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Monday, December 20, 2010

Cyndi Does Dallas, Take Three

"All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again."

But, Leigh the physical therapist could get me in good enough condition to run 13.1 miles on December 5th.

And that's exactly what she did.

I made the trek with her and her hubby, Dave, to Dallas, TX.  She and I would do the 1/2 and he and his 70 year old dad would do the full (how COOL is that???).  Leigh was going back and forth about upgrading from the half to the full.  Having only a 13 mile long run under her belt almost four weeks prior, it seemed like a humorous idea.  On the outside, I was saying, "if you want to run the full, I'll do it with you.  Why not?", but on the inside, I was pleading, " the love of GOD!!!!"  

We arrived on Saturday, December 4th.  After many hours of travel, the first order of business (after securing a rental car, of course) was to find food.  They took me here:

We walked in and were greeted with a cheery, "Hi y'all!" from the hostess.  Hello, southern hospitality.

And this is what Cyndi Lou ordered:

Eggs from Hell
burrito filled with smoked chicken, scrambled eggs, and poblano peppers topped with mexicali sauce, avocado, and sour cream served with oven roasted potatoes

Why I thought this would be an ideal selection less than 24 hours before running a half-marathon, I can't say.  After all, this wasn't exactly "safe" runner food.  Maybe because I draw a line between "running" and "racing" a 1/2 marathon.  For some reason, I just threw caution to the wind.  

It was kind of yummy.  And how could you possibly resist the name???

After brunch, we made our way over to Fair Park for packet pick up and expo browsing.  It was like an act of Congress to find where exactly in Fair Park the marathon expo was.  This place was massive.  They even had these little trolley cars shuttling people around.  

Here.  Look for yourself:  

After many minutes of aimless wandering, and asking seemingly fit looking folks carrying running bags, we found where we needed to be.  The crowds, the lines.  It was craziness.  At one point, I was separated from my friends and was frantically texting Leigh to find out where they were.  

Everything really IS bigger in Texas.

But, I got what I came for:

And yes, we BOTH decided that staying with the half-marathon made the most sense.

This was the first time my name was on a race bib #.  Not only that, but it was my "formal" name.  I never go by Cynthia.  I still have flashbacks of hearing my mother screaming it when I was young, which usually meant that I was in trouble.  If the "Cynthia" was followed by "Ann", I was in BIG trouble.  And, God forbid, if she threw my last name in there, then it was Threatcon Delta for sure (little Air Force humor for you).

Leigh and Dave had some family stuff to attend to, so they dropped me off at the hotel.  We each booked rooms at the Fairmont, which was quite the swanky place.  Runners are used to sleeping in vans, for goodness sake.  Put us in a king size bed with feather pillows and, well, we just don't know what to do with ourselves.  I enjoyed a glass of wine at the hotel bar, watched some college football and headed upstairs for...ROOM SERVICE!  I've only had room service once before in my life and couldn't resist ordering it again.  As if it couldn't get any better, they were actually broadcasting the Boston Bruins Dallas, Texas.  It was the closest thing to being home.  

Speaking of being home, the pre-race forecast for Dallas was 34 degrees.  Yes, you heard me right.  I had flown from New Hampshire to Texas to run a race in early December and I still had to pack cold running weather gear.  

It couldn't BE more ironic.

My friends were going to be occupied for the night, so we swapped a few texts to firm up a meeting time and place pre-race.  Not only did our hotel have king beds and feather pillows, but it also had it's very own STARBUCKS.  Holla!  We decided to meet there at 6 a.m. to catch the first shuttle to the start line.  I got myself settled and into bed early.  I'm notorious for NOT sleeping well the night before a race, but these circumstances were slightly different.  It was 13.1 miles, as opposed to 26.2, and I really WAS approaching it as "just a training run".  I didn't want to make a big deal out of it because I didn't feel up to performing.  It was just a long run in a new place with friends.  That's it.

We met up the next morning, boarded the shuttle and headed to the start line.  The young man that I was sitting next to briefly engaged me in conversation.  Southerners are so friendly.

It went something like this:

YM:  So, are you running the race today?
Me:  Yes, I am.  Just the half.
YM: Just?
Me:  Well, compared to the full, it's just.
YM:  Oh.  
Me:  Are you running?
YM:  No, my brother is.  I'm just cheering him on.
Me:  That's nice.
YM:  So, what do you have to do to train for a race like this?  Do you run a lot?
Me:  Um yeah, something like that.

We arrived at our destination in the early morning dusk.  There was plenty of time to rendezvous with Dave's dad and stand in long porta-potty lines.  Thankfully, they also opened up one of the buildings in Fair Park so we didn't have to stand around in the cold (if you think we were a bit chilly, imagine how those Texans were getting on.  Dave's dad, Bruce, looked like he was dressed for a blizzard).  After hanging around inside for as long as we possibly could, we made our way towards the start.  Dave graciously offered to check our bags, so we only needed to find the portables and our corral (technically, it was Leigh's corral and I was there illegally...shhhh, don't tell anyone).

All of the races started at the same time, that is, you had marathoners, half-marathoners and relay racers in the same corrals.  It made for a very crowded and slightly delayed start.  I think it took us about 15 minutes to finally cross the line.  But, we did.

It was chilly and windy, particularly for the first couple of miles.  Right around the third mile, I felt stiffness and tension in my left knee.  Part of me thought about not mentioning it to Leigh, but then decided it would be a good idea to tell her.  Running with a physical therapist has its benefits.  She gave me cues on how to adjust my biomechanics, which helped some.  It never really intensified beyond mild discomfort after that.

About halfway through the half, I made a comment to her, something to the effect of, "so aren't you glad we aren't doing the full right about now???".  She was.  I was beyond glad.  I was ECSTATIC.  This run was about pure survival for me.  The last thing I would have wanted to do is suffer through a 26.2 mile race.  There is something to be said about "respecting the distance".

Once we were beyond the halfway mark, the miles began to tick away.  There was a good stretch of gradual uphill between miles 5-9, so we were ready for this to be over.  Once we hit mile 13, we picked up the pace in order to prevent the first place marathoner (no, that is not a typo) from beating us.  That was Leigh's idea.

Hey, it's the little victories that count.

Our chip time was a little over 2:03.  There were never any goals set or times to beat, so it was really irrelevant how long it took.  We were just both happy to be done.  I did feel relieved.  The knee was a little stiff, but nothing I couldn't handle.  They funneled all of us inside for mylar blankets, medals and finisher shirts, which was pretty cool.  

This race also had free beer to all the finishers.  Granted it was MGD 64, but it was free.  And it was beer.  


We caught up with Dave and his dad later on.  Both of them had a tougher than usual day on the course, but they made it.  We all finished our respective races, so there was nothing left to do but celebrate.  Lunch at Chipotle, followed by dinner at Gordon Biersch:

At this point, we were all pretty beat, so it was back to the hotel.  You know what they say:  early to bed, early to rise.  We had a 6:30 flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to catch in the morning, which meant leaving the hotel at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m.  

Once again, thank God for STARBUCKS.

And that's exactly what I did as I sipped my Grande Cafe Mocha while waiting to board the plane headed home.  I came, I saw, I survived the trip to Dallas.  I had some laughs with my friends and got another piece of hardware for the cabinet.  There were lots of positives to take out of the whole experience.  

Most importantly, though, there was a lesson to be learned.  And, I got the message loud and clear:  

Sign up for a marathon only because it's something you WANT to do, not because there is something you think you "have to prove".  Your intentions and desire need to match.  I thought that mine did, but they really didn't.  My head, or should I say ego, was all about it, but my heart just wasn't.  I broke my own rule, which was to give myself 30 days after a marathon before deciding whether or not to sign up for another one.  In the heat of the moment, I took this challenge on as a way to make up for not meeting my goal for the Atlantic City Marathon.  It's nice to do well in races, and it's even nicer when people notice.  But, you can't let it define you.    

Maybe that's why I had the knee issue.  My body just wouldn't let me self-destruct.  It stopped me since I didn't seem able to stop myself.  

Now, I understand.

Sure, there are plenty of people who can, and do, run two marathons several weeks apart.  But, they are who they are and I am who I am.  There is no one else like me.  And, since I am the only "me" there is, comparing myself to others is irrelevant and unproductive.  Instead, I'd rather unconditionally love and accept myself for who I am, no matter where I go, what I do, or what time I run.

I'd rather be better at life. 

And, you know what they say about life.

It's a MARATHON, not a sprint.




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