It's been a really long time since I made this kind of commitment. The last full marathon I ran was a few years back in Toronto. It was a great girls' weekend with some of my close buds, but the race itself kind of sucked. I finished poorly and swore that would be my last full marathon for a while. My energy was spent about three quarters of the way through the race and it didn't help that this Canadian race had the course marked in kilometers instead of miles. Since my GPS watch was out of whack, I spent the entire race wondering how far I was from the friggin' finish line. The more I tried not to think of the mileage, the more I obsessed over it. It was agonizing and all my best mind tricks didn't work. I'd made up my mind that Toronto would be my last full marathon for a while.
Sure enough, it was indeed the last. Fast forward a few years and I have done nothing but half marathons over recent years. None of those half marathons were big accomplishments. As a matter of fact, my most recent race, which was the Woodlands half, was the piss poor worst I've ever done. I was seriously ready to quit about 2 miles into it. If the race route would have gone anywhere near where we were parked, I would have gleefully walked off the course and flopped my butt on the concrete until the rest of my crew finished. Trust me when I say I was far more concerned with looking for that parking spot than I was with following my race plan. My music player tanked, the temperatures were hot and humid and I had the constant urge to pee. This is only worth mentioning because normally when I sweat as much as I did in this race, I don't usually hold on to enough fluids to need a port-o-potty. However, as luck would have it, I would have to lose even more race time standing in line for an available spot to squat.
My basic problem was that I had no goals. I signed up for those races without a clear plan to keep me focused and I crashed and burned royally. Granted, last season was interrupted by foot surgery, but I refuse to use that as an excuse. Okay sure, my foot is still stiff on random days but it is fully healed and doesn't hurt at all. My problems were more mental than physical, which is hard for me. Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to training. I can rationalize and talk myself out of anything I really don't want to do. When I was rookie to this sport, I was annoyingly paranoid about following the rules and never deviating from the game plan. I followed the training schedule to the letter and felt guilty about missing a workout, because it would throw off my mileage for the week. I ate the same boring but nutritious lunch and dinner on Fridays in anticipation of my long runs on Saturday mornings. I stayed hydrated and went to bed early, after laying out my running gear as if I was prepping for a week-long trip.
It was routine. It was boring. Guess what? It worked. Somewhere along the last several years, I became a super smart ass that believed, because I was a veteran marathoner, I could magically skip some of the grunt work involved in training and still show up on race day to perform well. I lost sight of the fact that in addition to knowing how to train, I still needed to actually do the training. I cannot tell you the last time I did hill work and just the thought of doing speed work makes me want to throw a world class tantrum. All of this down right laziness has brought my whining full circle and now I'm in search of results. Some unknown force has caused me to get motivated about racing again. I needed a big goal to keep me honest and signing up for yet another half marathon just wasn't enough. This needed to be a bigger gamble with a bigger prize. It couldn't be something I could blow off when I lost interest.
So what did I do? I entered the lottery for the Houston Marathon. Just this morning I received confirmation that my registration was accepted. It was a shock to feel genuinely excited to get this news. With six months of training ahead of me, I am making a vow that I will follow the training fully and create a race plan similar to what I followed for my very first marathon. That first marathon was in San Diego, long before I was anyone's wife or mom. I treated that marathon like it was the biggest event of my life. Race weekend in Houston falls in mid-January with perfect running conditions, creating a city-wide buzz that brings out spectators by the thousands to support the local athletes. I volunteered at a water station last year because I couldn't stand not to be a part of the action in some form. Although the water station work was fun, I'd been relegated to the sidelines (literally!) and only had myself to blame. All the hard work and sweat really is worth it to be able to line up on race day and show the world that you earned a spot to run with the big boys. Sure, it will take me a good five hours to complete 26.2 miles, but the satisfaction I'll feel when I cross the finish line will carry my pride much farther.