Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Confidence restored

Fact:  I made it to the finish line of Dances with Dirt - Devils Lake.
Fact:  I knew, intellectually, that this was a much harder course than my upcoming 100 miler.
Fact:  I have been running long enough to identify my mistakes, learn, and move on.
Fact:  I have been running long enough to know that sometimes it's just not your day.
Fact:  Even as miserable as I was after DWD, my recovery came pretty quickly and ran well at a race the following weekend.

But with all that said, a seed of doubt had been planted.

Was the 100 miler too big a mountain?  Was I really ready for this?
And what would people say that donated to the cause of raising funds for RA Research?

Funny, not funny ha-ha, but funny sad, how quickly things can change.  One moment we "know"  in our heart of hearts that the path we are traveling is down right ordained, and then, just like that, a DWD moment happens and we begin to question.

The Lord has always been faithful and when I cry out He has always been there.  In years past, He would take me to the answer, but oftentimes that meant going through something first in order to find it. 

The Lord I know, the kindly Father that has adopted me as His own (not the Lord of the Law that I grew up with), knew that this time I needed restoration without a test.  And that came at the Grand Island Marathon (+) over the weekend.

A very laid back event on a very beautiful island in Lake Superior, just off the coast line of Munising in Michigan's UP, the race is considered a trail marathon, but a dirt road route is more accurate.  Saturday morning saw a wonderful sunrise peaking through the branches of the tree lined route and the temps started out in the low 60's.  The temps would rise with the sun, but the the tree cover was pretty constant.  A few breaks from the trees provided overlooks that would simply bring you to a stop and take your breath away.

The gameplan for the day was to run 5&1's (run 5 minutes, walk 1) and target 11 min/mile for the marathon (+).  The miles simply flew by absolutely effortlessly.  I spent a number of miles running alongside several different individuals, just talking about running, family, life.  At the 22'ish mile point, the course merged with the half marathon course, and since they started two hours after us, there were still folks on that course.  With a fresh influx of bodies, I found a fresh energy and found myself moving quicker and quicker.  I never, however, lost control of the moment, stayed within myself and crossed the finish at 4:17 (the course was about 6/10ths of a mile short due to a required reroute - so figure an additional 6 minutes for an accurate marathon time).

The race organizers could learn something about putting on a friendly event, but the lack of love at the finish area just made it that much easier to fill my bottles and head back out.  This is the "+" part of the marathon.  My original goal was to run the marathon course backwards, but I worried I wouldn't make the final boat back, so opted to run the half marathon course.  A half mile up the road I found that the flags marking this course were already pulled - but I had a map in my pocket, so figured I'd be fine.  And I was...for the first 4 miles.  The course map was not very detailed and I struggled to make sense of it.  Instead I relied on the maps posted at intersections on the island (complete with distances) and made my own 14 mile course (I even found a 1.5 mile climb to the center of the island - that was work! :-)

The finish of the extra loop meant a solid effort - a 40 mile day.  My overall pace was 10:04.  My effort level was barely moderate.  I felt like I could have continued running all day.  Confidence restored. 

Face your fears.  Live your dreams.

A few quick miscellaneous thoughts to wrap up this wonderful weekend:
  • My friend Kacey traveled with me when my revised plan fell apart, after my original plan had fallen apart.  You made the weekend great fun and rocked the marathon!  Sorry about the stinky shoes in your car :-(
  • Jeremy and Bonnie - so great spending time with you.  After having email buds for so long, it was great to finally get to know you guys!
  • Kudos to the waitress at the Friday dinner.  Single handedly serving a banquet room full of hungry runners.  You got your workout in for sure - and did it with class!
  • The Terrace Motel and the proprietor Larry - A super friendly guy running a great (cute, friendly, clean) little Motel.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up!
  • Kathy - it was great to see you and spend a few minutes chatting - both over dinner and on the course.  Good job out there (as a runner and as a mom)!
  • Rachel - my new friend who I found off course, pushing to make the marathon cut-off of her first marathon.  With the flags already pulled, she made a decision about the course that meant she too climbed to the center of the island before heading for the finish (she tried to figure out how to get a full 26.2 in and her Garmin told her the actual route would be short).  We spent a few minutes together and helped each other find our way, so to speak.  She did finish.  And she made me feel special - I simply offered a word of encouragement and confirmation she was nearly done.  For that I received a finish line hug, a huge smile, and a new friend that can boast about being a marathoner!  Well done!
 Press on friends.

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