Humbled.

The one thing about running?

It can be really humbling.

I learned this during my first 5k, when at mile 2.5 I wasn’t sure I could run another step and I decided to walk for a bit… and then started sprinting, too fast, WAY too early before the finish line and tried not to puke when I FINALLY crossed that damn finish.

I was reminded my first half marathon, where the hill at mile 12 nearly killed me, and I couldn’t hang on, and an older gentleman actually WORKED to get my attention through my haze of disappointment and too-loud music to tell me, I don’t leave anyone behind. Come on – you can DO this.

And then again in October 2011 at the Marine Corps Marathon, when shooting, stabbing pain erupted in my right knee at mile 22.

But. BUT. This training cycle was DIFFERENT.

I had a month of dead legged runs, where I had no speed, but I fought through it, and for the past two months running has felt SO. Damn. GOOD! My longest run – 22 miles – I ended the run with 5 miles of FAST running, and I wanted to scream and dance and do cartwheels, I felt so damn GOOD.

And two week ago, I ran a 1:49:22 half marathon – without a watch. It felt SO good.

So when I lined up at the start of the Baystate Marathon on Sunday morning, I felt ready. Confident. Let’s DO THIS.

For half of the race, I was doing it. I hit the halfway point at 1:51:01.

And then the wheels came off.

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In retrospect, the wheels started to come off earlier than the halfway point. At the 10k mark I probably had my first indication that it wasn’t my day: at that point, my pace felt kind of hard. Not awful – not enough that I was worried – but a niggle. I probably should have listened to it, but I figured: race nerves. Let’s go another mile and see how you feel, Karen.

And the feeling passed.

But then the niggle happened again at mile 8. A TOUCH longer this time. Again, not so much that I really worried about it. Just a touch of “hard.”

And then again, at mile 11. And that’s where I started to listen.

Okay, not going to be my day. Dial back a bit – let’s NOT push it.  Slow it down, see what happens.

And then I hit the halfway point, and the only word in my head was “terrible.”

I felt terrible.

From there it was a battle. Awful, tough, hard battle. I walked. A lot. Mentally I tried to let go of the disappointment that I had to walk and I tried to figure out how to salvage the race.

I had a lot of time to think about it, as it turns out. The second half of the marathon I ran in 2:18:13. It actually felt like eons. Ages. YEARS I spent running and walking and trying to dredge up the energy and will and mental strength to keep going.

I finished, with the help of two of my friends which I will forever be indebted to, in 4:09:14. Thankfully I was uninjured. Exhausted. Depleted. Sore. But not hurt.

And the race I ran that day was a far cry from the 3:40 I have spent the past YEAR training for.

What a humbling experience.

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I came away from the race with renewed respect for the distance. Seriously, 26.2 ain’t no drop in the bucket. When something goes wrong in a marathon, holy shit it can go REALLY wrong.

But I also came away from it with a sense of thankfulness.

I love running. For me, it’s a physical, mental, and emotional release I can’t really get anywhere else. It’s a place I can feed the OCD which makes me want to get to round mileage numbers. It’s where hard work and smart training creates progress, where I can actually SEE the fruits of my efforts with real, concrete numbers.

I loved training for this marathon. And I want to do it again.

So I’m thinking for 2014 I’ll add two of them to my calendar: the Vermont City Marathon in May, and the Baystate Marathon again next fall.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” – W. C. Fields

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Liebster Award

Good grief, it’s been too long since I wrote last. Too many work hours, too little sleep, lots of running and juggling and tasks and stress in between.

My marathon is Sunday, and I have a goal to write every day – either here or in my journal – in November. So hopefully you’ll hear from me soon.

In the meantime,  I need to start somewhere – I feel like the spigots of my writing ideas has rusted shut. I need to wrest them open and let the words flow to clean it all out.

And luckily, my good friend Mel nominated me for a Liebster Award. So here are my responses. And there will be something of substance soon – at the very least, a race write up. 🙂

Longest you’ve ever gone without a shower.
I generally don’t go very long between showers; I hate the feeling of being gross and greasy and oily. And add the running into the mix – it’s not really that great for me to go without a shower.

I used to backpack, though – many many moons ago. I think I went for a 5 day trip where I didn’t shower, though I did bring wet naps I used to freshen up here on a daily basis.

Tell us about a recent disappointment.

I had intended on taking the latter half of September and all of October off of work. To that end, I spent three weeks working every day. I pretty much did nothing BUT work. I was looking forward to my time off, catching up on sleep, spending quality time with Owen and Jeff, cooking, organizing, etc.

But the woman for whom I worked called me – on a day where my alarm rang at 3:51 so I could be at work at 5am – and said she had another client who needed me right away, and I wouldn’t be able to take time off.

And instead of saying no, I agreed to it.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was in myself. Balance will not come by itself, it takes work. And the ability to say no.

And I, apparently, cannot say no to more work.

Tell us the person you’d most like in the car with you for a road trip.

You know, I don’t know. My favorite traveling companion is Jeff, but we don’t do a lot of car trips. Overseas, flights, exploring cities by foot – that’s what we do really well together.

A roadtrip, I think, is different. Jeff and I are similar in that we value efficiency, and on a roadtrip some of the best moments and experiences is when you DON’T follow the interstate – veer off here and there.

So I think I’d pick one of my best girlfriends for a roadtrip. We’d go off the beaten path just so we can eat at a hole in the wall diner which has amazing burgers. We’d stop to take pictures at kitschy road stand, and sing at the top of our lungs. It would be fun.

Which do you like better: goats or sheep?

Goats freak me out. They eat ANYTHING. They will head butt you at a moment’s notice.

Sheep, on the other hand, are fuzzy and chill. They’re like wooly cows – will just stand there and look at you. And really, is there anything cuter then a lamb?

Do you like to watch scary movies?

Hell no. I was the kid that had nightmares from ET. (In my defense, the people in the suits were scary!!) Gremlins terrified me.  The Blair Witch Project made me motion sick, but despite the fact that I never actually WATCHED the entirety of the movie because it was going to make me puke, the next camping trip I was terrified the Blair Witch was going to show up.

The most recent – within the past decade, that is – scary movie I watched was The Ring. Not only did it give me nightmares for weeks, even nearly TEN FREAKING YEARS LATER I CANNOT SEE A CAPPED WELL WITHOUT FREAKING OUT.

And no, I’m not kidding.

But I’m also the chick that won’t go into my basement at night because that’s where the bogeyman lives. 🙂

What do you call yourself when you’re talking to yourself inside your head?

Depends on my mood, but in all honesty I am not very nice to myself inside my head.

If I’m pissed off, the Inner Critic will call me a moron, or an idiot. As in “seriously, you did WHAT? Are you a complete moron?”

If I’m in a good mood, I’ll often refer myself as bitch. As in, “Come on, bitch – get this mile. You GOT this!”

Name someone from your kindergarten class that you wonder about to this day.

I went to a catholic school for kindergarten, since I missed the cutoff in the public schools.

And in Ms Gabriel’s kindergarten class, I got married to a boy named Donald. I don’t remember much about him other than his name and the fact that we shared a table just the two of us while the other kids sat 3-4 kids per table. I think that’s why we got married, because we sat together. And therefore, our marriage was short lived, because I transferred to the public school for first grade.

Anyway, I wonder about him now. I have no visual of him, and I am always curious as to what he’s up to.

What is the best song for picking up your mood?

Right now it’s Mahler’s fourth symphony. I cannot tell you how good it is for calming anxiety and stress, how well it works to help me BREATHE.

But if I need a good, pump me up song, ANYTHING by Mumford and Sons makes me happy.

How do you organize your socks?

Running socks are placed flat together. My compression running socks are folded once over. They both go in my running clothes drawer (yes, I have a whole drawer of running-only clothes). Other socks are nested together in a separate drawer which includes my belts and trouser socks too.

When no one is home, do you close the bathroom door?

I don’t actually close doors in my house. The only exception is Owen’s door when he’s in bed for the night. We sleep with the door open, I usually have the bathroom door open whenever I’m in there – unless it’s winter and I’m showering, because opening the door makes the room frigid when I get out.

So it’s safe to say if no one’s home I don’t bother closing the bathroom doors.

Well, unless I’m showering and it’s cold. I need my hot hot hot shower. 🙂

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The rules are that I should tag another blogger and ask them 10 questions.  But I’m a rule breaker. Instead, put a comment below and answer one of the above questions yourself! 🙂