I haven’t written much outside of race reports in the last few months. I have been conflicted because I have so much to say and….Are you listening? It’s OK if you’re not. OK, go ahead and blow dry your hair. I’ll just keep talking and you nod every three to six seconds. Awesome.
[WHRRRRRRRRRRRRRR] NOD [WHRRRRRRRRRRRRRR] NOD [WHRRRRRRRRRRRR] NOD, NOD.
POOF. Thanks for listening! No, no, no need for the XOXO or the thumbs up and don’t call me baby unless you want to buy me a drink.
[WHRRRRRRRRRRRRRR] NOD [WHRRRRRRRRRRRRR] NOD.
Can you turn the hair dryer off now? Want to just talk about track?
I’ve been drilling and looping the oval at TMJ causing speeds. Every week there is some new little challenge that I roll over in my head and try to execute at the breakfast club. The State Street Mile is on Sunday and if you haven’t been doing speed, gravity is still gonna bite. How do you train hard for a downhill road mile? Run really really fast that way and if something gets in your way turn.
I love the mile. Yes, I can make my legs buckle in a mile. Hell, I can make my legs buckle in 400 meters! This year- goal number 1: Don’t buckle. Goal number 2: Break my twice set PR of 4:49. Let’s see, it took me 4 years to take 8 seconds off my 5K and 5 years to take 15 seconds off my 10K….so by this logic a few seconds should fly off the mile too. But just in case logic is still in it’s Aspen time share, let’s work those fast twitch bitches. I got a left one and I got a right one.
It’s a blustery morning and The White Fire is burning up the back country hills better not get the vineyards. The sky appears clear, but tastes like campfire. We jog our warm up and head to the track where Rusty gives instructions to the milers. It’s a cruise 400 and then an all out 1200. I receive instructions to let Mark lead the first 400 of the 1200 and then pass hard and hammer.
We line up. We fall hard into the first quarter as Mark tears up the track. He runs from me like I’m carrying a butcher knife, but he can’t be sure because he doesn’t ever look back. HOLY HOT WHEELS! I ease off Mark. The first quarter is liquid lightning and so begins the detonation of a track attack. I pass and run my TT hurting with them all and finish pleased with my time. I know Mark has fallen into the seize of a hot lactic bitch slap. I’m so familiar with the hot lactic bitch slap that I could probably demonstrate it anywhere on demand. I call it the Elaine (as in Seinfeild…as in her dance). Carlsbad? Doing the Elaine!
Fortunately for Mark, he didn’t really get slapped that hard, but Stuart was sure excited! Upon Mark’s finish, Stuart rushed over to high five him and slap his back.
“That first quarter was AMAZING!” Stuart beamed, “WOW! And then….and then…GOD I JUST LOVE WATCHING PEOPLE IN PAIN!”
Stuart glows ear to ear and sort of jumps, could be levitates, off the ground in enthusiasm. I burst into laughter. Not because this statement is so funny…..because it is! But because STUART IS A DENTIST!!!!
And that makes it really fucking funny. Pee my LuLu funny! Stuart is probably Santa Barbara’s finest dentist, but you still get this song!!!!!
I keep getting better at the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. WOW! That sounds great! Doesn’t it? It is…it’s great…it just doesn’t always feel that way. That’s racing.
Now before we sob on about running under an improbably blue sky on the way to a personal record, let’s talk a little about the Wine Country Half Marathon. This was my third time to race this local destination worthy race. The albeit challenging course makes up for any insults to gravity in waves of rolling beauty. If that doesn’t do it for you, the point to point course rewards the top three finishers with a paycheck and
wine Really Good Wine. These are definitely my choice of Scooby Snacks. It’s hills for breakfast and wine for lunch- come Hell or Crushed Grapes.
Coming off the Carlsbad destruction, I felt a touch gun shy. Carlsbad was only one month ago and an unfortunate hamstring pull had to be also dealt with in the build up to the WCH. However, even with a week of missed workouts, the workouts that I did pump out were very good. My worst case scenerio race plan gave me a healthy PR. It was not a question of “IF” it was of how much and
secretly obviously, I wanted to feel fantastic along the way. I know the course, I know the hills, I know the final sneaky bitchy hills, and I know the finish. I know…I know…I know…Ya know?
Lining up, it was another no excuse day. The weather was not yet too terribly warm, the sky was banner blue, and I had competition. Maria Rivera came from Visilia to snack on some hills too. The 24 year old has a 1:18:32 half and a 16:39 5k to her name. When the gun went off, I stayed behind her watching her pink outfit glide over the initial rolling hills. We went out easy and I hoped I could provide Maria with that competition, but even at mile 2 easy did not feel easy to me.
I passed by the third mile in an average of 6:15 pace and knew I’d have to let her already take ground on me. My breathing was off and my legs felt heavy. My confidence swayed as I pondered the upcoming terrain, the ten more miles of road, and the inevitable feeling of already wanting to stop. There is no reason I should feel this way.
“What the Fuck Dre!” Me says.
“I don’t know, Fuck! I feel like shit,” Me answers.
“Fuck if I know.”
“What do we do?”
“Fucking suck it up Bitch.”
By mile four the day’s race became a chore. My eyes stayed focused ahead in a permanent glare on a cruising pink gazelle. I let my mind drift without letting it sink. I began to ignore my watch and broke the course down into chunks. Passing cheering water stands with friendly faces….. did I? I don’t remember. For better or worse, I put my mind into a tunnel. No excuses and no options, but a finish line. But this wasn’t reckless racing, I went into damage control knowing full well what waited for me throughout the course.
I attacked corkscrew hill and gained on two men. I felt awful at the top and turned my legs over reluctantly into the downhill. Usually this is a welcomed drop where gravity seems to flirt with me whispering promises of impressive paces. Today gravity was all like- “Roll or Drop Girl, we don’t give a blue bird shit.” I stopped expecting to feel good and went into suffer mode.
I passed another male with little pleasure. The road opened ahead of me- absolutely stunning! A ribbon running through golden hills with yellows popping against eternal blue. Cute cows lifted their heads as I struggled by turning over my legs and pumping my arms.
“Moo,” Cute Cows call.
“Fuck you Cute Cow.” Wow! It’s such a pretty day to die. I mean it’s absolutely gorgeous out here. I sucked wind through a postcard- lick it, stick a stamp on it and send it to my mother- I passed a beautiful Buffalo!
Buffalo says nothing.
“Well Fuck you too beautiful Buffalo!”
My mind drifted to dangerous places and I swore Chubbsie was whispering in my ear, “Just stop!” Mind games tease like soft breezes in the desert. Options appear like a horizon- you can seemingly go any which way you want to, but it’s still the desert. There is only one finish line. One oasis.
Passing mile 8 on pace to run a 1:21:00, I felt a sting in my chest. My current PR is a 1:21:03. In fact, that two second PR last year was the only PR I had had in years and when I lined up today, I knew I am better. No doubt was in my mind- just like in Carlsbad. However, here I struggled through the middle of the course on pace to repeat my time and what lies ahead? The bitchy finish line hills. As much as I hurt, I realized I wasn’t hurting enough and it was now or never.
I caught up to another male runner and used his shoulders to drag me along before he had enough and fell off. I could still see the pink flash of Maria against seemingly amber waves of grain. I pumped on to the next male and into the finishing hills. I put my head down and attacked each one. I tasted stomach acid. I saw the man ahead of me break- he began to walk. I charged. He looked back.
Oh shit a girl.
Yes, a girl. Lie down and die why don’t you?
He started packing. This helped me tremendously and I powered into the final two hills. I passed Doug and Tim perched atop a digger and graciously they cheered the hiss hiss pop that was me. At this point Doug could have said, “YOU think that hill is hard Brat?”
But Superman didn’t say that. I felt a renewed energy from my friend and as it turns out I fought better and faster than I ever have over those final hills. I rounded the last one and kicked- kicked and kicked clearing the line in 1:20:35. Second place, a new PR, and one of the fastest times run on this course.
I felt numb. I shook Maria’s hand. I walked off and slowly processed the race. What a mental grind! It’s days like that that serve the marathon well. We can all hope to feel good. It’s a fairy tale dream and when we do feel good- runners’ ecstasy! But a lot of racing is grinding it out- being stubborn and just refusing to see options.
I’m left singing one of my favorite Bob Schneider lines, “You can’t tell me how to have my fucking fun.”
I love running.
Robins have an extremely high mortality rate. They aggressively defend their territory- often to the death. Head strong and determined, the male Robin will not back down until the other Robin flees or dies from chest ramming combat. The problem is through the looking glass. This mighty feathered warrior sees an intruder to his land and repeatedly collides with this enemy- over and over again until a neck breaks and one falls to his death. The Robin, so convinced in his war, does not realize that he battles a reflection of himself in a window pane. Eventually, he wins his battle- the bird in the mirror drops dead.
It has been a Hell of a week. Terror, tragedy, heartbreak, hope, humanity, destruction, pride, revenge, vigilance, peace- life is often choose your own illusion. How do you choose to digest, comprehend, and heal from events? It is human nature that the closer things hit to home, the more empathy one holds for an individual or a situation. Pleads went out that Boston is not just a runner’s tragedy. It is an American one. Just like West Texas. One is a terrible accident and one is a plotted game of bloody destruction, but both cost lives and cause grief. Death is a part of life, but not until death gives you tangible pieces of yourself do we really let death in. Do we actually accept that death is part of all of our lives?
Yes and No.
The Robin certainly understands his quest and his fierce nature indicates that he will succeed or die trying, but who is he battling? We all matter. We all want to matter. We build families, careers, communities, friendships, and hope that our impact is felt. Kind acts leave you glowing with a satisfaction of grace while arguments weigh shoulders down in stress. Even if we are right. Even if we are wrong.
But if we Believe – we can accept. There is deep gnawing need for humans to believe in something. Something greater, something better, something higher…. something other than our fallible, weak, mortal selves. Perhaps this is the reason we repeatedly ask WHY?
There must be a reason. We can ACCEPT it IF we BELIEVE there is a REASON. We just have to be careful with who we fight with because more often than not our internal battles are the most destructive to our own happiness.
I believe in God. I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in Love. And right now I believe in SUPERMAN!