Uphill Battle: Part III

By: Asia Shah

Being that the race was on Sunday and we weren’t flying out until Monday morning, we had a nice afternoon and evening ahead of us in Sacramento.  Two of our friends had great races and were in need of some fuel, so we headed to a restaurant for some lunch and ended up at a really neat coffee shop afterwards.  It was called Old Soul, and it was located in the back of an alley.  Side note, we had gone in search of a different coffee place two nights before and also ended up in alley…however, it was a much scarier one with abandoned cars and no lights, which made me happy to have our resident convict-conditioned ninja along with us for protection…anyway, we spent about two-ish hours just talking and drinking coffee that afternoon, which went a long way in redeeming the day.  It is always fun to travel and find new places, but it is infinitely better in good company.

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When I got home to my empty house on Monday night (Kam had flown directly to another CA city for a work trip, so I was solo) I was hit with a feeling of unease that I would try to stuff down into my unconscious for about the next five days.  It was my last week of school for the semester, so I had more than enough final paper/exam things to occupy my mind, which was a positive.  My coach met me and a fellow teammate for one last tune-up workout prior to the BCS marathon on Sunday, and though it went quite well, talk of HEAT was definitely a downer.  No matter, I thought, I will run this damn race no matter what and the result will be what it will be.  No expectations, no structured race plan, no pressure.  Somehow, I managed to hold onto a shred of the previous confidence that had me feeling so calm in Sacramento.  Thursday morning greeted me with a snotty, green, swollen punch to the throat.  I felt like if I looked in the mirror I would have the appearance of that nasty green snot-monster in the mucinex commercials who supposedly resides in our mucous.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re welcome, because I have provided a picture below.  Still, I made it through a nine mile run knowing that all day Friday I would simply rest, relax, and siphon as much energy into my legs as possible.  Things were not turning around, in fact I was only sinking further into sickland and time was not on my side.  Saturday morning I let myself sleep in and then quietly creeped from the room to let Kam sleep since he had gotten in on a late flight.  Ok, four or five miles and some strides, no biggie.  Well, within about 400m I knew that in actuality, in my current state 4 miles was absolutely a “biggie”.  In fact, I made it about 1.5 miles before I had to walk out of fatigue and snot-blowing on the sidewalk.  As thick as my skull is, I managed to force a valiant effort of 3.8 miles out of myself, avec no less than three stops.  As I approached our house there was all at once a million thoughts bouncing through my head and nothing at all.  I was lost.  Literally.  What should I do?  And more importantly, what should I NOT do?  Sometimes I think one of the worst things about being an adult is that other adults allow you, and expect you, to make decisions for yourself.  Aww I’m a big girl now.  Pooie.  I will now do what I do best, pout.  This is why I knew that what I craved most, my coach telling me what to do, I would most certainly not get.  When a coach gives me a plan or a directive, I feel much more at ease with the idea than if I am forced to arrive at it myself.  Even if it is exactly what he would have told me to do, it is so confusing, conflicted, and difficult to make those tough decisions alone.

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I wrapped my sobbing snot-body in a towel and stood at the end of the bed until Kam noticed me through his sleep-haze, and I told him through guttural bursts of air that, “I caaaaaan’t,” or something equally as pathetic.  Too tired, sick, and snotty to get to the finish line, let alone the start line, I called my coach and delivered my verdict.  Since I began getting good at this running thing and had more expectations put on me from multiple angles, I have taken a dislike to disappointing my coach or anyone else that puts time and effort into my quest to run fast.  This is what made my decision to forego the race especially difficult.  After one season, it is probably quite annoying as someone’s coach to not have some result to analyze, critique, applaud and learn from going forward.  At the end of the day, I had to be honest with myself first and foremost because trying to please others or prove something is what gets sick people to the start line of a race when they have no business even getting their butt out of bed.  In the end, once the season was a wrap for good, I found myself with fewer emotions and less disappointed than I had imagined.

One might hypothesize that my inability to put together a good race in the last year and a half has now become the norm, and as a result I am less gutted each time I fail.  This may be somewhat true, after all as you face disappointment, failure, and despair you are forced to find coping mechanisms that allow you to continue or simply wither and die.  One thing that I have always failed to comprehend can be summed up in one oft used phrase:  “It is just running”.  Most of the time it is the unsympathetic non-runner that offers up this kernel of wisdom, but many runners will spout this one as well.  The problem is, everything is relative, and this means that I can be aware and thankful that I am lucky to have a home, food, and a great family, and still be disappointed as hell when I race like shit.  Maybe I am overly obsessed or “care too much”, whatever that means, but running means more to me than I can say, and to me it will never be “just running”.  What critics fail to see is that this running thing may be my undoing at times, emotionally, physically, and mentally.  However, this unwavering passion for the sport is what keeps me coming back for more no matter how ravaged and beaten it may have left me in the past.  What I have noticed over the course of my high school and college years is that those who have a true love for running, never let it leave their lives for good.  A lot of my teammates in the past have been great runners with talent and commitment, however they endured the training so that they could race, not enjoying the training for what it was.  In contrast, I am the weirdo who, though I love racing, knows that if I could never race again I would continue to train just as hard.  My college coach once told me something along the lines of, “Running will always be a part of your life.  You will struggle to define its place at times, and it will change over the years, but it will always be a part of who you are”.  Where I am right now is not a bad place to be, but I want to be in a good place, and I am confident that I will get there.

This season has been very interesting as we tackled the training with a new coach, new group dynamics that have settled into a lovely state of kick-assness, and a vision of bigger things to come.  Even through my recent struggles to keep the ship upright, I have somehow managed to enjoy the process (I typed “journey” first, but then I vomited a little in my mouth).  Our next target race is the 2013 Boston Marathon, and I for one am already predicting strong winds, 90 degree temps, and a probable alien ship landing on Boylston St. on race day.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!    If all goes well, or if it goes fucking terribly, I will still head out for a run the day after the race and keep moving forward.

Now let’s go over some things that I learned from my CIM experience:

  • Never run a race in a squall without a hat, an army to protect you from wind, and some mental instability
  • Always drink coffee when it is offered to you, especially if it is free and you are on a bus in the freezing rain
  • Never trust a man named Lenny with smoker’s lung to get you to your hotel before the hypothermia sets in
  • Always, and I mean always, be open to peeing in a cup on a crowded bus
  • Never proclaim, after a flight and several days before a marathon, “I flew four times and didn’t even get sick!”
  • Always make sure the man you marry is willing to put up with behavior that is two levels crazier than he thinks you are at the time and…
  • Always train, travel, race, and dine with good friends :)

This concludes the three-part series:  Uphill Battle

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Even Gus is pumped for Boston!!

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