That was long before the thought "Where did summer go?" would enter my mind. Six out of every seven days over the next four months would be spent training. Sometimes running more than once/day. Sometimes with a hundred others at a Team Run Flagstaff Tuesday night track session. Sometimes with friends like Bob Tusso, Roger Bounds, Dirk deHeer, Scott Bajer, Ian Torrence, and even Zoroaster the wound-licking wonder dog accompanying me on specific workouts. Sometimes it was just me, my shadow, and the sunflowers along Lake Mary Road. Sometimes at the starting line of yet another race. Often as the sun was coming up. A couple of times in the rain. Many times in the dark. Did I mention I was tired? Somehow I never even made it to some of my favorite spots, like to see the giant ferns of the Kachina Trail, or the aspens of the Inner Basin Trail. I was on pavement or forest service roads more than usual.
It was definitely before "Where did my coach go?" would enter my thoughts. My second-to-none, amazing, wonderful, better-than-you-can-ever-hope-for coach was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and poof, he was gone.
Later, as the race approached, "Where did my butt go?" became a prevailing thought. All of my pants were loose. I was no longer intimidated by workouts. I felt comfortable in workouts. I could do hilly ones, in the heat, at 7,000'! I finally hit the pace.
I had never felt so ready. In the days leading up the race, I found myself 20 floors up, in a simple corner room of the Palmer House Hilton, a slice of Lake Michigan visible between tall buildings that had weathered lots of time. I did a few fun things like pop into the Readhead Piano Bar just long enough to hear "I Got You Babe" being sung to a very jovial crowd, had a heavenly facial at a spa aptly named "Balance," and ate yummy Italian food.
A horn went off. We spilled across the starting line to "In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream..." Bruce Springsteen's voice pelted the chilly, grey morning. Oooh, an unexpected smile!
We'd soon discover that bridge grates had been covered in pretty purples and blues (making it easier for runners to cross) and that people were screaming so loudly from spots arcing over the road in those initial miles that you thought they might actually know you, these colorful strangers, all bundled up, who became part of the blur along both sides of every street.
It was one of those times in life when you're part of something much, much bigger than yourself, when everything conspires to bring a tremendous variety of people together who may not have otherwise mingled, full of moments when you realize there are tons of people all over the place who were also getting training runs in all summer, based upon how effortlessly they seemed to be moving along ahead of you.
|Rich is the second one in blue beside me|
Things got challenging out there for a while, but the final miles came. As we approached the downtown area, I found myself back on Lake Mary Road. Those training runs had become so familiar. In the last mile I imagined just having to run past the country store, to the mailboxes...Next I was catching the last female wheelchair racer (this never happens!). Saw an 800m sign. Finally, we were rounding the corner onto the stretch where the crowd was roaring. A slight uphill. I was so aware of everyone yet saw no one. And suddenly there it was, the final push. The final turn. The finish line. I was sprinting.
While my final placings keep changing (as official results are corrected), I seem to be holding steady at 999th overall, 87th for women, and 10th female 40-44! My time was 3:02:52, a PR by 13 minutes. There were a recordnumber of finishers this year.
It's kind of surreal to think about it now. We were so happy upon finishing that many of us were high-fiving...why not? We had just run this amazing race together, never alone, not even till the very last second. I eventually made my way to a grassy area and there were both of my parents, visiting and drinking coffee. So nice to have moments like these! The lake wind had kicked up, but only after giving us an absolutely perfect race day.
Now the only question that remains is, "What else have I been missing out on?"