the other day that I lost my voice later on that afternoon.  I ran with Molly this morning, and let me tell you, if you need a straight up shot of what happiness looks like, go for a run with this girl.  
So I just wanted to drop in, internet, and say hello, and now I'm going back to blowing the glass of my life with the biggest hammer I can find.  Because that's what I do.  But you were all here when I was sad, and mad, and fat and unhappy, and you all dragged me through it, and now I'm trying to drag other people through it, and I thought that the best way I could say thank you for that was to say: hi, internet.  It's me, Katie.  Right now, I'm doing just fine.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Buffalo Marathon: race report

I was supposed to run a marathon in February.
I was supposed to, but I didn't, because I let life get in the way.  And that's okay.  But somewhere along the way I realized that I still wanted to run one.  Maybe because when I stand at the line of IMLP, I don't want the last time I covered 26.2 miles to be last year in Coeur d'Alene, maybe because I've never run one before, and maybe because I'm not even sure why.  Sometimes things just sound like a good idea.  So I very carefully worded an email to Sonja requesting her consideration, and she shocked me by not only saying yes but that she had been thinking about it too.
Long story short, Saturday morning we flew out to Buffalo.  We met up with Allison in the airport and then spent the remainder of the day doing all the things you do the day before a race, mainly eating too much and diagnosing yourself with multiple stress fractures and changing your mind about which shoes and which shorts and which gels.  
Sonja powered me up with one of her "are you sure about this????" race plans before departing to Brazil, and it was full of talking about running by feel.  About continuing to search for the hurt, trying to figure out how to race without fear.  Where my brain is going this year, where it is, I care very little about time on the clock right now.  It's still a new feeling but I'm embracing it, I've finally gotten it through my thick fat skull that we are supposed to be doing this for the joy of movement.  Race day should be a celebration of hard work, when I show up I am grateful to be able to stand on the line at all.  Especially when I get to stand there with my husband and a very good friend, when I know I will see them out on the course as we make our way through our individual days.
Race morning was a blur of throwaway shirts and peeing behind cars in the parking garage, and I had no sooner stepped into a corral then the gun went BANG and off we went.

Miles 1-5: 10:21, 9:53, 10:02, 10:10, 9:51
The first two miles were for warm-up.  I was a little surprised when I glanced at the splits because I felt like I was moving a bit faster, but I just figured my body was getting a slow start.  Despite peeing thirty seconds before the race started, my bladder was uncomfortably full so I pulled over in mile three or four somewhere.  Once that was done, I started working down in effort.  I remembered Liz telling me that I shouldn't be sweating for the first six miles, and I wasn't, but the mile splits that were clicking past just weren't matching up with the easy effort I felt like I was putting out.  I wasn't upset or mad, just a little bit puzzled.

Miles 6-10: 10:12, 9:51, 9:53, 9:51, 9:44
By the time I hit the 10K split I had accepted that I needed to roll down the window and pitch out the race plan, because the legs I wanted weren't going to show up.  And somehow, I was okay with it.  My legs have done good strong work this year, and if they wanted to take a day off, then I was going to roll with it.  There was a long out-and-back in here, and while I was searching for the poet I landed hard in a deep pothole and rolled my right ankle.  Nothing too awful, but it felt pretty sore for the rest of the day.  I also saw Allison in here somewhere, and she was inches behind the 1:40 pacer which made me incredibly excited for her day, especially when I realized that she was only a couple of miles from the finish.

Miles 11-15: 9:52, 9:55, 9:50, 9:39, 10:02 (half split 2:13:11 but based on gun time so roughly 2:11...ish).
When I had pulled off to pee, the 4:20 and 4:30 pace groups had both passed me.  I caught up with the 4:30 group somewhere and by roughly mile 7 had settled in behind the 4:20 group.  There was a blonde girl pacing and she was excellent.  I ran with them for a few miles, content to hang back and zone out.  I felt patient, I was waiting for the work to start, I thought of Sonja telling me about the tiger that sleeps.  

When the half finish line showed up, I lost the 4:20 group in the chaos (also the 2:10 half pace group) and ended up out ahead of them.  I saw the poet in here, he told me his finishing time and we high-fived, and I let him know that I was still feeling fine.  There was an aid station around mile 14 handing out watermelon, and the bite I ate is simply the greatest thing I have ever tasted while racing. I don't remember seeing most of these splits go by, I wasn't watching my watch that closely, instead just trying to keep my effort nice and easy.  But somewhere after the half split, the 4:20 pacer went by, and the pacers had swapped out, so now it was a tall, skinny guy and he was FLYING.  I started to feel alarmed that maybe I had lost my mind and slowed down, but I chased him all through most of mile 14 before deciding to let him go.  The split that popped up confirmed that as a good decision.  I took a gel a mile later, and that's when it started to hurt.

Miles 16-20: 9:56, 9:54, 10:29, 10:20, 10:20
The first complaints came from my feet.  I run on dirt here in Boulder almost 100% of the time, and although I had been warned that the asphalt/concrete/grated bridges would bother me, I still wasn't ready.  After flip-flopping for weeks, I had decided to run in my Newtons, because I feel like they help me hold good form when I'm tired and falling apart.  And I'm glad I ran in them, especially because I had no blisters or chafed toes or sore marks or busted toenails, but they have less cushioning and I think contributed a little bit towards the hurt.
When I got to mile 16 and could start counting down in single digits, I still felt okay, but I also know that if I was starting to hurt with ten miles to go, I was in for one hell of a rough ride.

Miles 21-26.2: 10:31, 10:44, 10:41, 10:49, 11:23, 10:37, final Garmin gibberish 10:27 pace...ish
One of the many things that I hung onto in my brain was the fact that Coeur d'Alene hurt this much.  And there, I walked.  I walked for almost seven miles before I realized that it hurt just as much to walk as it did to run.  Having that thought in my head is what kept me running.  I knew that if I stopped to walk, even a single step, I would be royally pissed at myself for giving in once I had crossed the line.  For not being able to take this step forward, for sinking into old patterns of giving in and giving up.  

These miles were emotional, a little, I think my brain was trying to distract me from what in the hell was going on.  I thought of Sonja telling me before my first race with her, "You aren't going to die out there" (and then I ended up in the medical tent, so, um, hmmm).  I thought about cheering on the poet through all of his marathons, and how strong he was and how much I wanted him to be proud of my day.  I thought of dozens and dozens of my friends, different moments showed up in memory.  Amy who loves marathons more than anything on earth including maybe beer and ice cream, Liz and her clockwork body that is genetically programmed to run 3:50 marathons, Allison who was there the first day I ran a half marathon and we tried to run together and now she can freaking smoke me.  I thought about my own athletes, they are all struggling with different challenges in their lives and they all inspire me to be better.  And all the while this was going on, I was running.  Slowing down, for sure, and in pain like I have never been in pain in my life, but one step in front of the other, running.
When I got to mile 23 I knew that I had it.  Mile 24 went by and I slowed to grab some cups of water at the aid station.  My fingers were swelling and I knew I needed salt and fluids, so when I hit the station right after the mile 25 sign, I slowed WAYYYYY down and drank three cups of gatorade and three cups of water.  And then I turned a corner and the poet was there, the loudest spectator on the planet, that's my husband, he is my biggest fan and I love him.
He jumped in with me, behind me, and didn't say much but I knew he was there.  We came up on a guy handing out dixie cups of beer and he asked me if I wanted one.  I said no, and then changed my mind and sucked one down.  It tasted AWFUL.  The wind started to pick up so I told him to run in front of me, and the last mile felt like it was going on forever and I couldn't think of anything other than how badly I was hurting.  I thought of the guy I saw several times on the race course last year at IMCdA with the shirt that said, "WHERE THE F%#@ IS THE FINISH LINE!!!" and I have never felt that way as strongly as I felt in that moment.  My watch beeped mile 26 and then I saw the mile marker and told myself, "Just one more lap of the track."  And I turned the corner and I was in the chute and then I was done, it was over and I had done it and I was done and I could finally stop running.  (Final time: 4:28:33).
I made my way into the convention center and it was about 10-15 minutes before my legs stopped screaming and my brain started working again.
And then we did all the things you do after a race, you hug and take pictures and hobble around and drink beer in your ice bath and eat all the ice cream you can fit in your stomach.  
We hung out all afternoon at Thom's sister's house and it was perfect, so wonderful to spend time with friends and family and we even went for a walk because Liz made us because we were drunk.
I'm still learning about how to race, but last week, in the marathon, I raced without fear.  I remember racing Waterman's half a few years back.  When things started to not go according to plan, I fell apart.  Into a million pieces.  That's fear of failure, and I've talked pretty openly about it here on many occasions.  I was so afraid of failing that I couldn't stand to try.  That's it.  It's that simple.  I judged myself so badly on those days, it was my own negative self-talk that ruined the day for me, not the bike crash or the heat or the puking or the whatever.  It was my own brain, dropping a bomb that I couldn't run from, and the root of the problem wasn't the recovering from the drop, it was that it got launched at all.
And now, I can't even describe how happy I am to be in a different place.  How much it's worth it to have grown, to have worked through a lot of bad shit and be here on the other side.  I knew at mile 3 that I wasn't going to have the day I wanted, so I adjusted my plan, I made changes, I raced as hard and as smart as I could from line to line.  In New Orleans last month my legs showed up and I ran joyfully, in Buffalo they didn't and I found just as much happiness in my day.  I feel like there is such a good lesson for me to have learned here, how to manage a race when your legs don't show up, how to do damage control, how to manage to blood-letting, the explosion, how to still push yourself and stay with the pain no matter what my tiny watch that talks to the sky is telling me.  Could I have a different race on a different day?  Probably, who doesn't feel that way after they finish a race most of the time?  
But I know, I am firm and certain, that this was simply the best race I could have had on THIS day.  There was not one more second to be pulled from my body, I emptied myself out and when I bent over to catch my breath after crossing the finish, I was shattered, there was nothing left.  There is so much peace there.  There is no second-guessing, there are no what-ifs.  I ran.  Hard.  Far.  Strong.  And my path unrolls before me.