From where you started

In a little over a month, I will be running in the ING Miami Marathon. This means my offseason has been, well, short. I’ve been focused on that 13.1-mile race for some time now, preparing both physically and mentally to beat my time from last year and hopefully run a solid, well-executed race.

Yesterday though, I stumbled upon a quote from running legend Steve Prefontaine:

Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.

And there was no better invitation to take stock of 2009 before I leap blindly into 2010. Because 2009 was a big year for me — and it’s something I need to recognize.

Last year marked Year Two of the endurance sport experiment. After one year of sprint triathlons, 5Ks and one half marathon just for giggles, I decided to see what else I could do. Enter the Buffalo Marathon and Muskoka 70.3

Those two events in and of themselves gave me huge growing experiences. There was doubt — oh lots of doubt. There was struggle both in training and in the races themselves.

But in keeping with Prefontaine’s thought, where did I start?

Two years ago I didn’t know how to swim. This year I did two 1.2-mile swims well within the cut-off range.

Two years ago I rode my bike on the flatest routes possible. This year, I picked one of the most difficult bike courses in the 70.3 series.

Two years ago a running triumph would be if I ran on the treadmill for an entire song on my iPod. This year, I ran a marathon and three half marathons.

Average pace, finishing time, age group placements — all nice things to think about, to play with, to shoot for but in the grand scheme, mean little in comparison to where I choose to place my emphasis. And if I take the time to reflect on what I’ve done, where I’m ending 2009 from where I began, the numbers mean less than other lessons I’ve learned along the way.

And so I share with you my personal highlights from 2009, in the hopes to (a) entertain you and (b) perhaps spark some positive reflections of your own:

  • There is great power in running with friends. The Miami Half Marathon last year was my first “big city” event and my first time traveling with my running buddies Sue and Herm. I finished in 2:09 and for the first time couldn’t walk well after a race (oh the humanity of the jetway at the airport!). There are not two better people for me to travel to an event with and it’s a realization that I will cherish. Also, the cool spinner medal has now spoiled all other medals for me.
  • Never throw away your nutrition plan. This lesson came courtesy of the Buffalo Marathon where, for no good reason, I stopped taking my delicious Clif Shot Bloks around Mile 10. My quads started to seize up around Mile 14. This was not a coincidence.
  • Never underestimate the power of the ridiculous. Before Muskoka 70.3 I waded in the water  for the five-minute warm-up before my wave start. For the first time in two years, I was able to pee in my wetsuit. This was the most exciting thing. I wanted to tell every single person I saw what I had accomplished. I searched for my dad on the beach to tell him. (Luckily for him, I couldn’t find him, such a proud moment it would be to have his daughter  yell in a crowd, “Dad! I PEED IN MY WETSUIT!) But the moral of the story: The rest of the day was gravy and the swim, which had the ability to paralyze my body in fear, no longer seemed like such a difficult deal.
  • Pick your support crew carefully. There are people who will say they are supportive, who you will want to be supportive, but who, actually are not the best for you mentally or emotionally. There are those I’ve had to release from my crew, even from my life, because they were no longer helping me. Sad and difficult? Yes. But the people who are in my life, the bonds I’ve strengthened and the new friendships I’ve formed, have helped me be happier, helped me close in on my goals and helped me keep perspective in ways I couldn’t do on my own. Or at least not want to do on my own.
  • I am stronger than I think I am. This applies not just to the physical components needed to complete a marathon or a triathlon. It applies to the mental side. The emotional side. Hell, it applies to life. It’s not just about enduring, though I’ve learned I can do that. It’s understanding that what happens on the other side is so much richer than if I never even tried.

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