“What do you get out of holding on to him?” … Kacey asked me back in January. I sat there in tears in her office reminiscing about my previous life and the relationship that once felt like a fairy tale. The sticky silence filled the space between us as my mind hastily searched for an answer that could support my downright refusal to move on. But nothing came to me. Tears streamed down my face, my jaw dropped open as if preparing to speak, but all I could muster was a blank stare in her direction. “How is this helping you move forward? Move on?” she asked. To her credit these were all questions I would be asking a client in my own session… questions that I had been avoiding asking myself.
“I feel broken.” These three words had been playing on repeat in my mind since late October. Love. Acceptance. Laughter. Trust. Gone. I erupted, “I’m just not the same as I used to be. I want the old me. I want my old life- the one where we danced in the kitchen and made love on the living room floor. The life where I actually believed in love. Not this nightmare where he’s out there falling in love with another mere weeks after we broke up. Is love complete bullshit? What the f*ck was I feeling for the past year and a half?” I sat there in front of Kacey confused, hurt and angry. Very very angry. My whole world felt like it was flipped upside down and aggressively shaken like a pre-teen emptying a piggy bank enroute to the arcade. What once was full is now empty. What once was whole is now broken.
I could feel the walls around my heart being built. The concrete foundation was poured the day I quietly accepted that I can’t trust any man to be there for my daughter and myself. Nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts forever. These thoughts feel cold and distant. These thoughts are completely unlike my hopeful, warm-natured self, yet they feel so necessary right now.
Am I irrevocably broken?
Training for the Sugarloaf Marathon 2018 started weeks after I ran the 2017 Chicago Marathon (3:24:04) and days after the dissolution of my previous relationship last October. I have only ever ran large marathons (NYC, Chicago and Boston) and wanted to experience something completely different. Sugarloaf presented as a fast course in late spring with Maine’s beautiful mountain scenery and quiet spectatorless streets. Quiet streets. I longed for quiet streets. I needed to experience my strength, if only to just remind myself that it exists. Just me and the road. Yes, Sugarloaf would be my spring marathon.
Unfortunately training this cycle was a complete mess. After the break up I stopped strength training and went full force into running. Why? Cause running felt good. Just that simple. In November, December and January I ran a lot and I ran hard. I still remember a 16 mile training run I completed at a 7:16 pace, a far cry from my typical long run pace of 7:50-8 min/mi. I was being reckless and I knew it. But damn did it feel good. I signed myself up for PT and put all speed work on the back burner. In fact, instead of running 65-70 miles and 7 days a week (as I had been) I backed way off. In February I ran about 5 days a week and 35-40 miles. By March I was confidently up to 6 days a week and 50-55 miles and by April/early May I was able to manage 6-7 days of 60-70 mpw. This is me compromising. :-D. I also committed to PT 2x a week with Sarah (who is a runner and boss at her job) at Professional Physical Therapy in Quincy, MA. She helps me stretch, strengthen and I even trusted her enough to let her do some dry needling! Overall I believe PT helped tremendously and played a significant role in me being able to race on Sunday.
I shifted my focus away from speedwork and towards safely building back my endurance of doing 70 miles a week. A typical week in April/early May looked like this:
M/W/F 5 miles EASY @ 9-930 pace
T /Th/Sat 10-12 miles @ endurance pace around 8-8:20
Sunday – 20-22 mile long run with splits descending from 8:30 down to 7:00; avg 7:45-7:50
*Long runs were devoted to hill training. I sought out all the hills in Braintree/Weymouth that I could in order to physically and mentally prepare for the nasty hills Sugarloaf had to offer between miles 5-10 of the course.
I spent many of my training miles practicing the art of being in the moment and most importantly letting go. My body may not have been cooperating this winter and spring so I shifted focus to my mind. The mind is the unseen game-changer of any marathoner’s journey. If I couldn’t physically train the way I wanted to, then I would utilize this training cycle to develop my mental strength and stamina.
In early winter my mind was stuck in a repetitive cycle of questions. Questions that related to my anxiety, my stubborn body, my past relationship and even my unknown future. Questions that often started with “why.” I found myself engaging in a tug-of-war to pull away from these negative distractions and simply run. While running I practiced allowing the thoughts to enter my mind and dissolve into the thin air around me. Once on a run I actually visualized myself running by my worries (who were sitting on a bench watching the Wollaston waves, obvi). I was taking control. Well actually I was beginning to let go and finally starting to feel at peace.
I barely thought about the marathon until the final taper week. The entire training cycle wasn’t about setting a PR or conquering Sugarloaf hills. Running was devoted to fully accepting my new reality, to letting go of doubt/fear/emotions, to letting go of him, to healing and to rediscovering the art of being in the moment. Some runs were effortless where happiness seeped out of my pores with every step, while others left me feeling suffocated by tears and shallow breaths. Onwards, I said to myself. Keep pushing forward.
“I always create a race pace bracelet that gives me goal paces for every mile based on the elevation profile and my goal time. One race I finished withing 10 seconds of my goal time. What’s your plan for Sunday?” revealed Sarah N (badass marathoner x17) while running together a few days pre-marathon.
“Ummmm I don’t really have one.. Sub 3:35? Sub 3:30? Maybe sub 3:25? I just want to get out there and run… see how I feel and go from there.”
I went into this race with a very different mindset than previous marathons. Typically I have a specific goal in mind and have completed training runs with a few miles at marathon pace. But not this time. The day before Sugarloaf I sat down around 4 pm and looked at the course elevation profile, assessed the predicted weather conditions, read a few blog race reports of Sugarloaf and then crafted a very loose plan. Based on my training runs and marathon history 7:50-8 has become my go-to pace, the pace where I feel mentally very comfortable and dialed in.
My vague goal was to run a sub 3:30 with a more specific plan to run 7:50-8 min pace for the first 7 miles, hit the nasty hills at mile 8/9 comfortably and pull back to 8:30, run miles 11-20 @ 7:50-8 and then attack the final 10k. My athlete and friend Lisa (who was also running) laughed at me for my relaxed approach to the marathon, especially as I had crafted her goals and race plan weeks earlier. But honestly, the goal of this marathon had little to do with the time on the clock.
…well, that’s what I told myself at the time.
To be continued…