"Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets."
~ Leonardo DaVinci
In less than two weeks I'll be tackling my 17th marathon up at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, ME. If you'd told me back in 2007 that 10 years later I'd still be at it, I would have laughed in your face. Now I just laugh at myself. As a runner, I'm always learning. Way back when I started in on this madness, I learned never to say never and that has stuck with me through all of them. After my 13th marathon, the Mohawk Hudson, where I ran my current PR of 3:04 at age 40, I learned that I had more in me than I ever thought possible. At the same time, I wondered whether I had more to give. And then I quickly learned that my coach, who I've been working with since 2013, had absolutely no doubt in his mind that this was the case. So, I've kept at it. Working as hard, if not harder every time. For my next two marathons, I learned that shit happens and that I have to deal with whatever is thrown at me. I learned that regardless of how well I train, I always have to expect the unexpected as there will undoubtedly be things out of my control (ie. metal doors and bad weather) every, single time. I learned to reset, adjust the plan, stay positive and stick with it. Which I did. I also learned that I was still not satisfied and that I was ready and willing to do more to get what I wanted, which in this situation is a marathon PR. During this particular training cycle, which began back in January, I learned to take the good days with the bad, to be realistic, to keep my head on, to be in the moment, to use humor whenever possible, to lean hard on my friends and teammates and, most importantly, to trust. Trust myself, my body, my coach, the process; all of it. And because of that, I've made it to this point. Oh, and I've learned a few new and somewhat interesting things about both the training process and myself this time around that I hadn't realized until I shifted into this higher gear (see below). I don't know what will happen next week, but I've learned to believe that anything is possible.
MARATHON #17:10 NEW THINGS I'VE LEARNED
1. I'm capable of napping anywhere, any time. During a hair cut, in the waiting room while my daughter is having her teeth cleaned, in the car at soccer pick up. Literally....anywhere.
2. Compression is my friend. I only used to wear compression socks and tights once in a while. Today I wear them almost daily as the support they provide my tired muscles is invaluable.
3. A new song or playlist can make or break a workout. Music always gets me going but sometimes the same old thing is not enough. A handful of fresh tunes can make a notable impact on performance. It can also help me motivate to get out the door.
4. I'm now capable of eating a pretty substantial meal at noon and then going for a run less than an hour later. It's not ideal, but I've had weekly doubles during this cycle and I was often short on time so it had to be done on a regular basis. Random? Yes. But a really good skill to have.
5. An epsom salt bath can be a border-line religious experience. This one is pretty self explanatory.
6. Even when I'm not up for it, my dog is always ready and willing to go. Snowing, raining, windy, hot...doesn't matter. She's in. She's also not afraid to give me the stare down when I'm procrastinating before my departure. Dog coach? Sort of.
7. I'm now able to have a cup of coffee at 3:00pm and still easily fall asleep at 9:00, if not earlier. I used to avoid caffeine after noon in fear that it would keep me up at night. This time around I've needed it more than usual to get through my days. Thankfully, it hasn't impacted my sleep routine in the slightest. Good and bad, I suppose.
8. Even when I'm 99% sure that I can't do it....I can. My running partner often reminds me that my coach wouldn't have given me the workout if he didn't think I could do it. She's always right.
9. More mileage and harder workouts means absolutely nothing to my children. My exhaustion has been higher than ever this time around. Not only do they not get it but they could care less. As far at they're concerned, I'm just doing more of what I love. Which I suppose is true. Fortunately for me (and, really, for them, too), I've mastered lesson #1.
10. All the runs, regardless of pace or distance, add up and make an impact on the big picture. There have been days over the past few months when I could barely muster a shuffle. They all count and the harder they are to get through, the stronger I am become.
Listen to this:
Ultralife by Oh Wonder