Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Napa Valley Marathon and the Power of Yet

Good Morning from Tennessee. I was welcomed home last night into the unseasonably frigid winter air after having spent a long weekend in Napa Valley, California. I want to share my trip, but first I want to jot down some thoughts on the race to talk myself through it and have a record of what needs work and what I did well. Warning: If you don't run, you might find this post terribly annoying.

It's hard to not be disappointed in my performance on Sunday. In the same breath, I know I ran a freaking marathon...again...and that feat is an enormous blessing that I should feel very proud of. For a reason unbeknownst to me, I'm too hard on myself. I'm disappointed after almost every race, even when I PR (set a Personal Record). The truth is that running fast is hard and with the amount of training and time I dedicate to it, I feel like I should be better at it. If I'm being totally honest, I am better at it than I was, but my progress feels so slow. Some people are born with the ability to be speedy, others aren't made that way but can set their goals to improve despite it. I'm in the second camp and the power of yet hasn't escaped me. I know I can improve. I can get faster. I have already. But man, is it frustrating to have a goal in mind half of the race, just to see it slip through your fingers with no good explanation except that I just couldn't do it that day.
I could look at a lot of setbacks that played into my performance on marathon number two. During training, I hurt my knee and was out for a few weeks. I was also diagnosed with rupturing ovarian cysts which can be incredibly painful and sabotaged more than a few training runs. My mileage just wasn't there for the improvements I wanted to make in my finishing time. Still, I shaved fourteen minutes off my previous time, crossing the finish line at four hours and eighteen minutes. Truly, when I left for California on Friday I believed I would be incredibly pleased with that time. When race day rolled around, though, a new story developed in my mind. God had answered my prayers that I wouldn't have knee pain or cyst pain that day and I felt so hopeful starting the race with two girls who are really just incredible, faster than I could ever even fathom being. I knew I could finish the twenty six miles even at mile zero. I was ready.

I set off in mile one anxious to start fast, but not too fast. My plan was to hover around 8:50-9:10 minute miles. I loosely wanted to stay with the 4:00 or 4:10 pacers for as long as I possibly could. I think my first mistake is that I didn't look for them. I managed my clock on my own wrist and ended up sticking with the first group I found near me which was the pacers finishing at 3:55. I ran just in front of them for a long while and then I slowly slipped just behind them. I was with them for about fourteen miles and I was feeling so hopeful. The first half of the marathon felt great, but it was quickly into the second half that I felt my body giving up. In the last marathon, I didn't feel this until much later in the race so I started to worry that I set my sights too high and started off too fast.
A funny thing happens when I'm running long distances. I migrate from a lofty yet focused, hopeful goal into this thought "Well, most people don't go out and run a marathon. You are awesome and you deserve a little walk break." Ha! I tried to press on, but the hills were long instead of steep. They stretched out and messed with my head. The rain made me cold coupled with the wind pushing me backward and I could feel my newly created personal goal in my mind becoming unreachable. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, but it was the shuffle of an exhausted marathon runner instead of a prepared, strong athlete. Soon, the 3:55 group was out of my sight and I thought I would just try to stay in front of the 4:05 or 4:10 group. If they didn't pass me, I should be good. I never saw them pass me. I don't even know if they existed. At mile 20, I still had a pretty great time (for me). If I could have busted out those last six miles, I might even have made it around four hours. At that point my body was burning and aching around my stomach and back. I felt depleted. I knew I would regret my slow pace, but I was struggling, knew I was on pace to crush my previous time, and frankly, just didn't care. I lost my race in those last six miles.
Carol Dweck wrote, "In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work- brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment." As frustrating as running can be, I attribute it to saving me. I think God put this sport in my life, giving me deep connections with friends when I needed it most. Postpartum with all my babies was a difficult time and I searched for something I could work towards for myself. It has been a gift. This trip was a gift, too and I'm grateful to have had another opportunity to try to crack the code of marathon running. I remember when I used to think people who ran marathons were superhuman. Now, I've done two full marathons myself and I feel not at all like a super human. Instead, this sport draws me closer to Him. In my desperateness, I remember how much I need him in every area of my life. In the quiet moments as I ran along the Napa Valley Silverado Trail, I could call out to Him and ask for His strength and He gave it freely. I could cry out to a Savior who hears me and cares about every little detail of my life and tell Him thank you for the ability to run, for breath in my lungs, and for strong legs to carry me all over His beautiful creation. Running is a gift that brings me closer to Him.
Sometimes I really want to quit this sport, but I have so much room for improvement and I know I can do it. I'm not done. The power of yet feels so promising two days after the marathon. How quickly I forget the toll! How readily I remember that "Becoming is better than being"(Carol Dweck). I'm not done working toward figuring out this distance and when I come back at another chance, I'll know more than I did before.

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